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The Old Testament in Its World

Oudtestamentische Studin
Old Testament Studies
published on behalf of the Societies for
Old Testament Studies in the Netherlands and
Belgium, South Africa, the United Kingdom
and Ireland


J.C. de Moor

Editorial Board
H.G.M. Williamson

H.F. Van Rooy


M. Vervenne

The Old Testament in Its World
Papers Read at the Winter Meeting,
January 2003
The Society for Old Testament Study
and at the Joint Meeting, July 2003
The Society for Old Testament Study
Het Oudtestamentisch Werkgezelschap in
Nederland en Belgi

Edited by

Robert P. Gordon
Johannes C. de Moor

This book is printed on acid-free paper.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

LC Control Number: 2004058584

Becking, Bob.
Between fear and freedom : essays on the interpretation of Jeremiah 3031 /
by Bob Becking.
p. cm.(Oudtestamentische studin = Old Testament studies,
ISSN 0169-7226; d. 51)
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 90-04-14118-9 (alk. paper)
1. Bible. O.T. Jeremiah XXXXXXICriticism, interpretation, etc.
I. Title. II. Oudtestamentische studin; d. 51.

BS1525.52.B43 2004
224.206dc22 2004054639

ISSN 0169-7226
ISBN 90 04 14322 X

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Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . vii

K.J. Cathcart, The Comparative Philological Approach

to the Text of the Old Testament . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1

M. Dijkstra, As for the other events . . . Annals and

Chronicles in Israel and the Ancient Near East . . . . . . . . .14

R.P. Gordon, Comparativism and the God of Israel . . . . . 45

A.C. Hagedorn, Who would invite a stranger from abroad?

The Presence of Greeks in Palestine in Old Testament
Times . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 68

P.S. Johnston, Death in Egypt and Israel: A Theological

Reection . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 94

K.A. Kitchen, The Hieroglyphic Inscriptions of the Neo-

Hittite States (c. 1200700 bc): A Fresh Source of
Background to the Hebrew Bible . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 117

M.C.A. Korpel, Disillusion among Jews in the Postexilic

Period . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .135

N. MacDonald, Whose Monotheism? Which Rationality?

Reections on Israelite Monotheism in Erhard Gersten-
bergers Theologies in the Old Testament . . . . . . . . . . . . . 158

M.E.J. Richardson, Textual Modication: Some Examples

from Egypt . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 168

J.E. Tollington, Abraham and his Wives:

Culture and Status . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 183

P.J.P. van Hecke, Pastoral Metaphors in the Hebrew Bible

and in its Ancient Near Eastern Context . . . . . . . . . . . . . .200
vi Contents

J.A. Wagenaar, The Priestly Festival Calendar and the

Babylonian New Year Festivals: Origin and Transforma-
tion of the Ancient Israelite Festival Year . . . . . . . . . . . . . 218

J.-W. Wesselius, Language Play in the Old Testament and in

Ancient North-West Semitic Inscriptions: Some Notes
on the Kilamuwa Inscription . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 253

P.J. Williams, Are the Biblical Rephaim and the Ugaritic

RPUM Healers? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 266

Abbreviations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 279

Index of Authors . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 281

Index of Biblical Texts . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 288

This volume brings together papers read at the Winter Meet-
ing of The Society for Old Testament Study in Birmingham,
6-8 January, 2003, and at the joint meeting of The Society for
Old Testament Study and the Oudtestamentisch Werkgezelschap
in Nederland en Belgie, in Cambridge, 21-23 July, 2003. The
latter meeting was organised in coordination with the Society
of Biblical Literature International Meeting (20-25 July, 2003).
The meetings had as their overarching theme The Hebrew Bible
against its Ancient Near Eastern Background, and most of the
papers presented in this volume have a Near Eastern as well as
an Israelite-Old Testament dimension.
The benets of drawing upon the linguistic stock of the neigh-
bouring cognate languages for the illumination of obscure words
and phrases in the biblical text have long been appreciated. In the
opening essay, however, K.J. Cathcart argues the further point
that it may on occasion be justiable to emend the Hebrew text
in the course of applying the insights of comparative philology to
textual cruces. With the use of worked examples, he illustrates
the ways in which Akkadian, Ugaritic and Old Aramaic may help
to solve problem readings in the Hebrew.
M. Dijkstra is concerned with the content of texts of an his-
torical complexion. He commends Hans-Gustav G uterbocks dis-
tinction between what kings in antiquity had recorded for their
own glorication and truly historical writing in which posterity
selected and wrote what it wanted to remember from the past.
It was the latter that gave rise to historiography in the ancient
Near East, and Israelite historiography is to be seen within the
context of this development. Israel did not have to wait for Hero-
dotus to develop a view on its history.
The conceptions of history held in Israel and in the adjacent
countries are one of several topics that engage R.P. Gordon as
he considers the question of comparativism and whether, and in
what respects, it is possible to distinguish Israel from her neigh-
bours. His conclusion is that the comparing and contrasting of
intellectual and religious developments in Israel and among her
neighbours is both legitimate and desirable.
The essay by A.C. Hagedorn reminds us that Israel also had
neighbours to the west. While acknowledging the likelihood of
viii Introduction

migrant craftsmen from the east settling in ancient Greece, Hage-

dorn is interested in the reverse process, focussing on the points
of contact between Greek and oriental in Palestine as a means of
discovering something about the social identity of those Greeks
who settled in Palestine.

Egypt, Israels most inuential neighbour to the south, is the

focus for comparison and contrast in the essay by P.S. Johnston
on death and the dead in Egypt and in Israel. Johnston notes
the positive aspects of death that are popularly associated with
ancient Egypt, but also highlights a problem in that there are
also clear indications that, in practice, the Egyptians failed to
respect the dead, and were to a considerable degree sceptical
and cynical about the afterlife. Egyptian views on death and
the afterlife were altogether more varied than often assumed.
Such hope as there was and such preparations for death as were
possible were the privilege of the well-to-do. In Israel, to judge
from its scriptures, death was fairly uniformly regarded as the
negation of life, disrupting its activity and bringing separation
from the divine presence.
K.A. Kitchen, best known for his Egyptological work, is con-
cerned here with the transitional era of Western mini-empires
(c. 1180-950 b.c.), which saw the ourishing of the Neo-Hittite
states, the Aramaean state of Aram-Zobah, and the Israelite em-
pire of David and Solomon. The Neo-Hittite states are seen as
important from an Old Testament perspective, not only on ac-
count of their historical interaction with Israel but also for the
cultural background that they provide for the accounts of Israel-
ite history in Samuel-Kings and Chronicles. Some lling in of the
sparse narration of the biblical books is possible in the light of the
recently published corpus of over 220 inscriptions in Hieroglyphic
M.C.A. Korpel takes us several centuries further on as she
considers the negative eects on the Jewish people of the de-
struction of the Jerusalem temple and the deportation of leading
citizens to Babylonia. She claims that the general preoccupation
with the restoration of Judah after the exile has deprived schol-
ars of a proper appreciation of the disillusionment and pessimism
that aected Jewish communities in the Neo-Babylonian and Per-
sian periods. The literary evidence, both biblical and archival, for
Introduction ix

the state of mind of Jews in Judah, Egypt and Babylon during

this period gives ample illustration of the despairing re-evaluation
of their religious faith and traditions that was going on. There
was no full and instantaneous triumph of strict monotheism at
the end of the exile.
N. MacDonald does not address the question of monothe-
ism expressly within a Near Eastern setting, but his conclusion
directs discussion back towards that larger environing world in
which Old Testament faith developed. MacDonald seeks to apply
insights from Systematic Theology to the discussion of mono-
theism, noting that the term itself is a coinage of the English
Enlightenment. He demonstrates the danger of imposing upon
Old Testament texts a ready-made term and therewith a concep-
tuality that is more restrictive than, and less truly descriptive of,
what the texts actually say in relation to Israelite belief about
It is the transmission of traditions that engages M.E.J. Richard-
son, who concentrates on Egyptian literature, ranging from Coptic
tradition, in which the Gospel account of the Holy Family in
Egypt develops into a number of links with specic sites, to the
much-cited Merenptah Stele, with its mention of Israel. It is
suggested that some texts that share motifs with Old Testament
passages are also deserving of recognition as comparative ma-
terial and therefore of inclusion in anthologies devoted to the
presentation of such. It is also urged that consideration be taken
of such matters as the purpose and the transmission of documents
when they are cited in illustration of biblical texts.

Though she does pay attention to ancient Near Eastern parallels

occasionally, J.E. Tollington retains a specically Old Testament-
Israelite focus in her examination of the relationships between
Abraham and his wives. The accounts of the lesser wives, Hagar
and Keturah, are truly patriarchal in outlook, but it is not so
in the depiction of Abraham and Sarah: A close reading indic-
ates that neither patriarchy nor matriarchy is the appropriate
authority for Gods people.
P.J.P. van Hecke, writing on pastoral metaphors, discusses
the depiction of God as shepherd in relation to his people, but
Van Hecke does not limit himself to positive imagery: he is also
interested in negative evaluations of God as sheep-owner and
x Introduction

even as anti-shepherd. The justication for this approach lies

partly in the fact that opposing metaphors from within the same
domain may co-exist in a text. Text may refer to biblical or,
more generally, to Near Eastern texts, since, as Van Hecke shows,
the non-Israelite texts have not only the traditional, positive use
of the shepherd metaphor but also clear instances of the reversed
J.A. Wagenaar is largely concerned with the internal devel-
opment of the festival calendar of Israel, including the relation
between the agricultural seasons and the xed-date prescriptions
of the priestly calendar of Leviticus 23. The possibility of in-
uence from the Babylonian festival calendar is noted, and the
Israelite Gezer calendar inevitably comes into the picture. The
comparison between Israel and Babylonia becomes most pro-
nounced when it is suggested that the transformation of Pesach-
Massot into a New Year festival may mirror a similar transform-
ation of the Babylonian New Year Festival, according to which
equal equinox years, each of six months, were recognized.
The use of words tropically is addressed by J.-W. Wesselius,
who seeks to ll a lacuna in modern studies of wordplay in the
Bible and related literature by highlighting possible occurrences
in epigraphic material. Special attention is paid to the Phoenician
Kilamuwa Inscription where the invocation of casus pendens is
thought to illuminate the meaning of the opening lines. The same
inscription, it is suggested, contains an example of polysemy in
which the several possible signicances of a word are each de-
veloped subsequently in the text. The additional feature of the
trapdoor, in which an expression that is ambiguous is taken in a
dierent direction from that expected, is noted for Kilamuwa and
the Bible, and further illustrates the point that word-play was a
very serious element in composing ocial texts in the literary
culture shared by the Old Testament and Kilamuwa.
Finally, P.J. Williams considers the meaning of the Hebrew term
Rephaim and its apparent Ugaritic cognate RPUM, and in par-
ticular the possibility that the terms may mean healers. The
vocalisation of the biblical term, however, does not necessarily
support such a derivation, and the meaning of Rephaim-RPUM
is regarded as remaining an open question.
The Editors
Kevin J. Cathcart Campion Hall, Oxford United Kingdom

The Comparative Philological Approach

to the Text of the Old Testament

1 Introduction1
One of the events in the 1960s which many Old Testament scholars
remember well was the publication of James Barrs Comparative
Philology and the Text of the Old Testament.2 No less interesting
were some of the lively reviews of that book.3 It is important
to note that Barr does not regard his work as an introduction
to the discipline of comparative philology. He is more concerned
with the application of philological means to elucidate Old Test-
ament passages which would otherwise be regarded as obscure
or corrupt.4 Accordingly, it may be helpful to begin with Barrs
very useful denition of comparative philology:

This term has meant the comparative study of language

groups within which signs of a common historical origin
can be detected; comparison is not a general discussion
of similarities and diences, but the construction of an
historical common scheme within which the material of
related languages can be placed.5

Thus, to be comparative means to be historical, and employing

the comparative philological method for the study of the text
of the Old Testament involves the general comparative study
of the Semitic language family. Barr distinguishes two types of
treatments (his term): the textual treatment and the philological
treatment. Generally speaking, the textual critic deals with a text
Whereas elsewhere in this volume Hebrew is printed in Hebrew type,
the Editors decided in this case to maintain the transliterated Hebrew the
author used in his manuscript to facilitate comparison with the other Semitic
languages he cites.
J. Barr, Comparative Philology and the Text of the Old Testament, Oxford
See, for example, the reviews by M.J. Dahood, Comparative Philology
Yesterday and Today, Bib. 50 (1969), 70-9; W.L. Moran, CBQ 31 (1969),
Barr, Comparative Philology, 10.
Barr, Comparative Philology, 77.
2 K.J. Cathcart

in which a graphic error has occurred during transmission. The

scholar who applies the comparative philological method does
not posit a dierent original text, but seeks to elucidate the ex-
isting one. One can assume that Barrs textual treatment (or ap-
proach) includes, for example, emendations proposed on the basis
of other Semitic texts like the Ugaritic texts recovered from Ras
Shamra. Let us take an example. In 2 Sam. 1:21 (Davids lament
over Saul), it has been proposed that s e de t e r
um ot should be
emended to read s e ra  t e r
ot, upsurging of the deeps, com-
paring KTU 1.19:I:45. I am not concerned here with the strengths
and weaknesses of this proposal,6 made on the basis of a similar
Ugaritic text. I simply make the point that, if the is emended,
it seems to belong to the category of a textual treatment rather
than, or perhaps as well as, a philological one. Of course, this par-
ticular case may illustrate the not uncommon situation in which
one works with a combination of the textual and comparative
approaches. Although it is true that the philological approach
may often justify rare or anomalous words, the same approach
may also bring about the identication of a word that is not rare
at all. (See the discussion of Heb. y ap a h. and Ugar. yph. below.)
Finally, it is interesting to note that Emmanuel Tov regards sup-
port from cognate languages, especially from Ugaritic, as leading
to linguistic emendations because they involve some form of
emendation, namely, in vocalization.7 Nevertheless, in this con-
nection it is salutary to read Barrs contribution on the fallib-
ility of the consonantal text, in which he quite rightly criticises
philological scholars, as he calls them, for their inconsistency in
the use of emendation.8 However, excesses in some philological
treatments should not deter scholars from engaging in the com-
parative philological approach. Sound philological proposals do
make us generally cautious about tampering with the text. On
the other hand, wholesale reckless emendation of the biblical text
that we associate with scholarship of a previous era cannot be
used to block convincing and sensible solutions based on emend-
See, however, J.P. Fokkelman, s e de t e r
ot in II Sam 1, 21a: A Non-
Existent Crux, ZAW 91 (1979), 289-292; S. Talmon, The Comparative
Method in Biblical Interpretation Principles and Problems, in: F.E.
Greenspahn (ed.), Essential Papers on Israel and the Ancient Near East,
New York 1991, 381-419 (405-6).
E. Tov, Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible, Assen 1992, 363.
Barr, Comparative Philology, 191-4.
The Comparative Philological Approach 3

ation. Quite rightly Barr stresses the need to be conscious of the

balance of probability in textual and philogical approaches to
the text. After examining many issues and sending out several
warnings, Barr sums up as follows:

These criteria are not rules the simple observation of which

will certainly lead to a right result. They themselves are
probable rather than absolute; and sometimes they may
seem capable of working in either direction.9

It would be impossible to address all the points which arise in dis-

cussing the comparative philological approach, so I have chosen
some worked examples that I think are interesting in the light of
recent research and epigraphical discoveries. Conscious of some
of the pitfalls of the philological approach, highlighted in partic-
ular by Barr, I shall now set out some examples of philological
treatment that involve the use of comparative data from Akka-
dian, Ugaritic and Old Aramaic, and which have a direct bearing
on the text of the Old Testament. I admit shamelessly that to
some extent my own particular interests have guided my choices,
but I am quite condent that I am not inuenced by that factor
which Barr says is more social than genuinely linguistic, namely
the love of the scholar for his own specialization.10 My choices
scarcely need justication. Akkadian is the most widely attested
Semitic language of the ancient Near East and its great import-
ance is self-evident. Ugaritic and Old Aramaic texts meet some
of the criteria suggested by Barr for making preferences between
sources. These texts are written in Northwest Semitic languages;
they come from the Syro-Palestinian area, and they are near to
the Old Testament period in time.11

2 Examples Using Akkadian

Although it is not always recognised, for Old Testament scholars
one of the most signicant developments in ancient Near East-
ern studies during the nineteenth century was the decipherment
of Mesopotamian cuneiform by Edward Hincks and Henry Cres-
wicke Rawlinson.12 The basic decipherment was accomplished by
Barr, Comparative Philology, 288.
Barr, Comparative Philology, 111.
Barr, Comparative Philology, 112-13.
The best account of Hinckss work is by P.T. Daniels, Edward Hinckss
4 K.J. Cathcart

Hincks in a series of papers between 1846 and 1852.13 One can

only imagine Hinckss excitement when he was able to read Akka-
dian words that were not names of persons or places, or when
he identied for example, the mention of Jehu son of Omri in
the inscription on the Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser III in 1851.
Among Hinckss papers in the Grith Institute, Ashmolean Mu-
seum, Oxford, there is a fragment of a paper that is the beginning
of an article on Hebrew Roots Compared with Assyrian, No. 1.
It begins as follows:
In addition to the light which the recent discoveries in
Assyrian literature throw on the history, chronology and
geography of the Bible, it may be expected that the lan-
guage of the inscriptions, which is of the same family as the
languages of the Old Testament, will illustrate obscure pas-
sages of the Bible by giving the true meaning of roots that
are of rare occurrence in Hebrew, perhaps hapax legomena;
and also by giving the true derivations of Hebrew nouns,
of which the verbal roots have been hitherto only conjec-

The rst entry in his draft article is on the Hebrew root s.rb, which
occurs four times in the Hebrew Bible: as a passive verb in Ezek.
21:3; as an adjective in Prov. 16:27, and as a noun in Lev. 13:23,
28. Hincks had correctly translated a line in the great pavement
inscription from Nimrud in which he identied a verb s.ar abu.
The line reads: damesunu sadu as.rup,15 which he renders: with
their blood the mountains I reddened. Hincks read the verbal
form as.rup as as.rub, so he identied it with the Hebrew verb
Decipherment of Mesopotamian Cuneiform, in: K.J. Cathcart (ed.), The
Edward Hincks Bicentenary Lectures, Dublin 1994, 30-57. See also Daniels
contribution on decipherment in: P.T. Daniels, W. Bright (eds), The Writing
Systems of the World, London 1996, 141-59; and Cathcart, The Age of De-
cipherment: the Old Testament and the Ancient Near East in the Nineteenth
Century, in: J.A. Emerton (ed.), Congress Volume: Cambridge 1995 (VT.S,
66), Leiden 1997, 81-95. There is still no good critical account of H. C. Rawl-
insons contribution to the decipherment of Mesopotamian cuneiform (not
to be confused with the decipherment of the Old Persian cuneiform writ-
ing system). There is much useful background information, however, in M.T.
Larsen, The Conquest of Assyria: Excavations in an Antique Land, London
See K.J. Cathcart, P. Donlon, Edward Hincks (1792-1866): A Biblio-
graphy of his Publications, Or. 52, 1983, 325-56.
Grith Institute, Oxford: Hincks Correspondence, MS 558.
The text is cited in CAD [S.], 104, where the full references are given.
The Comparative Philological Approach 5

.sarab, missing the identication of s.ar apu which would later be

made with .s arap, to smelt, rene. Modern dictionaries of Akka-
dian list .sar apu, to smelt and rene metals; to re clay tablets
or bricks; to burn; to dye textiles, ivory, leather, even mountains
red.16 Hinckss knowledge was imperfect, but his instincts were
correct and his interpretation of s. arab in the biblical texts was
accurate: Ezek. 21:3, nis.r b e u, shall be scorched; Prov. 16:27,
k e es s.
arebet, as a scorching re; Lev. 13:23, 28, s.
arebet, in-
ammation, redness; scar. It is, of course, true that misuse of
the newly deciphered texts from Mesopotamia led to the excesses
of pan-babylonianism, but there is no doubt that the study of
Akkadian and Sumerian texts has contributed enormously to the
understanding of the Old Testament. In this article, however, I
am concerned with comparative philological data from Akkadian.
The unsatisfactory translations of mlh lbtk (Ezek. 16:30) in many
modern English Bibles illustrate what might be described as an
example of wilful resistance to knowledge gained from comparat-
ive philology. The NRSV has: How sick is your heart; the NAB,
How wild is your lust, and the JPSV, How sick was your heart.
The JPSV translator does admit in a footnote that, on the basis
of the Akkadian, a change of vocalisation will give, How furious
I was with you. The NEB and REB have a satisfactory version:
How you anger me! The correct understanding of this verse was
rst published by David Hartwig Baneth in 1914, when he pub-
lished a suggestion made by his father Eduard Baneth that Akk.
libb ati mal u, to become angry with, had a counterpart in Ezek.
16:30.17 It was noted that the same idiom occurred in Aramaic
too. Godfrey Rolles Driver made the same proposal in 1928, and
elaborated on it in 1931.18 All the main Hebrew lexicons admit
this identication by Baneth, and the Akkadian loan has been
subjected to further scrutiny by Harold Cohen19 and again thor-

CAD [S.], 1962, 102-5; J. Black et al. (eds), A Concise Dictionary of
Akkadian, Wiesbaden 2000, 334. Note Neo-Babylonian s.ar abu.
D.H. Baneth, Bemerkungen zu den Achikarpapyri, OLZ 17 (1914), 251,
n. 1.
G.R. Driver, Some Hebrew Words, JThS 29 (1928), 393; Idem, Studies
in the Vocabulary of the Old Testament III, JThS 32 (1931), 366. Joseph
Fitzmyer added a new Aramaic occurrence in 1961; see J.A. Fitzmyer, A
Note on Ez 16, 30, CBQ 23 (1961), 460-2.
H.R. Cohen, Biblical Hapax Legomena in the Light of Akkadian and Ugar-
itic, Missoula 1978, 47-8.
6 K.J. Cathcart

oughly by Paul Mankowski in his very important published Har-

vard dissertation.20 Among early modern commentators, G.A.
Cooke21 accepted the Akkadian and Aramaic evidence for the
correct understanding of the text, but some commentators still
prefer the interpretation apparently intended by whoever pointed
the . The interpretation of the Akkadian loanword, lbh, anger,
as a cognate of Heb. leb, heart, is an example of a loanword in
the consonantal Hebrew text of the Bible being wrongly inter-
preted in the Massoretic text. It is interesting to note that the
(How should I dispose of your daughter?) and the (Why
should I judge your daughter?) did not interpret lbtk as your
Among the many useful contributions to the study of the
Biblical Hebrew lexicon in Mankowskis work on Akkadian loan-
words, the section on sibilants in his phonological analysis is
highly informative for Hebraists. He writes: The single most im-
portant diagnostic tool for identication of loans in BH is the
treatment of sibilants.22 He draws attention to the fact that, in
Akkadian, sibilants written with s -signs had the Babylonian pro-
nunciation [s ] but the Assyrian pronunciation [s]; and sibilants
with s-signs had the Babylonian pronunciation [s] and the Assyr-
ian pronunciation [s]. Perhaps one of the best-known examples
of the representation of Akk. s by Northwest Semitic s is that in
the Hebrew words misken ut, poverty, in Deut. 8:9, and misken,
poor man, in Qoh. 4:13; 9:15, 16. Akk. muskenu, commoner
(as for example in the Code of Hammurabi), also had the mean-
ing poor man. The sibilant indicates that the Akkadian word
entered Hebrew and Aramaic via Neo-Assyrian.23
Another good example of a loanword with Heb. s for Akk. s is
Heb. .taps
ar, Akk. .tupsarru, which occurs twice in the Old Test-
ament, in Jer. 51:27 and Nah. 3:17. The spelling of the Hebrew
form with s corresponding to Akk. s points to a borrowing from
P. Mankowski, Akkadian Loanwords in Biblical Hebrew (HSS, 47),
Winona Lake 2000, 77-80.
G.A. Cooke, The Book of Ezekiel (ICC), Edinburgh 1936, 171-3.
Mankowski, Akkadian Loanwords, 155.
There is a fascinating discussion of the transmission of Akk. muskenu into
other Semitic languages and then into the Romance languages, in Mankowski,
Akkadian Loanwords, 97-9, who fails, however, to give Heinrich Zimmern his
due, cf. H. Zimmern, Akkadische Fremdw orter als Beweis f
ur babylonischen
Kultureinuss, Leipzig 1914, 47.
The Comparative Philological Approach 7

Neo-Assyrian. Klaas Spronk is under the impression that .taps ar

occurs in Isa. 33:18 also, but the word there is s 24
oper. Notice,
however, that .tapsar is in the apparatus for that verse in BHK,
as part of a proposed emendation of s oper. At Jer. 51:27, .taps ar
is used of a military ocer, and one can compare s o.ter, with the
sense of marshal or quartermaster, in Josh. 1:10; 3:2. I continue
to hold the view that, in Nah. 3:17, .tapsar is a palace functionary.
Furthermore, I see no reason to change my long-standing view
that the parallel word minz arayik should be emended slightly to
manz azayik, as proposed long ago by H. Torczyner.25 No defence
of the stands up to scrutiny. Akk. manz azu is a well-known term
for a palace functionary (see manz az ekalli ), so manz azayik is an
excellent parallel to .taps
arayik. I have discussed elsewhere my
interpretation of the signicance of these terms and the roles of
these palace ocials or functionaries.26 The Vulgate custodes tui
has led some scholars to propose the identication of Heb. minz ar
with Akk. mas.s.aru, guardian, guard, sentinel. This proposal
does not stand up to scrutiny. One would have to assume nasal-
isation of the geminate consonants, which, although well attested
in Imperial Aramaic, is not found in Biblical Hebrew. Mankowski
examines the possibility of an Aramaic loan route but nds it vir-
tually impossible to sustain. As he says, mas..sar is not attested in
any Aramaic dialect, and the hypothetical *mas..sar > *mans.ar
> *manzar > Heb. minz ar is problematic.27 Finally, it is possible
that m e .su
ah in Nah. 2:2 should be repointed to mas.s. arah and
related to Akk. mas..sartu, as in the Akk. mas.s.arta nas. aru, to
stand guard. Nah. 2:2, n as.
or mas..s
ah, may be rendered stand

3 Examples Using Ugaritic

The close anity of Ugaritic to Hebrew within the classication
of the Semitic languages is just one of the factors that has en-
sured its pre-eminence in the study of the language, literature
and religion of ancient Israel. Progress in the study of Ugaritic
K. Spronk, Nahum (HCOT), Kampen 1997, 139.
H. Torczyner, Presidential Address, JPOS 16 (1936), 7.
K.J. Cathcart, Micah 2:4 and Nahum 3:16-17 in the Light of Akkadian,
in: Y.L. Arbeitman (ed.), Fucus: A Semitic/Afrasian Gathering in Remem-
brance of Albert Ehrman, Amsterdam 1988, 197-200.
Mankowski, Akkadian Loanwords, 96.
8 K.J. Cathcart

continues unabated. In this article I conne my remarks to some

Ugaritic lexical items that bear directly on Old Testament texts
and have (or should have) impacted on modern versions.
One of the more interesting discoveries for the Biblical Hebrew
lexicon is the identication of the Hebrew noun y ap a h., cognate
with Ugar. yph., witness. This was already noted by Mitchell Da-
hood in 1958.28 In the 1960s Samuel Loewenstamm published a
more detailed article on y ap a h. and Dahood again made further
important observations.29 William McKane was convinced by the
Ugaritic evidence and accepted the interpretation of y ap a h. in
Proverbs as a noun meaning witness. In 1978 Dennis Pardee
reviewed all the Ugaritic and Hebrew evidence carefully and he
presented an excellent systematic examination of all the texts.31
The noun y ap a h. occurs at least once in the Psalms, six times
in Proverbs and once in Hab. 2:3. Many modern translations of
the Old Testament adhere to the long-standing analysis of ypyh.
as a form of the verb pwh., to blow, breathe. At Hab. 2:3 the
RSV it hastens and the NEB it will come in breathless haste
recall BDBs panteth (hasteth) towards the end. The REB it
will testify to the destined hour is denitely an improvement,
and the JPSV A truthful witness for a time that will come, is
obviously based on the new knowledge about Ugar. yph..32 The
NRSV, on the other hand, is rather unsatisfactory. For Hab. 2:3
it has, it speaks of the end, and in Prov. 14:5 we are back to
the old breathes out lies. Thankfully, the REB with honest wit-
ness for yap a h.  e m
ah at Prov. 12:17, for example, has given
its approval to a noun y ap a h., witness, as do most of the newer
dictionaries of Biblical Hebrew.33
M. Dahood, Some Ambiguous Texts in Isaias, CBQ 20 (1958), 47-8, n.
S. Loewenstamm, y ape a h., y
ap a h., y
ap a h., Les. 26 (1962), 205-8 (re-
printed with some additions in: S.E. Loewenstamm, Comparative Studies in
Biblical and Ancient Oriental Literatures (AOAT, 204), Neukirchen-Vluyn
1980, 137-45); M. Dahood, Proverbs and Northwest Semitic Philology, Rome
1963, 45; Idem, Hebrew-Ugaritic Lexicography III, Bib. 46 (1965), 319-20;
Idem, Psalms I (AB, 16), Garden City 1965, 169.
W. McKane, Proverbs: A New Approach, London 1970.
D. Pardee, yph., witness in Hebrew and Ugaritic, VT 28 (1978), 204-
K.J. Cathcart, Legal Terminology in Habakkuk 2:1-4, PIBA 10 (1986),
HALAT, 405; HAHAT, 479; L. Alonso Schoekel, Diccionario Bblico
The Comparative Philological Approach 9

Much has been written on Ugaritic-Hebrew parallelism in po-

etry. Here I simply wish to comment on a remark by Barr. He

Where Ugaritic words are used for the elucidation of Heb-

rew, it should be remembered that the meanings of many of
these depend in the rst place on parallelisms in Ugaritic,
and the same caution has to be used in any reliance on
these Ugaritic meanings.34

I think that I understand Barrs worries here, but I suggest that

we should be just as cautious about reliance on Hebrew mean-
ings. Let me take an example. The parallel pair h a 
arm  g e b ot,
mountains  hills, is common in biblical poetry, and notably
so in the psalms and the prophetic books, especially Isaiah. In
Ugaritic literature the equivalent pair is g r  gb , plur. g rm 
gb m, and this Canaanite pair has survived in Num. 23:9.35 One
may translate Num. 23:9 as follows: I see him from the top of the
mountains, I watch him from the hills. The NRSV has crags
for .su
rm, the REB rocky heights. This preference for rocks,
rocky heights is remarkable. It is true, of course, that, elsewhere
in the Old Testament, s.u r means rock, rocky ground, place of
refuge. Now, a search of Drivers translation of the Ugaritic texts
is quite revealing.36 There we nd rocks for g rm and mountains
for gb m. The rendering mountain for gb  is quite surprising and
really inexplicable, not least because in his glossary Driver had
hill, hillock for this word.37 In the second edition of Canaanite
Myths and Legends, Gibson too has rocks for g rm, but he does
correctly translate gb m as hills.38 I think that g rm must be
translated as mountains in the Ugaritic texts.39 I prefer the
translation mountains for s.u rm in Num. 23:9, but I am open
Hebreo-Espa nol, fasc. 4, Valencia 1991, 300; D.J.A. Clines (ed.), The Dic-
tionary of Classical Hebrew, vol. 4, Sheeld 1998, 251.
Barr, Comparative Philology, 282.
So for the rst time, W.F. Albright, The Oracles of Balaam,JBL 63
(1944), 212, n. 22. See also S. Gevirtz, Patterns in the Early Poetry of Israel
(SAOC, 32), Chicago 1963, 56-7.
G.R. Driver, Canaanite Myths and Legends, Edinburgh 1956, 97, 109,
Driver, Canaanite Myths and Legends, 146.
J.C.L. Gibson, Canaanite Myths and Legends, Edinburgh 2 1978.
This also follows from the equivalence g rm = d HUR.SAG.MES, see now

D. Pardee, Les textes rituels (RSO, 12), t. 1, Paris 2000, 292, 306.
10 K.J. Cathcart

to any persuasive arguments that it means rocks, clis. I have

chosen this example to show how familiarity with the frequent
Biblical Hebrew word s.u r, rock, has inuenced not only our
translation of the text in Numbers 23:9, but even some transla-
tions of Ugaritic texts.

4 Examples Using Old Aramaic

Old Aramaic inscriptions are a rich source for philological re-
search and are particularly relevant for the study of the Old
Testament.40 As long ago as 1964 Delbert Hillers quite rightly
pointed out that the Aramaic inscriptions of Sere provide many
interesting and close parallels to Old Testament literature.41 Since
the 1970s, the corpus of Old Aramaic texts has expanded. There
is the very important late ninth-century Neo-Assyrian/Aramaic
bilingual from Tell Fakhariyah, and more recently we have seen
the publication of thirteen lines of a reasonably well-preserved
Aramaic text found at Buk an in Iranian Azerbaijan, south-west
of Lake Urmia. In this article several interesting lexical items
are chosen from the Sere inscriptions.
The following words occur in Sere III:4: whn yqrq mny qrq,
Now if a fugitive ees from me.43 Here we nd two forms of
the verb qrq, to ee, which in later Aramaic is rq, that is, with
ayin in rst position. In Job 30:3, 17 we nd the dislegomenon

araq, which means to gnaw. This meaning to gnaw is accepted
by most scholars, who cite Arab. araqa and point out that the
Vulgate has rodebant in v. 3. In his commentary on Job, Marvin
Pope writes with regard to v. 3:

See K.J. Cathcart, The Curses in Old Aramaic Inscriptions, in: K.J.
Cathcart, M. Maher (eds), Targumic and Cognate Studies: Essays in Honour
of Martin McNamara (JSOT.S, 230), Sheeld 1996, 140-52; S.A. Kaufman,
Recent Contributions of Aramaic Studies to Biblical Hebrew Philology and
the Exegesis of the Hebrew Bible, in: A. Lemaire (ed.), Congress Volume:
Basel 2001 (VT.S, 92), Leiden, 2002, 43-54.
D.R. Hillers, Treaty-Curses and the Old Testament Prophets (Biblica et
Orientalia, 16), Rome 1964, 77.
A. Lemaire, Une inscription arameenne du VIIIe s. av. J.-C. trouvee `a
Buk an (Azerbadjan iranien), StIr 27 (1998), 15-30; Idem, The Old Aramaic
Inscription from Bukan: A Revised Interpretation, IEJ 46 (1999), 105-15.
Text as in J.A. Fitzmyer, The Aramaic Inscriptions of Sere (BibOr,
19A), Rome 2 1995, 136.
The Comparative Philological Approach 11

The word rq which occurs only here and in v. 17 be-

low may also mean go away, ee or the like. Either sense
would be acceptable here, e.g. Roaming the arid steppe
as with the Targum (rqyn rsy y  b r   .sh.yy  [the wicked
were eeing in a parched land]).44

Now the third edition of Koehler-Baumgartner lists three inter-

pretations of h a 
or e qm .siyy
ah in v. 3.45 First, a gurative one:
the gnawing of drought. Second, the proposal to insert iqq e re,
roots, before s.iyyah. This is followed by the REB: they gnawed
roots in the desert. Finally, the interpretation found in the and
: They ee into the wilderness. In support of this last inter-
pretation, which, as we have just seen, Pope thought was valid,
Koehler-Baumgartner lists Jewish Aramaic, Syriac and Mandaic
rq; Old Aram. qrq, and Arab. araqa. There is also the sugges-
tion that, of the three interpretations given, the last is unlikely.
Unfortunately, the compilers of the lexicon have not seen the
incompatibility of the various words which they believe to be
cognates. The initial q in Old Aram. qrq indicates proto-Semitic
d.; therefore a Hebrew cognate would have s. and an Arabic cog-
nate would have d..46 Compare, for example, the common Semitic
word for earth: Aram. arq a/ ar 
a, Heb. eres., Arab. ard.. The
translator naturally understood araq as if it were an Aramaic
word. The oiJ feuvgonte" suggests the same. If there is an Ar-
abic verb araqa, to ee, depart (and I have not found it in the
lexicons), it simply cannot be cognate with the Aram. e raq, to
ee, for, as we have seen, its initial consonant would have to
be d.. It is best, therefore, to do what BDB did and have in the
lexicon of ancient Hebrew only the entry  araq, to gnaw, citing

Arab. araqa with the same meaning.
There is another interesting example of an Old Aramaic word
with q in Sere III: 6, rqh trqhm, you must placate (appease)
them.47 This verb is cognate with Heb. r as.
ah, to be acceptable,
pleasing. I have drawn attention elsewhere to the use of this
M. Pope, Job (AncB, 15), Garden City 1965, 193. I have inserted a
translation of the .
L. Koehler, W. Baumgartner, The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the
Old Testament, study edition (ed. M.E.J. Richardson), Leiden 2001, 888-9.
See the brief but perceptive remarks on the etymology of Aram. qrq/ rq,
by Fitzmyer, The Aramaic Inscriptions of Sere, 146.
Fitzmyer, The Aramaic Inscriptions of Sere, 136.
12 K.J. Cathcart

verb in the Hadad (Zenjirli) inscription, line 22, which, although

fragmentary, has zbh.h wl yrqy bh, his sacrice, and may he not
look favourably upon it, which can be compared with Amos 5:22,
Even if you oer me burnt oerings and your gift oerings, I will
not accept them (l o  ers.eh).48 Or is the sense, I will not be
appeased ?
In the nal section of this paper, I oer a new proposal to
remove a particular diculty in Nah. 2:14. The precise meaning
of several words in this verse could be debated, but the discus-
sion here will be conned to the problematic rikb ah. This word
causes diculty because of the third person feminine singular suf-
x and the mention of chariots in the context. Some scholars,
most recently J.J.M. Roberts,49 think that chariots breaks the
metaphor of the lion. Accordingly, with the and 4QpNah frags.
3+4 col. I, 10, Roberts reads rubb e k ah, with a second masculine
singular sux, and thinks that it, like .trpk (he reads .tarp e k a for
.tarpek ) later in the verse, refers to the plundered wealth stored
up in Nineveh. Driver pursued the lion metaphor even further by
emending rikb ah to rohbek, your pride, and mal  akekeh
(probably to be read mal  akayik ) your ambassadors, messen-
gers, to ma  a k alek, your feeding.50 Not surprisingly, Drivers
proposals found their way into the NEB. But it is rather surpris-
ing to nd that the JPSV thought the emendation to ma  a k alek,
your feeding, worth mentioning in its footnotes. The reference
to lions disappears altogether if one follows Fitzmyers proposal
to take kpyr as the word for village, attested with this spelling
in the Haddad and Panammu inscriptions and in some late Old
Testament texts.51 Robert Gordon notes that, while main MSS
have understood the k e prayik as your princes, some MSS
interpreted it as your villages.52 Roberts, as most scholars have
done, interprets k e prayik as referring to troops or ocials. But
let us return to rikb ah. The plh'qov" sou and 4QpNah rwbkh,
your throng, clearly support a reading rbk(h) in the Old Test-
Cathcart, Curses in Old Aramaic Inscriptions, 143.
J.J.M. Roberts, Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah: a Commentary,
Louisville 1991, 63.
G.R. Driver, Linguistic and Textual Problems: Minor Prophets, II,
JThS 39 (1938), 271.
Fitzmyer, The Aramaic Inscriptions of Sere, 159-60.
K.J. Cathcart, R.P. Gordon, The Targum of the Minor Prophets (The
Aramaic Bible, 14), Wilmington 1989, 138, n. 47.
The Comparative Philological Approach 13

ament text. But how is this to be interpreted? Does it refer to

plundered wealth, as argued by Roberts and others before him,
or does it refer to persons? The latter seems to be the interpret-
ation of the Qumran pesher, 4QpNah, frags 3+4 col. I, 10-11:
Your throng are his gangs of soldiers [. . . ]; his cubs are
his nobles [and the members of his council, . . . ] and his spoil
is the wealth which [the pries]ts of Jerusalem accu[mulated].53
Now there is a curse in Sere I:39-40, which in translation reads:
[Just as] this calf is cut in two, so may Matiel be cut in two,
and may his nobles (rbwh) be cut in two.54 This is one of several
references to the king and his nobles in the curses. The king is
even threatened with being burned like a wax gure (Sere I:37).
I propose being burnt tentatively to read rabbayik and suggest
the following version for Nah. 2:14: I shall destroy your nobles
(or chief ocers) in a pall of smoke, and the sword will devour
your young lions. We may compare Nah. 3:15, There re will
devour you, the sword will destroy you, it will devour you like a
young locust, and Job 1:15-16 for the destroying sword and re;
and Jer. 39:13; 41:1 for the chief ocers (rabbe ) of the king.
The selection of texts that has been examined from a philolo-
gical point of view in this article illustrates how much has been,
and can be, accomplished in the study of the Old Testament text.
Much still remains to be done. For example, it would be very in-
structive to carry out a detailed study of the lexical overlap of
ancient Hebrew with other Semitic languages, especially Ugar-
itic. I am thinking here of the sort of thing that Barr55 has done
on a sample basis. I have done a limited sample with Ugaritic,
but a more extensive study would be very useful. In an age when
the dumbing down of language requirements is increasing, it is
important to encourage young scholars to work in the elds of
textual criticism and comparative Semitic philology.

F. Garca Martnez, E.J.C. Tigchelaar, The Dead Sea Scrolls (study edi-
tion), vol. 1, Leiden 1997, 336-7.
Fitzmyer, The Aramaic Inscriptions of Sere, 47.
Barr, Comparative Philology, 162-4.
Meindert Dijkstra Utrecht University The Netherlands

As for the other events . . .

Annals and Chronicles in Israel and the Ancient Near East

1 Introduction
One of the best-known turns of phrase in biblical tradition, with
which the author, presumably of Deuteronomistic provenance,
refers to his sources, runs as follows in the AV and RSV:

Now the rest of the acts of Jeroboam, how he warred and

how he reigned, behold they are written in the Book of the
Chronicles of the Kings of Israel (1 Kgs 14:19).
Now the rest of the acts of Rehoboam . . . are they
not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of
Judah . . . (1 Kgs 14:29).

and so on (for instance 1 Kgs 11:41). As a devout child listening

to my fathers readings after the evening meal, running continu-
ously through the Bible, I knew that the rest of the story could
be found and, if need be, checked in the Book of Chronicles. I
still remember how disappointed I was as a young theological
student, when I found out that the Chronicles were not what
they seemed to be, the source of the Books of Kings. But then
a more intriguing quest was born, the search for the lost chron-
icles, the lost history history-sources of which we know only the
titles, such as rv;Y:h' rp,se The Book of the Just (or: Yasar) (Josh.
10:13; 2 Sam. 1:18) or hw:hy tmoj}l]mi rp,se The Book of the Wars
of Yhwh (Num. 21:14). Some scholars deem such references to
be a learned, but ctional, pia fraus. There is little to prove this
point. Some modern scholars have diculty in accepting the idea
that texts sometimes existed beyond texts, texts dierent from
the texts in front of us, but nevertheless their sources.
As for the other events of Rehoboams reign . . . are they
not written in the Book of the Annals of the Kings of Judah?
You may have noticed the dierence. In NIV, the Book of the
Chronicles is the Book of the Annals. What is the dierence?
The Concise Oxford Dictionary says:
As for the other events . . . 15

annals pl.n. a record of events year by year historical

chronicle n. a written account of important or historical
events in the order of their occurrence.

In his seminal studies on the historical traditions of ancient Meso-

potamia and Anatolia, Hans-Gustav G uterbock formulated a fun-
damental distinction between historical records in which royalty
prescribed what they wanted to be remembered for by posterity
and a kind of historical literature in which posterity selected and
wrote what it wanted to remember from the past.1 The latter
form marked the birth of ancient Near Eastern historiography.
It is my view that scholars have often ignored this distinction
between annals and chronicles in comparative studies. The dif-
ference in the dictionary does not seem great, but the denition
of chronicle may imply a dierent order of occurrence from year
to year, or at least a deliberate recording and selection of events
from the viewpoint of the chronicler. I would like to discuss some
of the problems of Israelite historiography in the context of Near
Eastern historiography from this viewpoint.

2 Historiographic Background and Roots

of Israelite Historiography
In my study of the summary statement, He who calls the eras
from the beginning (Isa. 41:4) in the Festschrift for Henk Leene,2
I discussed the question whether the belief in Yhwhs historical
intervention and his power to call up history by his command was
H.G. G uterbock, Die historische Tradition und ihre literarische Gestal-
tung bei Babylonier und Hethitern bis 1200, ZA 42 (1934), 1-2, 13. Also:
A. K. Grayson, Assyrian and Babylonian Chronicles (TCS, 5), New York
1975 (=AssBabC ); A.K. Grayson, History and Historians of the Ancient
Near East: Assyria and Babylonia, Or. 49 (1980), 140-94, esp. 188-9 = As-
syrie en Babylonie, in: E. Otto et al., Geschiedschrijving in het oude Nabije
Oosten (Supplementen Ex Oriente Lux, 3), Leiden 2000, 37-98, esp. 91-2; J.
van Seters, In Search of History: Historiography in the Ancient World and the
Origins of Biblical History, New Haven 1983, 91-2; M. van de Mieroop, Cunei-
form Texts and the Writing of History (Approaching the Ancient World),
London 1999, 25-7.
M. Dijkstra, He who calls the Eras from the Beginning (Isa. 41:4):
From History to Eschatology in Second Isaiah, in: F. Postma, K. Spronk and
E. Talstra (eds), The New Things: Eschatology in Old Testament Prophecy.
Festschrift for Henk Leene (ACEBT.S, 3), Maastricht 2002, 61-76.
16 M. Dijkstra

a concept of Second Isaiahs own design (for instance, as distinct-

ive from Geschichtskonzepte in the Book of Ezekiel),3 or whether
it was consonant with the ideas of Israelite historiography as
part of ancient Near Eastern historiography. It was my conten-
tion that this formula implied a view of history and its periodicity
that emerged in the rst millennium bce, in particular in the Na-
bonassar Era (after 747 bce), and was disseminated in the centres
of learning of the ancient Near East, whence they also inuenced
ancient Jewish historiography and Second Isaiahs concept of his-
tory. This contention depended, however, on the premise that a
certain historical awareness based on conceptions such as divine
intervention, alternations of good and bad periods and the like,
emerged in historiographic genres of the rst millennium bce,
such as the Synchronic King List, the Babylonian Chronicles and
even documents of prognostic historiography (so-called Akka-
dian Apocalypses). It is at present unwarranted to distinguish
between a cyclical, deterministic and immanent concept of his-
tory in Mesopotamia and a linear (teleological) and transcendent
view of history in Israel, as has often been done.4 Assyriological
scholars have rightly refuted this schematic simplication used
in Old Testament studies.5 At present, the debate about ancient
Near Eastern historiography revolves not so much around such
dierences between historiography in the Bible and the ancient
Near East, but around method, in particular, the approach to
sources of information and their analysis in relation to mater-
T. Kr
uger, Geschichtskonzepte im Ezechielbuch (BZAW, 180), Berlin
A view which was denitely challenged by the ground-breaking work
of B. Albrektson, History and the Gods: An Essay on the Idea of Histor-
ical Events as Divine Manifestations in the Ancient Near East and in Israel
(CB.OT, 1), Lund 1967. See also: Van Seters, In Search of History, 57-9.
For evidence indicating that the step from an immanent to a transcend-
ent view of history could take place in the Umwelt, see K. van der Toorn,
Prophecy between Immanence and Transcendence: A Comparison of Old-
Babylonian and Neo-Assyrian Prophecy, in: M. Nissinen (ed.), Prophecy in
its Near Eastern Context: Mesopotamian, Biblical and Arabian Perpectives
(SBL Symposium Series, 13), Atlanta 2000, 71-87.
W.G. Lambert, History and the Gods: A Review Article, Or. 39 (1970),
175 n.7; Idem, Destiny and Divine Intervention in Babylon and Israel, OTS
17 (1972), 70-1; A.K. Grayson, Babylonian Historical-Literary Texts, Toronto
1975, 21 n.34; Idem, Or. 49 (1980), 191 = Assyrie en Babylonie, 95; M.
deJong Ellis, Observations on Mesopotamian Oracles and Prophetic Texts:
Literary and Historiographic Considerations, JCS 41 (1989), 151, 179-81.
As for the other events . . . 17

ial and social culture. The classical Ereignisgeschichte or histoire

evenementielle in the terminology of the Ecole des Annales (F.
Braudel) is a legacy of the optimistic late 19th and early 20th
centuries, which saw Assyrian-Babylonian royal inscriptions, Old
Testament sources (whether or not reconstructed)6 as immedi-
ate information for reconstruction of what appears to be political
history. However, this intermediate relation between text and his-
tory posed a problem in modern theory of history under the in-
uence of modern linguistics, not only in biblical studies, but also
in Assyriology.7 At the most, documents are facts in themselves,
but do not contain immediate historical facts, let alone events.
They are messages or narratives with relative and limited histor-
ical value that can only be included, interpreted and understood
in a more comprehensive histoire conjoncturelle.8 History is not
simply the history of kings and ocials, but, in the approach of

the Ecole des Annales, supposes also involvement of ocial and
private archives, material culture, architecture and iconography,
in short, of all the dierent genres of culture in their Eigenbegri-

On the problem of calling the Old Testament a source of historical
information, see B. Becking, Inscribed Seals as Evidence for Biblical Israel:
Jeremiah 40.741.15, par exemple, in: L.L. Grabbe (ed.), Can a History of
Israel Be Written? (JSOT.S, 245), Sheeld 1997, 69.
M. Liverani, Memorandum on the Approach to Historiographic Texts,
Or. 42 (1973), 178-94. A useful survey is A.M. Bagg, Geschichtsschreibung in
der Assyriologie, WO 29 (1998), 98-108. The article is a review of W. Mayer,
Politik und Kriegskunst der Assyrer, M unster 1995, as a recent example of
Ereignisgeschichte in contrast to collections of modern historiographic essays
on ancient Near Eastern studies such as M.T. Larsen (ed.). Power and Pro-
paganda, Copenhagen 1979; F.M. Fales (ed.), Assyrian Royal Inscriptions:
New Horizons in Literary, Ideological, and Historical Analysis (OrAnt.C,
17), Rome 1981. Other representatives of this sceptical approach to Meso-
potamian historiographic texts are A.L. Oppenheim, M. Civil, F.R. Kraus, H.
Tadmor and G. van Driel. Against this sceptical approach see W.W. Hallo,
The Limits of Skepticism, JAOS 110 (1990), 187-99; A.R. Millard, Story,
History and Theology, in: A.R. Millard et al. (eds), Faith, Tradition, and
History: Old Testament Historiography in its Near Eastern Context, Winona
Lake 1994, 37-64 (esp. 53-64).
B. Becking, Chronology: A Skeleton without Flesh? Sennacheribs Cam-
paign as a Case-study, in: L.L. Grabbe, Like a Bird in a Cage: The Invasion
of Sennacherib in 701 bce (JSOT.S, 363), Sheeld 2002, 46-71, esp. 71; but
see also the criticism of Braudels three-causes model by Ch. Lorenz, De
constructie van het verleden: een inleiding in de theorie van de geschiedenis,
Amsterdam 1998, 145-6.
18 M. Dijkstra

lichkeit.9 Historiography needs a basic factual and chronological

framework. Chronology is still the backbone or even skeleton of
history,10 and, as such, there is nothing wrong with creating a
histoire evenementielle,11 but to provide it or revive it with esh
and blood is a dierent matter.
Mesopotamian and biblical historiography share many as-
pects and elements of a common ancient Near Eastern belief sys-
tem, in particular the idea of divine intervention and a view of
the past as a sequence of good and bad times. Furthermore, they
often show the same mixture of human and divine action, myth
and legend, and aetiological interest, as well as the authors cri-
ticism and disapproval.12 In most of its literary aspects, biblical
historiography is a variant form of ancient Near Eastern histori-
ography, except for its fundamental confession of Yhwhs exclus-
iveness and the singular emphasis on recalling and remembering
Israelite history in worship (Deut. 26:3-10; 32:7; Ps. 78:3-4).
But such a form of liturgical remembrance is, after all, no less
biased and ideological in character than the creation of history
serving to legitimate a cult or dynasty in the ancient Near East.
Historical memory is everywhere more adjusted to what really
serves the present than to what may really have happened and
cannot in fact be altered.13 So I doubt whether biblical authors
were and could be the rst historians or creators of history. With
some condence, I still quote Huizingas denition of history, as
has been done by numerous students of biblical and ancient Near
Eastern history: History is the intellectual form in which a civil-
See Van de Mieroop on history from above and from below (Cuneiform
Texts and the Writing of History, 39-85, 86-105).
Becking, Chronology, 67-71.
So also Bagg, Geschichtsschreibung, 103; Van de Mieroop, Cuneiform
Texts and the Writing of History, 55.
Some of these aspects have been noted by J. Barr, Story and History in
Biblical Theology, JR 56 (1976), 1-17. He also noted an absence of critical
evaluation of sources and reports, but I agree with Millard (Story, History
and Theology, 39-40) that this aspect is not completely absent either in
biblical (in particular Deuteronomistic) or in Babylonian historiography. See
B. Halpern, The First Historians: The Hebrew Bible and History, San
Francisco 1988; Idem, History as a Jewish Problem, in: J. Neusner et al.,
From Ancient Israel to Modern Judaism: Intellect in Quest of Understanding.
Essays in Honor of Marvin Fox, vol. 1, Atlanta 1989, 3; M. Z. Brettler, The
Creation of History in Ancient Israel (JSOT.S, 148), Sheeld 1992, 2 1995,
As for the other events . . . 19

ization renders account for its past. Historiography was born in

an axial period of ancient Near Eastern civilisation and biblical
historiography took its part in it. Cultural heritage, ideology and
theory-loadedness play their part in any form of historiography,
ancient or modern, so within the variety of theories of history,
Huizingas denition allows proper space and place for ancient
Israelite and Mesopotamian historiography within the bounds of
their mutual Eigenbegriichkeit.14 Already in the Umwelt of Is-
rael, we nd an historiographic interest that took historiography
a step further than the res gestae, i.e. recording the deeds of the
king and his ocials, namely to the development of a literary
historical tradition.15

3 A Survey of Babylonian Chronicles

What is the dierence between annals and chronicles? Annual re-
ports or annals usually relate to the military, cultural and polit-
ical achievements of a particular king or dynasty, often year after
year. Usually such annals are in autobiographical style, but oc-
casionally annalistic inscriptions are in biographic style, perhaps
because, as some scholars suppose, they were compiled from cur-
rent war journals.16 Annalistically structured records appear in
royal inscriptions of, for instance, the Third Dynasty of Ur as
early as the beginning of the second millennium bce, but the
W.E. Krul, Huizingas denitie van de geschiedenis, in: J. Huizinga,
De taak der cultuurgeschiedenis, samengesteld, verzorgd en van een nawoord
voorzien door W.E. Krul, Groningen 1995, 284; F.R. Ankersmit, De spiegel
van het verleden, Exploraties 1: Geschiedtheorie, Kampen 1996, 7-9; Van
Seters, In Search of History, 1; DeJong Ellis, JCS 41 (1989), 182-4; Becking,
Inscribed Seals as Evidence for Biblical Israel, 66; but see also the problems
with this denition in Brettler, Creation of History in Ancient Israel, 11.
Note that Peter Machinist also emphasised this Eigenbegriichkeit in his
lecture The Old Testament in Comparative Perspective (SOTS/SBL 2003
This is seemingly the point missed by Brettler, Creation of History in
Ancient Israel, 11. Even if Huizinga made a sharp distinction between history
and literature and if, according to Brettler, modern scholarship may not do
so, this correction applies also to Israelite and Mesopotamian historiographic
This theory of war journals in combination with letters (reports) to the
deity as Vorlage for the Assyrian annals is in Mayers view essential for the
credibility of the inscriptions (Mayer, Politik und Kriegskunst, 56-59); but for
the pitfalls of this theory, see Grayson, Or. 49 (1980), 164-70 = Assyrie en
Babylonie, 64-67; Bagg, Geschichtsschreibung, 105.
20 M. Dijkstra

genre may go back to kings from the third millennium such as

Sargon of Akkad, and even to pre-Sargonic times.17 Collections
of such annual reports written on tablets and stored in archives
for consultation, study and reference are known in Mesopotamia
only from the Late Middle Assyrian Period onwards (1132-935
bce). Similar texts are found in Anatolian archives such as the
pinasdar (masculine) acts compiled in chronological order. They
are annalistically composed texts, which approach the later chro-
nographic texts, being the earliest examples of ancient Near East-
ern historiography.18 We think here especially of the Annals of
Mursilis II (ca 1300 bce), in particular the decennial records,
series of ten years of annals (TUAT, 1/5, 471-81), which were ex-
tracts, taken and summarised from extensive running yearbooks.
The genre of the chronicle, with its fundamental focus on the
past, its selective structure, eclectic preference and hardly hid-
den historiographic bias emerges after the rst quarter of the rst
millennium. But it did not appear out of the blue. The change in
viewpoint from annals to chronicles is a gradual one. In essence,
annals focus on the exploits of their sponsor in time and space.
Though they may show interest in the past (usually the recent
past), their focus is the present, not the past.19 In some early his-
torical texts, even as early as the Sumerian historical inscription
of Enmetana of Lagas (ca 2400 bce), there are historical surveys
summing up events that constitute the prelude to the present
See the survey W.W. Hallo, Sumerian Historiography, in: H. Tadmor,
M. Weinfeld, History, Historiography and Interpretation: Studies in Bib-
lical and Cuneiform Literatures, Jerusalem 1983, 9-20; R.E. Averbeck, The
Sumerian Historiographic Tradition and its Implications for Genesis 1-11,
in: A.R. Millard et al. (eds), Faith, Tradition, and History, Winona Lake,
Indiana 1994, 79=102. It follows the observations of Grayson, Or. 49 (1980),
142; D.O. Edzard, RLA 6, 77-86; Van de Mieroop, Cuneiform Texts and
the Writing of History, 59-75. Beside the most interesting predecessor of
Assyrian-Babylonian historiography, i.e. the Sumerian King List, there is the
Tummal Chronicle, actually a building chronicle. See, however, the criticism
of the designation chronicle by Edzard, RLA 6, 85-86.
H.G. Guterbock, Hittite Historiography: A Survey, in: Tadmor, Wein-
feld, History, Historiography and Interpretation, 30-1 = Hettitische geschied-
schrijving: een overzicht, in: Geschiedschrijving, 108.
J. Renger, Vergangenes Geschehen in der Text uberlieferung des al-
ten Mesopotamien, in: H.-J. Gehrke, A. Moller (eds), Vergangenheit und
Lebenswelt: Soziale Kommunikation, Traditionsbildung und historische Be-
wutsein, T ubingen 1996, 9-60; Van de Mieroop, Cuneiform Texts and the
Writing of History, 25.
As for the other events . . . 21

situation. In that particular text, the previous history comprises

a period of about 150 years, divided into a distant past (Mesilim
of Kis, ca 2550 bce) and the recent past (Eanatum, the uncle and
predecessor of Enmetena).20 Such reviews of the past often occur,
leading up to the occasion for which the inscription was made. A
good example is the early Hittite Anitta text (CTH 1),21 which
is actually a compilation of inscriptional tablets.22 The technique
of reviewing the recent past (sometimes even the distant mythical
or legendary past)23 as a historical introduction and then de-
scribing the current state of aairs stemming from this previous
history, is best known from Hittite tradition.24 Famous examples
are the Proclamation of Telepinu and the Apology of Hattusilis,25
but such historical reviews also appear often in treaty texts, after
the preambles,26 and in West Semitic royal inscriptions, such as
the Kulamuwa inscription (lines 2-8) and the Mesha stela (lines
However, such texts have sometimes been called chronicles,
but they are not really part of this genre, since they follow no sys-

See the discussion of this text by Averbeck, Sumerian Historiography,
93-8; Th.J.H. Krispijn, Het relaas van Enmetana, stadvorst van Lagasj over
de strijd met Umma om het Guedana, in: R.J. Demaree, K.R. Veenhof, Zij
schreven geschiedenis: historische documenten uit het oude Nabije Oosten,
Leiden 2003, 3-9.
Hittite texts referred to after E. Laroche, Catalogue des textes hittites
(EeC, 75), Paris 1971.
As noted by Van Seters, In Search of History, 106-7; see further G.
McMahon, History and Legend in Early Hittite Historiography, in: Faith,
Tradition, and History, 149-57, esp. 151. Indeed, Van Seters minimises its
importance, but McMahon seems to overstate its innovative character. Its
annalistic structure does not make it a kind of early Hittite history.
As in the Hittite Zalpa legend (CTH 3), H.A. Honer, The Queen of
Kanesh and the Tale of Zalpa, in: W.W. Hallo (ed.), The Context of Scrip-
ture, vol. 1: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World, Leiden 1997 =
ContS 1, 181-182 (1.71), discussed in the literature cited in n. 22.
See H.A. Honer, Histories and Historians of the Ancient Near East:
the Hittites, Or. 49 (1980), 283-332; G uterbock, Hittite Historiography:
A Survey, 21-35 = Hettitische Geschiedschrijving: een overzicht, 99-113;
McMahon, History and Legend in Early Hittite Historiography, 149-57.
See the new translation and comments of Th.P.J. van den Hout in re-
spectively, ContS 1, 194-98 (1.76) and 199-204 (1.77); also H. de Roos, De
troonsbestijging van Hattusili III, in: Zij schreven geschiedenis, 169-79.
Examples may be found in ContS 1, 94, 96, 98-9, 100; E. von Schuler,
Die akkadische Fassung des Vertrages zwischen Suppiluliuma I. von Hatti
und Niqmaddu II. Von Ugarit, Staatsvertr age, TUAT 1/2, 131-4.
22 M. Dijkstra

tematic chronology.27 A good example is also the Synchronistic

History from the library of Assurbanipal (AssBabC 21). This
historiographic work is not a chronicle in the proper sense, but
actually contains a chronologically arranged survey of Assyrian-
Babylonian relations from the 15th century bce until the reign of
Adad-Nerari III (870-783 bce), within the framework of the set-
tlement of a boundary dispute. This document suggests itself as
being the copy of a royal inscription on a stela that once allegedly
marked the border between both countries. To what extent the
text was ctitious in character, but created to be legal proof of
the fortunes of war that led to the xation of the present border,
is a matter of debate.28 An interesting feature is the suggestion of
precise factuality that is clare et distincte, but using pre-existing
chronographic records with a hardly hidden political agenda.
Apart from this kind of extract in monumental inscriptions, un-
fortunately few library copies of such annalistic records have been
preserved in Assyria.29 This Synchronistic Chronicle (AssBabC
Such a misnomer is, for instance, the Hittite Palace Chronicle (CTH 8);
cf. McMahon, History and Legend, 153; J. Klinger, Aus der sogenannten
Palastchronik , TUAT, Erg anzungslieferung, G utersloh 2001, 61-4.
Grayson, AssBabC, 50-6; Grayson, Or. 49 (1980), 181-2 = Assyrie en
Babylonie, 83-4; J.A. Brinkman, The Babylonian Chronicle Revisited, in:
T. Abusch et al. (eds), Lingering over Words: Studies in Ancient Near East-
ern Literature in Honor of William L. Moran (HSS, 37), Harvard 1990, 73-
104; Hallo, Origins, 140-1.
Fragments in Grayson, AssBabC, 184-9; J.-J. Glassner, Chroniques m eso-
potamiennes, Paris 1993, 174-8. All these fragments, presumably belonging
to the same text, have the library of Tiglath-Pileser I as their provenance
(1143-1076 bce). They comprise a period from Enlil-Nirari (ca 1329 bce)
up to Tiglath-Pileser I (ca 1050 bce). The text does survey the Assyrian-
Babylonian conicts but that does not make it a chronicle. See my remarks
above on the Synchronistic History (AssBabC 21). About the possible exist-
ence of early Assyrian chronicles, see Grayson, Or. 49 (1980), 181, n. 191a
= Assyrie en Babylonie, 84, n. 200; H. Tadmor, Observations of Assyrian
Historiography, in: M. deJong Ellis (ed.), Essays on the Ancient Near East
in Memory of Jacob Joel Finkelstein (MCAA, 19), Hamden 1977, 211, in
contrast to Van Seters, In Search of History, 82-4. Whether this text was
a chronicle in the proper sense remains to be seen, for it is at present too
fragmentary to warrant such a designation. It is remarkable that we have
so many Assyrian annals, especially in monumental fashion, but that such
archival historiographic works, comparable to the Babylonian Chronicles,
seem to have been absent from the Library of Assurbanipal, despite so many
other texts witnessing to the existence of a historical tradition (king lists
even one synchronistically arranged historical epics, prophecies of Marduk

and Sulgi, the Weidner Chronicle and so on).
As for the other events . . . 23

21) ends just before Nabu-Nasirs immediate predecessor, but

that is perhaps pure coincidence.30 From the same period, or per-
haps some later date is the P(inches)-Chronicle (AssBabC 22),
describing political relations between Babylon (Kardunias), As-
syria and Elam from the perspective of their dealings with the
cult of Marduk.31 A related text is also the Weidner-Chronicle
(AssBabC 19).32 This document was recently discovered not to
be a chronicle, but a letter allegedly written by two early second
millennium kings. It has interesting parallels in the prognostic
texts known as the Marduk and Sulgi prophecies, suggesting that
it too was a pia fraus counterfeited for propaganda purposes.
That does not mean, however, that they were completely unhis-
torical, because the authors clearly drew their source-material for
their historical surveys from existing annals, astronomical diaries
and historical chronicles.33

The Sama
s-Suma-Ukin Chronicle (AssBabC 15) is an ex-
cerpt, presumably made for study. It was compiled from dier-
ent chronicles,34 as is clearly stated in the colophon. Apart from
the chronicles of the 4th to the 18th year of this king, it con-
tains some unintegrated lines copied from a writing board about
Babylonian kings from earlier periods than Sama
reign. The Akitu Chronicle, the Religious Chronicle and the

It is unclear whether it yet reveals awareness and forms another argument
for the existence of a Nabonassar Era. Pace Hallo, Origins, 141.
This text stems from Babylon. Van Seters, In Search of History, 86
7, defends convincingly its literary dependence on the Synchronistic History
(AssBabC 21), in contrast to Grayson, AssBabC, 58; Idem, RLA 5, 88 (dating
it ca 1155 bce).
Guterbock, ZA 42 (1932), 47-57 (Assur 13955gv photograph and copy);
Grayson, AssBabC, 43-5; 147-51; Glassner, Chroniques, 215-8, known from a
Neo-Assyrian copy from Assur, a few fragments from Babylon and now also
a copy from Sippar. See A.R. Millard, The Weidner Chronicle (1.138), in:
ContS, vol. 1,468-70, and further literature below.
In the later periods chronicles were also composed about the Kassite
Period and even older dynasties; cf. for instance Chronicle 25. See Grayson,
RLA 6, 89; C.B.F. Walker, Babylonian Chronicle 25: A Chronicle of the

Kassite and Isin II Dynasties, in: G. van Driel et al. (eds), ZIKIR SUMIM:
Assyriological Studies Presented to F.R.. Kraus on the Occasion of his Sev-
entieth Birthday (SFSMD, 5), Leiden 1982, 398-417.
A.R. Millard, Another Babylonian Chronicle, Iraq 26 (1964), 14-35;
Grayson, AssBabC, No. 15, 32-4; 128-30; Glassner, Chroniques, 189-90.
Millard, Iraq 26 (1964), 31; Grayson, AssBabC, 32-3, 130; Glassner, Chro-
niques, 189-90, covering such Babylonian kings as Assur-Nadin- Sumi (699-
24 M. Dijkstra

Eclectic Chronicle (AssBabC 16, 17, 24) probably used existing

chronicles of which they are extracts36 written for the special
reason of summarising a particular historical development such
as the varying fortunes of Bel and the New Year festival (includ-
ing the Akitu ritual), or to indicate conjunctions of events and
extraordinary (ominous?) signs. In a way, they stand outside the
mainstream of Babylonian Chronicles, but emphasise the eclectic
nature of these Chronicles. This is no longer recording events for
the greater glory of royalty (the res gestae), even if some authors
are rather biased in their description of certain kings and their
fortunes: it also gives a distant view of the past manipulating and
rewriting it where necessary according to the writers own his-
torical perspective. And that is indeed the mark of true ancient
The most complete series of chronicles that really deserve this
name are the Babylonian Chronicles, known in two versions. An
older Neo-Babylonian version, which runs from King Nabu-Nasir
(747-734 bce) to Darius II, has a colophon dated the 22nd year
of Darius and is written on tablets with four columns (AssBabC
1 and 7, Appendix B).37 The second version is known from Late
Babylonian sources (Appendix B). This version is expanded with
preceding chronicles of early kings,38 and is supplemented with
chronicles about the Persian and Greek dynasties until the Seleu-

694 bce, contemporary with Sennacherib); Sirikti-
Suqamuna (ca 984 bce)

and Nabu-Suma-I skun (760?-748 bce).
See, in particular, in the Akitu Chronicle, the items shared with other
chronicles (AssBabC 1 ending; AssBabC 14 ending; and once more AssBabC
15). The interesting thing is that excerpt AssBabC 15 does not mention the
proceedings of the Akitu festival as is done in AssBabC 16 (and summarily
found in AssBabC 1), but that they were included in the Late Babylonian ver-
sion (AssBabC 14). This is an interesting case of re-writing history (Grayson,
AssBabC, 30-1). See below.
Grayson, AssBabC, 9 n. 7; D.J. Wiseman, Chronicles of the Chaldean
Kings, London 1956, 3. Fragment BM 34779 (Sp II, 271; see on this fragment
Grayson, AssBabC, 280) belongs also to this class of texts.
Presumably also AssBabC 14 (Esarhaddon // AssBabC 1), 20 A and
B (Sargon IAgum III), 25 (Tukulti-Ninurta I 1244-1208 bce; Adad-Suma-
Usur, 1216-1187 bce; Adad-Apla-Iddina 1068-1047 bce); 24 (from Marduk-
Sapik-Zeri 10801068 bce to Nabu-Nasir 747-734 and Salmanassar V 726-722
bce) may have been part of this series (Appendix B). AssBabC 20A and 14
have a colophon suggesting that they belong to the same series (ANET, 266,
303; see, however, the critical remark of Grayson, AssBabC, 128).
As for the other events . . . 25

cid Era (third century bce).39 There were at least two copies of
the Late Babylonian version (AssBabC 3, 5, 10[?] written on long
tablets with one column on each side and AssBabC 2, 4, 6 and 25
written on small business-tablets). The relation between the two
copies is not completely clear, but is interesting to note that the
text of tablets AssBabC 3, 4 and 5 joins without any gaps, though
they belong to dierent copies. The chronicles AssBabC 11-13,
13a, 13b are related and begin to date according to years of the
Seleucid Era after the elusive reigns of Philip III and Alexander
IV (AssBabC 10), which indicates their Late Babylonian origin
(the last date is the 88th year).40 The sources of information for
this new type of chronicle were perhaps running reports record-
ing astronomical and other data preserved in the so-called as-
tronomical diaries and related texts, the regular observation and
recording of which most probably was initiated under king Nabu-
Nasir.41 If the Nabonassar Era were indeed the axial period for
their emergence, their introduction into the ancient Near Eastern
curriculum implies also a cultural, literary and historical dier-
ence and development between annals and chronicles. Chronicles
are those texts that digest a selection of traditions, events, ob-
servations and other data in a chronographic structure and syn-
thesise them into historiography. Interpreting those sources by
selecting, summarising, revising and criticising from a distance is
the true mark of early historiography.

Grayson, AssBabC, 89; Idem, Or. 49 (1980), 174 = Assyrie en Babylo-
nie, 75.
T. Boiy, Dating Methods during the Early Hellenistic Period, JCS 52
(2000), 115-20, esp. 117. The rst six years of this Seleucid Era perhaps
represent the rule of Alexander IV and Seleucus I together. See the King
List 6, King List of the Hellenistic Period (RLA 6, 98-9). Only in his / the
seventh year (305 bce) was Seleucus I apparently acknowledged as sole ruler
when he accepted the royal title.
Grayson, Or. 49 (1980), 174 = Assyrie en Babylonie, 75; Van de Mie-
roop, Cuneiform Texts and the Writing of History, 33-4. See the edition of A.
J. Sachs, H. Hunger, Astronomical Diaries and Related Texts from Babylonia,

vol. 1: Diaries from 652 B.C. to 262 B.C. (DOAW.PH, 195), Vienna 1988,
11-38. War journals were kept in Egypt alongside other kinds of log book
such as the famous journal of Amennakht under Ramses III. See recently
R.J. Demaree, in: Zij schreven geschiedenis, 238-50. On the problem of war
journals in Mesopotamia, see note 16.
26 M. Dijkstra

4 Sources of the Deuteronomistic Chronicles

The Deuteronomistic author or historian (designated DtrH ) used
literary sources. Sources which evidently stood more close to the
recorded events than the DtrH himself. He, or eventually the
author whose chronographic work he consulted and summarised,
mentions his sources in so many words, which is a clear but rather
unique benchmark of nascent historiography. Three sources are
mentioned by name: the hmolv] yrEb]Di rp,se (1 Kgs 11:41), yrEb]Di rp,se
laer:c]yI ykel]m'l] ymiY:h' (1 Kgs 14:19 par.) and ykel]m'l] ymiY:h' yrEb]Di rp,se
hd:Why (1 Kgs 14:29 par.). The author creates the impression that
he compiled his chronographic work from ocial annual records
of major events in Israelite and Judaean history. He made a cal-
culated selection from them, referring his readers for further in-
formation to these same sources. I cannot discuss here the the-
ories and problems around the redaction history of DtrH, or the
exact nature of his sources.42 It is also still a matter of debate
whether the Deuteronomistic author created the synchronistic
framework in the Books of Kings himself, expanding it with oral
traditions and written sources from other provenances (such as
the ElijahElisha cycles), or whether he used an existing syn-
chronistic chronicle or king list. Noth and the majority of schol-
ars suppose that DtrH created it himself,43 though Smend does
not exclude a pre-existing Synchronistic Chronicle.44 Is it, how-

See R. Smend, Die Entstehung des Alten Testaments (ThW, 1), Stutt-
gart 4 1989, 121-2; Y. Yamit, History and Ideology: An Introduction to His-
toriography in the Bible (BiSe, 60), Sheeld 1999, 56-64, esp. 56-7.
M. Noth, Uberlieferungsgeschichtliche Studien, Teil 1: Die sammlenden
und bearbeitenden Geschichtswerke im Alten Testament, Darmstadt 1963,
18-27, 72-3; Smend, Entstehung, 121, T. Veijola, Moses Erben: Studien zum
Dekalog, zum Deuteronomismus und zum Schriftgelehrtentum (BWANT,
149), Stuttgart 2000, 13-4; Th.C. Vriezen, A. van der Woude, Oudisraeli-
tische & vroegjoodse literatuur (Ontwerpen, 1), Kampen 10 2000, 242-7. Also
the Forschungsbericht about recent Deuteronomistic research by T. Veijola,
Deuteronomismusforschung zwischen Tradition und Innovation I-III, ThR
67 (2002), 273-327, 391-424; 68 (2003), 1-41, esp. 6: Das Deuteronomistische
Geschichtswerk als Ganzes, 15-44.
Smend, Entstehung, 121, 138. The opinion is occasionally expressed that
DtrH counterfeited his sources (see recently F.A.J. Nielsen, The Tragedy in
History: Herodotus and the Deuteronomistic History [JSOT.S, 234], Sheeld
1997), but I agree with Smend, Veijola (ThR 68 [2003], 24) and others that
there is no obvious reason to deny the existence of these royal annals.
As for the other events . . . 27

ever, probable that DtrH used such an existing S-Chronicle? The

existence of Babylonian Chronicles is evident. But is there evid-
ence that similar synchronistic chronicles existed? There are six
pieces that are of a Synchronistic King List known, one adding
even the names of viziers (umm anu) who served these kings,45
all from Assur apparently, and ending with Assurbanipal and
Kandalanu. It is a pity that the Assyrian scholars, as far as we
know, did not write such extensive chronicles as the Babyloni-
ans did, but Grayson rightly remarked that a clear distinction
between such king lists and chronicles is hardly possible because
both are chronographic texts sharing a number of genre-critical
features. Sometimes king lists contain short chronistic remarks,
whereas chronicles show the listings of regnal years, ocials and
provenance characteristic of king lists. It is possible that such a
king list served as a frame of reference, or was even the skeleton
or chronological framework of the chronicles and therefore the
Synchronistic King List may be a source for the series of Baby-
lonian Chronicles, which have also a clear synchronistic struc-
ture.46 Though the viewpoint of the shared history of Assyria,
Babylonia and occasionally Elam is alternately Babylonian and
Assyrian, it is in reality Babylonian. In my opinion, Grayson and
others showed convincingly that such selective, synthetic chron-
icles written from a biased historical viewpoint were derived from
annals, war journals and astronomical diaries. The same sources
were used also for the production of monumental inscriptions and
This historiographic genre that deals both diachronically and
synchronically with the history of dierent countries, periods
and dynasties emerged in that period. Their contemporary origin
makes a comparative study of biblical and Assyrian-Babylonian
historiography even more worthwhile and promising in their com-
parative aspects and in regard to their individual character. On
the one hand, the Babylonian Chronicles usually do not mention
their sources, though we occasionally nd a hint in a colophon or
elsewhere. However, in some cases, we have the remains of their
sources, for instance the astronomical diaries, and we even have
dierent versions of the same chronicles. We have seen that these
ANET, 272-4; new edition of Grayson, RLA 6,86-135 3.12-17; Millard,
ContS 1,463.
ANET, 301-7; R. Borger, TUAT 1/4, 401-4.
28 M. Dijkstra

series of chronicles have been partly preserved in at least two dif-

ferent versions, a Neo-Babylonian one dated to Darius II (521-486
bce)47 and a Late Babylonian one dated at the latest to year 88
of the Seleucid Era (230 bce).48 On the other hand, DtrH and
the Chronicler often mention their sources, though they no longer
exist. For DtrH, these were essentially the separate annals of the
Kings of Judah and Israel, which certainly left traces in DtrH.49
In the Chroniclers History, we nd extensive extracts from DtrH.
By comparison, we get some idea how the respective authors used
and adapted these sources. Even a supercial comparison of the
versions of the Babylonian Chronicles shows both textual vari-
ants and examples of rewritten tradition. Unfortunately, there is
still little overlap between the two versions of the Chronicles, and
what there is comes mainly in the sections about Esarhaddon and

Assurbanipal / Sama
s-Sumu-Ukin (AssBabC 1.IV // AssBabC
14, 15, 16). Notable dierences do not only include scribal vari-
ants but also often the use of dierent geographical names. They
insert personal names (e.g. Bel-Etir, judge of Babylon), vary in
the use of formulas, invert certain events, have dierent dates for
events, and so on. However, despite these variants and dierences,
they had clearly the same Vorlage. The Neo-Babylonian text has
more historical details (e.g. AssBabC 1, IV, 7-10, 24-28), but the
Late Babylonian version AssBabC 14 elaborates much more on
the exile of Bel in Assur and the cancelling of the Akitu ceremony.
Without going into much detail, it is clear that further study will
reveal the same kind of stylistic variants, editorial interventions
and literary revision as is known in biblical historiography. But
similar developments, observable between the historical works of
Even copies made close in time, such as the one from Babylon (AssBabC
1 A) and the one from Sippar (AssBabC 1 B(+)C), show some considerable
variations in detail and structure. In general, Exemplar B(+)C, as far as
preserved, seems to have a longer text, in particular at the beginning. For
the details see Grayson, AssBabC, 69-75.
Grayson, Or. 49 (1980), 73-5 = Assyrie en Babylonie, 74-7.
Occasionally, such references to annals may be marked by the formula
wym;y:B], in his days / reign (// Akk. formula ina umsu). See 1 Kgs 16:34;
2 Kgs 8:20; 23:29; 24:1. See also this formula ymeyBi with a royal name, e.g.
1 Sam. 17:12; 21:1; 1 Kgs 10:21; 22:47; 2 Kgs 15:29.
Only AssBabC 14 seems to represent a kind of standard Late Babylonian
version (Glassner, Chroniques, 187-9). The other two texts are of a dierent
character, but apparently contain extracts. On AssBabC 15 see also Millard,
Iraq 26 (1964), 14-35, esp. 33; Glassner, Chroniques, 189.
As for the other events . . . 29

the Old Testament and similar works of rewritten history in later

Jewish tradition, might be searched for among the sources of the
Deuteronomistic History.
Jepsen discerned as one of the sources of the Books of Kings a
Synchronistic Chronicle.51 He reconstructed a Chronik S from
the time of Solomon until Hezekiah. He supposed that such a
chronicle, apart from the twrWbG the brave / mighty acts (1 Kgs
15:23; 16:5, 27; 22:46, etc.) contained other achievements such as
the holy objects they made, the cities and temples they built or
restored, but also reports of conicts, wars, diplomatic contacts
and dynastic marriages, ocials, and nally illness and death,
whether or not violent. These are also the subjects found in the
Babylonian Chronicles. If indeed such annals existed and the S-
Chronicle derives from them, the earliest possible terminus post
quem for such a work would be the fall of the Kingdom of Israel.
However, the annals of Judah continued beyond that date (2 Kgs
20:20-21;52 21:17, 25; 23:28-30; 24:5).53 It is plausible that the
author who wrote the Synchronistic Chronicle that is incorpor-
ated in the Book of Kings was also responsible for the selection of
other events and references to those events from the lost annals of
Israel and Judah. It is my impression that R. Smend, W. Dietrich,
T. Veijola and L. Camp (in his informative study on Hezekiah)
are inclined to the view that the original DtrH was a slightly
expanded Synchronistic Chronicle, which underwent several re-
visions, in the course of which large blocks of prophetic material
were included in and after the Exile.54 The problem with Jepsens

A. Jepsen, Die Quellen des K onigbuches, Halle 2 1956, text S-Chronicle,
It is possible that the Siloam inscription was an extract from Judaean
royal annals. See M. Dijkstra, History of Israel: Problems, Progress and Pro-
spects, in: International Bible Commentary (English version forthcoming).
It is surprising that this concluding remark for Zedekiah as well as
Jehoiachin is missing, even though recording of their reign did not stop.
Zedekiah simply disappeared from the records after his deportation (2 Kgs
25:7). Is there an explanation? The passage about Jehoiachins rehabilitation
(2 Kgs 25:27-30) seems to imply knowledge of his death some time after his
release from prison (ca 560 bce).
L. Camps, Hiskija und Hiskijabild: Analyse und Interpretation von 2.
Kon. 1820 (MThA, 9), Altenberge 1990; W. Dietrich, Prophetie in deuter-
onomistischen Geschichtswerk, in: T. Romer (ed.), The Future of the Deuter-
onomistic History (BEThL, 147), Leuven 2000, 47-65, esp. his reconstructed
text of DtrH 2 Kgs 310 on page 65.
30 M. Dijkstra

hypothesis of an S-Chronicle is that, if it were written during

Hezekiahs reign, it would antedate the bulk of similar king lists
and chronicles of Mesopotamian provenance by about a century.
Even if we admit that there is evidence that Babylonian schol-
ars started to keep detailed astronomical reports in chronological
records in the period of Nabu-Nasir a historical development
that even gave birth to the Hellenistic idea of the Nabonassar
Era55 it seems too far-fetched to nd one of its rst products
in the Israelite-Judaean S-Chronicle. The solution might be that
the earliest version of the Deuteronomistic Synchronistic Chron-
icle, as contained in DtrH, originated after Jehoiachins death. I
shall leave that problem for the specialists in the Deuteronom-
istic literature and draw attention to a post-exilic chronographic
work that is somewhat more accessible to literary criticism and
history, namely the prophetic Chronicle of Haggai.

5 The Chronicle of Haggai

It was a surprise to me to discover that hardly any scholar has
described the genre of the minor prophet Haggai as a chronicle,56
though a chronicle it is. It has all the features of one: date for-
mulas, unit division along date lines, inclusion of chronologically
arranged events, and, as its only peculiar element, prophecies.57
Grayson, AssBabC, 13-4; Idem, Or. 49 (1980), 174 = Assyrie en Baby-
lonie, 75; Hallo, Origins, 140-2.
Occasionally one would compare his booklet to an extract from a build-
ing chronicle, an idea introduced by Klostermann in 1896 and followed by
Rothstein, Deden, Dhorme, etc. See, however, J.L Koole, Haggai (COT),
Kampen 1967, 6; A. van der Woude, Haggai Maleachi (PredOT), Nijkerk
1982, 13; Vriezen, Van der Woude, Oudisraelitische Literatuur, 319. Rudolph
thought of an apology and Koole of a dated propagandistic document to be
used as a kind of charter for the Second Temple. More recent surveys may be
found in J.E. Tollington, Tradition and Innovation in Haggai and Zechariah
l-8, (JSOT.S, 150), Sheeld 1993, 19-23; Idem, Readings in Haggai: From the
Prophet to the Completed Book, a Changing Message in Changing Times,
in: B. Becking, M.C.A. Korpel (eds), The Crisis of Israelite Religion: Trans-
formation of Religious Tradition in Exilic and Post-Exilic Times (OTS, 42),
Leiden 1999, 194-208; J. Kessler, The Book of Haggai: Prophecy and Society
in the Early Persian Period (VT.S, 91), Leiden 2002, 243-5.
Basically the redactional debate revolves around the question whether
or not a collection of prophecies was secondarily framed by a chronographic
framework, be it of Chronistic (W.A.M. Beuken, HaggaiSacharja: Studien

zur Uberlieferungsgeschichte der fr
uhnachexilische Prophetie, Assen 1967)
or of Deuteronomistic origin (R.A. Mason, The Purpose of the Editor-
As for the other events . . . 31

Therefore I would call it a prophetic chronicle, though that is

no more remarkable than a chronicle of New Year festivals, or
of market prices, water levels and similar chronographic collec-
tions, i.e. from a form-critical perspective. Of course, as a chro-
nological record of prophecies, it is a unique document. I cannot
name any other ancient Near Eastern text outside the Old Testa-
ment comparable with it. We have collections of salvation oracles
for Esarhaddon and Assurbanipal, but they are, to my know-
ledge, neither prophecy, nor chronologically arranged. Also the
prognostic historical texts are dierent, for they all use the future
tense and mention no names. Haggai is written in the past tense,
and its main characters are mentioned by name: the Persian King
Darius II, the Governor Zerubbabel, the High Priest Jeshua and,
of course, the Prophet Haggai himself. So it reads somewhat like
a story. What is more, it is historiographic in form. Even the Reli-
gious Chronicle (AssBabC 17), as far as I understand it, is dier-
ent, though the chronographic collections of events, omens and so
on could be intended for divination. In fact, the only comparable
texts come from the Old Testament itself and, hardly surprising,
from the Former and the Latter Prophets. Other prophetic books
such as Jeremiah and Ezekiel also have many date formulas, but
they do not cover the whole book.58 Moreover, the underlying
chronological framework and systems of dating are highly con-
fusing and still a matter of debate. The only text that has a
clear chronographic structure is Jer. 36:145:5 also known as the
Memoirs of Baruch and running from the 4th year of Jehoiakim
son of Josiah to the 7th month of the 11th year of Zedekiah,
the year of the capture of Jerusalem.59 However, it remains a

ial Framework of the Book of Haggai, VT 27 [1977], 413-21, esp. 415-6).

Both Tollington and Kessler argue that the oracles of Haggai have been integ-
rated thematically and grammatically in its chronographic framework, which
does not suggest a pre-existing prophecy collection, so that as for its literary
genre, it primarily originated as a prophetic chronicle, even if it was revised
and expanded secondarily (e.g. Tollington, Readings in Haggai, 200-7).
Nevertheless, D. Petersen, Haggai and Zachariah 18 (OTL), London
1985, 32-6, rightly noted the resemblance between Haggai and the Histor-
ische Kurzgeschichte as described by N. Lohnk, Die Gattung der Histo-
rischen Kurzgeschichte in den letzten Jahren von Juda und in der Zeit des
Babylonischen Exils, ZAW 90 (1978), 319-47.
Lohnk, ZAW 90 (1978), 322-3, 343-7, had noted the coherence of Jer.
26 and 3641. See on the possibility of a pre-deuteronomistic scribal chron-
icle, C.R. Seitz, Theology in Conict: Reactions to the Exile in the Book of
32 M. Dijkstra

riddle why, for instance, chapters 3234 were not incorporated

in these memoirs or Chronicle of Baruch.60 So it is extremely
dicult to assess the overall picture of these dates in relation to
the origin and redaction of these books. The problem is certainly
too complicated to discuss within the limits of this article.61 As
comparable texts, I would instead mention isolated ones such as
the prophetic stories in Isaiah 762 ] and Amos 7, or the records
about the 14th year of Hezekiah (2 Kgs 18:1319:37) and the 18th
year of Josiah (2 Kgs 22:323:30). They are all narrative texts
that include dates, historiographic formulas, and accounts of, in
particular, prophetic activity, often with extensive quotations of
In my opinion, it is undeniable that prophetic and histori-
ographic literature in the period of the Exile and afterwards
shows a rapidly increasing, almost explosive interest in metic-
ulous chronological recording by the scribes who produced the
collected works, if not by the prophets themselves. The struc-
ture and style of this Chronicle of Haggai is similar to Deuter-
onomistic historiographic literature and, presumably, originated
in that milieu,63 which was also the environment responsible for
the redaction of Jeremiahs prophecy taken from the Chronicle
of Baruch. One may note the remarkable parallel between the
hopeful messianic ending of DtrH and Haggais Chronicle. This
intimate relationship is signicant because the date of the Chron-
icle of Haggai is reasonably well established. Most scholars as-
Jeremiah (BZAW 176), Berlin 1989, 285-7; T.Ch. R omer, How Did Jeremiah
Become a Convert to Deuteronomistic Theology?, in: L.S. Schearing, S.L.
McKenzie (eds), Those Elusive Deuteronomists: The Phenomenon of Pan-
Deuteronomism (JSOT.S, 268), Sheeld 1999, 196-7.
No wonder that the lack of chronologica1 coherence brings quite a number
of scholars to the conclusion that the dates and chronological framework are
secondary, having been added to already existing collections of Jeremiahs
prophecies. The dierences from the shorter Greek text also point in that
It is dicult to assess the many date formulas in the Book of Ezekiel. The
combination of date formulas and autobiography is singular; see, however,
Isa. 6:1. Some consider the possibility of literary ction. Zimmerli, however,
pointed to an ever-increasing interest in exact dating in prophetic literature
in and after the Exile, in contrast to early prophecy (W. Zimmerli, Ezechiel
I, [BKAT 24/1], Neukirchen-Vluyn 1969, 40-1).
Also date formulas in Isa. 6:1; 14:28; 20:1.
Mason, VT 27 (1977), 414-7; Van der Woude, Haggai, 12; R. Rendtor,
Das Alte Testament: Eine Einf uhrung, Neukirchen-Vluyn 1983, 250.
As for the other events . . . 33

sume that it originated shortly after the dedication of the Second

Temple (Nisan 515 bce).64 Though the chronicle in its present
form contains the words of Haggai only and especially a selec-
tion from his Temple speeches,65 it is possible that it was an
extract from a more voluminous running chronicle. It is the type
of extract known from Babylonian sources as a nishu.
If the Aramaic parts of Ezra (Ezra 4:7-6:18) once belonged to
the same Aramaic chronographic source used in the compilation
and redaction of EzraNehemiah,66 it is clear that this source
dates from the last part of the 5th century bce. In particular,
the fragment about the rebuilding of the Temple (4:246:18) is
an interesting, apparently independent, counterpart of Haggais
Chronicle. Perhaps the two drew their information from the same
events and sources, but obviously gave a dierent picture of the
circumstances that led to the standstill of the work on the House
of God in Jerusalem. One can discuss and dier widely about the
meaning of Haggais words cited from the mouth of the people:
The time has not yet come for the Lords House to be built.
One could think of theological, psychological, political or econom-
ical reasons; it is not the same as in Ezra 4:4, where opposition
to the rebuilding by surrounding peoples frustrated their plans
during the entire reign of Cyrus, king of Persia, down to the
reign of Darius. In Haggai, however, we do not yet nd a par-
ticular bias against the enemies of Judah. The account in Ezra
is clearly a later historical view of these events, a view perhaps
It is possible that parts of Zechariah belonged to this Chronicle (1:1-
17; 7:1-14). Their appearance together in the Chroniclers History within
the framework of an Aramaic Chronicle (Ezra 4:86:18), from which the
Chronicler extracted two segments (4:8-23; 4:246:18, apparently revising
them and adding some Hebrew glosses 4:24; 6:14), points in this direction.
In particular, the words awD[iArB' hy:rk'zW ha;ybin yG"j' ta'WbnBi (Ezra 6:14) suggest a
joint performance. Zech. 7:14 could have been the epilogue of this chronicle.
Rendtor, Das Alte Testament, 250: Der Rahmen des Buches hat den
Worten Haggais eine bestimmte Pragung und Tendenz gegeben, aber wohl
kaum ihre urspr ungliche Intention ver andert. See also Kessler, Haggai, 243-4.
The authenticity is a matter of debate (H.G.M. Williamson, Ezrah and
Nehemiah [OTGu] Sheeld 1987, 44-5; Vriezen, Van der Woude, Oudisraeli-
tische & vroegjoodse literatuur, 384), but I cannot see why the Chronicler went
so far as to translate parts of his work to make them look more authentic,
and then inserted some Hebrew glosses afterwards. For my argument, it does
not make any great dierence, for if the Aramaic source is a counterfeit of
the authorredactor of EzraNehemiah, it is even later than the 5 th century
34 M. Dijkstra

found for the rst time in this Aramaic Chronicle, but adopted
and elaborated by the author of the Book of EzraNehemiah. The
Aramaic Chronicle displays bias about political developments in
the early post-exilic period and has a perspective dierent from
its Hebrew context. It speaks consistently of ayed:Why (Ezra 4:12,
23; 5:1, 5; 6:7-8, 14), even of ayed:Why as inhabitants of the province
of Yehud and Jerusalem (5:1). The same usage is found in the
later Memoirs of Nehemiah (Neh. 1:2; 2:16; 3:33-34; 4:6 and so
on), that is the usage consistent with the use of Y e hud in the
royal Persian administration, denoting Jews from the province of
Y e hud, but also Jews living elsewhere in the Empire, and prob-
ably still without any religious overtone. Since the documents
speak expressis verbis of Jews who lived in Y e hud and Jeru-
salem at that time, one wonders whether the narrator or chron-
icler resided somewhere else, perhaps in Mesopotamia, and was
writing for Aramaic-speaking local readers.

6 Babylonian Scholars on Divine Sulgi of Ur
Anyhow, against the background of the ancient Near Eastern tra-
dition of annals and chronicles, and the development of historical
tradition transmitted in a diversity of literary chronicles, it is
interesting to study the development of Hebrew historiography.
There is no immediate reason to look for parallels in early Greek
or Hellenistic historiography.67 The explosive interest in chrono-
graphic recording and interpretation of events in heaven or on
earth originated as early as the Nabonassar Era and may have
inuenced the beginnings of biblical historiography. To detect
examples of biased history-writing in Mesopotamian chronicles
is as easy as it is in biblical chronicles such as the DtrH, the
Chronicle of Haggai and the literary works that are dependent
on them. The same kind of development and elaboration occurs
also in many Babylonian Chronicles.
An interesting example is the treatment of King Sulgi in

Babylonian-Assyrian historical tradition. Apart from Sulgi being

the protagonist of the famous Sulgi prophecy and the Marduk
prophecy, the vaticinium ex eventu about the adventures of the
Marduk statue from Babylon, he gures also in several chronicles.
See the book by F.A.J. Nielsen (note 44), and J.W. Wesselius, Origin of
the History of Israel: Herodotus Histories as Blueprint for the First Books
of the Bible, London 2002.
As for the other events . . . 35

The best known is the Weidner Chronicle (AssBabC 19; App.

A1), though actually it is not a chronicle at all, as was recently
discovered.68 Nevertheless, it was once considered a chronicle,
an early historiographic text dubbed as the rst Mesopotamian
textbook on the idea of History.69 It is, however, a composition
set in the form of a letter allegedly from King Damqi-Ilisu of Isin
to Apil-Sin of Babylon or Rim-Sin of Larsa,70 kings from the
19th century bce. The text originated centuries later and is only
known from copies of the rst millennium bce. It deals with the
fate of various kings who honoured or failed to honour the cult
of Marduk at Esagila, and merits attention because it parallels
the treatment of kings in the Books of Kings, judging them by
their religious policy towards a particular cult. Just as in the
Deuteronomistic account, their attitude to the god and his cult

aects his treatment of the kings. Sulgi is also one of the kings
with a bad record in the Weidner Chronicle.71 However, there

are more chronicles mentioning Sulgi s fate, for instance the Late
Babylonian Chronicle of the Early Kings (AssBabC 20 A.28-30;
App. A2) and a Late Babylonian scholarly excerpt from Uruk
(SBTAU I No 272 dated 21 Abu 61 Seleucid Era = 15 August
251 bce; App. A3).73 The purpose of Chronicle 20 is not clear.
The extant sources comprise one Neo-Assyrian copy (A, Ass 13955gv
from Assur) and four Neo-Babylonian / Late Babylonian copies; C from
Uruk; B, perhaps from Babylon or B(irs) N(imrud); S from Sippar; B, of un-
known provenance. See Grayson, AssBabC, 43-45, 166: I.L. Finkel, Bilingual
Chronicle Fragments, JCS 32 (1980), 72-3; F.N.H. al-Rawi, Tablets from
the Sippar Library: 1. The Weidner Chronicle: A Suppositious Royal Letter
Concerning a Vision, Iraq 52 (1990), 1-14 (Sippar excavations No 4/2167
IM 124470). The text was newly translated by al-Rawi, Iraq 52 (1990), 8-10;
B.T. Arnold, The Weidner Chronicle and the Idea of History in Israel and
Mesopotamia, in: Millard et al. (eds), Faith, Tradition, and History, 129-57,
esp. 1338; Millard, The Weidner Chronicle (1.138), ContS 1, 468-70.
E.A. Speiser, Ancient Mesopotamia, in: R.C. Dentan (ed.), The Idea of
History in the Ancient Near East, New Haven 1955, 59.
However, on the uncertainties about the name and the cities see al-Rawi,
Iraq 52 (1990), 1; Arnold, The Weidner Chronicle, 131.
I maintain this designation for reasons of convenience. See also Millard,
ContS 1, 468.
H. Hunger, Sp atbabylonische Texte aus Uruk, Teil 1 (ADFGUW, 9), Ber-
lin 1976, No. 2 (W 22289), 20-1 (=SBTAU ). For the text and translation see
Appendix A3.
Most probably, also in the Dynastic Chronicle, somewhere in Columns
IIIIV before the Dynasty of Babylon (K 8532+K 16930), but this part has
not been recovered yet. See AssBabC 18 (Grayson, AssBabC, 139-44), new
36 M. Dijkstra

Grayson advanced plausible arguments that the author used the

Weidner Chronicle, in particular the passages about the desec-
ration of Babylon and the Esagila Temple, but not all the kings
were blamed for such sins, so the author may have had other
interests too.74 Marduk, however, aicted both kings with a dis-
ease for their treatment of Babylon.75 Unfortunately, all copies
are broken at the point where the deadly disease of Sulgi is spe-
cied, but circumstantial evidence suggests leprosy. However, the
most interesting parallel feature is the development of historical
tradition. In the Chronicle of the Early Kings, Sulgi s criminal
behaviour contrasts with his favourable treatment of the city
of Eridu on the seashore. The author of the Late Babylonian
nishu of the Chronicles, Anu-Aha-Usabsi, from a priestly family
Uruk, seems to have been interested in collecting especially all

the historical tradition about Sulgi. At the beginning and end of
his nishu, he simply marked the reign of Urnammu, Sulgi s pre-

decessor, and Amar-Sin, his successor, in the manner typical of
the Dynastic Chronicle, and inserted a large section about divine

I cannot discuss all the details here. Although his view is not
favourable, it is certainly balanced, which (I would say) marks the
real nascent historian. Of course, we nd the matter of the mal-
treatment of Babylon, perhaps quoted from the earlier Chronicle
of the Early Kings. The words are identical (AssBabC 20 A.29
= SBTAU I, 2:7). Further, in contrast to Sulgi s building activ-
ities in his own city of Ur, he noted the maltreatment of the
ospring of his predecessor Utuhengal of Uruk77 and the fam-

connections and fragments; W.G. Lambert, The Home of the First Sealand
Dynasty, JCS 26 (1974), 208-10; W.G. Lambert, A.R. Millard, Atra-Hass,

Oxford 1969, 15-21; W.G. Lambert, A New Fragment from a List of Antedi-
luvian Kings and Marduks Chariot, in: Symbolae Biblicae et Mesopotamicae
Francisco Mario Theodoro de Liagre B ohl Dedicatae (SFSMD, 4), Leiden
1973, 271-5, 278 (second Neo-Assyrian copy not used in Grayson); Finkel,
JCS 32 (1980), 65-72. The pattern of the nishu in SBTAU I, No. 2 is clearly
that of the Dynastic Chronicle.
Grayson, AssBabC, 478.
As he did with other kings, according to the Weidner Chronicle, e.g.
Amar-Sin, who dies of the bite of his shoe, whatever that may mean (per-
haps gangrene, Millard, ContS 1, 470 n. 8).
The words are similar to those in the Sulgi Prophecy about the founding
of NippurDuranki. See Borger, BiOr 28 (1971), 20, 22 (II 8-9).
Who presumably was drowned while inspecting a dam, but according to
As for the other events . . . 37

ous scholar (umm anu) Lu-Nanna, who presumably is mentioned

here as the author of the cultic prescriptions for the god Anu
of Uruk.78 Most remarkable are, however, his remarks about the

end of Sulgi s rule. Though the text is unfortunately somewhat
damaged, enough is preserved to understand their general idea.

First, Sulgi wrote and left a stela to posterity, as well as a tab-
let about impudence in the purication ritual of the god. It can

hardly be doubted that [SU?]LUH .HA DINGIR.RA is meant to
be a reminiscence of Sulgi or neglect of the puric-
s delement
ation ritual as recorded in the Weidner Chronicle, though the
author, in his own words, puts it down to acts of insolence, sacri-
lege or even blasphemy. The reference to the Weidner Chronicle
seems obvious; the reference to the stela is obscure. It is tempting
to think here of the Sulgi prophecy, which initially indeed was

called the Sulgi-nar u by G uterbock, because it was clothed in
words typical of a royal inscription starting with the res gestae

of Sulgi. 79 If so, it is most remarkable that our historian calls this

inscription a lie, as if aware that it served once as a pia fraus.

Finally, he recounts the unfortunate demise of the king. Though
the text is damaged, it is clear in the light of his sources that
either Sin or Bel Marduk became angry, turned an evil eye on
him and, in the language of Canaan, struck him with a wasting
disease, whether consumption, leprosy or something similar.80 It
is obvious that this late scholar from Uruk knew his sources quite
well, if we assume that he was the author of this compilation.81

the Weidner Chronicle he was punished by Marduk with this fate, because
he carried out criminal acts against Babylon.
Another tradition views him as the author of the Adapa myth. Such
traditions ascribing authorship of ancient tradition to a famous man of the
past is in itself an interesting aspect of the development of historical tradition
in the ancient Near East. The text seems to imply that Sulgi took the records
from Uruk to have them introduced to the cult of Sin in Ur (Hunger, SBTAU
1, 20).
Cf. Guterbock, ZA 42 (1934), 62-86, esp. 84-6; Borger, BiOr 28 (1971),
22: einigermassen im Stile der Konigsinschriften.
The word is broken in all pertinent sources, but the wording is remin-
iscent of a wasting disease aecting his body and caused by his sin (arnu /
annu) (S ak
alu consume in the Chronicle of the Early Kings). In particular,
the expression se-ret-su ra-bi-tu4 , his great scourge, is reminiscent of curses
which, expressis verbis or by implication, mention leprosy or other skin dis-
eases as a curse of the god Sin, Gula and other gods (CAD (Z), 158 s.v.
zumru, also with D-stem lab asu!).
Whether his sources and data contained credible historical facts is, of
38 M. Dijkstra

He does not withhold his judgement, blaming Sulgi for criminal

sacrilegious acts, though he occasionally also mentions his more
successful achievements. It is a beautiful piece of genuine ancient
Near Eastern historiography, particularly, if he were also aware

that Sulgi s prophecy was a historical fraud.
Perhaps some of the suggested connections and historical
comments are not convincing but I cannot understand why schol-
ars would view such a text as less historiographic in charac-
ter than Israelite historiographical writings. It is not clear why
some scholars assert so condently that the Mesopotamian liter-
ati never moved beyond chronicle to genuine historiography. It
must involve a major misunderstanding of the genuine histori-
ographic character of many of the Babylonian chronicles. To say
that Akkadian literature has nothing to compare, for instance,
with Israelite characterisation, interpretative presentation of past
events and multiple causal factors is certainly a grossly over-
stated conclusion, perhaps typical of an approach in which the
assessment of ancient Near Eastern literature and culture is han-
dicapped by prejudice in favour of Israelite tradition. Here we
have an interesting and, in my opinion, convincing example of
interpretative development in historical tradition. This develop-
ment has a remarkable literary parallel in the treatment of the
Judaean King Azariah = Uzziah. In the Books of Kings, Azariah
is mentioned as one of the kings who was just in the eyes of the
Lord. However, the Lord aicted him with leprosy or another
skin disease until the day he died and he therefore lived in a
separate house. This is mentioned as a matter of course, with
no further comment or explanation (2 Kgs 15:1-7). Within the
somewhat revised framework taken from the Deuteronomistic ac-
count (2 Chron. 26:1-4, 21-23), however, we nd in Chronicles an
extensively elaborated version of his res gestae to show that he
was a successful king until his pride led to his downfall (2 Chron.
26:5-20). After his successful wars, his building activities and
reorganisation of the army, the Lord punished him with lep-
rosy for his unfaithfulness, namely an act of pride and sacrilege.
When entering the Temple in order to burn incense as a pontifex

course, a dierent matter, and a problem that is not discussed here. But
see on the problem of annals, chronicles and history or historical narrative
proper concerning such ancient kings, Van de Mieroop, Cuneiform Texts and
the Writing of History, 76-85.
As for the other events . . . 39

maximus, leprosy broke out on his forehead. It is surprising to

nd that the author of Chronicles built his argument in the same

way as the author of Sulgi s history, with climax and anticlimax.
This is certainly a coincidence, though it might reveal a certain
similarity in theological reasoning and frame of mind.

7 Conclusion
Such historical compilation and revision as described here hardly
qualify the biblical chronicler and the Babylonian scholars for
recognition as modern historians but they were certainly histor-
ians in their own right within the bounds of ancient Near Eastern
civilisation. They are no less and no more biased in using their
traditions and sources than their Greek counterparts Herodotus,
Thucydides and Xenophon, who wrote their account of history
following their own intentions just as did these ancient Near East-
ern scholars. It hurts our historiographic consciousness today less
than it did in the past that they were ideologically biased or that
they wrote from a particular theological viewpoint. There is not
such a thing as objective historiography, and Huizingas denition
of historiography is a merciful judgement on all historiographic
essays in the past and the present. It has not been my goal to
discuss annals and chronicles in Israel and the ancient Near East
in order to nd evidence for greater credibility, accuracy or fac-
tuality for either of them, or to show that the biblical authors
were more authentic and genuine historians than their Babylo-
nian colleagues. Our limited knowledge of the sources and their
origin prohibits such a conclusion for the present. I am more
than satised if my arguments show that a contextual approach
from the cultures and literature of the ancient Near East provides
our best controlled comparison for the development of histori-
ography in Israel and the Old Testament. If so, there is as yet
no historical reason to set it against the background of Hellen-
istic historiography, much less to declare the Old Testament a
Hellenistic book.
40 M. Dijkstra

Appendix A: The Life, Illness and Death of King Sulgi

A1. Weidner Chronicle

A-B-C Grayson, AssBabC, No.19, 150

D Finkel, JCS 32 (1980), 7
S Sippar: al-Rawi, Iraq 52 (1990), 7

a-na d Sul-gi m ar (DUMU) l Ur-d Nammu LUGAL- u-tu kis-sat
KUR.KUR id-di-in-ma
[ana d ]Sul-gi mar (DUMU) d Ur-d Nammu LUGAL-ut kis-sat
KUR.KUR id-din-sum-[ma]
C16 [ ]Nammu sar-ru-ut*[ kis]-sat* KUR[.KUR . . . ]
ana d Sul-gi mar (DUMU) Ur-d Nammu [sar-ru-ut . . . ]
S29 par-s.i-su ul u-sak-lil su-[luh]-hi-su
a-i-ma an-na libbi(S A)-

:? zu-um-ri-su * il*-tak-kan
A64 [par-s.i]-su ul u
-sak-lil su-luh-hi-su u-le-
u-ma an-na-su
x x zu* [-
um-ri-su ]
C16 [ ]-su u
-la-a-i-ma an-na-su
D5 [par-]s.i-su ul u
-sak-lil su-luh[-hi . . . ]

He (Marduk) gave to Sulgi, son of Ur-Nammu, sovereignty over
all lands.
He did not perform his rites, he deled his purication ritual,
and his sin beset his body.

A2. Chronicle of the Early Kings

AssBabC 20

md tam-tim
28 Sul-gi mar m Ur-d Nammu Eridu(NUN)KI s a ah (GU)
ra-bis iz-nun*
29 lemuttu(MUNUS.HUL) is-te--e-ma makk sag-il u Bab-
ur E-
ili (TIN.TIR.KI)
ina sil-lat ustes.i d Bel ikkelme (IGI.HUS?)-ma pagar (AD6 )-s
u-s ` li
a-kil kalis (DU) muti(US)-su

Sulgi, son of Ur-Nammu, provided abundant food for Eridu,
which is on the seashore.
29 But he committed a crime by taking away the property of Es-
agila and Babylon
30 as booty. Bel became [ang]ry and caused his body to waste away
completely until his death(?)
Appendix A 41

Appendix A (continued )
A3. Extract from a Chronicle Similar to the Chronicle of
Early Kings, or Dynastic Chronicle

SBTAU 1, No 2

[x d ]Sul*-gi s
mar 2 (A) l Ur-
4 [sar ]-ru-tu mat ati (KUR.KUR) ka-la-si-na i-pu-us
5 [x x ]ban-ga- ar u m Rab-si-si sarr(LUGAL.MES) s a mat Sub-
arti(SU.BIR4 .KI) i-be-el
6 [al(URU.]MES*) mat nu-kur-ti is-lu-lu
7 [makk
ur ] E-sag-ila u Babili (TIN.TIR.KI) ina sil-lat us-te-s.i
8 [E ]-gis-nux (SIR)-gal
bt d Sin sa qe-reb Uri (SE S.UNUG.KI)

ipus (DU-us)-ma u -sak-lil
9 [d
ur ](BAD*) Uri(SE S.UNUG.KI)
` s )-ma isid

(SUHUS) Uri(SES.UNUG.KI) u-kin*
10 [x ] dSul-gi
m ara (DUMU) marta (DUMU.MI) sa md Utu-he-en-
gal sar Uruk *(UNUG[.KI)]
m d II l
11 u
* L u- Nanna IGI NU.TUK um-man-nu [x ]
12 [MUNUS.]H UL-ti ina lib-bi-su -nu ib-ba-x [-x ]
13 [paras.(GAR]ZA) d
Anu(60)- u-tu usur ati(GIS.H UR.MES) s a
Uruk (UNUG.[KI)]
14 [ni]-s.ir-ti lu um-man-nu s a la si-mat u -nak-[kir ]
15 [su?]-ut d Sin [be-]lu Uri (SE S.UNUG.KI)
16 [ina / ana] pal*-e-su nar
a (NA4 .RU.A) sur-ra-at tup-pi sil-

lat MES
[SU?].LUH .HA DINGlR.RA is-tur-ma i-zib
18 (LUGAL) s
[d Belu] sarru a si-ma-tu-su rab-ba- a ik-kil-me-s u-ma
19 [ar-na]-a se-ret-su ra-bi-tu4
20 [x x ]-gi* zu-mur-su u-lab-bis
21 [vestiges of signs]

Sulgi, King of Ur, son of Ur-Nammu,
4 exercised kingship over all lands.
5 He subdued [ ]-Bangar and Rabsisi, kings of the land of Subarti.
6 [Ci]ties of the enemys land he plundered.
7 [The property] of Esagila and Babylon he took away as booty.
8 [E ]gis-Nugal, the House of Sin in the centre of Ur he completely
9 He made the wall of Ur and established the foundation of Ur.
Sulgi [accused?] the son and daughter of Utu-Hengal, king of
11 and the blind scholar Lu-Nanna
12 of a crime in their heart.
13 The prescripts of the Anu cult, the rules designed for Uruk,
42 M. Dijkstra

Appendix A (continued )

14 [the] secret of the scholar he changed without precedence.

15 [As if those] of Sin, Lord of Ur, he wrote (them) down.
16-17 [In/About] his reign he wrote and left [for posterity] a false
stela, a tablet [about the puri]cation ritual of the god.
18 [Bel?], the king whose destinies are sublime,
19-20 became angry with him. [As a pu]nishment, he clothed his body
with his great scourge.

Appendix B: The Babylonian Chronicle

B1. Neo-Babylonian Version

Edition Museum number, Provenance Size Colophon

AssBabC 1 A BM 92502 Babylon 193x158 pirsu restu 22nd
(=84-2-11,356) Darius
CT 34,435082 BM 75976 Sippar 85x68 3rd Nabu-Nasiracc
(=AH 83-1-18,1338)
C BM 75977 Sippar 55x60
(=AH 83-1-18,1339)
AssBabC 7 BM 35382 Babylon 140x140 1st Nabonidus
(Sp II, 964) ?Cyrus

Fragments B and C from the Sippar collection may be parts of one large
tablet. Remarkably, the rst section in A starts with the ascension to the
throne of Tiglath-Pileser III in the 3rd [?] year of the Babylonian king, Nabu-
Nasir. Copy B from Sippar had a preceding section anyway, ending with
a remark about the interruption of the Akitu Ceremonies (AssBabC 1,1*),
but also an extra passage about Tiglath-Pileser III after A I.10. Perhaps the
Sippar text was longer than A. Because about 16/18 lines are missing in
Columns III-IV between B and C, the Sippar text could have been written
on a rather long tablet (ca 200x85), but the problem is then that one has to
assume that this text was also considerably longer in Columns III=IV than
the text in A III and IV. More probably, in my opinion, the Sippar text once
had six columns. If so, it presumably contained sections of the Babylonian
History at the beginning, as found, for instance, in the Eclectic Chronicle
(AssBabC 24), of which the last preserved lines overlap with AssBabC 1 1-2,
Appendix B 43

Appendix B (continued )
B2. Late Babylonian Version83

Edition Museum number, Provenance Size Colophon

AssBabC 20A BM 26472 Babylon 85x55 GIGAM.DIDLI84
(=98-5-14, 290)
AssBabC 20B BM 96152 Babylon 65x55
AssBabC 2585 BM 27796 Babylon? 55x55*
AssBabC 2486 BM 27859 Babylon
60*x45 Marduk-Sapik-Zeri
(=98-7-11,124) Nabu-Nasir?
AssBabC 14 BM 25091 Babylon 76*x50 GIGAM.GIGAM
(=98-2-16, 145)
AssBabC 15 BM 96273 Babylon
57x43* Sama
AssBabC 2 BM 25127 Babylon 52x60 acc-3rd Nabopolas
AssBabC 3 BM 21901 Babylon 132x69 10-17th Nabopolas
AssBabC 4 BM 22047 Babylon 45x54 1820th Nabopolas
AssBabC 5 BM 21946 Babylon 81*x59 21st Nab.11th Neb. II
AssBabC 687 BM 25124 Babylon 46x58 3rd Neriglissar

This list does not imply that these texts belong to the same series. Only
the groups AssBabC 20A, 14, AssBabC 2, 4, 6 and AssBabC 3, 5 may be-
long to one another, being copies written by the same scribe. See Grayson,
AssBabC, 9 n. 7. Some of these texts, however, are extracts (e.g. AssBabC
6, 15) and contained only parts of a more complete Vorlage. For these, small
administrative tablets (business-tablets) were usually used.
A library label meaning Battles.
An excerpt written on an administrative tablet. It completes the gap
between Chronicle P (AssBabC 22) and the Eclectic Chronicle (AssBabC
The Late Babylonian text from Uruk/Warka SBTAU 3, No. 58 contains a
rather elaborate chronicle about Nabu-Nasirs immediate predecessor Nabu-

Suma-I skun (763-748 bce). Its relationship to the series of the Babylonian
Chronicles needs further investigation.
For another text containing an extract of one royal year, the 37th year of
Nebuchadnezzar II (568/567 bce), see Wiseman, Chronicles, 94-5; Pl. XX-
XXI = BM 33041 (=78-10-15, 37). BM 33053 (=78-10-15, 38) does not belong
to this text (Borger, HKL 1, 284. See HKL, 553 // CTBT 20,39-42 pace
ANET, 308).
44 M. Dijkstra

Appendix B (continued )
B2. Late Babylonian Version (continued)

Edition Museum number, Provenance Size Colophon

AssBabC 8 BM 36305 Babylon 100*x65* Xerxes?
AssBabC 9 BM 31450 Babylon 48x66 14th Artaxerxes III
AssBabC 1088 BM 34660 Babylon 92*x70* 7-8th Alexander IV
(=Sp III, 143)
+BM 3631389 Babylon 86*x60*
AssBabC 11 BM 32440+32581+ Babylon 110*x85* 18th -19th SE?
32585 (76-11-17,2176/
AssBabC 12 BM 32235(+)32957 Babylon 60*x55* 30-31 SE
AssBabC 13 BM 32171 Babylon 65*x60* 66-67 SE?
(76-11-17,1962; 50*x45*
AssBabC 13a BM 32310 Babylon 70*x53*
AssBabC 13b BM 35421 Babylon 55*x130 88 SE
(Sp II 1008)

This chronicle still dates according to the regnal years of the elusive
Philip III and Alexander IV up to the 8th year (see below). In the King
List from the Hellenistic Period (RLA 6, 98-9), only the rst six years of
the Seleucid Era (SE) are attributed to Alexander and Seleucus I together,
with Seleucus possibly as co-regent. From other documents, later years of
Alexander IV are known too, up to the 11th year (Boiy, JCS 52 [2000], 117).
Chronicles 1113 date after the Seleucid Era.
It has been established that the fragments join (dierent from AssBabC,
115), so that perhaps only one line between them is missing. This implies that
lines AssBabC 10, Rev.34-8 belong to the 8th year of Alexander IV (309-308)
and not the 9th year (P. Wheatley, Antigonus Monophthalmus in Babylonia
310-308 bce, JNES 61 [2002], 39-47; 42, n.16).
Robert P. Gordon St Catharines College, Cambridge United Kingdom

Comparativism and the God of Israel1

The view that the God of Israel was sui generis among the deities
of antiquity was once standard fare, and still has many defenders.
During the second half of the twentieth century, however, Old
Testament specialists have had to tread more cautiously when
making the kinds of comparison (or contrast) that undergird
such a claim. For while the idea of the uniqueness of Israels God
prospered for a time as a tenet of the Biblical Theology move-
ment, the steady accession of comparative near eastern material
has almost inevitably added to the perception of resemblance,
rather than of dierence, between Israels God and the others.2
The issue has been addressed across a broader front by Peter
Machinist, in his essay The Question of Distinctiveness in An-
cient Israel (1991).3 Machinist notes that, with the accrual of
information from archaeological discovery, some correspondence
always seems to be waiting to be found somewhere in the ancient
Near East . . . for what is proposed as a distinctive concept or
behavior in ancient Israel (197). He suggests that Israels dis-
tinctiveness may lie not in individual, pure traits but in con-
gurations of traits (200). Machinist opts for an alternative ap-
proach by posing the question: how did Israel, in its Biblical
canon, pose and answer the distinctiveness question for itself?

This was the SOTS presidential paper (2003) read at the winter meeting
of the society in Birmingham on 6 January 2003. The word comparativism is
not recorded in any of the dictionaries that I have consulted. Comparativism
may be taken to be something that comparativists do, and this latter word
does already exist. I regard the title the God of Israel as appropriate despite
the acknowledgement of the existence of other gods by many an Israelite. The
Old Testament and Israelite-Judean onomastics together provide sucient
justication for the usage.
The dangers attending comparative exercises such as are discussed here
are frequently noted. See, for example, D. Damrosch, The Narrative Coven-
ant: Transformations of Genre in the Growth of Biblical Literature, San Fran-
cisco 1987, 28-9.
P. Machinist, The Question of Distinctiveness in Ancient Israel: An Es-
say, in: M. Cogan, I. Ephal (eds), Ah, Assyria . . . Studies in Assyrian His-
tory and Ancient Near Eastern Historiography Presented to Hayim Tadmor
(= ScHier, 33), Jerusalem 1991, 192-212.
46 R.P. Gordon

(202). His answer is framed in terms of Israels consciousness of a

special relationship to her God (205). The present study focusses
more narrowly on the God of Israel, but most of the time it will
be desirable to think of this God, not in isolation nor in the ab-
stract, but relationally, whether we relate him to the people of
Israel, or to Israelite prophets, or to the gods of other nations.
I begin by reviewing four areas where claims to uniqueness that
long seemed to require no justication are now, in the light of
the work of recent decades, in need of at least some nuancing.

Divine Action in History

For students of my generation the appearance of Bertil Albrekt-

sons History and the Gods in 1967 provided a short cut to im-
portant insights.4 In this essay, as it is termed in the subtitle,
Albrektson showed that ideas of divine action in history that
had widely been regarded as special to the Old Testament were,
in fact, shared with her neighbours in Mesopotamia, the Hittite
homeland and, more proximately, in the land of Moab. Albrekt-
son also questioned whether the Old Testament talks of a divine
plan in history in quite the overarching way commonly assumed,
and he cited Mesopotamian texts that give some evidence of di-
vine plan in a more limited sense of the term.5 He suggested that
the celebration of divine acts in history perhaps featured more
prominently in the Israelite cult than was the case elsewhere. He
noted the lack of historical reference in the Ugaritic cultic texts
especially (115), and he concluded that what distinguished Israel
from her neighbours was, if not the concept itself, the promin-
ence that was given to it in the Israelite cult (116). Some years
later Nicholas Wyatt sought to show that even the comparat-
ively meagre textual evidence in the West Semitic region reects
the presuppositions of theocratic history,6 and already J.J.M.
Roberts had pointed out that the absence of hymns and pray-
ers in the extant Ugaritic texts makes it dangerous to assume

History and the Gods: An Essay on the Idea of Historical Events as
Divine Manifestations in the Ancient Near East and in Israel (CB.OT, 1),
Lund 1967.
Albrektson, History and the Gods, 68-97.
N. Wyatt, Some Observations on the Idea of History Among the West
Semitic Peoples, UF 11 (1979), 825-32 (831).
Comparativism and the God of Israel 47

too much about the importance or unimportance of history to

Canaanite religion.7
In his nal chapter Albrektson highlighted the Old Testament
conception of the divine word as its truly unique possession. The
idea of communicating divine words to humans may have been
common near eastern currency, nevertheless the content of such
divine communication within the Old Testament is in several
respects unique (122). In the divine word we learn about Gods
thoughts and intentions, his nature and his claims in ways that
are not experienced elsewhere. Albrektsons essay added to the
discomture of Biblical Theology at a crucial point in the 1960s.
In the previous year, in his Old and New in Interpretation James
Barr had been exposing the problems inherent in maintaining
history as a central and mandatory theological concept.8 But
neither Albrektson nor Barr denied that history was fundament-
ally important for the writers of the Old Testament. Nor could
they, for Israel is not India.

Albrektsons suggestion that what truly separated Israel from
her neighbours was the conception of God that came through
the divine word leads directly into the prophetic domain, where
once it was possible to hold discussion with minimal reference to
contemporary non-Israelite phenomena. However, since George
Smiths publication, in 1875, of an oracle of encouragement to
Esarhaddon (now listed as text K. 4310),9 a veritable alternative
prospectus of near eastern prophetic texts has become available.
These include not only the Neo-Assyrian prophecies, which in
the 1990s have been made more accessible to non-Assyriologists,
in the series State Archives of Assyria, but also the prophetic
texts found in the royal archives of eighteenth-century Mari. Since
1875 the story has been one of increasing encroachment upon the
uniqueness of the biblical institution of prophecy. It is clear that
J.J.M. Roberts, Myth Versus History: Relaying the Comparative Founda-
tions, CBQ 38 (1976), 1-13 (11).
J. Barr, Old and New in Interpretation: A Study of the Two Testaments,
London 1966, 65-102 (68).
G. Smith, Addresses of Encouragement to Esarhaddon, in: H.C. Rawl-
inson (ed.), The Cuneiform Inscriptions of Western Asia, vol. 4, London
1875, no. 68 (cuneiform text only); translation by T.G. Pinches in: S. Birch
(ed.), Records of the Past, vol. 11, London 1878, 59-72 (61-72).
48 R.P. Gordon

the prophet gures of Mari could, as part of their prophetic com-

missioning by a god, be allowed to witness the Divine Council
in its decision-making.10 Something similar is described for the
prophet Balaam in the Deir Alla plaster text from the rst mil-
lennium.11 Again, cognate forms of the Hebrew aybin:, a term which
previously had given the impression of being without an Akka-
dian parallel, have been claimed for Mari (text 216 [A. 2209])
and Emar (text 387).12
However, whereas the Hebrew prophets were characteristic-
ally concerned about ethical conduct and social obligation as well
as national and international politics, their Mesopotamian coun-
terparts have so far produced only a few syllables that express
ethical concerns.13 From the Mari prophecies we have text A.
1121, in which Adad counsels Zimri-Lim through a prophet g-
ure: When a wronged man or woman cries out to you, stand and
judge their case. In text 194 (A. 4260) the god Shamash tells
Zimri-Lim to decree a remission of debts and to direct people
with a legal case to Shamashs own feet. If we go forward to the
Neo-Assyrian prophecies we shall nd little or nothing by way of
moral or ethical content. Parpola cites his texts 1.4.27-9 (Do not
trust in man. Lift up your eyes, look to me) and 2.3.17 (Man-
kind is deceitful; I am one who says and does), but it is a poor
return for a nights shing.14 Nothing has happened in a thou-
sand years to make prophecy the mouthpiece for divine calls to
See the writer in From Mari to Moses: Prophecy at Mari and in Ancient
Israel, in: H.A. McKay, D.J.A. Clines (eds), Of Prophets Visions and the
Wisdom of Sages (Fs R.N. Whybray) (JSOT.S, 162), Sheeld 1993, 72.
For text in transliteration, with English translation, see M. Weippert,
The Balaam Text from Deir Alla and the Study of the Old Testament, in:
J. Hoftijzer, G. van der Kooij (eds), The Balaam Text from Deir Alla Re-
evaluated: Proceedings of the International Symposium held at Leiden 21-24
August 1989, Leiden 1991, 153-8. Cf. also the admission of a diviner to the
Divine Council in the Old Babylonian text discussed by A. Goetze, An Old
Babylonian Prayer of the Divination Priest, JCS 22 (1968), 25-9.
See D.E. Fleming, N abu and Munabbi atu: Two New Syrian Religious
Personnel, JAOS 113 (1993), 175-83; Idem, The Etymological Origins of
the Hebrew n ab: The One Who Invokes God, CBQ 55 (1993), 217-24. The
relevance of the Emar terms is queried by J. Huehnergard, On the Etymology
and Meaning of Hebrew NAB I , ErIs 26 (Frank Moore Cross Volume; 1999),
88*-93* (91*-2*).
Cf. Gordon, From Mari to Moses, 63-79 (77-8).
S. Parpola, Assyrian Prophecies (SAA, 9), Helsinki 1997, xlviii, cv, nn.
Comparativism and the God of Israel 49

justice and righteousness. For that we have better places to look

in Mesopotamia, for example the text Advice to a Prince.15
The Neo-Assyrian prophecies are largely concerned with kings
and their welfare.16 Even so, the preoccupation is often mundane
and the undertakings of the god(dess) none too specic. Nor is
there much at all that is predictive in the grand way of the Old
Testament prophecies.17 If all he knew was prophecy of this sort,
we can easily understand how an exilic Judean prophet could ask
in relation to developments in the late sixth century, Who told
this long ago? Who declared it of old? (Isa. 45:21). There clearly
are formal and terminological correspondences between prophecy
in its Levantine and Mesopotamian manifestations and Israelite
prophecy, but these constitute a minor act of encroachment when
once their content is taken into account.

The National Covenant

A third area where Israel was thought to overtop its neighbours
was that of covenant, for the Old Testament, especially in Deu-
teronomically aected areas, makes much of a covenant forged
between the people of Israel and their God. Other covenants are
described, notably the Davidic covenant articulating the dyn-
astic ideology of the royal house of Judah. This latter has par-
allels, but the concept of a God specially bound to his or her
people by covenant was otherwise unknown.18 The introduction
of the political treaty into the discussion oered explanation for
formal elements of the biblical national covenant and even poten-
tial clues to dating, though it was disputed whether the second
millennium Hittite treaties, as the best examples of a more wide-
spread treaty tradition in the period, or the Neo-Assyrian rep-
resentatives of the rst millennium provided the closer compar-
ison. The popular view that the Old Testament national cov-
enant concept had developed in Deuteronomic hands under the
See W.G. Lambert, Babylonian Wisdom Literature, Oxford 1960, 110-5.
I am grateful to Professor W.G. Lambert for helpful comments on the
status of the royal prophecies in the Ashurbanipal library.
Cf. Parpola, Assyrian Prophecies, lxvi.
Cf. S.A. Geller, The God of the Covenant, in: Barbara N. Porter (ed.),
One God or Many?: Concepts of Divinity in the Ancient World (Transactions
of the Casco Bay Assyriological Institute, 1), n.p. 2000, 284: Nowhere else
is a God attached to a people by a covenant, nowhere else is there such a
radical break with myth and mythology.
50 R.P. Gordon

impulse of Neo-Assyrian political practice certainly rendered it

of the earth, earthy but did not, of itself, impair its essential
This too has changed. Eckart Otto, for example, notes that
the idea of a covenant between a god and human subjects is also
found in Neo-Assyrian texts and in one of the Arslan Tash in-
scriptions, whose genuineness Otto is happy to accept.19 At rst
Otto lumps together covenants involving kings and covenants in-
volving the general populace,20 but the necessary distinction is
observed when he comes to discuss the Neo-Assyrian text K.
2401, Prophecy for Esarhaddon.21 This he understands as re-
quiring both Esarhaddon and his subjects to full the terms of
the covenant made initially between Asshur and the king.22 The
Arslan Tash inscription even refers to an eternal covenant ( lt
lm) made between Asshur and the citizens of Hadattu, hence
judgments on its authenticity are very important for the Israel
only discussion.
Otto claims that the distinctive feature of Judean religion in
the seventh century was not covenant theology as such. What
was innovative was Judahs deployment of covenant theology in

E. Otto, Das Deuteronomium: Politische Theologie und Rechtsreform
in Juda und Assyrien (BZAW, 284), Berlin 1999, 73, 81-2, 85; Idem,
Der Ursprung der Bundestheologie in Assyrien und Juda: Eine forschungs-
geschichtliche Orientierung, in: Idem, Gottes Recht als Menschenrecht:
Rechts- und literaturhistorische Studien zum Deuteronomium (BZAR, 2),
Wiesbaden 2002, 128-66 (161-6). Otto assumes the authenticity of the Arslan
Tash text, citing (Das Deuteronomium, 85 n. 371) J. van Dijk, The Authen-
ticity of the Arslan Tash Amulets, Iraq 54 (1992), 65-8, and F.M. Cross,
quoted in T.J. Lewis, The Identity and Function of El/Baal Berith, JBL
115 (1996), 401-23 (409). See already Z. Zevit, A Phoenician Inscription and
Biblical Covenant Theology, IEJ 27 (1977), 110-8, for the suggestion, on the
basis of the Arslan Tash text, that the national covenant concept was not
unique to Israel (118).
Otto, Das Deuteronomium, 73.
Titled The Covenant of Assur by Parpola in his Assyrian Prophecies,
Otto, Das Deuteronomium, 82. For the text see Parpola, Assyrian Proph-
ecies, 22-7. Parpola thinks that the covenant is made with Ishtar rather than
with Asshur, though he also believes that, for the author of the text, Asshur
and Ishtar were identical (pp. XIX-XX). For the covenant as a double coven-
ant between god and king and then between king and people see T. Ishida,
The Royal Dynasties in Ancient Israel: A Study on the Formation and De-
velopment of Royal-Dynastic Ideology (BZAW, 142), Berlin 1977, 115-6.
Comparativism and the God of Israel 51

opposition to Assyrian imperial and royal ideology.23 But it would

also be true to say, with Bernhard Lang, that it was only the
Judeans who gave this covenant theology anything like developed
theological expression.24 Thus the national covenant becomes a
key theological concept within the Old Testament, such that even
the Judean dynastic covenant is swallowed up in the national cov-
enant in one well-known text (Isa. 55:3), when the sure mercies
of David are extended to the whole non-monarchical community
of the later exile.

My fourth example of a diminishing dierentia is that of anicon-
ism. The rejection of images to represent Israels God, or any
god, gives the biblical writers a point dappui for their attacks on
polytheism, and has been recognized as a dening feature of Old
Testament perhaps even Israelite religion. However, the work
of T.N.D. Mettinger (especially) has raised questions about this
uniqueness of Israelite aniconism.25 Mettinger argues that an-
iconic worship is a more general West Semitic phenomenon, and
that Israel reects this common outlook. Much of his evidence is
late, coming principally from Nabatea and Phoenicia Mettinger
self-consciously works back from the later evidence to his conclu-
sions about earlier periods and much depends on the validity
and the signicance of his category of material aniconism which
he distinguishes from the empty-space aniconism most often as-
sociated with the religion of the Old Testament. Examples of
this second category outside Israel are especially few and late.26
Because of this assumed West Semitic background, Mettinger
holds that aniconism was a feature of Israelite religion from the
beginning. But what was special to Israel was the development
of programmatic iconoclasm; nowhere else in the ancient Semitic
world was there an actual veto on the use of graven images (196).
Otto, Das Deuteronomium, 86.
B. Lang, The Hebrew God: Portrait of an Ancient Deity, New Haven
2002, 38.
T.N.D. Mettinger, No Graven Image?: Israelite Aniconism in its Ancient
Near Eastern Context (CB.OT, 42), Stockholm 1995. See also the review by
C. Uehlinger, Israelite Aniconism in Context, Bib. 77 (1996), 540-9.
See Mettinger, No Graven Image?, 100-2 (cf. 113) on the (very late)
Sidonian votive (possibly) thrones, the only datable one coming from ad
59-60. On the aniconism of the Aten revolution in Egypt see ibid., 49.
52 R.P. Gordon

The exclusion took place late in the history of Israel-Judah: Met-

tinger claims that the accumulation of anthropomorphisms in the
Old Testament prophetic literature reects a situation in which a
strictly aniconic theology remained unarticulated (15). This ts
with his view that explicit prohibition occurred only in the exilic
or early post-exilic period, but reads strangely when put against,
say, Isaiah 40-66, which has pronounced aniconic moments, yet
is very free in its use of the anthropomorphisms of Gods mouth,
arm, hand and even eyes and ear.27
Mettinger has unquestionably altered the terms in which dis-
cussion about Israelite aniconism must be carried out.28 However,
it is a problem that, if the evidence for material aniconism is
not late, it is as likely to be early and mute. This applies espe-
cially to the standing stones of the Bronze and Iron Ages that
Mettinger dignies as aniconic. His discussion of West-Semitic
aniconism rests heavily on these stones. It would assist greatly
if we knew how those that are genuinely cultic for they are di-
vided into several classes were viewed by the people who made
and used them.29 The problem can be illustrated by reference
to the Assyrian deity symbols that Mettinger discusses at one
point. There is textual evidence to conrm that these symbols
could be treated just like images, even to the extent of undergo-
ing the mouth-washing ritual (47), and Mettinger is not inclined
to regard them as aniconic (42). By contrast, West Semitic seals
of the ninth to sixth centuries displaying divine symbols such as
the sun disk are regarded as tending towards (material) anicon-
ism (194). The distinction between iconic and aniconic can,
therefore, be uid enough.
The denition of aniconic is an issue to which Mettinger re-
turns in a later study, in which he cites the use of aniconic, in
The view that the polemics against the manufacture of images in Isa.
4055 are secondary is a potentially complicating factor, but, even if the
hypothesis were granted, Isa. 4055 would still have its aniconic moments.
As well as Mettinger, some others who have written on the subject have
contributed essays to: K. van der Toorn (ed.), The Image and the Book: Iconic
Cults, Aniconism, and the Rise of Book Religion in Israel and the Ancient
Near East (CBET, 21), Leuven 1997. See further J.C. de Moor, The Rise of
Yahwism: The Roots of Israelite Monotheism (BEThL, 91A), Leuven 2 1997,
42, 52-4, 60, 128, 264, 297, 354, 358.
On Mesopotamian god-symbols see W.G. Lambert, Ancient Mesopot-
amian Gods: Superstition, Philosophy, Theology, RHR 207 (1990), 115-30
Comparativism and the God of Israel 53

the study of Greek religion, for certain kinds of cultic stones and
pillars.30 Here he also allows a greater importance to the empty
space aniconism of the Jerusalem temple as a background factor
in the eventual development of the prohibition on images (189,
204). No doubt, part of our problem is that aniconic and an-
iconism are terms of considerable interest to the biblical theolo-
gian, and in that context suggest a concept, and a quite abstract,
theological one at that, which may owe little to the niceties of
archaeological typology.

Reverse Comparativism
So far we have been concerned with the kind of comparativism
that has dominated in Old Testament study, and that has been
widely perceived to work to the disadvantage of non-Israelite tra-
ditions. There is, on the other hand, a kind of comparativism that
works in the opposite direction and that sees the Old Testament
as impoverished and constricted as compared with the rich and
diverse forms of Israelite religion that have been obscured by
Deuteronomic and similarly motivated manipulation of the lit-
erary tradition. One of the most recent exponents of this view,
J. Edward Wright, complains about the parochial perspectives
on history and religion introduced into the Old Testament by
its monotheistic Judean editors.31 He notes, further, that their
sterile view of reality was nothing like what the average Judean
and Israelite thought of the divine and human realms (73). The
substantive point in this latter utterance may readily be con-
ceded, and the Old Testament itself is the primary witness to
the fact that the Israelites were often nearer in outlook to their
near eastern neighbours than to the prophetic and Deuteronomic
blueprints presented in the Old Testament. In the light of this
newer reverse comparativism, we shall now consider represent-
ative ways in which even the heavy hand of Deuteronomism, or
of monotheism, has worked positively, imaginatively and insight-
fully with Israels traditions, keeping in mind with Stephen Geller
that biblical religion is an essentially literary faith which ap-

See his essay entitled Israelite Aniconism: Developments and Origins
in: Van der Toorn (ed.), The Image and the Book, 173-204 (199-200).
J.E. Wright, Biblical versus Israelite Images of the Heavenly Realm,
JSOT 93 (2001), 59-75 (60).
54 R.P. Gordon

proaches the supernatural through essentially literary means.32

I shall not be much concerned to make evaluative comparisons
with what is found in surrounding cultures. The dangers involved
in that kind of exercise have already been acknowledged, though
I shall conclude this paper by asserting that comparativism re-
mains a legitimate and even desirable feature of our discipline.
For now, I am mainly interested in the kinds of things that were
possible within what some would view as the straitjacket of Old
Testament religion.
First we should note, however, that for many students of the
Old Testament it is not just a matter of imagery or imagination;
the Old Testament is regarded as serious testimony to things at
the very heart of reality. So the well-known essay by C.S. Lewis,
Is Theology Poetry?, has relevance, even though Lewis is talking
of Christian theology, which for him includes both Testaments.

And the rst fact I discover, or seem to discover, is that for

me at any rate, if Theology is Poetry, it is not very good
poetry. Considered as poetry, the doctrine of the Trinity
seems to me to fall between two stools. It has neither the
monolithic grandeur of strictly Unitarian conceptions, nor
the richness of Polytheism. The omnipotence of God is not,
to my taste, a poetical advantage.33

But that did not put Lewis o the biblical text, nor did it stie
his enthusiasm for amateur theologizing. Ultimately, with him,
we shall want to judge the Old Testament by worthier canons
than its use of imagery or its serviceableness as a conduit of
phantasmagoric near eastern polytheism.
I shall be discussing our topic under four headings: The Coat
of Many Colours, God and the Narrative Tradition, The An-
thropomorphized God and The Conciliar God.

S.A. Geller, Sacred Enigmas: Literary Religion in the Hebrew Bible, Lon-
don 1996, 168.
C.S. Lewis, Is Theology Poetry?, in: Idem, Screwtape Proposes a Toast,
and Other Pieces, London 1965, 42. Again, The majestic simplications of
Pantheism and the tangled wood of Pagan animism both seem to me, in their
dierent ways, more attractive. Christianity just misses the tidiness of the
one and the delicious variety of the other (ibid., 42-3).
Comparativism and the God of Israel 55

The Coat of Many Colours

This subtitle introduces an aspect of the richness and diversity
of the Old Testament presentation of God that deserves mention,
even though similar tendencies are evident among Israels poly-
theistic neighbours. This is the clothes-stealing that goes on in
the Old Testament when characteristics (forms, functions, epi-
thets) of non-Israelite gods are assumed by the God of Israel. In
some contexts this would come appropriately under the heading
of syncretism. The fourth chapter of John Days monograph on
Yahweh and the Gods of Canaan deals with this subject and is
entitled Yahwehs Appropriation of Baal Imagery.34
The potential for enlargement in this area is considerable, but
I shall mention only the haunting case of Isa. 45:7 where Judahs
God claims to be the creator of darkness as well as of light, of woe
as well as of weal.35 This apparent rejection of conceptual dualism
is uttered immediately after the section on the rise of Cyrus the
Persian in 45:1-6, and the juxtaposition is striking, given that
Persia provided the matrix for dualistic Zoroastrianism. Many
commentators refrain from comment in this direction because it
is not certain that Zoroastrianism was in a position to inuence
Judean thinking even exilic Judean thinking in the later sixth
century. At the same time, Zoroastrianism is occasionally sugges-
ted as a factor in the development of Israelite-Jewish monothe-
ism,36 but that is a separate and much larger issue and not at all
my concern here. Uncertainty about the dating of Zoroaster and
about the extent of his inuence in the sixth century discourages
easy conclusions about Isa. 45:7 being a response to Persian du-
alism.37 J.D.W. Watts, in his commentary on Isaiah, takes it for

J. Day, Yahweh and the Gods and Goddesses of Canaan (JSOT.S, 265),
Sheeld 2000, 91-127.
On the multifaceted problem of the relation between the deity and evil see
now A. Laato, J.C. de Moor, Theodicy in the World of the Bible, Leiden 2003;
O. Loretz, G otter Ahnen Konige als gerechte Richter: Der Rechtsfall
des Menschen vor Gott nach altorientalischen und biblischen Texten (AOAT,
290), M unster 2003.
References in Robert Gnuse, The Emergence of Monotheism in Ancient
Israel: A Survey of Recent Scholarship, Religion 29 (1999), 315-36; Laato,
De Moor, Theodicy, viii-ix.
Cf. M. Boyce, A History of Zoroastrianism, vol. 2: Under the Achae-
menians (HO, 1/8, 1, 2, 2A), Leiden 1982, 1-4; G. Gnoli, Zoroasters Time
and Homeland: A Study on the Origins of Mazdeism and Related Problems
56 R.P. Gordon

granted that 45:7 functions in this way,38 but then Watts holds
that the rst audience for the book of Isaiah is to be dated in
the late fth century.39 At least, if it ever were demonstrated
that 45:7 was meant to counter Persian dualism, we should not
be surprised, for the God of the Old Testament would as happily
spoil the Persians as the Egyptians.

God and the Narrative Tradition

That the Old Testament presents a literary, and in particular a
narrative, tradition that stands apart from those of neighbour-
ing countries seems self-evident. Attempts to boost the image of
the competing literatures may alter the detail, but they do not
change the picture. Admittedly, the narrative continuum of the
Pentateuch-Former Prophets (Genesis2 Kings) of the Hebrew
canon, or of Genesis-Esther in the English Bible tradition, sug-
gests a connectedness that would not have been apparent at the
time of the composition of the individual books. Still, the con-
siderable dovetailing of some of the constituent books and their
orientation towards a history outside themselves indicate that
something more than last-minute editing has created this sense
of continuity.
The view that the monotheistic faith of Israel has given birth
to this narrative tradition is often associated nowadays with Ro-
bert Alter and his 1981 volume on biblical narrative.40 The the-
ory is, of course, much older than Alter, whose predecessors in
the eld include Gerhard von Rad41 and Shemaryahu Talmon.42
When Alter rst raises the question, he is consciously building
on Talmons claim that, far from containing the vestiges of a na-
tional epic, the Old Testament deliberately avoids epic because
(SMDSA, 7), Naples 1980; Idem, Zoroaster in History (Biennial Yarshater
Lecture Series, 2), New York 2000.
J.D.W. Watts, Isaiah 3466 (WBC, 25), Waco 1987, 157.
See J.D.W. Watts, Isaiah 133 (WBC, 24), Waco 1985, xxx.
R. Alter, The Art of Biblical Narrative, London 1981.
G. von Rad, The Beginnings of Historical Writing in Ancient Israel, in:
G. von Rad, The Problem of the Hexateuch and Other Essays, tr. E.W. True-
man Dicken, Edinburgh 1966, 166-204 (translated from Gesammelte Studien
zum Alten Testament, M unchen 1958, 148-88. The essay, entitled Der An-
fang der Geschichtsschreibung im alten Israel, rst appeared in AKuG 32
[1944], 1-42).
S. Talmon, The Comparative Method in Biblical Interpretation
Principles and Problems, VT.S 29 (1978), 320-56 (351-6).
Comparativism and the God of Israel 57

of its pagan associations: the Old Testament writers purposely

nurtured and developed prose narration to take the place of the
epic genre which by its content was intimately bound up with the
world of paganism and appears to have had a special standing in
the polytheistic cults (354).
Such a creative role for monotheism has been questioned, for
example by David Gunn, who thinks that Alter is simply revert-
ing to the values and judgments of the Biblical Theology period.43
Norman Whybray reckoned that Alters approach was too heav-
ily nal form, expecting too much from the nal redactors of the
biblical text. He also found it puzzling that narrative writing of
the type so praised by Alter appears to have gone into decline in
the very period when monotheism was in the ascendant. This, it
will be clear, is predicated on certain assumptions about the age
of the narrative books of the Old Testament. If in the main they
originated in post-exilic times, dierent arguments would apply.
For some, the applicability of the term monotheism to Israel-
ite-Judean religion before the Babylonian exile is a major issue,
but it may in any case be sucient to frame the question in terms
of the inuence of Yahweh-aloneism in Israel and Judah, in the
pre-exilic period and subsequently. For it is hard to dissociate the
development of the unique Israelite literary tradition from ques-
tions of world-view, and in almost any ancient society world-view
and religion overlap substantially. Certain it is that a comparable
narrative-historical tradition did not develop in the surrounding
cultures, even where and when the high gods became exceedingly
high. Moreover, if there was no prior Israelite epic tradition, as
Talmon has argued,44 the rise of the narrative tradition is the
more obviously in need of explanation, since it is then not simply
a prosication of older epic material.
This development of a unique narrative tradition within the
literature of the ancient near east is matched by the compar-
ative absence of pictorial art and glyptic in ancient Israel, and
this too appears to be related to Israelite religious perception,
now in its aniconic/iconoclastic mode. The ban on images was
the ruin of their art, but the making of their religion, wrote
D.M. Gunn, Hebrew Narrative, in: A.D.H. Mayes (ed.), Text and Con-
text: Essays by Members of the Society for Old Testament Study, Oxford
2000, 234.
Talmon, The Comparative Method, 353-4.
58 R.P. Gordon

D.L. Edwards in a popular volume of his a quarter of a century

ago.45 Whether the ban was the cause or merely a reex of
an underlying tendency, there is the likelihood of a connection
between the ideology and the absence of the art. A similar thing
has been observed of England, which has had its share of icono-
clastic revolution. In consequence, England has never competed
with the other European countries where the visual arts are con-
cerned. On the other hand, a tradition of the written word that is
second to none has developed and reached out across the globe.46
This tradition of the word, it is true, is not limited to narrative
Shakespeare appears early on the honours board but it remains
the case that the ow of creative energy has been channelled into
the written word in a way that is not true of the visual arts. It
appears to have been the same in ancient Israel.
To say no more, however, would be to limit ourselves to the
via negativa. The idea that Israels God was solely responsible
for the created order, controlled and shaped history, and deter-
mined the whole course of Israelite national aairs, can justly be
claimed as the dynamo that powered the narrative-historical tra-
dition within the Old Testament. Other peoples might attribute
similar powers to their gods, but polytheism fragments, and even
when the gods claimed credit for their doings in history, their
vicegerents on earth had a good slice of the glory, as their proud
accounts of victory testify. In the Old Testament this is not so,
and even Israels monumental architecture whether coincident-
ally or otherwise bears silent witness to the sole claim of Yahweh
to glory on the eld of battle.47 Yahweh-aloneism indeed! So, al-
though it may be an overstatement to claim that monotheism per
se gave rise to the Old Testament narrative tradition, the manner
of Israels recognition of one supreme God created the context in
which such a tradition could ourish. In this the consciousness of
the special relationship between God and people, as described by
Machinist (see above), played its part, as can be illustrated from
the larger narrative blocks represented by the books of Kings and

D.L. Edwards, A Key to the Old Testament, London 1976, 31.
Cf. J. Paxman, The English: A Portrait of a People, London 1998, 109-10.
This civilisation not of the image, but of the word is applied more broadly to
Protestant Europe by Kenneth Clark, Civilisation: A Personal View, London
1969, 159.
Cf. 2 Sam. 8:6, 14.
Comparativism and the God of Israel 59

Chronicles. The writers, or compilers, of these books mention an-

nalistic material of the sort that is commonplace within the larger
near eastern literary corpus, but they are self-consciously creat-
ing a dierent type of literature in which they recount the story,
extending over several centuries, of a people and its God.

The Anthropomorphised God

The extent to which God is depicted anthropomorphically in the
Old Testament is striking, given that he is viewed as above and
beyond his creation, the high and holy One of many a text in
prose and verse. The statement in Deuteronomy 4 that at Horeb
the Israelites saw no form of any kind on the day God spoke
out of the re (v. 15; cf. v. 12) and the parallel aniconic tradition
of tabernacle and temple, where God was enthroned invisibly
between the cherubim (cf. 1 Sam. 4:4), certainly reect a non-
corporeal conception of God. On the other hand, the point is
made increasingly nowadays that Deuteronomy 4 is a rare text
on the subject of Gods incorporeality.48 Moreover, it may be
argued that Deut. 4:15 is saying only that God did not manifest
his form at Horeb, not that no form could ever be attributed to
him. Stephen Geller takes this further, claiming that, whereas
the old Deuteronomic thinkers allowed but one breach of divine
transcendence, at Horeb, Deut. 4:36 wants to reject even this one
concession.49 Whatever our views on Deuteronomy 4, we should
not globalise its message so as to create an unbridgeable gulf
between the God of the Old Testament and the physical world of
his making.
To do so would involve the further loss of unnecessarily widen-
ing the gap between Old Testament views of God and Christian
incarnational theology. One of the most striking anthropomorph-
isms in the Old Testament is the angelophany, in which the an-
gel of the Lord appears to favoured humans. When God appears
to Gideon it is in the guise of the angel of the Lord sitting un-
See S.D. Moore, Gigantic God: Yahwehs Body, JSOT 70 (1996), 87-115
Geller, Sacred Enigmas, 42. According to Geller, Deut. 4 teaches that
hearing, rather than seeing, is the proper way to experience revelation (39,
48); the Deuteronomic writers are redening the nature of God and the
process of revelation (40-42); the unique feature of biblical religion, as of
its daughter faiths Judaism and Christianity, is transcendent monotheism
60 R.P. Gordon

der an oak in Ophrah and, apparently, indistinguishable from a

human (Judg. 6:22). Gideon does not appreciate the literal po-
tential in the greeting The Lord is with you; nevertheless, the
story discloses that it is none other than the Lord himself speak-
ing to Gideon (Judg. 6:11-24 [14]). It is as a man of God that
God, initially introduced in the story as the angel of the Lord,
appears to Manoahs wife (Judg. 13:3, 6, 9, 13, 19-22). The ap-
pearance of God to Abraham in Genesis 18 belongs here, even
though the chapter does not mention angels or the angel of the
Lord.50 Abraham is confronted by three men, who eat his food,
and, it becomes apparent, one of those who enjoys his hospital-
ity is the Lord (vv. 13, 17). Similarly, it is as a man that God
encounters Jacob at Peniel, and Jacob at the end recognises that
he has seen God face to face (Gen. 32:30).
As we know, there is a tendency within traditional Christian
exegesis to identify the angel of the Lord with the second per-
son of the Trinity, though the New Testament itself noticeably
refrains from this in the martyr Stephens reference to the angel
of the Lord at the burning bush (Acts 7:30-34). Such Christo-
phanic emphasis results from exegetical overkill, however, and
its eect is to obscure a serious point of contact between the two
Testaments: the compatibility of the biblical God with human
form. Alter goes to the other extreme in claiming that in the
Old Testament there is, despite anthropomorphism, an abso-
lute cleavage between man and God: man cannot become God
and God (in contrast to later Christian developments) does not
become man.51 As ontology such a statement is pointless in an
Old Testament context,52 while the absoluteness of the absolute
cleavage depends precisely on the limits observed in the anthro-
pomorphising in the biblical texts. In the Old Testament, as we
have already seen, anthropomorphism is taken quite far.
Paying anthropomorphism its due respect will have repercus-
sions for our reading of the biblical text more generally, as may
be illustrated from the rst page of the Bible. It is the anthro-
pomorphised God who creates the universe in Genesis 1. There
is a tendency to emphasise the at aspect of the creation (God
In 19:1, 15, on the other hand, the other two visitants who continued on
to Sodom are called angels (or messengers).
Alter, The Art of Biblical Narrative, 157.
Alters contrasting of Christianity, according to which God does become
man, shows the sense in which he (presumably) intends this becoming.
Comparativism and the God of Israel 61

said, Let there be . . . ), as if this expressed a distinctive Is-

raelite standpoint. However, we know that at creation is also
a feature of Egyptian Memphite creation theology, and Gen-
esis 1 is actually stronger on the idea of the workman God, not
least when it comes to the creation of the rst humans. This may
have a bearing on the statement in verse 26 about Gods making
humans in our image, for this strangely abstract phrasing at
least in an Old Testament setting, and as most often expounded
may not be so devoid of corporeality as is often assumed.53
If the language of the Divine Council lies behind the use of the
rst person plural in the verse, as is widely believed, then there
is even more reason for our interpretation of image and like-
ness to avoid theological abstraction this perhaps encouraged
by other Old Testament passages which associate God with some
sort of corporeal existence, even where the angelophany is not
What we have in the Old Testament is a depiction of God
that is as developed and multiplex as that of any human char-
acter described there. This relates very directly to the aptitude
of the biblical writers for characterisation in narrative: God as
a narrative protagonist is treated according to the same literary
conventions as the human participants in the narratives. It would
be a large claim that characterisation developed in the Old Test-
ament literature in a way unparalleled elsewhere, but a good case
could be made. So God himself is depicted with an astonishing
range of characteristics and responses to the people and situ-
ations described in the biblical narratives. Now, while the danger
of the unwarranted comparison lurks again, it is, nevertheless, a
fair question whether the personality of any other god in the an-
cient near east has been so developed, and so anthropomorphised
in the process, as that of the God of Israel.

This may apply even if the beth essentiae approach is favoured (i.e. as
our image [v. 26; cf. v. 27]).
See R. Kasher, Anthropomorphism, Holiness and Cult: A New Look at
Ezekiel 40-48, ZAW 110 (1998), 192-208 (192-4). See further M.C.A. Korpel,
A Rift in the Clouds: Ugaritic and Hebrew Descriptions of the Divine (UBL,
8), Munster 1990, as well as J.C. de Moor, The Duality in God and Man: Gen.
1:26-27 as Ps Interpretation of the Yahwistic Creation Account, in: J.C. de
Moor (ed.), Intertextuality in Ugarit and Israel: Papers Read at the Tenth
Joint meeting of The Society for Old Testament Study and Het Oudtesta-
mentisch Werkgezelschap . . . Oxford, 1997 (OTS, 40), Leiden 1998, 112-25.
62 R.P. Gordon

The Conciliar God

The fate of the foreign gods in the Old Testament is to be re-
duced to angel status and to sing the praises of Israels God. Or
worse, according to Psalm 82. This, however, does not exhaust
the limits of the reconceptualisation of polytheism within the Old
Testament, as may be judged from the afterlife that it permits
the Council of the Gods or Divine Council.55 The biblical pres-
ence of this Divine Council is something more than vestigial. It
is represented in the Pentateuch, the Former Prophets, the Lat-
ter Prophets, Psalms, Job and Daniel, sometimes expressly and
sometimes implicitly.
As we have already noted, it can no longer be claimed that
the Old Testament was unique in envisaging the admission of
humans to the Divine Council.56 Mari text 208 recounts a dis-
cussion among the gods in Eas circle, while text 196 portrays
Dagan passing judgment on Tishpak, the god of Eshnunna, in the
Divine Council, both occasions being witnessed by the prophets
who reported them. On the earthly plane, the Babylonian b ar
diviners were admitted to the royal court when their services
were required, and it is a reasonable supposition that it was the
experience of the diviners at the level of the earthly court that
led to the idea not only of diviners but also of prophets being
admitted to the divine court.57 Actual participation in concil-
iar decisions in Mesopotamian texts was very much the preserve
of the gods themselves. So, already in the Sumerian ood story
the decision of the gods in Council to destroy humanity is de-
scribed as a nal sentence (di-til-la, a term borrowed from the
Sumerian courtroom).58 Decisions of the gods in Council had to
be conrmed by an oath at the start or end, or both, of the an-
nounced decision. There was no going back, as was discovered by
Ningal when she tried to save Ur from destruction:

Cf. E.T. Mullen, The Assembly of the Gods: The Divine Council in Ca-
naanite and Early Hebrew Literature (HSM, 24), Chico 1980.
Cf. Gordon, From Mari to Moses, 71-4.
See the writer in Where Have All the Prophets Gone? The Disap-
pearing Israelite Prophet Against the Background of Ancient Near Eastern
Prophecy, BBR 5 (1995), 78-9.
See M. Civil, The Sumerian Flood Story, in: W.G. Lambert, A. R.
Millard, Atra-hass: The Babylonian Story of the Flood, Oxford 1969, 142 (iv
Comparativism and the God of Israel 63

May my city not be destroyed, I said to them.

May Ur not be destroyed.
May its people not be killed . . .

But there was no favourable response from Anu or Enlil.59 Once

the decision of the gods in Council was reached, there was no op-
portunity for review. Even less was it open to humans to interfere
in the decisions of the Council.
While there is evidence in the Mari texts of prophet gures
being allowed to witness Council proceedings, there is none that
suggests that they participated or in any way questioned the de-
crees that eventuated. In Ugarit kings seem to have participated
in gatherings of their deied ancestors, and similar phenomena
have been observed elsewhere.60 An intercessory role has been
claimed for the Balaam of the Deir Alla text,61 but this much
is not clear from the text itself. It appears that Balaam weeps
and fasts after witnessing the gods in Council,62 but that is a
dierent matter from participation in Council proceedings.
In the Old Testament, prophets not only witness but may on
occasion take part in the Divine Council. Micaiah is merely a
spectator in relation to the curious goings-on that are described
in 1 Kings 22. Isaiah, on the other hand, not only interrupts the
proceedings of the heavenly court with his confession of unclean-
ness, but also oers his services as messenger and seeks clari-
cation as regards the time-range of the message that he is to
announce (Isa. 6:1-13; esp. vv. 5, 8, 11). Those who revocalise
rm'a;w (And he [or one] said) in Isa. 40:6 to rm'aow: (And I said;
cf. 1QIsa , ) envisage prophetic participation in the proceedings
See Lamentation over the Destruction of Ur in ANET, 458; cf. T. Jac-
obsen, The Treasures of Darkness: A History of Mesopotamian Religion, New
Haven 1976, 86.
Cf. De Moor, The Rise of Yahwism 2 , 317-61; Idem, Seventy!, in: M.
Dietrich, I. Kottsieper (eds), Und Mose schrieb dieses Lied auf : Studien
zum Alten Testament und zum Alten Orient (Fs O. Loretz), M unster 1998,
See H.-P. Muller, Die aramaische Inschrift von Deir Alla und die
Bileamspr uche, ZAW 94 (1982), 214-44 (242); M. Dijkstra, Is Balaam also
among the Prophets?, JBL 114 (1995), 43-64 (52).
See M. Weippert, The Balaam Text from Deir Alla and the Study of the
Old Testament, in: J. Hoftijzer, G. van der Kooij (eds), The Balaam Text
from Deir Alla Re-evaluated: Proceedings of the International Symposium
held at Leiden 21-24 August 1989, Leiden 1991, 167-9.
64 R.P. Gordon

of a Divine Council meeting at which an anonymous gure in the

Isaiah tradition is commissioned with a message for the returning
exiles.63 Zech. 3:5, as pointed in the , has the prophet contribute
a sentence to the proceedings when he asks that a clean turban
be placed on Joshua the high priests head.
A dierent level of engagement is represented in the visionary
experiences of Amos 7. There is no direct mention of the Divine
Council here, except the possible hint in rm'aow: (and I said) in the
rst two visions (vv. 2, 5). Indeed, it would hardly be possible
to have a conventional Council session in these two visions, since
they incorporate acted out judgments upon Israel, in the locust
attack on the crops and the destruction of the land by re (vv. 2,
4).64 Nevertheless, it is dicult to divorce the Amos visions from
the world of the Divine Council. If not Amos himself, an early
interpreter of his sees this kind of experience as Gods revealing
of his plan (dws) to his prophet-servant (3:7); and the point of the
previews in ch. 7 is that they give the prophet the opportunity
to intercede on behalf of his endangered people. Here the God
of Israel condescends to being entreated and even to repenting
of his decisions in a way seldom described for an Israelite ruler.
Certainly, Amos 7 diers in this respect from the typical kings
council in Old Testament narrative, whether as in 1 Kings 12
(Rehoboam), or 2 Samuel 1617 (Absalom), or 1 Kings 22 (kings
of Judah and Israel). In Amos 7 God is not seeking advice because
of his perplexity, but shows himself willing to have his judgment
opposed because of his merciful character.
This aspect of the divine character is most strikingly appar-
ent in the account of Gods meeting with Abraham in Genesis
18. Their encounter is not presented as a session of the Divine
Council, and yet there are elements in the story that seem to
point that way.65 And after all, it is on the basis of Abrahams
intercession for Sodom in this chapter that he is described to
For the view that the speaker in Isa. 40:6 is a member of the heavenly
council see C.R. Seitz, The Divine Council: Temporal Transition and New
Prophecy in the Book of Isaiah, JBL 109 (1990), 229-47.
Perhaps Deir Alla provides a parallel in the vision that reduces Balaam
to tears; Weippert has already suggested a parallel between the Balaam text
and the Amaziah narrative in Amos 7:10-17 (The Balaam Text, in: Hoftijzer,
Van der Kooij (eds), The Balaam Text, 164, 177; cf. M. Dijkstra, Response
to H.-P. Muller and M. Weippert, ibid., 216).
Cf. G.J. Wenham, Genesis 1650 (WBC, 2), Dallas 1994, 50.
Comparativism and the God of Israel 65

Abimelech in 20:7 as a prophet: he is a prophet and he will

pray for you.66 What God decides to reveal to Abraham is noth-
ing other than his dws (plan). When it is recognised that 18:17
introduces a ashback (cf. The Revised English Bible, The Lord
had thought to himself), it becomes evident that Gods decision
about Sodom has not yet been reached when he visits Abraham.
His going down to see is not the taking of the road from Hebron
to Sodom about which the text has nothing further to say, for
only the two accompanying angels reach Sodom (cf. 18:17, 22;
19:1)67 but, as we would ordinarily expect, his descent from his
heavenly abode to investigate what his human subjects are doing
(I shall go down and see whether they have done according to the
outcry that has reached me, v. 21; cf. Gen. 11:5). So Abraham is
truly in the position of a prophetic intercessor whose bargaining
takes place before the divine plan is nalised. The result is the
remarkable picture of Abraham the Hebrew haggling with God
over the fate of a pagan city, which might in its entirety be spared
if there were, nally, but ten righteous people in it. In Genesis
18, then, God is memorably shown as being open to persuasion
by a mere mortal (cf. dust and ashes, v. 27).
We may perhaps hear echoes of the Council in the book of
Hosea, in the self-deliberations of God over Israel. There are
scarcely any speech formulae to punctuate the text, and in that
respect oracles and soliloquies go seamlessly on. Something of
Hoseas own perplexities are, doubtless, surfacing in the divine
fretting over Israel. Hosea has stitched his heart on the sleeve of
God.68 This God has no colleagues or even juniors to whom he
turns, no Council where decisions can be debated. All is happen-
ing in the mind of Israels God. So he asks, What can I do with
you, Ephraim? What can I do with you, Judah? (6:4); How can
I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, Israel? (11:8).
Andersen and Freedman attribute the seeming lack of structure
in Hosea to the consideration that Yahwehs self-deliberations oc-
cur within the context of the Divine Council, or even that they

Genesis 18 and 20 are traditionally assigned to dierent sources, but the
portrayal of Abraham as a prophet of intercessory accomplishment is found
only in ch. 18.
Verse 22a then fulls its proper function of being a resumptive repetition
picking up verse 16 after the ashback material of verses 1721.
The standpoint of the text is, of course, that of the reverse process.
66 R.P. Gordon

represent a stage preliminary to the Council.69 So God solilo-

quises, and we hear him debating the pros and cons of the policy
that he is hammering out. Only Jeremiah among the later proph-
ets comes close to such a depiction of God (cf. Jer. 5:7-9). The
debating of pros and cons also seems to be a feature of Hos. 2:4-
25 (2-23), and David Clines has written suggestively about this
chapter as presenting, not a sequence of actions, but a series of
options, the last of which is the course that God actually decides
upon, viz. forgiving Israel and loving her out of her rebellious
ways.70 Andersen and Freedman, in their commentary published
a year later, and in apparent independence of Clines, view with
some favour the possibility that the rst two options in Hosea 2
are discarded in favour of the third.71 If so, the conceptuality of
the Divine Council is not too far away.

In Conclusion
In the second part of this paper comparisons and contrasts have
not been of crucial importance. A dierent question has been
addressed: How does the Old Testament, committed to the one
God Yahweh, respond to the environing traditions and practices
in which its own views of God and reality developed? Whether
there were parallel developments elsewhere was not so important.
But that was a self-denying ordinance on the writers part, for
there is no reason why the making of cultural comparisons should
be abandoned, even if the results must always have an element of
provisionality about them. That the sum total of the Old Testa-
ment vision witnesses to something unique in the ancient east is
self-evident, and it is hard to disagree with David Jobling when
he remarks that [i]t argues little maturity on the part of bib-
lical scholars that we sometimes seem to be arguing passionately
against the distinctiveness of our material in any respect.72
F.I. Andersen, D.N. Freedman, Hosea: A New Translation with Introduc-
tion and Commentary (AncB, 24), Garden City 1980, 45.
D.J.A. Clines, Hosea 2: Structure and Interpretation, in: E.A. Living-
stone (ed.), Studia Biblica 1978, I: Papers on Old Testament and Related
Themes Sixth International Congress on Biblical Studies, Oxford 37 April
1978 (SJSOT, 11), Sheeld 1979, 83-103 (= pp. 293-313 in Cliness On the
Way to the Postmodern: Old Testament Essays, 1967-1998, vol. 1 [=JSOT.S,
292], Sheeld 1998).
Andersen, Freedman, Hosea, 263.
D. Jobling, Robert Alters, The Art of Biblical Narrative, JSOT 27
Comparativism and the God of Israel 67

The analogy of apocalyptic and the New Testament may serve

a useful purpose in this regard. Part of the exegetical task in the
book of Revelation is to distinguish between standard apoca-
lyptic features and specically Christian elements in the book.
They are interwoven in the text, but proper exegesis does not
stop there. If verse 11 of the last chapter expresses classic apo-
calyptic determinism, as most would still recognise it Let the
evildoer still be evil and the lthy still be lthy! then this is
overwritten in verse 17 in the unrestricted oer of the water of
life to any thirsty hearer.73 That is a specically Christian ele-
ment in the text. In the same way, the elements within the Old
Testament that modify or rewrite the underlying near eastern
script are a legitimate concern of the Old Testament specialist.
There will never be a complete match, or, if there is, it will be
Yahwism by another name, or not even that. In fact, Egyptian
Atenism comes closest to the monotheism of the biblical tradition
(if one may disregard the chronology), yet the Aten was a non-
anthropomorphic, nonspeaking god who required an interpreter
for humanity, a role taken by the king, who claimed exclusive
knowledge of the deity.74 Nonanthropomorphic, nonspeaking!
That, surely, is real monotheistic sterility.

(1983), 87-99 (90).

Let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water
of life freely.
J. Baines, Egyptian Deities in Context: Multiplicity, Unity, and the
Problem of Change, in: B.N. Porter (ed.), One God or Many? Concepts of
Divinity in the Ancient World (Transactions of the Casco Bay Assyriological
Institute, 1), n.p. 2000, 60.
Anselm C. Hagedorn Humboldt-Universit
at Berlin

Who would invite a stranger from abroad?

The Presence of Greeks in Palestine in Old Testament Times
Herrn Prof. Dr. Matthias K
ockert zum 60. Geburtstag

In Homers Odyssey 1 we read in the 17th book:

tiv" ga;r dh; xei'non kalei' a[lloqen aujto;" ejpelqw;n
a[llon g eij mh; tw'n oi} dhmioergoi; e[asi,
mavntin h] ijhth'ra kakw'n h] tevktona douvrwn,
h] kai; qevspin ajoidovn, o{ ken tevrphsin ajeivdwn
ou|toi ga;r klhtoiv ge brotw'n ejp ajpeivrona gai'an:2
[Who, pray, of himself ever seeks out and invites a stranger
from abroad, unless it is one of those that are masters of
some public craft, a prophet, or a healer of ills, or a builder,
or perhaps a divine minstrel, who gives delight with his
song? For these men are invited all over the boundless
These lines have led scholars such as W. Burkert to postulate a
ourishing culture of migrant craftsmen in the Eastern Levant
during the late Bronze and early Iron Age.3 It is generally as-
sumed and archaeological evidence seems to support such a
view that craftsmen from the East worked in Greece during
this period and that, in turn, their craftmanship deeply inu-
enced archaic Greek art.4 The orientalising period of Greek his-
tory, literature and art has been suciently examined and does
Unless otherwise stated, all translations of Greek authors are taken from
the Loeb Classical Library. In addition to the usual abbreviations, the fol-
lowing are used: FGH = F. Jacoby, Fragmente der griechischen Historiker,
Leiden 1956.; IG = Inscriptiones Graecae; ICret = Inscriptiones Creticae;
LSJ = H.G. Liddell, R. Scott, H.S. Jones (eds.), A GreekEnglish Lexicon,
with a Revised Supplement, Oxford 1996.
Homer, Od. 17.382385.
Cf. W. Burkert, The Orientalizing Revolution: Near Eastern Inuence
on Greek Culture in the Early Archaic Age (Revealing Antiquity 5), Cam-
bridge 2 1992, 9-40 and Idem, Itinerant Diviners and Magicians: A Neglected
Element in Cultural Contacts, in: R. Hagg (ed.), The Greek Renaissance
of the Eighth Century B.C.: Tradition and Innovation Proceedings of the
Second International Symposium at the Swedish Institute in Athens, 15 June
1981 (Skrifter utgivna av Svenska Institutet i Athen 4/30), Stockholm, 1983,
Cf. B. Borell, D. Rittig, Orientalische und griechische Bronzereliefs aus
Who would invite a stranger from abroad? 69

not need to concern us here.5 Rather, I would like to turn the

picture around and consider Greek migrant craftsmen, travelling
from Greece to the Eastern Levant and more specically to Syro-
Palestine. As such, this study is not intended to evaluate the
signicance of the Greek world for the history or theology of the
Old Testament,6 but, rather, to explore possible areas of con-
tact and what we can learn from these contacts about the social
identity of the Greeks in Palestine.7 I hope to demonstrate that
cultural contact is not exclusively a process among elites.8

Olympia: Der Fundkomplex aus Brunnen 17 (Deutsches Arch aologisches In-

stitut Olympische Forschungen, 26), Berlin 1998, who were able to demon-
strate on the basis of bronze-reliefs from a fountain in Olympia that the
fragments originated in the workshop of an oriental craftsman in Crete. For
a more cautious view on immigrant presence in Crete see G.L. Homan,
Imports and Immigrants: Near Eastern Contacts with Iron Age Crete, Ann
Arbor 1997, 153-89.
Cf. S. Dalley, The Legacy of Mesopotamia, Oxford 1998, 85-106; H.
Matth aus, Zur Rezeption orientalischer Kunst-, Kultur- und Lebensfor-
men in Griechenland, in: K. Raaaub (ed.), Anf ange politischen Denkens
in der Antike: Die nah ostlichen Kulturen und die Griechen (Schriften des
Historischen Kollegs, Kolloquien 24), M unchen 1993, 165-86; S.P. Morris,
Daidalos and the Origin of Greek Art, Princeton 1992; R. Osborne, Archaic
and Classical Greek Art (Oxford History of Art), Oxford 1998, 43-51; C.
Penglase, Greek Myths and Mesopotamia: Parallels and Inuence in the Ho-
meric Hymns and Hesiod, London 1994; M.L. West, The East Face of Helicon:
West Asiatic Elements in Greek Poetry and Myth, Oxford 1997.
This has been done magnicently in the study by O. Kaiser, Die Bedeu-
tung der griechischen Welt f ur die alttestamentliche Theologie, in: Idem,
Zwischen Athen und Jerusalem: Studien zur griechischen und biblischen
Theologie, ihrer Eigenart und ihrem Verh altnis (BZAW, 320), Berlin 2003,
On the other hand, scholars of the Ancient Near East have started to
explore views of Greece and her inhabitants found in Ancient Near Eastern
sources. Cf. A. Kuhrt, Greeks and Greece in Mesopotamian and Persian
Perspectives: The twenty-rst J.L. Myres Memorial Lecture, Oxford 2002;
G.B. Lanfranchi, The Ideological and Political Impact of the Assyrian Im-
perial Expansion on the Greek World in the 8th and 7th Centuries BC, in:
S. Aro, R.M. Whiting (eds.), The Heirs of Assyria (Melammu Symposia, 1),
Helsinki 2000, 7-34; H. Sancisi-Weerdenburg, Yauna by the Sea and across
the Sea, in: I. Malkin (ed.), Ancient Perceptions of Greek Ethnicity (Center
for Hellenic Studies Colloquia, 5), Washington 2001, 323-46.
For reasons of space we will disregard the interesting phenomenon of
intermarriage, which could possibly result in bilingual children (cf. Xeno-
phon, Anab. 4.8.4 and Herodotus, Hist. VI.138); on the topic see M.L. West,
East Face of Helicon, 618-21 and the remarks by J.N. Coldstream, Mixed
Marriages at the Frontiers of the Early Greek World, Oxford Journal of
70 A.C. Hagedorn

The presence of travelling foreign specialists, as I prefer to

call them, is well known from the Old Testament. Thus we read
in 1 Kgs 7:13-14 of a certain Hiram from Tyre who comes down
to Jerusalem to help Solomon with his building projects. The
text states explicitly that he was a skilled bronze-worker:
.rXomi r:yjiAta, jQ'YIw" hmolv] l,M,h' jl'v]YIw" 13
aleM;YIw" tv,jon vrEjo yrIxoAvyai wybia;w yliT;p]n" hFeM'mi aWh hn:m;l]a' hV;aiAB, 14
awbY:w" tv,jNo B' hk;al;m]AlK; twc[}l' t['D'h'Ata,w hn:WbT]h'Ata,w hm;k]j;h'Ata,
.wTk]al'm]AlK;Ata, c['Y"w" hmolv] l,M,h'Ala,
[Now King Solomon invited and received Hiram from Tyre.
He was the son of a widow of the tribe of Naphtali, whose
father, a man of Tyre, had been an artisan in bronze; he
was full of skill, intelligence, and knowledge in working
bronze. He came to King Solomon, and did all his work.

This may be a ctitious report,9 but it nevertheless draws atten-

tion to the fact that it was perceived as normal to import foreign
specialists for building projects.10 (From a literary point of view
it is quite striking how the description of the manufactured items
by Hiram in 1 Kgs 7:13-50 resembles the descriptions of handi-
work we nd in Homer.11 ) In a similar context we encounter
Greek (Ionian) workers in the Persepolis Treasury Tablets, who
are listed next to Syrians and Egyptians:
5 (to) workmen (of) the lands of the Hattians (Syrians),
6 and Ionians, (who are) earning wages,
7 (and for whom) Vahush is responsible at Parsa,
8 (to) these, for wages, give (to these) who are laborers
9 upon the columned hall, the . . . . of making the columned

Only in passing let us note that the Greeks here are called ia-u-
na-ip a word obviously related to the Hebrew w:y,: which is used
Archaeology 12 (1993), 89-107.
Cf. V. Fritz, Das erste Buch der Konige (ZBK.AT, 10/1), Z urich 1996,
M. Cogan, 1 Kings (AncB, 10), New York 2000, 271.
Cf. for example, the description of the Shield of Achilles in Homer, Il.
Translation according to G.G. Cameron (ed.), Persepolis Treasury Tab-
lets, Chicago 1948, Tabl. 15.5-9.
Who would invite a stranger from abroad? 71

to denote Ionian Greeks in the Table of Nations (Gen. 10:2, 4-

5). Also, we possibly nd Ionians, who build ships in Nineveh,
mentioned in the inscriptions of Sennacherib:13

Hittites, plunder / of my bows I settled in Nineveh. Mighty

ships / (after) the workmanship of their land they built
dexterously. Sailors Tyrians / Sidonians and Io[n]ians
captives of my hand, I ordered / at the bank of the Tigris
with them. Downstream to Opis / I had them shipped to
disembark (there).14

Furthermore, a silver bowl from Amathus in Cyprus (now in

the British Museum [WA 116253]) shows Greek hoplites ght-
ing next to Assyrian soldiers.15 Even though it could be argued
that the scene is purely mythological,16 the bowl nevertheless
demonstrates that there has been a certain Greek-Assyrian in-
volvement by the seventh century.17 In contrast to the hoplites,
depictions of people in civilian dress are virtually non-existent.
The only possible exception is a painted sherd from Ramat Rahel
which could depict a Greek person.18
Cf. E. Frahm, Einleitung in die Sanherib-Inschriften (AfO.B, 26), Wien
1997, 117, who also considers the reading Ja-[ad ] -n[a]-a-a for the singular
Ja-[am !? ] -n[a]-a-a in the inscriptions of Sennacherib, which would then refer
to Cypriots.
Text of T 29 quoted according to R. Rollinger, The Ancient Greeks
and the Impact of the Ancient Near East: Textual Evidence and Historical
Perspective (ca. 750650 bc), in: R.M. Whiting (ed.), Melammu Symposia
II, Helsinki 2001, 233-64 (242).
Picture in J. Boardman, The Greeks Overseas: Their Early Colonies and
Trade, London 4 1999, 50, and a more detailed report on the bowl can be
found in J.L. Myers, The Amathus Bowl: A Long-lost Masterpiece of Oriental
Engraving, JHS 53 (1933), 25-39.
As recently done again by A. Fantalkin, Mezad Hashavyahu: Its Material
Culture and Historical Background, Tel Aviv 28 (2001), 3-165 (141).
Thus W.-D. Niemeier, Greek Mercenaries at Tel Kabri and Other Sites
in the Levant, Tel Aviv 29 (2002), 328-31 (328-9). On the question of the
Greek-Assyrian encounter see Rollinger, The Ancient Greeks and the Impact
of the Ancient Near East, 233-64.
S. Geva, The Painted Sherd of Ramat Rahel, IEJ 31 (1981), 186-9.
R. Wenning, Griechische Vasenbilder in Palastina, in: C. Uehlinger (ed.),
Images as Media: Sources for the Cultural History of the Near East and the
Eastern Mediterranean (1st millennium bce) (OBO, 175), Fribourg 2001,
339-58, remarks on the sherds: Obwohl diese Scherben f ur die Frage der In-
terkulturation von groer Bedeutung sind, steht eine befriedigende Klassika-
72 A.C. Hagedorn

References to Syria and Palestine are sparse in Homer and

Hesiod. Of course, Homer mentions the Phoenicians19 as well
as their land (Od. 4.83; 14.291), which can sometimes be called
Sidonia (Oi} d ej" Sidonivhn eu\ naiomevnhn ajnabavnte" w[/cont:20 ),
and he also knows of the city of Sidon, when he says:

ejk me;n Sidw'no" polucavlkou eu[comai ei\nai,

kouvrh d ei[m Aruvbanto" ejgw; rJudo;n ajfneioi'o.21
[Out of Sidon, rich in bronze, I declare myself to be, and
I am the daughter of Arybas, to whom wealth owed in

As in Antiquity in general, so also in Homer the Phoenicians are

famed for their ships (Foivnike" nausivklutoi h[luqon a[ndre"22 )
and are thus the long-distance traders par exellence.23 The only
reference to Syria in Homer is found in Od. 15.403, where it is
described as being an island:

nh'sov" ti" Surivh kiklhvsketai, ei[ pou ajkouvei",

Ortugivh" kaquvperqen, o{qi tropai; hjelivoio,
ou[ ti periplhqh;" livhn tovson, ajll ajgaqh; mevn,
eu[boto", eu[mhlo", oijnoplhqh;", poluvpuro".24
[There is an island called Syria, if perchance you have
heard of it, above Ortygia, where are the turning places
of the sun. It is not so very thickly settled, but it is a good
land, rich in herds, rich in ocks, full of wine, abounding
in wheat.]

tion, f ur die auch zwei weitere Fragmente von solchen Zeichnungen desselben
Kontextes wichtig sind, noch aus (343-4).
Cf. Homer, Il. 4.141; 6.219; 7.305; 9.223, 621, 659; 10.133; 14.321; 15.538;
17.555; 23.360, 717, 744; Od. 4.83; 6.163; 11.124; 13.272; 14.291, 500; 15.415,
419, 473; 21.118; 23.201, 271.
Homer, Od. 4.285 (And they went on board, and departed for the well-
peopled land of Sidon).
Homer, Od. 15.425; the Odyssey also mentions the title King of the
Sidonians (Sidonivwn basileuv", Od. 4.618), which is paralleled in 1 Kgs 16:31
(ynIdoyxi l,m), .
Homer, Od. 15.415, Homer continues to label the Phoenicians greedy
knaves (trw'ktai).
Cf. B. Patzek, Griechen und Phoniker in homerischer Zeit: Fernhandel
und der orientalische Einu auf die fr uhgriechische Kultur, M unsterische
Beitr age zur antiken Handelsgeschichte 15 (1996), 1-31 (11).
Homer, Od. 15.403-6.
Who would invite a stranger from abroad? 73

It is highly unlikely that this island of Syria refers to Syria

proper, since already in antiquity it is identied with the island
of Syros.25 This would tally well with Strabos statement that
Homer is ignorant of the great empires.26 Similar uncertainty
regarding the geography of the Levant can be found in the Ho-
meric Hymns. In the Hymn to Dionysos we read about a moun-
tain called Nysa, which is located far away in Phoenicia this
Phoenicia is then described as being near the rivers/streams of

e[sti dev ti" Nuvsh u{paton o[ro", ajnqevon u{lh

thlou' Foinivkh", scedo;n Aijguvptoio rJoavwn.27
[There is a place Nysa, a mountain most high, burgeoning
with forest, in a distant part of Phoenicia, almost at the
waters of the Nile.]

To complete the picture of the early literary evidence, two frag-

ments from Hesiod mention Byblos and Sidon as well as having
a word for Phoenicia.28 This adds to the reference in Works and
Days, where wine from Byblos seems to be mentioned (bivblino"
Let us now turn to the literary evidence that seems to point
to a certain Greek presence in, and knowledge of, Syro-Palestine.
First of all we must consider some terminology. Herodotus seems
Cf. Aristarchos and Herodian apud the scholion to Od. 15.403: Surivh
miva tw'n Kuklavdwn hJ Suriva. ei[rhtai de; Suriva wJ" ta; Yuvra Yuriva, vnhvsou
ejpi; Yurivh" (Od. g 171). H. miva tw'n Kuklavdwn hJ Suriva, hJ pa;r hJmi'n
legomevnh Su'ra. B.Q. quoted according to W. Dindorf, Scholia Graeca in
Homeri Odysseam ex codicibus aucta et emendata, vol. 2, Oxford 1855, 617.
Strabo, Geogr. 15.3.23: Omhro" gou'n ou[te th;n tw'n Surw'n ou[te th;n tw'n
Mh'dwn ajrch;n oi\den: oujde ga;r a[n, Qhvba" Aijguptiva" ojnomavzwn kai; to;n ejkei'
kai; to;n ejn Foinivkh plou'ton, to;n ejn Babulw'ni kai; Nivnw/ kai; Ekbatavnoi"
Homeric Hymn I (To Dionysus) 8-9.
Cf. Hesiod, fr. 405.1 (Buvblon t ajggivalon ka;i Sivdwn ajnqemovessan)
and fr. 141.7 (kovurhi Foivniko" ajgauou'); fragments quoted according to R.
Merkelbach, M.L. West, Fragmenta Hesiodea, Oxford 1967.
Hesiod, Works and Days 589. LSJ Suppl., 68, gives the translation Bib-
line, i.e. a special kind of wine. (cf. Theocritus, 14.15 ajnw'/xa de; Bivblinon
aujtoi'"); the evidence from other ancient authors, however, suggests that we
have to equate Bivblino" with Phoenician (see references in K. Dover, Theo-
critus: Selected Poems, repr. ed. Bristol 1985, 191).
74 A.C. Hagedorn

to be the only Greek author who explicitly calls Palestine by that


Mouvnh de; tauvth eijsi; fanerai; ejsbolai; ej" Ai[gup-

ton. ajpo; ga;r Foinivkh" mevcri ou[rwn tw'n Kaduvtio"
povlio" ejsti; Suvrwn tw'n Palaistivnwn kaleomevnwn.30
[Now the only manifest way of entry into Egypt is this. The
road that runs from Phoenice as far as the borders of the
city of Cadytis, which belongs to the Syrians of Palestine,
as it is called.]

Of course, the father of history is not concerned with Palestine

as such, but mentions it always in connection with Egypt, often
using the compound Syro-Palestine.31 This does not mean, how-
ever, that Herodotus is not interested in this part of the Eastern
Levant. In his ethnographic descriptions,32 he frequently men-
tions Greek contact with Phoenicia, when he states, for example,
that Cretans were the rst Greeks to come to Tyre,33 and that
Io seemed to have been the rst permanent dweller amongst the
Phoenicians.34 Furthermore, Herodotus acknowledges the well-
known fact that the Phoenicians brought the alphabet to Greece:
Herodotus, Hist. III.5; see also the references in Hist. I.105; II.104; III.91;
IV.39; VII.89, and S. Mittmann, Die K uste Palastinas bei Herodot, ZDPV
99 (1983), 130-40; A.F. Rainey, Herodotus Description of the East Mediter-
ranean Coast, BASOR 321 (2001), 57-63.
Here we detect the phenomenon which J. Assmann has described as the
fascination of Greeks with the Egyptian world. Cf. J. Assmann, Weisheit und

Mysterium: Das Bild der Griechen von Agypten, Munich 2000.
On the ethnography of Herodotus see R. Thomas, Herodotus in Context:
Ethnography, Science and the Art of Persuasion, Cambridge 2000, and on the
anthropological problems of such a view cf. M. Herzfeld, Anthropology through
the Looking-glass: Critical Ethnography in the Margins of Europe, Cambridge
1987, 18-20.
Herodotus, Hist. I.2: Meta; dev tau'ta Ellhvnwn tinav" (ouj ga;r e[cousi
tou[noma ajphghvsasqai) fasi; th'" Foinivkh" ej" Tuvron prosscovnta" aJrpavsai
tou' basilevo" th;n qugatevra Eujrwphn. ei[hsan d a]n ou|toi Krh'te".
Herodotus, Hist. I.5: Peri; de; th'" Iou'" oujk oJmologevousi Pevrshsi ou{tw
Foivnike": ouj ga;r aJrpagh' sfeva" crhsamevnou" levgousi ajgagei'n aujth;n ej"
Ai[gupton, ajll wJ" ejn tw'/ Argei> ejmivsgeto tw'/ nauklhvrw/ th'" neov": ejpe;i
d e[maqe e[gkuo" ejou'sa, aijdeomevnh tou;" tokeva" ou{tw dh; ejqelonth;n aujth;n
toi'si Foivnixi sunekplw'sai, wJ" a]n mh; katavdhlo" gevnhtai. On the myth
of Io in general see T. Gantz, Early Greek Myth: A Guide to Literary and
Artistic Sources, vol. 1, Baltimore 1993, 198-204.
Who would invite a stranger from abroad? 75

OiJ de; Foivnike" ou|toi oiJ su;n Kavdmw/ ajpikovmenoi,

. . . , a[lla te polla; oijkhvsante" tauvthn th;n cwvrhn
ejshvgagon didaskavlia ej" tou;" Ellhna" kai; dh;
kai; gravmmata, oujk ejonta pri;n Ellhsi wJ" ejmoi;
dokevein, prw'ta me;n toi'si kai; a{pante" crevwntai
[These Phoenicians who came with Cadmus . . . at their
settlement in this country, among many other kinds of
learning, brought into Hellas the alphabet, which had hith-
erto been unknown, as I think, to the Greeks.]

What we learn from the usual mixture of myth and reliable his-
torical facts in the work of Herodotus is that he is very much con-
cerned with establishing Greek-Phoenician contact from a very
early stage onwards.36 Furthermore, Herodotus draws a sharp
distinction between the peaceful interactions with the Phoeni-
Herodotus, Hist. V.58; on the introduction of the alphabet into Greece

from Phoenicia cf. W. Helck, Die Beziehungen Agyptens und Vorderasiens zur

Ag ais bis ins 7. Jh. v. Chr. (EdF, 120), Darmstadt 2 1995, 136-40; J. Tropper,
Griechisches und Semitisches Alphabet: Buchstabennamen und Sibilanten-
entsprechungen, ZDMG 150 (2000), 317-21. One of the earliest examples of
Greek writing comes from Rhodes, where we read in an inscription orao hmi
ulic" (text according to L.H. Jerey, The Local Scripts of Archaic Greece:
A Study of the Origin of the Greek Alphabet and its Development from the
Eighth to the Fifth Centuries B.C., rev. ed., Oxford 1999, 347). A further
early example can be found at the western Greek colony in Pithekoussai
(where there has certainly been Greek-Phoenician contact; cf. D. Ridgway,
Phoenicians and Greeks in the West: A View from Pithekoussai, in: G.R.
Tsetskhladze, F. De Angelis (eds.), The Archaeology of Greek Colonisation:
Essays Dedicated to Sir John Boardman, Oxford 1994, 35-46):
Nevstoro" e2-3i eu[poton potevrion
h o;" d a]<n> to'de pivesi poterivo aujtivka ke'non
h ivmero" h airevsi kallistefavno Afrodivte".
This is the text of the so-called Cup of Nestor, quoted according to R.
Meiggs, D. Lewis, A Selection of Greek Historical Inscriptions to the End of
the Fifth Century B.C., rev. ed. Oxford 1988, No. 1. Also in the West we
nd Semitic loanwords in Greek inscriptions. See H. van Eenterre, F. Ruze,
Nomima, receuil dinscriptions politiques et juridiques de larchasme grec II
(CEFR, 188), Rome 1995, No. 75.
Herodotus, Hist. II.104 mentions the practice of circumcision (ta; aijdoi'a)
and continues to state that the Phoenicians and the Syrians of Palestine
have learnt the practice from the Egyptians (Foivnike" de; kai; Suvroi oiJ ejn
th/' Palaistivnh/ kai; aujtoi; oJmologevousi par Aijguptivwn memaqhkevnai). In
this respect too he may well have been right, cf. J.C. de Moor, The Rise of
Yahwism: The Roots of Israelite Monotheism (BEThL, 91A), Leuven 2 1997,
299-100, n. 100.
76 A.C. Hagedorn

cians and the aggressive encounter with the Persian empire.37 At

the same time, Herodotus always assumes that there has been
a strong Greek presence in Syro-Palestine. It is to this presence
that we will now turn our attention. The starting-point will again
be a travelling specialist whom we encounter in a fragment of
the Lesbian poet Alcaeus,38 namely his brother Antimenidas:
h\lte" ejk peravtwn gaj" ejlefantivnan
lavban tw; xivfeo" crusodevtan e[cwn . . .
to;n ajdelfo;n Antimenivsn . . . fhsin Alkai'oj Babu-
lwnivoi" summacou'nta televsai39
a[eqlon mevgan eujruvsao dejk povnwn
ktevnai" a[ndra macaivtan basilhivwn
palavstan ajpuleivonta movnan i[an
pacevwn ajpu; pevmpwn

[From the ends of the earth you are come, with your sword-
hilt of ivory bound with gold . . . ghting beside the Baby-
lonians you accomplished a great labour, and delivered
them from distress, for you slew a warrior who wanted
only one palms breadth of ve royal cubits.]40

The fragment can be described as a poem of welcome41 for Anti-

menidas, the brother of Alcaeus. He seems to have returned from
his service as a mercenary soldier in the army of the Babylonians.
(We will return to the phenomenon of Greek mercenaries in the
Eastern Levant below when dealing with the Arad ostraca and
the fortress of Mezad Hashavyahu.) The only military success
of Antimenidas mentioned in the poem is his killing of a giant
Cf. Herodotus, Hist. 1.143: toi'si de; aujtw'n nhsiwvth/si h\n deino;n oujdevn:
ou[te ga;r Foivnike" h\savn kw Persevwn kathvkooi).
On the political situation of Alcaeus poems and his struggle with Pit-
tacus, the tyrant of Mytilene, see D. Page, Sappho and Alcaeus: An Intro-
duction to the Study of Ancient Lesbian Poetry, Oxford 1955, 149-244; R.
Osborne, Greece in the Making 1200479 BC, London 1996, 190-3; L. Kurke,
Crisis and Decorum in Sixth Century Lesbos: Reading Alkaios Otherwise,
QUCC 47 (1994), 67-92.
Phrase added from Strabo, Geogr. 13.2.3: And his brother Antimenidas,
who according to Alcaeus performed a great feat while ghting as ally of the
Alcaeus, fr. 350 LP; translation according to D. Page, Sappho and Al-
caeus, 223.
D.A. Campbell, Greek Lyric Poetry: A Selection of Early Greek Lyric,
Elegiac and Iambic Poetry, London 1967, repr. Bristol 1997, 302.
Who would invite a stranger from abroad? 77

warrior who was apparently ca. 8ft and 4in high,42 and who had
caused just as Goliath did to Saul distress to the Babylonian
king. The poem itself does not allow for any precise dating or geo-
graphical location of the military engagement of both Alcaeus
brother and the Babylonian king, since the only geographical
location mentioned is the end of the earth (ejk peravtwn ga'")
which probably is intended to symbolise the far away place from
which Antimenidas has now safely returned. However, a second,
very fragmentary poem may oer some help here, since we read
the following:

. an qavlassan
tw fevresqai:
k w\n fevraito
a katavgrei
Babuvlwno" i[ra"
n Askavlwna
kruvoent ejgevrrhn
n ka;t a[rka".
te ka[slon
" Aivdao dw'ma
lw novhsqai
stefanwvmat a[mmi
tau'ta pavnta
o . .. au\)toi
. den

[. . . the sea . . . to be carried; . . . might be carried . . .

destroys . . . (from?) holy Babylon . . . Ascalon . . . to stir
up chilling (war?) . . . from the summit . . . and good . . .
house of Hades . . . to think . . . garlands for us . . . all these
. . . -selves . . . ]43

Because of to the occurrence of the phrase holy Babylon (Babuv-

lwno" i[ra") next to Ashkelon (Askavlwna) in lines 6-7 scholars
have argued that this poem refers to the fall of Ashkelon at the
Calculation according to D. Page, Sappho and Alcaeus, 223 n.4, with
reference to Herodotus, Hist. VII.117 (ajpo; ga;r pevnte phcevwn basilhivwn
ajpevleipe tevssera" daktuvlou").
Alcaeus, fr. 48 LP.
78 A.C. Hagedorn

hand of Nebuchadnezzar II in 604 bce.44 Since fr. 350 and fr.

48 are the only two texts in Alcaeus that mention Babylon, it is
probable that they both refer to the military career of his brother.
If that is indeed the case, Alcaeus brother would have been part
of the military campaigns of Nebuchadnezzar II in Palestine.45
Here we would have one of the few Greeks in Palestine whom we
actually know by name. At the same time, we note that it was
all right for a member of one of the elite families from Lesbos
to go abroad and be a soldier, but where exactly Antimenidas
joined the army of the Babylonian king cannot be determined
from Alcaeus works.46 In fact, other fragments from Alcaeus
indicate that he was quite proud of military achievements and
was if we believe Athenaeus warlike to a fault (ma'llon tou'
devonto" polemiko;" genovmeno" [Scholars at Dinner 14.627a-b]).47
As far as the literary convention is concerned, it is surprising that
the poet Alcaeus hardly uses any Near Eastern elements in his
poetry and thus stands in stark contrast with his contemporary
Sappho.48 It looks as if his brother did not bring back more from
Palestine than a sword hilt of ivory bound with gold.
Alcaeus brother is not the only Greek person whom we en-
counter by name who was active in Palestine. In several cuneiform
texts from the time of Sargon II he mentions a certain Iamani of
Ashdod, who was the cause of some grief for the Assyrian king:49
Cf. J.D. Quinn, Alcaeus 48 (B16) and the Fall of Ascalon (604 B.C.),
BASOR 164 (1962), 19-20; on the political events and the destructions see
L.E. Stager, Ashkelon and the Archaeology of Destruction: Kislev 604 BCE,
ErIs 25 (1996), 61-74, and the so-called Adon Papyrus (text and translation
in J.M. Lindenberger, Ancient Aramaic and Hebrew Letters (SBL.WAW, 14),
Atlanta 2 2003, 23-4); cf. Jer 47:5a (wlq]v]a' ht;m]dnI hZ:['Ala, hj;rq: ha;B; Baldness
has come upon Gaza, Ashkelon has perished); Herodotus, Hist. I.103-106
mentions the sack of the Temple of Afrodivth Oujraniva by Scythian soldiers,
an event which may refer to the destruction of Ashkelon.
Already D. Page, Sappho and Alcaeus, 224, followed by D.A. Campbell,
Greek Lyric Poetry, 302.
Contra P.W. Haider, Griechen im Vorderen Orient und in Agypten bis
ca. 590 v. Chr., in: C. Ulf (ed.), Wege zur Genese griechischer Identit at:
Die Bedeutung der fr uharchaischen Zeit, Berlin 1996, 60-311 (93), who ar-
gues that the tiny and corrupt fragment Alcaeus, fr. 398LP (tetrabarhvwn
plivnqwn kai; tavgmata) contains a description of Babylon.
Cf. Alcaeus, fr. 357 LP, where he proudly describes the weapons stored
in his house (marmaivrei de; mevga" dovmo" cavlkwi, pai'sa d a[rhi kekovsmhtai
stevga lavmpraisin kunivaisi).
Cf. West, East Face, 531-2.
English texts in Rollinger, The Ancient Greeks and the Impact of the
Who would invite a stranger from abroad? 79

[Against] their ruler [they started] rebellion and insurrec-

tion; they expelled him out [of Ashdod] like someone who
has shed blood . . . [. . . ] Iamani, commoner [without claim
to the throne they made] king over them, they made sit
[him] down [on the throne] of his master . . . 50

The revolt of Iamani is short-lived because he lacks support from

the surrounding nations, and he is forced to ee to Egypt.51 R.
Rollinger, after a careful examination of all the Iamani texts, is
able to conclude that we should regard the person as someone of
Greek descent, but one has to be careful to identify him with an
Ionian Greek. Rather, it is likely that we are dealing with some-
body from the Aegean region.52 If that is the case, the cuneiform
texts from the times of Tiglathpileser III and Sargon II men-
tioning Iam(a)naya are the earliest written evidence for Greeks
since the Bronze Age. 53 Furthermore, we need to note that the
Iamani-texts do not allow us to argue for an identication of
them as merely mercenaries,54 and that one cannot narrow the
relationship down to either trade or military activity.
The evidence from Alcaeus directs our attention to the phe-
nomenon of Greek mercenaries in the Eastern Levant.55 Next to
Ancient Near East, 245-7.
Nineveh-Prism (Annals of the Year 711 bce) VII.b: K.1668+IV; Eng-
lish text according to Rollinger, The Ancient Greeks and the Impact of the
Ancient Near East, 245; see also A. Fuchs, Die Annalen des Jahres 711 v.
Chr. (SAAS, 8), Helsinki 1998, 124-31 (cuneiform text of the prism, 44-6).
Iamani from Ashdod, afraid of my weapons, left his wife and children and
ed to the frontier of Egypt . . . and stayed there like a thief, Annals XIV.11-
14, quoted according to Rollinger, The Ancient Greeks and the Impact of
the Ancient Near East, 246.
Rollinger, The Ancient Greeks and the Impact of the Ancient Near East,
249, following I. Morris, Archaeology and Archaic Greek History, in: N.
Fisher, H. van Wees (eds.), Archaic Greece: New Approaches and New Evid-
ence, London 1998, 1-91, who would call this region central Greece.
Rollinger, The Ancient Greeks and the Impact of the Ancient Near
East, 258. Furthermore, Berossos mentions a mercenary with the name of
Pythagoras the student of Chaldean wisdom who is supposed to have
served in the Assyrian army (FGH 685, F5), but this seems to be doubtful
(see the discussion in Haider, op. cit., 91-2).
This view is supported from legal texts in which Iam(a)naya are men-
tioned; here we get the picture of respectable persons who live peacefully
amongst the Assyrians (cf. W. Mayer, Zypern und die Ag ais aus der Sicht
der Staaten Vorderasiens in der 1. H alfte des 1. Jahrtausends, UF 28 [1996],
463-84 [472-3]).
On the topic see P.R. Heym, Greeks in the Neo-Assyrian Levant and
80 A.C. Hagedorn

the above-mentioned evidence for a Greek ghting in the Baby-

lonian army, Herodotus tells us about Carian and Ionian soldiers
in the service of Psametik I of Egypt (664-610 bce),56 and this
is supported by epigraphic evidence.57
The Carians also appear twice in the Old Testament as part of the
bodyguards of queen Athaliah (yrIK; in 2 Kgs 11:4, 19).58 However,
whether we are able to use this passage as an indication for the pres-
ence of Carian mercenaries in Palestine during the 9th century remains
doubtful,59 since literary critical research seems to point to an origin
of the narrative within a deuteronomistic milieu.60 .
It seems that rulers of Eastern Levantine empires sometimes
could employ Greek mercenaries to strengthen their armies.61
Such a view is probably supported by the well-known Arad os-
traca,62 which frequently mention the Kittim, a term generally
understood as referring to Greeks of Aegean origin.63

Assyria in Early Greek Writers, PhD Diss., University of Pennsylvania

1980, 135-60; M. Betalli, I Mercenari nel mondo Greco (Studi e testi di storia
antica, 5), vol. 1: Dalle origine alla ne del V sec. a.C., Pisa 1995, esp. 43-52.
Cf. Herodotus, Hist. II.163: ei\ce de; peri; eJwuto;n Ka'rav" te kai; [Iwna"
a[ndra" ejpikouvrou" trismurivou".
Meiggs, Lewis, A Selection of Greek Historical Inscriptions, No. 7 and
SEG 37, No. 994.
In 2 Sam. 20:23 one should read with the Qere ytyrk for yrk. C. Levin, Der
Sturz der K onigin Atalja: Ein Kapitel zur Geschichte Judas im 9. Jahrhun-
dert v. Chr. (SBS, 105), Stuttgart 1982, 38, n. 20, proposes to read ytyrk as
well in 2 Kgs 11:4, but remarks: Doch wenn hier ein Fehler vorliegt, ist er
jedenfalls sehr alt; denn die Erganzungsschicht in V. 19a und LXX lesen den
heutigen Text. In the parallel text in 2 Chron. 23:1 the Carians are missing.
R. Wenning, Nachrichten u ber Griechen in Palastina in der Eisenzeit,
in: J.M. Fossey (ed.), Proceedings of the First International Congress on the
Hellenic Diaspora from Antiquity to Modern Times, vol. 1: From Antiquity
to 1453 (Monographies en Archeologie et Histoire Classique de lUniversite
McGill, 10/1), Amsterdam 1991, 207-19 (210).
Cf. C. Levin, op. cit., 95, who nevertheless argues for an older source
written shortly after the events of the year 840 bce
R. Wenning, Mezad Hasavyahu: Ein St utzpunkt des Jojakim?, in: F.-L.
Hossfeld (ed.), Vom Sinai zum Horeb: Stationen alttestamentlicher Glaubens-
geschichte, W urzburg 1989, 169-95, has pointed out that one should not re-
gard mercenaries as simply being ghting personnel, since they could also
serve as couriers, border patrols, etc. (174).
On the site of Arad see Y. Aharoni, Arad: Its Inscriptions and Temple,
BA 31 (1968), 2-32; Z. Herzog et al., The Israelite Fortress at Arad, BASOR
254 (1984), 1-34.
On the problem of terminology see P.-E. Dion, Les KTYM de Tel Arad:
Grecs ou Pheniciens, RB 99 (1992), 70-97; D. Pardee, in: W.W. Hallo (ed.),
Who would invite a stranger from abroad? 81

Arad 1:64
w . byla . la 1 To Elyashib: And
ytkl . tn . t[ 2 now: Issue to the Kittim
w 1 1 1 <bat> . yy 3 3 bat (of) wine and
. yh . btk 4 write down the date.
jmqh . dw[mw 5 And from what is left from
the rst our, you shall load up
t . arh 6 1 homer of our, to make bread
jmq . <homer> 1 . bkr 7 for them. Give them wine from
l . hl . t[l 8 the crates.
. yym . j 9
tt . twngah 10
Arad 2:
l tn . t[w . byla . la 1 To Elyashib: And now: Issue to
l . yy 1 1 <Bat> ytk 2 the Kittim 2 bat (of) wine for the
w myh t[bra 3 four days and
w jl 300 4 300 (loaves of) bread.65 And
hw yy . rmjh . alm 5 one full homer with wine:
. rjat la . rjm tbs 6 Deliver tomorrow; do not be late!
tnw . mj . dw[ . aw 7 And if there is any vinegar, give
. hl . t 8 (it) to them

Arad 4:
ytkl t byla la 1 To Elyashib: Issue to the Kittim
w wnjlw tj 1 m 2 oil 1 (jug). Seal (it) and send it (hither).
. hl t 1 <Bat> yy 3 And wine, 1 bat give to them.

The Context of Scripture, vol. 3, Leiden 2002, 82, n.3. The Kittim are attested
in the Levant since c. 1190 (cf. De Moor, The Rise of Yahwism, 248, with
The text of the ostraca from Arad follows J. Renz, W. Rollig (eds.),
Handbuch der althebr aischen Epigraphik, Bd. 1, Darmstadt 1995. See also A.
Lemaire, Inscriptions hebraques, t. 1: Les Ostraca (LAPO, 9), Paris 1977
and the selection (with English translation) in: J.M. Lindenberger, Ancient
Aramaic and Hebrew Letters, Atlanta 1994, 113-24.
According to the app. crit. in the edition of Renz and R ollig (p. 359) there
is a trace of a letter before the number 300. This could be a k, thus being the
abbreviation for rK;K,i being a round loaf of bread (cf. j,l, rK'Ki in Exod. 29:23;
1 Sam. 2:36; Jer. 37:21; Prov. 6:26; 1 Chron. 16:3; pl. Judg. 8:5; 1 Sam. 10:3).
However, D. Pardee, Letters from Tel Arad, UF 10 (1978), 289-336, has
proposed that the trace is a left-over from a previous inscription, especially
since the letter is written over the otherwise fairly consistent margin.
82 A.C. Hagedorn

Arad 7:
[w . byla la 1 To Elyashib: And
ytkl . tn . t 2 now: Issue to the Kittim
djl 1 b yr[l 3 for the tenth (month) on the 1st of the month
hh d[ . 4 until the sixth
?w 1 1 1 <Bat> djl 5 of the month 3 bat [and]
b . ynpl htbtk 6 write (it) down before you: on
[b . djl yn 7 the second of the month in the tenth
j mw . yr 8 (month). And oil
? . . wnjlw t 9 se[al it and send it]

Arad 8:
l tn . t[w . byla la 1 To Elyashib: And now: Issue to
. (j)mq 1 <homer> ?ytk 2 the Kitt[i]m 1 homer our
h . m from the 13th
h d[ . djl r[ hl 3 of the month until the
djl r[ hnm 4 18th of the month.
1 1 1 <bat> . yy?w 5 [And] wine 3 bat
? 6 [. . . ]
jb?b tn? 7 [. . . ]
w . yla? 8 [. .] to me and [. .]
bl ra ? 9 [. .] who for the son
? 10 [. . . ]
Arad 10:
. t[w . b?yla la 1 [To Elya]shib: And now:
1 1 1 1 <bat> yy . y?tk l tn 2 [Issue to the Kitt]im wine, 4 bat
1 mw . ytb?a ?jl 3 [brea]d [. .] and oil, 1 (jug).
?jl whydb[ bl . t?j 4 [Se]al (it) for the son of Abdiyahu.
Se[nd (it)]
?y ytkl 5 to the Kittim. [. .]
? 6 [. . . ]
Arad 11:
byla . la 1 To Elyashib:
ytkl tn t[w 2 And now: Issue to the Kittim
yy 1 1 <bat> ?tam 3 [from you] 2 bat wine.
?w jq alm 4 Fill (it) up (and) take (it). And [. .]
whymj?nm 5 [from Ne]hemyahu
Arad 14:
?t[w by?la . la 1 [To El]yashi[b: And now:]
? yy ytk?l tn 2 [Issue to the] Kittim w[ine . .]
m 1 jl?w 3 [. . and] send 1 (jug of) oil.
Who would invite a stranger from abroad? 83

Arad 17 verso:
jn tn djl 1 1 1 1 20 b 8 On the 24th of the month Nahum gave
1 .ytkh dyb m 9 oil into the hand of the Kittite: 1 (jug).

The gures for bread, our and wine listed in the ostraca suggest
a population of either 38 or 75 mercenaries in the neighbourhood
of the fortress of Arad.66 The yTiKi are mentioned about eight
times in the Old Testament67 and are grouped under the w:y: ynEB]
according to Gen. 10:4 (ynId:dow yTiKi vyvirt'w hv;ylia w:y: ynEb]W). Gen-
erally speaking the term describes the inhabitants of Cyprus;68
however, the use of yTiKi in Ezek. 27:6 seems to suggest that the
population of the Aegean islands is referred to:

YITiKi yYEaime yrIvua}AtB' veAWc[; verq" yIf;wVmi Wc[; v;B;mi ynIwLa'

They made your oars of oaks from Bashan; for your deck
they used ivory-inlaid cypress69 from the islands of the

This would tally well with the use of w:y: ynEB] in the Old Testament,
where the term describes the Ionians.70
Arad was not the only garrison or settlement of Greek mer-
cenaries in Palestine. Further evidence comes from the fortress of
Mezad Hashavyahu,71 probably the only site in Palestine of any
Renz, Rollig, Handbuch, Bd. 1, 354, who calculate the measurements as
follows: 3 bat of wine = 63-72l; 1 homer of our = 200-240l. Ostracon 2
mentions 300 loaves of bread for four days; this would, following Jer. 37:21,
imply 75 daily rations for 75 people.
Gen. 10:4; Num. 24:24; Isa. 23:1, 12; Jer. 2:10; Ezek. 27:6; Dan. 11:30;
1 Chron. 1:7.
Recently Y. Garnkel, MLS HKRSYM in Phoenician Inscriptions from
Cyprus: The QRSY in Arad, HKRSYM in Egypt, and BNY QYRS in the
Bible, JNES 47 (1988), 27-34, has again argued for Cypriot origin of the
Kittim at Arad.
Read with yratb for yraAtb.
Gen. 10:2, 4-5; Ezek. 27:13, 19; Isa. 66:19; Joel 4:6; Zech. 9:13; Dan.
8:21; 10:20; 11:2; 1 Chron. 1:5, 7. For the use of the term in the ANE see
J.A. Brinkman, The Akkadian Words for Ionia and Ionian , in: Daida-
likon: Studies in honor of Raymond V. Schroeder, S.J., Waucoda 1989, 53-71;
R. Rollinger, Zur Bezeichnung von Griechen in Keilschrifttexten, RA 91
(1997), 167-72.
On the site see Fantalkin, Mezad Hashavyahu, 1-165; J. Naveh, The
Excavations at Mes.ad H . ashavyahu: Preliminary Report, IEJ 12 (1962), 89-
113; E. Stern, Archaeology of the Land of the Bible, vol. 2: The Assyrian,
Babylonian, and Persian Periods (732-332 B.C.E.), New York 2001, 140-2;
Wenning, Mezad Hasavyahu, 169-95.
84 A.C. Hagedorn

period that has been called a Greek settlement . . . (otherwise

unknown from biblical or other sources), which produced quant-
ities of East Greek pottery of the late seventh century b.c.72
The fort is L-shaped in outline; its maximum measure-
ments are 77-95m. It is surrounded by a wall about 3.2m
thick that is strengthened by exterior buttresses. A single
gate on the west, protected by two towers faces the sea. Ex-
cept for the gate area, the fort represents a single stratum
of construction, pointing to a short period of occupation.73

According to J.C. Waldbaum and J. Magness, the place diers

from the other sites in Palestine for the following reasons:
1. it cannot be associated with any ancient site known from literary

2. it was occupied for a brief time only, showing one occupation

phase over most of the site, two in limited areas, with the Greek
pottery belonging to the earliest occupation, and

3. it has no clear destruction layer, and seems instead to have been

simply abandoned.74

Furthermore, in Mezad Hashavyahu we nd Hebrew ostraca and

local pottery next to imported products.75 Especially striking
is the occurrence of much pottery of the so-called wild-goat-
style,76 which is not normally found in these numbers in Pales-
J.C. Waldbaum, Greeks in the East or Greeks and the East? Problems
in the Denition and Recognition of Presence, BASOR 305 (1997), 1-18 (5).
The text of the ostraca can be found in Renz, Rollig, Handbuch, Bd. 1, 315-34.
Quoted from R. Reich, Mesad Hashavyahu, Oxford Encyclopedia of Ar-
chaeology in the Near East, vol. 3, Oxford 1996, 474-5; see also the general
plan in Fantalkin, Mezad Hashavyahu, 9.
Quoted from J.C. Waldbaum, J. Magness, The Chronology of Early
Greek Pottery: New Evidence from Seventh-Century B.C. Destruction Levels
in Israel, AJA (1997), 23-40 (38).
Waldbaum, Greeks in the East or Greeks and the East?, 5 states cau-
tiously: That it was not an exclusively Greek settlement, if it was one at all,
is attested to by the presence of locally made pottery and several Hebrew
For denition and description of this style see R.M. Cook, P. Dupont,
East Greek Pottery (Routledge Readings in Classical Archaeology), Lon-
don 1998, 32-70, and W. Tietz, Wild Goats: Wechselwirkungen u ber die
ais hinweg bei Vasendarstellungen wildlebender Paarhufer in der archa-
ischen Epoche, in: H. Klinkott (ed.), Anatolien im Lichte kultureller Wech-
selwirkungen, T ubingen 2001, 181-247.
Who would invite a stranger from abroad? 85

stine.77 Of course the presence of Greek pottery alone does not

automatically allow the conclusion that Greeks were present at
the site.78 However, the existence of Greek kitchen-ware, which
was normally not exported from Greece but was locally pro-
duced, is a strong indication of Greek population.79 This does
not allow us to jump to the conclusion that Mezad Hashavyahu
was a settlement founded by Greeks (the once popular hypo-
thesis that Mezad Hashavyahu was originally a Greek trading
post80 has to be abandoned on the basis of the structure of the
buildings and the lack of direct access to the sea which would
be necessary for maritime trading), since the Greek presence in
the Eastern Mediterranean often had the character of a so-called
ejnoikivsmo"81 or, better, katoikiva,82 i.e. the peaceful existence
of a Greek community next to the already existing local popula-
tion.83 This would also explain why there has been no building
found displaying Greek style; the possible exception is Tell-Sukas,
where the excavations revealed roof tiles with Greek grati.84
In general, Greek inscriptions are very rare in Syro-Palestine,85 and we
have to distinguish between grati made before ring and scratchings
For parallel nds see Fantalkin, Mezad Hashavyahu, 88.
Waldbaum, Greeks in the East or Greeks and the East?, 6.
Wenning, Mezad Hasavyahu, 171-2; W.-D. Niemeyer, Archaic Greeks
in the Orient: Textual and Archaeological Evidence, BASOR 322 (2001), 11-
32 (22), and the more critical view of such a position by Waldbaum, Greeks
in the East or Greeks and the East?, 8, 12, who lists the nds of cooking pots
and concludes that this is a very thin repertoire if we are going to associate
them with resident Greeks who show a preference for their own domestic
ware (8).
Thus, inter alios, H. Weippert, Pal astina in vorhellenistischer Zeit
(Handbuch der Arch aologie: Vorderasien, 2/1), M unchen 1988, 620.
On the term compare ICret IV 72, IV 34f. (ka me; oikeu;" ejnoike'i ejp-i;
kovrai oikivon) and Herodotus, Hist. II.178.
The term seems preferable since it generally refers to the dwelling of
non-citizens; see ICret IV 78 (kataoikivdeqai).
Stern, Archaeology of the Land of the Bible, vol. 2, 222; this even seems
to be the case for Naukratis (on the site see Herodotus, Hist. II.178-9; Board-
man, The Greeks Overseas, 118-33, and A. M oller, Naukratis: Trade in Ar-
chaic Greece (Oxford Monographs on Classical Archaeology), Oxford 2000),
and denitively for the fortress of Migdol (cf. E.D. Oren, Migdol: A New
Fortress on the Edge of the Eastern Nile Delta, BASOR 256 [1984], 7-44).
P.J. Riis, Sukas I: The North-East Sanctuary and the First Settling of
Greeks in Syria and Palestine (Publications of the Carlsberg Expedition to
Phoenicia, 1), Copenhagen 1970, 68-9.
Waldbaum, Greeks in the East, 8-9.
86 A.C. Hagedorn

produced after ring.86 The above-mentioned grato on a roof-tile at

Tell-Sukas is written in Ionian dialect and thus points to a Euboean-
Cycladic owner (pesaore" emi).87 Furthermore, we have a dedication
incised on a Phoenician bowl (alio hm(i) ) which was probably written
by a Dorian from Rhodes. At Al Mina we have an inscription on pottery
from the second half of the fth century (man(dri)o" kolix kalh). All
the inscriptional evidence points to craft-literate, non-elite people.

The origin of Mezad Hashavyahu is dicult to determine. J.

Naveh, the original excavator of the site, argued that the Greek
soldiers garrisoned there belonged to the above-mentioned
mercenaries employed by pharaoh Psametik I.88 Later on, it was
conquered by Josiah and then abandoned when Necho II marched
along the coast in 609 bce.89 Due to the absence of any Egyp-
tian nds, as already noted by Naveh himself,90 it is highly un-
likely that the fortress was ever under Egyptian control.91 Rather,
scholars such as W.-D. Niemeier have suggested on the basis of
the Hebrew ostraca found at Mezad Hashavyahu that the fortress
had always been under Judean control.92 Interpretations based
on two settlement phases, with a change in the ethnicity of the
inhabitants between the rst and the second phases, must, there-
fore, be abandoned.93 As far as a possible date for the erection
of the fortress is concerned, R. Wenning has argued convincingly
that one should date the nds and the fortress itself to the time
of Jehoiakim (ca. 600-598 bce).94 Furthermore, the presence of

See the discussion in M.K. Risser, J.A. Blakeley, Imported Aegean Fine
Ware in the First Millennium B.C.E., in: W.J. Bennett, J.A. Blakeley (eds.),
Tell el-Hesi: The Persian Period (Stratum V) (ASOR Excavation Reports),
Winona Lake 1989, 69-137 (135-7).
All grati quoted from P.J. Riis, Griechen in Phonizien, in: H.G.
Niemeyer, Ph onizier im Westen (Madrider Beitr age, 8), Mainz 1982, 237-
55 (241).
Again proposed by Fantalkin, Mezad Hashavyahu, 139-46.
Naveh, The Excavations of Mes.ad H . ashavyahu, 98-9.
Naveh, The Excavations of Mes.ad H . ashavyahu, 99 n.16.
This, however, does not prevent scholars such as P.W. Haider, op. cit.,
75-6 still subscribing to Navehs original proposal.
Cf. the detailed discussion in W.-D. Niemeier, Archaic Greeks in the
Orient: Textual and Archaeological Evidence, BASOR 322 (2001), 11-32
(23-4). On the literary form of the ostracon see F.W. Dobbs-Allsopp, The
Genre of the Mesad Hashavyahu Ostracon, BASOR 295 (1994), 49-55.
Niemeier, Greek Mercenaries at Tel Kabri, 329; cf. Fantalkin, Mezad
Hashavyahu, 10-17.
Mezad Hashavyahu k onnte der kurzen Phase der Autonomie des Jojakim
Who would invite a stranger from abroad? 87

Hebrew ostraca indicates that there must have been at least some
persons resident at Mezad Hashavyahu who were able to write in
Hebrew. Since bilingualism is dicult to prove due to the absence
of bilingual inscriptions, it would seem that the ostraca point to a
mixed community resident at the fortress a view also supported
by the evidence from Tel Kabri.95
Since we have already used pottery to support the thesis of
Greek presence at some mixed communities in Palestine, let us
nally look briey at this archaeological evidence.96 The earliest
nds of Greek pottery in the Eastern Levant consist of parts of
proto-geometric amphorae dating from the tenth century found
at Ras el-Bassit97 (the so-called Tel Hadar Bowl, an example of
Euboean Middle Protogeometric or early Late Protogeometric
terminology according to N. Coldstream-Lebes, will be mentioned
only in passing, since we do not yet have any parallel pottery from
Greece98 ). These amphorae probably stem from Euboea.99 This
would support the thesis of very early contacts between Euboea
and Phoenicia.100 The earliest Greek import in Palestine is a
pendant semicircle skyphos from Stratum III at Tell Abu Hawam
(near Haifa), which can be dated thanks to comparable material

zuzuweisen sein. Ob Jojakim die Instabilitat nach 601/600 v. Chr. zum Anla
nahm, einen Korridor nordlich der philist aischen St
adte zum Mitelmeer zu
okkupieren oder ob er dort nur partiell bestehende Besitzrechte wahrnahm,
at sich von den Quellen her nicht entscheiden. Der festungsartige Charakter
von Mezad Hashavyahu, die Stationierung griechischer Hilfstruppen und die
Errichtung einer jud aischen Verwaltung erkl aren sich aus dieser Situation
(Wenning, Mezad Hashavyahu, 191).
Niemeier,Greek Mercenaries at Tel Kabri, 328-31.
For a list of Greek pottery nds in Syro-Palestine in geographical order
see Niemeier, Archaic Greeks in the Orient, 12-3, and also R. Wenning,
Griechische Importe aus der Zeit vor Alexander d. Gr.: Vorbericht u ber ein
Forschungsprojekt, Boreas 4 (1981), 29-46; J.C. Waldbaum, Early Greek
Contacts with the Southern Levant, ca. 1000600 B.C.: The Eastern Per-
spective, BASOR 293 (1994), 53-66.
On the site see P. Courbain, Bassit, Syria 63 (1986), 175-220.
N. Coldstream, A. Mazar, Greek Pottery from Tel Rehov and Iron Age
Chronology, IEJ 53 (2003), 29-48.
Cf. P. Courbain, Fragments damphores protogeometriques grecques `a
Bassit, Hesperia 62 (1993), 95-113.
On the problem see M. Popham, Precolonization: Early Greek Contact
with the East, in: G.R. Tsetskhladze, F. de Angelis (eds.), The Archaeology
of Greek Colonisation: Essays dedicated to Sir John Boardman, Oxford 1994,
88 A.C. Hagedorn

from Lefkandi, to the 9th/8th century.101 As far as styles and

shapes are concerned, J. Waldbaum lists the following categories
of Greek pottery found in Palestine:

Lekythoi and amphoriskoi (perfumed oil asks);

vessels appropriate for wine service (cups, skyphoi, bowls,


oinochoai or jugs (seventh century only).102

By contrast, pottery for more general use, such as hydriai and

funerary vessels, is absent. Earlier scholarship has argued that
Greek pottery was only imported for use by Greeks,103 implying
that the presence of Greek ware would always equal the pres-
ence of Greeks at the site: While it might be appealing to pic-
ture bands of Greek adventurers toting their favorite cups, like
erstwhile coee mugs, to remind them of home in far-o lands,
lugging a krater for personal use might be a little more cum-
bersome.104 However, Greek pottery has turned up at so-called
non-Greek places such as Tyre, and the nds of ceramics in
Phoenician tombs at Khaldeh and Tell Rachidieh have forced ar-
chaeologists to reconsider such a view.105 This might suggest in
addition to the limited forms of pottery that the vessels reect
local practice with regard to drinking and cooking.106 Places of
origin of the Greek pottery are: Rhodes, Miletos, Samos, Chios,
i.e. all from the Aegean region. Corinthian pottery, on the other
hand the most widespread Greek trade ware does not occur
very frequently in the Southern Levant.107 The only occurrence
Waldbaum, Early Greek Contacts with the Southern Levant, 55 (pho-
tographs on page 56).
Waldbaum, Greeks in the East or Greeks and the East?, 6.
Cf., as pars pro toto, P.J. Riis, Sukas I, who states: It has rightly been
emphazised . . . that the Orientals did not care for Greek pottery, and that
when it occurs in the East, it is a sign of Greeks living there, as merchants
or mercenaries (129).
Waldbaum, Greeks in the East or Greeks and the East?, 7.
Waldbaum, Early Greek Contacts with the Southern Levant, 56, re-
ferring to J.N. Coldstream, P.M. Bikai, Early Greek Pottery in Tyre and
Cyprus: Some Preliminary Comparisons, Report of the Department of An-
tiquities, Cyprus 1988, 35-44.
Waldbaum, Greeks in the East or Greeks and the East?, 8.
Waldbaum, Magness, The Chronology of Early Greek Pottery, 33. And
Waldbaum, Early Greek Contacts with the Southern Levant, 59.
Who would invite a stranger from abroad? 89

in Israel so far is at Tel Kabri.108 Nowhere in Israel does Cor-

inthian ware of any kind seem to have been imported in quant-
ity.109 After a careful analysis of the pottery found at Tel Kabri
W.-D. Niemeier concluded that all the nds have to be dated in
the period ca. 630580 bce.110 If that is the case, the Greeks
stationed at Tel Kabri must have been mercenaries in the pay of
Tyre, since Tel Kabri has never been a trading community like
Naukratis or Al Mina.111 Here the evidence from Tel Kabri and
Mezad Hashavyahu allows us to conclude that the occurrence of
Greek pottery is an indication of a certain Greek presence, but
that it is not possible to argue for a homogenous population on
the basis of the pottery found.
In contrast to Palestine, we nd Corinthian pottery in some
volume at Al Mina.112 Al Mina cannot be identied from Greek
sources and it has probably never been regarded as a colony
proper.113 Despite the fact that the site of Al Mina is still seen
as a distinctive Greek settlement in Syria, we have to note that
all characteristics of Greek presence (apart from pottery) such as
housing styles, cult etc. are missing.114 This stands in sharp con-
trast to the picture we gain from Naukratis. Again, I would argue
that at Al Mina we again encounter if we encounter Greeks at
all a mixed community. Also, we have to bear in mind that Al
Mina (and Naukratis for that matter) are special cases and that
the insights gained from these sites are not readily transferable to
the rest of Syro-Palestine. In recent years it has therefore become
quite clear that it is impossible to argue for Greek presence in
Palestine on the basis of pottery alone.
To return to our question from the title: Who would in-
On Kabri cf. A. Kempinski, W.D. Niemeier, Kabri 1993, IEJ 34 (1994),
181-4, 257-9.
Waldbaum, Magness, The Chronology of Early Greek Pottery, 35.
W.-D. Niemeier, Greek Pottery: Evidence for Greek Mercenaries at
Kabri, in A. Kempinski, W.-D. Niemeier (eds.), Excavations at Kabri: Pre-
liminary Report of 1992-1993 Seasons, Tel Aviv 1994, *31-*38 (*34).
Niemeier, Greek Pottery, *34.
Cf. J. Boardman, The Greeks Overseas: Their Early Colonies and Trade,
London 4 1999, 46-49; Waldbaum, Magness, The Chronology of Early Greek
Pottery, 35-6.
Waldbaum, Early Greek Contacts, 54.
Cf. Riis, Griechen in Phonizien, 245 who states: Die alte Stadt XVII
hatte architektonisch anscheinend ein ganz orientalisches Geprage; ahnliche
H auser und Gassen hat man im spatbronzezeitlichen Ugarit . . . entdeckt.
90 A.C. Hagedorn

vite a stranger from abroad? The answer has to be twofold.

Firstly, we can be fairly certain of the existence of Greek mer-
cenary soldiers in the Judean and in the Babylonian army and,
of course, one could even speculate whether the Greeks from
Mezad Hashavyahu fought against the Greeks from the army
of Nebuchadnezzar II, if we take the above-mentioned Amathus
bowl as representing actual historical facts. This mercenary pres-
ence certainly does not allow us to subscribe to W.F. Albrights
thesis of a coast dotted with Greek settlements,115 because there
is no evidence of a specic Greek way of life at the sites where
pottery has been found.116 This leaves us with the question why
Palestine seemed attractive to Greek military personnel. One
could probably argue for a certain Greek-Philistine connection,
which, in the Old Testament, is expressed in the term Kerethi
and Pelethi117 and also supported by a seventh century inscrip-
tion from Ekron which uses a Greek loan-word.118 It may be
W.F. Albright, From Stone Age to Christianity: Monotheism and the
Historical Process, Garden City 2 1957. Followed by E. Stern, Archaeology of
the Land of the Bible, vol. 2, 222.
Waldbaum, Greeks in the East or Greeks and the East?, 10-1.
Cf. Davids bodyguards in 2 Sam. 8:18; 15:18; 20:7, 23, 1 Kgs 1:38, 44;
1 Chron. 18:17 and 1 Sam. 30:14 (ytirEK]h' bg<n)< ; Ezek. 25:16 (next to yTiv]liP)] ;
Zeph. 2:5 (next to yTiv]liP)] . On the problem see O. Margalith, The Sea Peoples
in the Bible, Wiesbaden 1994, 50-6.
Text and translation according to S. Gitin et al., A Royal Dedicatory
Inscription from Ekron, IEJ 47 (1997), 1-16 (9) (see also A. Demsky, The
Name of the Goddess of Ekron: A New Reading, JNES 25 [1997], 1-5; C.
Schafer-Lichtenberger, The Goddess of Ekron and the Religious-Cultural
Background of the Philistines, IEJ 50 [2000], 82-91):
bydpbykabtb 1 1. The temple (which) he built kys son of
q[ rr[ybadabdsy 2 Padi, son of | 2. Ysd, son of Ada, son of
twhkrbthtdahygtplr 3 Yair, ruler of Ekron, | 3. for Ptgyh his lady.
rbtwhmyratwh?rm 4 May she bless him, and | 4. protect him, and
hxr?a 5 prolong his days, and bless | 5. his [l]and.
Similarly, one could compare the picture of Goliath in 1 Sam. 17:4-7 (A.
Alt, Die Staatenbildung der Israeliten in Palastina, Kleine Schriften, Bd. 2,
Munchen 1953, 1-65, remarks on the character of Goliaths armour: Seine
Rustung besteht noch fast ganz aus Bronze; nur seine eiserne Lanzenspitze
ragt schon in die eben jetzt beginnende Eisenzeit hinein, 10, n.1; see also
K. Galling, Goliath und seine R ustung, Volume du Congr`es: Gen`eve 1965
(VT.S,15) [1966], 150-69) with the description of the weapons fashioned for
Achilles in Homer, Il. 18.478-82, 609-13; 19.387-91. (On weaponry and ar-
mour of the Greek Bronze Age cf. O. Dickinson, The Aegean Bronze Age
(Cambridge World Archaeology), Cambridge 1994, 197-207, and on Homeric
warfare in general, see H. van Wees, Homeric Warfare, in: I. Morris, B. Pow-
Who would invite a stranger from abroad? 91

that the Philistine sea-ports of the Palestinian coast provided a

good starting-point for non-military personnel such as artisans
and traders for their penetration of the hinterland, as well as the
basis for later permanent settlement.119 The overwhelming pres-
ence of Attic pottery in Dor from the fth century onwards might
support the close ties of Dor with Athens and Attica.120 In ad-
dition, Dor is generally thought to have been part of the Delian
League; however, such an assumption rests only on a remark by
Stephanus of Byzantium, quoting Craterus:

e[sti kai; Kariva" Dw'ro" povli", h}n sugkatalevgei

tai'" povlesin tai'" Karikai'" Kratero;" ejn tw'/ peri;
Yhfismavtwn trivtw/. Kariko;" foro;": Dw'ro", Fash-

Nevertheless, an Athenian casualty list (IG I2 929) reads:

ejn Kuvproi ejn Aijguvptoi | ejn Foinivkei ejn

Alieu'sin | ejn Aijgivnei Megaroi': to; aujto'

In addition to this evidence, we nd reports of Athenian expedi-

tions to Cyprus in Thucydides description of the Peloponnesian
War, and he seems to regard it as a fact that Athens actually
subdued Cyprus:

Kai; ejstravteusan ej" Kuvpron kai; aujth'" ta; polla;

katestrevyanto . . . 122

ell [eds.], A New Companion to Homer (MnS, 163), Leiden 1997, 668-93.)
On the Aegean anities of the Philistines see T. Dothan, Tel Miqne-
Ekron: The Aegean Anities of the Sea Peoples (Philistines) Settlement
in Canaan in Iron Age I, in: S. Gitin (ed.), Recent Excavations in Israel: A
View to the West Reports on Kabri, Nami, Miqne-Ekron, Dor and Ashkelon
(Archaeological Institute of America: Colloquia and Conference Papers, 1),
Dubuque 1995, 41-57.
On the Attic pottery cf. E. Stern, Tel Dor: A Phoenician-Israelite Trad-
ing Center, in: Gitin (ed.), Recent Excavations, 81-93. On Greek vases in
Palestine in general see R. Wenning, Griechische Vasenbilder in Palastina,
FGH 342, fr. 1[Craterus]; on the assessment of Dor see R. Meiggs, The
Athenian Empire, Oxford 1972.
Thucydides, I.94.
92 A.C. Hagedorn

[They made also an expedition against Cyprus, subduing

most of it.]

Cyprus then becomes a base for Athenian ships whence they

were able to operate in the Eastern Mediterranean, and especially
against Egypt.123

With regard to numbers, the archaeological evidence does not

allow us to argue for a large Greek population in Palestine. All
this leads to the second observation: if we are correct in assuming
that the preferred mode of existence of Greeks in Palestine was
the ejnoikivsmo" or katoikivsmo", it is hardly surprising that we do
not nd any architecture of a specic Greek style, since this mode
of colonial existence is generally expressed by making use of the
exterior structure (e.g. houses) of the native population while us-
ing interior furnishings (e.g. pottery) which reect the place of
origin of the settlers. (Since burial practices normally also reect
the origin of the settlers, it is surprising that no unequivocally
Greek tombs have been found in Palestine or Syria.124 ) This
would explain why the existence of Aegean Greece and its inhab-
itants is known in biblical sources yet concrete points of contact
are missing. If the Greeks living in Palestine were not part of any
elite group it is hardly surprising that the written evidence is
sparse,125 and that the elite circles mostly responsible for the au-
thorship of the biblical documents hardly mention contact with
them. True, [i]n the ancient Near Eastern universe Israel and
Judah are something of a backwater,126 and both states prob-
ably never had any direct political dealing with Aegean Greeks,
but on the non-elite level we can condently argue for contact
and exchange as well as for some permanent Greek presence in
Palestine before Alexander the Great. At the same time, we can
only speculate what the intellectual indicators of the existence
Thucydides, I.104: oiJ de; (e[tucon ga;r ej" Kuvpron strateuovmenoi nausi;
diakosiva" aujtw'n te kai; tw'n xummavcwn) h\lqon ajpolipovnte" th;n Kuvpron . . .
Waldbaum, Greeks in the East or Greeks and the East?, 11. For ex-
amples of continuity and adaptation from modern times (from a slightly dif-
ferent context) see R. Hirschon, Heirs of the Greek Catastrophe: The Social
Life of Asia Minor Refugees in Piraeus, Oxford 2 1998, 106-65.
Cf. the listing and discussion in Waldbaum, Greeks in the East or Greeks
and the East?, 810.
West, East Face of Helicon, 587.
Who would invite a stranger from abroad? 93

of the Greeks in Palestine would have been: the evidence only

tells us about traders, wandering artisans and mercenaries.127

Therefore the rather extreme conclusions reached by W. Gauer, Die
Aegaeis, Hellas und die Barbaren, Saec 49 (1998), 22-60, have to be rejec-
ted (cf. R. Rollinger, The Ancient Greeks and the Impact of the Ancient
Near East, 254-5), when he remarks: Denn nur durch die Bereitschaft, in
einem gr oeren Rahmen und unter fremder Herrschaft zu dienen, konnten
die Griechen auch in aller Welt ihre befruchtende politische und kulturelle
Wirklichkeit entfalten (44); he continues to talk about the
uberlegene Kul-
tur of the Greeks.
Philip S. Johnston Oxford United Kingdom

Death in Egypt and Israel

A Theological Reection
1 Introduction
Death was of profound importance to the Egyptians, who inves-
ted more of their time, energy and wealth in preparation for it
than any other people at any time in history.1 As Morenz com-
ments: death was present to every Egyptian in his lifetime, to
king and commoner alike; for all men the thought of it governed
much of their earthly actions.2 Inevitably the main Egyptian
deities played crucial roles in death as in life. By contrast, death
in Israel was a decidedly low-key aair, which elicited some emo-
tional apprehension but involved little material preparation and
minimal ongoing provision, if any. Death brought inactivity, no
sanctioned contact with the living, and separation from the one
ocial deity.
These two contrasting perspectives existed in close geograph-
ical proximity for many centuries, without apparent cross-fertil-
isation. Even when Israelite views developed to include a positive
afterlife, this concept had few discernible links with long-standing
Egyptian views. This paper seeks to reect on these contrasting
views,3 looking again for possible points of similarity and reect-
ing theologically on their extensive dissimilarity.

2 Death in Egypt
2.1 Positive Views of Death
Egyptian positive views of the afterlife constitute one of the few
aspects of the ancient world to have caught the popular imagina-
tion and to be well known in our own times. They have been ex-
tensively treated in detailed scholarly work and competent sum-
So S. Morenz, Egyptian Religion, London 1973, 187; M. M uller, After-
life, Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt, vol. 1, Oxford 2000, 36.
Morenz, Egyptian Religion, 195.
For comparisons across many cultures, see e.g. P.J. Ucko, Ethnographic
and Archaeological Interpretation of Funerary Remains, World Archaeology
1 (1969), 262-80; S.C. Humphries, Introduction: Comparative Perspectives
on Death, in: S.C. Humphries, H. King (eds), Mortality and Immortality:
The Anthropology and Archaeology of Death, London 1981, 1-13.
Death in Israel and Egypt 95

maries,4 so a brief summary of their outline and development

down to Ptolemaic times will suce here.
In the Old Kingdom the king alone could achieve a blessed
afterlife among the gods. This prospect was gradually extended
to non-royal ocials from at least the Middle Kingdom onwards,
and by the New Kingdom it was accessible in principle to all.
Correct preparation was vital, notably preservation of the body in
mummication, provision of material needs in perpetual oerings
by the living, knowledge of the underworld route, and protection
from its dangers. This knowledge and protection were provided
rst by Con Texts and later by the Books of the Dead (or more
accurately, Books of Going Forth by Day). These texts, inscribed
successively on tomb walls, cons and papyri, would guide the
deceased either directly to the heavens or through the elaborate
underworld to the great hall of judgment, where Osiris presided,
and where ones heart was weighed against the feather symbol of
Maat. Those who passed the test proceeded to the Field of Reeds
/ Field of Oerings, those who did not were devoured by the
crocodile-headed Ammut. Before judgment the deceased would
pronounce the famous negative confession contained in chapter
125 of the Book of the Dead, with its numerous declarations of
As with any complex culture extending over several millen-
nia, there were inevitably variations and ambiguities concerning
the dead and their situation. For instance, they were located vari-
ously in the sky and the underworld, they were in their tomb yet
free to wander, they enjoyed a good life yet depended on repeated
provision by the living. Nevertheless, apart from an increasing in-
clusiveness, Egyptian afterlife beliefs remained remarkably stable
through the dynastic period.

2.2 Contact with the Dead

One interesting feature of the continued existence of the dead is
their assumed ability to aect the lives of the living. In particular,
a number of letters to the dead have been recovered. These ad-
See most recently M. M uller, Afterlife, Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient
Egypt, vol. 1, Oxford 2000, 32-6; J.H. Taylor, Death and the Afterlife in

Ancient Egypt, London 2001; J. Assmann, Tod und Jenseits im alten Agypten,
Munchen 2001.
For text, see ContS, 2.12, 59-64; ANET, 34-6.
96 P.S. Johnston

dress the recently departed, reminding them of the writers past

aection and continued loyalty, and requesting help in a current
These letters have a long history from the Old Kingdom to the
New Kingdom,6 though only a few have survived.7 However, the
very mundaneness of the letters imply that this was a common,
widespread, unremarkable custom, part of the popular religion
for which we have relatively little evidence.8
The procedure is summarised colourfully by Gunn:
We of course communicate with our departed friends by
letter. That the dead can read is obvious, for in the after-
life they retain all their faculties; and if the addressee is
illiterate,9 there are others who will read the letter to him.
As to transmitting it, since the dead, who spend much of
their time in their tombs, take the food-oerings that we
put down for them there, they can also take a letter if we
leave it in the same place; and if, by an artful combina-
tion, we write the letter on the bowl containing an oering,
delivery is as good as certain. As to the form of the let-
ter, it is a good thing to begin by recalling some incident
which shows that we, or the person on whose behalf we are
writing, parted from the addressee on good terms; we will
then state our trouble, and, while calling him to take the
necessary steps, work in a reminder that powerful as he is
he depends on us for the upkeep of his tomb and the sup-
ply of his oerings, so that if he does not help us we have
the power to make things very unpleasant for him. This is
not perhaps very delicate, but it is necessary because the
dead, in the very dierent circles in which they now move,
may easily lose interest in our aairs.10
A.H. Gardiner, K. Sethe, Egyptian Letters to the Dead: Mainly from
the Old and Middle Kingdoms, London 1928. Also E. Wente, Letters From
Ancient Egypt (SBL.WAW, 1), Atlanta 1990.
Less than twenty in a thousand years; so J. Baines, Society, Morality,
and Religious Practice, in: B.E. Shafer (ed.), Religion in Ancient Egypt,
Ithaca 1991, 155. Gardiner and Sethe give 11; Wente reproduces 8 of these
and adds another 6, i.e. most of the letters that have survived reasonably
intact (p. 1). I have not had access to S.R. Keller, Egyptian Letters to the
Dead in Relation to the Old Testament and Other Near Eastern Sources, PhD
Dissertation, New York University, 1989.
On this, cf. A.I. Sadek, Popular Religion in Egypt during the New King-
dom, Hildesheim 1987. I thank Prof. K.A. Kitchen for this and two other
references, and for kindly reading a draft of this paper.
Wente reports estimates that only 1% of ancient Egypt was literate (p. 7).
B. Gunn, review of Gardiner, Sethe, Egyptian Letters, JEA 16 (1930), 147.
Death in Israel and Egypt 97

One example on a bowl from the Old Kingdom, cited here for its
compactness and concluding comment, reads as follows:
It is Shepsi who addresses his mother Iy:
This is a reminder of the fact that you said to me, your
son, You shall bring me some quails that I may eat them,
and I, your son, then brought you seven quails and you
ate them. Is it in your presence that I am being injured so
that my children are disgruntled and I, your son, am ill?
Who, then, will pour out water for you?
If only you might decide between me and Sobekhotep,
whom I brought back from another city to be interred in
his own city among his necropolis companions after tomb
clothing had been given to him. Why is he injuring me,
your son, so wrongfully, when there is nothing that I said
or did? Wrongdoing is disgusting to the gods!11

The nal comment could be Shepsis indirect appeal to the gods

over the head of his mother Iy, or a veiled threat that they will
not look kindly on Iy in her afterlife for allowing her son to suer.
These letters show that the dead and living were thought to
exist in symbiosis, engaged in a network of mutual relationships
which were conceptualised in highly ambivalent, even contradict-
ory terms.12 The dead were both weak, needing regular susten-
ance, and powerful, able to inuence aairs on earth. And the
living met their physical needs and supplicated their benevolent
One letter urges: Please become a spirit for me [before] my
eyes so that I may see you in a dream ghting on my behalf.13
Currid describes this as a form of necromancy, an attempt to
know or inuence the future.14 But this requested dream appar-
ition is nothing like the consultation of the dead practised in the
Semitic world and elsewhere. For necromancy proper, i.e. seeking
to interact directly with the spirits of the dead, there is no evid-
ence from pre-Ptolemaic Egypt. As a topic, necromancy merits
Wente, Letters, 212, no. 342. L.H. Lesko, Death and the Afterlife in
Ancient Egyptian Thought, in: J.M. Sasson, Civilizations of the Ancient
Near East, Vol. 3, New York 1995, 3, 1765, quotes 4 others from Wente, from
both ends of the second millennium.
S.J. Seidlmayer, Necropolis, Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt, vol.
2, Oxford 2001, 511.
Wente, Egyptian Letters, 215, no. 349.
J.D. Currid, Ancient Egypt and the Old Testament, Grand Rapids 1997,
98 P.S. Johnston

no article in the Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt or in-

dexed reference in the Lexikon der Agyptologie, 15 and is ignored

in recent monographs dealing with magical practices in Egypt.16

2.3 Disrespect of the Dead

Baines and Lacovara write tellingly: Ancient Egypt oers a para-
digm contrast between ideals of respectful care for the dead, on
the one hand, and realities of medium- and long-term neglect, de-
struction and reuse on the other.17 This contrast, often ignored
or down-played in popular introductions to Egyptian afterlife be-
liefs, reveals a glaring disjuncture between theoretical respect and
practical disrespect. To our knowledge, it was seldom addressed
directly within Egyptian society itself.
First, mortuary material was reused. This took many forms:
stone was taken from old monuments and reused in newer ones;
parts of one mortuary complex were annexed to another; tombs
were appropriated for later burials, often without any family con-
nection; new tombs cut into and violated the integrity of old
ones; even cons and sarcophagi were recycled. This frequently
occurred for monuments and tombs already centuries old and
neglected, but it could also occur for relatively recent mortuary
material.18 It was so common that a tomb inscription could even
warn against it: [One] interesting curse written on a small stone
block was originally placed at the entrance to a tomb to tell po-
tential interlopers to nd a place of their own and not disturb
even a pebble from the magically protected site.19
The practical reasons for doing so are obvious. The construc-
tion of tombs, sarcophagi and cons was a very costly enterprise,
suitable dressed stone was in short supply, and the needs of fam-
ilies for necropolis space would vary over time. But whatever the
immediate justication for such recycling of material and how-
W. Helck et al. (eds), Lexikon der Agyptologie, Wiesbaden 1972-1992. Nor
is it noted in J. F. Borghouts, Witchcraft, Magic, and Divination in Ancient
Egypt, in: J.M. Sasson et al. (eds), Civilizations of the Ancient Near East,
vol. 3, New York 1995, 1775-85.
E.g. R.K. Rittner, The Mechanics of Ancient Egyptian Magical Practice,
Chicago 1993; G. Pinch, Magic in Ancient Egypt, London 1994.
J. Baines, P. Lacovara, Burial and the Dead in Ancient Egyptian Society:
Respect, Formalism, Neglect, Journal of Social Archaeology 2 (2002), 5.
For references, see Baines and Lacovara, Burial and the Dead, 18-9.
Lesko, Death and Afterlife, 1771.
Death in Israel and Egypt 99

ever ocial or unocial its status, it clearly reects a lack of

respect for the dead whose mortuary material was thus co-opted.
In theory they were to be honoured in perpetuity; in practice they
were forgotten and their funerary accoutrements were command-
eered by another generation for its own theoretically perpetual
Secondly, tomb-robbery was widespread. Indeed, Baines and
Lacovara state: The only reasonable insurance against robbery
was to have a grave too poor and insignicant to warrant plun-
dering (p. 25). Royal and elite tombs may have survived in-
tact through periods of strong state control, but were plundered
of their wealth at the earliest opportunity. The so-called Tomb
Robbery Papyri indicate how pervasive was such activity in the
Theban necropolis, implicating many of the very ocials em-
ployed to guard and provide for the dead.20 As soon as a tomb
dropped out of the network of social processes within the com-
munity, it was bound to face rapid destruction.21
Robbery of non-royal tombs was endemic, often occurring
shortly after burial but occasionally during or even before burial,
as evidenced by disturbed body wrappings, empty sarcophagi,
non-operative blocking stones, etc.22 The robbers were often tomb
diggers who knew the exact locations of the treasures, sometimes
tunnelling directly into a con from below or from an adjacent
wall. They also knew how to circumvent the increasingly elabor-
ate protective devices of blocking stones, pits, portcullises, etc.23
Even the great pyramids with their warren of false tunnels and
array of other protective devices were eventually robbed of their
treasures. The tomb of Tutankhamun is a very rare exception,
and stunning proof of the riches which tempted robbers.
As Seidlmayer rather cautiously concludes: tomb robbery,
while clearly considered a criminal act, was in fact a regular phe-
nomenon, and so it seems that religious fears did not trouble the
minds of the ancient Egyptians as overwhelmingly as is some-

For recent summary see O. Goelet, Tomb Robbery Papyri, Oxford En-
cyclopedia of Ancient Egypt, vol. 3, Oxford 2001, 417-8.
Seidlmayer, Necropolis, 506-12.
Discussion and references in Baines, Lacovara, Burial and the Dead, 25;
Lesko, Death and Afterlife, 1771.
These are well described and illustrated in A.J. Spencer, Death in Ancient
Egypt, Harmondsworth 1982, ch. 4.
100 P.S. Johnston

times supposed . . . 24 Indeed, endemic tomb desecration sug-

gests that the afterlife beliefs solemnly expressed by some in their
tombs were simply ignored by others for material gain. And ac-
knowledgment of the reality of tomb robbery is extremely rare.25
Thirdly, mortuary oerings which family or priests were ex-
pected to present in perpetuity were soon abandoned. Property
was regularly endowed to ka-priests on condition that they reg-
ularly furnish the dead with food. But, as Gardiner eloquently

Needless to say, in the lack of legal enforcement, such con-

tracts lapsed all too easily not long after their authors de-
mise. When this happened, and after the tomb had been
wrecked and plundered, all that was left to its owner was
the despairing hope that his name might be remembered
or that a funerary formula might be pronounced on his
behalf by some kindly passer-by. . . . What bathos that a
people who had staked their hopes upon the luxury of their
tombs should have to plead thus, whining like beggars that
it will cost the passer-by nothing and may well bring him

2.4 Negative Views of Death

In his classic, aptly titled work, Death as an Enemy,27 Zandee
notes several indications from the Old Kingdom onwards of what
he terms a negative view of death. For instance, in the Pyr-
amid Texts the common people28 cannot pass through doors to
heaven as does the king. Instead, they stay in the earth, locked
up in the realm of its god Geb. Hence one line reads: Take NN
by his arm, take NN to heaven, that NN may not die on earth
among men.29 Alternatively, they may stay with Osiris in the
underworld, as implied by the kings own avoidance of this fate:
Re-Atum has not given you to Osiris . . . ; I do not deliver him
Seidlmayer, Necropolis, 511.
E.g. Papyrus Chester Beatty IV, cf. Lesko, Death and Afterlife, 1767.
A.H. Gardiner, The Attitude of the Ancient Egyptians to Death and the
Dead, Cambridge 1935, 27-8.
J. Zandee, Death as an Enemy According to Ancient Egyptian Concep-
tions, Leiden 1960.
Replaced by foreign peoples in variants Pyr. 1726.a.b.
Pyr. 604.e-f, cited by Zandee, Death, 8.
Death in Israel and Egypt 101

to Osiris . . . 30 Further, those consigned to the underworld walk

upside down, as often depicted pictorially and occasionally textu-
ally, for example: It is NNs horror to walk in darkness, he cannot
see walking upside down.31 (By the time of the Con Texts, this
fate was reserved for the impious.) And the West, the place of
the dead, was to be avoided: May you not go on the roads of the
western ones; who go on them, they do not return; may you go
on these roads of the eastern ones, among the followers of Re.32
A negative reaction to death, probably from the First Inter-
mediate Period, occurs in chapter 175 of The Book of the Dead,
in words said by the Osiris NN:
O Atum, what does it mean that I go to the desert, the
Land of Silence, which has no water, has no air, and which
is greatly deep, dark and lacking?
Live in it in contentment.
But there is no sexual pleasure in it.
It is in exchange for water and air and sexual pleasure that
I have given spiritual blessedness, contentment in exchange
for bread and beer so says Atum.33

Another hint that death was unwelcome comes in the common

Middle Kingdom formula addressed to the living: O you who
love to live and hate to die, speak [the prayer for the dead].34
An early sceptical view is voiced in the Dialogue of a Man and
his Soul (or Dispute of a Man with his Ba), from the late 12th
Dynasty (19th century bce). In this the man in traditional mode
extols the afterlife, while the soul less conventionally praises the
present life. The soul challenges the man to ponder life and
counters his views of peaceful and welcome death with tales of
tragedy and the comment that you will not come up again to see
the sunlight. Only in the nal line of the poem is there a measure
of resolution, with the soul accepting a more tranquil perspective
and concluding: we [shall] make harbour together.35 Parkinson
Respectively Pyr. 145.b; Pyr. Neith 779; cited by Zandee, Death, 8.
Pyr. 323.a-b, cited by Zandee, Death, 8. Spells for not walking upside
down were often linked to not eating excrement.
Pyr. 2175, cited by Zandee, Death, 10.
ContS 1.18, 27-30; extant texts from the 18th Dynasty onwards.
Muller, Afterlife, 36; Morenz, Egyptian Religion, 187. Morenz also cites
the fragmentary earliest known instruction, that of Hor-dedef: Lowly [i.e.
depressing] for us is death; life we hold in high esteem.
R.B. Parkinson, The Tale of Sinuhe and Other Ancient Egyptian Poems
102 P.S. Johnston

comments: Neither vision of death triumphs in isolation . . . the

horror of death is not mitigated, and both aspects of death are
found acceptable in a literary resolution.36
Many tombs were decorated with so-called Harpers Songs
extolling the traditional positive afterlife perspectives. However,
a few so-called heretical songs portray a signicantly dierent,
more sceptical, carpe diem philosophy.37 The Harpers Song from
the tomb of the (probably) Middle Kingdom King Intef includes
the lines:
None comes from there, | To tell of their state, | To tell of
their needs, | To calm our hearts, | Until we go where they
have gone. . . .
Do your things on earth as your heart commands! |
When there comes to you that day of mourning, | The
Weary-hearted [i.e. Osiris] hears not their mourning, | Wail-
ing saves no man from the pit!38

Similarly, Song I in the New Kingdom tomb of Neferhotep (c.

1300 bce) states:
Recall to yourself only joy, | until the coming of that day
of mooring | At the Land that Loves Silence, | Where the
Son-whom-He-Loves [i.e. Horus] is not weary . . .
Sitting powerlessly in what was made for his shade.39

These songs present death as a land of silence and no return,

and urge the living to enjoy life while it lasts. The mouth-opening
ceremony for Neferhotep has a similar gloomy view:
Thou who [wast] rich in people, thou art in the land that
likes solitude. He who loved to spread his legs in walking is
bound, enwrapped, obstructed. He who liked to dress him-
self in rich fabrics sleeps in yesterdays cast-o garment.40

Here someone previously rich both materially and socially now

dwells in solitude, immobility and poverty. Another lament, this
1940-1640 BC, Oxford 1997, 160.
Ibid., 154.
Thirteen such songs have survived; so S. Fischer, Die Auorderung zur
Lebensfreude im Buch Kohelet und seine Rezeption der agyptischen Harfner-
lieder, Frankfurt am Main 1999, 150-75.
ContS 1.30, 49; ANET, 467; two later copies.
Theban Tomb 50, from reign of Horemheb; ContS 2.13b, 65.
Morenz, Egyptian Religion, 187.
Death in Israel and Egypt 103

time for a certain Mose in the Ramesside era, notes thirst and
He who liked to drink is in the land which hath no water;
the lord of many granaries he hath hastened thither . . .
he hath hastened to the land of eternity and darkness, in
which is no light.41

The Neferhotep Harpers Song quoted above is one of three in

the same tomb, each with a dierent emphasis. Song II presents
the normal positive perspective, while Song III describes death in
traditional ritualistic terms.42 As Lichtheim comments: the three
songs in one and the same tomb reect the Egyptian preoccupa-
tion with the nature of death and the varying and conicting
answers and attitudes which continued side by side.43 The New
Kingdom saw an increase in the portrayal of the afterlife as dark
and gloomy. But this did not engender any new beliefs. People
learned to live with the conict between scepticism and cond-
ence in the ancient magical means which promised a conscious
life in a beautiful afterworld.44
It is often argued that these heretical Harpers Songs were
engendered by times of social upheaval and dislocation, whether
the political disruption characteristic of Intermediate Periods or
the religious disruption of the Amarna revolution.45 However,
their date of origin is uncertain,46 and others argue that they
reect a more general malaise.47
Morenz, Egyptian Religion, 188; some Book of the Dead spells address
Neferhotep II: ContS 1.31, 49-50; ANET, 33-4; Neferhotep III: ContS
2.13, 64-5. ContS publishes these songs in dierent volumes following its
general classication.
M. Lichtheim, ContS 1, 49. Similarly A. Niccacci, La foi eschatologique
dIsrael `
a la lumi`ere de quelques conceptions egyptiennes, LASBF, 33 (1983),
M. M uller, Afterlife, 36.
The latter is emphasised by Fischer, Die Auorderung; Idem, Egyptian
Personal Piety and Israels Wisdom Literature, Acta Theologica 21 (2001),
2; Idem, Qohelet and the Heretic Harpers Songs, JSOT 98 (2002), 107.
Lichtheim, Ibid., mentions a Middle Kingdom original of the Intef Song,
while Fischer, Die Auorderung, 140-2, dates it to the New Kingdom.
So S. Burkes, Death in Qoheleth and Egyptian Biographies of the Late
Period, Atlanta 1999, 157-69. My thanks to Dr E.S. Christianson for this
104 P.S. Johnston

In the following Third Intermediate Period, sceptical and neg-

ative voices become increasingly heard. For instance, Nebneteru,
a 9th century priest of Amon, laments:
The end of life is sorrow . . . [it] means sitting in the hall
of unconsciousness at the dawn of a morning which does
not come . . . [it] means not knowing, [it] means sleeping
when the sun is in the east, [it] means being thirsty at the
side of beer.48

And a contemporary reects:

The eeting moment when one receives the rays of sun
stand for more than eternity.49

As Morenz comments: In all these testimonies . . . we can

hear the voice of men tortured by fear of the end less of death
itself than the end of their happy existence and the beginning of
something innitely lengthy and disagreeable.50
A later, extraneous indication of this sceptical approach to
death comes from Herodotus, who describes an apparently odd
custom of Egyptians at a banquet passing round a deceased per-
son in a container (perhaps a statuette) to remind them of death
and encourage them to enjoy life, with the words: Gaze here and
be merry, for when you die, such will you be.51
Thus, over against the seemingly pervasive belief in a happy
afterlife and preparation for it, there is much evidence of disbelief.
As well as endemic robbery and widespread material neglect,
there was an undercurrent of scepticism and cynicism. Egyptian
views on death and the afterlife were altogether more varied than
is often assumed.

3 Death in Israel

3.1 Negative Views of Death

Compared to Egypts virtual embarrassment of riches, Pitard
notes tellingly: One of the most striking aspects about the Heb-
rew Bible is how little it actually talks about death and the af-
terlife. The subject does not form a primary theme in any book
Morenz, Egyptian Religion, 188.
Morenz, Egyptian Religion, 189.
Morenz, Egyptian Religion, 189-90.
Herodotus II, 78; so Morenz, Egyptian Religion, 195.
Death in Israel and Egypt 105

of the Hebrew Bible. What we nd instead are (at best) scant,

rather o-hand, ambiguous and non-specic references and allu-
sions to the subject in a variety of contexts.52 The biblical data
have received renewed study in recent years, along with steadily
increasing artifactual material, leading to several detailed schol-
arly treatments.53 They need only be summarised briey.
Sheol is the most common biblical term for the underworld,
but even it occurs only infrequently. So arguably the under-
world was not a particularly important concept for the canon-
ical writers and redactors. Sheol almost never occurs in simple
reportage or general prescription, but only in rst person con-
texts, so is a term which connotes personal emotional engage-
ment.54 Whatever its etymology, there is no hint of Sheol as a
deity. Descriptive details are very sparse, but suggest a somno-
lent, gloomy existence without meaningful activity or social dis-
tinction. There is certainly no elaborate journey through the un-
derworld. So there was no expressed concern with the ongoing
fate of the dead.55
Instead, in the majority of its occurrences Sheol is used to de-
scribe human fate. Sometimes it is a destiny which the righteous
wish to avoid, or which in desperate circumstances they envis-
age as divine punishment. More often it is the destiny wished for
the ungodly. The occasional synonyms of Sheol portray the same
picture. In sum, the underworld in Israels canonical literature is
an infrequent theme and an unwelcome fate.
The Hebrew Bible mentions customs surrounding death only
in passing. There are glimpses of 7-day and 30-day mourning
periods, but no general policy is stated. Mourning customs are
mentioned more frequently, with some variation over time. There
W.T. Pitard, Tombs and Oerings: Archaeological Data and Compar-
ative Methodology in the Study of Death in Israel, in: B.M. Gittlen (ed.),
Sacred Time, Sacred Place: Archaeology and the Religion of Israel, Winona
Lake 2002, 145-6.
Most recently: P.S. Johnston, Shades of Sheol: Death and Afterlife in the
Old Testament, Leicester 2002; Gittlen (ed.), Sacred Time, Sacred Place, Part
IV; A.J. Avery-Peck, J. Neusner (eds), Judaism in Late Antiquity, Part 4:
Death, Life-After-Death, Resurrection and the World-to-Come in the Juda-
isms of Antiquity (HO 1/49), Leiden 2000, Section 1.
Strictly, Num. 16:33 is the one exception. But here the narrator simply
repeats Moses words of v. 30 in describing the subsequent event. See further
Johnston, Shades of Sheol, 70-2.
See further Johnston, Shades of Sheol, 79-85.
106 P.S. Johnston

is virtually no information on funerary rites, apart from the lavish

burning of spices for kings. In particular, there is no reference to
religious ceremonies at funerals burial was simply conducted
by the immediate family. Mourning and funerary customs were
not apparently invested with religious signicance.
Burial normally occurred on family land, though no infer-
ence is ever drawn from burial locations about consultation or
veneration of the dead. Non-burial, whether from exposure, ex-
humation or cremation, was abhorrent. Archaeology conrms a
consistent pattern of multiple, successive cave burial in the cent-
ral hill country throughout the Late Bronze and Iron Ages. At
each new interment, the skeletal remains of previous corpses were
simply swept into a corner, and the bones of the dead were not
accorded any special reverence. Burial was accompanied by vari-
ous pottery assemblages, including bowls and jugs. These may
have contained food for the dead at the time of burial, but there
is no clear evidence of regular, ongoing nourishment of the dead
in Judahite tombs.56 Thus, while the act of burial was important,
there was apparently no continued reverence for physical remains,
and little if any attempt to feed the departed.
3.2 Contact with the Dead
Israels religious literature contains only occasional references to
necromancy in several prohibitions, one narrative account, and
a few other texts. Apparently necromancy was not an issue which
preoccupied its nal editors. Two terms are normally used,  ob
and yidde onm.57 But there was no xed expression for nec-
romancy, as shown by the use of these terms for both spirit
and medium, the variation between singular and plural, the oc-
casional use of the rst without the second, and the variety of
associated verbs. Necromancy was not obviously associated with
ancestor worship in the Hebrew Bible, though the two may well
have coexisted in Israels experience. 1 Samuel 28, the only nar-
rative account of necromancy, furnishes few details of its practice,
but conrms that it was considered both illegal and eective, even
if for Saul its apparent eect was simply to seal his fate.
Pace E. Bloch-Smith, Judahite Burial Practices and Beliefs about the
Dead (JSOT.S, 123), Sheeld 1992, 122-26; cf. review by P.S. Johnston, VT
44 (1994), 419-20. See also Pitard, Tombs and Oerings, 155.
Hebrew is given in transliteration in this more general article, at the
authors request (The Editors).
Death in Israel and Egypt 107

Some scholars now argue that necromancy was generally ac-

cepted in Israel until the exclusive Yahwism promulgated in Hez-
ekiahs and (particularly) Josiahs reforms, and that this can be
discerned through a close study of various texts. Thus, for in-
stance, it is detected in a pre-Deuteronomistic version of 1 Samuel
28, and in the polemical exchange of Isaiah 28.58 But these pro-
posals raise as many issues as they seek to resolve.59
Friedman and Overton have recently argued source-critically
that an early lay source underlying Genesis to Kings spoke of
death and the dead naturally and uncensoriously, while later
priestly redactions sought to circumscribe death and to proscribe
contact with the dead.60 In similar vein, the lay prophets Elijah,
Elisha and Isaiah engaged with death more openly than did the
priestly prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel or the priestly-inuenced
Deuteronomist and Chronicler.
However, the fact that the Deuteronomistic History readily
included references to death, Sheol and necromancy from the
posited lay source shows that its redactor was not unhappy with
this material.61 Similarly, the distinction between prophets is
overdrawn, since (First) Isaiah is hardly lled with allusions
to afterlife experience,62 whereas Ezekiel, however priestly, still
conveys a vision of deling bones returning to life.63 Certainly
there were varied perspectives in Israel on death and the dead,
and priestly concern over delement may well illuminate some
source-critical issues, but this thesis is overstated.
E.g. respectively J. Tropper, Nekromantie (AOAT, 223), Neukirchen-
Vluyn 1989; K. van der Toorn, Echoes of Judaean Necromancy in Isaiah
28,7-22, ZAW 100 (1988), 199-217.
For detailed critique, see Johnston, Shades of Sheol, 153-60.
R.E. Friedman, S.D. Overton, Death and Afterlife: The Biblical Silence,
in: Avery-Peck, Neusner (eds), Judaism in Late Antiquity, Part 4, 35-59. Cf.
also R.E. Friedman, Who Wrote the Bible?, San Francisco 2 1997; Idem, The
Hidden Book in the Bible, San Francisco, 1998.
Friedman and Overton answer that the Deuteronomist (their singular)
limited his perspective to the framework (p. 52). But this undermines their
proposal of competing ideologies.
Friedman, Overton, Death and Afterlife, 53. Of the terms cited, two
a m (Isa. 14:19; 26:14, 19), ittm (Isa. 19:3); the other, se 
are rare: rep ol,
occurs 8 times in 5 contexts (Isa. 5, 7, 14, 28, 38, including emendation of
Isa. 7:11).
While this applies to national restoration (so Friedman and Overton,
Death and Afterlife, 52-3; Johnston, Shades of Sheol, 222-4), it still engages
with death imagery.
108 P.S. Johnston

3.3 Respect for the Dead

The Israelites may have been tempted to venerate their dead as
other ancient peoples did. Several scholars have argued recently
that such ancestor cults were widespread in Israel and Judah until
the late monarchy reforms, and have identied vestigial traces of
this practice in various biblical texts.64 But it is only glimpsed
in a small number of texts.65
Num. 25:2 records the apostasy of the wilderness generation
with the Moabites, and Ps. 106:28 describes this as their eating
sacrices of the dead. But neither text elaborates further on the
nature of the cult, and both describe Yhwhs punishment of Is-
rael for their participation in it. This is the only biblical reference
to such sacrices. Isaiah 57 and Ezekiel 43 (if pigre malkehem in-
dicates oerings, vv. 7, 9) may reect veneration of the dead, but
other posited references to such a cult are mostly unlikely. For
instance, the interpretation of Sauls meal at Endor as part of a
death cult (1 Sam. 28:20-25) involves supposing a very dierent
original story and substantial Deuteronomistic rewriting.
A marzeah. was apparently a social gathering linked with
drinking and feasting (e.g. Amos 6:7) but only occasionally with
the dead (e.g. Jer. 16:5-9),66 and the term itself is too general
to indicate a cult of the dead. The interpretation of ter apm as
ancestor images is possible but not essential, and in any case they
are of minimal importance in the prophetic critique of religious
malpractice. Pillars feature more frequently, but their function is
unclear. Kinship names may refer to ancestors and imply their
veneration, but these names are a minority in Israel, and such as-
sociation may be vestigial. There is insucient evidence to link
respect for parents, levirate marriage, annual sacrice or other
cultic practice with the cult of the dead.
Certainly some associations with death and the dead were
Notably: K. Spronk, Beatic Afterlife in Ancient Israel and in the An-
cient Near East (AOAT, 219), Neukirchen-Vluyn 1986; T. J. Lewis, Cults of
the Dead in Ancient Israel and Ugarit (HSM, 39), Atlanta 1989; Idem, How
Far Can Texts Take Us? Evaluating Textual Sources for Reconstructing An-
cient Israelite Beliefs about the Dead, in: Gittlen, Sacred Time, Sacred Place,
For detailed critique, see Johnston, Shades of Sheol, 167-95.
Other suggested biblical references to a marzeah. (funerary or otherwise)
are unconvincing.
Death in Israel and Egypt 109

condemned by the prophets, and some practice of grave food was

deemed inappropriate for the tithe (Deut. 26:14). But the almost
casual mention of such grave oerings here and the complete lack
of censure elsewhere suggest that they were not inimical to Yah-
wism, and therefore that they did not involve veneration of, or
communion with, the dead. Further, the fact that there is so little
censure of death cults, by writers who have no qualms against
lambasting other practices deemed illegitimate, strongly suggests
that such cults were not a major preoccupation of the writers.
Thus the Hebrew Bible does not substantiate the view that an-
cestor veneration was widespread in Israel and that evidence of
it was later suppressed. On the contrary, it suggests that, while
it may have occurred, it was of limited importance. For all their
other perceived faults, the Israelites envisaged in the texts seem
to have been more concerned with the living than the dead. This
portrayal is not signicantly altered by archaeology, which has
provided plenty of evidence for heterodox religion but not for
necromancy or ancestor cults.

3.4 Positive Views of Death

Two biblical characters apparently escaped death. Enoch simply
was no more, for God took him (Gen. 5:24), and Elijah ascen-
ded in a whirlwind into heaven (2 Kgs 2:11). However, neither
became a paradigm for the righteous in any form; their fate is
never invoked by psalmists or others facing the trauma of im-
pending, unwelcome death. These two may have escaped death,
but this had no reported relevance to Israelite aspirations.
Several proverbs juxtapose wise and foolish, life and death,
upward and below, and therefore may imply dierentiated post-
mortem fates. But proverbs are by denition pithy sayings, with-
out immediate context and easily misunderstood. Job 19:25-27
may also exhibit post-mortem hope, though the physical expres-
sion here of Jobs hope and its eventual fullment (42:5) imply
otherwise. At the same time, the textual diculties of these pas-
sages probably reect instead a later afterlife belief, and the de-
sire of some scribes and translators to emend accordingly.67
A few psalms seem to arm continued communion with God
after death. Psalm 16 builds on the delight of present experience,
Cf. J.F.A. Sawyer, Hebrew Words for the Resurrection of the Dead, VT
23 (1973), 232-3.
110 P.S. Johnston

and projects it into the future. Psalm 49 asserts that unjust re-
ward in this life will be reversed at death, with the foolish rich
consigned to Sheol and the oppressed psalmist ransomed from
it. And Psalm 73 combines the themes of continued communion
with God and rectication of present injustice to arm that
afterward God will receive the author. These psalms give no
elaboration of how, when or where this communion would occur.
They simply arm it in faith. While for most Israelites, hope
remained rmly anchored in the present life, a few apparently
glimpsed continued communion with God beyond it.68
Belief in resurrection eventually emerged, arguably develop-
ing mainly from reection on Israels God and Israels experi-
ence. The songs of Moses and Hannah celebrate Yhwhs power
to kill and make alive (Deut. 32:39; 1 Sam. 2:6). They may
have armed this theoretically rather than experientially, but
they armed it nonetheless. The prophetic tradition recorded
two instances of resuscitation following the intercession of Elijah
and Elisha, and one due to contact with Elishas bones (1 Kgs
17:22; 2 Kgs 4:35; 13:21). Isolated, rural cases perhaps, but never-
theless food for thought for later writers. Yhwhs initial creative
power is invoked in Ezekiels vision, when he prophesies to the
breath and it immediately brings the reconstituted bodies to life
(Ezek. 37:9-10).69 Thus Yhwhs proclaimed power to renew life,
its occasional experience in life and in vision, his authority over
the underworld,70 and the desire for unending communion with
him all contribute to Israelite belief in resurrection.
Israels experience was one of judgment and mercy, of de-
struction and restoration, of exile and return. This forms the
backdrop of so much of her prophetic literature, and in particular
of the resurrection motif which it occasionally employs. Imminent
judgment overshadows Hoseas promise of renewal (Hos. 6:1-3),
its devastating eect on the exiles gives sharp relief to Ezekiels
vision of return (Ezek. 37:1-14), while disappointment at its in-
completeness underlies the Isaianic delight in resurrection (Isa.
On these texts see further Johnston, Shades of Sheol, 199-217.
Cf. B.C. Ollenburger, If Mortals Die, Will They Live Again? The Old
Testament and Resurrection, Ex Auditu 9 (1993), 29-44; the Maccabean
martyrs continually invoke this same creative power.
The living could not escape Yhwh by eeing to Sheol (Amos 9:2; Ps.
139:8), since it was naked before him (Job 26:6). While the dead remained
cut o from Yhwh, Sheol was not beyond his remit.
Death in Israel and Egypt 111

26:19). Israel as a people experienced death and rebirth. National

resurrection was a reality in their experience.
But that rebirth seemed only partial. The nation never re-
gained its former autonomy and condence (cf. Isa. 26:13), mighty
empires would control its destiny (Dan. 7-12), and many faithful
Jews would perish in the Antiochene persecution (Dan. 11:33).
How could the rebirth be complete? Yhwh had resurrected the
nation as a whole; his power over death was unquestioned; his
ability to raise the dead had been recorded. Perhaps then the
answer to this unfullled post-exilic hope was one further de-
velopment in belief: an individual, physical resurrection from
the dead. However startlingly dierent it might seem, this be-
lief clearly built on elements of Israelite faith and experience.
And however much the development may have been helped by
non-Israelite resurrection belief (in whatever form), it emerged
as distinctly Israelite and communal: Yhwh would resurrect his
people. Those who slept in the dust of the earth would awake,
some to everlasting life, and some to shame and contempt (Dan.
The Hebrew Bible has no concept of judgment after death.71
Nor does it comment on the punishment or destruction of the
wicked. These issues may be the logical consequence of the dif-
ferentiated fates noted obliquely in Isaiah 26 and directly in
Daniel 12, but they were not developed in the canonical texts.
The shame and everlasting contempt (Dan. 12:2) remains un-
explained and undeveloped. The non-canonical inter-testamental
literature testies to increased interest and speculation concern-
ing the fate of the wicked as well as the righteous, and the New
Testament pursues this further. But the Hebrew Bible stops short
of this.72

N.J. Tromp, Primitive Conceptions of Death and the Nether World in the
Old Testament (BibOr, 21), Rome 1969, 22 n. 13, sees post-mortem judgment
in Job 31:6, but the context implies present punishment. For weighing, cf.
also Prov. 16:2; 21:2; 24:12.
On these texts see further Johnston, Shades of Sheol, 218-39.
112 P.S. Johnston

4 Reection
4.1 Socio-Political Factors
The southern Levant was of course geographically close to Egypt,
and many factors might suggest ongoing relationships and mutual
inuence. Over the millennia Egyptians pursued trade, conduc-
ted military campaigns, and maintained garrisons in the area.73
Egyptian presence and inuence in the southern Levant is clearly
attested by archaeological nds at various sites.
For its part, the Biblical text narrates many instances of in-
teraction with Egypt. As well as the lengthy and detailed Joseph
narrative74 and exodus tradition, it records Abrahams brief so-
journ, Jeroboams asylum, Shishaks (Sheshonqs) invasion, polit-
ical manoeuvring and prophetic censure, and eventual emigra-
tion. Even if late redaction of earlier material was highly in-
terpretative, the nal text records a tradition of long-standing
interaction, with both positive and negative consequences.
And yet there was little mutual cultural or ideological inu-
ence. As Redford comments:

In general, Egyptian culture transplanted poorly in west-

ern Asia. At no time can we detect a collective will in
the Egyptian peoples towards promoting their own way of
life beyond their Sinai frontiers, either by colonisation or
forcible conversion. It is even arguable that Egyptians res-
isted such cultural proselytizing among the Asiatics who,
in their perception, were a wholly worthless lot, to be ex-
ploited, uprooted and enslaved for the benet of Egypt.75

Egypt was self-consciously xenophobic, little interested in the re-

ligious views of even close neighbours. It stood apart from the
Semitic world in race, language and culture, and sought to main-
E.g. campaigns of Merneptah and Sheshonq; garrisons at Bethshean and
Deir el-Balah.
M. G org, Biblical Tradition, Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt, vol.
1, 183, notes that the redactor was familiar with Egyptian titles and the way
of life, and used genuine terminology, e.g. for embalming.
D.B. Redford, Egypt and Western Asia in the Late New Kingdom: An
Overview, in: E.D. Oren (ed.), The Sea Peoples and Their World: A Reas-
sessment, Philadelphia 2000, 7. Similarly Idem, Egyptian, in: J. Kaltner,
S.L. McKenzie (eds), Beyond Babel, Atlanta 2002, 118.
Death in Israel and Egypt 113

tain this distinction in practice as far as possible.76 Hence its

garrisons in the Levant tended to rule through local elites rather
than by direct intervention.77 Conversely, Israel shared many cul-
tural and religious concepts with its Semitic rather than Egyptian
neighbours, and during the crucial centuries of the mid-rst mil-
lennium it was dominated not by Egypt but by Mesopotamia.78
There was certainly some Egyptian inuence in Israel, as
discussed for instance by Redford.79 But apart from dismissing
Akhenatens religious revolution as the classic red herring
(377),80 he makes little reference to religious belief, let alone to
death and the afterlife. In reverse direction, the extent of later
Israelite knowledge of Egypt is unclear. For instance, Isaiahs
understanding of Egypt is variously dismissed81 and defended.82
But whatever the extent of this well educated Judeans famili-
arity with Egypt, there was little mutual cultural or religious

4.2 Theological Factors

Alongside these important socio-political factors, there were no
less important theological ones. In Egypt, as already noted, a
positive afterlife perspective was so deep-rooted, and perhaps so
carefully nurtured by priestly interest, that it persisted for three
millennia, despite universal robbery, widespread neglect and in-
creasing scepticism. Right down to Ptolemaic times, those with
Cf. S. Hollis, Ancient Israel as the Land of Exile and the Otherworld
in Ancient Egyptian Folktales and Narratives, in: M. Lubetski et al. (eds),
Boundaries of the Ancient Near Eastern World: A Tribute to Cyrus H. Gor-
don (JSOT.S, 278), Sheeld 1998, 320-7.
Called elite emulation by C. R. Higginbotham, The Egyptianising of
Canaan, BAR 24/3 (1998), 39.
Except very briey during 609-605 bce.
D.B. Redford, Egypt, Canaan and Israel in Ancient Times, Princeton
1992, ch. 13: kingship, government, literary form (Konigsnovelle), cult, lan-
guage, poetry, penitential psalms and wisdom. Similarly Gorg, Biblical Tra-
dition, 183; Currid, Ancient Egypt.
A.R. Millard, Abraham, Akhenaten, Moses and Monotheism, in: R. S.
Hess et al. (eds), He Swore an Oath, Cambridge 1993, 119-29, gives a dierent
perspective, but also discounts any immediate link with Yahwism.
E.g. S. Ah.ituv, Egypt that Isaiah Knew, in: I. Shirun-Grumach (ed.),
Jerusalem Studies in Egyptology (AAT, 40), Wiesbaden 1998, 3-7.
E.g. S. Israelit-Groll, The Egyptian Background to Isaiah 19:18, in: Lub-
etski, Boundaries, 300-3; M. Lubetski, C. Gottlieb, Isaiah 18: the Egyptian
Nexus, in Lubetski, Boundaries, 364-84.
114 P.S. Johnston

the nancial means prepared to enter the afterlife physically in-

tact and guided by their personal copy of the Book of the Dead,
while only a small minority dared to voice any doubts.
Israelite perspectives on life and death, by contrast, were
moulded by faith in Yhwh. Of course this faith was often par-
tial, whether because of their apostasy from an early Mosaic Yah-
wism, as the biblical texts state, or their emergence from Canaan-
ite polytheism, as much scholarship suggests. But whatever the
complex development of Israels beliefs which is not of con-
cern here at no time during the monarchy was there a general
expectation of a positive afterlife.
Israels deity Yhwh is presented supremely as the god of this
life. His very name is associated with the verb to be,83 and his
armation of life is repeatedly asserted across the literary genres
and historical contexts of the biblical canon.84 Conversely, the
dead are cut o from Yhwh, and can no longer experience his
care or celebrate his goodness.85 While Yhwhs authority over
Sheol and his power to raise the dead are occasionally proclaimed,
neither element is developed theologically until the emergence of
resurrection belief (see above). Faith concerns this life: death and
the dead are not of theological importance.
There are several implications of this fundamental religious
dierence.86 First, the theology of death in Egypt led to a fas-
cination with the afterlife in its various astral and underworld
guises, and with the dead and their supposed ability to aect the
living. By contrast, Israels canonical literature shows little con-
cern with the afterlife, and proscribes contact with the dead. It
locates Israels faith in the present, and concentrates on life here
and now.
Secondly, death in Egypt involved a heavy nancial invest-
ment during life, which, as noted above, surpassed that of any
other known people. The Israelites were generally poor, and they
were spared this lavish expense. The cost of death was not to
undermine life itself.
Exod. 3:14; whether this is a genuine or a folk etymology is immaterial
to this point.
E.g. Deut. 30:19-20; Jer. 21:8; Ps 36:9; Job 12:10.
E.g. Isa. 38:18; Jon. 2:4; Ps. 6:5; 88:5, 12.
For Niccacci, La foi eschatologique, 8, Israels lack of personal eschato-
logy was fundamentally polemical.
Death in Israel and Egypt 115

Thirdly, death in Egypt inevitably perpetuated social division

from this life to the next. Only the wealthy could provide for
their afterlife appropriately; the vast majority of Egyptians who
had insignicant, archaeologically invisible burials presumably
entered the afterlife ill-prepared. By contrast, Israel saw itself
as a more egalitarian society. Deuteronomy relativises royalty,
arms family land ownership and asserts the dignity of slaves;
historiography, prophecy and psalmody all champion the rights of
the common people. Though not absolute in theory or in practice,
this egalitarian instinct was nevertheless fundamental to Israelite
faith. It extended even to the status of the dead, most notably
in Jobs memorable assertions of nakedness and social levelling
in death (1:21; 3:18-19).87 The lack of hierarchical status among
the dead inevitably relativised such status among the living, and
underlined a basic tenet of Israels socio-religious framework.
Fourthly, death in Egypt perpetuated a social order which
was seen as divinely ordained and immutable. Life was governed
by, and must conform to, Maat, while the idea of change and
development was anathema.88 By contrast, Israel saw its destiny
as continually unfolding: Yhwh had freed them from bondage,
established a covenant of mutual obligation, provided them with
leaders, and punished their disobedience.89 Egypt maintained a
status quo, and death consolidated it.90 Israel was called to per-
petual renewal of faith in this life, and death detracted from it.
Fifthly, the dichotomy between the ideology and the reality
of death in Egypt fostered delusion on a grand scale. For millen-
nia pharaohs, ocials and wealthy commoners provided lavishly
for the preservation of their own bodies, yet were surely aware of
the neglect, disrespect and robbery of the remains of their fore-
bears. This was a colossal, collective exercise of self-deception,

Two important prophetic texts are sometimes interpreted otherwise, but
mistakenly. Isa. 14:9-11 emphasises the weakness of the fallen emperor, and
Ezek. 32:17-32 the similar fate of all terrible conquerors.
Cf. B.E. Shafer, Introduction, in: Idem (ed.), Religion in Ancient Egypt,
Ithaca 1991, 3: they believed that the world needs to be maintained, and
therefore to be stabilised by governmental imposition of order from above.
Contrast J. Assmann, The Search for God in Ancient Egypt, Ithaca 2001,
158: No Egyptian deity was ever identied on the basis of an event that had
occurred in the past.
In similar fashion, Christianitys developed eschatology has sometimes
fostered acceptance of the status quo.
116 P.S. Johnston

which met with increasing challenge from the New Kingdom on-
wards. By contrast, Israels practice of simple interment without
costly ornaments involved neither special respect nor disrespect
for physical remains, and avoided disjuncture between belief and
In sum, death in Egypt was seen as the culmination of life,
governing much of its activity and oering divinisation. By con-
trast, death in Israel was seen as the negation of life, disrupting
its activity and bringing separation from the divine presence. To
quote one of Israels famous sons (though in a dierent context),
Yhwh was God not of the dead but of the living (Mark 12:27).
Kenneth A. Kitchen University of Liverpool United Kingdom

The Hieroglyphic Inscriptions of the Neo-Hittite

States (c. 1200700 BC)
A Fresh Source of Background to the Hebrew Bible

1 Preamble
In response to the kind invitation of the SOTS, and OTW, under
the presidency of Professor Robert Gordon in Cambridge in July
2003, and under the aegis of that years theme of The Hebrew
Bible against its Ancient Near Eastern Background, it seemed
good to oer to the Society and other fellow OT scholars some-
thing from a resource not readily accessible hitherto, that would
be fresh and original in this context. I do this here, in the hope of
rendering some small service, stemming from the happy occasion
of conuence of the SOTS, OTW and SBL, whose members met
in a beautifully summery Cambridge.
Before beginning, perhaps I should quickly explain why a
former professor of Egyptology should be presenting data drawn
from Indo-European Syro-Anatolian inscriptions! It does not hap-
pen every day. The reason is historical; most of 50 years ago,
after taking his BA degree in both Egyptian and Semitics, the
writer began a PhD thesis on Western Asiatic lexemes in An-
cient Egyptian, and not limited (as in more recent works) just to
Semitic words and names, but covering items from other ancient
languages as well. So, he then immersed himself in the study of
the grammars, lexica, texts, history and cultures of most of the
Ancient East (not least the Hittite world), with all manner of
consequences ever since.

2 Introductory Matters
Our theatre is the central zone of the Ancient Near East: North
Syria, with its adjoining zones east of the Euphrates, south to-
wards Damascus, and north into SE Anatolia. Our period is
broadly 1200700 bc, following on the collapse of the two great
rival Hittite and Egyptian empires, in the rst part of the 12th
century bc. Between c. 1220 and c. 1170 bc, the political map
of the western parts of the Ancient Near East changed rad-
118 K.A. Kitchen

ically. These two empires had dominated the Levant and SE

Anatolia, but by 1180/70 bc the central Hittite power had col-
lapsed, leaving only its devolved provincial powers in Tarhun-
tassa (SE Anatolia), and in Carchemish (N Syria), while the
Egyptian power under Ramesses iii rst shrank to the coast-
lands of Phoenicia and Canaan (plus Jezreel), then by c. 1140
bc the Egyptians withdrew from Canaan completely. But before
those changes, we return briey to the late 13th century bc. The
Egyptians, of course, spoke and wrote Egyptian (an Afro-Semitic
language). But the Hittites spoke and (in cuneiform, wrote) in
three related dialects of Anatolian Indo-European: Nesite (Hittite
proper), Luwian, and the obscurer Palaic. Alongside this, the
totally unrelated, agglutinative Hurrian language featured in re-
ligious usage. Contacts with Egypt stimulated the Hittite em-
perors or Great Kings to carve rock-reliefs, and even an entire
open-air temple at Yazilikaya, with the texts to the gures ex-
ecuted in their own system of hieroglyphic script, in the Luwian
dialect hence the popular name Hittite Hieroglyphs culturally,
but in strict linguistic terms, Hieroglyphic Luwian. By 1940,
a skeleton grammatical analysis and the Indo-European nature
of Hieroglyphic Luwian had been established; but without con-
trol of vocabulary, sound translations of texts of any length were
practically impossible. The discovery in 1946 of the much later
Hieroglyphic Luwian/Phoenician bilingual inscriptions at Kar-
atepe enabled a full decipherment. This has by now reached a
very advanced stage, making reliable translations possible, with
only a residue of still-obscure vocabulary.
During the Late Bronze Age, rulers of top rank claimed and
were accorded the title Great King, an equivalent of emperor
in Roman down to modern times. Kings ruled a recognised ter-
ritory, while Great Kings ruled over their own territory and also
over vassals. With the eclipse of the ruling Hittite monarchy in
Central Anatolia c. 1180 bc, the title of Great King was an-
nexed by two of its former viceroyalties - by the rulers of Tarhun-
tassa in south-east Anatolia (Taurus mountains area) and by the
kings of Carchemish, former Hittite power-base in northern Syria.
These men kept their local realms intact, when almost all around
them vanished into a melting-pot, in the extensive disturbances
that marked the period c. 1200-1180/70 bc. While Tarhuntassa
and Carchemish survived in the north, further south only the
Hieroglyphic Inscriptions of the Neo-Hittite States 119

tenacious Phoenician seaports (such as Tyre, Byblos, etc.) and

temporarily a reduced realm of Amurru survived eectively into
the new Iron Age. Elsewhere, traditional Canaanites were ous-
ted or hemmed in by Arameans (in the north), Philistines and
other Sea-People groups (in the south-west, up the west coast
to the north-west), and eastwards in the central Palestinian up-
lands by the earliest tribal Israel of Merenptahs stela (cf. Judg.),
plus emergent polities over in Transjordan. Up north, the old
city-states such as Ugarit, Qadesh, Nuhasse, Niy, and Alalakh
were swept away. Instead, new polities arose in which Luwian
and (eventually) Aramean people-groups dominated, often un-
der entirely new names: Gurgum, Melid, Hamath, Patina (Unqi),
Bit-Adini, etc. Over these, the kings of Carchemish re-imposed
their former overlordship, to become Great Kings, while up in the
Taurus, other newer local groups became vassals of the parallel
Great Kings of Tarhuntassa. A new age had begun.

3 The Transitional Era of Western Mini-Empires,

c. 1180-950 bc
Here, we consider four such mini-empires in this 200+ year period,
often wrongly termed a Dark Age.
(a) To the NW, we have No. 1, Tarhuntassa, later to be known as
Tabal. Here, the kings of Tarhuntassa lorded it over their lesser
neighbours (in Shinuhtu, Tyana, etc.) as vassals, and so could
hold the title Great Kings, as in fact did their rulers Mursil,
Hartapus, etc. (12th cent.), then after a 400-year gap in our dyn-
astic data, so did Tuwatis and Wasu-sarruma (8th century). Dur-
ing that very long gap in our documentation, in 837 and 836
bc,1 in his Years 22, 23, Shalmaneser iii referred to 24 kings of
Tabal, giving us just a brief glimpse of those Tabalian vassals.
No breakaway Arameans intervened, nor was there much external
impact on Tabal from Mushki and/or Phrygia until late on, and
it remained free of Assyrian interference until the mid-9th cen-
tury, and of Assyrian conquest until the late 8th century bc. So,
this mini-empire lasted the longest.

D.D. Luckenbill, Ancient Records of Assyria, vol. 1, Chicago 1926, 206,
579-580; A.K. Grayson, Royal Inscriptions of Mesopotamia: Assyrian Peri-
ods, vol. 3: Assyrian Rulers of the Early First Millennium bc, ii, (858-745
bc), Toronto 1996, 67.
120 K.A. Kitchen

(b) Second, we have the mini-empire of Carchemish, whence

we have slightly more 12th /11th century data. Here, the surviv-
ing Hittite dynasty quickly reasserted sovereignty over their old
North-Syrian domains, up NW & N into SE Anatolia (border-
ing on Tabal), and over the Euphrates east to Guzan, to the
headwaters of the Habur. Around Carchemish, there arose thus
a belt of subject-vassals, initially Luwian-ruled (Neo-Hittite in
culture). So, justly, the Carchemishian rulers soon took the title
Great King, as successors to their Central Hittite forebears. For
200 years, this polity continued. In about 1100, the inquisitive
Tiglath-pileser i came west, and encountered Great Hatti and
its ruler Ini-Tesup (ii). This all lasted until c. 1000/920 bc, within
which short space of time the whole thing broke up, suddenly
shattering like a plate fallen to the oor. What happened? The
answer was largely impact by the rising power of the Arameans,
and the growing independence of local Neo-Hittite rulers. From
c. 1000 bc, Melid, Gurgum and Hamath had their own dynasties
that split o. Guzan became Aramean. Bit-Adini (older Mas-
uwari) came under Aramean expansion, in the time of Assur-rabi
ii of Assyria (as Shalmaneser iii tells us), almost certainly eected
by the Hadadezer of the state Aram-Zobah whom we meet oppos-
ing David and pressurising Hamath. Samal, Unqi and Kummuh
then broke o by c. 920 at the latest. The mini-empire of Car-
chemish was no more. The last-known Great King of Carchemish
was Ura-Tarhuns; his sons and successors - Huwa-sarruma and
Suhis i henceforth bore only the title of plain King. On the
stela Carchemish A4b, we have the last Great King Ura-Tarhuns
sending out his army to quell revolt; the text was engraved by
two ocials, one being Arnu-[xxx], son of the governor Suhis,
this latter name being that of the main founder of the new line
of plain Kings (not Great Kings) of Carchemish.
(c) Our third mini-empire is the Aramean one reported as ex-
panding over the West-Euphrates fords c. 990 bc, in the time of
Assur-rabi ii.2 This is precisely the time of Davids foe Hadadezer
of north-central Syrian Aram-Zobah, who had clearly gained rule
over Damascus, had cowed Hamath, and thus gained his way to
the Euphrates, enabling his kith and kin (one, Adin?) to set up

Mentioned by Shalmaneser iii; see Luckenbill, op. cit., 1, 218, 603;
Grayson, op. cit., 18-19.
Hieroglyphic Inscriptions of the Neo-Hittite States 121

rule in Bit-Adini, perhaps only briey. The Israelite ruler David

brought Hadadezers ephemeral power (20 years at most?) to a
rapid end, and a liberated Hamath then allied itself with him (cf.
2 Sam. 8:3-19; 10:6-19. Note 8:3 and 10:16). Meantime, over in
Bit-Adini, Adin was quickly supplanted by a Neo-Hittite dynasty
(Hapatilas onwards), who used Hieroglyphic Luwian for their in-
valuable series of inscriptions.
(d) And so, fourthly, we come to our last mini-empire in this
unique series: that reported in the OT for David and Solomon.
Davids military expansion from c. 990 bc, lasting into Solomons
reign (to c. 940 bc), perhaps some 50 years all told, presents us
with a further ephemeral mini-empire, slightly longer-lasting than
Hadadezers, but very much shorter-lived than the two north-
ern examples. However, its political structure is basically the
same as the others. Namely, a hard-core homeland, adjoined by
conquered territories (which retained their individuality as vas-
sals, under governors or subject-kings), and also by subject-allies.
This latter status was the status of Melid in the Carchemishian
mini-empire; of Bit-Adini in the Aram-Zobah mini-empire; and of
Hamath, Maachah, Geshur and in part Ammon, in Davids mini-
empire. This contrasts sharply with the practice of the much later
maxi-empires of Assyria, Neo-Babylonia, and Persia wherein
older units were increasingly broken up or re-combined into new
regional units and districts, under governorates. Organisation-
ally and morphologically, in no way can our four mini-empires
(Davids included) be meaningfully compared with the massively
vaster and dierently-run conglomerates of Assyria, Babylon and
Persia. Such fantasies must be abandoned once and for all, in
the face of our contemporary, rst-hand data. After 930 bc, the
mini-empire phenomenon was gone forever; Aram-Damascus was
en route to becoming a fth mini-empire in the 9th century bc,
but the brutal and persistent intervention of Assyria from the
850s bc onwards nipped that dream in the bud.3

More fully on the mini-empires, see K.A. Kitchen, The Controlling Role
of External Evidence in Assessing the Historical Status of the Israelite United
Monarchy, in: V.P. Long et al. (eds), Windows into Old Testament History,
Grand Rapids 2002, 111-30, with set of maps. The current archaeological
dispute over which Iron Age Palestinian strata might belong to the 10 th
century bc is irrelevant to the existence of the Hebrew united monarchy, and
bears only on what particular material culture it enjoyed then.
122 K.A. Kitchen

4 The Cultural Background to Samuel-Kings/

Chronicles aorded by the HH Inscriptions

(a) In General. The biblical narratives of the United and Di-

vided Monarchies in Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles are peppered
with notices of the activities of various kings of Israel and Judah
during the 11th to 6th centuries bc. Wars, building-projects, in-
volvement in religious cults, family aairs and successions, and
other matters feature very largely in those accounts as trans-
mitted to us. Are these concerns unique to biblical rulers and
their reporters, or are they anomalous, out-of-step, or improb-
able in nature or scope? The newly-edited corpus of Hieroglyphic
Luwian inscriptions, from the central to northern end of the self-
same Levant, can give us an external measuring-rod, whereby to
seek to answer such questions. Now, our West-Semitic inscrip-
tions from this same period (Phoenician, Old-Aramaic, Moabite)
already bear on this, but they constitute a very slender corpus of
barely two dozen relevant texts, whereas our Hieroglyphic Luwian
corpus boasts over 220 usable texts and major fragments, leav-
ing out a large shower of minor, unusable fragments. In other
words, ten times as much textual data! This wealth of data,
surely, is well worth our attention. This rich body of material
has now been immaculately edited (text, translations, philolo-
gical and other notes; plates) by Professor David Hawkins of
London, in a four-volume work (with Halet C ambel for the fourth
volume), namely J.D. Hawkins, Corpus of Hieroglyphic Luwian
Inscriptions, Volume 1: Inscriptions of the Iron Age, Parts 1-3,
Berlin 2000, along with H. C ambel, ibid., Volume 2: Karatepe
Aslantash, Berlin 1999. For simplicitys sake, in what follows,
the individual inscriptions will be cited by the names used in the
Hawkins volumes, but Carchemish texts simply by their A-series
numbers; citations as C 1/1, 1/2, and pages are those of the Cor-
pus, Vol. 1, Parts 1 and 2, while C 1/3, pl(s). refers to plate(s)
in Corpus, 1, Part 3. Thus, a reference such as A12, C 1/1, 113-4
= Carchemish A12, in Corpus, 1, Part 1, pages 113-114; G ur
C 1/1, 296-7 = the inscription of (the place) G urun, in the Cor-
pus, 1, Part 1, 296-297, etc. Texts that escaped inclusion in the
Corpus will be cited by individual references.
The Kings of the Hittites so eetingly alluded to in 2 Kgs
Hieroglyphic Inscriptions of the Neo-Hittite States 123

7:6 as a possible threat (alongside Egypt), in c. 850/840 bc, are

not named in Kings. But names of rulers in oce just then might
have included such kings as (for example): Urhilina of Hamath,
or Astiruwas i of Carchemish, or Halparuntiyas of Unqi, or Hal-
paruntiyas ii of Gurgum, or Lalli of Milid, or even Kuntashpi of
Kummuh, or Kati of Que, all known from rst-hand Hieroglyphic
Luwian and/or Assyrian data. So let us proceed to survey the
cultural backcloth from these Hieroglyphic Luwian texts, going
through individual topics, in each case chronologically.
(b) Wars and Expansion/Development. Not surprisingly,
wars are a constant theme in this corpus, from c. 1200 bc down
to c. 700. In Tarhuntassa, already (c. 1200) Great King Hartapus
claims victory on all sides by the goodness of the Storm-god of
heaven, and of every god (Kizildag 4 and Karadag 1; C 1/2, 438),
just as it is later said of David, that Yhwh gave him victory and
rest all about (2 Sam. 7:1; 8:6). Late in the 11th century, c. 1000,
Carchemishs last Great King, Ura-Tarhuns, fell into dispute with
the land Sura (Assyria?), sending out his forces; then the Storm-
god and the goddess Kubaba gave him great courage, to end the
dispute successfully; again, in the best deuteronomic fashion,
deity intervenes to give the deitys presence in battle.
In the 10th century (c. 920 bc; A1a, C 1/1, 88-89), King Suhis
ii of Carchemish celebrated victory and conquests (heads rolled,
as with Jehu in 2 Kings 10:6-8), and presenting 9ths (rather than
tithes) of his booty and other gifts of victory to the gods (as
did David for Yhwh with booty, 2 Sam. 8:11-12). King Suhis
iis gods accompanied him in his goings (A1a, 18 - cf. 2 Sam.
5:22-25, for Davids deity preceding him). About this time, c. 910
bc or later, in Tell Ahmar 6 (Hawkins, in press4 ), Hamiyatas of
Bit-Adini boasts of destroying his fathers enemies and also his
own, to east and west (a good biblical phrase in war, cf. Josh.
11:3; 1 Chron. 12:15), and with the gods (especially his patron
Tarhuns of the Army) again going before him.
In the early 9th century (c. 890) wars at Carchemish involved
revolts to be suppressed, in the early years of Katuwas, possibly
stirred up by members of other branches of the older royal family
(A11a, A11b-c; C 1/1, 95-96, 103-104), Katuwas succeeding with
Proceedings, 49th Rencontre Assyriologique Internationale, forthcoming.
Cited hereafter simply as 49. RAI.
124 K.A. Kitchen

divine help. One is reminded of the family conspiracies against

David (2 Sam. 15; 1 Kgs 1), and eeting traces of Saulide disaf-
fection from adherents of the previous line (cf. 2 Sam. 16:1-4, for
gain, and 16:8, politics; cf. [e] below). But Katuwas also warred
against foreign foes, destroying cities (A12, C 1/1, 113-4), with
deities delivering foes to him, not him to them (A23/26, C 1/1,
119; cf. 2 Sam. 5:10, 19; 7:1, 9, 11).
Early in the 8th century, Kamanis of Carchemish (c. 780) sub-
dued a place, then redeveloped it (A31+; C 1/1, 141-2). Later
(c. 750 bc) Wasu-sarruma, Great King in Tabal, achieved victor-
ies with the help of his gods, against up to 8 lesser kings, in a
three-year period; Tarhuns took away victory from an opponent,
and gave it to Wasu-sarruma (Topada; C 1/2, 453-4). Indeed, in
another text (Sultanhan, 8-9, in C 1/2, 466), the god Tarhuns
gave the king mighty courage, putting his enemies under his feet
(cf. on courage, above; for foes set under ones feet, cf. Josh. 10:24
[as in an Egyptian scene, 15th century bc5 ], and Ps. 47:3; for the
more general concept, see Ps. 8:6).
Finally, at the turn of the 8th century into the 7th , we come to
the bilingual texts from Karatepe and Adana. In the latter6 (c.
705 bc) Urikki of Que speaks of conquering forts, and building
others of his own, 8 to his east and 7 to his west (CRAIBL-
2000, 972, 994). Around c. 700/696 bc, his successors vassal,
Asitiwata (in his Karatepe bilingual; C 1/1, 49., and C ambel)
likewise built border-forts, and set his foes under his feet (xix,
xxi/xxiii), and to east and west (xxv-xxxii). During the same
centuries, Hebrew kings did likewise, so Rehoboam (2 Chron. 11);
Jeroboam (1 Kgs 12:25); Jehoshaphat (2 Chron. 17:12); and Ahab
(1 Kgs 22:39).
With this long series, the West-Semitic corpus can only of-
fer (later 9th century) Mesha of Moab, given victory by Kemosh
(Mesha stela; ContS, 27 , 137-8) and the Aramaic Tel Dan stela
Under Amenophis ii, Theban Tomb 93 of Qenamun; published by N. de
Garis Davies, The Tomb of Ken-amun at Thebes, New York 1930, 1, plate 9;
and 2, plate 9A (in colour).
R. Tekoglu, A. Lemaire, La bilingue royale louvito-phenicienne de
inekoy, Comptes-rendus de lAcademie des Inscriptions et Belles-lettres,
2000, iii (2000/01), 961-1006. Cited hereafter as CRAIBL-2000 and
= W.W. Hallo, K.L. Younger (eds.), The Context of Scripture, vol. 2,
Leiden 2000; cited hereinafter as ContS, 2).
Hieroglyphic Inscriptions of the Neo-Hittite States 125

(probably Hazael of Damascus;8 ContS, 2, 161-2), then (8th cen-

tury) Zakkur of Hamath, delivered from siege by his god Baal-
shamain (ContS, 2, 155), plus the internal conicts of Panamuwa
ii and Bar-rakib of Samal (ContS, 2, 158-9).
(c) Building-projects and Development. This theme out-
strips even wars in the Hieroglyphic Luwian corpus. Again, from
c. 1200, Hartapus, Great King of Tarhuntassa, has built this
city (Kizildag 3; C 1/2, 438). Soon after (c. 1130 bc) an ocial
of Great King Ir-Tesup (of either Carchemish or Tarhuntassa) re-
cords his master refurbishing the town and district (new housing,
etc.), while his ocial made gifts of towns within his territory to
the gods (Karahoy uk-Elbistan, C 1/1, 289-290; west of Melid),
presumably to provide resources for cults and ociants (cf. cit-
ies and land assigned for Levites in the OT). Then, in the 11th
century (c. 1030 bc), up north in Melid, king Runtiyas settled a
city (Gurun; C 1/1, 296-7) and probably built a stone-paved(?)
road, if not also a tunnel (K otukale; C 1/1, 30; cf. Hezekiahs
water tunnels at Jerusalem, in 2 Kgs 20:20; 2 Chron. 32:30).
Runtiyas also settled a city (Darende; C 1/1, 305), while a later
successor Taras (c. 970) extended his territories and settled or
re-settled three or more named towns. By c. 950, down in Car-
chemish, king Astuwatimanzas dedicated gateways, one anked
by inscribed lions in the lower city (A14b; C 1/1, 85-86). Then
Suhis ii and his son did more work, setting up images of the gods
(c. 935; A1a, C 1/1, 88-89). Back up north in Gurgum, Laramas i
(c. 940) restored burnt buildings, and planted vineyards. Over the
Euphrates, around 910, Hamiyatas of Bit-Adini also built a city
(Borowski 3; C 1/1, 230-1) and granaries. During the 10th century
(as also later), the kings of Carchemish built extensively. Build-
ing towns and settlements was also a Hebrew royal habit, as with
Solomon (1 Kgs 9:15-20) and, later on, Azariah/Uzziah (2 Kgs
14:22; 2 Chron. 26:2, 6, 9). At Ain Dara, north-west of Aleppo,
we have the ancient site of a city and its citadel, within which
was a temple and other buildings (cf. Jerusalems city of David
plus Solomons citadel complex of temple and palace). There was
For diering arrangements and datings (not wholly convincing), see G.
Galil, A Re-arrangement of the Fragments of the Tel Dan Inscription and
the Relations between Israel and Aram, PEQ 133 (2001), 16-21; G. Athas,
The Tel Dan Inscription: A Reappraisal and a New Interpretation, London
126 K.A. Kitchen

found a ne temple of the 13th , 10th and 9th centuries bc with

much the same layout as Solomons, with inner Sanctum, outer
Hall, & pillared Portico, plus chambers round the back and sides
of the temple.9
Moving into the 9th century: Katuwas of Carchemish (c. 890)
was very active. He built a luxurious temple for the Storm-god,
gateways with lining slabs (orthostats), and apartments for his
wife, the queen (A11a; C 1/1, 95-96; A2+3, C 1/1, 109), as well as
a temple for the goddess Kubaba (A23/A26a,1+2/A20a,1; C 1/1,
119-120). Then c. 835, Astiru(wa)s i built workshops (K ork
C 1/1, 172). Down in contemporary Hamath, Urhilina set up
a pedestal for his goddess Baalat (Hama 4; C 1/2, 405), while
Uratamis has left us at least ve inscriptions from the bastions of
Hamath, his citadel-fortress (Hama 1-3, 6-7; C 1/2, 413). By c.
810, Yariris, regent of Carchemish, was building a temple (A15b;
C 1/1, 131), while Suppiluliuma of Kummuh [Commagene] set
up two massive stone podia for his gods and tithe(?) (= Boy-
beypinari 1+ 2 [C 1/1, 336-7]).
In the 8th century, Kamanis (c. 770) built a temple and a
precinct for Kubaba of Carchemish (A31+; C 1/1, 141-2). Mean-
while, up in Gurgum, Halparuntiyas iii (c. 790) redeveloped dev-
astated settlements (Marash 1; C 1/1, 262-3); and c. 760 bc of-
cers of Tuwatis of Tabal rebuilt housing (Kululu 1; C 1/2, 443).
Finally, c. 705-696 bc, Urikki of Que built border-forts
(CRAIBL:2000, 972, 994), as did Asitiwatas for his son and suc-
cessor (Karatepe; C 1/1, 51, 53-4), as noted above, under War,
Alongside all this, our known West-Semitic epigraphic sources
can oer a few specimens. In the 10th century, at Byblos, Ye-
himilks stela commemorates temple-building there (ContS, 2,
146), c. 950 bc, very close in time to Solomons temple-building
activities. By c. 900, Shipitbaal was building a wall.10 Coming
down to c. 830: Mesha of Moab was a very active builder (ContS,
2, 137-8), including a high place for Kemosh. For the 8th cen-

Ocial publication by A.A. Assaf, Der Tempel von Ain Dara, Mainz
1990; for a well-illustrated comparison with the Solomonic temple, see J.
Monson, BArR 26/3 (May/June 2000), 20-35, 67; L.E. Stager, ibid., 46-47,
and in Eretz-Israel 26 (1999), 186*-187*.
See J.C.L. Gibson, Textbook of Syrian Semitic Inscriptions, vol. 3: Phoen-
ician Inscriptions, Oxford 1982, 23-4.
Hieroglyphic Inscriptions of the Neo-Hittite States 127

tury, we have Zakkur of Hamath (c. 780) building in Hatarikka,

with defence-works and shrines (ContS, 2, 155). Up in Samal,
Panammu i (c. 750) built settlements and family tombs (ContS,
2, 156), and c. 725 Bar-Rakib added a new palace in Samal
(ContS, 2, 160-1). In the 7th century (c. 680) Achish of Ekron
built a temple for his goddess (ContS, 2, 164), while c. 630 Am-
minadab ii of Ammon established gardens and vineyards (ContS,
2, 139-140).
With all this, both Neo-Hittite and West-Semitic, one may
protably compare the very similar range of activities recorded
for Israelite and Judean kings not only in SamuelKings but also
in various valuable (and often non-theological) notices in the un-
fairly despised pages of the book of Chronicles.

(d) Religious/Cult Activities. Neo-Hittite kings were very con-

cerned with religious cults, whether building temples (cf. above,
already), dedicating stelae, bases and statues, or instituting reg-
ular oering-rites. Ocial stelae could be dedicated to deities, as
in the early 12th century bc at Karahoyuk-Elbistan (C 1/1, 289),
including the dedication of settlements to the storm-god, presum-
ably for the ociants of the local cult (cf. Levitical towns), and
likewise by Arnuwantis ii of Melid, early 10th century (Darende,
C 1/1, 305), with concern for performance of regular rituals (Izgin
1-2; C 1/1, 316). ). Back in the 11th century, king Sulumal i or
ii of Melid appears, pouring a ceremonial libation to the Storm-
god (who has just arrived on his chariot); on the right, an animal
awaits its turn to be sacriced (Malatya 8; cf. 9 and 10; C 1/1,
309-12, and C 1/3, pls. 149-150). Such P(riestly)-type rites were
celebrated from 3,000 bc down into Roman times throughout the
biblical Near East.
In the late 10th century, Hamiyatas of Bit-Adini spoke of
building a city by Tarhuns divine authority (Borowski 3; C- 1/,
230-1); and he promised a thank-oering of 9 oxen, seemingly as a
continuing cult-practice (Tell Ahmar 6; Hawkins, 49. RAI, forth-
coming), and acting on a message from the god Tarhuns through
a prophet (lit., a god-inspired [man]). In the early 9th century,
Katuwas of Carchemish (A11a; C 1/1, 95) not only built a ne
temple (he says!) but also established bread-oerings. By the
mid-9th century, we have Urhilina king of Hamath refurbishing
the temple of the goddess Baalat, and increasing its endowments
128 K.A. Kitchen

to restore the full roster of oerings, after lean times (Hama 4; C

1/2, 405). Like their Syro-Hittite contemporaries, Hebrew kings
built temples: Solomon (1 Kgs 5-6); Jeroboam at Bethel and Dan
(1 Kgs 12:29-31); and Ahab, for Baal (1 Kgs 16:32), or they re-
stored them and their cults, as with Asa (2 Chron. 15:8), Joash
of Judah (2 Kgs 12:1-16; 2 Chron. 24:1-14), Hezekiah (2 Chron.
29), whether Yahwistic or foreign (Kings/Chronicles, passim).
In the limited West-Semitic sources, 10th-century Yehimilk
built temples at Byblos, and in the 9th century, Mesha a high
place for Kemosh, dedicating Israelite vessels to him (cf. [c],
above). From the 8th century, Zakkur of Hamath speaks of Baal-
shamain raising him to the throne, and delivering him from his
bevy of foes, his prayers to Baal-shamain being answered through
seers and diviners (ContS, 2, 155). Religion and deities also enter
into royal family aairs; cf. next section.

(e) Family Aairs and Legitimacy of Succession. A fa-

vourite theme in the Hieroglyphic Luwian royal inscriptions is a
rulers succession to the paternal throne, with divine choice, help
or support. So, in the 10th century (c. 970), Taras mentions Tar-
huns standing by him at his accession (Izgin 1+2; C 1/1, 315);
about then (c. 950), Astuwatimanzas of Carchemish also claims
divine support at his accession and onwards (A14; C 1/1, 85-86),
while Laramas i of Gurgum (c. 940) perhaps led his gods in pro-
cession to the river (Marash 8; C 1/1, 253). Suhis ii of Carchemish
involved his son in building-works, honoured his own wife (A1a,
A1b; C 1/1, 88, 92), and arranged the marriage of his daughter
to a king Tudkhalia (perhaps of Melid; Kelekli; C 1/1, 93); we
may compare the royal marriage of Tyrian Ittobaals daughter
Jezebel to Israelite Ahab, or (earlier) of a pharaohs daughter
to Solomon. Later (c. 910 and onwards), as servant of Tarhuns,
Hamiyatas of Bit-Adini boasts of being given his paternal power
by the gods (Tell Ahmar 2; C 1/1, 228; Tell Ahmar 6; Hawkins,
49.RAI, forthcoming), of having been exalted by them (Tell Ah-
mar 5, C 1/1, 232), and of building a city by Tarhuns divine
authority (Borowski 3; C 1/1, 230-1). His ambitious brother Ar-
pas claimed the company of the gods (Aleppo 2; C 1/1, 236).
In the early 9th century (c. 880), the author (=Ahuni ii?) of
stela Tell Ahmar 1 (C 1/1, 240-1) in turn not only claimed divine
support for his accession, but also that Tarhuns had answered
Hieroglyphic Inscriptions of the Neo-Hittite States 129

his prayer to defeat the opponent of his accession. His near-

contemporary in Carchemish, Katuwas, rmly asserted that the
gods kept him on the paternal throne, despite familial rivalries
and rebellion (A11a; C 1/1, 95; cf. David in 2 Sam. 15; 20; 1 Kgs
1), smiled on him, and brought prosperity (A2+3; C 1/1, 109). In
later 9th -century Carchemish, the regent Yariris brought up the
young royal heir Kamanis until his full accession, along with the
other royal children (A6, A7, A15b; C 1/1, 124-5, 129, 131). A
much more peaceful pendant to the priest Jehoiadas bringing-up
and installing Jehoash of Judah (2 Kgs 11) about this time! By c.
800 bc, we nd in Kummuh [Commagene], Suppiluliumas queen
and ocers dedicating a pair of stone bases and oering-tables
for worship (Boybeypinari 1 and 2; C 1/1, 336-7). Wives of Neo-
Hittite rulers played a denite part in the conduct of internal
aairs at least. The West-Semitic texts of this period11 have very
little to say about family matters; Panammu ii narrowly escaped
assassination (cf. Joash, again), whereas 70 brothers of his father
(ContS, 2, 158) did not; cf. the earlier massacre in Ahabs family
in 2 Kgs 10:6-8.

(f ) Acts of Ocials. Royal ocers could dedicate stelae for

their king, as did Arma-nanis for the Great King Ir-Tesup, c.
1140 bc (Karahoy uk-Elbistan, C 1/1, 289-290); this man both
received towns from his master and presented some to the Storm-
god, claiming also divine favour. In the 11th century, the victory-
stela of Great King Ura-Tarhuns (c. 1000) was set up by younger
members of the royal family (A4b; C 1/1, 80). In the mid-9th cen-
tury, as regent of Carchemish for the boy-king Kamanis, Yariris
claimed fame from west and east alike (A6, C 1/1, 124; and cf.
skills, below), while others bought and sold townships (Cekke;
C 1/1, 145-6). Much later, in the 8th century, a series of high
ocials inscribed texts in honour of the Great Kings Tuwatis
and Wasu-sarruma of Tabal (Kululu 1, 4; C iftlik, Topada [end],
Suvasa, Sultanhan, Kayseri, C 1/2, 442-475 passim). And soon
after c. 700 bc, we owe the great Karatepe bilingual to the pride
of Asitawata, local vassal of Urikki of Que and his successor (C
In contrast to earlier testimony from Mari, Ugarit and Emar, cf. J.C. de
Moor, The Rebel in Bible Lands, in: J.C. Exum, H.G.M. Williamson (eds),
Reading from Right to Left: Essays on the Hebrew Bible in Honour of David
J.A. Clines (JSOT.S, 373) London 2003, 329-46.
130 K.A. Kitchen

1/1, 48; C
ambel, C 2, passim). Acts of ocials hardly occur in
the West-Semitic group of texts, so far.
(g) Skills, Fame, Wealth, etc. Of merits and skills valued
by Neo-Hittite kings and ocials, practice of justice is the most
prominent as in the records of a David or a Solomon. Com-
pare the brief claims in Carchemish by Katuwas (c. 900 bc),
whose justice brought him divine support and prosperity (which
he invested in temple-building, A11a; C 1/1, 95; A2+3, C 1/1,
109), and also territorial expansion, for which he rewarded the
gods with sacrices and bread-oerings (A11b/c; C 1/1, 103).
Katuwas earned divine favour by his righteousness, seeking skill,
protection and even prot from his god (A12; C 1/1, 113-4).
Then, later (c. 820), the regent Yariris claims that his justice
was such that it reached up to heaven, and his fame reached
even to Egypt and Babylon, besides other distant peoples (A6,
C 1/1, 124). Elsewhere (A15b; C 1/1, 131), he says, I knew 12
languages, being [skilled?] in the Citys writing, in the writing
of Sura, in the Assyrian writing [cuneiform?], and in Taimani
writing [N.-Arabian?].
In the early 8th century, Halparuntiyas iii of Gurgum (c. 790)
considered himself famed abroad, and his justice earned divine
notice (Marash 1; C 1/1, 263). Late that century (c. 718), Kiakki
king of Shinuhtu in Tabal was loved by the gods for his justice
(Aksaray; C 1/2, 476). And c. 700, Asitawata of the Karatepe
bilingual claimed that all looked up to him for his justice and
wisdom, and his promotion of prosperity (C 1/1, 51, 53). Solomon
was not the only wise ruler in the Syro-Palestinian world. Royal
ocers and vassals might profess loyalty to their royal masters,
as did Ruwas to his master the great king Tuwatis, c. 760 bc
(Kululu 1, 4; C 1/2, 443, 445-6), likewise Asitawata of Karatepe
in Que, some 60 years later (Karatepe; C 1/1, 50). The West-
Semitic group of texts has some traces of this, but here said of
the vassals Panammu ii and Bar-Rakib as loyal to their Assyrian
master, and prospering therein (ContS, 2, 158-161).
(h) Finally Curses! These abound in our Neo-Hittite texts.
They are mainly against any who would damage or destroy the
inscriptions. Here, king after king fulminates against oenders,
and I must be brief with this catalogue of venom! In the 12th
century bc, Ir-Tesups ocer invokes the Storm-god to prosecute
Hieroglyphic Inscriptions of the Neo-Hittite States 131

any oender (C 1/1, 290); similarly, the gods are frequently in-
voked to litigate against oenders in the 11th and 10th centuries
bc (Melid, Runtiyas, G ur
un text; C 1/1, 296; Carchemish, As-
tuwatimanzas, A14a/b; C 1/1, 86), or to attack them (A1a; C
1/1, 89); or oenders lose their power and perhaps family (Gur-
gum, Laramas i, Marash 8; C 1/1, 253). Others invoke divine
destruction (Tell Ahmar 2; C 1/1, 228).
In the 9th century, again the gods will litigate (Kork un, C
1/1, 173), prevent ospring (A11b/c, C 1/1, 104), and also refuse
the oenders oering-bread and libation (Carchemish; Katuwas,
A11a, C 1/1, 96); or, if oerings be refused, it will go ill with of-
fenders (A4d; C 1/1, 101), or they will simply be accursed (A2+3,
C 1/1, 110). The 8th century provides a steady stream of curses;
whether from Melid (Sirzi, C 1/1, 322), or Carchemish (Cekke,
with death, loss of abundance [C 1/1, 146]; A4d, litigation and
destroying ones head [C 1/1, 152]; or being prosecuted [A25b,
C 1/1, 157]; or litigation and deprivation [Kummuh, Boybeyp-
inari, C 1/1, 337]). Great King Wasu-sarruma (c. 760) invokes
the gods to smash the hostile person and his house (Topada, C
1/2, 454), while an ocer invokes the gods to attack an oender
from behind, or eat him up, or the Moon god of Harran may
hook him up on his horn! (Sultanhan, C 1/2, 466). Another text
(Karaburun, C 1/2, 481) has the gods swallow up the oenders
eyes and/or feet. And c.700 bc, Asitawatas of Karatepe asks for
an oender, may the gods erase his kingdom, his king and yon
man! (C 1/1, 58). In the small West-Semitic corpus, one may
nd curses with Hadad-yisi of Guzan (a god as adversary, ContS,
2, 153-4), Kilamuwa of Samal (deity strike ones head, ContS,
1, 147-8), Zakkur of Hamath (penalty lost, ContS, 2, 155), and
Panammu i of Samal (object of divine wrath, of terror and to
be stoned, ContS, 2, 156-8).

5 In Conclusion
Looking back over this very bald summary of the data in over 220
Hieroglyphic Luwian inscriptions, in comparison with both the
small (but still valuable) clutch of West-Semitic texts and with
the narratives and sundry notices in Samuel-Kings and Chron-
icles, in the Hebrew Bible, it is very clear, I think, that the three
corpora have a great deal in common, in wars, buildings, care for
religion and ritual, serving deities or being aected by them; and
132 K.A. Kitchen

in family matters including royal successions, the roles of high

ocials, and of learning, wisdom and loyalty, and in sanctions
on the malevolent through curses. So, this is a useful and helpful
positive resource.
But we have not nally nished with curses. For our last pair,
we end with the dogs, as in the story of Jezebel (2 Kgs 9:36; c.
852 bc). In c. 760 bc, a servant of Tuwatis king of Tabal invokes
the curse on an oender: May the Hasami-dog of the goddess
Kubaba go after him, may it eat up his . . . , and his very person!
(Kululu 1; C 1/2, 443). But, far more graphically, we may go
back to the time of Yariris, regent of Carchemish who, at the
end of his splendid inscription, quoted several times already (A6,
C 1/1, 125, pl. 31-33; see Fig. 3 below), fulminates against any
oender: May the dogs of Nikarawas eat his head o! with a
superb hieroglyph of a suitably erce dog! However, this writer
would prefer that his colleagues and readers might, rather, gain
blessings, not curses, from utilisation of these notable inscriptions
in their own works in times to come!

Fig. 1 The Curse of Yariris (A6), c. 810 bc

Hieroglyphic Inscriptions of the Neo-Hittite States 133

Fig. 2 The Neo-Hittite States, c. 1200-700 bc

134 K.A. Kitchen

Selected Neo-Hittite Rulers

carchemish melid que
Gt Kgs: Kuzi-Tesup i, Runtiyas, c. 1030 Kati, c. 850
c. 1180
Ir-Tesup?, c. 1140 Sulumili ii, c. 1010 Urikki, c. 700
Ini-Tesup ii, c. 1100 Arnuwantis ii, c. 990 (& vassal, Asitiwata)
Kuzi-Tesup ii, c. 1060 Taras(?), c. 970 bit-adini
Ura-Tarhuns, c. 1000 Tudkhalias?, c. 910 Hamiyatas, c. 910
Kgs: Suhis i, c. 970 Lalli, c. 840 gurgum
Astuwatimanzas, c. 950 unqi / patina Laramas i, c. 940
Suhis ii, c. 920 Halparuntiyas, c. 850 Halparuntiyas iii,
c. 790
Katuwas, c. 890 Tarhuntassa / tabal kummuh
Astiruwas i, c. 830 Mursil, c. 1210 Kuntashpi, c. 850
(Yariris, rgt, c. 810) Hartapus, c. 1190 Suppiluliuma, c. 800
Kamanis, c. 780 (large gap, c. 400 yrs) hamath
Pisiris to 717 Tuwatis, c. 760 Urhilina, c. 850
Wasu-sarruma, c. 750 Uratamis, 830
Marjo C.A. Korpel Utrecht University The Netherlands

Disillusion among Jews in the Postexilic Period

1 Introduction
In most accounts of the aftermath of the destruction of the Solom-
onic temple and the Babylonian Exile emphasis is laid on the
aspect of restoration.1 Hardly ever attention is paid to the pess-
imism, disillusion and even nihilism that were also found among
Jews in the Neo-Babylonian and Persian periods.2
In order not to complicate matters, I will describe the surviv-
ors of the fall of Jerusalem in 587/586 bce and their descendants
as Jews in this paper. Of course I do know that it is hardly
possible to speak of a coherent entity one might call the Jews
at the time, but Judaeans or Yehudites3 would create the false
impression that we are able to determine every persons tribal
or geographic origin, whereas in reality we often have little more
than theophoric personal names to go by. The bearers of those
names might just as well be descendants of Northern Israel. Or
have no ties at all to Judah or Persian Yehud.4

2 A Depressing Sense of Guilt

The circumstance that history had put the preexilic prophets
of doom in the right led to a rigorous application of the doc-
trine of divine retribution after the fall of Jerusalem in 587 bce.
If one strictly obeyed Gods commandments, such pious beha-
Compare a characteristic title like P.R. Ackroyds Exile and Restoration:
A Study of Hebrew Thought of the Sixth Century BC, London 1968. For some
criticism of this kind of representation see H.M. Barstad, The Myth of the
Empty Land: A Study in the History and Archaeology of Judah During the
Exilic Period (SO.S, 28), Oslo 1996, 13; R. Albertz, The Thwarted Restor-
ation, in: R. Albertz, B. Becking (eds), Yahwism after the Exile: Perspectives
on Israelite Religion in the Persian Era (STAR, 5), Assen 2003, 1-17 (1).
Not even in L.L. Grabbes excellent work, Judaic Religion in the Second
Temple Period: Belief and Practice from the Exile to Yavneh, London 2000,
are these topics dealt with in sucient detail.
See the proposal of D.V. Edelman (ed.), The Triumph of Elohim: From
Yahwisms to Judaisms, Grand Rapids 1995, 7.
For a ne synthesis of what is known archaeologically about Yehud see
C.E. Carter, The Emergence of Yehud in the Persian Period: A Social and
Demographic Study (JSOT.S, 294), Sheeld 1998.
136 M.C.A. Korpel

viour would be rewarded with prosperity, but sinful behaviour

would lead to the most horrible plagues and suering. Such, for
example, is the theology of the undoubtedly postexilic Epilogue
to the Holiness Code (Lev. 26) which sets forth the Deutero-
nomic/Deuteronomistic theology of retribution,5 also maintain-
ing the principle of collective guilt: the present generation has to
atone not only for its own guilt, but for the sins of the fathers
as well (Lev. 26:40).6 The latter doctrine had generated a feeling
of hopelessness, especially among young people who asked them-
selves why they had to suer for sins they had not committed.
One or two generations after the destruction of the temple they
complain, Our fathers have sinned, but they are no more. We,
however, bear their iniquities (Lam. 5:7). The fathers have eaten
sour grapes and the childrens teeth are blunted (Jer. 31:29;
Ezek. 18:2). The prophets of the Exile tried to rebut this kind of
reasoning (e.g. Isa. 40:29-31; Jer. 31; Ezekiel 18; 33), but to no
The postexilic community suered under the burden of the
sins of previous generations, and many penitential fastings and
prayers, above all the pessimistic Book of Lamentations,7 but
also chapters like Ezra 9, Nehemiah 98 and Zechariah 7,9 testify
to this deep consciousness of collective guilt.
The general feeling seems to have been that one of the main
reasons for the destruction of the temple and the end of the mon-
archy had been idolatry. There are clear indications not only
in the Bible but also from the side of archaeology that people
See on the latter A. Laato, Theodicy in the Deuteronomistic History,
in: A. Laato, J.C. de Moor (eds), Theodicy in the World of the Bible, Leiden
2003, 183-235.
Cf. M.C.A. Korpel, The Epilogue to the Holiness Code, in: J.C. de
Moor, W.G.E. Watson (eds), Verse in Ancient Near Eastern Prose (AOAT,
42), Neukirchen-Vluyn 1993, 123-50.
See J. Renkema, Lamentations (HCOT), Leuven 1998; Idem, Theodicy
in the Book of Lamentations?, in: Laato, De Moor (eds), Theodicy in the
World of the Bible, 410-28.
See on the pervading feeling of guilt in both chapters S. Japhet, Theodicy
in Ezra-Nehemiah and Chronicles, in: Laato, De Moor (eds), Theodicy in the
World of the Bible, 432-5 (with bibliography).
Cf. M.J. Boda, Zechariah: Master Mason or Penitential Prophet?, in:
Albertz, Becking (eds), Yahwism after the Exile, 49-69; Y. Homan, The
Fasts in the Book of Zechariah and the Fashioning of National Remembrance,
in: O. Lipschits, J. Blenkinsopp (eds), Judah and the Judeans in the Neo-
Babylonian Period, Winona Lake 2003, 169-218.
Disillusion among Jews in the Postexilic Period 137

in Yehud attempted to purify the cult of polytheistic elements.

This necessitated changes in the cult of the dead10 and repression
of iconic worship.11 Although aniconic worship has very ancient
roots in Israel, programmatic iconoclasm seems to be a postexilic
phenomenon.12 Asherah, still venerated in preexilic Israel,13 was
symbolically carried o to Babylon (Zech. 5:5-11).14 Postexilic
prophets like Haggai and Malachi were preoccupied with cultic
purity.15 Trito-Isaiah criticises the lax observation of the sabbath
and fasting (Isa. 56; 58). No doubt all this will have satised the
religious leadership of the postexilic period, but others, especially
women, will have deeply deplored this loss of religious practices
which had played an important part in the family cult.
3 Disillusioned Monotheists
One might think that in the wake of the fall of Jerusalem the ad-
vocates of strict monotheism carried the day. But they too must
T.J. Lewis, Cults of the Dead in Ancient Israel and Ugarit (HSM, 39),
Atlanta 1989, 100-4, 172, 176-7; H. Niehr, The Changed Status of the Dead
in Yehud, in: Albertz, Becking (eds), Yahwism after the Exile, 136-55.
Cf. E. Stern, Material Culture of the Land of the Bible in the Persian
Period 538-332 B.C., Warminster 1982, 158-82; Idem, Religion in Palestine
in the Assyrian and Persian Periods, in: B. Becking, M.C.A. Korpel (eds),
The Crisis of Israelite Religion: The Transformation of Religious Tradition
in Exilic and Post-Exilic Times (OTS, 42), Leiden 1999, 245-255 (253-5). R.
Schmitt, Gab es einen Bildersturm nach dem Exil?, in: Albertz, Becking
(eds), Yahwism after the Exile, 186-98, unsuccessfully tries to play down the
relevance of Sterns observations.
Cf. T.N.D. Mettinger, No Graven Image? Israelite Aniconism in its An-
cient Near Eastern Context (CB.OT, 42), Stockholm 1995, esp. 195-7.
See (e.g.) B.(J.E.H.) Becking et al., Only One God? Monotheism in An-
cient Israel and the Veneration of the Goddess Asherah (BiSe, 77), London
Cf. H.J. Marsman, Women in Ugarit and Israel: Their Social and Reli-
gious Position in the Context of the Ancient Near East (OTS, 49), Leiden
2003, 485, with earlier literature.
See on Malachi, L.L. Grabbe, Judaism from Cyrus to Hadrian, vol. 1: The
Persian and Greek Periods, Fortress Press: Minneapolis 1992, 45: Malachis
value is primarily for the religious and social issues which were important to
the community at the time. Its major aim seems to be that of assuring the
community of Gods continuing love and concern for them. Because many
Jews seemed to be looking in vain for evidence of that love, however, an
explanation of why the promises were not being fullled was needed (1:2-
5; 2:17; 3:13-18). The reason given is lack of obedience and reverence on
the part of the community. The criticisms focus especially on proper cultic
observance, with the priests themselves being strongly taken to task along
with the people (1:62:9; 3:6-12).
138 M.C.A. Korpel

have been dissatised with their failure to convert every more

or less polytheistic Israelite. Their problem was the problem of
every monotheistic religion: the origin of evil. How could it be
explained that God seemed to have abandoned the people, the
Davidic king and the priesthood he himself had chosen? Many
lost faith in the God of their fathers who in their view had pun-
ished them beyond reasonable measure.
Allow me a very incomplete overview of quotations from these
staunch monotheists: Look, O Lord, and see! With whom have
you dealt thus? Should women eat their own ospring, the child-
ren of their tender care? Should priest and prophet be slain in the
sanctuary of the Lord? (Lam. 2:20). The breath of our nostrils,
the Lords anointed, was taken in their pits, he of whom we said,
Under his shadow we shall live among the nations (Lam. 4:20).
My way is hidden from the Lord, and my right is neglected by
my God (Isa. 40:27). Why are we fasting, if you do not see it?
(Why) do we humble ourselves, if you do not take note of it?
(Isa. 58:3). We await justice, but there is none, salvation, but it
is far away from us (Isa. 59:11). Where is he who brought them
up from the sea, (where are) the shepherds of his ock? Where is
he who puts his holy spirit in their midst? (Isa. 63:11). Where
are your zeal and your might? (Isa. 63:15). We have become
like those over whom you have never ruled, like those who are
not called by your name (Isa. 63:19). Awake! Why do you sleep,
O Lord? Awake! Do not cast us o for ever! (Ps. 44:23). Where
is the God of justice? (Mal. 2:17). Not the Israelites but God
himself is held responsible for the rampant neglect of worship:
the Lord has brought to an end in Zion appointed feast and
Sabbath (Lam. 2:6). How can we sing a song of the Lord on
alien soil? (Ps. 137:4). It is useless to serve God. What have we
gained by keeping his charge and walking in abject awe of the
Lord of Hosts? (Mal. 3:14).
Undoubtedly some of these cries of distress were exaggerated,
as complaints tend to be. Although the deportations to Baby-
lonia and the ensuing famines must have seriously weakened the
population of Judah after the fall of Jerusalem, a total breakdown
of all social structures during the Neo-Babylonian occupation is
unlikely, especially not in rural areas.16 But to deny these bitter
Though the textual evidence for this statement is scant, archaeological
nds support it. Cf. G. Barkay, The Iron Age II-III, in: A. Ben-Tor (ed.),
Disillusion among Jews in the Postexilic Period 139

complaints any historical basis would be begging the question in

my opinion.
We have seen that especially the young suered under the
theological doctrine of collective guilt. Was it a consolation when
the poet of Lam. 3:27 intoned, It is good for a man that he bear
the yoke in his youth ? Apparently not, according to the poet of
Lam. 5:13, boys stagger under loads of wood. The destruction of
the temple, the deportations of the Judahite elite to Babylonia in
597 and 587, and the harsh regime of the new masters apparently
created widespread despair and apathy. People seriously doubted
whether it was sensible to serve their God Yhwh any longer.
Many documents in the Murash u archives were issued on Jew-
ish holidays which any observant Jew would try to avoid.17 Both
in Elephantine and Babylonia Jews married foreign men and wo-
men.18 The same practice is attested for Achaemenid Palestine
and had to be redressed by Ezra and Nehemiah (Ezra 910; Neh.
13:23-28; see also Mal. 2:11).19 So Esthers marriage to an uncir-
cumcised man was by no means exceptional. As in Mesopotamia
and Egypt, Sabbath and religious festivals were not kept meticu-
lously in Achaemenid Palestine (Isa. 58; Zech. 7; Neh. 13:15-18)
and Achaemenid Egypt (see below). The dietary and sacricial
laws were abandoned by most people (Isa. 65:1-11). When Es-
ther asked the Jews on the thirteenth Nisan to fast for three days
(Est. 4:16) she eectively asked them to ignore the prescriptions

The Archaeology of Ancient Israel, New Haven 1992, 302-73 (372); E. Stern,
Material Culture of the Land of the Bible in the Persian Period, 538-332 BC,
Warminster 1982, 229; Carter, The Emergence of Yehud; Barstad, The Myth
of the Empty Land, esp. 47-55.
Cf. R. Zadok, The Jews in Babylonia in the Chaldean and Achaemenian
Periods According to Babylonian Sources (Studies in the History of the Jewish
People and the Land of Israel Monograph Series, 3), Haifa 1979, 49, 82.
In Babylonia only marriages between Babylonian men and foreign wo-
men are attested; cf. R. Zadok, The Representation of Foreigners in Legal
Documents (Eighth through Second Centuries b.c.e.), in: Lipschits, Blen-
kinsopp (eds), Judah and the Judeans in the Neo-Babylonian Period, 471-589
(483). At the International Meeting of the SBL at Groningen 2004 Kathleen
Abraham read a paper on Mixed Marriage: Cuneiform Marriage Contracts
from the 5th Century bce with Hebrew Names that might be relevant to
this topic but which due to other duties I was unable to attend.
It seems to me that this is an argument for the third possibility mentioned
by B. Becking, Continuity and Community: The Belief System of the Book
of Ezra, in: Becking, Korpel (eds), The Crisis of Israelite Religion, 256-75
140 M.C.A. Korpel

for Passover.20 In contrast to Daniel (Dan. 1:8, 12, 16) and to

Judith (Jdt. 12:1-2), Esther shows no concern whatsoever for the
Jewish dietary laws when she is eating with gentiles (Est. 2:9,
18; 5:4-6, 8, 12, 14; 7:1-2, 7-8). The Jews in Palestine were slow
to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem (Hag. 1:2). James Trotter has
argued plausibly that this was due to a lack of motivation on the
part of the local population.21 Even when the Second Temple had
been erected, religious duties were still neglected (Mal. 1:6-14;
2:8; 3:5, 8; Neh. 13:10-13; perhaps also Joel 1:13, if dated in the
Persian period). Apparently monotheistic Jews had a hard time
to observe their basic responsibilities towards their God Yhwh.
Other Jews opted for a return to polytheism. Jeremiah (e.g.
Jer. 7:18; 44) and Ezekiel (e.g. Ezek. 8;22 13:17-2323 ) denounce
pagan religious practices not only among exiles in Egypt and
Babylonia, but also among the survivors in Palestine itself. As we
shall see, theophoric personal names and documents from Egypt
testify to the fact that at least some Jews lost interest in the
worship of Yhwh alone.

4 Jonahs Disappointment
The Book of Jonah is a product of the Persian period.24 It shares
the universalism granting gentiles access to the God of Israel, on
condition that they convert to him, that is found in other bib-
lical books belonging to the Persian period, such as Trito-Isaiah,
especially ch. 56; Jer. 3:17; 4:2; Mic. 4:2  Isa. 2:3; and the Book
of Ruth, which I date in the Persian period.25 It seems justied
I. Kalimi, The Book of Esther and the Dead Sea Scrolls Community,
ThZ 60 (2004), 101-6 (105-6).
J.M. Trotter, Was the Second Jerusalem Temple a Primarily Persian
Project?, SJOT 15 (2001), 276-94.
Cf. M. Dijkstra, Goddess, Gods, Men and Women in Ezekiel 8, in: B.
Becking, M. Dijkstra (eds), On Reading Prophetic Texts: Gender-specic and
Related Studies in Memory of Fokkelien van Dijk-Hemmes, Leiden 1996, 83-
Cf. M.C.A. Korpel, Avian Spirits in Ugarit and in Ezekiel 13, in: N.
Wyatt et al. (eds), Ugarit, Religion and Culture (UBL, 12), M unster 1996,
See Grabbe, Judaism from Cyrus to Hadrian, vol. 1, 46; Idem, Judaic
Religion in the Second Temple Period, 17-8; E. Ben Zvi, Signs of Jonah:
Reading and Rereading in Ancient Yehud (JSOT.S, 367), London 2003, esp.
8, 15-18, 116-26.
M.C.A. Korpel, The Structure of the Book of Ruth (Pericope, 2), Assen
Disillusion among Jews in the Postexilic Period 141

that Jonah applies the doctrine of severe retribution to a foreign

enemy who does not repent and does not convert to the God of
Israel. But at the end of the Book of Jonah God is depicted as
having compassion on Israels oppressors when they do repent
and pray to him (Jon. 3:8), despite the many prophecies announ-
cing merciless doom over Assyria and Babylonia (e.g. Nahum;
Isa. 10:5-19; 1314; 47; Jer. 5051).
It is only after the sailors pray to the God of Israel (Jon.
1:14), and not to their own gods any more (cf. 1:5), that they
are saved. The king of Nineveh too exhorts his subjects to pray
to the God of Israel26 (Jon. 3:7-9). Jonah, however, personies
disobedient Jews who did not want to accept that the universal
rule of the God of heaven (Jon. 1:9)27 implies that there is also
salvation for non-Jews who repent and convert. The Ninevites are
clearly depicted as more obedient to the Lord than Jonah.28 Like
other Jews at the time, the author of this book takes the view
that strict observance of the letter of the law is subordinate to a
pious attitude towards the Lord. The heathen sailors sacriced
and made vows outside the temple (Jon. 1:16), whereas Jonah
promises to sacrice and to full vows in the temple (Jon. 2:9),
but does not.
No doubt the booklet of Jonah was aimed at those who were
deeply disappointed that the Persians did not destroy Nineveh
apparently a ctitious name for Babylon and even continued to
control Yehud from this hated city with the help of ocers bear-
ing Babylonian names.29 This must have been extremely painful
to Jews who had been convinced that God would take speedy re-
venge for the destruction of his temple. The Book of Jonah does
not say that Nineveh/Babylon will escape the destruction that
the prophets, including Jonah, had announced, but the booklet
2001, 224-33. On Isa. 19:19-22, see my comments below.
Not his own god(s), as follows from Jon. 3:1 and the sequel.
This designation of the universal deity is typical of the Persian period
and may well reect the inuence of Persian religion. Cf. J.M. Trotter, Read-
ing Hosea in Achaemenid Yehud (JSOT.S, 328), London 2001, 149-53, with
Contra Ben Zvi, Signs of Jonah, 123-6, who unsuccessfully tries to defend
the view that even in the Book of Jonah Israel retains a privileged position
in comparison to the nations.
Cf. K.R. Veenhof, History of the Ancient Near East, in: A.S. van der
Woude (ed.), The World of the Bible, vol. 1, Grand Rapids 1986, 316-8; M.A.
Sweeney, The Twelve Prophets (Berit Olam), vol. 1, Collegeville 2000, 306.
142 M.C.A. Korpel

tries to explain the postponement of its judgment. Whether this

solution will have satised many is extremely doubtful. Jonah at
least does not reply to Gods nal rhetorical question, Should
not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than
a hundred and twenty thousand persons who do not know their
right hand from their left, and also much cattle? Jonah is the
prototype of vengeful disillusioned Jews in the Persian period.
They must have formed a sizeable portion of the population of

5 No Davidic King
Second Isaiah especially wanted to put an end to the depressed
mood which had been caused by the preaching of an immense col-
lective guilt that justied merciless divine retribution (Isa. 40:1-2;
cf. 50:9, etc.). Even the innocent suering of the young he tries to
explain as a meritorious self-sacrice (Isa. 53).31 Yet this prophet
too had to suer a deep deception. He had put great hopes on
Cyrus whom he expected to rebuild Zion and bring back the ex-
iles (Isa. 44:28). He had even entertained the grandiose idea that
Cyrus might eventually accept Yhwh as his sole deity (Isa. 41;
4546). But the years went by and his prophecy seemed to have
When Cyrus did not become the new Anointed he had envis-
aged (Isa. 45:1), Second Isaiah did not return to the old ideal of a
Davidic Messiah. He no longer supported the nationalistic ideal
of a restoration of the Davidic dynasty, but instead opted for a
collective salvic role for Israel (Isa. 55).32 The hope of some that
Jehoiachin would be restored to the Davidic throne (Jer. 28:1-4)
had ended with his deportation and death (Jer. 22:20-30; 52:31-
34; Lam. 4:20). Messianic expectations may have risen again with
the appointment of Zerubbabel as governor of Judah (Hag. 2:20-
23, with 2:23 clearly an attempt to neutralise Jer. 22:24; Zech.
Cf. Hag. 2:22; Zech. 1:15. And with regard to the necessity to sacrice
in the temple, Hag. 2:14.
Cf. A. Laato, J.C. de Moor, Introduction, in: Laato, De Moor, Theodicy
in the World of the Bible, xlv, l-liii.
Cf. J.C. de Moor, M.C.A. Korpel, The Structure of Classical Hebrew
poetry: Isaiah 4055 (OTS, 41), Leiden 1998, 629-30, n. 2; M.C.A. Korpel,
Metaphors in Isaiah LV, VT 46 (1996), 43-55 (49); Idem, Second Isaiahs
Coping with the Religious Crisis: Reading Isaiah 40 and 55, in: Becking,
Korpel (eds), The Crisis of Israelite Religion, 90-113 (99-101).
Disillusion among Jews in the Postexilic Period 143

4:1-6, 10-14), but if so, these hopes were shattered again. Zerub-
babel was quickly removed from the political stage.33

6 No Temple for All Israel

Rainer Albertz deems it likely that by way of compromise the
Persians allowed the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem to
proceed.34 However, this ambition too was only partially realised.
There was a lot of opposition to this costly project in Yehud it-
self (Ezra 4; Hag. 1:2). The ideal of a new temple on Mt. Zion
was shared by many Jews in exile, even if they had their own
sanctuary abroad, as was the case in Elephantine, and possibly
also in Babylonia (Ezek. 11:16; see also Isa. 55:6). Those who
saw themselves as heirs of Northern Israel, notably the Samarit-
ans, were at rst willing to participate in the building of a new
temple on Zion (Ezra 4:1-5), but when their proposal met with
a haughty rebu from the side of the Yehudite leadership, they
decided to build their own temple on Mt. Gerizim. We now know
that they erected a huge sanctuary for Yhwh alone there, after
the model described in the Book of Ezekiel (Ezek. 4042), and un-
doubtedly with the support of the Persian authorities.35 Josephus
knows of a Samaritan temple built on Mt. Gerizim under a certain
Sanballat with the consent of Darius the king (Josephus, Ant.
Jud. XI.8 [ 302-347]). Probably he means Sanballat III and
Darius III (336-330), but it may well be that he misunderstood
his sources.36 Perhaps Sanballat I had started the plans for the
See Albertz, The Thwarted Restoration, 7-9. According to Wolter Rose
these passages would not even have anything to do with restoration of the
monarchy. Cf. W.H. Rose, Zemah and Zerubbabel: Messianic Expectations in
the Early Postexilic Period (JSOT.S, 304), Sheeld 2000.
See Albertz, The Thwarted Restoration, 9-10. It was a general policy of
the Achaemenids to support local cults because this oered the Persian su-
pervisors an easy method of exacting tribute from them. Cf. J. Blenkinsopp,
Temple and Society in Achaemenid Judah, in: P.R. Davies (ed.), Second
Temple Studies 1: The Persian Period (JSOT.S, 117), Sheeld 1991, 22-53.
Y. Magen, Mount Gerizim and the Samaritans, in: F. Manns, E. Alliata
(eds), Early Christianity in Context: Monuments and Documents (SBF.CMa,
38), Jerusalem 1993, 91-148.
Cf. F.M. Cross, Aspects of Samaritan and Jewish History in Late Persian
and Hellenistic Times, HTR 59 (1966), 201-11 (esp. 203-5); H.G. Kippen-
berg, Garizim und Synagoge: Traditionsgeschichtliche Untersuchungen zur
samaritanischen Religion der aram aischen Periode (RVV, 30), Berlin 1971,
50-7; M.Z. Segal, Die Heirat des Sohnes des Hohenpriesters mit der Tochter
144 M.C.A. Korpel

new temple or Sanballat III resumed the building activities after

a period of interruption. Whatever the truth in this regard, the
mere fact that not a single Hebrew or Aramaic document from
the postexilic period mentions this competing Samaritan sanc-
tuary testies to the deep resentment this building must have
caused the Jews. The Deuteronomic dream of one central temple
for all Jews was impossible to realise as long as this Samaritan
sanctuary existed.37

7 The Loss of Names

In the Neo-Babylonian empire it was the policy to give foreigners
who got a permanent function in public or economic life a new
Babylonian name symbolising their loyalty to their new masters.
Daniel and his friends got Babylonian names when they became
ocers in the Neo-Babylonian empire (Dan. 1:7). Even if this is
pure ction, it does reect the custom of the time accurately.38
When the Persians conquered the ancient Near East, many of
their subjects took over the Neo-Babylonian system of renaming.
As long as Babylonian was still the lingua franca for international
contacts they opted for Babylonian names, later on when Ara-
maic became the ocial language of the Persian empire Aramaic
names became increasingly popular. Apparently many Jews had
successfully adapted to the Babylonian way of life, as Jeremiah
had encouraged them to do (Jer. 29:4-7). It was one of the reas-
ons why the prophetic admonitions to leave Babylonia had little
eect (Isa. 48:20; 52:11; Jer. 51:6, 45; Zech. 2:10-11 [tr. 2:6-7]).
The Book of Second Isaiah (Isa. 4055) contains scarcely
veiled criticism of apostates who are said to have served Baby-
lonian idols and resisted the prophets call to return to Zion.39

des Sanballat und der Bau des Heiligtums auf dem Garizim, in: F. Dexinger,
R. Pummer (eds), Die Samaritaner (WdF, 604), Darmstadt 1992, 198-219.
Later on others who opposed the priesthood in Jerusalem also felt free
to build temples elsewhere. Cf. Cross, Aspects of Samaritan and Jewish
History, 207.
M.D. Coogan, West Semitic Personal Names in the Murasu Documents
(HSM, 7), Missoula 1976, 124-5; Zadok, The Jews in Babylonia in the
Chaldean and Achaemenian Periods, 41-78, 85-6.
I cannot accept the thesis that Deutero-Isaiah would be another product
of the elite in Persian Yehud; cf. P.R. Davies, In Search of Ancient Israel
(JSOT.S,148), Sheeld 1992, 118-9. But for my argument here it makes no
dierence where the author and/or the Jewish apostates lived.
Disillusion among Jews in the Postexilic Period 145

From the fact that some of them were buried in graveyards next
to pagan wealthy people (Isa. 53:9) it may be inferred that at
least some of them became fairly rich in their new surround-
ings.40 Moreover, Ezra 1 creates the impression that many exiles
in Persian Babylonia had become men of substance (Ezra 1:4, 6).
Three wealthy Jews from Babylonia are mentioned in Zech. 6:9-
15. Daniel (Dan. 8:2) and Nehemiah (Neh. 1:1) were among those
who purportedly served at the Persian court in Susa in fairly high
positions. Mordecai and Esther are credible representations of the
type of successful Jewish exiles in Persia.
The Murash u archives, dating from 455/54 and 404/03 bce,
prove that these Israelites also had to conform, to some extent
at least, to Babylonian religious practice.41 Next to a Jewish
name they often bore a Babylonian or Persian name, in several
cases a name honouring a pagan deity.42 How many of them
gradually allowed their Jewish name to fall into disuse, as Esther
and Mordecai apparently did, cannot be established any more.
The name of Mordecai contains the name of the Babylonian
national god Marduk. It occurs frequently as Mar-duk-a in the
Murash u archives, although it is unlikely that one of these per-
sons is identical to the biblical Mordecai.43 The name of Esther
too was a non-Jewish name (cf. Est. 2:7). It might be derived
from the name of Ishtar, the Babylonian goddess of love and
war.44 So both of them seem to have belonged to the group of
Cf. Barstad, The Myth of the Empty Land, 75-6. This is not contradicted
by the relatively low position of most Jews in the Nippur region; cf. R. Zadok,
On West Semites in Babylonia During the Chaldean and Achaemenian Peri-
ods: An Onomastic Study, Jerusalem 1978, 86-7.
In accordance with their general policy of leaving as much as possible
of the local cultures of subjected nations intact, the Persians, the new mas-
ters of Mesopotamia, had allowed the Babylonians to continue their cul-
ture and religion. Cf. M.W. Stolper, Entrepreneurs and Empire: The Murasu
Archive, the Murasu Firm, and Persian Rule in Babylonia, Istanbul 1985.
So Cyruss lenient treatment of the Jews was in no way exceptional. Cf. P.
Briant, From Cyrus to Alexander: A History of the Persian Empire, tr. P.T.
Daniels, Winona Lake 2002, 47-8.
Coogan, West Semitic Personal Names in the Murasu Documents, 124-5;
Zadok, The Jews in Babylonia, 41-78, 85-6. In one case a Jewish father gave
his son a name praying Yhwh to protect the (Persian) king, d Ia-hu- u-sarra
(lugal)-us.ur (uru `). Cf. Zadok, The Representation of Foreigners, 487.
Coogan, West Semitic Personal Names, 125; Zadok, On West Semites
in Babylonia, 70.
M. Noth, Die israelitischen Personennamen im Rahmen der gemein-
146 M.C.A. Korpel

Jewish exiles who had adapted to their pagan surroundings, even

accepting Babylonian theophoric names.
The Hermopolis papyri from the late 6th early 5th century
bce (TAD, A2.1-7, pp. 9-23) show that under Persian rule Baby-
lonian theophoric personal names continued to be in use even
in Egypt. TAD, A6.9, p. 114, from the late 5th century bce,
shows that this was also the case in Syria and Palestine. This
is conrmed by archaeological nds. A seal from the 6th cen-
tury is inscribed with the Yahwistic name Yehoshima (yhwsm ),
daughter of a father bearing the Babylonian name swssrs.r which
means may (the Sun god) Shamash protect.45 Either he him-
self or his wife must have been Jewish. The name Sanballat, or
rather Sinuballit., May (the Moon god) Sin keep alive (sn blt.),
is known from the Old Testament as that of an opponent of Ne-
hemiah (Neh. 2; 13:28) and occurs in a letter from Elephantine
(TAD A4.7, pp. 68-71). It is now also attested by a bulla seal-
ing one of the Samaria papyri from Wadi Daliyeh.46 All these
documents contain evidence that the governors of Samaria called
Sanballat were servants of Yhwh.47 So they must have felt it
expedient to exchange their Jewish name for a Babylonian one
honouring a Babylonian god.
The papyri and ostraca from Elephantine prove that it is
often dicult to distinguish Jews from foreigners, as the following
tables demonstrate:48

Jewish names of ospring of foreigners

TAD A3.3; B2.2 Hosea/Osea, son of Pet.ekhnum (Egypt.).
TAD B3.10; 3.11; 3.13 H
. aggai, son of Mardu (Babyl. or Aram.).
semitischen Namengebung, Stuttgart 1928, 11. Compare the name of the
Jewish woman f T abat-d Istar at Sippar; cf. Zadok, On West Semites in Baby-
lonia, 44. Others prefer a derivation from a Persian or Greek word meaning
star; cf. HAHAT, 86.
J. Renz, W. R ollig, Handbuch der althebr aischen Epigraphik, Bd. 2/2,
Darmstadt 2003, 239, No. 10.30.
N. Avigad, B. Sass, Corpus of West Semitic Stamp Seals, Jerusalem 1997,
No. 419 (p. 176; for other Babylonian PNN in Palestine, see 539-43); Renz,
Rollig, Handbuch der althebr aischen Epigraphik, Bd. 2/2, 262 (No. 10.100).
See also Cross, Aspects of Samaritan and Jewish History, 204-6.
I exclude TAD B6.4 Bethelnathan, son of Jehonathan, and TAD C3.15
Hosea, son of Bethelnuri. Porten regards names containing the element
Bethel as Aramaic, but it is possible that (some) Jews at Elephantine iden-
tied Yhw with the god Bethel.
Disillusion among Jews in the Postexilic Period 147

TAD B5.3 Zekaryah, son of Psami (Egypt.).

TAD C3.15 Miptah., daughter of T.isati (Egypt.).
TAD D3.17 Mauzziyah, son of Pawosi (Egypt.).
TAD D3.17 Menah.em, son of Pawosi (Egypt.).
TAD D8.7 Berukhah, daughter of Pasi (Egypt.).
Foreign names of ospring of Jews

TAD A3.9; C4.6 Sewa  (Aram.), son of Zechariah.
TAD B5.5 Eswere (Egypt.), daughter of Gemariah.
TAD C3.15 Syamaka (Pers.), son of Mesullam.
TAD C3.28 Tasi (Egypt.), daughter of H . anniyah.
TAD C4.6 H. or (Egypt.), son of Pedayah.
The case of Ash.ur (Egyptian) who appears to be identical with
the Jew Nathan renders it likely that, also, in Persian Egypt at
least some Jews bore two names, a Hebrew one and an Egyptian
one.49 The name of Pet.ekhnum indicates that even the Egyptian
god Khnum could be honoured in the personal name of a Jew.
In some cases intermarriage may have been an incentive to adopt
such a foreign name,50 though endogamy was the rule among the
Jews of Elephantine.51 Unfortunately, however, we shall never
know how many Jews gave up their Hebrew name permanently
to further their career in Egypt.52
Most Jewish personal names on Neo-Babylonian tablets,53 as
well as in the Elephantine and Samaria papyri,54 prove that it
Cf. B. Porten, Archives from Elephantine: The Life of an Ancient Jewish
Military Colony, Berkeley 1968, 252. Attestations: B. Porten, J.A. Lund, Ara-
maic Documents from Egypt: A Keyword-in-Context Concordance, Winona
Lake 2002, 323-4.
The Egyptian woman Tapmet, for example, was married to Ananyah, son
of Azaryah. Attestations: Porten, Lund, Aramaic Documents from Egypt: A
Keyword-in-Context Concordance, 420.
Porten, Archives from Elephantine, 133-50.
The process of exchanging Jewish names for foreign ones continued under
the Ptolemies; cf. J.M. Modrzejewski, The Jews of Egypt: From Rameses II
to Emperor Hadrian, tr. R. Cornman, Princeton 1997, 83-7.
Cf. D. Vanderhooft, New Evidence Pertaining to the transition from
Neo-Babylonian to Achaemenid Administration in Palestine, in: Albertz,
Becking (eds), Yahwism after the Exile, 219-35 (223-4, 226).
The Samaria papyri from the 4th century bce contain mostly Yahwistic
personal names. Cf. J. Zsengeller, Personal Names in the Wadi ed-Daliyeh
Papyri, ZAH 9 (1996), 182-9; D.M. Gropp, Wadi Daliyeh II: The Samaria
Papyri from Wadi Daliyeh (DJD, 28), Oxford 2001. Twice the name of the
Edomite god Qaus occurs in PNN (Nos. 2 and 9), and one slave bearing a
148 M.C.A. Korpel

was certainly possible to keep a Yahwistic personal name in the

Persian empire.55 Next to the governors of Persian Yehud with
Babylonian names like Sheshbazzar, Zerubbabel and Sanballat,
a governor called Yehoezer is known.56 Nehemiah, too, kept his
Yahwistic name when Artaxerxes appointed him governor of Ye-
hud (Neh. 5:14). So it was not absolutely necessary to adopt a
foreign name to please the Persians. Those who adopted a for-
eign theophoric name must have done so deliberately and ipso
facto distanced themselves more or less from the religion of their

8 Disillusion among Jews at Elephantine

The Jewish military garrison at Elephantine suered under the
hate of the Egyptian priests of Khnum. TAD A4.3 (late 5th cen-
tury) states, To you it is known that Khnum is against us since
Hananiah has been in Egypt until now. This Hananiah was prob-
ably the sender of the so-called Passover letter TAD 4.1, dated
in 419 bce. Since this letter is a reply to an earlier letter from
Elephantine asking for precise instructions on how to observe
the Passover/Mas.s.ot rites, it is likely that Hananiah had visited
Egypt before 419. Another conict with the priests of Khnum is
documented by A4.5 (p. 62, dated 410 bce or slightly later). It
is a draft petition intended for Vridangas superior(s) asking for
the demolition of a wall which had been built in the middle of the
fort, apparently at the instigation of the priests of Khnum, and
which had stopped up a well which would have served the garrison
in case of a siege. TAD A4.7 (pp. 68-71, dated 25 November 407
bce), is a rst draft of a letter of recommendation to the Persian-
named bgwhy ph.t yhwdh, Bagavahya, governor of Judah, from
Jedaniah and his colleagues, the priests.57 The Egyptian priests
of the god Khnum had bribed the interim Persian commander
Vidranga to order the temple of Yhw to be removed from Ele-
phantine. This was contrary to an earlier agreement with the
Persian name appears to have a Semitic father called Eli (No. 10), but the
latter may just as well be a non-Jewish Semite.
For other indications that most inhabitants of Yehud remained loyal
Yahwists, see Trotter, Reading Hosea in Achaemenid Yehud, 145-149, with
Vanderhooft, New Evidence, 231.
TAD A4.8 (pp. 74-5) is a second, almost identical draft of this petition,
dated the same day.
Disillusion among Jews in the Postexilic Period 149

Persians, because Cambyses had allowed the Jews of Elephant-

ine to keep their temple and continue the worship of their God
Yhw.58 Nevertheless, the Egyptians now destroyed the Jewish
temple on Vidrangas orders. The whole episode reminds one of
the hatred Diaspora Jews sometimes encountered from certain
Persian ocials, according to the Book of Esther.
The destruction of their sanctuary caused the Jews at Ele-
phantine deep sorrow. For three years on end they tried to move
their God by prayer, mourning and fasting. They stopped of-
fering the meal-oerings, incense and holocaust. All in vain. A
request for help sent to Jehohanan the High Priest in Jerusalem
and other religious and political authorities in Yehud remained
unanswered. This too must have been a bitter disappointment to
the Jews of Elephantine. We can only guess at the reason for the
silence of the Jerusalemites, but it may well be that the rebuild-
ing of the temple in Jerusalem that had started some 12-15 years
earlier (Hag. 1) made it dicult for them actively to support a
request to rebuild a Yahwistic temple outside Jerusalem.59
The letter seeking help for the restoration from Bagavahya,
the governor of Judah, would also be sent to the sons of San-
ballat the governor of Samaria. We do not know whether the
latter reacted but, according to TAD A4.9 (p. 76), Bagavahya
reacted positively, instructing the Jews at Elephantine to inform
the Egyptians that the temple had to be rebuilt and that oering
could be resumed, albeit it is hardly accidental that he mentions
only meal oerings and incense. Presumably animal victims were

This argument cannot have been invented pour besoin de la cause, be-
cause in that case it would have backred. Both Jews and Persians must
have been convinced that Cambyses had allowed them to build their temple,
although it is unlikely that this was sanctioned by an ocial decree. Cf. I.
Kottsieper, Die Religionspolitik der Achameniden und die Juden von Ele-
phantine, in: R.G. Kratz (ed.), Religion und Religionskontakte im Zeitalter
der Ach ameniden (VWTG, 22), G utersloh 2002, 150-78 (160, 168). Also Bri-
ant, From Cyrus to Alexander, 55, considers this information reliable, despite
Cambysess destruction of other temples in Egypt.
Cf. Briant, From Cyrus to Alexander, 586. Modrzejewski, The Jews of
Egypt, 42, has a dierent explanation: For the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem,
the sack of the Elephantine temple could be readily interpreted as a form of
divine justice, a t punishment for their dissident coreligionists. It was hardly
surprising that the pressing letters from Elephantine went unanswered. The
weakness of this idea is that it does not take into account that earlier (419
bce) Jerusalem did answer a request from Elephantine.
150 M.C.A. Korpel

henceforth forbidden, perhaps in order not to irk the priest of

the theriomorphic god Khnum60 , or to please the Persians who
were not in favour of bloody sacrices,61 or by way of compromise
with the Judahite priesthood which claimed exclusive sacricial
rights for the temple in Jerusalem (cf. Deut. 12:11, 13-14). Did
Bagavahyas inuence really extend as far as Egypt? We do not
know. In any case, TAD A4.10 (p. 78) is a declaration by several
Jews at Elephantine that they were willing to pay for the res-
toration. However, apparently no contributions from Jerusalem
or Samaria came forward, or they would, no doubt, have been
recorded in this document.62
The Aramaic documents cited thus far may create the impres-
sion that the Jews at Elephantine were zealous followers of Yhw,
but, in reality, at least some of them appear to have retained or
adopted a mild form of syncretism.63 A Jewish man called Hosea
wishes that lhy kl, all the gods, will seek the welfare of a lady
Shalwah (letter dated in the last quarter of the 5th century, TAD
A3.7, p. 40). A certain Shewa son of Zechariah wishes that all
the gods will seek the welfare of his lord Islah. (letter dated 399
bce, TAD A3.9, p. 46). Similar cases are TAD A4.2, p. 56 and
A4.4, p. 60. A4.3 (dated late 5th century bce) seems to prove
that the sender, Mauziah son of Nathan, equated yhw lh , Yhw
the God, with lh smy , the God of Heaven, who had helped
him in a conict with the Persian commander Vidranga and the
Egyptian ocer H 64
. ornu. One document from Elephantine even
points to an assimilation of Yhh = Yhw to the Egyptian god
Khnum, the very deity whose priests brought about the destruc-
tion of Yhws temple (TAD D7.21, p. 172, rst quarter of the
5th century): I bless you by Yhh and Khnum. The speaker is a
So B.E.J.H. Becking, Joods syncretisme in Elefantine?, NedThT 56
(2002), 216-32 (223).
So Albertz, The Thwarted Restoration, 15, n. 58; Kottsieper, Die Re-
ligionspolitik der Achameniden, 172-5.
Despite Isa. 19:19-22, which testies to a dierent, possibly later, attitude
towards Jewish sanctuaries in Egypt. Cf. J. Blenkinsopp, Isaiah 139: A New
Translation with Introduction and Commentary (AncB, 19), New York 2000,
With Becking, Joods syncretisme in Elefantine?, 216-32. See also E.A.
Knauf, Elephantine und das vor-biblisch Judentum, in: Kratz (ed.), Religion
und Religionskontakte im Zeitalter der Ach ameniden, 179-88.
See also TAD A4.7 (pp. 68-71), where Yhw is called dwn hsmym, the
Lord of Heaven.
Disillusion among Jews in the Postexilic Period 151

certain Gdl, possibly a hypocoristic for Gedaliah. In TAD D7.30,

p. 178 (rst quarter of the 5th century) a certain Yarh.u wishes
his brother well in the name of four Babylonian gods. It is not
certain, however, that this man was a Jew. In 440 bce the un-
doubtedly Jewish woman Mibtahiah swore an oath by the Egyp-
tian goddess Sati to satisfy her Egyptian opponent in a lawsuit
(TAD B2.8).65 Her choice of a female deity may well have had to
do with a certain longing for a goddess as a cultic Gegen uber
in her litigation with a man. According to TAD B7.3 (pp. 146-7,
late 5th century), a Jewish man called Menah.em took an oath
by the deities H 66
. erem and Anath-Yhw.
A long list of Jewish persons who spent money for the temple
of Yhw, dated 1 June 401, surprisingly ends with the dry ob-
servation that only 126 shekels went to Yhw, but 70 shekels to
Eshembethel and 120 shekels to Anathbethel (TAD C3.15, pp.
226-34). The latter deity is also known as a Phoenician god-
dess.67 This summation is not in accordance with the heading
of the list, which names Yhw as the sole intended recipient. It
seems likely that the organisers of the collection deliberately kept
the true destination of the money from the spenders. It is pos-
sible that the lines mentioning the true destination of the silver
were appended to the document only later on.68 This would seem
the most logical conclusion since the summation was written on a
fresh page, and only afterwards were some late benefactors added
below it.
Why would they do that? If polytheism was their normal re-
ligion, why not mention Eshembethel and Anathbethel in the
heading too? In my opinion the Jewish community at Elephant-
ine was in a period of spiritual transition. On the one hand they
felt compelled to follow the strict monotheistic guidelines they re-
ceived from Jerusalem. The so-called Passover letter TAD A4.1
(p. 54, dated 419 bce) shows remarkable conformity with the
rules laid down in the Priestly Code for Passover and the Fest-
ival of Unleavened Bread (Lev. 23:5-8), but at the same time
Note the disbelief expressed by B. Porten, The Elephantine Papyri in
English: Three Millennia of Cultural Continuity and Change, Leiden 1996,
189, n. 14.
Cf. Porten, The Elephantine Papyri in English, 266, n. 7.
Cf. Becking, Joods syncretisme in Elefantine?, 227-30.
The lines in question have been written between two horizontal lines. See
TAD III, foldout No. 32, Col. 7.
152 M.C.A. Korpel

indicates that earlier the Jewish priests in Elephantine had been

uncertain about the date and correct celebration of these fest-
ivals. Also, according to TAD D7.6 (p. 158, rst quarter of the
5th century), there was uncertainty among the Jews at Elephant-
ine about the time when the Passover rites should be observed.
The sabbath too was observed at Elephantine (TAD D7.10, p.
162; D7.16, pp. 168-9). The threats a man has to utter to urge
his wife to violate the sabbath would seem to indicate that it was
already supposed to be kept rigorously, but that this command-
ment could be transgressed for purely economic reasons.
All this points on the one hand to a tendency to conform
to the strict rules dictated by the Jerusalemite priesthood. The
emphasis on monolatry or monotheism may well have been the
reason why the Jews at Elephantine came into conict with the
priests of Khnum.69 This is one side of the coin. On the other
hand, other Jews at Elephantine apparently did not see much
harm in polytheism and secretly transferred most of the money
collected for the temple of Yhw to other deities. However, they
did not dare to collect money openly for a polytheistic purpose.
What this means is that they were torn between two incompatible
belief systems.
Bezalel Porten dates the founding of the Jewish temple in Ele-
phantine around 650 bce, assuming that priests ed Jerusalem
because Manasseh had deled the temple on Zion with a cult im-
age of Asherah.70 If this is true, the original community at Ele-
phantine must have been fairly monolatric or even monotheistic.
However, evidently their polytheistic surroundings in Egypt, the
inexplicable destruction of the temple in Jerusalem and the lack
Compare once again TAD A4.3 (late 5th century) stating, To you it is
known that Khnum is against us since Hananiah has been in Egypt until
now. This Hananiah had been trying to enforce strict observance of the
Priestly Code in Elephantine.
B. Porten, Settlement of Jews at Elephantine and Arameans at Syene,
in: Lipschits, Blenkinsopp (eds), Judah and the Judeans in the Neo-
Babylonian Period, 451-70. On the historical reliability of the essential parts
of 2 Kgs 21:1-18, see P.S.F. van Keulen, The Manasseh Account (2 Kings
21:1-18) and the Final Chapters of the Deuteronomistic History (OTS, 38),
Leiden 1996, 207-12.
Another possibility has been suggested on the basis of Greek sources. The
Jewish garrison would have been established under Psammetichus II (595-
589 bce), i.e. after Josiahs reform. Cf. Modrzejewski, The Jews of Egypt,
23-6. For my argument above this would make little dierence.
Disillusion among Jews in the Postexilic Period 153

of support from Jerusalem when they themselves were confron-

ted with the destruction of their own temple must have led to
serious doubt as to the viability of a continued concentration on
the worship of Yhw alone. It seemed much more reasonable to
assimilate slowly to their environment and accept the polytheism
of the Egyptians and Arameans with whom they had to deal on
a daily basis. The Papyrus Amherst 63, which is slightly younger
than the Jewish documents from Elephantine, seems to indic-
ate that soon afterwards at least some Jews in Egypt decided to
adopt a syncretistic form of polytheism.71 The violation of the
sabbath mentioned earlier and also the adaptation to Egyptian
law with regard to a womans right to initiate a divorce,72 a right
she did not have in ancient Israel,73 point to an eroding sense of
loyalty to traditional values.

9 The Nihilism of the Book of Esther

There is little doubt that in a general way the Book of Esther
reects the historical circumstances of the Persian era.74 Several
descriptions of customs and administration in the Persian empire
as well as quite a number of Babylonian and Persian loan-words
lend a feeling of authenticity to the Book of Esther.75 In contrast
to other late books, Greek loan-words are absent which argues
for a date not too far removed from Persian era. However, the
number of inconsistencies with the details of Persian history is so
great that the author must have lived far removed from the time
and places described.76 The Book of Esther is a masterful work
of literary ction, not an accurate historical record.
It creates a rst impression of unbelievable and, certainly to

Cf. S.P. Vleeming, J.W. Wesselius, Studies in Papyrus Amherst 63, 2
vols, Amsterdam 1985-1990.
TAD B2.6; B3.3; B3.8.
Marsman, Women in Ugarit and Israel, 188.
Grabbe, Judaism from Cyrus to Hadrian, vol. 1, 51-2.
Cf. M. Ellenbogen, Foreign Words in the Old Testament: Their Origin
and Etymology, London 1962, 175; E.M. Yamauchi, Mordecai, the Persepolis
Tablets, and the Susa Excavations, VT 42 (1992), 272-4; P.V. Mankowksi,
Akkadian Loanwords in Biblical Hebrew (HSS, 47), Winona Lake 2000, 225.
Cf. (e.g.) J.A. Loader, Das Buch Ester (ATD, 16/2), Gottingen 1992,
207-9; J.D. Levenson, Esther: A Commentary (OTL), Louisville 1997, 23-
7; K.H. Jobes, Esther (The NIV Application Commentary), Grand Rapids
1999, 31.
154 M.C.A. Korpel

modern Western readers, unacceptable cruelty. This and the ab-

sence of any open reference to God have often given rise to de-
preciating remarks about the books religious value. The common
way to avoid this is to point out that Esther is part of the Hebrew
canon. Therefore we should read the book within the context of
the canonised literary heritage of ancient Israel, constantly look-
ing for intertextual links with other parts of the Hebrew canon.77
Since it is clear that the Book of Esther itself presupposes know-
ledge of other parts of the canon this is certainly a legitimate
approach. However, the dubious canonical status of the book it
is not present among the biblical books at Qumran78 weakens
the force of this type of argument.
Moreover, when it comes to dening the specic theological
thrust of the Book of Esther,79 most authors conne themselves
to stating that its purpose is to stress Gods hidden protection of
Israel. But why would God be hiding, whereas He is prominently
present in all other biblical books describing his mighty acts of
deliverance in the past? If so, it would make God all the more
responsible both for endangering the Jewish people and for the
massacre among the Persians.
In a dierent context I have recently defended the thesis that
Esther is a book that avoids mentioning God deliberately be-
cause it ascribes to him gross injustice, especially by allowing
the disastrous outcome of the casting of lots which might have
meant the total annihilation of all Jews in the Persian empire.80
According to all religions of the ancient Near East, casting lots
was an act by which people left a decision to the deity. It was the
deity according to the monotheistic Jews, undoubtedly their
own God (cf. Prov. 16:33) who decided to give permission for
their annihilation. It is an undue mitigation of this terrible truth

So (e.g.) B.S. Childs, Introduction to the Old Testament, Philadelphia
1979, 598-607; A.M. Rodriguez, Esther: A Theological Approach, Berrien
Springs 1995, 38-43; P.R. House, Old Testament Theology, Downers Grove,
1998, 490-6. Jobes, Esther, even inserts a special section Bridging Contexts
after the Original Meaning of every passage.
For a plausible theory about the reasons why the Qumran sect rejec-
ted the book see Kalimi, The Book of Esther and the Dead Sea Scrolls
Community, 101-6.
A good survey of opinions is provided by Rodriguez, Esther, 81-90.
M.C.A. Korpel, Theodicy in the Book of Esther, in: Laato, De Moor
(eds), Theodicy in the World of the Bible, 401-24.
Disillusion among Jews in the Postexilic Period 155

to state that God allows Israel to endure danger81 it was much

more serious.
There are many other pointers to the incomprehensible cruel-
ty on the part of God in the book; I discussed them in the same
study and will not repeat them here. If God had been mentioned
in Esther, He would have stood accused of gross injustice which
was only undone by brave human intervention.
In my opinion the Book of Esther should be read as a protest
against the religious indierence among Jews still living in exile
in the late postexilic period. Those who were succesful in closing a
pact with the new rulers of the ancient Near East, the Persians, on
the one hand did not want to adopt the religion of the conquerors.
But on the other they felt betrayed by their own God. Esther
and Mordecai stand for people who rely on themselves because
they feel that God has abandoned them. They courageously take
their future in their own hands, not unlike many people in our
own times.
The Book of Esther in its canonical Hebrew form compels
the reader to reect on the question whether this is a viable
option. Are human beings themselves capable of making just de-
cisions if they are forced to give up the idea of a righteous divine
Judge protecting the world? It is my conviction that the author
of Esther wanted us to answer this question negatively. If human
beings stop trusting in a good God they all become merciless
murderers.82 In common judgement, they may achieve much, but
if so, it is ultimately not by their own doing. Even a lovely girl
like Esther becomes just as cruel as the evil Haman. The tradi-
tional Jewish way of celebrating Purim up to the point where the
drunken participants are no longer able to distinguish the evil
Haman from the good Mordecai (b. Meg. 7b) aptly expresses
this idea. Where so much killing is involved, it would be arrogant
to claim to know exactly what is good. Deeply disappointed in
their God who seemed to have abandoned his people and alien-
ated them from their own roots through the foreign cultures they
had had to absorb, neither Esther nor Mordecai knows how to
address this good God any more. Yet Esther vindicates God in
spite of his cruelty. She risks her own life for others, thus show-
So House, Old Testament Theology, 492-3.
Cf. Paulo Coelhos thought-provoking novel The Devil and Miss Prym,
Eng. tr. A. Hopkinson, N. Caistor, London 2002.
156 M.C.A. Korpel

ing the God who hides himself that human beings can decide for
themselves what is good. In doing so she invites God to come
out and side with what is good. Esthers brave gamble annulled
Hamans Purim. But at the same time the Book of Esther shows
how easily human goodness can come to an end. Nihilism is not
the solution.

10 Conclusion
The destruction of the temple on Mt. Zion in 587/586 and the
deportation of the Judaean elite to Babylonia created a feeling
of hopelessness in the hearts of many Jews in the Persian period.
Not all were immediately ready to dream about a glorious res-
toration. One of the reasons for this gloom was the interpret-
ation of the disastrous events as the well-deserved punishment
for the sins of the fathers. Especially the youth in the postex-
ilic era suered under this harsh doctrine of divine retribution
which was supposed to span the generations. The most terrible
preexilic prophecies of doom had come true (e.g. Mic. 3:12), and,
since the prophets had warned time and again against serving
other gods, the general feeling seems to have been that one of the
main reasons for the destruction of the temple and the end of the
monarchy had been idolatry. There are clear indications not only
in the Bible but also from the side of archaeology that people in
Yehud attempted to purify the cult of polytheistic elements. Ash-
erah, still venerated in preexilic Israel, was symbolically carried
o to Babylon (Zech. 5:5-11). This must have had a detrimental
eect on family religion and will have been deplored especially
by women.
They were by no means the only ones, however, who were
disillusioned. Those who still trusted in Yhwh alone also felt
abandoned by him, as many cries of anguish from sources which,
with more or less certainty, can be dated in the Persian period re-
veal. Many doubted that it was still sensible to worship this God.
Others, like Jonah, asked themselves why God did not punish the
gentile aggressors, but seemed to deny his chosen people their ex-
clusive rights. The hope that God would restore his chosen Dav-
idic king soon vanished. The rebuilding of the temple on Mt. Zion
met with a lot of opposition, and the erection of a huge Samar-
itan temple on Mt. Gerizim shattered the hope of a centralised
cult for all Israel.
Disillusion among Jews in the Postexilic Period 157

This feeling of despair and apathy is not only documented

by biblical sources. There is evidence of a Jewish identity crisis
throughout the Persian empire. The Murash u archives show that
in Persia and Persian Babylonia Jews who became fairly prosper-
ous in their new surroundings began to neglect their religious hol-
idays, scorned the dietary laws, married Babylonians, and took on
Babylonian names, including names honouring Babylonian deit-
ies. Apparently some went even as far as returning to mild forms
of polytheism. The same phenomena may be observed in Persian
Yehud and with the Jewish garrison in Elephantine in Egypt. Of
course, adoption of a foreign name need not mean that one had
dropped the Jewish name, let alone that it meant denouncing
ones religion. But we also know that it was not imperative to
use a foreign name in the Persian empire. Most Jews kept their
own name, even in ocial documents. But a considerable number
of Jews allowed their original names to fall into disuse and felt
no scruples in swearing in the name of other deities or in sharing
money collected for Yhw with worshippers of other deities. Lack
of support from Jerusalem, which was still pursuing the Deu-
teronomic/Deuteronomistic ideal of a unied central cult on Mt.
Zion, may have discouraged Jews abroad from supporting their
own satellite sanctuaries.
Nathan MacDonald University of St Andrews Scotland

Whose Monotheism? Which Rationality?

Reections on Israelite Monotheism in Erhard
Gerstenbergers Theologies in the Old Testament
It is well known that monotheism has been a central concern of
recent biblical scholarship, in both Old and New Testaments. The
perception of Israelite religion has been revolutionised by the de-
bate that was initiated by the discoveries at Kuntillet Ajrud and
Khirbet el-Qom.1 The Albrightian consensus (at least such it was
in North America) with its polarisation of Canaanite and Israel-
ite religion has been replaced by a picture of pre-exilic religious
diversity with a monotheistic breakthrough as the result of a
long process climaxing in the exile. New Testament studies has
had its own discussion about monotheism. What kind of divinity
did the New Testament authors attribute to Jesus of Nazareth,
at what point did this occur, and how could this be squared
with rst-century Jewish monotheism?2 As has been the case
with the Old Testament, older canons (I use the term broadly)
have been treated with suspicion and a new hearing given to
previously marginal voices. In the study of the New Testament
also, this decentring has destroyed the monochromatic picture of
earlier scholarship.
The changing shape of these debates has been documented in
a number of places, and I do not wish to rehearse the state of the
question.3 Instead, I wish to allow light from an oft-neglected area
to shine on the discussion: that of theological scholarship. For,
For an accessible summary of the discoveries, see M. Dijkstra, I Have
Blessed You by Yhwh of Samaria and His Asherah: Texts with Religious Ele-
ments From the Soil Archive of Ancient Israel, in: B. Becking et al. (eds.),
Only One God? Monotheism in Ancient Israel and the Veneration of the
Goddess Asherah (BiSe, 77), London 2001, 17-44. Detailed analysis and bib-
liography are found in J.M. Hadley, The Cult of Asherah in Ancient Israel
and Judah: Evidence for a Hebrew Goddess (UCOP, 57), Cambridge 2000.
Recent contributions to the New Testament debate may be found in C.C.
Newman et al. (eds.), The Jewish Roots of Christological Monotheism: Papers
from the St Andrews Conference on the Historical Origins of the Worship of
Jesus (JSJ.S, 63), Leiden 1999.
The Old Testament debate has been traced, for example, by R.K. Gnuse,
No Other Gods: Emergent Monotheism in Israel (JSOT.S, 241), Sheeld
1997, 62-128.
Whose Monotheism? 159

monotheism has not been absent from discussion in Systemat-

ics. Here the presumed signicance and centrality of monotheism
has been put into question. We may pass over those who favour
a move towards polytheism, not because their questions are not
urgent and cogent, but because this seems to me to short-cut the
Judaeo-Christian complex of which the Bible is necessarily part
(even if the Old Testament might appear to some degree to be
a co-opted part).4 A very directed attack has come from J urgen
Moltmann who favours abandoning monotheism with its unsa-
voury political implications for trinitarianism.5 In more general
terms it is clear that there are many Christian theologians who
see the Trinity as something to be strongly armed and worthy
of exploration, and for whom monotheism is wooden, even of du-
bious value. This is, of course, almost exactly the reverse of the
situation that existed twenty or thirty years ago.
I have no wish to follow Moltmann with a straightforward
rejection of monotheism, though the political appropriation of
the oneness of God, made by Eusebius if not before, is problem-
atic. Instead I wish to note what seems to me a more suggestive
approach to the question, based on observations made by both
David Tracy and Nicholas Lash that monotheism is the coinage of
the English Enlightenment, more specically the Cambridge Pla-
tonist Henry More, and its coinage is in no small measure associ-
ated with a particular rationality and approach to religion. Tracy
observes that monotheism is an Enlightenment invention that
bears all the marks of Enlightenment rationalism. Monotheism,
in this not so secretly evolutionary view, is a contrast word to
polytheism; that is, by Enlightenment standards, monotheism
is a more rational understanding of the logic of the divine as
implying a unicity of divine power, not a dispersal of the power
into many gods and goddesses. Like the other famous isms

Famously, O. Marquard, Lob des Polytheismus: Uber Monomythie und
Polymythie, in: Idem, Abschied vom Prinzipiellen: Philosophische Studien,
Stuttgart 1981, 91-116. Note also the sharp criticisms of monotheism in R.
Schwartz, The Curse of Cain: The Violent Legacy of Monotheism, Chicago
See J. Moltmann, The Trinity and the Kingdom of God, London 1981,
197. Critiques of Moltmann can be found in C. Schwobel, Radical Mono-
theism and the Trinity, NZSTh 43 (2001), 54-74, and R. Otto, Moltmann
and the Anti-Monotheism Movement, International Journal of Systematic
Theology 3 (2001), 293-308.
160 N. MacDonald

of the Enlightenment (deism, pantheism, theism, panentheism),

modern philosophical monotheism is, above all, rational and
ethical .6 The quote from Tracy outlines essential features of
the term monotheism as commonly used from the Enlighten-
ment onwards. It takes its explanatory power from a bifurcation
of ideas of the divine. On the one side are ranged monotheism, ra-
tionality and morality, and on the other polytheism. Simply and
eectively the opposite position is demonised (though, of course,
there are no demons in this world view).
Lash provides a similar reection but provides a more detailed
analysis based on the work of Peter Harrison.7 In his Religion
and the Religions in the English Enlightenment Harrison shows
that the initial steps towards a science of religion took place in
seventeenth century England.8 This fell far short of the descript-
ive ideal of the nineteenth century, for the growing knowledge
about the worlds religions was frequently used as a foil for the
religious controversies that convulsed Europe at the time. Henry
Mores neologism, monotheism, belongs to an attempt to organ-
ise religious knowledge along the lines of the species and genus
model of the sciences. With an attenuated concept of religious
experience, he quantied religions according to the number of
deities. In this schema there were monotheism and atheism (of
which polytheism was a disguised form). This was married to
a particular conception of knowledge in which truth was purely
cognitive and immediately accessible to the rational mind. The
failure to perceive rightly the existence of only one self-sucient
and eternal Being could be blamed on the enemies of rational-
ity: the priesthood, sacrice and idolatry which benighted ones
faculties.9 Mores intellectualised account of religion and his na-
ive taxonomising of the worlds religions is nicely summarised by
Lash as a simple strategy for a complex world.10
D. Tracy, The Paradox of the Many Faces of God in Monotheism, in:
H. Haring, J.B. Metz (eds.), The Many Faces of the Divine (Conc, 1995/2),
London 1995, 30-8, here 30.
N. Lash, The Beginning and End of Religion , in: Idem, The Beginning
and End of Religion, Cambridge 1996, 3-25.
P. Harrison, Religion and the Religions in the English Enlightenment,
Cambridge 1990.
For a detailed account of Mores coinage of monotheism contextualised
in the debates about reason and revelation in seventeenth century England
see N. MacDonald, Deuteronomy and the Meaning of Monotheism (FAT,
II/1), Tubingen 2003.
Lash, Beginning, 10.
Whose Monotheism? 161

All this would be of little interest to those in the discipline

of Old Testament had it not been for the persistent practice of
reading large parts of this package back into the biblical text.
An analogous example, which may be instructive, is the Western
perception of ancient Egyptian religion. The Egyptologist Jan
Assmann has shown in his Moses the Egyptian the degree to
which Egyptian religion became a self-projection of the radical
Enlightenment. Distinguishing the educated priestly elite from
the Egyptian hoi polloi, intellectuals of the eighteenth century
managed to convince themselves that behind the crass polytheism
of Egyptian religion lay an esoteric and enlightened monotheism.
The mysterious hieroglyphs were believed to preserve accounts
of this primeval religion. This true religion of the one God was
ethical, universal, non-mythological, rational, aniconic and non-
This intellectual tradition, with its strange picture of Egyp-
tian religion, melted away with Champollions decipherment of
the hieroglyphs in the early nineteenth century. The projection
of Enlightenment monotheism on to biblical texts has been a far
more complex aair, less easily untangled. This is the case not
only because both testaments contain statements about Yhwhs
uniqueness, but also because the Enlightenment belongs to the
Bibles enormous history of inuence. Modern views of God,
as numerous Old Testament scholars have sought to emphasise,
trace their roots back to ancient Israel, albeit through a complex
history also inuenced by the New Testament, Greek philosophy,
the rise of Islam, Renaissance and Reformation, and the scientic
revolution, amongst other things. Further, the Bible has always
been read, to a greater or lesser degree, through the lenses of the
changing view of God.
In the rest of this paper I want to consider characterisations
of monotheism in Old Testament scholarship. The rst example
is a classic and exploits the monotheism-polytheism dichotomy.
Its roots lie clearly in the Enlightenment. The second example is
more recent and nuanced, evidencing continuity with what pre-
cedes, but clearly also a step away from Enlightenment mono-
The rst characterisation of monotheism is Albrights fam-
ous and controversial denition of monotheism:
J. Assmann, Moses the Egyptian: The Memory of Egypt in Western
Monotheism, Cambridge 1997.
162 N. MacDonald

Was Moses a true monotheist? If by monotheist is meant

a thinker with views specically like those of Philo Judaeus
or Rabbi Aqiba, of St. Paul or St. Augustine, of Moham-
med or Maimonides, of St. Thomas or Calvin, of Mordecai
Kaplan or H.N. Wieman, Moses was not one. If, on the
other hand, the term monotheist means one who teaches
the existence of only one God, the creator of everything,
the source of justice, who is equally powerful in Egypt, in
the desert, and in Palestine, who has no sexuality and no
mythology, who is human in form but cannot be seen by
human eye and cannot be represented in any form - then
the founder of Yahwism was certainly a monotheist.12

Albright maintains the appearance of historical dierentiation,

noting the distance between Mosaic monotheism and that of
Philo and onwards. Nevertheless, by introducing a critical and
basic division between polytheism and monotheism, the location
of Mosaic religion is predetermined. Note also that there is some
shifting of denitions: equally powerful in Egypt, the desert, and
in Palestine takes the place of universalism. This represents, on
the one hand, a careful attendance to the particularities of the
biblical text, but, on the other hand, the shape of Mosaic belief is
brought into conformity with a particular conception of mono-
theism which is not easy to justify as a descriptive account of
Israelite religion according to the Pentateuch.
To echo Lash: Albright provides a simple strategy to a com-
plex world. Or, better, a simple strategy to complex worlds, for
Albrights argument ranges across religious thinkers of enormous
diversity. The recent restatement of the same strategy in Robert
Gnuses No Other Gods strikes me as being as questionable as it
was in Albrights work. Gnuse argues for the restoration, in nu-
anced form, of the theories of the Heilsgeschichte theologians.
The contrast between ancient Near Eastern religion and early
Judaism is that between post-cyclical and pre-linear thought. The
latter entails a more developed portrayal of Gods action in his-
tory, a deity free from nature, an emphasis on ethics rather than
purity, a stress on human freedom with disappearance of magic
and superstition, centrality of social justice and egalitarianism,
and a universality from below. The modernistic assumptions un-
derlying Gnuses approach are revealed in numerous ways: his
W.F. Albright From the Stone Age to Christianity: Monotheism and the
Historic Process, Garden City 219-57, 271-2.
Whose Monotheism? 163

description of early Jewish thought (note the intellectualism im-

plicit in the decision to analyse in terms of thought) as pre-linear
and of post-renaissance thought as linear, his strong contrast of
ethics and cult, his talk of human rights and social justice.
Strong evidence of continuity with the English Enlightenment
is also found in the conceptualisation of sin. As Margalit and
Halbertal note, dierent concepts of God create, when reversed,
dierent concepts of idolatry.13 For Henry More, polytheism or
atheism was an intellectual error, easily corrected by an attent-
ive reading of his apology for the Christian religion. According
to Albright, after the Mosaic revolution only the ignorant and
moronic failed to be monotheists; and I have already noted the
signicance of Gnuses use of thought. All of this is far removed
from the centrality of idolatry in the Old Testament a sin fre-
quently portrayed as adultery, an act of betrayal.
The second example I wish to examine is derived from Er-
hard Gerstenbergers Theologies in the Old Testament, a work
that is a substantive and challenging contribution to the dis-
cipline of Old Testament theology.14 I will not review the work
(which I have done elsewhere),15 but will, rather, examine a num-
ber of quotations indicative of the sort of problem with which I
am concerned. First of all, I should note a number of moves by
Gerstenberger that strike me as promising. He notes that the
dispute over the one God takes place rst at the level of practical
life and the lived worship of God, not in theory.16 The contrast
implied by the not is, I think, overstated, but justiable in the
face of the intellectualism demonstrated in many discussions of
monotheism. In the same section he argues that fundament-
ally the whole monotheism of the early Jewish community is a
great, impressively presented monolatry which arose in a situ-
ation of confession and at a few points is theoretically supported
by statements of uniqueness verging on an ontology.17 This cap-
tures nicely a recent reluctance amongst some scholars to claim
a heavy ontological signicance for Deutero-Isaiahs rhetoric.18
M. Halbertal, A. Margalit, Idolatry, Cambridge 1992, 1.
E.S. Gerstenberger, Theologies in the Old Testament, Minneapolis 2002
(ET of Theologies im AT: Pluralit at und Synkretismus alttestamentlichen
Gottesglaubens, Stuttgart 2001).
Review of E.S. Gerstenberger, Theologies in the Old Testament, in:
Biblical Interpretation (forthcoming).
Gerstenberger, Theologies, 274.
Gerstenberger, Theologies, 275.
M. Smith, The Origins of Biblical Monotheism: Israels Polytheistic
164 N. MacDonald

Elsewhere, however, the idea of monotheism that Gerstenber-

ger delineates justies us in asking, Whose monotheism? Which
rationality? In a discussion of Torah and the ethic of the post-
exilic community Gerstenberger makes the following observations.
There are duties to God and duties to fellow human beings in
ones own community. No more than this is to be found in the
Torah. There are no state laws and (in contrast to the wisdom
literature) there are no international laws or human rights. In a
community which claims to be confessing the one and universal
God, that of course is a defect.19 That the same idea is also
found in Gnuse is worth noting. He writes: concomitant with
the belief in one universal deity is a stress on human rights and
dignity in some egalitarian world view.20 Now it is certainly the
case that human rights may be seen to derive, by a convoluted
and extended historical process, from the Bible (though, interest-
ingly enough, the American Declaration of Independence appeals
to Natures God and self-evident truth), but I question whether
they are useful, in a straightforward sense, as categories for de-
scribing the beliefs of early Judaism, still less for judging them
A more subtle example is found in Gerstenbergers discussion
of popular beliefs in early Judaism. We might remember the
sometimes incredibly archaic theological notions in the Priestly
Writing: That is a burnt oering, a gift oering, a fragrant sa-
vour for Yahweh (Lev 1.9). The direct feeding of the image of
God . . . is not presupposed. But by being burnt, this same food
oering for the invisible God goes up in smoke and he can accept
it with his sense of smell. The age-old taboo regulations about
eating meat, sexual practices, striking skin diseases or mould on
buildings or textiles, and the fear of deformed human beings and
animals, which are certainly pre-Israelite, are quite incompat-
ible with the strict belief in Yahweh inculcated by Deuteronomy
or Deutero-Isaiah.21 How very strange that this incompatibility
went unnoticed for nearly two thousand years! For I do not count
Background and the Ugaritic Texts, Oxford 2001. Cf. C.R. Seitz, The Di-
vine Name in Christian Scripture, in: Idem, Word without End: The Old
Testament as Abiding Theological Witness, Grand Rapids 1998, 251-63.
Gerstenberger, Theologies, 264.
R.K. Gnuse, The Emergence of Monotheism in Ancient Israel: A Survey
of Recent Scholarship, Religion 29 (1999), 315-36, here 315.
Gerstenberger, Theologies, 261.
Whose Monotheism? 165

the recongurations of these practices that took place in Chris-

tianity and Rabbinic Judaism as evidence of intellectual unease,
but as arising from a sense of a new state of aairs resulting
from the death and resurrection of Jesus and the destruction of
the Temple. On this logic are we to judge that the Priestly writer
had a less strict belief than that found in Deuteronomy or Isaiah,
or are we to judge that the author of Deuteronomy somehow fell
short of his basic convictions when he decided to include chapter
14 (to choose the most obvious example) with its age-old ta-
boo regulations ? The case against the so-called secularisation in
Deuteronomy and the idea that the book prohibits all supersti-
tions (another modern idea) has been made by others and does
not demand repeating.22
A further example is Gerstenbergers discussion of partic-
ularism and universalism. In this dichotomy it is clear where
monotheism lines up: Alongside nationalist encapsulation there
is sometimes an amazing openness to the outside world, which
corresponds completely to the monotheistic universalism of Deu-
tero-Isaiah. Gods power may no longer be commandeered by
one group . . . Anyone who lives in the power of the one God
and creator must learn to renounce the exercise of imperial or
spiritual power on others. There is one and the same undivided
peace for all.23 The extent to which universalism a term rarely
given any denition, as Jon Levenson rightly notes24 is found in
the Old Testament is disputed, and Deutero-Isaiah is, of course,
at the centre of such discussions. Specic exegesis of passages
aside, to what degree is the well-established logic of one God,
one world, so frequently appealed to by Gerstenberger, evid-
enced in the Bible? It is well-known that in Deuteronomy and
other parts of the Bible, one God entailed not one world, but one
chosen people from that world. In Deutero-Isaiah this election re-
volves around the mysterious servant-gure. Whatever role either
For these two issues see respectively, N. Lohnk, Opfer und Sakulari-
sierung im Deuteronomium, in: A. Schenker (ed.), Studien zu Opfer und
Kult im Alten Testament mit einer Bibliographie 196991 zum Opfer in der
Bibel (FAT, 3), Tubingen 1992, 15-43 and F.H. Cryer, Divination in Ancient
Israel and its Near Eastern Environment: A Socio-Historical Investigation
(JSOT.S, 142), Sheeld 1994.
Gerstenberger, Theologies, 247.
J.D. Levenson, The Universal Horizon of Biblical Particularism, in:
M.G. Brett (ed.), Ethnicity and the Bible, Leiden 1996, 143-69.
166 N. MacDonald

elect nation or servant has vis-`a-vis the world it does not see the
dissolution into wider humanity of their unique relationship to
God (one and the same undivided peace for all). But presum-
ably, on Gerstenbergers requirement of renouncing the exercising
imperial or spiritual powers on others, it should.
The continuity of Gerstenbergers monotheism with earlier
ideas is clear, but the conceptualisation of sin has a distinct-
ive post-modern turn. It is the exercise of imperial and spiritual
power over others. Idolatry is not betraying Israels God for some
other deity, it is not a failure to discern the obvious; it is op-
pression. We might characterise this as the idolisation of self.
Since this comes close to traditional Judaeo-Christian concerns
and is combined with a powerful ethical critique, this strikes me
as an important development beyond Enlightenment intellectual-
ism. Nevertheless, it is still distant from the biblical portrayal of
monotheism as Gerstenbergers own act of renouncement demon-
strates. In the light of our claim, grounded in the Old Testament,
to confess the one God, we cannot in principle exclude any other
religion.25 Christopher Seitzs observations at this point are per-
tinent: the notion that there is only one God has ironically led
in the modern period to a curious quasi-polytheism . . . we have
a theoretical monotheism conjoined to a functionally polymorph-
ous religiosity, summarised nicely by the phrase We all worship
the same God .26 Gerstenberger has not only renounced the ex-
ercise of spiritual power, but also the Old Testaments presenta-
tion that Israel must worship a particular deity known as Yhwh,
whom all nations must also acknowledge. Again, I want to suggest
that there is a danger of distortion when this idea of monotheism
is used as a measure of the biblical texts.

Brevard Childs describes monotheism as theologically inert,
failing to register the basic feature of Gods self-revelation to
Israel.27 Claus Westermann warns that Isaiahs polemic against
the foreign gods is not to be taken in terms of our present-day
concept of monotheism. They [the Isaianic texts] do not mean
Gerstenberger, Theologies, 298.
Seitz, Divine Name, 256.
B.S. Childs, Biblical Theology of the Old and New Testaments, London
1992, 355-6.
Whose Monotheism? 167

uniqueness as regards existence.28 Von Rad too distances the

biblical text from the modern notion of monotheism: this con-
ception of monotheism as a more or less general human stage
of knowledge reached by Judaism, secured and propagated by
Christianity, from which one can no longer politely retreat, rst
arose in the period of the Enlightenment and haunts many heads
today.29 My argument, then, is not novel, but I hope to have
highlighted a perennial temptation. Exorcising this ghost requires
something other than reappraising the date at which monothe-
ism nally makes its breakthrough in ancient Israel, however
attentive this is to archaeological nds or the latest movements
in dating biblical texts. What is needed is the sort of approach
that Larry Hurtado recommended for New Testament scholar-
ship: there is a tendency to proceed as if we can know in ad-
vance what monotheism must mean, which turns out to be a
very modern, monistic form of monotheism . . . in place of this
rather Aristotelian approach, I urge us to work more inductively,
gathering what monotheism is on the ground, so to speak, from
the evidence of what self-professed monotheists believe and prac-

C. Westermann, Isaiah 4066 (OTL), London 1969, 16-7.
G. von Rad, The Origin of Mosaic Monotheism, in: Idem, God at Work
in Israel, Nashville 1980, 128-38, here 128.
L. Hurtado, What Do We Mean by First-Century Jewish Monothe-
ism?, in: E.H. Lovering (ed.), Society of Biblical Literature 1993 Seminar
Papers, Atlanta 1993, 348-68, here 354. For my own attempt to work induct-
ively with the book of Deuteronomy, see MacDonald, Deuteronomy.
Mervyn E.J. Richardson Leiden University The Netherlands

Textual Modication
Some Examples from Egypt
The fact that the text of almost every book of the Hebrew Bible
is the result of a sometimes lengthy and potentially uctuating
oral tradition is unlikely ever to be seriously questioned. But the
written Hebrew text that has subsequently emerged is somewhat
impervious to change. With one or two important exceptions, the
narratives of the biblical manuscripts dated in the last centuries
of the last era are essentially the same as those written something
like one millennium later. However, the fact that there are some
signicant variants, and that such variants are even more evident
in the earliest translations of the Hebrew text into Greek, sug-
gests that the traditional xed text known today has emerged
from a time when variant renderings of kernel literature were
normally to be expected.
There are several examples of ancient literature from the Near
East the subject matter of which suggests that the written text
has, like the Bible, emerged from a long process of oral transmis-
sion. Some of these texts may be read in alternative manuscripts,
and an examination of the variant readings in those manuscripts
will show the extent to which they have been subjected to a pro-
cess of editorial change. By looking at these changes in detail it
should be possible to classify those that occur regularly and those
that are unusual. The present paper will look only at documents
from Egypt, and it is hoped on another occasion to examine sim-
ilar documents from those parts of the ancient Near East where
cuneiform, rather than hieroglyphic and hieratic, was the normal

1 Coptic Traditions
It should not, of course, be forgotten that whatever the oral tra-
ditions from which a written text has emerged, the written text
itself can be the inspiration for further oral traditions. One of
This paper is a shortened version of the original oral presentation in
January 2003, which had the title Characteristic Features of Peripherally
Biblical Traditional Literature. On that occasion more references were made
to the literature from other areas.
Textual Modification: Some Examples from Egypt 169

the rich sources for this phenomenon in Egypt today is the icon-
ography of Coptic churches and the folklore of the monks asso-
ciated with them. During the feasts of Christmas and Epiphany
(the time when this paper was presented) it is perhaps appro-
priate to recollect some of the Coptic traditions commemorating
the ight of the Holy Family to Egypt.
The rock impression by the church of St Mary at Sakha known
as the footprint of Jesus (bikha iys
us) is regarded by many as
proof that this was a place where the young son of Mary and
Joseph actually walked. Similarly the balsam bushes that grow
around Matariyah are said to have grown from the fragments of a
walking stick that the holy child took from the hand of his father
and broke, and today it is from those same bushes that the oil for
the chrism is extracted. The Virgins Tree at Matariyah, which
is supposed to have provided enough foliage to conceal the whole
family when Herods assassins were out hunting for them, was
even illustrated on an Egyptian postage stamp in 1967. Ethiopian
Christians still drink water from the well in the church of St Mary
the Virgin at Haret Zuwaila, near Cairo, when they celebrate the
feast of the Blessed Virgin on 28 June (Baounah 21), for it is said
that the Holy Family rested there; and the nuns relate how Jesus
blessed that well so that his mother could drink water from it.
Even today Deir al-Adra, to the west of Asyut, is the focus of
a great pilgrimage every year in the middle of August, for it is
supposed to be the most southerly place visited by Jesus.2
These are just a few of the examples of oral tradition that
have developed from the narrative of the Nativity in the New
Testament. In order to counter any doubts about authenticity
they are often supported by citations from the Old Testament.
This can be seen particularly well in the decorated western semi-
dome of Deir al-Suryan, where the central gures of the scene
of the Annunciation, Mary and Gabriel, are shown to have been
accompanied also by Isaiah and Moses (with the Burning Bush)
to the right, and Ezekiel and Daniel to the left; these gures are
accompanied by relevant Coptic scriptures: Exod. 3:2-6; Isa. 7:14;
Ezek. 44:2; Dan. 2:34, 35-45. Such citations are taken as conrm-
ation that these events were all preordained. The perpetuation
A convenient though popular gazetteer of these places, with copious col-
our photographs, can be found in E. Lambelet, N.S. Atalla, The Escape to
Egypt, Barcelona 1993.
170 M.E.J. Richardson

of some of these traditions through the observance of ceremonial

activities is an added element to the importance in which they
are held by the modern local community.

2 Pharaonic Traditions
Those Coptic traditions represent later modications, in one way
or another, of what can easily be identied as an essentially
simple motif in the birth narrative of Jesus. However, very of-
ten an ancient text will show signs of being traditional, but the
written text (if there ever was one) on which that tradition is
based is no more than a hypothesis. One of the stories that well
illustrates the importance of oral tradition in ancient Egypt is
the account of the miracles performed in the time of some of the
earliest pharaohs, as preserved on Papyrus Westcar.3 The reason
why this text has not been included in any of the anthologies
of ancient Near Eastern texts relating to the traditions of the
Bible is presumably because the subject-matter of these miracles
has only a tangential relationship to any Biblical narrative; even
so, its fairy-tale motifs seem so obviously designed to entertain as
much as to provide historical fact that they make Biblical Hebrew
accounts of miracles look positively sober, and the nal proph-
ecy that descendants of the priestly line will be born to mark
the beginning of a new age seems particularly apposite for such

Pap. Berlin 3033.
It is not included in J. B. Pritchard (ed.), Ancient Near Eastern Texts
Relating to the Old Testament, 3 Princeton 1969 (henceforward ANET ); or in
W.W. Hallo, K.L. Younger (eds.), The Context of Scripture, three volumes,
Leiden 1997, 2000 and 2002 (henceforward ContS ); or in O. Kaiser (ed.)
Texte aus der Umwelt des Alten Testaments, four volumes, G utersloh 1982-
2001 (henceforward TUAT ). The rst translation of the text into English
was by E.A.W. Budge, Egyptian Tales & Romances, London 1931 (reprin-
ted 1935), 35-47, who entitled it Stories of the Marvellous Deeds Wrought
by the Magicians of the Old Kingdom. It had been published some forty
years earlier by A. Erman in 1890, with the slightly more subdued title Die
Marchen des Papyrus Westcar (see Budge, op. cit., 35) and subsequently in
his anthology Die Literatur der Aegypter, Leipzig 1923, 64-77, with the title
Konig Cheops und der Zauberer. After Budge, a French translation was
made by G. Lefebvre, Romans et contes egyptiens, Paris 1949. A more up-
to-date translation of the best preserved passages has been provided by M.
Lichtheim, Ancient Egyptian Literature, vol. 1, Berkeley 1975, 215.; see also
W.K. Simpson, The Literature of Ancient Egypt, New Haven 1972, 15-30.
Textual Modification: Some Examples from Egypt 171

Budges interest was apparently as much sociological as liter-

ary, for he presented not only some tales from Ancient Egypt but
also others from modern story tellers. Very often they have very
close parallels with elements of the Biblical narratives. This is
only to be expected, seeing that they may well have been inspired
indirectly from the Bible through the Quran; in this respect such
material merits further study. He was also keen to stress the ele-
ments of what he called paganism in these tales which he, as well
as others who could assert inuence in cultural matters at the
time, found unacceptable. He says:

When I was in Cairo, and Baghdad, and at many places in

Upper Egypt and the S udan, I collected a few popular stor-
ies, but to print anything like literal translations of them
in England is impossible, because we have a censor. In the
early eighties Spitta Bey collected a number of respect-
able stories which were very popular among Europeans as
well as natives.5

The events described on the papyrus itself, which has been dated
to the Hyksos period (before Dynasty xviii), are said to have oc-
curred in Dynasty iv, representing a gap of many centuries. The
schematic arrangement of the tales, told by the sons of Cheops
one after the other, could be taken as evidence that the stories
may at one time have circulated separately, and that this repres-
ents an edited collection. The language of the narratives has been
described as Middle Egyptian, which would have suggested that
the writing on the papyrus has been copied from an earlier ma-
nuscript. However, it has now been suggested that the papyrus
could be using contemporary language.6
The story of the rst son is lost, but that of the second son
Khefren, famous for building the second pyramid at Gizeh after
the Great Pyramid which his father had built, concerns the wife
of a courtier who seduces a man she fancies while her husband
is away; this is a motif clearly echoed in the narrative of Joseph
Budge, op.cit., 14; W. Spitta, Contes arabes modernes, Paris 1883.
See S.G. Quirke, Narrative Literature, in: A. Loprieno, Ancient Egyp-
tian Literature: History and Forms, Leiden 1996, 271 n. 50; he says that the
language could be dated possibly to the same period as the manuscript itself;
I myself have not been able to identify the remark, attributed to Blackman,
in: A.M. Blackman, The Story of King Kheops and the Magicians, Reading
172 M.E.J. Richardson

and Potiphars wife, though the biblical episode did not end quite
so violently as the Egyptian narrative: there the unfaithful wife
is burned to death and the cuckold is swallowed by a crocodile,
while the pharaoh looks on to see justice done. The third son
relates in sexually evocative language how Snefru was entertained
by a crew of topless girls; while they are rowing his pleasure boat
across a lake one of them loses her favourite necklace over the
side. The motifs of the waters being miraculously divided so that
the precious ornament could be retrieved, and then of them being
miraculously restored to their place and becoming twice as deep
as before, have more than one echo in the biblical narrative. The
fourth son prefers not to rely so much on the power of narrative
as on a live demonstration, in which the skills of a modern ma-
gician can be demonstrated. The aged Djedi is brought into the
presence of the pharaoh and gives a live performance of how he
could reconnect the severed head of a bird to its neck, and also,
apparently, miraculously tame a lion. But the climax of the story,
and perhaps also of the other stories in the set, is seen when it
comes to understanding divine mysteries. At this point the wise
old Djedi prophesies that three children are going to be born who
will in turn establish a new dynasty marking the end of the line
of King Cheops. Here we have yet another motif for which it is
not hard to nd a biblical parallel.

3 Pharaonic Autobiography
The fact that the pharaoh Merenptah mentioned the name Israel
on the stele in his mortuary temple at Thebes is well-known, for
that is the earliest citation of that proper name, dating to the lat-
ter part of the 13th century.7 But it is sometimes forgotten that,
from a literary point of view, this inscription cannot be regarded
as simple narrative history. It was discovered in 1897 by Petrie,
who correctly noted that it had been erected in celebration of
the victories of the Pharaoh. His identication of the name Is-
rael was fortunate, inasmuch as the nineteenth century excavator
was being nanced by funds raised by biblical archaeologists who
were looking for proof of Israels sojourn in Egypt. In ANET it
has not been included in the section devoted to Egyptian his-
The most recent annotated translation of this document has been pre-
pared by K.A. Kitchen, Ramesside Inscriptions: Translated and Annotated,
vol. 4: Merenptah & Late Nineteenth Dynasty, Oxford 2003.
Textual Modification: Some Examples from Egypt 173

torical inscriptions, but it is, quite correctly, placed under the

section headed Hymns and Prayers. John A.Wilson, the trans-
lator, notes in his introduction that it is not historical in the
same sense as two other records of that victory, but is rather a
poetic eulogy of a universally victorious Pharaoh.8 He explains
that the text as a whole is primarily concerned not with any ex-
pedition to Palestine, but with the famous victory of Merenptah
over the th.nw, the Libyans.
For the biblical scholar these two points are of fundamental
importance in assessing the signicance of the mention of the
name Israel. However interesting the conicts with her western
neighbour may be for the historian of Egypt, a reader of ANET
is expected to be primarily interested in the name Israel right at
the end. Nonetheless, Wilson has translated the text as a whole
so that the reader can appreciate that the emphasis is almost
always on Libya and the mention of Israel can be seen as some-
thing of an afterthought. A signicantly dierent treatment is
given to the stele in ContS, where it is presented with all the
other Egyptian royal monumental inscriptions of Dynasty xix.
Those were translated by our colleague K.A. Kitchen, but, for
one reason or another, the translation of the Merenptah stele
was left to James K. Homeier, who decided that only the last
two lines were worth translating for the readers of ContS.9 In
his introductory paragraphs Homeier shows that he is happy
to accept that the hymnic nature of the text in no way implies
that there is any elaboration of the historical facts. He forms the
conclusion that the kings sortie into the Levant, in which the
Israelites were encountered, must have occurred no earlier than
year 2 and before the Libyan campaign (1211-1208 bce), and he
asserts that the famous reference, the earliest occurrence of Israel
outside of the Bible, counters the recent attempts of minimalists
to explain Israels origins in Canaan apart from the Bible.10
There are one or two further points which must be remem-
bered when considering the historical reliability of this text. The
ANET, 376b, lines 1-4.
ContS, vol. 2, 40-1; the editors had given Homeier the responsibility of
translating the inscriptions of Dynasty xviii; see pp. 5-23.
Kitchens introductory paragraphs for the other texts in this section of
the book, by contrast, have no trace of any such polemic, although his views
on this question are well known; he has presumably thought that there are
better times and places for such remarks to have the desired eect.
174 M.E.J. Richardson

rst is that this particular stele, now in the Cairo Museum, was
discovered at Thebes, but the text is duplicated on a second stele,
part of which was discovered earlier at Karnak, and this was
supplemented later by two further fragments. It is one of those
unfortunate accidents of fate that anyone seeking conrmation of
the occurrence of the name of Israel on this duplicate stele will
be disappointed, because that is just the point where the stele is
broken.11 In fact, this duplicate stele, despite its appalling state
of preservation compared with the one from Thebes, could claim
to have greater authority, in that the stone has been selected
specically for that inscription. By contrast, the Thebes stele
was rst used as the Great Stele of Amenhotep iii (1410-1372),
and it is on the rough side of that stele that the inscription of
Merenptah (1237-1226) was carved.12
That primary inscription records the great building activity
Amenhotep iii undertook at Thebes as well as a commemoration
of the previous restoration work undertaken by Seti after the de-
struction brought about by Akhnaten. The eulogy to Horus with
which that text begins includes the divine epithet He who paci-
es both lands and conquers the Asiatics. It continues system-
atically to list the work undertaken at Thebes on the West Bank
on the temple of Amenhotep iii, then on the temples at Luxor,
Karnak and Soleb, and concludes with the majestic speech of
Amun, in which he addresses Amenhotep as his son, who is hon-
oured by the tribute of the nations from the four points of the
compass (Ethiopia to the south, Asia to the north, Libya to the
west, and Punt to the east: such instances of approximation in
cartographical dimensions need not concern us here).
Undertakings such as these can be validated by secondary
evidence, and this text is a marvellous example of the lyrical
look at the achievements of the past coupled with a utopian view
of the present that convinced the world of the splendour of Egypt
The rst fragment of this parallel text was published in 1867, before
Petries discovery, by Dumichen; a second fragment, published by Legrain in
1901, has now disappeared; the rest of the text, together with a summary of
previous work, can be found in C. Kuentz, Le double de la st`ele dIsrael `
Karnak, BIFAO 21 (1923), 113-17.
The dates for the rulership of Amenhotep and Merenptah are taken from
D.B. Redford (ed.), The Oxford Encyclopaedia of Ancient Egypt, New York
2001; these are a little earlier than the dates given for Merenptah in ContS
(see p.41) by Homeier, who gives 1213 for the beginning of his rule.
Textual Modification: Some Examples from Egypt 175

in its Golden Age. It could well be that in re-using this ancient

stele there was a deliberate attempt to perpetuate this idealism
into the reign of Merenptah. No doubt he would, like his prede-
cessors, have very much liked to make an expedition to terrorise
the Asiatics, as he had terrorised the Libyans, but conrmation
that he did undertake such an expedition will have to be based
on more than a poetic listing of the names of territories and
peoples reputed to live there. The glory of the victories of his
predecessor Ramesses ii, including his Palestinian campaigning,
may well have been longed for by Merenptah, but clearly he did
not manage to rise to the same heights of power, even though
his victory over the Libyans on the Western border of the Nile
Delta was signicant. It has now been proposed that the asso-
ciated illustrations portraying his campaigns actually belong to
a cycle of scenes depicting episodes from the campaigns under-
taken earlier against the Asiatics by his predecesssor Ramesses
ii (1304-1237).13 Even though clear evidence for an actual ex-
pedition by Merenptah to Israel may be considered weak, the
fact that he is able to list the name among other inhabitants of
Western Palestine is sucient conrmation that by the middle of
the thirteenth century a people with this name was a recognised
element of the local population.14

4 An Egyptian Living in Palestine

The story of Sinuhe is concerned with life in Palestine, so a trans-
lation of the whole story has been provided in both ANET and
ContS : in ANET it was translated by John A.Wilson, and classi-
ed as one of the Egyptian myths and mortuary texts; in ContS
it was translated by Miriam Lichtheim, and classied as one of the
Egyptian Canonical compositions focusing on the individual.15
But although Wilson draws attention to the fact that there
are several manuscripts of the text available, viz. ve papyri
H. Sourouzian, Merenptah, in: D.B. Redford (ed.), op.cit., 2, 381a.
A balanced assessment of the position in the light of recent research can
be found in J.C. de Moor, The Rise of Yahwism, Leuven 2 1997, 213-14, note
24; see also p. 186, note 404.
See ANET, 18-22; ContS, vol. 1, 77-82. For the most recent authoritat-
ive edition of this text see R. Koch, Die Erzahlung des Sinuhe (BAeg, 17),
Brussels 1990. A copiously annotated new translation has been made by R.B.
Parkinson, The Tale of Sinuhe and Other Ancient Egyptian Poems 1940-1640
bc, Oxford 1997, 21-53.
176 M.E.J. Richardson

and seventeen ostraca to be dated from the late Twelfth Dyn-

asty (about 1800 b.c.) to the Twenty-First Dynasty (about 1000
b.c.), in his translation he never refers to any variant reading.
Lichtheim, on the other hand, is careful to point out which ma-
nuscript she has taken as her exemplar, and there are several
references in the notes to items where she considers another ma-
nuscript has a better reading. A variant manuscript that has
attracted considerable attention in more recent years is the os-
tracon now in Oxford at the Ashmolean Museum of Art and
The history of its discovery is particularly interesting. First a
broken piece of the text was presented to the Ashmolean in 1940
by Alan Gardiner, the doyen of British Egyptology. Then the
other part of the inscription was identied in a shop in Cairo by

Jaroslav Cerny, and, shortly afterwards, it was purchased for the
museum through the generosity of Gardiner. Because of transport
diculties during the war years it was kept in safe custody in
Durban before being delivered to the Ashmolean in 1945. The
whole piece measures 31.5 cm x 88.5 cm, but only half of it has a
smooth surface, so the writing, described as small, neat, regular,
becomes rougher as the surface becomes rougher. On the lower
half of the verso it is described as a coarse scrawl; tiny blots add
to the impression of someone writing in careless haste. Acccording
to Wilson this ostracon should be seen as the most imposing
of these new copies, and Lichtheim describes it as the third
major copy, after the two principal manuscripts in Berlin used
in ANET. It has been given the siglum Ashm.
The detailed examination which Barns gave to this manu-
script enabled him to make some important conclusions about
the transmission of this well-known text. He has no hesitation in
recognising it as the work of a student, because texts on ostraca,
whether Egyptian or Greek, have invariably been produced in a
school; here the school in question was probably the one at Deir
el Medinah. The student in question, he observes, was clearly a
uent and competent hieratic scribe, but, even so, it has to be
described as an example of a bad text inasmuch as every kind of
mistake can be found in it: misspellings, confused constructions,
and senseless interpolations; in fact, if we had to rely upon it and
Published by J.W.B. Barns, The Ashmolean Ostracon of Sinuhe, London
Textual Modification: Some Examples from Egypt 177

its nearest relatives . . . much of the story would be unintelligible

to us.17 The Berlin papyri are still, therefore, our exemplars,
with Ashm providing some of the more signicant variant read-
ings. The conclusion he draws from this paradoxical manuscript,
with its capacity for both elegant script and also poor grammar,
is that the scribe of Ashm did not completely understand what
he was writing, for the focus of the instruction he had received
was on calligraphy rather than grammar. He takes these features
to mean, in his words, that the writer did not know, and . . . that
he and his instructors did not care, what the words which he was
writing meant.18
This conclusion is certainly sucient to explain the misspell-
ings, such as the frequent occurrences of the negative particle
nn instead of the preposition n, and also the irregular punctu-
ation which, as it stands, often makes no sense. It will also go
a long way to explaining the fact that some obscure words in
the earlier manuscript have been exactly preserved in Ashm, so
that Barns has been obliged to look further into the question of
whether such dicult readings are superior to any conjectural
emendation. It was clearly not without diculty that the rst
editors, as well as Wilson in ANET, concluded that the hero of
the story could enjoy the bread made for me as daily fare; but
by more closely following the text as written, and with further
lexicographical probing, Lichtheim is able to oer an alternative
translation based on the work of Barns on Ashm: she suggests
that it may be as well to read and supplies of m int-drink in-
stead of as daily fare.19 With even more condence, inasmuch as
the change is incorporated into her text, she accepts the sugges-
tion of Barns that t t should be interpreted as progeny instead

of viziership. This means that the sentence, This servant will
hand over the viziership that this servant has exercised in this
place (words that were highlighted in red in the exemplar), can
be changed to, This servant will hand over his possessions to the
brood which this servant begot in this place.20

See Barns, op.cit., xxx.
Compare J.A. Wilson, The Story of Sinuhe, in: ANET, 20a, lines 85-90
with M. Lichtheim, Sinuhe in: ContS, vol. 1, 79a, n. 6.
Compare ANET, 21b, line 235 with ContS, vol. 1, 81b, lines 234-5 and
n. 18.
178 M.E.J. Richardson

But other changes show that the text had been modied over
time by replacing obsolete references to comparable contempor-
ary ones. One of the rst foreign city names to be mentioned
occurs in line 20, at dawn I reached ptn; this is followed a few
lines later by the better known name of Byblos, which in Egyp-
tian is spelled as kpn  (line 29). Whoever wrote Ashm seems not
to have known the rst place-name as well as Byblos, so that
while we read in the exemplars ptn, in Ashm the spelling is pn ,
clearly representing a variation of the much better known kpn ,
Byblos. Similarly, the name k.dm is replaced by the name k.ds ,
a place that was probably much better known at the time of
writing this particular manuscript.
There is also some evidence that clarication of some of the
grammatical obscurities in the exemplar has been undertaken.
An example of this is the way that Sinuhe hides himself away in
the bushes when the splendour of the royal procession is about
to pass along the way, which it is much easier to understand from
the reading of Ashm than from that of the exemplar.21 But, as
is the way with such texts, the editor recognises that there are
also some errors for which I nd it hard to account and some of
which might be ultimately due to a misapplied desire to make
sense of the unintelligible.22 The parallel passages in the text
exhibit a number of harmonisations (between 20 and 30); this is
not surprising for there is a general tendency in these late texts
to make supercially similar passages identical.23
When the variations from the exemplar are considered as a
whole it seems reasonable to conclude that the scribe to whom
we owe this manuscript had probably been required to learn the
text by heart as part of his scribal training. The number of vari-
ant readings that can more easily be explained as arising from a
memorised text (some may equally well be mistakes in seeking
to record a passage from dictation) far exceed those that were
more likely to have arisen from a visual copying mistake. Mem-
orising long passages was a practice repeated by generations of
scribes over the years.24 Furthermore, there is no evidence of any

For a full grammatical discussion see Barns, op. cit., 2a-b; cf. ANET,
19a, lines 5-8; ContS, vol. 1, 77b, second paragraph.
See Barns, op. cit., [35b], lines 1-4.
Ibid., 4b, last paragraph.
Much more detailed information on pedagogy in Ancient Egypt can be
Textual Modification: Some Examples from Egypt 179

developed exegesis of the text, at least not any more developed

than would be expected from probably unwittingly substituting
into an ancient text items of greater relevance to the contempor-
ary world than what had been written in the past. What is absent
is reinterpretation, the most discouraging and intractable kind
of textual corruption, and the falsication of the reading of an
obscure passage by one who is determined to make sense of it.25
Reading such datable texts together with the information that
makes it possible to see the evolutionary process must surely be
a good discipline for one who wishes to understand the evolution
of the Hebrew scriptures.

5 Exotic Words and Customs

The most recently published volume of ContS is devoted to Arch-
ival Documents, and under this heading has been included a
collection of Egyptian letters. After a presentation of the three
letters of Heqnakht, which are undoubtedly archival material, we
have a new translation of Papyrus Anastasi I, together with a few
other model letters. While letters in the general sense can hardly
be regarded as anything other than archival, these model let-
ters have to be regarded as more literary than archival.26 Pap.
Anastasi I has long been known to contain the famous instruc-
tions, presented in the form of a letter, for a model state employee
who was required to perform his duty as a mahir, that is to say
something akin to an intelligence scout and logistics expert. It
is the response from a master of the art named Hori (possibly a
symbolic name derived from the name of the deity Horus, god of
the pharaoh himself) to a letter from Amenemopet, a mahir who
is represented as working in Palestine, in the territory of the Asi-
atics, during the reign of Ramesses ii (1304-1237, Dynasty xix).
The master upbraids the mahir for being badly prepared for ful-
lling the task allotted to him, and tells him how better to full
his function. Because there are so many Western Semitic names
transcribed into Egyptian characters in the letter it has always
been of considerable interest to those who wish to have literary

found in B. van de Walle, La transmission des textes litteraires egyptiens,

Brussels 1948, where Sinuhe is selected for special treatment.
See Barns, op. cit., [35a], third paragraph.
See ContS, vol. 3, 5-9 (Heqnakht); 9-14 (Pap. Anastasi I); 15-7 (the other
selected model letters).
180 M.E.J. Richardson

evidence of what Palestine was like before the biblical records

began. In fact, it contains the earliest description of what was
to become the land of the Hebrews, albeit seen through foreign
eyes. In ANET it was translated by John A. Wilson;27 in ContS
the translator was James P. Allen.28 Both editors note the fact
that there are at least 84 other inscriptions on which parts of
this text are recorded. Clearly it was very well known among the
literati living in the valley of the Nile.
Although Wilson said in his introduction that a particular
value for our purposes is the summary catalogue of places in the
Egyptian empire in Asia, it falls to Allen in ContS to provide an
adequate transliteration of the place-names and all the loanwords
that he can identify in the text. These comprehensive notes are of
tremendous philological interest. By identifying so many North-
west Semitic words written in Egyptian syllabic writing, and by
providing transcriptions of those writings, it is now possible for
those of us who hesitate to include Egyptian in our repertoire to
begin to assess the importance of the inventory of words collec-
ted here. It can hardly be doubted that they are as signicant
for Classical Hebrew lexicography as the glosses in the corres-
pondence between Palestine and Tell el-Amarna. At rst sight
it seems that we have evidence for phonological patterns that
have hitherto demanded extra support. A morphological analysis
immediately shows that the normal Egyptian plural marker
u is preferred to Northwest Semitic -m/nm/n (suggesting that
we have hybrid forms), and that the nominal determinative a -,
primarily associated with Aramaic rather than Canaanite, is reg-
ularly used in citation forms. The spectrum of lexemes includes
ora, fauna and occupations, which means that vocabulary ac-
quisition had extended beyond the basics; and there are several
instances where a cognate in Biblical Hebrew has hitherto lacked
adequate (sometimes it has lacked any) etymology. Here it is
not possible to begin to apply closer examination to this rich
resource, but it almost goes without saying that if we were to ac-
cept that the duties expected of a mahir like Amenemhotep by a
master like Hori were applied to our understanding of the quality
of Ezras professionalism, the word scribe is hardly adequate to
translate s ofer in the phrase s
ofer m
ahr in Ezra 7:6. Further-
See ANET, 475-9.
ContS, vol. 3, 9-14.
Textual Modification: Some Examples from Egypt 181

more, the fact that the speaker of Psalm 45 identies himself

with the same title may well do something to explain the fre-
quent references to the military achievements of the king whom
he eulogises.

6 Concluding Remarks
I have attempted in this overview to draw attention to the im-
portance of a few, sometimes neglected, elements in non-biblical
literature, elements which can often in one way or another shed
light on the overall comprehension of biblical narratives. When
it comes to oral tradition it is not enough just to look at ancient
texts for our sources of inspiration; what must also be taken into
consideration are the traditions that have developed from the bib-
lical narratives; that is why reference was made to the traditions
of the Coptic church. Some narratives, such as the one describ-
ing miracles performed in the time of the great pharaohs of the
Old Kingdom, certainly seem to have had their own oral tradi-
tion and include literary motifs found also in the Bible, but for
reasons which are not yet apparent they have not been included
in the standard anthologies of ancient Near Eastern texts relat-
ing to the Old Testament. And sometimes a text that has been
included in such an anthology and which is often understood to
have more historical credibility than the Bible narrative, such as
the Merenptah stele, is itself seen to be capable of being under-
stood as rhetorical and exaggerated. Those literary texts that
are as a matter of course included in these anthologies often have
their own textual tradition, which shows that they had achieved
sucient literary status to be used in schools as standard exercise
material. But the evidence from these is that an excellent stand-
ard of calligraphy was as high a priority for the school-teachers
as ensuring textual infallibility; the many, many variants in the
story of Sinuhe are more than enough to substantiate this argu-
ment. It is also of importance to remember that ancient Israel
was an economically under-developed society in the Near East
when compared with those of Egypt, Babylonia, Hatti and As-
syria, the empire builders of the last two millennia b.c. There-
fore, it could easily happen that such Israelite literati as there
were found themselves inuenced by their neighbouring cultures.
But they may well have become an object of interest and then
in turn have begun to inuence others. The letter from Hori to
182 M.E.J. Richardson

Amenemopet was probably never actually set into the hands of

a messenger and despatched to Palestine, but it was copied and
copied so much in the Egyptian schools that at least some of the
pupils could hardly have failed to become interested in the qual-
ity of the grass on the other side of their fence. We do well to do
Janet E. Tollington Westminster College, Cambridge United Kingdom

Abraham and his Wives

Culture and Status
The purpose of this paper is to consider the texts of Genesis that
present the stories of Abraham and his three wives, Sarah, Hagar
and Keturah, and to reect on his relationships with them in sev-
eral ways. I intend to consider linguistic, literary and theological
questions posed by the texts. I will argue both on the basis of the
nal form of the text and with regard to the view that distinctive
traditions underlie specic sections of the material. My aim is to
reveal the roles that the women play in these stories alongside
Abraham, and to consider whether the perspective of the texts
is quite as patriarchal as is generally presumed.
Taking Genesis 11:2625:11, the section focusing on Abra-
hams life, as a continuous narrative, we encounter a story about
what is known as the patriarchal period. It portrays a family
group living a semi-nomadic, unsettled lifestyle, moving by stages
from Ur of the Chaldeans, through Haran, the land of Canaan,
Egypt and the Arabian peninsula. It tells of their encounters with
other peoples living in those regions and implies certain things
about cultural norms pertaining in a particular area or at a par-
ticular time, for example beliefs about marriage and adultery;
but we need to beware against assuming that these texts provide
insights into the actual society of those days.1 Whatever the ori-
gins of each section of this narrative, the continuous story comes
to us from the perspective of a community whose people had
lived through the process of establishing themselves as a nation,
through monarchy, through the experience of exile and probably
of living as a small province in a large foreign empire. With the
benet of hindsight the narrative has been shaped so that it re-
ects the beliefs and hopes of a much later period than that to
which it refers; and no matter whether or not the writer(s) in-
tended to record the ancient period faithfully (and we can never
know the answer to this), at best the canonical narrative oers
a post-exilic interpretation of the patriarchal period. Similarly, I
Contra C. Meyers, Women and the Domestic Economy of Early Israel,
in: A. Bach (ed.), Women in the Hebrew Bible: a Reader, London 1999, 33-43.
184 J.E. Tollington

would suggest that none of the underlying traditions responsible

for specic sections of the text comes directly from the patriarchal
period. Rather, they are the product of a process of reection
on remembered (or created) history and experience, telling their
stories for the communities of their own time and thus coloured
by the norms and beliefs of the time of each stage of writing.2
A literal reading of the narrative reveals Abram as a son of
Terah, who was born in Ur of the Chaldeans, and who married
Sarai, about whose ancestry the text is silent. They are childless
at this point, she is described as barren,3 and there is no mention
of there being any servants in the family household. Terahs fam-
ily moves to Haran and settles there for a time until Terah dies
(11:26-32). When Abram is seventy-ve years old, with Sarai, his
nephew Lot, and the persons whom they had acquired in Haran
(12:5) the text says nothing about their identity or status he
sets o for Canaan, where he, Abram, receives a divine promise
to the eect that he, Abram, will have descendants who will one
day inherit that land (12:7). The promise is specically related
to Abram as an individual and makes no mention of a wife.
When famine strikes Canaan the family moves on to Egypt,
and at the border4 Abram instructs Sarai, whom he describes as
beautiful and sexually attractive to men, to say that she is Ab-
rams sister, not his wife, in order that his, Abrams, life may be
spared. The implication is clear: Abram fears that the Egyptians
will want Sarai as a sexual partner, that they will be unwilling
to commit adultery with her if they realise that Abram is her
husband, and that they will therefore kill him in order to obtain
her as a widow. As a sister she can be taken by the Egyptians
without any harm being done to Abram. Either way Sarai, a legal
wife, will be violated by the Egyptians, but Abrams concern is

Within the scope of this paper there is no room to discuss the complex
history of the texts development. Suce it to say that whilst the underlying
stories may have early folk origins, I believe that the literary traditions all
reect the experience of exile and that it is not possible to get back to previous
layers of text with any certainty.
The word used (hr:q:[)} does not imply an inability to bear a child, or
sterility; only that the woman has not yet done so. In both Exod. 23:26 and
Deut. 7:14 it occurs in contexts that imply that barrenness equates to the
absence of Gods blessing.
I recognise that this is an anachronistic term to describe the point of
transition into territory ruled by the Pharaoh.
Abraham and his Wives 185

about the preservation of his own life. Of course, it is essential

that Abram lives if the divine promise is to be fullled. However,
it appears that Sarai is regarded, not primarily as the potential
mother of Abrams children, but, rather, as someone who can
be used to satisfy the desires and well-being of others in this
case others who are all men (12:11-13).5 Sarais silence suggests
submission, and the text reveals that events unfold as Abram
expects. However, not only is Abrams life spared, the Egyptian
Pharaoh bestows animals and slaves on Abram, which may be
interpreted as the payment of a bride price to him as Sarais
brother, in the absence of a father to whom it would presumably
be due; or in Westermanns view, the gifts are to compensate
the brother for the loss of his sister.6 The text implies in 12:19
that the Pharaoh does have intercourse with Sarai, and the nar-
rator states that the Lord aicts the Egyptians with plagues
because of (that is, because of the wrong being done to) Sarai,
Abrams wife, (12:17).7 Somehow the plague causes Pharaoh to
realise the deception that has been practised upon him. He sum-
mons Abram, accuses him of having caused him to act wrongly,
asks Why?. He receives no answer, gives Abrams wife back and
ejects them from the land, letting Abram retain all his posses-
sions, including apparently the bride price. The family group
return to the Negeb region in the south of Canaan (Gen. 12:18-
The story shows the Egyptians in a good light. They did not
use hostility against Abram even when he was proved guilty of
trickery and self-interest. The end of the story implies that Sarai
would have been respected as a married woman if the truth had
been told at the outset. The only one who was abused and op-
pressed in this story is Sarai, whose worth as a human being
is denied by all concerned, even by Sarai herself, since she ac-
cepts her rejection as a wife eectively twice, by Abram and
the Pharaoh without demur. Abram is shamed and humiliated
in the story, but comes out of it still with his wife and materi-
S. Niditch, Genesis, in: C. A. Newsom, S. H Ringe (eds.), Womens
Bible Commentary: Expanded Edition, Louisville 1998, 13-29, argues force-
fully concerning the crass, male-centered way (22) in which this narrative
is presented.
C. Westermann, Genesis, Edinburgh 1988, 103.
Contra Westermann, op. cit., 149, who argues that the plague is sent to
prevent adultery taking place.
186 J.E. Tollington

ally enriched. Theologically this story pregures the enslavement

of the Hebrew people in Egypt and their rescue by the Lord
by means of a plague (Exod. 112). Here Sarai represents the
oppressed people, and Abram, who is revealed as the promised
father of the nation trying to safeguard his own life, and who rep-
resents authority, leadership, and perhaps kingship, is portrayed
as the cause of the oppression. From the perspective of exile, or
any time of national downfall, the story suggests that Israels op-
pression is largely the fault of her own (male) leaders who put
self-interest and self-reliance before trust in God; but nonetheless
there is assurance that the Lord will always come to the rescue
of the chosen people.
The narrative in Genesis ignores Sarai for a time while relat-
ing several incidents involving Abram. In 15:2-5 Abram raises the
question of his childlessness, and the Lord assures him that he
will father his own heir and have many descendants; but there is
no mention of who will be mother. In 16:1 the narrator reminds
us that Sarai, Abrams wife, has borne him no children. The em-
phasis is solely on the absence of a descendant for Abram, the
patriarch. We are then told that Sarai has an Egyptian slave girl
called Hagar. The Hebrew word for slave girl here is hj;p]v,i and
many have argued over the precise meaning of this word. West-
ermann suggests that it implies a servant of a married woman to
whom alone she is responsible,8 but it should be noted that the
same word was used in 12:16 for the female slaves given to Ab-
ram as part of the bride price for Sarai, which undermines this
argument. Meyers argues that it always means a servile, menial
female slave, in contrast to hm;a; maidservant, which denotes a
more honourable female servant.9 This distinction is supported
by BDB,10 whereas Skinner11 implies, on the contrary, that this
hm;a; means a very lowly, menial household slave girl. I suggest that
usage of both these words in the Hebrew Bible does not permit us
to determine precisely Hagars status (cf. Gen. 30:3 where hm;a; is
Westermann, op. cit., 124.
C. Meyers, Female (and Male) Slaves, in: C. Meyers et al. (eds), Women
in Scripture, New York 2000, 178-9. Although both terms are used by women
to indicate the speakers humility, she notes that only the latter term is used
to denote personal humility before God, for example Hannah (1 Sam. 1:11).
F. Brown et al., A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament,
Oxford 1906, 51, 1046.
J. Skinner, Genesis (ICC), Edinburgh 1910, 1963, 322.
Abraham and his Wives 187

used of Rachels maid Bilhah and 30:9, 12 where hj;p]vi is used of

Leahs maid Zilpah).12 What is more interesting is that Hagar is
Egyptian, a fact which makes it improbable that she was Sarais
servant from the time of her marriage. It is more likely that the
events of ch. 12 reveal the origins of Hagar.13 Dennis notes that
some rabbis suggested that Hagar had in fact been the daugh-
ter of Pharaoh a literal princess, given to Sarai, whose name
may mean princess.14 Whatever her birth and technical status,
the text indicates that Hagar is under Sarais control, for she
instructs Abram, Go in to my slave-girl; it may be that I shall
obtain children by her, after declaring that the Lord has pre-
vented me from bearing children (Gen. 16:2). Here the emphasis
is solely on a child/descendant for Sarai. It is interesting to note
that neither Sarai nor Abram ever refers to Hagar by name, but
only as a slave-girl. We still are told nothing about Sarais age
but 16:3 indicates that Abram had lived ten years in the land of
Canaan, making him at least eighty-ve years old, (cf.12:4). Pre-
sumably this extended period of barrenness conrmed in Sarais
mind that she would never bear a child herself. The idea of this
ancient form of surrogate motherhood seems to be attested in
the Code of Hammurabi 146,15 although there it applies to the
marriage of a nadtu, a woman who was attached to a temple and
not permitted to bear children. Such a womans husband could
take a second wife to be the mother of his children, but this situ-
ation could be forestalled if she gave him a slave who would be
regarded as an incubator in place of the real wife. Any children
would be deemed to belong to the wife.16 The idea that the Gen-

For a recent survey of the discussion see H.J. Marsman, Women in Ugarit
and Israel: Their Social and Religious Position in the Context of the Ancient
Near East (OTS, 49), Leiden 2003, 437-54, who concludes that the terms are
synonyms (448).
S. P. Jeansonne, The Women of Genesis: From Sarah to Potiphars Wife,
Minneapolis 1990, 18.
T. Dennis, Sarah Laughed: Womens Voices in the Old Testament, Lon-
don 1994, 62. On p.182 (n. 13) he acknowledges the alternative translation
my princess suggested by M.P. Korsak, At the Start . . . : Genesis Made New,
Louvain 1992, 54.
Westermann, op. cit., 124; G. von Rad, Genesis (OTL), London 1961,
1981, 192.
T. Frymer-Kensky, Hagar, in: Meyers et al. (eds), Women in Scripture,
86-7. She also refers to a cuneiform marriage contract from the Old Assyrian
colony in Anatolia around 1900 bce which states that if a wife does not give
188 J.E. Tollington

esis account is linked to the Hammurabi material is supported by

Sarais treatment of Hagar as an ordinary slave, which accords
with the expectations of law CH 146.17 The occurrence of this
form of surrogacy in ancient Israel is also attested in Gen. 30:1-12
in relation to Rachel and Leah, and Bilhah and Zilpah, where the
children of the latter pair are regarded as belonging to the real
wives of Jacob.
Abram submits to Sarais suggestion without question and
Hagar conceives; but then the narrator indicates in 16:4 that
Hagar displays superiority towards Sarai.18 According to the text
Sarai regards authority over Hagar to have passed to Abram when
the slave girl herself was handed over to him; and Sarai turns to
Abram to judge who is in the right in the situation.19 Abrams
answer is simply to pass authority over Hagar back to Sarai. Den-
nis states, Abram remains detached, aloof from both her (Sarai)
and his new wife. His detachment is most cruel, and results, not
surprisingly, in more cruelty.20 The text reports that Sarai acted
with violence sm;j;, a word which could imply physical violence
or the use of injurious harsh words, causing Hagar to ee (16:6).
In 16:7-14 the narrator relates an encounter between Hagar and
the Lord who addresses her by name. The Lord also refers to
her as Sarais slave girl, whereby her individual humanity, status
and relationship to the other characters are all being expressed.
This passage includes a promise about the son whom she is soon
to bear, which has much in common with the promise to Abram
about his son (cf. 15:5) and foretells the destiny of Ishmael in a
way that clearly indicates alienation from all his kin. Most com-
mentators agree that verse 9, which instructs Hagar to return and
submit to Sarai, is a later addition to the text to harmonise with
the events of ch. 21. However, her return is also necessary for the
next stage of this story, because it continues by reporting (twice)

her husband a child in two years then she can purchase a slave woman for
her husband.
Von Rad, op. cit., 192.
Cf. Prov. 30:23. Westermann, op. cit., 124, refers to this as maternal
pride rather than contempt as in NRSV. We note here Davidsons sugges-
tion that in fact the name Sarai means mockery, rather than princess. R.
Davidson, Genesis 1250 (CBC), Cambridge 1979, 59-60.
Westermann, op. cit., 124, suggests that women quarrel over social po-
sition whereas men quarrel over food (cf. Abram and Lot in Gen. 13).
Dennis, op. cit., 45.
Abraham and his Wives 189

in 16:15 that Hagar bore Abram a son, whom he named Ishmael.

What is interesting to note here is that nothing is said about the
status of the child. Gen. 16:2 implies that both Sarai and Abram
would regard any child borne by Hagar as Sarais, but that un-
derstanding is not adopted here and it receives no more comment
from anyone in the narrative. The Lords word to Hagar rejects
the concept that the child will be regarded as Abrams heir. As
noted above, this represents a dierent understanding of Hagars
child from those born to Bilhah and Zilpah who become founding
fathers of Israels tribes alongside the legitimate sons of Jacob
(Gen. 49). Sarai makes no claim on the child as hers, and Abram
says nothing. Theologically this passage emphasises the futility
of human attempts to bring about Gods promises by ingenious
means; indeed, it suggests that God frustrates any such schemes.
As a story, during the monarchy it would challenge the making
of political alliances with the intention of thereby ensuring the
nations security; and in exile it warns Gods people of the need
for patience. Continued trust in God and obedience to Gods will
are the required response whenever a situation seems impossible
from the human perspective.
Genesis 17 leaps forward another thirteen years to when Ab-
ram is ninety-nine years old and records the making of the cov-
enant between the Lord and Abraham. His re-naming reects
the substance of the covenant promise, and the practice of male
circumcision is inaugurated (17:1-14). In its literary context the
narrative appears at rst to oer Abraham the hope that the
promises will be fullled through his son Ishmael, since he does
not know what the Lord had said to Hagar. Then in 17:15 Sarah,
his wife, is renamed by God in her absence.21 Abraham is told
that God will give him a son through her and that this son will
be the one through whom nations and kings will come into being.
His response is laughter of disbelief on the basis of his own age
and that of Sarah, who would be ninety by the time she had con-
ceived and given birth. Abraham wishes God to bless Ishmael,
but no, Sarah will bear a son to be named Isaac, meaning he
laughs, and the covenant blessings will in turn be his. Ishmael
will also be blessed and will father a great nation, but a dierent
No explanation for the renaming of Sarai is oered; but Davidsons sug-
gestion that it marks a transition from mockery to princess is credible; see
n. 18 above.
190 J.E. Tollington

one. 17:21 reiterates that Sarah will bear Abraham a son at this
season next year, implying that a natural birth through concep-
tion and normal pregnancy is envisaged. The chapter ends with
an account of Abraham, his son Ishmael, now aged thirteen years,
and all the males of the household being circumcised (17:23-27),
suggesting that Abraham still perceives Ishmael as a member of
the covenant community that will become Israel.
In 18:1-8 the story of the visitors by the oaks of Mamre is told.
Abraham displays the required hospitality and instructs Sarah,
inside a tent, to make cakes while he takes charge of arranging the
meats; there is no mention of Hagar at all in this narrative. When
the meal is served, the visitors, surprisingly in the context of a
patriarchal society, ask by name about the whereabouts of Sarah,
his wife. They are told that she is in the tent culturally men
ate alone. One of the visitors then reiterates the promise that
Sarah will bear a son, in language that implies divine author-
ity. The narrator informs us that Sarah overhears from within
the tent, reminds us that she has reached the menopause, and
records that she laughed to herself (18:12), doubting that she
would have pleasure, that is a child, now that both she and her
husband were old. Her reaction and reasoning parallel that of
Abraham in 17:17. The Lord in this way the speakers true
identity is revealed then questions Abraham about Sarahs (si-
lent) laughter and her expression of disbelief, asking rhetorically
whether anything is beyond the power of the Lord. The promise
of a son is repeated. Sarah, who by this time appears to have
discerned the identity of the visitor(s), denies laughing because
she is afraid,22 a denial which is rejected by the Lord. This nal
statement is directed to Sarah (you did laugh), although neither
party has apparently changed location; nor does the narrator at-
tempt to describe how Abraham reacted to being drawn into an
otherwise private, telepathic conversation between Sarah and the
Gen. 18:22-19:38 concerns the destruction of Sodom and ends
with Lots incestuous relationships. In 20:1-18 we nd the second
version of what is called the thrice-told tale,23 this time located
No reason is oered for her fear. It may refer to the belief that no-one
could see God and live (Exod. 33:20). Cf. Judg. 6:22-3; 13:22-3.
The other versions are 12:10-20; and 26:6-11 which relates to Isaac and
Abraham and his Wives 191

in Gerar. The idea that a ninety year old woman would incite
sexual passion is somewhat incredible, but the narrative implies
that Abraham fears this and declares Sarah to be his sister, again,
although his motivation for doing so is not spelled out at this
point. King Abimelech takes Sarah into his household, but God
intervenes immediately through a dream to warn Abimelech that
Sarah is married. The text indicates, twice, in Gen. 20:4 and
6, that intercourse had not taken place this time; there was no
danger that Sarah had become pregnant through a foreign king.
Abimelech debates with God his innocence, indicating that both
Abraham and Sarah had conrmed to him her status as sister
(v. 5). He is told to restore Abrahams wife, which he does, and
he challenges Abraham about his behaviour. In 20:11 Abraham
defends himself partly on the grounds that there was no fear of
the Lord in Gerar (paradoxically Abimelech has shown greater
fear of the Lord than Abraham in this incident) and by claim-
ing that Sarah is in fact his half-sister through his father. This is
new information within this narrative and there has been much
scholarly debate about whether marriage between such near rel-
atives is a possibility.24 The issue cannot be denitively resolved
on the basis of the information available, nor can any question
about the historicity of the event portrayed;25 but it is import-
ant to note that Abraham pushes responsibility on to the gods
who caused me to wander from my fathers house (v. 13) and
replies that he instructed Sarah at every place to which we come
to say he was her brother. He declares that this is the kindness
Skinner, op. cit., 318, cites 2 Sam. 13:13 as indicative that the practice
was frequent among Semites in early Israel and only prohibited by later
legislation (Lev. 18:9, 11; 20:17; Deut. 27:22). E.A. Speiser, Genesis (AB),
New York 1964, 91-2, argues for the legitimacy of the wife/sister motif on
the basis of Nuzi documents and Hurrian practice, but his interpretation
of these has been convincingly challenged; see G.J. Wenham, Genesis 1-
15 (WBC), Waco 1987, 273, and scholars cited there. W. Brueggemann,
Genesis, Louisville 1982, 127, argues that Gen. 12:10-20 requires that Abram
was lying about the relationship then and therefore must be doing so again
here. T. Frymer-Kensky, Sarah 1/Sarai, in: Meyers et al. (eds), Women in
Scripture, 150-1, notes that suggestions that Sarai be equated with Iscah,
Harans daughter, in 11:29 do not help resolve the matter as that would
make her Abrams niece, not his sister. Some pharaohs married their sister
or half-sister, but this was exceptional and does not reect common practice.
Cf. Marsman, op. cit., 243-4.
Westermann, op. cit., 148, argues that this is theological reection on
192 J.E. Tollington

ds,j,, (h.esed ) you must do me so once again self-interest is to the

fore. As Dennis notes,26 there is no h.esed being shown to Sarah by
Abraham as he, time and again, if the text is taken at face value,
rejects her status as wife to safeguard himself. Taken literally
the text implies that Sarah is undoubtedly the most frequently
abused identiable woman in the Bible. However, the narrative
reports that Sarah is restored to Abraham and that Abraham
is given wealth to exonerate Sarah (v. 16). It is Sarahs honour
that is vindicated27 and according to the narrator Sarah, not Ab-
raham, is told this directly by Abimelech. It is quite clear that
Sarah is in no way guilty of anything wrong in this passage, and
the passage ends (v. 19) with a statement that the Lord had
also intervened on behalf of Sarah, Abrahams wife. Sarah is in
receipt of h.esed here; but from everyone except her husband.
In 21:1-7 the birth of Isaac is reported in terms that emphasise
that the Lord is fullling promises to Sarah not Abraham.
Sarah conceives and bears a son to Abraham, who names him
Isaac; he is duly circumcised. Fullment of promise and obedient
response are stressed at every point in the text, and Abrahams
age, one hundred years, is conrmed. Again Sarah laughs (v.
5) because of Gods goodness in giving her a son; and all will
laugh with her laughter of joy is implied here. Her amazement
at what has happened for her and Abraham in his old age is
expressed in verse 7. The text moves on, presumably about three
years, to the feast organised by Abraham to celebrate Isaacs
weaning (21:8-14)28 , and Hagar and Ishmael reappear within the
narrative as though they have always been part of the family
group. Verse 9 states: Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian,
whom she had borne to Abraham, playing, or, to note the force of
qjex'm] we might translate isaac-ing.29 It is important to recognise
that the addition of the phrase with her son Isaac in NRSV
and other English versions comes from the not the . There
is no suggestion that Ishmael is in any way abusing Isaac, nor

Dennis, op. cit., 55-6.
J. C. Exum, Whos Afraid of the Endangered Ancestress?, in: Bach
(ed.), Women in the Hebrew Bible, 141-56, notes the distinction that Sarahs
honour is in danger in Genesis 20 whereas the promise was endangered in ch.
2 Macc. 7:27; cf. 1 Sam. 1:22-25.
Dennis, op. cit., 58-9.
Abraham and his Wives 193

any that Hagar eggs on her son;30 indeed, the text is entirely
vague about what is happening. Is the implication that Ishmael,
theoretically fteen or sixteen years old, is acting like, pretending
to be, Isaac? Is it that Sarah sees the older boy, the rstborn son
of Abraham, and even fears that he will inherit instead of her
own son? Again we see no hint of the idea that Hagars son could
be construed as Sarahs. Sarahs response is immediate, and she
directs Abraham31 to cast out this slave woman and her son
note that neither name passes Sarahs lips to prevent him
inheriting along with my son Isaac. We note that the text does
not say instead of: a shared inheritance is Sarahs fear. Gen.
21:11 depicts Abraham being distressed on account of his son
but which one? Most commentators favour Ishmael, implying a
compassionate response by Abraham, although Dennis32 rightly
says that at this point in the text it could be either. Abraham
would himself fear that the promises through Isaac would not be
fullled if Ishmael remains within the family. Neither Sarah nor
Abraham shows any regard whatsoever for Hagar, who actually
has done nothing at all in this incident; her only oence is that
she bore Ishmael to Abraham.
Gods response in verse 12, according to the narrator, re-
solves the ambiguity, for it appears to focus on Ishmael, since
the boy (r['n") is coupled with your, that is Abrahams, slave
woman (hm;a;). Whilst this response is surprising, implying do not
be concerned with either, at least Abraham is prompted to con-
sider the fate of his secondary wife as well as his rstborn son,
although it is noted that God also fails to honour Hagar with
her name here. God tells Abraham to obey his wife Sarah in this
matter, a very unusual suggestion for a patriarchal society, and
to trust God to full the promises through Isaac. An assurance is
added that his chronological rstborn will also become a nation.
In 21:14 Abraham sends Hagar and her child, here presented
as though he is still an infant (dl,y)< , away into the wilderness.
Frymer-Kensky refers to this as the emancipation of Hagar, her
being freed from slavery,33 but, whilst this may technically be

Cf. Rebekah and Jacob (Gen. 27:5-17, 41-46).
Westermann, op. cit., 154, correctly notes that there is no suggestion of
any relationship between Sarah and Hagar here.
Dennis, op. cit., 74.
Frymer-Kensky, Hagar, in: Meyers et al. (eds), Women in Scripture, 87.
194 J.E. Tollington

the result of Abrahams actions, the text does not suggest that
his motivation was to give her freedom. The minimal supplies
that were oered, bread and water, and the fact that Hagar and
Ishmael were sent away on foot, indicate rejection with virtually
no apparent concern for their safety or survival.
The following passage, 21:15-21, parallels Hagars encounter
with God in 16:7-14 in many ways. Here once again God ad-
dresses Hagar by name, provides for her needs, reiterates the
promise about her sons future and oers her hope. Hagar is
promised that God will make a great nation from Ishmael. This
is the same phrase used in the promise to Abraham about Isaacs
descendants in 17:20, whereas in 21:13 the promise to Abraham
about Ishmael refers only to a nation. It is noted that although
Hagar wept aloud in her initial distress, indicating that she did
not interpret her release as emancipation, God responds to the
voice of the boy, though this is not mentioned in the text. She is
then encouraged to full her maternal responsibilities to Ishmael,
and the passage ends with him living in the wilderness of Paran
(SW of the Negeb) with a wife acquired for him from the land of
Egypt. Neither Abraham nor Sarah makes any further mention
of Hagar or Ishmael.
Theologically the story of Isaacs birth and the expulsion of
Ishmael, whereby Isaac is enabled to assume the status of Ab-
rahams rstborn son, demonstrates that Gods promises can al-
ways be trusted. God will bring about what has been promised
even when the obstacles appear insuperable from a human per-
spective. This acts as an encouragement to faithfulness in any
situation that seems hopeless, especially at times when the sur-
vival of the nation itself seemed threatened. However the story
also works at another level. Gods instruction to Abraham to ex-
pel Hagar and Ishmael not only fulls an aspect of Gods promise
to Hagar in Gen. 16:12 but also appears to account for, and jus-
tify, the animosity that existed between Israel and her neighbours
in the Arabian peninsula through much of their history. During
the Babylonian exile it is thought that the territory of Judah
was occupied by peoples from Edom and other areas to the south
in Arabia. In that context this story oers hope that God will
once again expel anyone, even kindred people, who threaten to
usurp Israels status as the chosen nation, or to possess her in-
heritance, the promised land. The injustice done to Hagar and
Abraham and his Wives 195

Ishmael in this presentation of the story (and its interpretation)

raises serious theological questions about the nature of God; but
perhaps the very obvious chronological inconsistencies between
Gen. 21:1-9 and 21:14-19 concerning Ishmaels age indicate a de-
liberate editorial decision. As the text has been transmitted, it
oers hope to the exilic community that desperately needed en-
couragement to believe that they had a future back in the land.
However anyone reading the text is forced to acknowledge its in-
consistencies and composite nature. If Gen. 21:9-21 was originally
a parallel account to that presented in Genesis 16,34 about the
rejection of Hagar before the conception and birth of Isaac, but
has been moved from its earlier context, then it is possible to
interpret it primarily as evidence of divine rejection of the whole
scheme to use Hagar as a surrogate mother. In that context the
story would teach that Gods people need to acknowledge the
human tragedy that results when self-reliance replaces trust and
obedience towards God. The consequences are real both for the
innocent victims in this case Hagar and Ishmael and for those
who recklessly initiated the situation in this case Abraham who
bears the pain of having personally to expel his son Ishmael. Read
in this way the story portrays God disciplining the chosen people
and at the same time acting with compassion towards those who
have been alienated by Israel and are consequently in need.
In Genesis 22, the chapter often titled The Sacrice of Isaac,
not only does Abraham appear to have put Hagar and Ishmael
completely out of mind, so too does God, who refers to Isaac as
your only son (22:2). Thus the rejection of Ishmael is complete.
Likewise Sarah is ignored, and although she lives until she is
one hundred and twenty-seven years and Isaac thirty-seven years
old, the text is silent about her except when it records that she
died at Hebron and Abraham went in to mourn for her (23:2).
The remainder of the chapter concerns the purchase of the cave in
the eld of Machpelah so that Abraham can bury Sarah, his wife,
there.35 Chapter 24 records the arrangements to obtain a wife for

This is a commonly held view among traditional scholars, for example
Westermann, op. cit., 154, and Von Rad, op. cit., 232.
Westermann, op. cit., 166, notes that the story makes no sense in the
context of the patriarchal, nomadic age but only in the context of exile, when
the idea of land attained such importance. Cf. Jeremiah buying a eld (Jer
196 J.E. Tollington

Isaac carried out by Abrahams male servant, and I agree with

Wenham36 that the text implies that Abraham died before the
servant returned with Rebekah. She in turn becomes a comfort
to Isaac after his mothers, that is Sarahs, death (24:6).
However, in Genesis 25:1-2 we are told that Abraham took
another wife (hV;a)i Keturah37 who bore him six sons, one of whom
was Midian.38 Von Rad notes that in 17:17, 18 Abraham thought
himself too old to father a child and yet here the text suggests we
are a further forty years on in time.39 Steinberg40 states that it is
impossible to tell whether this secondary union took place before
or after the death of Sarah, and Skinner41 cites the views of Well-
hausen and some Jewish traditions which hint that Keturah is a
variant story about Hagar. The only support for this latter idea
lies in the association of the tribes which descend from this union
being located in the same Syro-Arabian area as descendants of
Ishmael (cf. 25:2-4 with 12-16). Skinner goes on to note that this
led some to argue that Keturah was originally identied as the
wife of Ishmael, not Abraham; but this must remain a matter of
conjecture. The text continues in 25:6 by referring to Abrahams
concubines, in the plural (yvigl'yPi), and emphasising that whilst
he was alive he gave gifts to their sons whom he sent away east-
wards, away from his son Isaac to whom he gave all he had as his
inheritance. Paradoxically, Isaacs gift from his father was only
received at the death of Abraham when aged one hundred and
seventy-ve years, one hundred years after he entered Canaan. In
25:9 the text, usually ascribed to the P tradition, indicates that
both Isaac and Ishmael attend to their fathers burial alongside
Sarah, his wife, in the cave of Machpelah, which appears to deny
the expulsion of Ishmael. Wenham takes a positive view of this
verse, indicating that it refers to the coming together again of
the brothers for this event,42 but this suggestion seems to ignore
G.J. Wenham, Genesis 16-50 (WBC), Dallas 1994, 158.
The name means incense a commodity which comes from Arabia, the
area where the tribes descended from Keturah live.
Midian subsequently plays an important part in the Moses/Yahweh tra-
ditions in Exodus 3; 18; but note also the more negative tradition about the
Midianites in the Joseph narratives in Gen. 37:28, 36.
Von Rad, op. cit., 261.
N. Steinberg, Keturah, in: Meyers et al. (eds), Women in Scripture,
Skinner, op. cit., 349-51 and n. *.
Wenham, op. cit., 160. See also J.G. Janzen, Genesis 12-50 (ITC), Ed-
inburgh 1993, 93.
Abraham and his Wives 197

the nality of the separation implied by Gen. 21:20-21 and 16:12.

How Keturah, Abrahams third wife, is to be understood in
terms of her status (and that of her six sons), location and signi-
cance in the unfolding narrative of Abraham and his descend-
ants, is open to question, but the tradition in 1 Chronicles 1:32
has downgraded her memory to that of concubine rather than
wife. Nothing more is said about her life, death or nal resting
place and on the whole biblical traditions ignore her completely.
Theologically the story of Abraham, Keturah and their six sons
serves to emphasise that the unique signicance of Isaac attaches
to his mother, Sarah, rather than his father. It highlights the
promise to Abraham and Sarah expressed in Gen. 18:9-15 (also
17:15-21) as the crucial one and demonstrates that Gods will
achieved fullment through the unlikely channel, according to
patriarchal understandings, of a humble, fearful woman. The ma-
ternal line remains important in terms of Jewish identity to the
present day. However, I suggest that these stories are mainly
about the faithfulness of God and the need for humans to re-
cognise that God chooses to work through the lowly, not the
powerful, and often through women rather than (or, as well as)
men. They are less about family blood lines.
We have heard the stories of the three women Sarah, Hagar
and Keturah, all of whom have been accorded the status of wife
to Abraham in some parts of the narrative; but only the rst,
Sarah, retains that title throughout and also in death. Predomin-
antly Hagar is referred to, regarded as, and used as, a slave, even
at times by God, although her well-being is ultimately ensured
through divine intervention on her behalf. Keturah is identied
only as a mother of six sons; the narrative reveals nothing about
her status or character and the tradition also remains silent. Each
of them has importance in terms of demonstrating the complex
web of kinship relationships that existed between ancient Israel
and her neighbours. Each of their stories also contributes to the
unfolding theological traditions in the Hebrew Bible.
The relationship between Abraham and Sarah is an interest-
ing one that challenges traditional views about the patriarchal
bias of this material. The two characters talk together as equals
and Sarah instructs Abraham on what to do as frequently as
she is instructed by him. There is mutuality in their relationship
as they share life together, its dangers, its joys and its divine
198 J.E. Tollington

blessing. They are portrayed as real characters and in both cases

their awed humanity is acknowledged alongside their acts of
faith and obedience towards God. They both also have direct
personal encounters with God, although Sarahs conversation is
described in somewhat remote terms (Gen. 18). They are both
clearly identied, jointly and separately, as the couple through
whom God intends to full the divine promise of a son and fu-
ture descendants; but I suggest that the nal text in the end
gives greater signicance to Sarahs role in the divine fullment.
A close reading indicates that neither patriarchy nor matriarchy
is the appropriate authority for Gods people, for God is in con-
trol and at work through those who have faith and respond to
divine initiatives with humble obedience.
In the relationship between Abraham and Hagar the former
is always dominant and the one with authority, and the presenta-
tion of their story conforms to patriarchal norms. Hagar is talked
about by both Abraham and Sarah and she is instructed by them
both; but the narratives contain no dialogue between her and
either of these characters. Words put in Hagars mouth are all
communication with God and in response to divine initiatives
towards her. She personally receives words of promise and bless-
ing from God which present her as the matriarch of an unnamed
great nation through Ishmael; but as a participant in the story of
Abraham she is presented somewhat as a non-person, a rejected
slave, who, in becoming a mother, threatened the divine promises
concerning Israel. Theologically her identication as an Egyptian
resonates with ideas about that nation as an enemy oppressor
which threatened the very existence of Israel; and her story pre-
gures and justies that of the enduring animosity between Is-
rael and the Ishmaelites (cf. Gen. 37:27, 28). Nonetheless her
story arms that all her descendants are, like Israel, children of
Abraham; that they too are children of promise, promised by the
one God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; and even that
they are members of the same covenant community (Gen.17:7-14,
Nothing can be said about the relationship between Abraham
and Keturah. She is not presented as a real character in relation-
ship with anyone. No-one speaks to her, or about her, and God
is totally absent from the account of her existence. To this extent
perhaps we can say that this story is the most patriarchal of the
Abraham and his Wives 199

One nal comment can be made. A straightforward reading

of the narratives with the presumption of a patriarchal bias may
suggest that Abraham is the main character, with his wives play-
ing necessary but secondary roles. A closer reading reveals a more
complex reality in which the theological importance of Sarah and
Hagar comes to the fore. In both cases the women are presented
as very aware of the divine presence (Gen. 16:7-13; 18:9-15; 21:17-
19), and of Gods power at work in their lives. Similarly, in both
cases it is their submission to the will of God that leads to the
fullment of the divine promise. Perhaps it is these women char-
acters, rather than Abraham, who embody Israels experience
and model appropriate responses to God.
Pierre J.P. Van Hecke Tilburg Faculty of Theology Netherlands

Pastoral Metaphors in the Hebrew Bible

and in its Ancient Near Eastern Context1

1 Introduction
It is a common insight that much if not everything of what is
said about God in the Hebrew Bible is metaphorical in nature:
people tend to speak about the divine in terms of more concrete
domains of experience with which they are well acquainted. One
of the best-known biblical metaphors is that of God as a shep-
herd, and it denitely is one of the most studied.2 All studies
This article was rst read to the 2003 Joint Meeting of SOTS and OTW
in Cambridge; a slightly adapted version was presented at the 2003 EABS-
Meeting in Copenhagen. The author wishes to thank the participants at both
meetings for the discussions that followed and for their valuable remarks. A
special word of thanks is due to Dr Regine Hunziker who was so kind as to
deliver a thought-provoking response to this paper during the EABS-Meeting.
Finally, thanks are due to Dr Ron Pirson for his helpful remarks on an earlier
version of this written text.
Recently, R. Hunziker-Rodewald has added a new, comprehensive study
of the metaphor (Hirt und Herde: Ein Beitrag zum alttestamentlichen Gottes-
verstandnis [BWANT, 155], Stuttgart 2001) to the earlier monographs by P.
de Robert (Le berger dIsrael: Essai sur le th`eme pastoral dans lAncien Tes-
tasment [CTh, 57], Neuch atel 1968) and B. Willmes (Die sogenannte Hirten-
allegorie Ez 34: Studien zum Bild des Hirten im Alten Testament [BET,
9], Frankfurt 1984). Next to these monographs, the metaphor has also been
studied in a large number of articles and book sections: L. D urr, Ursprung
und Ausbau der israelitisch-jud aischen Heilantserwartung: Ein Beitrag zur
Theologie des Alten Testaments, Berlin 1925; V. Hamp, Das Hirtenmotiv
im Alten Testament, in: P.H. Freising (ed.), Festschrift Kardinal Faulhaber
zum 80. Geburtstag, M unchen 1948, 7-20; J. Thomson, The Shepherd-Ruler
Concept in the OT and its Application in the NT, SJTh 8 (1955), 406-
18; V. Maag, Der Hirte Israels: Eine Skizze von Wesen und Bedeutung der
Vaterreligion, SThU 28 (1958), 2-28; G.J. Botterweck, Hirt und Herde im
Alten Testament und im alten Orient, in: W. Corsten et al. (eds), Die Kirche

und ihre Amter und Stande (FS Frings), K oln 1960, 339-52; J.C. de Moor,
De goede herder: Oorsprong en vroege geschiedenis van de herdersmetafoor,
in: G. Heitink (ed.), Bewerken en bewaren (FS Runia), Kampen 1982, 36-
45; E. Bosetti, La terminologia del pastore in Egitto e nella Bibbia, BeO
140 (1984), 75-102; J. Beutler, Der alttestamentlich-j udische Hintergrund
der Hirtenrede in Johannes 10, in: J. Beutler, R. Fortna (eds), The Shep-
herd Discourse of John 10 and its Context (MSSNTS, 67), Cambridge 1991,
18-32; T. Hieke, Psalm 80: Praxis eines Methodenprogramms Eine litera-
Pastoral Metaphors in the Hebrew Bible 201

of this metaphor are limited, however, to an analysis of the bib-

lical texts in which God is either explicitly called shepherd or
described as performing pastoral activities. In this article, I will
state that, if one wishes to obtain a correct picture of the use and
development of the metaphor, it is imperative to study the texts
in which Gods shepherdship is questioned, denied or reversed
as well.3 In the introduction to her recent monograph, Hunziker
rightly announced that she would gather the various Bl uten of
the pastoral metaphor and bind them to form a variegated bou-
quet.4 Continuing the same image, it will be my contention that
not only the owers, but also the thorns, should be studied, i.e.
the texts in which the pastoral metaphor is turned upside down.
Since, in recent literature, the owers have been described in de-
tail, I will, in this article, turn to the thorns. First, I will treat
the biblical texts in which the pastoral metaphor is reversed,
after which I will deal with some Egyptian and Mesopotamian
texts in which the same phenomenon can be observed.5 Before
doing so, however, I will make some methodological observations
indicating the importance of studying the instances in which the
pastoral metaphor is denied or reversed.

2 Methodological Observations
Contemporary metaphor studies claim that metaphor fundament-
ally consists in making use of one domain of knowledge in order
to gain insight into a dierent, less accessible domain.6 Rather

turwissenschaftliche Untersuchung mit einem gattungsgeschichtliche Beitrag

zum Klagelied des Volkes (ATSAT, 55), Sankt-Ottilien 1997, 339-46.
I do not include in the present article an analysis of the biblical instances
in which earthly rulers or other important characters are called shepherds.
Hunziker-Rodewald, Hirt und Herde, 12: Diese Bl uten zu sammeln

und zu einem Strauss zu binden, in dem Uberlangen nicht sofort zugun-
sten der Einheitlichkeit zuruckgestutzt werden, ist das Ziel der vorliegenden
Non-biblical texts from the Northwest Semitic world have been left out of
consideration. Pastoral metaphors are very rare in these texts (see De Moor,
Goede herder, 42-4), and reversals of this metaphor are not attested.
For an elaborate treatment of metaphor as speaking and thinking about
one domain in terms of another, see G. Lako, M. Johnson, Metaphors We
Live By, Chicago 1980, esp. 5; G. Lako, M. Turner, More Than Cool Reason:
A Field Guide to Poetic Metaphor, Chicago 1989; W. Croft, The Role of Do-
mains in the Interpretation of Metaphors and Metonymies, Cognitive Lin-
guistics 4/4 (1993), 335-70.
202 P.J.P. Van Hecke

than as a gure of speech or a nicety of language, metaphor is

thus regarded as a cognitive phenomenon, i.e. as a way in which
people think. Studying pastoral metaphors, then, entails asking
the question how people conceptualised the relationship between
God and man with the help of what they knew of animal hus-
bandry. For lack of native speakers, the only way to trace these
conceptualisations is, rstly, to study thoroughly the pastoral
vocabulary used in the Hebrew Bible and, secondly, to analyse
the way in which these terms are used metaphorically. On the
basis of these methodological assumptions, I have studied all the
texts in which the relationship between God and man is described
in terms belonging to the domain of pastoralism, without excep-
tion.7 This means and here my analysis diers from that of
other authors that I have not only studied the texts in which
God is described as a shepherd, but also the pericopes in which
he is depicted as a sheep owner8 and even as an anti-shepherd, as
a wild animal threatening the ocks or as a slaughterer of anim-
als. The metaphors of God as a lion or a butcher have, obviously,
been taken into consideration only to the extent that they are
part of the domain of pastoralism, i.e. in those texts in which the
lion or slaughterer is described in relation to herd animals. Yet,
one could object that these metaphors are quite dierent from
or, indeed, the opposite of, the image of God as shepherd and,
thus, do not contribute to the understanding of the latter. The
reason for including them in my analysis of pastoral metaphors
is the fact that, in biblical texts, dierent, and even opposing,
metaphors very often co-occur and interact, as I will show below.
To give just one preliminary example, in Jer. 51:38-40, Babylon
is rst described as a lion in search of food (see also 50:17), only
to be depicted as a lamb brought to slaughter a mere two verses
later.9 Metaphorical interactions like this one take their strength

The results of this analysis are laid down in my hitherto unpublished
doctoral dissertation: P.J.P. Van Hecke, Koppig als een koe is Israel, en
JHWH zou het moeten weiden als een schaap in het open veld? (Hos 4,16):
Een cognitief-lingustische analyse van de religieuze pastorale metaforiek in
de Hebreeuwse bijbel, Leuven 2000.
The metaphor of God as owner of the ock has been studied in earlier
publications, as in Hunzikers monograph (Hunziker-Rodewald, Hirt und
Herde, 73-116), but also already in Botterweck, Hirt und Herde im Alten
Testament und im alten Orient, 352.
For an elaborate treatment of these verses and of the pastoral metaphors
Pastoral Metaphors in the Hebrew Bible 203

and their raison detre from the fact that the metaphors vehicles
(i.e. lions and lambs) co-occur in a single cognitive domain (i.e.
that of pastoralism) in which they play opposite roles. In order
to understand fully the metaphors in this and other texts, it is,
therefore, important to study their opposites and their mutual
What is true for individual texts is also true for the Hebrew
Bible as a whole: the instances in which the authors intention-
ally departed from the traditional, canonical use of the pastoral
metaphor are very interesting in assessing the way in which this
metaphor was used in the Hebrew Bible, and indeed in under-
standing how biblical authors dealt with the available stock of
religious metaphors in general. For the reasons adduced in the
present paragraph, I now turn to an analysis of the dierent bib-
lical texts in which the pastoral metaphor is denied any validity
or in which it is reversed.

3 Reversed Pastoral Metaphors in the Hebrew Bible

3.1 Hosea 4:16

A rst group of biblical texts in which the metaphor of God as
shepherd is reversed is found in the prophetic books of Hosea and
Amos, both of which are set in the Northern Kingdom. In Hos.
4:16, to begin with, the prophet expresses his doubt whether God
will truly shepherd his people as a sheep in the open eld if the
people keep behaving like a stubborn cow. In Hebrew, the verse
reads as follows:

laer:c]yI rr"s; hr:rEso hr:p;K] yKi

.bj;rM,B' cb,k,K] hw:hy [eryI hT;['

As I have indicated in more detail elsewhere,10 I agree with the

majority of scholars that the second clause of the verse should
not be read as an assertion, viz., that God will shepherd them

in the Oracle against Babylon (Jer. 5051) in general, see my recent art-
icle: P.J.P. Van Hecke, Metaphorical Shifts in the Oracle against Babylon
(Jeremiah 50-51), SJOT 17 (2003), 68-88.
P.J.P. Van Hecke, Conceptual Blending: A Recent Approach to Meta-
phor, Illustrated with the Pastoral Metaphor in Hos 4,16, in: P.J.P. Van
Hecke (ed.), Metaphor in the Hebrew Bible (BEThL), Leuven, forthcoming.
204 P.J.P. Van Hecke

(allegedly with some hostile intention),11 but rather as an ironical

statement or as a rhetorical question.12 The gist of Hoseas argu-
ment is that people should not expect to experience the luxury of
grazing in the open eld, if they behave like stubborn cows that
need to be kept on the right track. Hosea, thus, reacts vehemently
against the casualness with which pastoral metaphors were ap-
parently used in his days.13 On the basis of this and quite a
number of other texts,14 some authors have argued that the bib-
lical metaphor of God as shepherd had its origin in the Northern
Kingdom.15 Although a reconstruction of the metaphors origin
must remain hypothetical, this proposal does make sense, since
the textual links between a number of instances of the metaphor,
on the one hand, and literary traditions about Jacob, Ephraim
and Manasseh and about Bethel, which are all situated in the
North, on the other, cannot be denied. I do not mean to say that
all the texts mentioned in note 14 are necessarily old, although
some authors have argued so. However, even if these texts were
relatively young, this would not do away with the fact that the
metaphor is regularly brought into relation with the Northern
Kingdom. Therefore, it is far from improbable, to my mind, that
pastoral metaphors were part of the religious traditions against
which Hosea reacts in the present text, and that Hosea ques-
tions precisely the validity of his contemporaries trust in God
as shepherd : Will the Lord truly shepherd Israel like a sheep if
they behave like a balking heifer?

So C. van Gelderen, W.H. Gispen, Het boek Hosea (COT), Kampen 1953,
127; Hunziker-Rodewald, Hirt und Herde, 14 n.18.
So H.W. Wol, Dodekapropheton 1: Hosea (BK, 14/1), Neukirchen-
Vluyn 1965, 114; W. Rudolph, Hosea (KAT, 13/1), G utersloh 1966, 107;
F.I. Andersen, D.N. Freedman, Hosea: A New Translation with Introduction
and Commentary (AncB, 24), Garden City 1980, 377.
See A. Weiser, Das Buch der zw olf kleine Propheten I: Die Propheten
Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadja, Jona, Micha (ATD, 24/1), G ottingen 1949, 37;
Wol, Hosea, 115; C. van Leeuwen, Hosea (PredOT, Nijkerk 1978, 115.
Gen. 48:15; 49:24; Amos 3:12; Pss. 74:1; 77:20f; 78:52f; 79:13; 80:2.
See notably de Robert, Berger dIsrael, 43. Some authors have contended
that this relation between some textual traditions dealing with the Northern
Kingdom and pastoral metaphors indicates that the metaphor originated in
patriarchal times, see e.g. Maag, Hirte Israels, 115-6; 121. For lack of more
precise historical data, this suggestion must, obviously, remain hypothetical
(see Willmes, Bild des Hirten, 284).
Pastoral Metaphors in the Hebrew Bible 205

3.2 Hosea 13:5-8

A more blunt reversal of the pastoral metaphor is found in Hos.
13:5-8, which reads as follows in the Hebrew:

.twbaul]T' r<a,B] rB;dMiB' yTi[]d"y ynIa} 5

.ynIWjkev] KeAl[' B;li r:Y:w" W[b]c; W[B;c]YIw" t;y[irm'K] 6
.rWva; r<D,Al[' rmen:K] lj'v;AwmK] h,l; yhiaw: 7
B;li rwgos] [r"q]a,w lWKv' bdoK] veGp]a, 8
.[eQ]b'T] hd<C;h' tY"j' aybil;K] v; lek]aow

With regard to these verses, a small text-critical problem, which

has some bearing on the issue of pastoral metaphor, should be
noted. In verse 5, the Septuagint apparently read or misread
yTi[]d"y (I have known you) as ytiy[ir (I have shepherded you), as
the translation ejgw; ejpoivmainovn se indicates. If one would adopt
this reading, it would provide a rst indication of the use of pas-
toral metaphors in this pericope. But even if, with Barthelemy,16
one does not follow the reading, it is clear from the rst colon
of verse 6 that Israel is conceptualised as a ock, and God at
least implicitly as its shepherd.17
After the description of Israels apostasy in the third colon of
verse 6, God, in verses 7 and 8, turns into a mauling predator,
in this case, a lion, leopard or bear bereft of young. The reversal
could not be more abrupt: from a shepherd providing satisfy-
ing food, God becomes a predator that uses the people as food
for itself, as verse 8c explicitly states.18 In this pericope, Gods
behaviour as a predator is directly juxtaposed to his former in-
tervention as a shepherd. It is noteworthy that most of the cases
in which God is called a lion in relation to his people and also
when this metaphor is not directly related to pastoral images
See D. Barthelemy, Critique textuelle de lAncien Testament, t. 3:
Ezechiel, Daniel et les 12 Proph`etes (OBO, 50/3), Freiburg 1992, 610-1.
It has been proposed to read the rst word of verse 6 t;y[irm'K] in ac-
cordance with their pasture) as ytiy[ir wmK,] when I shepherded them (so
Andersen, Freedman, Hosea, 634-5). However, the masoretic reading can sat-
isfactorily be interpreted as the better their pasture, [the more they became
satiated] (so Van Leeuwen, Hosea, 259, and, in the same sense, Barthelemy,
Critique textuelle, t. 3, 610-1).
I do not follow the proposal made by the editors of BHS and by Wol,
Hosea, 287, to read this colon as ybil;K] v; Wlk]ayo, dogs will eat them there.
206 P.J.P. Van Hecke

are found in the books of Hosea and Amos.19 It has been proposed
that the reason for this imagery lies in the fact that the execut-
ors of Gods punishments, viz., the Assyrian kings Tiglat-Pileser
III and Shalmaneser V, were often depicted as ferocious lions.20
God as the one commissioning them would, then, have been con-
ceived in a comparable fashion. I do not want to exclude this
possibility, but I would like to suggest that the predilection for
this metaphor in Hosea and Amos might also have been inspired
by the apparently traditional faith in God as a caring shepherd,
against which both prophets wanted to react. This reaction takes
an ironical form in the present pericope, in which Gods beha-
viour is perceived as evolving from that of a shepherd into that
of a predator.21

3.3 Amos 3:12

The most ironic reversal of the shepherd-metaphor is found in
Amos 3:12. In this verse, God announces that the sons of Israel
will be saved in the way that a shepherd saves some shin bones
or the tip of a sheeps ear from the mouth of a lion:22
Amos 1:2; 3:4-8; [5:19]; Hos. 5:14; 11:10; 13:7-8. Other texts: [Isa. 31:4];
Jer. 31:4; 49:19-20 = 50:44-45; Ps. 50:22; Lam. 3:10.
See ThWAT, Bd. 1, 404-18 (Botterweck), here 413.
In passing, it should be noted that this reversal, which pivots on the de-
scription of Ephraims apostasy in 6b-c, is surrounded by military metaphors
in verses 4 and 9: God used to be Israels saviour (v. 4: ['yviwm) and help (v.
9: rz<[e), terms which are often used in prophetic texts to denote deliverance
from military trouble. (See ThWAT, Bd. 3, 1035-59 [Fabry, Sawyer], 1051; K.
M. Yri, My Father Taught Me How to Cry, But Now I Have Forgotten: The
Semantics of Religious Concepts with an Emphasis on Meaning, Interpreta-
tion, and Translatability [Acta Humaniora, 29], Oslo 1998, 48-55 on [vy, and
ThWAT, Bd. 6, 14-20 [Lipi nski], 17-8 on rz[. See also other texts in which
the two terms are used in the description of Gods activities, with clear mil-
itary allusions: Deut. 33:29; Josh. 10:6; Isa. 63:5; Job 26:2.) After Ephraims
apostasy, God turns out to be the reason for their destruction. The term for
destruction (tjv) is usually related to military action where it denotes the
destruction of a city or area by foreign armies. (See ThWAT, Bd. 7, 1233-
45 [Conrad] 1235: Zerst orischeres und auf Vernichtung abzielendes Handeln
vollzieht sich vor allem im Krieg. Auf dieses Thema ist das Verb denn auch
besonders h aug bezogen.) A similar reversal to that in the pastoral meta-
phors therefore seems to occur here: God turns from military protector to
military destroyer.
For present purposes, I leave out of consideration the end of the verse in
which the sons of Israel are compared to the corner or the foot of a bed. For
the best treatment of this comparison, see S. Mittmann, Amos 3,12-15 und
Pastoral Metaphors in the Hebrew Bible 207

hw:hy rm'a; hKo

z<aoAld"b] wa yI['r:k] yTev] yrIa}h; yPimi h[,roh; lyXiy" rv,a}K'
.cr<[; qv,m,dbiW hF;mi ta'p]Bi wrm]voB] ybiv]YOh' laer:c]yI ynEB] Wlx]N:yI Ke

This verse may sound positive: with the courage of a shepherd

confronted with a lion, Israel will be saved. The truth is less pos-
itive, of course. Obviously, for the sheep, this salvation comes
too late: if the shepherd has to save a shin bone or the tip of an
ear, the animal is quite dead.23 The image becomes even more
ironic if one takes the semantics of the verb lxn into considera-
tion. As Seeligmann argued, the verb is among other things
a technical term in pastoral law: in this context, it indicates the
gathering of the remnants of a mauled animal by the shepherd
as evidence vis-` a-vis the owner of the fact that he was in-
nocent of the animals loss.24 What the metaphor says, then, is
not only that Israel will be completely destroyed, but also that
its shepherd will not be held responsible for it. Since the main
sentence is put in the passive (niph al ) without any indication
of the actor, it is not clear who this innocent shepherd is. The
absence of the actor might even indicate that this question is
ultimately irrelevant: Israel will be destroyed and there will be
nobody to blame. Nonetheless, I would suggest that it is God
who is implicitly presented here as the unmentioned shepherd.
First of all, Amos is known to react against his fellow citizens
casualness, with which they trusted in Gods help without living
as he required, as, for example, 5:14 makes clear. If one takes into
account the predilection with which pastoral metaphors were ap-
parently used in the Northern Kingdom, it should not come as
a surprise that Amos warns his contemporaries that Gods shep-
herding might turn out to be quite dierent from what they had
expected. Moreover, in the Hebrew Bible, the term lxn is used fre-

das Bett der Samarier, ZDPV 92 (1976), 147-67.

See de Robert, Berger dIsrael, 63; H. Weippert, Amos: Seine Bilder
und ihr Milieu, in: H. Weippert et al. (eds), Beitr
age zur prophetischen Bild-
sprache in Israel und Assyrien (OBO, 64), Freiburg 1985, 1-29, here 15; F.I.
Andersen, D.N. Freedman, Amos: A New Translation with Introduction and
Commentary (AncB, 24A), New York 1989, 408.
I. Seeligmann, Zur Terminologie f ur das Gerichtsverfahren im Wort-
schatz des biblischen Hebr aisch, in: B. Hartmann et al. (eds), Hebr aische
Wortforschung, Leiden 1967, 251-78, here 254 n.1. Compare with Gen. 31:39
and 1 Sam. 17:35.
208 P.J.P. Van Hecke

quently though not exclusively to describe Gods salvation.25

It is quite probable, then, that Amos would ironically take up the
term for Gods salvation in which his contemporaries trusted so
much , and use it in a very specic pastoral sense which reverses
the outcome for Israel: no salvation, but only destruction.
The texts discussed above indicate that the Northern proph-
ets Hosea and Amos not only criticised the casualness with which
their contemporaries trusted in their own conceptualisations of
God, but also straightforwardly rejected the validity of these

3.4 Lamentations 3:1-6

The most extended reversal of pastoral metaphors is found in
the opening six verses of Lamentations 3, as I have discussed
at full length elsewhere.26 The authors of Lamentations who
were probably temple-singers left behind in a destroyed Jerus-
alem after 587 bce27 conceived the beginning of Lamentations
3 as the reversal of Psalm 23, as many thematic and lexical links
between the two texts demonstrate. To name just one example:
whereas, in Psalm 23, the author is comforted by Gods shep-
herd rod while walking through a valley of deepest darkness
(Ps. 23:4), in Lam. 3:1 Gods rod is the instrument of his wrath
as he drives man into darkness. The crude reality of the destruc-
tion of the city and its temple led the authors of Lamentations
to question openly and reject the claim that God was their shep-
herd. Remarkably enough, in Lamentations 3, God is described
not only as an anti-shepherd and a ruthless driver (in the rst
six verses), but also, in verse 10, as a predator in relation to his
people one of the rare instances of this metaphor outside the
books of Hosea and Amos.

3.5 Conclusion
What all the preceding texts show is that, next to the many
instances in which the biblical authors explicitly or implicitly
See ThWAT Bd. 5, 570-7 (Hossfeld/Kaltho), 573.
P.J.P. Van Hecke, Lamentations 3,1-6: An Anti-Psalm 23, SJOT 16/2
(2002), 264-282. See also U. Berges, Klagelieder (HThK), Freiburg 2002, 187-
See J. Renkema, Misschien is er hoop ...: De theologische vooronder-
stellingen van het boek Klaagliederen, Franeker 1983, 217-60.
Pastoral Metaphors in the Hebrew Bible 209

conceptualised God as a shepherd, they also sometimes critic-

ally questioned and rejected the validity of the metaphor if their
historical or socio-political context urged them to do so. The
analysis of the above texts provides a more nuanced picture, not
only of biblical pastoral metaphors, but also of the way in which
biblical authors made use of the stock of religious metaphors in
general. The authors apparently had no problems in juxtaposing
conicting metaphors in a single text. Moreover, when they felt
the urge to do so, they did not hesitate to treat their religious
metaphors in a rather undogmatic and even iconoclastic way.

4 Reversed Pastoral Metaphors in the

Ancient Near East
The phenomenon of reversing described above is not limited to
pastoral metaphors, as the most recent work of dierent schol-
ars in the eld of biblical metaphor convincingly shows,28 nor
is it conned to the Hebrew Bible. It would, therefore, be false
to assume that the questioning of metaphors was typical of the
self-critical attitude of the biblical authors, as opposed to a sup-
posedly rigid and formulaic use of religious metaphors in the sur-
rounding cultures. In the present paragraph, I will mention a
number of striking instances of Ancient Near Eastern texts in
which similar questioning and reversing of pastoral metaphors
occurs. Given the vast variety of Ancient Near Eastern texts, I
do not make any claims to being exhaustive in this regard.29
See (e.g.) the contributions of P. Riede, B. Doyle, G. Eidevall, A.R. Dia-
mond, E. Holt and M.B. Szlos in the forthcoming volume on Metaphors in
the Hebrew Bible: P.J.P. Van Hecke (ed.), Metaphor in the Hebrew Bible,
Since the subject of this article is limited to pastoral metaphors in the
description of the relation between men and God/the gods, other applica-
tions of pastoral metaphors are left out of consideration. For example, in
dierent ancient cultures, the moon was considered to be shepherding the
stars, which in turn were thought to represent the deceased (see D. M uller,
Der gute Hirt: Ein Beitrag zur Geschichte 86
agyptischer Bildrede, ZAS
(1961), 126-44, here 128-9; De Moor, Goede herder, 41-5; W. Heimpel, The
Babylonian Background of the Term Milky Way , in: H. Behrens et al.
(eds), DUMU-E2 -DUB-BA-A (FS Sj oberg) (Occasional Publications of the
Samuel Noah Kramer Fund, 11), Philadelphia 1989, 249-52. It is noteworthy
that in recent astronomy a similar pastoral metaphor has been introduced.
In the late 1970s, the astronomers Goldreich and Tremaine hypothesised that
the fact that the rings around the planets Saturn and Uranus are so narrow
210 P.J.P. Van Hecke

4.1 Egypt
In Egyptian literature, pastoral metaphors are relatively rare.30
Nonetheless, an interesting example of metaphorical reversal can
be mentioned, viz., in the famous Admonitions of Ipu-wer. The
second part of these Admonitions consists of a dialogue between
Ipu-wer (or Ipu-ur) and his creator god. In this context, the sage
asks whether what people say is really true, viz., that the god is
the shepherd of all, and that there is no evil in his heart (Adm.
12:1). Ipu-wer confronts this traditional faith in the shepherdship
of his god with the contemporary crisis in the land (probably
during the First Intermediate Period [ca. 2130-1940 bce]),31 and
concludes that the god cannot possibly be a shepherd, since a
shepherd would not love the death of his subjects (Adm. 12:14
13:2). In the same passage, the sage goes one step further and
maintains that the god has cheated him and must be sleeping
(Adm. 12:5-6).32 What one witnesses in the present text is similar
to what happened in Lamentations 3: if the disparity between
ones experiences, on the one hand, and ones conceptualisations
of how reality should be, on the other, becomes irreconcilable,
the latter are rejected, even if this results in quite iconoclastic

4.2 Mesopotamia
In a number of Mesopotamian texts, similar phenomena can be
observed. There can be little doubt that in Mesopotamia, un-
like Egypt, pastoral metaphors belonged to the traditional ways

and well dened is the result of the presence of shepherd moons that by
their gravitational forces keep together the particles of which these rings are
made up. Photographs returned by space probe Voyager 2 in the mid-80s
conrmed the existence of such shepherd moons.
The classical and unsurpassed treatment of the use of pastoral meta-
phors in Egyptian literature remains M uller, Der gute Hirt: Ein Beitrag
zur Geschichte agyptischer Bildrede; see also Bosetti, La terminologia del
The dating of the Admonitions is not unproblematic. The extant manu-
script dates from the 19th Dynasty. The main body of the work must have
originated in the First Intermediate Period, although later additions have
been made to the text (see G. Fecht, Der Vorwurf an Gott in den Mahn-
worten des Ipu-wer: Zur geistigen Krise der ersten Zwischenzeit und ihre
Bew altigung [AHAW, 1], Heidelberg 1972, 10-27).
Compare with Ps. 44:24.
Pastoral Metaphors in the Hebrew Bible 211

of conceptualising both gods and kings. The majority of earthly

rulers in all periods of Mesopotamian history have been called
shepherd,33 whereas many of the gods, although mainly the chief
god Enlil/Marduk, have also been described in the same terms.
In the scholarly literature, it is often stated that these metaphors
had become mere formulaic expressions in Mesopotamian literat-
ure.34 It is true that, in many cases, pastoral metaphors are used
in a conventional way in Mesopotamian literature: both kings and
gods are called sipa or reu without further details being given. As
contemporary metaphor studies have shown, however, this does
not mean that conventional metaphors are dead, since they can
always be actualised and revived in metaphorical elaborations,35
as is the case with the metaphor under investigation. In quite a
number of texts, dierent elements of the knowledge of the pas-
toral domain are explicitly used to conceptualise the relationship
between gods and men or, for that matter, between kings and
men in a way that is anything but formulaic. Moreover, on a
number of occasions, the validity of the conceptualisation of the
gods as shepherds is questioned, as we will see below, witnessing
to the conceptual vitality of this metaphor and challenging the
view that this metaphor was formulaic and dead in Mesopot-
amian literature. However conventionalised pastoral metaphors
often were in Mesopotamia, they were not petried into dead
Before turning to the instances in which the pastoral meta-
phor is reversed and questioned, the principal subject of the
present article, I rst turn to the elaborations of the same meta-
phor which form the background against which the reversals

For an extended, but not exhaustive, list, see M.-J. Seux, Epith`etes roy-
ales akkadiennes et sumeriennes, Paris 1967, 243-50, 441-6.
See Botterweck, Hirt und Herde im Alten Testament und im alten Ori-
ent, 351; I. Seibert, Hirt Herde K
onig: Zur Herausbildung des K onigtums
in Mesopotamien (SSA, 53), Berlin 1969, 2.
See (e.g.) Lako, Turner, More Than Cool Reason, 49-56; 67-72, et
passim. Moreover, it has been argued that there is no reason to call con-
ventional metaphors dead; the fact that metaphors may become conven-
tional and eortless indicates that they are not dead at all, but have become
deeply entrenched and inuential in our daily speech; see Lako, Johnson,
Metaphors We Live By, 129. Pace M. Black, More about Metaphor, in: A.
Ortony (ed.), Metaphor and Thought, Cambridge 1979, 19-45, here 26, and
J. Soskice, Metaphor and Religious Language, Oxford 1985, 72-3.
212 P.J.P. Van Hecke

should be understood.36 It is far beyond the intention of the

current article to present an exhaustive treatment of the way
in which pastoral metaphors were used in Mesopotamian liter-
ature. As a very preliminary preamble to such an analysis, I
surveyed the materials presented in the Electronic Text Corpus
of Sumerian Literature,37 since they form a linguistically well-
dened corpus which is, moreover, easily accessible to the non-
Sumerologist in translation.
In these Sumerian texts, the pastoral metaphor is elaborated
in dierent ways, making use of dierent aspects of the domain
of pastoralism to describe both kings and gods. Firstly, the king
is very often said to receive his task of shepherdship from the
gods.38 Seibert has argued that this vocation actually legitim-
If one wishes to gain insight into the way in which pastoral metaphors
were used in Mesopotamian literature, it stands to reason to study closely
these elaborated conceptualisations, rather than surveying the textual con-
texts in which these metaphors occur, as Hunziker has done in her recent
monograph. On the basis of this analysis, she concluded that the shepherd-
ship of the Mesopotamian kings found its apogee in the building or res-
toration of temples for the gods (Hunziker-Rodewald, Hirt und Herde, 30-1,

34: Entsprechend wird gute Hirtenschaft in Agypten primar im erfolgreichen
milit arischen Schutz manifest, und verlassliche Hirtenschaft in Mesopotamien
in dem als Gehorsamsakt gewerteten Tempelbau.). Although it is true that,
in certain cases, the shepherd-metaphor occurs in texts dealing with temple
construction, I do have a number of questions regarding this conclusion.
Firstly, the texts in which the pastoral metaphors are in no way related to
temple construction greatly outnumber the texts in which they are, which
already calls for some caution. Secondly, if the shepherd-metaphor is primar-
ily related to temple building, why did the authors bother to use a pastoral
metaphor rather than an architectural one? Establishing a textual relation-
ship between the metaphor and the context of temple construction does not
explain at all in what way the king was understood as a shepherd.
Accessible via the following url: http://www-etcsl.orient.ox.ac.uk. All
translations of Sumerian texts are taken from this electronic text corpus.
So in many of the Sumerian royal hymns: Shulgi D,60; Shulgi E,64; Shu-
ilishu A,59; Iddin-Dagan B,3; Ishme-Dagan A,48; Ishme-Dagan M,b.8; Ur-
Ninurta A,10, 20; Rim-Sin C,1; Rim-Sin E,4; Hammurabi D,8-13; Samsu-
iluna F,9. See also the Debate between Bird and Fish, 11, and the Debate
between Silver and Copper, Segment I, 30-36. That shepherdship was be-
stowed by the gods is even acknowledged by the opponents of these shep-
herds, as in a letter from king Ibbisin of Ur to his governor Puzurnumushda
(=Puzur-Shulgi?), hoping for the downfall of Ishbi-Erra who had assumed
power in Isin (lines 15-6): Today Enlil loathes Sumer and has elevated to
the shepherdship of the Land an ape which has descended from those moun-
tain lands. (see A. Falkenstein, Ibbisn Ishbierra, ZA 49 (1950), 59-79;
W.H.P. Romer, Literaire brieven van en aan Ibbisuen, koning van Ur, in:
Pastoral Metaphors in the Hebrew Bible 213

ated both the superiority of the king over his subjects and the
evident use of his peoples products.39 Though a prolonged and
formulaic use of the pastoral metaphor may, of course, have led
to the conviction that the king had evident rights to the pos-
sessions and man-power of his subjects, the metaphor itself is,
to my knowledge, nowhere explicitly used in order to legitimate
any such claim.40 The vocation by the gods just as much implies
a-vis the gods41 as it provides the king with
responsibility vis-`
self-evident supremacy over his people.42 Moreover, many elab-
orations of the pastoral metaphor indicate that the kings shep-
herdship was primarily understood as a caring task with regard
to the people.43 On several occasions it is stressed that it belongs

R.J. Demaree, K.R. Veenhof (eds), Zij schreven geschiedenis: Historische

documenten uit het Oude Nabije Oosten (MEOL, 33), Leiden 2003, 33-43).
Seibert, Hirt Herde K onig, 3: Doch bei Verwendung dieser Ver-
gleiche zur Kennzeichnung gesellschaftlicher Gegebenheiten ist der andere
Aspekt von ebenso groer Bedeutung: er betrit den als nat urlich und gott-
gewolt deklarierten F uhrungsanspruch des Hirten und schliet die Nutzung
der Produkte und der Arbeitskraft der Herde als selbstverst andliches Recht
des Hirten mit ein. In a much more recent article, Rainer Kessler has ad-
opted this idea with regard to biblical pastoral metaphors (see R. Kessler,
Ich rette das Hinkende, und das Versprengte sammle ich: Zur Herden-
metaphorik in Zef 3, in: W. Dietrich, M. Schwantes (eds), Der Tag wird
kommen: Ein interkontextuelles Gespr ach u
ber das Buch des Propheten Ze-
fanja (SBS, 170), Stuttgart 1996, 93-101, here 97). The ambiguity of pastoral
metaphors (expressing both care and abuse) explains, according to Kessler,
why the biblical authors avoided the honoric title shepherd, and used more
specic descriptions of pastoral activities, instead.
One might object that this evident right is part and parcel of being a
shepherd and, therefore at least implicitly resonates whenever pastoral
metaphors are used. However, metaphors are by denition limited in their
applicability: when making use of one (source) domain in order to gain in-
sight in a dierent (target) domain, not all our knowledge from the source is
mapped on to the target, but only part of it. If, for example, I call my love a
red rose, I do not normally mean to say that she is just as thorny, nor that
I have to prune her before the spring.
So, correctly, Hunziker-Rodewald, Hirt und Herde, 30.
In some texts the supremacy of the shepherd-king over the ock-people is
explicitly expressed, see (e.g.) in Shulgi P,a.14; Shu-ilishu A,34; Ishme-Dagan
M,b.1-8; Lipit-Eshtar A,17-22.
The dierent aspects of shepherdship described below display strong
structural parallels with the probable reasons for the development of cent-
ralised government in Mesopotamia. One generally assumes that the rise of
concentrated settlements along the Mesopotamian riverbanks necessitated
the development of a centralised administration. Since these settlements de-
pended on a highly vulnerable system of irrigation, there was a strong need
214 P.J.P. Van Hecke

to the kings oce as a shepherd to make the people multiply,44

to provide food and drink,45 to guarantee stability and rest,46
to defend the country against rebel lands,47 but also to keep the
people on the right track and to safeguard the bond between
gods and men.48 In this latter respect, the kings shepherdship
sometimes had liturgical connotations and was also related to the
care for, and building of, temples, as Hunziker has correctly ob-
served.49 So, even though the repeated use of the metaphor may
have led to the abuse of royal power, the metaphor itself was
never used to legitimate such an abuse in the Sumerian literat-
ure. The numerous elaborations of the metaphor indicate that it
was primarily aimed at conceptualising the responsibility of the
king for the well-being of the people.
The same elaborations of the pastoral metaphor are found in

for internal stability and peace, for a fair distribution of the available wa-
ter resources and for protection against external threats. The best guaran-
tee for these circumstances was a central government taking charge of these
needs (see H. Nissen, Geschichte Alt-Vorderasiens (Oldenburg Grundriss der
Geschichte, 25), M unchen 1998, 51-2). The task of this government is to some
extent similar to that of a shepherd, who needs to maintain the internal order
of the ock, to protect the ock from external threats and to provide food
and, especially, water for the ock. These structural similarities might have
been the reason for adopting a pastoral metaphor for the king, a metaphor
that became conventionalised at a very early stage of Mesopotamian history
(see Seibert, Hirt Herde K onig, 1), and that remained one of the leading
metaphors in speaking about kings throughout this history.
So in one of the songs of Inana and Dumuzi (D1,47); see Y. Sefati, Love
Songs in Sumerian Literature: Critical Edition of the Dumuzi-Inanna Songs
(Bar Ilan Studies in Near Eastern Languages and Culture), Ramat Gan 1998,
301-11. See also the royal hymn Ur-Nammu C,77-78.
See (e.g.) the royal hymns Iddin-Dagan B,7-8: let the people eat noble
food and drink fresh water, and Ur-Ninurta A,25-26: May he search food
out for them to eat as if for sheep, and may he get them [. . . ] water to drink.
Iddin-Dagan B,6; Lipit-Eshtar B,10: who leads the people to let them
relax; Samsu-iluna B,12.
Ur-Ninurta A,23-24: May his shepherds crook make the rebel lands bow
low; may he let them have stable governance. From the south to the uplands
may he clamp down upon the land like a neck-stock.
Iddin-Dagan B,6-7: Enlil has commanded you to keep rm the cosmic
bond in Sumer, to keep the people on the track.
Hunziker-Rodewald, Hirt und Herde, 30. As Prof. P. Machinist has poin-
ted out to me, the temple is often referred to as a sheepfold. This fact may
have to do with the identication of the ruling king with the fertility god
and shepherd Dumuzi (see [e.g.] Shulgi-hymn X in which the king is directly
called shepherd Dumuzi).
Pastoral Metaphors in the Hebrew Bible 215

the descriptions of Mesopotamian gods: some lesser gods are said

to be appointed as shepherds by more important gods;50 and, as
shepherds, the gods assume both the protection of, and control
over, the people.51 In the case of the gods, making the people
grow numerous also seems to have been an essential aspect of
their shepherdship.52
As in the Hebrew Bible, however, pastoral descriptions of the
gods are not only expanded and elaborated in Mesopotamian lit-
erature, but are questioned and rejected too. In the well-known
Lament for the Destruction of Sumer and Ur,53 the destruction
of the country is rst described in full detail, after which the con-
clusion is reached: The god of the city turned away, its shepherd
vanished (line 68). A few lines later, after yet another descrip-
tion of disaster, it is formulated in even more reproachful terms:
and what did Enlil, the shepherd of the black-headed do? (line
72). In the similar Lament for the Destruction of Ur,54 the city
is repeatedly described as a haunted sheepfold. The reason for
this disaster is given by the goddess Ningal in the sixth song of
this lamentation: My city no longer multiplies like good ewes, its
good shepherd is gone. In these laments, the gods are depicted
as disaected, and more specically as negligent shepherds who
fail to execute their oce, causing the destruction of the ock
and the fold for which they are responsible.
This reproach does not only occur in the communal laments
just mentioned, but also in a short individual text known as the
For example in the balbale to Nanna (Nanna A,49): An has conferred
on you the shepherding of the land.
See the divine hymn Ningishzida A,12-14: Shepherd, you understand
how to keep a check on the black-headed. The sheep and lambs come to seek
you out, and you understand how to wield the sceptre over the goats and
kids, into the distant future. In the royal hymn Ishme-Dagan X, Enki is
addressed as the settled peoples shepherd who seeks out food for them. See
also two maxims from the collection of Sumerian proverbs, describing mans
personal god: A mans personal god is a shepherd who nds pasturage for
the man. Let him lead him like sheep to the food they can eat.
See the divine hymns Enlil A,93-4 and Ninazu A,1-6.
See P. Michalowski, The Lamentations over the Destruction of Sumer
and Ur (Mesopotamian Civilizations, 2), Winona Lake 1989.
See S. N. Kramer, Lamentations over the Destruction of Ur (AS, 12),
Chicago 1940, 16-71; J. Klein, Sumerian Canonical Compositions: A. Divine
Focus 4. Lamentations: Lamentation over the Destruction of Sumer and Ur
(1.166), in: W.W. Hallo (ed.), The Context of Scripture, vol. 1: Canonical
Compositions from the Biblical World, Leiden 1997, 535-9.
216 P.J.P. Van Hecke

Letter of Gudea to his god.55 The complete text runs as follows

in translation:56
1-2 Speak to my god: this is what Gudea, your servant, says:
3-4 I am like a sheep who has no reliable shepherd; there is no
reliable herdsman to lead me on.
5-6 An unintelligent merchant transported me (?) for trading
purposes. With a vicious whip he . . . me cruelly like a don-
7-9 I am noble (?) but do not utter a word, being vigilantly (?)
....... Seven times . . . has not . . . my accomplishments. Seven
times my god (?) has not been able to nd out about their
10 My god, I am not one to be hostile. May you show sympathy
towards me once again.

In this letter addressed to his patron god probably Ningishzidu

Gudea, king of Lagash, blames his god for being an unreliable
shepherd (3-4). The desiderated reliable shepherd is directly op-
posed to an unintelligent merchant, relentlessly driving the sup-
plicant with a whip (5-6). It is not clear whether verses 5-6 also
describe Gudeas vision of how his god treats him. If they do, we
are presented with a close parallel to the reproach of Lam. 3:3,
which, in my opinion, describes God as a ruthless and relentless
driver of animals, instead of being a good shepherd. The turning
of the hand described in this verse of Lamentations should, to my
mind, be understood as a description of the relentless spurring
on of an animal, much in the same way as in Gudeas prayer.57

B. Bock, Wenn du zu Nintinuga gesprochen hast: Untersuchungen
zu Aufbau, Inhalt, Sitz-im-Leben und Funktion sumerischer Gottesbriefe,
Altorientalische Forschungen 23 (1996), 3-23, here 11-2, 19. It should be
noted that also in the famous Man and his God text, which has often been
compared to the biblical book of Job, the god is called a shepherd who has
become angry and looks upon man with hostility (35-6). Since the metaphor
as such is not reversed here, the text is not treated in the present article.
Translation as presented in the Electronic Text Corpus of Sumerian Lit-
erature prepared by the University of Oxford, see
See J. Renkema, Lamentations (HCOT), Kampen 1998, 354; Van Hecke,
Lamentations 3,1-6, 269-70. (Obviously, the Hebrew expression is dy ph,
with kaf and not with h.et, as has been printed erroneously in the latter
Pastoral Metaphors in the Hebrew Bible 217

4.3 Conclusion
As the above texts from Egyptian and Mesopotamian literat-
ure make clear, dealing critically with traditional religious meta-
phors is by no means an exclusively biblical phenomenon. If per-
sonal or socio-political crises occurred, the pastoral metaphor
was questioned and reversed, resulting in novel and, at times,
iconoclastic metaphorical expressions. Paying attention to these
reversals throws new light on this metaphor and on the use of
religious metaphor in general, both in the Hebrew Bible and in
its Ancient Near Eastern context.
Jan A. Wagenaar Utrecht University Netherlands

The Priestly Festival Calendar and the

Babylonian New Year Festivals
Origin and Transformation of the Ancient Israelite
Festival Year

1 Introduction
The ancient Israelite festival calendars preserved in the Old Test-
ament dier considerably in the dates specied for the celebra-
tion of the three pilgrimage festivals: passover and the subsequent
festival of unleavened bread (Pesah.-Mas.s.ot), the festival of weeks
(Shavuot ) and the festival of huts (Sukkot). The pre-priestly
festival calendars recorded in Exod. 23:14-19; 34:18-26 and Deut.
16:1-17 x the dates of the pilgrimage festivals in accordance with
the state of the crops in the eld. Mas.s.ot and as a consequence
Pesah. once the two were combined was celebrated at the be-
ginning of the barley harvest (Exod. 23:15; 34:18; Deut. 16:1-8),
Shavuot at the conclusion of the wheat harvest seven weeks later
(Exod. 23:16a; 34:22a; Deut. 16:9-12) and Sukkot after the com-
pletion of the harvest of the grapes and the summer fruit at the
end or the turn of the year (Exod. 23:16b; 34:22b; Deut. 16:13-
15). The priestly festival calendar in Leviticus 23, on the other
hand, provides xed dates for the pilgrimage festivals: Pesah. falls
on the fourteenth, and the beginning of Mas.s.ot on the fteenth
day of the rst month (Lev. 23:5-8), Shavuot at least in the
mind of the tradition1 exactly fty days later (Lev. 23:9-22),
and the beginning of Sukkot on the fteenth day of the seventh
month (Lev. 23:33-36, 39-43). The same dates are presupposed
by the priestly passover regulation in Exod. 12:1-13 and the two

The identity of the sabbath from which the fty-day count should start,
however, remained a matter of great controversy: the rst day of Mas.s.ot
(Philo, Josephus, Pharisees), the weekly sabbath in the passover week (Boeth-
usians, Samaritans, Karaites), the last day of Mas.s.ot (Falashas) or the weekly
sabbath following the passover week (Qumran); see J. van Goudoever, Biblical
Calendars, Leiden 2 1961, 15-29; K. Gr unwaldt, Das Heiligkeitsgesetz Levit-
icus 17-26: ursprungliche Gestalt, Tradition und Theologie (BZAW, 271),
Berlin 1999, 81-2; J. Milgrom, Leviticus 23-27: A New Translation with In-
troduction and Commentary (AncB, 3B), New York 2001, 2056-63.
The Priestly Festival Calendar 219

lists of festival sacrices in Numbers 28-29 and Ezek. 45:18-25.

The dierent ways of dening the dates for the pilgrimage
festivals, in addition to an increasing tendency to provide histor-
ical explanations for the celebration of the festivals, occasioned
Julius Wellhausen to extrapolate a process of ongoing denatura-
tion or historicisation in the ancient Israelite festival calendar.2
The three major pilgrimage festivals are progressively celebrated
on xed dates and become more and more detached from their
agricultural background. The festival calendar of the Jehovist is
still exclusively based on the cycle of the agricultural year:

Die einfachsten, nat urlichsten und allgemeinsten Op-

fer, deren Anlasse sich regelmassig mit den Jahreszei-
ten wiederholen, die Erstlinge von den Erzeugnissen
des Ackerbaues und der Viehzucht, sind die Grundla-
ge der Feste . . . Mit der Fundirung der Feste auf die
Erstlinge hangt es zusammen, dass die Termine nur
ungefahr bestimmt sind, mehr auf eine Jahreszeit als
auf einen festen Monatstag.3

In Deuteronomy the dates of the festivals are already more spe-


Das Deuteronomium tut einen Schritt zu grosserer

Fixirung der Fristen . . . Im Deuteronomium sieht man
die ersten starkeren Spuren einer Vergeschichtlichung
der Religion und des Kultus.4

In the Priestly Code, however, the separation of the festival cal-

endar from the course of nature reaches its climax:

Ein weiterer wichtiger Punkt, wodurch sich der Pries-

terkodex underscheidet, ist die Datierung der Feste
nach Monatstagen . . . Eine Gegenprobe f ur die be-
hauptete Denaturirung der Feste im Priesterkodex
liegt darin, dass die ... geschichtliche Deutung der-
selben hier ihre Spitze erreicht hat.5
J. Wellhausen, Prolegomena zur Geschichte Israels, Berlin 6 1927, 80-107.
Wellhausen, Prolegomena, 85-6.
Wellhausen, Prolegomena, 86-7.
Wellhausen, Prolegomena, 96-7.
220 J.A. Wagenaar

The Wellhausenian scheme has laid the foundation for the his-
torical critical reconstruction of the ancient Israelite festival cal-
endar.6 The process of ongoing denaturation or historicisation
postulated by Wellhausen may, however, be questioned. The cal-
culation of the date for Mas.s.ot and the historical motivation for
its celebration in Exod. 23:15; 34:18: You shall observe the fest-
ival of unleavened bread . . . at the suitable time in the bybia;h; vd<jo,
because in the bybia;h; vd<jo you came out of Egypt, does not dif-
fer fundamentally from the date stipulated and the motivation
provided in the combined regulations for Pesah.-Mas.s.ot in Deut.
16:1: Observe the bybia;h; vd<j:o keep the passover for Yhwh, your
God, because in the bybia;h; vd<jo Yhwh, your God, has brought you
out of Egypt. The seven-week interval between the beginning of
the barley harvest and the conclusion of the wheat harvest im-
plied by Exod. 34:22a: you shall keep the festival of weeks, when
you reap the rst fruits of the wheat, agrees with the date stip-
ulated by Deut. 16:9-10: You shall count seven weeks: from the
moment when the sickle is put to the standing grain, you must
begin to count seven weeks, and keep the festival of weeks for
Yhwh, your God. The date stipulated for the celebration of
Sukkot in Deut. 16:13: you shall keep the festival of huts, when
you have gathered in the produce from your threshing oor and
your wine press, is by no means more precise than the date stip-
ulated for the festival of ingathering in Exod. 23:16b: (You shall
observe) the festival of ingathering at the end of the year, when
you have gathered in your produce from the eld, or in Exod.
34:22b: (You shall keep) the festival of ingathering at the turn
of the year. The pre-priestly festival calendars thus show a far
greater anity than a process of ongoing denaturation or his-
toricisation can account for. Wellhausen readily admits that the
agricultural roots of the festivals in the Jehovist festival calendar
are now obscured:
Ihr Zusammenhang mit den Primitien der Jahreszeit
wird freilich in der jehovistischen Gesetzgebung mehr
vorausgesetzt, als ausgesprochen
whereas the eects of denaturation or historicisation in Deuter-
onomy are deemed to be rather modest:
E.g. R. de Vaux, Les institutions de lAncien Testament, t. 2, Paris 1960,
383-407; H. Ringgren, Israelite Religion, London 6 1981, 185-90.
The Priestly Festival Calendar 221

Im Deuteronomium sieht man die ersten starkeren

Spuren einer Vergeschichtlichung der Religion und des
Kultus, die sich aber noch in bescheidenen Grenzen

In order to uphold his scheme of denaturation or historicisation

he has to have recourse to the supposed sources of the Jehovist.
The historicisation of Pesah. has not come about in one of the
sources, but is the work of a later editor:

Damit gelangen wir zu dem Ergebnis, dass die geschicht-

liche Motivirung des Pascha erst vom Deuteronomium
vollzogen ist.8

The reconstruction of festivals exclusively concerned with agricul-

tural conditions, however, seems to presuppose the gradual evolu-
tion of the festivals rather than prove it. A tangible denaturation
or historicisation of the ancient Israelite festival calendar may
rst be observed in the historical explanation given for Sukkot
in the appendix to the priestly festival calendar in Leviticus 23:
You shall live in huts for seven days . . . so that your descendants
may know that I made the Israelites live in huts, when I brought
them out of the land of Egypt (Lev. 23:42-43). The historicisa-
tion of Shavuot as the commemoration of the giving of the law
in turn does not predate the rabbinic era.9
The xed dates stipulated for the pilgrimage festivals by the
priestly festival calendar in Leviticus 23, the passover regulation
Wellhausen, Prolegomena, 86-7.
Wellhausen, Prolegomena, 84-5.
Cf. Wellhausen, Prolegomena, 98; De Vaux, Institutions, 397; see espe-
cially Van Goudoever, Biblical Calendars, 139-44. The date mentioned in
Exod 19:1: In the third month after the Israelites had gone out of the land
of Egypt, on the same day, they came to the wilderness of Sinai, may well
have facilitated the identication of Shavuot and the giving of the law at
Mount Sinai, but is too imprecise to support the claim that the text xes the
promulgation of the law in accordance with the rabbinic tradition on the
sixth or seventh day of the third month. Even if the same day would refer
to the rst day of the month, the period from the arrival at Mount Sinai to
the promulgation of the law could vary from three days to well over a week
(pace W. Johnstone, The Revision of Festivals in Exodus 1-24 in the Per-
sian Period and the Preservation of Jewish Identity in the Diaspora, in: R.
Albertz, B. Becking (eds), Yahwism after the Exile: Perspectives on Israelite
Religion in the Persian Era (STAR, 5), Assen 2003, 105-6 with n. 20).
222 J.A. Wagenaar

in Exod. 12:1-13 and the lists of festival sacrices in Numbers

28-29 and Ezek. 45:18-25, however, may not so much presuppose
a gradual process of denaturation or historicisation, but rather
reveal a fundamental change in the way the dates for the pil-
grimage festivals were calculated in the days of the Babylonian
exile. The ancient Israelite festival calendar may have been inu-
enced by the Babylonian festival calendar. The inuence of the
Babylonian festival calendar upon the ancient Israelite festival
calendar may be demonstrated by comparing the composition
of the priestly festival calendar in Leviticus 23 with the overall
structure of the Babylonian festival year. The composition of the
list of festival sacrices in Numbers 28-29 does admittedly agree
with the lay-out of the priestly festival calendar in Leviticus 23.
The list of festival sacrices in Numbers 28-29, which lists daily,
weekly and monthly oerings in addition to the festival oerings,
however, seems to elaborate upon the priestly festival stipula-
tions and may well present the latest festival calendar in the Old

2 The Priestly Festival Calendar

The festival calendar in Leviticus 23 presents with the notable
exception of the weekly sabbath in vv. 2abg-3 a list of annual
festivals stipulating their dates, customs and festival oerings.
The almost verbatim repetition of the initial introduction in v.
2abgb: (These are) the times appointed by Yhwh, which you
shall proclaim as holidays these are the times appointed by me,
in v. 4: These are the times appointed by Yhwh, holidays, which
you shall proclaim at their appropriate times, demonstrates that
the festival calendar has been revised in the course of time.11
Traces of a later revision may also be observed in the unexpected
resumption of the regulations dealing with Sukkot in vv. 39-43
See M. Noth, Das vierte Buch Mose: Numeri (ATD, 7), G ottingen 2 1973,
190-1; see also Gr
unwaldt, Heiligkeitsgesetz, 297; K. Korting, Der Schall des
Schofar: Israels Feste im Herbst (BZAW, 285), Berlin 1999, 213; B. Lev-
ine, Numbers 21-36: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary
(AncB, 4A), New York 2000, 394-5.
Cf. M. Noth, Das dritte Buch Mose: Leviticus (ATD, 6), T ubingen 3 1973,
144; K. Elliger, Leviticus (HAT, 1/4), T ubingen 1966, 304; I. Knohl, The
Sanctuary of Silence: The Priestly Torah and the Holiness School, Min-
neapolis 1995, 14-5; Gr unwaldt, Heiligkeitsgesetz, 77; K orting, Schall des
Schofar, 96-7; Milgrom, Leviticus, 1954-5.
The Priestly Festival Calendar 223

after the apparent conclusion of the list in v. 37aba: These are

the times appointed by Yhwh, which you shall proclaim as hol-
idays to bring a gift to Yhwh.12 The twofold introduction and
the conspicuous exception of the sabbath oerings in a digres-
sion appended to the conclusion: These are the times appointed
by Yhwh, which you shall proclaim as holidays to bring a gift
to Yhwh . . . apart from the sabbath oerings (Lev. 23:37-38a),
suggest that the list of annual festivals has secondarily been ex-
panded in order to include the weekly sabbath in a kind of pro-
logue: (These are) the times appointed by Yhwh, which you
shall proclaim as holidays these are the times appointed by me.
Work may be done for six days, but on the seventh day there shall
be a festive sabbath, a holiday: you shall do no work at all. This is
a sabbath for Yhwh in all your settlements (Lev. 23:2abg-3).13
The original festival calendar merely comprised the list of annual
festivals preserved in vv. 4-37aba and perhaps vv. 39-43.14
The annual festivals listed in Lev. 23:4-43* are again with
one exception clustered in two groups: festivals celebrated in
the rst and festivals celebrated in the seventh month of the
year. The rst group comprises Pesah. on the fourteenth day and
Mas.s.ot from the fteenth until the twenty-rst day of the rst
month (Lev. 23:5-8), and the second group the memorial day
marked by the blowing of a horn on the rst day (Lev. 23:23-
25), the Day of Atonement on the tenth day (Lev. 23:26-32) and
Sukkot from the fteenth until the twenty-rst day, or rather
See Noth, Leviticus, 144; Elliger, Leviticus, 304-6; Knohl, Sanctuary of
Silence, 10; Grunwaldt, Heiligkeitsgesetz, 77-8; K orting, Schall des Schofar,
99; see also Milgrom, Leviticus, 2033, 2036-38.
See Noth, Leviticus, 146; Elliger, Leviticus, 310-1; Knohl, Sanctuary of
Silence, 14-5; Gr unwaldt, Heiligkeitsgesetz, 78; Korting, Schall des Schofar,
96-7; see also Milgrom, Leviticus, 1954-64. The exception of the sabbath
oerings is not so much part of the original conclusion demonstrating the
secondary nature of the sabbath legislation in the festival calendar (pace
Noth, Leviticus, 152-3; Elliger, Leviticus, 304-5; Grunwaldt, Heiligkeitsgesetz,
89; K orting, Schall des Schofar, 100-101), but a later digression appended
to the conclusion simultaneously with the introduction of the prologue that
included the sabbath in the festival calendar; see also E. Kutsch, Erwagungen
zur Geschichte der Passafeier und des Massotfestes, ZThK 55 (1958), 15 with
nn. 2, 4; and Knohl, Sanctuary of Silence, 37, 56-58, who demonstrates that
clauses introduced by db'L]m,i apart from, are characteristic of the editor who
revised the priestly corpus.
The exact relation of the appended Sukkot legislation in vv. 39-43 to the
festival calendar in vv. 4-37aba will be established below.
224 J.A. Wagenaar

the twenty-second day of the seventh month (Lev. 23:33-36, 39-

43). The festival discussed in Lev. 23:9-21 does not seem to t
the lay-out of the festival calendar in Lev. 23:4-43*. The festival
in question which remains unnamed is, in marked contrast
to the festivals of the rst and seventh month, not xed to a
certain date. The festival date is determined in accordance with
the presentation of the rst omer of the new harvest: You shall
count seven sabbaths from the day after the sabbath: the day
on which you bring the omer as a raised oering . . . you shall
count fty days until the day after the sabbath and bring a new
cereal oering to Yhwh (Lev. 23:15-16).15 The presentation of
the rst omer of the new harvest, however, is likewise not xed
to a particular date, but is dependent upon the beginning of the
harvest: When you enter the land that I am about to give you
and you reap its harvest, you shall bring the rst omer of your
harvest to the priest. He shall raise the omer before Yhwh
on your behalf the priest shall raise it on the day after the
sabbath (Lev. 23:10-11). As the harvest does not commence on
a xed date, but, owing to climatical variations, on a dierent
day from year to year, the date for the festival remains exible.
The fty-day interval between the beginning of the harvest and
the celebration of the festival is in this respect similar to the
calculation of the date of Shavuot in Deut. 16:9-10: You shall
count seven weeks: from the moment when the sickle is put to
the standing grain, you must begin to count seven weeks, and
keep the festival of weeks for Yhwh, your God. The date for the
celebration of the in all likelihood identical festival in Lev.
23:9-21 is, therefore, just as in the pre-priestly festival calendars
primarily dependent on agricultural conditions.

3 Sukkot and the end of the year

The marked dierence between a exible date for Shavuot de-
pendent on the beginning of the harvest, on the one hand, and
the xed dates for Pesah.-Mas.s.ot and Sukkot, on the other, raise
The word rm,[o may denote both a sheaf (Deut. 24:19; Job 24:10; Ruth
2:15) and a dry measure (Exod. 16:16, 18, 22, 32, 33, 36). In the priestly
literature tyviarE usually refers to the rst prepared grain (ThWAT, Bd. 7, 292-
3), and tyviarE rm,[o may, therefore, have a certain quantity of the rst barley
in mind (pace ThWAT, Bd. 7, 293, which makes an unwarranted exception
for Lev. 23:10-12, 15: die Garbe vom Beginn eurer Ernte).
The Priestly Festival Calendar 225

the question of the relation between the dates of the priestly

festival calendar and the agricultural seasons. In the pre-priestly
festival calendars Sukkot concludes the list of pilgrimage festivals
and seems to mark the end of the agricultural cycle of sowing,
reaping and processing the harvest. The festival calendar in Deut.
16:1-17 does not refer to a particular time of the year, but as-
sumes that the yield of the grain and the grape harvest has been
processed: You shall keep the festival of huts, when you have
gathered in the produce from your threshing oor and your wine
press (Deut. 16:13). The festival of ingathering mentioned in
the festival calendars in Exod. 23:14-19 and 34:18-26 is celeb-
rated at the same time of the year and may thus be equated with
Sukkot: You shall observe . . . the festival of ingathering at the
end of the year, when you have gathered in your produce from
the eld (Exod. 23:16b), or, You shall keep . . . the festival of
ingathering at the turn of the year (Exod. 34:22b). The date of
the festival, however, is not only determined by agricultural con-
ditions, but as may be clear from the expression of time taxeB]
hn:V;h' and hn:V;h' tp'WqT] is also subordinated to a point in time in-
dependent of the agricultural cycle. The latter festival calendars
admittedly list the three pilgrimage festivals just as the former
in accordance with the course of the agricultural cycle, but do
not seem to have some agricultural year in mind.16 The con-
troversial hn:V;h' taxeB] in Exod. 23:16b may, in accordance with its
Akkadian counterpart m us.e satti, the end of the year, refer to
the conclusion of a calendrical cycle and not a seasonal cycle.17

Pace D.J.A. Clines, Evidence for an Autumnal New Year in Pre-exilic
Israel Reconsidered, JBL 93 (1974), 26-9, who rightly emphasises that the
pre-priestly festival calendars reect the agricultural year of sowing, harvest
and gathering in, but prematurely concludes that the references to the end
or the turn of the year in the autumn invariably have to do with the cycle
of the agricultural year or of the festival calendar insofar as it is based on
the agricultural seasons, and therefore . . . are irrelevant to the questions of
the beginning of the calendar year of months. Clines discards the possibility
that the end of the year and the turn of the year refer to a point of time
in the calendar year irrespective of the course of the agricultural year.
Pace Clines,Evidence, 26-7, who admittedly endorses the conclusion
drawn by E. Kutsch, . . . am Ende des Jahres: Zur Datierung des israeli-
tischen Herbstfestes in Ex 23 16, ZAW 83 (1971), 15-21, that the expression
hn:V;h' taxe does not mean the beginning of the year, as has occasionally been
assumed (HALAT, 406-7), but in accordance with Akkadian m us.e satti, the
end of the year (AHW, 680; CAD, vol. 10/2, 249: mng. uncert., perhaps the
226 J.A. Wagenaar

The equally dicult hn:V;h' tp'WqT] in Exod. 34:22b, on the other

hand, refers to a major turning point in the year, and such a
major watershed in the season of ingathering can only be the
autumnal equinox.18 The autumnal equinox more or less coin-
cides with the conclusion of the grape harvest. The grape harvest
which begins in late June reaches its climax in the second half
of August and the beginning of September about the same time
as the ingathering of the summer fruit. Although the harvest of
the late gs and the olives has not yet been brought in, the time
around the autumnal equinox which provides a natural break
between the harvest of the grain and grapes, on the one hand,
and ploughing and sowing, on the other is certainly a suitable
period to celebrate the conclusion of the agricultural cycle. The
moment for the celebration, however, is ultimately determined by
the calendar and not by agricultural conditions. The signicance
of the autumnal equinox is conrmed by the list of agricultural
activities distributed over the twelve months of the year recor-
ded in the Gezer calendar.19 The list begins with the two months

end of the year) refers to the end of the year (HALAT, 1478; ThWAT, Bd.
3 , 799; ThWAT, Bd. 8, 333-4), but assumes that the year in question may
be an agricultural year. The use of as.u to refer to the end of a (twenty-four
hour) day or lunar month in Akkadian (AHW, 1480; CAD, vol. 1/2, 385:
e.g. may the outgoing month take the evil away [and] the incoming year
show me favor), as well as the use of axy to refer to the end of a (sabbath)
day or a (sabbath) year in post-biblical Hebrew, however, suggests, that
the expression may have been intended to indicate the end of a calendar
Pace Clines, Evidence, 27-8, who hesitates to introduce the notion of
solstice or equinox that hp;WqT] received in rabbinic texts into Old Testament
texts, and tries to clarify the meaning of the word by referring to Ps. 19:7
t;wxq]Al[' wtp;Wqt]W wax;wm yIm'V;h' hxeq]m,i at one end of the sky is his exit, and his
turning point is at the other end, where hp;WqT] presents the furthest point
in the course of the sun before it begins its subterranean return to the east
(HALAT, 1641), taking turning point in Exod. 34:22b in a seasonal sense
as the time of transition from summer to winter. The general meaning of
hp;WqT] may well be turning point, but as a year has no furthest point from
where to begin a subterranean return, this turning point may well be the
end of one year and the beginning of the next (HALAT, 1641; ThWAT, Bd.
8, 333-4). The only observable turning point in the course of a year would
in the meantime be a solstice or equinox when the days or nights start to
shorten or are of equal length.
See for a recent edition of the Gezer calendar J. Renz, W. Rollig, Hand-
buch der althebr aischen Epigraphik, Bd. 1/1: Die althebr aischen Inschriften
Text und Kommentar, Darmstadt 1995, 30-7; see also G.I. Davies, Ancient
The Priestly Festival Calendar 227

of ingathering of late gs and olives throughout October and the

beginning of November, and not with the sowing season following
the arrival of the rst rains in early November as would have been
logical from a farmers point of view.20 The Gezer calendar runs
from late September/early October to late August/early Septem-
ber and thus reckons with a period in all likelihood a calendar
year that begins independently of the agricultural cycle at the
autumnal equinox.21 Sukkot is celebrated after the harvest of the
grapes and the summer fruit has been brought in, and as a con-
sequence follows the autumnal equinox. The festival calendars
in Exod. 23:14-19 and 34:18-26 put the festival of ingathering,
i.e. Sukkot, therefore, at the beginning of a new year: You shall
observe/keep . . . the festival of ingathering from the end or the
turn of the year onwards (Exod. 23:16b; 34:22b).22 Sukkot may

Hebrew Inscriptions: Corpus and Concordance, Oxford 1991, 85. The text
of the Gezer calendar and the relation of the agricultural activities to the
calendar year will be discussed in greater detail below.
Pace Clines, Evidence, 38, who argues that the Gezer calendar being a
list of agricultural seasons instead of a calendar does not need to begin at a
particular time of the year, but is nevertheless likely to begin about the time
of the autumn, i.e. the most conspicuous transitional point in the seasonal
year, but fails to take into account that the Gezer calendar does not begin
at the most conspicuous transitional point in the year, but about two months
earlier; Korting, Schall des Schofar, 75, who admits that the Gezer calendar
begins with the harvest that takes place about the time of the autumnal
equinox instead of the subsequent winter rains, but nevertheless refuses to
draw any conclusions from this list of agricultural seasons with regard to the
beginning of the calendar year, because she assumes that the two months
of ingathering in which the bulk of the harvest is reaped are listed rst
for administrative reasons. However, the harvest of late gs and olives may
hardly qualify as the bulk of the harvest.
As a lunar month averages 29,5 days and twelve lunar months make only
354 days, the next year is due to start about 11 days early and, without some
form of compensation, i.e. the intercalation of a thirteenth month every two
or three years, the beginning of the calendar year will soon be completely
out of step with the autumnal equinox. The (ir)regular intercalation of a
thirteenth month every two or three years of course means that the beginning
of the calendar year will hardly ever coincide with the autumnal equinox, but
actually varies from year to year, preceding or following it by a few days or
even weeks.
Pace E. Auerbach, Das Fest der Lese am Abschluss des Jahres, VT 3
(1953), 186-7, who argues that the sequence of the pilgrimage festivals in the
pre-priestly festival suggests that Sukkot is celebrated towards the end of
the calendar year and consequently precedes the new year. As hn:V;h' taxe and
hn:V;h' tp'WqT] hardly were intended to indicate a specic time span, however,
228 J.A. Wagenaar

to all intents and purposes have been a new year festival.23

The priestly festival calendar in Lev. 23:4-43* dates Sukkot
to the seventh month of the year: On the fteenth day of the sev-
enth month there shall be a seven-day festival of huts for Yhwh
(Lev. 23:34). As the priestly festival calendar counts the months,
in accordance with the Babylonian calendar, from the vernal equi-
nox, the seventh month of the year equals the rst month of a
calendar year starting at the autumnal equinox. The priestly fest-
ival calendar thus envisages the celebration of Sukkot just as the
pre-priestly festival calendars in the period following the harvest
of the grapes and the summer fruit: late September/early Octo-
ber. The coincidence of the date specied in the priestly festival
calendar and the agricultural conditions is conrmed by the in-
troduction to the additional provisions for Sukkot in Lev. 23:39-
43: On the fteenth day of the seventh month, when you have
gathered the yield of the land, you shall celebrate the festival of
Yhwh for seven days. The festival date is in the priestly festival
calendar admittedly rst and foremost determined in accordance
with the calendar year, but the link with the agricultural cycle
is not entirely severed.

4 Pesah.-Mas.s.ot and the season of ears

The same does not hold true for the date specied for Pesah.-
Mas.s.ot. The pre-priestly festival calendars stipulate a rather
vague date for the celebration of Mas.s.ot. The combined regu-
lations for Pesah.-Mas.s.ot in Deut. 16:1-17 read: Observe the vd<jo
bybia;h:; keep the passover for Yhwh, your God, for in the vd<jo
bybia;h; Yhwh, your God, brought you out of Egypt . . . You shall
sacrice as a passover sacrice for Yhwh your God, sheep and
cattle . . . : you shall eat unleavened bread ... with it for seven

the pre-priestly festival calendars may identify the actual end or the turn of
the year as the beginning of the seven-day autumn festival which, therefore,
falls in the beginning of the next year.
See also J.C. de Moor, New Year with Canaanites and Israelites, vol. 1:
Description (Kamper Cahiers 21/1), Kampen 1972, 4-29, who emphasises the
similarities between Sukkot and the autumnal new year festival celebrated in
Ugarit; J.C. Reeves, The Feast of the First Fruits of Wine and the Ancient
Canaanite Calendar, VT 42 (1992), 356-361; K. van der Toorn, The Baby-
lonian New Year Festival: New Insights from the Cuneiform Texts and their
Bearing on Old Testament Study, in: J.A. Emerton (ed.), Congress Volume
Leuven 1989 (VT.S 43), Leiden 1991, 331-44.
The Priestly Festival Calendar 229

days (Deut. 16:1-3). The festival calendars in Exod. 23:14-17 and

34:18-26 stipulate the same date for Mas.s.ot: You shall observe
the festival of unleavened bread: you shall eat unleavened bread
for seven days . . . at the suitable time in the bybia;h; vd<jo, for in
the bybia;h; vd<jo you came out of Egypt (Exod. 23:15; 34:18). The
word bybia;h; has usually been identied with the name of an an-
cient Canaanite month, and on account of the traditional date for
Pesah.-Mas.s.ot, has been taken to coincide with the rst month
after the vernal equinox. The usual identication of bybia;h; vd<jo
with the name of an ancient Canaanite month, however, must
be questioned.24 Unlike most of the ancient Canaanite month
names preserved in the Old Testament: ynIt;aeh; jr"y< (1 Kgs 8:2),
lWB jr"y< (1 Kgs 6:38), and wzI jr"y< (1 Kgs 6:37),25 bybia; is always con-
strued with vd<jo and the article instead of simple jr"y<.26 Moreover,
a month bybia; is, in contrast to the names of the other months,
as yet not attested in extra-biblical texts.27 Old Testament bybia;
always implies the notion of the ear of the uncut or freshly cut,
unprocessed barley.28 The agricultural background of the cus-
tom of eating unleavened barley bread29 for seven days during
the festival seems to suggest that bybia;h; vd<jo presents a general
reference to a seasonal event: the beginning of the barley har-
vest.30 As the date of the barley harvest indeed varies from year

See J.A. Wagenaar, Post-Exilic Calendar Innovations: The First Month
of the Year and the Date of Passover and the Festival of Unleavened Bread,
ZAW 115 (2003), 9-11.
The incongruous wzI vd<jo in 1 Kgs 6:1, which is omitted in the , may in
this respect be questioned.
See also M. Cohen, The Cultic Calendars of the Ancient Near East, Beth-
esda 1993, 384-6; the single occurrence of ynIt;aeh; jr"y< in the Old Testament
is admittedly construed with an article, but as Phoenician yrh. tnm is con-
sistently spelled without (cf. E. Komann, Sind die altisraelitischen Mon-
atsbezeichnungen mit den kanaan aisch-ph
onikischen identisch?, BZ NF 10
[1966], 201; Cohen, Cultic Calendars, 384), the Old Testament usage may
well be erroneous.
Komann, Monatsbezeichnungen, 213-4; Cohen, Cultic Calendars, 385.
Cf. DCH vol. 1, 103: ear of cereal, usu. collective, in ref. to uncut or
freshly cut, unprocessed, cereal, specif. barley.
As Hebrew hX;m' is derived from Greek maza, barley dough, barley bread
(ThWAT, Bd. 4, 1075), the twXm' eaten in the course of the festival may be
interpreted as unleavened barley bread.
See also Cohen, Cultic Calendars, 385, who refers to a similar practice
in many cuneiform documents of the Old Babylonian period: the month of
the . . . .
230 J.A. Wagenaar

to year because of climatical variations, the word vd<jo may in

this context even have the wider sense season31 and bybia;h; vd<jo
may refer to the season of (fresh) ears. The custom of eating
unleavened barley bread from the new harvest for seven days in-
deed serves the commemoration of the exodus well, as the people
leave Egypt bybia;h; vd<joB], in the season of (fresh) ears (Exod.
13:4; 23:16; 34:18; Deut. 16:1). The detrimental consequences of
the seventh plague mentioned in Exod. 9:31-32: The ax and the
barley were destroyed, for the barley was in the ear and the ax
was in the bud, but the wheat and spelt were not destroyed, for
they are late crops, emphasise that the barley is about ripe at
the eve of the exodus.
The pre-priestly festival calendars date Mas.s.ot rst and fore-
most to the period when the barley was ripe for harvesting. The
date of the barley harvest in ancient Israel, however, may not
be so easily established, as the date not only varies from year to
year due to climatical variations, but the crops in the valleys and
on the coastal plain ripen a little earlier than on the mountains.
The precise dates of the barley harvest may be determined with
the help of the monumental work of Gustav Dalman, Arbeit und
Sitte in Palastina, whose observations of the agricultural seasons
in early twentieth-century pre-industrialised Palestine may still
reect the unaltered agricultural conditions of the rst millen-
nium bce.32 In the Jordan valley and on the coastal plain the
barley harvest normally starts towards the end of April, whereas
the harvest in the mountainous regions does not begin before the
middle of May.33 These dates in turn perfectly match the seven-
week interval between the beginning of the barley harvest and
the conclusion of the wheat harvest supposed by the pre-priestly
festival calendars. The wheat harvest commences a week or two
Cf. HALAT, 283; DCH, vol. 3, 165; see especially Jer. 2:23-24: a restive
young camel interlacing her tracks, a wild ass at home in the wilderness, in
her heat sning the wind. Who can restrain her lust? None who seek her
need weary themselves, in her month they will nd her, where vd<jo refers to
the mating season.
G. Dalman, Arbeit und Sitte in Pal astina (7 B ande), G utersloh 1928-
1942; see also Wagenaar, Calendar Innovations, 12-3.
Dalman, Arbeit und Sitte, Bd. 1/2, 415: Im allgemeinen d urfte f
ur das
Gebirgsland der Beginn der Gersteernte um Mitte Mai . . . als zutreend
gelten. In Kustenland und Jordanebene wird der Beginn um etwa 14 Tage
uher liegen; see also Idem, Arbeit und Sitte, Bd. 3, 2; the table on pp. 4-6
puts the barley harvest in May.
The Priestly Festival Calendar 231

after the beginning of the barley harvest. In the mountainous

regions the wheat generally ripens in the beginning of June, in
the Jordan valley and the coastal plain about two weeks earlier.34
The period from the beginning of the barley harvest in the valleys
or the coastal plain at the end of April until the conclusion of the
wheat harvest in the mountainous regions towards the middle of
June just about covers the seven-week interval which separates
Mas.s.ot from Shavuot in the pre-priestly festival calendars. The
dates provided by Dalman are conrmed by the date for the bar-
ley harvest supposed by the list of agricultural activities in the
Gezer calendar:35
I two months of ingathering September/October
II October/November
III two months of sowing November/December
IV December/January
V two months of late seed January/February
VI February/March
VII one month of cutting ax March/April
VIII one month of barley harvest April/May
IX one month of harvesting and measuring May/June
X two months of gleaning June/July
XI July/August
XII one month of summer fruit August/September

The calendar opens as mentioned with the two months of ingath-

ering of late gs and olives in October and early November.36
The calendar then continues with the four months of the sow-
ing season following the arrival of the rst rains in November.37
Dalman, Arbeit und Sitte, Bd. 1/2, 415: Im allgemeinen d urfte f
ur das
Gebirgsland . . . der Beginn der Weizen ernte um Anfang Juni als zutreend
gelten . . . In K
ustenland und Jordanebene wird der Beginn um etwa 14 Tage
uher liegen; see also Idem, Arbeit und Sitte, Bd. 3, 2; the table on pp. 4-6
puts the wheat harvest in June.
See Wagenaar, Calendar Innovations, 14-6; the present-day equivalents
of the one- or two-month periods of the agricultural activities listed in the
Gezer calendar are determined on the basis of the observations made by
Dalman, Arbeit und Sitte, passim (see below). The dates of the Gezer calendar
provided by O. Borowski, Agriculture in Iron Age Israel: The Evidence from
Archeology and the Bible, Winona Lake, 1987, 31-44 with tables 1, 3, however,
tend to be one month out of step, because his reconstruction suers from a
premature equation of bybia; and the month of the barley harvest with the
rst month after the vernal equinox.
Dalman, Arbeit und Sitte, Bd. 1/2, 561; Idem, Arbeit und Sitte, Bd. 4,
Dalman, Arbeit und Sitte, Bd. 1/1, 115-30.
232 J.A. Wagenaar

The sowing season is divided into two periods: the rst period
lasts from the end of November until the end of January, and
the second period following the heavy January rains lasts until
the middle of March.38 The harvest of ax seed for the produc-
tion of oil falls in the second half of March and the rst half of
April.39 The barley harvest consequently begins towards the end
of April or the beginning of May, and the wheat harvest follows
in the second half of May and the rst half of June.40 The two
consecutive months reckoned in the Gezer calendar for the barley
harvest and harvesting and measuring of wheat again match the
seven-week interval between Mas.s.ot and Shavuot laid down in
the pre-priestly festival calendars. The calendar concludes with
the harvest of the grapes and the summer fruit: the grape har-
vest begins as mentioned earlier in the second half of June and
lasts throughout the summer, but does not reach its climax be-
fore the ingathering of the summer fruit in August and the rst
half of September.41 The pre-priestly festival calendars thus seem
to suppose that Pesah.-Mas.s.ot was celebrated at the end of April
or the beginning of May.
The priestly festival calendar in Lev. 23:4-43*, however, dates
Pesah.-Mas.s.ot to the rst month of the year: In the rst month on
the fourteenth day of the month . . . there shall be a passover for
Yhwh, and on the fteenth day of the same month a festival of
unleavened bread for Yhwh: you shall eat unleavened bread for
seven days (Lev. 23:5-6). The rst month of the priestly festival
calendar which reckons the months, in accordance with the Baby-
lonian calendar, from the vernal equinox, roughly coincides with
the latter part of March and the better part of April. The end of
March or the beginning of April, however, is about a month early
for the barley harvest. The untimely date for Pesah.-Mas.s.ot in the
priestly festival calendar is conrmed once again by the list of ag-
ricultural activities recorded in the Gezer calendar.42 The Gezer
calendar lists the barley harvest in the eighth month of the year.
Dalman, Arbeit und Sitte, Bd. 2, 174-6.
Dalman, Arbeit und Sitte, Bd. 2, 298-9; Idem, Arbeit und Sitte, Bd. 5,
19-20, has not observed the actual cultivation of ax, but notes that in the
spring the owers of the wild varieties can be seen everywhere.
Dalman, Arbeit und Sitte, Bd. 1/2, 415; Idem, Arbeit und Sitte, Bd. 3, 2,
4-6 (see above).
Dalman, Arbeit und Sitte, Bd. 4, 335-9.
See Wagenaar, Calendar Innovations, 18.
The Priestly Festival Calendar 233

The eighth month of a year beginning with the autumnal equi-

nox, however, would equal the second month of a year beginning
with the vernal equinox. The priestly festival calendar seems to
have advanced the celebration of Pesah.-Mas.s.ot from the second
month to the rst month of the year.43 The priestly festival cal-
endar thus not only xes a particular date for the celebration
of Pesah.-Mas.s.ot, but also severs the link between Pesah.-Mas.s.ot
and the agricultural seasons.

5 Shavuot: A Post-priestly Addition

The dierences in the priestly festival calendar in Lev. 23:4-43*
between Pesah.-Mas.s.ot and Sukkot xed to a particular day and
month, on the one hand, and Shavuot celebrated on a exible
date dependent upon the beginning of the harvest, on the other,
match a dierent relation of these festivals with the agricultural
seasons. The date of Shavuot is, in accordance with the pre-
priestly festival calendars, dependent upon agricultural condi-
tions, whereas the link between Pesah.-Mas.s.ot and Sukkot with
the agricultural seasons is more or less completely severed. The
stipulations regarding Shavuot are incompatible with those for
Pesah.-Mas.s.ot and Sukkot and may, therefore, originally not have
been part of the priestly festival calendar.
The contrast between the festivals celebrated on a xed day
in the rst and seventh month and the single festival celebrated
in accordance with the agricultural seasons corresponds with a
series of formal dierences in the text of the festival calendar in
Lev. 23:4-43*.44 The stipulations for Pesah. (Lev. 23:5), Mas.s.ot
The (ir)regular intercalation of a thirteenth month every two or three
years because the next lunar year of 12 times 29,5 days is bound to start 11
days early would admittedly put the barley harvest once in a while in the rst
month of the year, but as a year may on occasion begin well in advance of the
vernal equinox, the barley harvest may at other times not start before the
third month of the year (the dates listed for the beginning of the year in the
Neo-Babylonian era by R.A. Parker, W. Dubberstein, Babylonian Chronology
626 B.C.-A.D. 75, Providence 1956, 25-47, vary from 6 March to 30 April);
on average, however, the barley harvest will begin in the second month of
the year.
Cf. Noth, Leviticus, 144-5; Kutsch, Erw agungen, 14-5; Elliger, Leviti-
cus, 304-12; A. Cholewinski, Heiligkeitsgesetz und Deuteronomium (AnBib,
66), Rome 1976, 82-94; K orting, Schall des Schofar, 95-105, who distinguish
between two sets of instructions with their own form and phraseology: vv.
5-8, 23-25, 33-36 are characterised by (1) an exact date, (2) the name of the
234 J.A. Wagenaar

(Lev. 23:6-8), the memorial day marked by the blowing of a

horn (Lev. 23:23-25), the Day of Atonement (Lev. 23:26-27) and
Sukkot (Lev. 23:33-36) specify the entire day or the rst and last
days of the festival as a vd<qo ar:q]m,i holiday, prohibit hd:bo[} tk,al,m,]
day-to-day labour, on such days, and conclude with a general
instruction to bring a gift to Yhwh on each day of the festival.
The provisions for the anonymous Shavuot (Lev. 23:9-21), on
the other hand, list a series of vegetable and animal oerings to
be brought on the rst and last days of the fty-day period,45
specify the ftieth day as a vd<qo ar:q]mi, holiday, prohibit tk,al,m]
hd:bo[}, day-to-day labour, on this day, and label the rules and
regulations regarding the festivities for the rst and last day of
the fty-day period k,yterodol] k,ytebov]wmAlk;B] l;w[ tQ'ju, an eternal
statute in all your settlements throughout your generations. The
provisions for the celebration of Shavuot are in this respect sim-
ilar to the ones cited in the appendix to Sukkot in Lev. 23:39-43.46
In the appendix Sukkot likewise remains anonymous, merely be-
ing referred to as the festival for Yhwh. The date is admittedly
xed to a certain day and month, but is additionally linked to

festival in question, (3) vd<qo ar:q]mi, (4) the prohibition on performing tk,al,m]
hd:bo[,} (5) a general instruction to bring a gift to Yhwh, whereas vv. 9-22,
39-43 are marked by (1) a exible date dependent upon agricultural con-
ditions, (2) the omission of the name of the festival, (3) wtB;v', (4) detailed
instructions for festival oerings, (5) k,yterodol] l;w[ tQ'j,u (6) Yhwh speaks in
the rst person singular.
The original instructions may only have comprised the sacrice of the rst
omer of the new harvest and a single lamb on the rst day and the sacrice
of two loaves and two lambs on the last day of the fty-day period. The cereal
and libation oerings listed in v. 13 and vv. 18aa2 -19a may be considered as
later additions taken from Num. 28:27-30 in order to bring the number of
animals into line with the list of festival sacrices in Numbers 28-29 and to
supplement the animal oering stipulated in v. 12 which has no counterpart
in Numbers 28-29 with the proper accompanying oerings (pace Elliger,
Leviticus, 308; Cholewinski, Heiligkeitsgesetz und Deuteronomium, 88, n. 16,
200, n. 69, who hold vv. 18ab, 19 to be later additions, but consequently have
to assume that v. 18aa originally stipulated the sacrice of two instead of
seven lambs, which, however, results in a rather complicated argument; and
K orting, Schall des Schofar, 100, who takes vv. 18-19 in their entirety as a
later addition, but fails to consider the possibility that the sequence of one
two lambs sacriced on the rst and last days of the fty-day period may
represent a genuine trait of the Shavuot legislation in vv. 9-21).
Cf. Noth, Leviticus, 144; Elliger, Leviticus, 305-6; Cholewinski, Hei-
ligkeitsgesetz und Deuteronomium, Rome 1976, 83-4; K orting, Schall des
Schofar, 99-100.
The Priestly Festival Calendar 235

the time of the harvest: Moreover, on the fteenth day of the

seventh month, when you have gathered the yield of the land,
you shall celebrate the festival of Yhwh for seven days, and the
instructions stipulated for the celebration of the festival are again
labelled k,yterodol] l;w[ tQ'ju, an eternal statute throughout your
The formal dierences between the two groups of rules and
regulations suggest that the list of annual festivals preserved in
Lev. 23:4-43 is the result of a combination of two kinds of festival
instructions.47 The relationship between these two kinds of in-
structions, however, is dicult to establish.48 The time-honoured
way of determining the dates for Shavuot in vv. 9-21 and Sukkot
in vv. 39-43 in accordance with agricultural conditions has tradi-
tionally been taken as an indication that these passages present
the remains of an earlier festival calendar that has been revised
by the addition of a series of festivals xed to an exact day and
time.49 The date specied for the beginning of Sukkot in v. 39aa,
the fteenth day of the seventh month, is likewise taken as a
later addition to the Sukkot legislation in vv. 39ab-43. The date
in v. 39aa may, however, only be taken as a later addition once it
has been established by other criteria that vv. 39-43 are the re-
mains of an earlier festival calendar. The date, the fteenth day
of the seventh month, and the specication of the agricultural
conditions, when you have gathered the yield of the land, can
after all not be played o against each other, as the date listed
by the priestly festival calendar matches the period envisaged for
the celebration of the festival of huts in the pre-priestly festival
calendars. Moreover, the label given to the instructions for the
Cf. Kutsch, Erw agungen, 14-5; Elliger, Leviticus, 304-12; Cholewinski,
Heiligkeitsgesetz und Deuteronomium, Rome 1976, 82-94; Korting, Schall des
Schofar, 95-105; see also Knohl, Sanctuary of Silence, 8-40.
Noth, Leviticus, 145-6, infers from the festivals dated to the rst and sev-
enth months of the year a Zweierrhythmus, which may also be found in the
list of festival sacrices in Ezek. 45:21-25, whereas the set of three pilgrimage
festivals Pesah.-Mas.s.ot, Shavuot and Sukkot represent a Dreierrhythmus,
known from the festival calendars in Exod. 23:14-19; 34:18, 22-23; Deut.
16:1-17, but he hesitates to attribute these to dierent literary sources, and
prefers to consider the festival calendar in Leviticus 23 as an amalgam of a
Jerusalem cult tradition with the Deuteronomic series of agricultural festivals
forged in the exilic era.
See the summary of the traditional consensus by W. Thiel, Erwagungen
zum Alter des Heiligkeitsgesetzes, ZAW 81 (1969), 57-9.
236 J.A. Wagenaar

rituals performed on the rst and ftieth days of the period that
separates the presentation of the rst omer of the new harvest
from Shavuot as well as the instructions for the festivities during
Sukkot: an eternal statute in all your settlements throughout
your generations (Lev. 23:14, 21, 41), agrees with the conclusion
of the post-priestly prologue introducing the weekly sabbath into
the priestly festival calendar: This is a sabbath for Yhwh in
all your settlements.50 Finally, the identication of the rst and
eighth days of Sukkot as a wtB;v,' festive day, in v. 39b, likewise
resembles the identication of the weekly festival day as a tB'v'
wtB;v', festive sabbath.51 The same incidentally holds true for the
label given to the rituals performed on the Day of Atonement:
k,ytebov]mo lkoB] k,yterodol] l;w[ tQ'ju, an eternal statute throughout
your generations in all your settlements, and for the identic-
ation of the Day of Atonement as a wtB;v', festive day, in the
secondary elaborations on the provisions for the Day of Atone-
ment in vv. 28ab-32 which are appended to vv. 26-28aa.52 The
conclusion, therefore, seems to be justied that the provisions
for Shavuot in vv. 9-21 and the additional instructions for the
Day of Atonement in vv. 28ab-32 as well as Sukkot in vv. 39-
43 were added to the festival calendar simultaneously with the
post-priestly prologue that introduced the weekly sabbath into
the priestly festival calendar.53

Cf. Elliger, Leviticus, 310-1; Cholewinski, Heiligkeitsgesetz und Deuter-
onomium, 90-1; K orting, Schall des Schofar, 101; see also Knohl, Sanctuary
of Silence, 46-55, who demonstrates that the phrase (k,ytebov]mo lkoB)] l;w[ tQ'ju
k,yterodol] is characteristic of the editor who revised the priestly corpus.
Cf. Elliger, Leviticus, 310-1; Cholewinski, Heiligkeitsgesetz und Deutero-
nomium, 90-1; K orting, Schall des Schofar, 101; see also Knohl, Sanctuary of
Silence, 35 with n. 73, who argues that wtB;v' only occurs in texts that stem
from the editor who revised the priestly corpus.
Cf. Kutsch, Erw agungen, 14-5; Knohl, Sanctuary of Silence, 13-4, 27-34;
Korting, Schall des Schofar, 101, 112-7, who distinguish between an original
Day of Atonement legislation in vv. 26-28aa, that resembles the lay-out of
vv. 5-8, 23-25, 33-36, and additional instructions in vv. 28ab-31(32), that
mirror vv. 2abg-3, 9-21, 39-43; pace Elliger, Leviticus, 309-10; Cholewinski,
Heiligkeitsgesetz und Deuteronomium, 88-90, who hesitate to attribute vv.
26-31(32) to one of the two categories, because it combines features of both
kinds of festival instructions, but in the end consider vv. 26-31(32) in their
entirety as a later addition.
Cf. Kutsch, Erw agungen, 14-5; Elliger, Leviticus, 304-12; Cholewinski,
Heiligkeitsgesetz und Deuteronomium, 82-94, esp. 94; Korting, Schall des
Schofar, 95-105, esp. 102 n. 63, who nevertheless reckon with the possibility
The Priestly Festival Calendar 237

In contrast to the additional instructions for Sukkot in vv.

39-43, which are appended to the original provisions for Sukkot
in vv. 33-36, the instructions for Shavuot in vv. 9-21 are not
added to a previous Shavuot legislation. The absence of original
Shavuot legislation in the priestly festival calendar is often ex-
plained by the supposition that the original instructions have
been reworked or even completely replaced by the new legis-
lation, leaving only traces of the original text in v. 21.54 The
original festival calendar in Lev. 23:4-43* may, however, just as
well never have included provisions for Shavuot. The specic-
ation of the ftieth day after the presentation of the omer as
a vd<qo ar:q]m,i holiday, and the prohibition on performing tk,al,m]
hd:bo[,} day-to-day labour, on this day (Lev. 23:21) in any case
hardly qualify as traces of an original Shavuot legislation.55 The
grammar and syntax of the beginning of the verse are admittedly
incorrect: hd:bo[} tk,al,m]AlK; k,l; hy<h]yI vd<qoAar:q]mi hZ<h' wYoh' x,[,B] t,ar:q]W
Wc[}t' al,You shall proclaim a holiday on this very day, you shall
have . . . you shall do no day-to-day work, as either the verb
t,ar:q]W or the phrase k,l; hy<h]yI seems to lack a proper object; but
this does not necessarily presuppose that the words in question
are the remains of an earlier legislation. The expression ar:q]mi
vd<qo, holiday, is also used to specify the sabbath in the prologue
prefaced to the festival calendar: On the seventh day there shall
be a festive sabbath, a holiday (Lev. 23:3). The prohibition on
working on the ftieth day after the presentation of the omer :
Wc[}t' al hd:bo[} tk,al,m]AlK;,you shall do no day-to-day-work, in v.
21 is admittedly phrased dierently from the post-priestly pro-
logue and the instructions for the Day of Atonement: hk;al;m]AlK;
Wc[}t' al, you shall do no work at all (Lev. 23:3, 31), but labour
restrictions for Shavuot as well as the rst and last days of both
Mas.s.ot and Sukkot (Lev. 23:35-36) seem to be less severe than for

that vv. 9-21, 39-43 elaborate upon older material; see also Knohl, Sanctuary
of Silence, 8-40, who considers vv. 2abg-3, 9-21, 28ab-32, 39-43 as part of a
single editorial revision of the priestly festival calendar which emphasises the
importance of the sabbath and introduces new rituals based upon ancient
folk customs that reect the agricultural background of the festivals.
Elliger, Leviticus, 307-9; Knohl, Sanctuary of Silence, 11-3; K orting,
Schall des Schofar, 101-2, who all point to the faulty syntax of v. 21 (see
below); see also Kutsch, Erwagungen, 14-5, who takes vv. 16b, 21ab as the
remains of the original text.
See also Cholewinski, Deuteronomium und Heiligkeitsgesetz, 92.
238 J.A. Wagenaar

the sabbath and the Day of Atonement. The specication of the

ftieth day after the presentation of the rst omer of the new
harvest as a vd<qo ar:q]mi, holiday, and the prohibition on perform-
ing hd:bo[} tk,al,m]AlK;, day-to-day labour, on this day in v. 21 may
well, therefore, have been copied from the legislation for Mas.s.ot
in vv. 6-8 and Sukkot in vv. 33-36 by the editor who included
Shavuot in the festival calendar of Leviticus 23.56 The indiscrim-
inate use of the specication vd<qo ar:q]mi, holiday, the prohibition
on performing hd:bo[} tk,al,m]AlK;, day-to-day labour, in v. 21, and
the label k,yterodol] k,ytebov]wmAlk;B] l;w[ tQ'ju, an eternal statute in
all your settlements throughout your generations, in vv. 14, 21,
seems to suggest that the entire Shavuot legislation in vv. 9-
21 has been secondarily inserted in the list of annual festivals
in Lev. 23:4-36*.57 The priestly festival calendar in Lev. 23:4-43
may, therefore, originally not have included Shavuot.
The priestly festival calendar in Leviticus 23 may originally
have comprised only Pesah.-Mas.s.ot in vv. 5-8, the memorial day
marked by the blowing of a horn in vv. 23-25, the Day of Atone-
ment in vv. 26-28aa and Sukkot in vv. 33-36, and was framed by
an introduction in v. 4 and a conclusion in v. 37aba. The lim-
ited number of festivals in the rst month (Lev. 23:5-8) admit-
tedly stands out against the abundance of festivals in the seventh
month of the year (Lev. 23:23-25, 26-28aa, 33-36). The balance is,

See also Cholewinski, Deuteronomium und Heiligkeitsgesetz, 92, who at-
tributes the faulty syntax to a post-priestly editor trying to imitate the form
and phraseology of the priestly festival calendar.
The syntactical problems in the beginning of v. 21 may well have been
caused by the erroneous omission of the word wtB;v', festive day, from the
festival of weeks legislation: You shall proclaim a holiday on this very day,
you shall have a festive day, you shall do no day to day work (see also
Milgrom, Leviticus 23-27, 2014). The specication of the ftieth day after
the presentation of the omer as a wtB;v', festive day, indeed, seems to be
conspicuously lacking in this part of the festival legislation. The prologue and
the post-priestly additions appended to the original festival calendar qualify
the sabbath in v. 3, the memorial day marked by the blowing of a horn in
v. 24, the Day of Atonement in v. 32 and the rst and eighth days of the
festival of huts in v. 39 as wtB;v', festive day. The rst and last days of the
festival of unleavened bread are admittedly an exception, but as the post-
priestly instructions for the festival of unleavened bread are not included in
the festival calendar in Leviticus 23, but appear in Exod. 12:14-20 as an
appendix to the passover regulation in Exod. 12:1-13 and thus precede the
identication of the tB'v', sabbath, as a wtB;v,' festive day, in the Manna-
story of Exodus 16, the use of this terminology would be premature.
The Priestly Festival Calendar 239

however, restored once the priestly passover regulation in Exod.

12:1-13 is taken into account. The festival dates stipulated for the
rst month of the year are thus matched by festival dates cited
for the seventh month.58 The rst day of the year supposed by
Exod. 12:2: This month shall be the rst of your months: it shall
be the rst month of the year for you, mirrors the memorial day
marked by the blowing of a horn on the rst day of the seventh
month (Lev. 23:23-25). The selection of the passover lamb on the
tenth day of the rst month (Exod. 12:3-5) has a counterpart in
the Day of Atonement on the tenth day of the seventh month
(Lev. 23:26-28ab). The slaughter, preparation and consumption
of the passover sacrice on the fourteenth day (Exod. 12:6-11;
Lev. 23:5) and the celebration of Mas.s.ot from the fteenth un-
til the twenty-rst day of the rst month (Lev. 23:6-8) match
the celebration of Sukkot from the fteenth until the twenty-rst
day, or rather the twenty-second day of the seventh month (Lev.
23:33-36). The omission of the dates leading up to the passover
day and the concise instructions for its celebration in Lev. 23:5
suggest that Exod. 12:1-13 and Lev. 23:4, 5-8, 23-25, 26-28aa, 33-
36, 37aba were from the outset intended as comprehensive parts
of a single priestly festival calendar.

6 Ezekielan Calendar Innovations

The origin of the priestly festival calendar and the reasons for
advancing Pesah.-Mas.s.ot by about a full month may be elucid-
ated by comparing the priestly festival calendar in Exod. 12:1-13;
Lev. 23:4-8, 23-37aba* with the list of festival sacrices recorded
in Ezek. 45:18-25. The semi-annual lay-out of the list of festival
sacrices in Ezek. 45:18-25 seems to reect the composition of
the priestly festival calendar. The text of Ezek. 45:18-25 is, un-
fortunately, so corrupt that it cannot be understood without a
number of radical emendations. Verses 21-25 list a series of sac-
rices to be oered on festivals beginning in accordance with
the dates xed for Pesah.-Mas.s.ot and Sukkot in the priestly fest-
ival calendar on the fourteenth day of the rst month and the
fteenth day of the seventh month. The festival mentioned in v.
25 beginning on the fteenth day of the seventh month lasts for

E.g. I. Willi-Plein, Opfer und Kult im alttestamentlichen Israel: Textbe-
fragungen und Zwischenergebnisse (SB, 153), Stuttgart 1993, 134-6.
240 J.A. Wagenaar

seven days: In the seventh month, on the fteenth day of the

month, at the festival, he shall do the same for seven days. The
festival in question may well be identical with Sukkot, but re-
mains conspicuously anonymous. The festivals discussed in vv.
21-24 beginning on the fourteenth day of the rst month, on the
other hand, are apparently called by name: In the rst month,
on the fourteenth day of the month you shall have the passover.
However, the phrase lkea;yE twXm' ymiy: tw[buv] gj; in the remainder of v.
21 cannot be rendered in a comprehensive way. The present text
seems to refer to Shavuot and the custom of eating unleavened
bread. As gj; is in the absolute state and the subsequent tw[buv] in
the construct state, the vocalised text may nevertheless not have
Shavuot in mind. The construct chain ymiy: tw[buv], (seven) weeks
of days, may better be interpreted as the period in which un-
leavened bread has to be eaten: unleavened bread shall be eaten
for seven full weeks.59 The occurrence of tw[bv gj, the festival
of weeks, in the consonantal text may in turn be the result of a
freak accident in the course of the transmission of the text, rather
than a deliberate attempt to include this festival in a festival cal-
endar in which it would otherwise be lacking.60 In this case an
editor would have included Shavuot in between Pesah. and the
stipulation to eat unleavened bread for an otherwise unspecied
number of days.61 The text may in accordance with the , eJpta;
hJmevra" a[zuma e[desqe, the , septem diebus azyma comedentur,
and other versions originally have read lkea;yE twXm' ymiy: t['b]vi, un-
leavened bread shall be eaten for seven days.62 The stray gj at
the beginning of the clause may in accordance with the vo-

Cf. the expression ymiy: jr"y,< a full month, in Deut. 21:13; 2 Kgs 15:13;
the Masoretes may nevertheless have read the plural tw[buv] as a plural of
extension: unleavened bread shall be eaten for one full week.
Pace H. Gese, Der Verfassungsentwurf des Ezechiel (Kap. 40-48) tradi-
tionsgeschichtlich untersucht (BHTh, 25), T ubingen 1957, 80 n. 2; W. Zim-
merli, Ezechiel, Bd. 2: Ezechiel 25-48 (BK, 13/2), Neukirchen-Vluyn 2 1979,
1159: ohne dass doch ein syntaktisch moglicher Text hergestellt w urde;
H.J. Ebach, Kritik und Utopie: Untersuchungen zum Verh altnis von Volk
und Herrscher im Verfassungsentwurf des Ezechiel (Kap. 40-48), Hamburg
1972, 119.
See also K
orting, Schall des Schofar, 147 n. 290.
Cf. Gese, Verfassungsentwurf, 80 n. 2; Zimmerli, Ezechiel, 1159; Ebach,
Kritik und Utopie, 119; K orting, Schall des Schofar, 147 n. 290; K.-F. Pohl-
mann, Der Prophet Hesekiel/Ezechiel 20-48 (ATD, 22/2), G ottingen 2001,
603, 608.
The Priestly Festival Calendar 241

calisation be some sort of caption introducing the following

stipulation: as far as the festival is concerned: unleavened bread
shall be eaten for seven days. The entire clause is probably a
marginal gloss to the seven days of the festival mentioned in v.
23 which seem to lack a proper reference to the custom of eating
unleavened bread. The rst part of v. 21, In the rst month, on
the fourteenth day of the month you shall have the passover, is
continued in v. 22, on that day the prince shall provide a bull
as purication oering, as the expression of time aWhh' wYoB' in v.
22 refers back to the passover day only without taking the seven-
day period of eating unleavened bread mentioned in v. 21b into
consideration.63 The provisions for the sacrice on passover day
are followed in v. 23 by stipulations regarding the oerings to be
brought on the seven days of the subsequent festival, which may
be identical with Mas.s.ot and thus provoked the gloss preserved
in v. 21b but, like the festival in the seventh month, remains
conspicuously anonymous: For the seven days of the festival he
shall provide as a burnt oering to Yhwh . . . and as a purica-
tion oering. The list of festival sacrices recorded in vv. 21-25
may, therefore, originally with the exception of Pesah. merely
have referred to unnamed festivals being celebrated in the rst
and seventh months of the year.
The sacrices stipulated for Pesah. and the unnamed festival
on the fourteenth day of the rst month and the seven days fol-
lowing are preceded in Ezek. 45:18-20 by a sacrice to be brought
on the rst day of the rst month: In the rst month, on the rst
day of the month you shall take an unblemished bull and purify
the sanctuary (Ezek. 45:18-19). The sacrices stipulated for the
period from fteenth day until the twenty-rst day of the seventh
month may likewise have been preceded by a sacrice on the rst
day of the seventh month: You shall do the same in the seventh
month, on the rst day of the month. The date vd<job' h[;b]viB] envis-
aged in the is obscure: on (the) seven(th day), in the month.
The text is, therefore, usually emended to vd<jol' h[;b]viB], on the
seventh day of the (same) month, and after the example of
the seven-day inauguration of the altar in Ezek. 43:18-27 taken

See also Gese, Verfassungsentwurf, 80; Zimmerli, Ezechiel, 1162; Ebach,
Kritik und Utopie, 120; K orting, Schall des Schofar, 147; Pohlmann,
Hesekiel/Ezechiel, 607-8.
242 J.A. Wagenaar

to refer to the septime of a seven-day atonement ritual.64 How-

ever, unlike the seven-day inauguration of the altar mentioned
in Ezek. 43:18-27, the list of festival sacrices in Ezek. 45:18-20
does not seem to be intended for a seven-day atonement ritual.65
The inexplicable vd<job' h[;b]viB], on the other hand, and again in
accordance with the , ejn tw'/ eJbdovmw/ mhni; mia'/ tou' mhno;", in
the seventh month, on the rst day of the month, may better be
emended to vd<jol' dj;a,B] y[iybiV]B,' (You shall do the same) in the
seventh (month), on the rst day of the month.66 Ezek. 45:18-25
would thus present a series of sacrices to be brought exactly six
months apart on the rst day of the rst and seventh months
and from the fourteenth/fteenth until the twenty-rst days of
the rst month, and from the fteenth until twenty-rst days of
the seventh month.
The semi-annual lay-out of Ezek. 45:18-45 seems to oer a
less dierentiated version of the priestly festival calendar in Exod.
12:1-13; Lev. 23:4-8, 23-37aba*, with festivities on the rst, tenth
and fourteenth/fteenth until twenty-rst days of the rst and
seventh months, and may as such present the precursor of the
priestly festival calendar. The list of festival sacrices in Ezek.
45:18-25 is admittedly composed of two parts with distinctive
features.67 Verses 18-20 address the prophet in the second per-
son singular, refer to the tasks of the priest in the third person
singular and nally address the prophet and the priest in the
second person plural.68 Verses 21-25, on the other hand, address
the people in the second person plural and refer to the tasks of
the prince over against the people in the third person singular.
The sacrices stipulated for the rst day of the rst and seventh
months in vv. 18-20 are intended for the purication of the sanc-
tuary: In the rst month, on the rst day of the month you shall
Cf. Gese, Verfassungsentwurf, 77-8; Zimmerli, Ezechiel, 1161; Ebach,
Kritik und Utopie, 109-10 with n. 5; Pohlmann, Hesekiel/Ezechiel, 603, 605.
See also K
orting, Schall des Schofar, 145-7.
See also K
orting, Schall des Schofar, 145-7.
Cf. Gese, Verfassungsentwurf, 75-6, 79-80; Zimmerli, Ezechiel, 1159-66;
Ebach, Kritik und Utopie, 108-9; K orting, Schall des Schofar, 137-8; Pohl-
mann, Hesekiel/Ezechiel, 604-5.
See also Korting, Schall des Schofar, 137-138; pace Ebach, Kritik und
Utopie, 112-3, who argues that the person addressed in the second person
singular is the prince; Gese, Verfassungsentwurf, 79; Zimmerli, Ezechiel, 1159;
Pohlmann, Hesekiel/Ezechiel, 605, who consider the second person plural
address in v. 20b as an editorial ploy to link vv. 18-20a to vv. 21-25.
The Priestly Festival Calendar 243

take an unblemished bull and purify the sanctuary: the priest

shall take some of the blood of the purication oering and ap-
ply it to the doorposts of the temple, the four corners of the rim
of the altar and the posts of the gate to the inner court. You shall
do the same in the seventh month on the rst day of the month
. . . and so the two of you shall make atonement for the temple
(Ezek. 45:18-20). The sacrices listed in vv. 21-25 are oered in
the course of the major festivals in the rst and seventh months.
Nevertheless, the sacrices stipulated for the purication of the
sanctuary on the rst day of the rst and seventh months in
vv. 18-20 may not be interpreted as a later addition to an in-
dependent list of festival sacrices in vv. 21-25.69 The purpose
of the sacrices envisaged on passover day and the seven days
following, like the sacrices brought on the rst day of the rst
and seventh months, was purication: In the rst month, on the
fourteenth day of the month, you shall have the passover: on that
day the prince shall provide a bull as a purication oering for
himself and for all the people of the land. For the seven days of
the festival he shall provide as a burnt oering . . . and as a puri-
cation oering: a male goat each day (Ezek. 45:21a, 22-24). The
same holds true for the seven days of the festival in the seventh
month: In the seventh month, on the fteenth day of the month,
at the festival, he shall do the same for seven days (Ezek. 45:25).
The list of festival sacrices in Ezek. 45:18-25 thus envisages two
series of related purication rituals performed in the rst and
seventh months: on the rst day of the rst and seventh months
sacrices are brought for the purication of the sanctuary, from
the fourteenth/fteenth until the twenty-rst day of the rst and
seventh months sacrices are brought for the purication of the
The presentation of the festival sacrices as purication of-
ferings to be brought in the rst and seventh months of the year
may have been inspired by the overall structure of the Babylonian
festival calendar. The Babylonian festival year is divided into two
equal halves by new year festivals in the rst and seventh months
of the year. An integral part of the eleven-day Babylonian new
See also Ebach, Kritik und Utopie, 116-8; pace Zimmerli, Ezechiel, 1165;
Pohlmann, Hesekiel/Ezechiel, 604-5.
See also Ebach, Kritik und Utopie, 144; Korting, Schall des Schofar, 141
with n. 262.
244 J.A. Wagenaar

year festival is the purication of the temple of Marduk on the

fth day of the festival.71 The purication of the sanctuary on the
rst day of the rst and seventh months of the year in Ezek. 45:18-
20 may likewise be understood as part of a new year ritual.72 The
sacrices for the purication of the people oered in the course of
Pesah. and the anonymous seven-day festivals later in the rst and
seventh months complement the purication rituals performed
on the rst day of these months and may present the conclu-
sion of the two new year rituals. The list of festival sacrices in
Ezek. 45:18-25 thus transforms Pesah.-Mas.s.ot and Sukkot into
unnamed new year festivals celebrated six months apart. The
inclusion of two new year festivals in Ezek. 45:18-25 may have
been facilitated by the formal, temporal and political similarities
between the Babylonian new year festival and the traditional an-
cient Israelite new year festival celebrated around the autumnal
equinox.73 The similarities between the two autumnal new year
festivals may have provoked the transformation of Pesah.-Mas.s.ot
into a new year festival celebrated around the vernal equinox.
In order to transform Pesah.-Mas.s.ot into a new year festival cel-
ebrated in the rst month of the year, however, the combined
festivals had to be severed from their agricultural background
and advanced by about a full month.

Cf. F. Thureau-Dangin, Rituels accadiens, Paris 1921, 127-54, esp. 136-
41; H. Ringgren, Die Religionen des Alten Orients (GAT, Sonderband),
Gottingen 1979, 145-6; Cohen, Cultic Calendars, 441-7; Van der Toorn,
Babylonian New Year Festival, 332-5.
See also Zimmerli, Ezechiel, 1160; Ebach, Kritik und Utopie, 149-50; pace
Korting, Schall des Schofar, 202-4, who discusses the similarities between the
purication of the temple of Marduk in the course of the Babylonian Akitu-
festival and the purication of temple, high priest and people on the Day
of Atonement (sic), but denies a link between the two, because the Day of
Atonement is a separate festival in ancient Israel celebrated ten days after
New Year. In the case of the purication of the temple on the rst day of
the rst and seventh months of the year in Ezek. 45:18-20 the link with the
purication of the temple of Marduk in the course of the two Babylonian new
year festivals may, however, be much clearer.
Van der Toorn, Babylonian New Year Festival, 339-43, lists the follow-
ing similarities: (1) the agrarian origins of Sukkot/the Akitu-festival, (2) a
solemn procession of the ark/the statue of Marduk, (3) the rearmation of
the kingship of Yhwh/Marduk, (4) the religious legitimation of the king of
The Priestly Festival Calendar 245

7 The Babylonian New Year Festivals

The transformation of Pesah.-Mas.s.ot into a new year festival
seems to mirror a similar transformation in the Babylonian new
year festivals. The origin of the Babylonian new year festivals
may be found in the Sumerian Akitu-festival celebrated twice a
year around the vernal and autumnal equinoxes.74 The Akitu-
festival celebrated in the rst month of the year was known in
Ur in the Ur III period as a-ki-ti se-kin-ku5 , the Akitu-
festival of the barley harvest, whereas the Akitu-festival celeb-
rated in the seventh month of the year was known as a-ki-ti

su-numun, the Akitu-festival of the sowing season.75 The dif-

ferent designations of the two Akitu-festivals match the names
of the months in which they were celebrated: the rst month is
se-kin-ku5 , whereas the seventh month is called
called a-ki-ti
su-numun. The festival calendars from Ur, Drehem and Umma
in the Ur III period list se-kin-ku5 as the twelfth or, later on,
as the rst month of the year and a-ki-ti or su-numun as the
sixth or, later on, as the seventh month of the year accordingly.76
The two Akitu-festivals, therefore, mark the beginning of the
harvest season or sowing season. The designation of the Akitu-
festivals and the names of the months in which they are cel-
ebrated may well hint at the agricultural background of these
festivals.77 The present semi-annual lay-out of the festival year,
Cf. A. Falkenstein, akiti-Fest und akiti-Festhaus, in: R. von Kienle et
al. (eds), Festschrift Johannes Friedrich zum 65. Geburtstag am 27. August
1958 gewidmet, Heidelberg 1959, 151-3; J. Klein, Akitu, AncBD, vol. 1, New
York 1992, 138-40 (138); W. Sallaberger, Der kultische Kalender der Ur III-
Zeit, Teil 1 (UAVA, 7/1), Berlin 1993, 174-5; Cohen, Cultic Calendars, 400-6;
Van der Toorn, Babylonian New Year, 332.
Cf. Falkenstein, akiti-Fest, 151-2; Klein, Akitu, 138; Cohen, Cultic
Calendars, 140-4, 150-3; Sallaberger, Kultische Kalender, 179-90.
Cf. Sallaberger, Kultische Kalender, 7-9; see also Cohen, Cultic Calen-
dars, 125-60; the shift of se-kin-ku5 from the twelfth month to the rst
month of the year and of a-ki-ti from the sixth month to the seventh
month of the year occurred in the course of a calendar reform in which the
year was moved up a whole month during the reign of king Su-Sin.
Cf. Falkenstein, akiti-Fest, 166; Klein, Akitu, 138; Van der Toorn
Babylonian New Year, 332; but see Cohen, Cultic Calendars, 141-2, who
insists that the Akitu-festivals were intricately bound up with the equinoxes
as the time of the year in which the sun and the moon relieved each other:
During [the six months] between the seventh and the rst month the moon
was visible longer in the skies, the reverse during the other [six months].
246 J.A. Wagenaar

with Akitu-festivals celebrated exactly six months apart in the

rst and seventh months of the year, however, means that the
festivals have been detached from their agricultural roots.
The designation of the Akitu-festival in the rst month as

a-ki-ti se-kin-ku5 , the Akitu-festival of the barley harvest,

or of the name of the month in which it is celebrated as se-kin-
ku5 , month of the barley harvest, might give the impression that
in ancient Mesopotamia the barley was ripe in the rst month of
the year. However, just as in ancient Israel, the barley may not
have been ready for harvesting before the end of April or even
the beginning of May. The precise dates of the barley harvest for
ancient Mesopotamia may be determined with the help of Robert
McC. Adams study Land behind Baghdad, whose observations
for pre-industrialised mid-twentieth century Iraq may still reect
the unaltered agricultural conditions of the late third, second and
rst millennia bce.78 He lists the end of April and May as the
time of the barley harvest and the latter part of May and June
as the time of the wheat harvest.79 These dates are conrmed by
the list of seasonal labour requirements, which jumps from only 2
men in the second half of April to 14 men in the rst half of May
and 25 men in the second half of May, to drop again to an average
of about 15 or 16 men per twelve hectares in the remainder of
the harvest season and the beginning of the sowing season in
October and November.80 The beginning of the barley harvest
thus in all likelihood fell in the second month of the ancient Near
Eastern calendar. The a-ki-ti se-kin-ku5 , the Akitu-festival
of the barley harvest, and se-kin-ku5 , the month of the barley
harvest, may, therefore, in the course of time have been advanced
by about a full month from the time of the barley harvest to the
time of the vernal equinox.
The transfer of the Akitu-festival of the barley harvest and

se-kin-ku5 , the month of the barley harvest, from the second

R. McC. Adams, Land behind Baghdad: A History of Settlement on the
Diyala Plains, Chicago 1965, 13-20, esp. 13: Far-reaching changes are under
way in the traditional agricultural systems which have been followed in the
lower Diyala region since times of remote antiquity . . . Hence it is fortunate
that the engineering studies . . . were accompanied by the rst close and
systematic description of the earlier patterns still prevailing in the region.
Adams, Land behind Baghdad, 16, table 5. See also B. Landsberger,
Jahreszeiten im Sumerisch-Akkadischen, JNES 8 (1949), 251-2, 261, 284.
Adams, Land behind Baghdad, 15, table 2.
The Priestly Festival Calendar 247

to the rst month of the year may not, on the other hand, be the
result of advancing all twelve months of the year simultaneously.
The designation Akitu-festival of the sowing seasons or the name

su-numun, the month of sowing, t the seventh month of the

year reckoned from the vernal equinox quite well. October is the
month in which the land is prepared with irrigation and plough-
ing and the barley is sown.81 The interval between the beginning
of the barley harvest at the end of April or the beginning of
May and the beginning of the sowing season in October actually
amounts to about ve months. A ve-month interval between the
barley harvest and the sowing season is also attested in the cal-
endar of Umma which lists se-kin-ku5 , the month of the barley
harvest, as the rst month and su-numun, the month of sow-
ing, as the sixth month of the year.82 The original interval of
ve months between the barley harvest and the sowing season
seems to have been abandoned in the course of time in favour of
a schematic celebration of the Akitu-festivals exactly six months
In the rst millennium bce Babylon and for example Uruk
continued to celebrate two Akitu-festivals: one in Nisan, the rst
month, and one in Tashritu, the seventh month of the year.83
After the transformation of the Akitu-festival of the barley har-
vest into a new year festival some idea of its agricultural roots
may well have survived in the consciousness of the people. The
original link between the Akitu-festival and the barley harvest
may thus have contributed to the transformation of Pesah.-Mas.s.ot
from a harvest festival celebrated in the time of the new barley
into a new year festival celebrated about a month earlier. The list
Adams, Land behind Baghdad, 16, table 5 with n. *, who emphasises
that the time of the autumn ploughing is dependent upon the arrival of the
rst rain or the availability of irrigation water, but notes that there is a
strong preference for early sowing, as an early ripened crop is less susceptible
to losses from insects or diseases, but nevertheless has to admit that rst
ploughing occasionally must be postponed until late January.
Cf. Sallaberger, Kultische Kalender, 9-10; Cohen, Cultic Calendars, 161-
Cf. S. Parpola, Letters from Assyrian Scholars to the Kings Esarhad-
don and Assurbanipal, Part 2: Commentary and Appendices (AOAT, 5/2),
Kevelaer/Neukirchen-Vluyn 1983, 186-7; Van der Toorn, Babylonian New
Year, 332 with n. 4; Cohen, Cultic Calendars, 451; for the vernal and autum-
nal Akitu-festivals celebrated in rst millennium Uruk see Thureau-Dangin,
Rituels accadiens, 86-111; Cohen, Cultic Calendars, 427-37.
248 J.A. Wagenaar

of festival sacrices in Ezek. 45:18-25 may in the days of the Baby-

lonian exile have adopted the structure of the Babylonian festival
calendar with two new year festivals a year. Although the months
are counted from the vernal equinox in accordance with the Baby-
lonian calendar, one new year festival does not necessarily take
precedence over the other. Both the rst month and the seventh
month of the year are known as sag mu-an-na, the beginning of
the year. Throughout the ancient Near East festival calendars are
attested that celebrated parallel major festivals in the rst and
seventh months of the year, suggesting that neither one of these
festivals marked the beginning or middle of the year, but, rather,
that both were viewed as the beginning of equal equinox years
of six months.84 In the list of festival sacrices in Ezek. 45:18-25
the tripartite pre-priestly festival calendar has been abandoned
in favour of this ancient Near Eastern concept. Pesah.-Mas.s.ot has
been detached from its agricultural background, moved up from
the second month to the rst month of the year and is like
Sukkot henceforth celebrated as a new year festival. The third
major agricultural festival, Shavuot, however, does not seem to
t this semi-annual lay-out and must have been eliminated from
the ancient Israelite festival calendar.

8 The Transformation of the Ancient Israelite

Festival Year
The semi-annual lay-out of the list of festival sacrices in Ezek.
45:18-25 has been preserved in the priestly festival calendar in
Exod. 12:1-13; Lev. 23:4-8, 23-37aba*. The new structure of the
festival year has not , however, been taken up without substantial
alterations. The custom of celebrating two new year festivals a
year is not upheld in the priestly festival calendar and gives way
to a single new year xed around the vernal equinox: (Hence-
See especially Cohen, Cultic Calendars, 6-7: [The] concept of a six-month
equinox year appears to have been a major factor in the establishment of
the cultic calendar throughout the Near East. In many locations there were
parallel major festivals in the rst and seventh month suggesting that rather
than considering one of these festivals as marking the beginning and the other
the half-way point of the year, the ancients viewed each as a beginning, the
onset of this six-month equinox year; see also Sallaberger, Kultische Kalen-
der, 175: Anstatt von einem einzigen Jahresanfang zu sprechen, m ussen
wir eher von zwei Polen, die jeweils f ur sich einen Jahresanfang bilden,
The Priestly Festival Calendar 249

forth) this month shall be the rst of your months: it shall be the
rst month of the year for you (Exod. 12:2). The blowing of a
horn on the memorial day on the rst day of the seventh month is
all that reminds of the parallel new year once celebrated around
the autumnal equinox: In the seventh month on the rst day
of the month you shall have . . . a memorial day marked by a
(short) blast on the horn (Lev. 23:24). The semi-annual puric-
ation of the sanctuary presupposed in Ezek. 45:18-20 has been
replaced by a single annual ritual of atonement for the temple,
the priesthood and the people on the tenth day of the seventh
month: On the tenth day of this seventh month i.e. the Day of
Atonement you shall have . . . (Lev. 23:27). The blood of the
purication oering, however, is no longer applied to the door-
posts of the temple, the rim of the altar or the posts of the gate
to the inner court as in Ezek. 45:18-20, but sprinkled on the lid
of the ark of the covenant in the holy of holies (Lev. 16:1-28).
The stipulation to apply the blood of the purication oering to
the doorposts of the temple is in a ne legend about the origins
of Pesah. transformed into an instruction to smear the blood of
the passover lamb on the doorposts and the lintel of the houses
of the Israelites on the eve of the exodus from Egypt: The whole
congregation of Israel shall slaughter it . . . : they shall take some
of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel: i.e. on
the houses in which they eat it (Exod. 12:6-7).85 The ritual is no
longer part of a regular purication of the temple performed at
the beginning of each six-month period, but henceforth marks a
single event in a distant past. The transformation of the sacrices
oered for the purication of the temple in the course of the ver-
nal new year festival into a one-time passover sacrice oered on
the eve of the exodus may also explain the segmentation of the
priestly festival calendar. The passover regulation intended for
single use is included in the narrative sections of Exodus 1-15,
whereas the remainder of the festival calendar is recorded in the
legislative parts of Exodus-Leviticus-Numbers. In any case, the
See also B.N. Wambacq, Les origines de la Pesah. israelite, Bib. 57
(1976), 207-9, 321-3, who argues that the blood rite in Exod. 12:1-13, 21-
27 is hardly an old nomadic custom performed at the eve of a long journey
to ward o ubiquitous dangers comparative sources make clear that such
blood rites were not so much performed before leaving the old residence,
as upon arrival in a new one but may rather be derived from the ritual
purication of the temple in Ezek. 45:18-20.
250 J.A. Wagenaar

Ezekelian presentation of Pesah.-Mas.s.ot and Sukkot as new year

festivals is given up in the priestly festival calendar, but as may
be clear from the dates xed without restoring their link with
the agricultural seasons. In a festival calendar without a clear re-
lation to the agricultural seasons, however, there would still have
been no room for Shavuot. The introduction of Shavuot into the
priestly festival calendar of Leviticus 23 may be attributed to a
post-priestly editor who wished to reconcile the tripartite pre-
priestly festival calendars with the semi-annual lay-out of the
priestly festival calendar. However, as the date of Shavuot in
the pre-priestly festival calendars was determined in accordance
with the agricultural conditions, the date of the festival cannot
be derived from the date xed for Pesah.-Mas.s.ot without further
ado. The barley would not be ripe for harvesting in the middle of
the rst month (early April), whereas the wheat harvest would
be far from complete seven weeks later (late May). The seven-
week interval between the beginning of the barley harvest and
the conclusion of the wheat harvest is, therefore, calculated inde-
pendently: When you enter the land that I am about to give you
and you reap its harvest, you shall bring the rst omer of your
harvest to the priest. He shall raise the omer before Yhwh . . .
on the day after the sabbath . . . You shall count seven sabbaths
from the day after the sabbath: the day on which you bring the
omer as a raised oering . . . you shall count fty days until the
day after the sabbath and bring a new cereal oering to Yhwh
(Lev. 23:10-11, 15-16). In sharp contrast to the pre-priestly fest-
ival calendars, the beginning of the barley harvest no longer coin-
cides with Pesah.-Mas.s.ot. The beginning of the barley harvest is
henceforth marked by a ritual presentation of the rst omer of
the new harvest as soon as the barley is ripe, and the conclusion
of the wheat harvest seven weeks later by a similar presentation
of a new cereal oering.86
In the list of festival sacrices in Numbers 28-29, however,
the ritual presentation of the rst omer of the new harvest is
no longer mentioned. The festival oerings laid down for the

In view of the importance attached to the sabbath by the post-priestly
editor who revised the priestly festival calendar in Lev. 23:4-8, 23-25, 26-28aa,
33-37aba, it may not come as a surprise that he relates the presentation of
the rst omer of the new harvest to the rst day after the sabbath following
the beginning of the barley harvest.
The Priestly Festival Calendar 251

day of the rst fruits in Num. 28:26-31 immediately follow on

the sacrices stipulated for Pesah.-Mas.s.ot in Num. 28:16-25: wyob]W
k,yte[obuv;B] hw:hyl' hv;d:j} hj;nmi k,b]yrIq]h'B] yrIWKBih', On the day of the
rst fruits, when you bring a new cereal oering to Yhwh: after
seven weeks (Num. 28:26). The elimination of the presentation
of the rst omer of the new harvest as a separate festival from
the list of festival sacrices in Numbers 2829 is still given away
by the reference to the new cereal oering on the day of the
rst fruits in v. 26, which presupposes a previous cereal oer-
ing no longer mentioned.87 The word k,yte[obuv;B] in v. 26 is often
interpreted as the name of the festival in question: on your fest-
ival of weeks. However, as the list of festival sacrices does not
call Mas.s.ot in Num. 28:17 or Sukkot in Num. 29:12 by name,
but merely alludes to them as a gj', festival, and as the title
gj' is conspicuously lacking in Num. 28:26, the word k,yte[obuv;B]
may simply refer to the seven-week period that separates this
festival from the previous one: after you have counted seven
weeks. The festival in question, on the other hand, is merely
referred to as yrIWKBih' wyo, the day of the rst fruits. In any case,
the list of festival sacrices in Numbers 28-29 seems to reckon
the beginning of the seven-week interval between Pesah.-Mas.s.ot
and the day of the rst fruits from the fourteenth/fteenth un-
til the twenty-rst day of the rst month. The diculties that
arise from moving up the ritual presentation of the rst omer
of the new harvest to the time of Pesah.-Mas.s.ot are well attested
in the rabbinic discussions of the rst centuries C.E.: the rabbis
often have to settle for semi-ripe barley.88 The same holds true
for the celebration of Shavuot: the wheat harvest would not yet
be complete seven weeks after Pesah.-Mas.s.ot, and in some cases
Pace Knohl, Sanctuary of Silence, 8-40; Milgrom, Leviticus, 1950-2053,
who insist that the list of festival sacrices in Numbers 28-29 antedates the
festival calendar in Leviticus 23.
See Dalman, Arbeit und Sitte, Bd. 1/2, 455-7: F ur die praktische
Ausf uhrung bedeutete die vorgeschriebene Form der Ausf uhrung der gesetz-
lichen Picht, dass die K
orner der Erstlingsgarbe nicht erntereif sein mussten,
womit ihre Verkn upfung mit der Passawoche noch mehr erleichtert wurde.
Der Fall war dann nicht denkbar, dass Palastina . . . die notige halbreife Gers-
tengarbe nicht geliefert hatte; see also Milgrom, Leviticus, 1983, 1989, who
readily admits that the barley is not yet ripe in the middle of the rst month,
but tries to come to terms with an early date for the presentation of the rst
omer of the new harvest by arguing that the rst omer was not a sheaf of
ripe barley, but a sheaf with the colour of ripe barley.
252 J.A. Wagenaar

would not even have begun: the rabbis are well aware of years
when no wheat had ripened before Shavuot and they had to
sanction the use of old wheat for the presentation of the new
cereal oering (t. Men. 10:33).89 However this may be, in marked
contrast to the ritual presentation of the rst omer, the present-
ation of the new cereal oering did not lose its place as a separate
festival in the list of festival sacrices in Numbers 2829. In ac-
cordance with the post-priestly additions to the priestly festival
calendar of Leviticus 23, however, the festival remained anonym-
ous. Shavuot thus won back the place it once occupied in the
tripartite ancient Israelite festival calendar a place it all but
lost under the inuence of the Babylonian festival calendar but
seems never to have regained its original status as being equal to
Mas.s.ot and Sukkot.90

See Milgrom, Leviticus, 1991, who argues that the rabbinic literature
reckons with a three-month period from the beginning of the barley harvest
until the end of the wheat harvest (Ruth R. 5), but fails to take the possibility
into account that this unrealistic long period is caused by performing the
ritual presentation of the rst omer of the new harvest about a month early
in order to let it coincide with Pesah.-Mas.s.ot; see also Dalman, Arbeit und
Sitte, Bd. 1/2, 465-6, who noticed that on 26 May 1926, when Shavuot was
celebrated in Jerusalem, the wheat harvest had not yet begun.
The lesser status of Shavuot over against Pesah.-Mas.s.ot and Sukkot may
be clear from the fact that neither the presentation of the new cereal oering
in Lev. 23:15-21 nor the day of the rst fruits in Num. 28:26-31 is classied as
gj', pilgrimage festival (see Levine, Numbers, 384: we have, therefore, three
festivals but only two pilgrimage festivals); see also Milgrom, Leviticus, 1991,
who notes that in the rabbinic era Shavuot no longer required an overnight
stay at the temple of Jerusalem (b. Rosh Hash. 5a).
Jan-Wim Wesselius Kampen Theological University Netherlands

Language Play in the Old Testament and in

Ancient North-West Semitic Inscriptions
Some Notes on the Kilamuwa Inscription1

1 Introduction
In recent years there has been considerable interest in the phe-
nomenon of word-play in its various forms in the ancient Near
East, especially but not exclusively in the light of parallel phe-
nomena in the Hebrew Bible. There has been, however, one in-
teresting lacuna beside the numerous studies devoted to word-
play in the Bible, at Ugarit, in Mesopotamian literature and in
Egypt.2 The inscriptions on stone stelae and statues in the vari-
ous West-Semitic dialects of the ancient Near East are rarely, if
ever, mentioned in this connection,3 apart from two characteristic
aspects. Firstly, the question whether some or all of them may
be considered as poetry rather than prose has been discussed a
number of times, though even this interest has left some issues
unattended, as we shall see. Secondly, the linguistic congruence
between feared wrongful acts against the monument or the place
where it stands and the punishment for the person who perpet-
rates them has been noted in the literature which deals with the
closing parts of the inscriptions. In this article I will demonstrate
An earlier short version in Dutch, Taalspel in een Phoenicische inscriptie
en in het Oude Testament, appeared in J.W. Wesselius (ed.), Een handvol
koren: Opstellen van enkele vrienden bij het vertrek van Dr. F. Sepmeijer
van de Theologische Universiteit Kampen, Kampen 2003, 61-4. Biblical texts
are quoted according to the Revised Standard Version.
See, for example, the bibliography mentioned in Scott B. Noegel, Janus
Parallelism in the Book of Job, Sheeld 1996, in the volume edited by him,
Puns and Pundits: Wordplay in the Hebrew Bible and Ancient Near Eastern
Literature, Bethesda 2000, and also his online bibliography Bibliography on
Word Play in the Hebrew Bible and Other Ancient Near Eastern Literature,
at http://faculty.washington.edu/snoegel/wordplay.html.
It is characteristic of this situation that Yitzhak Avishur, Phoenician
Inscriptions and the Bible: Select Inscriptions and Studies in Stylistic and
Literary Devices Common to the Phoenician Inscriptions and the Bible, Tel
Aviv 2000, does not refer to cases of language-play in his otherwise compre-
hensive discussion of the literary relations between Phoenician inscriptions
and the Bible.
254 J.-W. Wesselius

that, surprisingly, language play in its manifold aspects is an es-

sential part of such inscriptions and apparently belonged to the
stock repertoire of the scribes who composed them.

2 The Kilamuwa Inscription

We shall treat this theme in the Phoenician Kilamuwa inscription
from about 825 bce, because it is very rich in elements which have
a parallel in the Hebrew Bible and may well serve as an example
of what can be gained for biblical studies from a comparative
study. I shall rst give the translation of the Kilamuwa inscrip-
tion according to John Gibson in the third volume of his Textbook
of Syrian Semitic Inscriptions,4 and then contrast it with my pro-
posed new translation, indicating by means of underlining where
I would translate dierently in view of the peculiar language play
in the inscription, and dividing the text into lines of poetry, more
or less along the lines of the proposal of Johannes de Moor in his
article Narrative Poetry in Canaan in Ugarit-Forschungen 20,
1. I am Kilamuwa, the son of Hayya.
2. Gabbar became king over YDY, but he accomplished
3. There was BMH, but he acco