The Moabite Stone: A Final Word on Historiography and 2 Kings 3
I have argued elsewhere that the expectation that the biblical narrative must always reflect an accurate chronological historiography is contrary to reason.1 It is vital that the interpreter is mindful of the procedure of history development in the biblical writer’s narrative. The writer’s particular theological perspective often served as important factor in selecting which bits of history to include or exclude from the story. Thus, it is frequently a hodgepodge of both history and theology shaping the biblical narrative. This severe interaction between history and theology in creating narrative was commonplace in ancient writing. For example, the Moabite inscription offers a theological explanation, as it attributes Israel’s presence in Moab to Chemosh’s divine anger: “for Chemosh was angry at his land.” Likewise, in the biblical narrative: “then the king of Israel said, ‘Alas! The Lord has summoned us, three kings, only to be handed over to Moab’” (2 Kgs 3:10). Thus, there was sometimes a lack of concern for pristine historical accuracy, and more of a concern for the meaning that the author was able to acquire from his sources for theological significance.
Though I do not consider myself a minimalist, I am partly in agreement with Thompson and others, who posit that the Moabite inscription “must not be read as a chronological record of events, since the content is thematically organized, in accordance with the internal order determined by its author.”2 Likewise, because of the process of ancient writing and the fact that so much of the biblical narrative is theological in nature, we cannot always depend on it for chronology. However, I also thoroughly reject the line of thought that says, the inability to reconcile the biblical narrative with the Moabite inscription calls into question the reliability of 2 Kgs 3. I suppose this is only the case, if one is operating on outdated ideas of inerrancy, i.e., the view the bible must be historically pristine in order to be without error.3 At the end of the day, maximalists cannot prove the historicity of 2 Kgs 3, nor can minimalists disprove it in its entirety. I guess, it depends on one’s biases.