Page:A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on Judges.djvu/37

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xxvii
J AND E IN JUDGES

who are commonly represented by the signature Rje.[1] His hand may be most distinctly recognized in 230–36, where the conflicting representations of J and E are worked into one another with free additions by the redactor in a way with which we are familiar in JE in the Hexateuch.

The age of the two chief sources in Judges 26–1631 cannot be very definitely fixed. There are, in this part of the book, no allusions to historical events of later times which might serve us as a clew.[2] Almost the only criterion which we possess is their relation to the religious development. In those parts of the book which are attributed to J, the standpoint of the narrator is that of the old national religion of Israel; there is no trace of prophetic influence, and we can have no hesitation in ascribing this source to a time before the great prophetic movement of the 8th century. Other indications point to a considerably higher antiquity. The stories are manifestly drawn from a living tradition, not from antiquarian lore; they reproduce the state of society and religion in the early days of the settlement in Palestine with a convincing reality which is of nature, not of art, and exhibit a knowledge of the conditions of the time which can hardly have been possessed by an author of the 8th century, after the changes which two centuries of the kingdom and of rapidly advancing civilization had wrought. On such grounds we should be inclined to assign this source to the first half of the 9th century, a date which is entirely compatible with our identification of it with J.

The second main source from which the tales of the Judges are derived (E) appears, wherever direct comparison is possible, as in the histories of Gideon and Abimelech, to be younger than J. It is, however, not all of the same age. The older stratum does not differ very greatly from J, and is also, in all probability, preprophetic; the later stratum is strongly tinged with prophetic ideas, and in its judgement of the religious offences of the people prepares the way for the pragmatism of the Jehovistic (JE) and Deuteronomic History of the Judges. So closely, indeed, does

  1. This symbol is, however, not very satisfactory, since the method of these writers was much more that of the historian who largely excepts his sources, than of the redactor who merely combines and harmonizes them.
  2. On 1830–31 see below, § 5, p. xxx f.