The literary ambiguity of the Solomon narratives in First Kings
A coherent reading of the Solomon Narratives in First Kings is obstructed by a variety of textual contradictions and uncertainties. Such difficulties can be approached through a variety of interpretive and critical schemes. Using a literary/stylistic approach, the difficulties are perceived as components of a larger narrative format, of which an ambiguous tone towards Solomon is integral. This ambiguity is maintained by the presence of two literary forces in the text. The first is an overt presence of Deuteronomic values supplied through various agencies. Larger Deuteronomic themes of blessing are situated in the text which herald Solomon as one who achieved Deuteronomic privileges for his kingdom. Other Deuteronomic principles are dispersed through a seven-fold selection of Deuteronomic terms, placed in a context of contingency and exhortation. The chiastic arrangement of these Deuteronomic word-clusters highlights national solidarity and contingence. The cumulative force of these Deuteronomic elements contributes a pro-Solomonic tone to the text. The second literary force is a sustained ambiguity which is provided through a variety of stylistic devices designed to subvert a purely one-dimensional favourable vision of Solomon. The consequent ambiguity is not an autonomous feature within 1-2 Kings, however. Instead, the ambiguous tone towards Solomon and his accomplishments provides the thematic and narrative framework by which Josiah, Solomon’s narrative foil, will be later presented. The accounts of these two monarchs are connected through a complex of literary and thematic elements common to both accounts, one of which is the reissuing of the Deuteronomic word-clusters found in the Solomon Narratives.