From Babylon to Jerusalem:
The Genesis of the Old Testament
by Paul Arnest
Rev A (see Notes)
(from http://wlym.com/campaigner/7709.pdf - 10 MB pdf image-file)
I. History's Oldest Fraud
The Old Testament has always been something of an embarrassment in modern culture. It owes its acceptance as a sacred canon since the beginning of the Christian era -- among Christians and Jews alike--in significant part to the fact that the men who molded Judeo-Christianity, steeped in the philosophy of Plato, were influenced not only by Plato's public philosophical views, but also by his belief that it was necessary to liberally salt philosophy with myths, miracles, and "ancient" sacred books in order to win its acceptance by the majority of the public of the time. (1)
In itself, the Old Testament has little in common either Platonic philosophy or (apart from the outer formalities) Christianity and Judaism. The Old Testament's unphilosophical crudity was already well recognized in the early first century AD by the Jew Philo of Alexandria, who labored to gloss over this deficiency by means of a voluminous "interpretation" of the Old Testament which, in the guise of exegesis, endeavored to smuggle into the holy books a considerable portion of the previously absent philosophical views of that age. (2)
Despite Philo's efforts, no amount of rationalization could make the primitive laws of the "Mosaic" Torah acceptable to the broader contemporary public -- either its educated or uneducated portions -- a conclusion which, not long after Philo's day, forced itself on a member of the Pharisaic sect, Saul of Tarsus. Desiring on the one hand to make use of the Hebrew canon in his organizing activity because of its widely accepted reputation of hoary antiquity and certified miracles, and yet not wishing to be burdened by the strictures of the onerous Mosaic ritual laws which added nothing to his broader ethical or political goals, the future St. Paul defined the essential Christian attitude toward the Old Testament, as sharpened 1600 years later by John Milton, thusly:
God, dismayed by Adam's sin, realized that mankind in the early days following the Creation was still psychologically and morally a child, and like a child required firm discipline to keep its self-destructive and heteronomic impulses in check. This discipline God supplied in the form of the Mosaic commandments, a burden yes, but a necessary one. When mankind had matured, however, to the point of being able to successfully manage its affairs in accordance with the divine order, Christ redeemed Adam's sin, freeing humanity from obedience to the degrading positive laws of the Mosaic Torah, and making way for an order of human self-governance based on the rule of human reason. (3)
The fact is, however, that St. Paul and Philo and their successors who continued to pay considerable lip service to the Old Testament, did so only by suppressing its own actual content. As a result, those believers today upon whom it has not yet dawned that Paul, Philo, et al. never intended the Old Testament to be taken seriously but rather as a means to impress the credulous, are still forced to hysterically block out and deny or willfully distort what the Old Testament's theology and politics really are. (4)
In fact, the Mosaic tradition in the Old Testament is neither the inspired original statement of "modern monotheism," nor, as poor Theodor Herzl was deceived to argue, the historic foundation of Jewish nationalism. Rather, as examination of the origins of the Pentateuch in particular reveals, it is in the main a concoction of laws and "traditions" successively inspired by and evolved under the authority of the empires of Assyria, Nebuchadnezzar's Babylon, and Persia, for the precise purpose of suppressing the historic traditions which had governed the development of the historic Israelite and Judean kingdoms. Not only did the ancient Israelites not obey or, in most cases, even know the laws of the Pentateuch, but, as B. Spinoza pointed out, the very intent of these laws was to prevent formation of a healthy Israelite state. (5) As one notable example, the "Mosaic" injunction to the Israelites to drive out and exterminate the Canaanites from Israel (6) is a vicious concoction which corresponds neither to the ethnic nor to the religious diversity which actually prevailed in the ancient states of Israel and Judah, nor either to their foreign policy conduct, which frequently found the two states allied with foreign powers against each other.
Moreover, contrary to the myth of "Israelite religious purity and isolation," the real religion of ancient Israel differed from the pagan worship of the rest of the ancient Near East in no essential principle, and this, ironically, is most emphatically the case with the very "Mosaic" tendency in Israel which professed to have the greatest religious differences with Israel's neighbors. The irony of the Mosaic Torah and associated biblical writings is that they arose in conscious opposition to the progressive tendency of thought -- developed from Canaanite-Phoenician commercial culture by the Ionians and transmitted in bowdlerized form through Plato and later currents in the Hellenistic and Roman worlds -- which came to dominate modern Judaism and Christianity through the work of Philo, St. Paul, et al.
The rigorous exposure of the fraud of the Old Testament is made possible by two developments in modern study of ancient history: first, the decipherment over the past 100 years of the cuneiform and hieroglyphic records of the ancient Near Eastern peoples and the Egyptians, which has yielded contemporary (if not always accurate) records of events synchronous with and in many cases directly linked to events reported in the Old Testament. This has furnished an accurate historical overview for the history of the Near East into which virtually all of the major figures and events of the Old Testament -- those, at least, who really existed -- can be accurately fitted, some events being datable even to the day. Secondly, textual analysis of the Old Testament, inspired to a significant degree by Spinoza's 1670 Tractatus Theologico-Politicus, has sorted out the maze of contradictions and factual confusion that permeates the Old Testament, particularly the Pentateuch, and, in the case of the "Mosaic" Pentateuch, and, documented that at least four basic source documents written at considerably differing periods, have been artfully combined to yield the five biblical books that the gullible still attribute to "Moses."
The results of the following study are based on a comprehensive gridding of the biblical sources against the contemporary historical developments in both the Near East and the Mediterranean world, particularly Phoenicia and Ionia.
The most significant points of departure are the period of David and Solomon, which saw the actual formation of the Israelite state and people under Phoenician guidance; the period of the Ionian Homeric poems, the mid-eighth century BC, which say the beginnings of the Ionian colonial movement; and the period of the high-point of Ionian scientific and philosophical development a century and a half later, the period just prior to the Persian conquest of Ionia which saw the flourishing of Thales, Anaximander, Solon, et al.
To the time of the Homeridae belong the prophets Amos, Hosea, and Isaiah, who had before them the even earlier story of Adam's Fall from Genesis. Contemporary with Thales and Anaximander are (roughly) Jeremiah, Ezekiel, the Second Isaiah, and the creation account of Genesis.
It is the story of Adam's Fall which is the earliest developed expression of the characteristic, reactionary outlook of the Old Testament, which existed only as a minority viewpoint in the period of Isaiah, in opposition to the outward-looking, pro-development policy-orientation of the Phoenicians and their Israelite allies. It was not until the time of Jeremiah and Ezekiel -- paid agents of Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon -- and of the anonymous "Second Isaiah," an agent of Cyrus of Persia -- after most of the Israelite nation had been dispersed through the successive deportations of the Assyrians and Babylonians -- that this outlook began to be forcibly imposed on the unwilling remnant of the Judeans.
The whole concoction reached its final form -- the basic Pentateuch -- due to the work of Ezra and his associates, operating in the fifth century BC under orders from the Persian government. Measured against the Ionian achievement, the result, the religion of the Old Testament, the Torah of "Moses," is, as Milton perceived, one of the last of the ancient pagan religions, and in no sense a precursor of Christianity or modern Judaism.
II. The Plot Against Prometheus
The humanists of the Renaissance recognized -- and were perplexed by -- the fact that Adam of Genesis is really the same person as the Greek titan Prometheus ("Forethought"), a fact which forced them to somehow confront the fact that the Genesis story as it appeared in the Sacred Books was a vitriolic attack on everything humanism stands for.
There were two myths of Prometheus in antiquity, one adopted by Aeschylus, Plato in his dialogue Protagoras, and other proponents of progress, the other version an anti-Promethean diatribe circulated not only by the author of Genesis 3 but by the reactionary Greek poet Hesiod as well.
For Plato, Aeschylus, and other protohumanists throughout the first millenium BC, Prometheus was the symbol of the great movement of technological innovation, commercial expansion, and scientific investigation which, in the form it achieved in its culmination in Ionian philosophy and science in the sixth and fifth centuries BC, gave mankind its decisive push toward modern humanist culture. In myth, it was the titan Prometheus who stole fire from Zeus -- the ancient sky-god representing in the humanist version of the Prometheus myth the most reactionary aspect of Greek culture -- and bestowed on man that creativity and capacity for technology which separates him from animals.
The Promethean movement began not in Ionia but in the cities of the Phoenicians: the biblical Canaanites (as they termed themselves in their own language) or Sidonians. The Phoenician cities had begun to exercise a systematic civilizing impact over their rude Israelite and other neighbors as early as 1000 BC -- the circumstances and details of which we shall consider below -- and around the end of the ninth century BC they began to carry their trade and technology outward into the Mediterranean, coming into contact with the then still-primitive and barbarian Greeks.
The Phoenicians brought with them the major technological innovation of using iron for peaceful pursuits (1000 BC is the approximate dividing line between the "Bronze Age" and the "Iron Age"), the products and skill of the metalworker, the technology of textile dyeing and manufacture (later to play a role in the development of the leading Ionian city, Miletus), and with these the alphabet -- the Greeks had hitherto been illiterate -- and the beginnings of abstract scientific and philosophical speculation.
Fragments of an early Phoenician universal history preserved in a much later Greek translation by the Christian bishop and associate of Constantine, Eusebius of Caesarea, indicate the proto-scientific character of the Phoenicians' development and the orientation of their policies in this period toward technological progress. (7)
Eusebius's excerpts from the Phoenician document begin with his narration of the Phoenician account of the origin of the world:
The principle (arche) of the whole he posits as darkened air and exhalations or vapors of darkened air and foul, dark chaos. And these are infinite and on account of their great age have no limit. "But when," he says, "the wind (pneuma) fell in love with its own causes (archai), and mixing began, that combining was called desire. And this is the principle of creation of all things. And from the combination of it with the wind there was born Mot. This some call mud, but others a putrefied sludge of aqueous mixture. And from that was born the whole seed of creation and the coming-to-be of the universe. And there were some living things which did not have perception, and from them were born intellectual living things. And they were called Zophasemin, that is, the overseers of heaven. And it was likewise formed with the shape of an egg. And Mot shown forth, both sun and moon and lesser stars and greater stars."
It proceeds to a rationalistic account of the origin of life, based upon natural processes:
"And when the air shown thoroughly, through the inflammation of both sea and earth there came to be winds and clouds and very great downpourings of heavenly waters and floods. And when everything was divided and separated from its own place by the fire of the sun, and then afterwards all came together in the air and were dashed together, thunder and lightning were produced; and in consequence of the thunder, the intellectual living things spoken of awoke, and were frightened by the noise, and both male and female moved on earth and in the sea."
Finally, the Phoenician account of the origin and development of civilization is centered on the advance of technological progress:
... the next mortal generation, whose names were Light, Fire, and Flame ... discovered fire made from the rubbing together of wood, and taught its use.... Hypsouranios founded Tyre and invented huts made from corn stalks, rushes, and papyrus.... Long after the generation of Hypsouranios, Agreus and Halieus were born, and they discovered hunting and fishing, and from them huntsmen and fishermen were named. From them were born two brothers, the discoverers of iron and the working of it....
It was these predicates of social progress which among the Greeks were mythically attributed to the genius of Prometheus. (8)
The Phoenicians and the Greeks
The impact of the literate culture and the trade and industry of the Phoenicians caused a profound change in the Greeks' modes of thinking, beginning in the mid-eighth century BC. Prior to their contact with the Phoenicians, the Greeks had sunk to a level in many respects only somewhat higher than that of the late Stone Age Indians who greeted the Pilgrims -- as the evidence of the primitive Greek "geometric" pottery conceptually akin to the products of the U.S. southwest Indians (particularly after the Indians' contact with Europeans) and the abundant traces of totemistic practices among the Greeks attesL (9)
The Greeks' social organization was dominated by a primitive tribe-phratry-clan structure which possessed all the barbaric and superstitious religious rituals, fetishes, taboos, totems, and narrowness and immorality of outlook characteristic of such structures. As the U.S. Founding Fathers were later to recognize apropos of the American Indians, such social structures are an absolute obstacle to commercial and technological progress.
Under the impact of the vastly more advanced Phoenician commercial culture, early Hellenic Prometheans systematically defined and attacked the ideological characteristics of this primitive Greek system, in terms of the best features of Iron Age Mediterranean civilization of the ninth and eighth centuries BC. The record of their effort survives in the two great Homeric epics, the lliad and Odyssey, which were written down in Ionia around 750 BC (Iliad) and 725 BC (Odyssey), not long after the Phoenician alphabet was adapted to express the Greek language. In defining the requirements imposed on their contemporaries by the challenge of international commerce and exploration, the Homeric poems created a polemic on behalf of the powers and superiority of the human mind which rightfully earned their poems their status as the first surviving works of modern literature.
The Iliad focuses on the qualities of leadership which the narrow-minded Greek tribal chieftains had to acquire in order to effectively lead commercial and colonizing expeditions of the sort them being conducted by the Phoenicians. Taking as his basic subject matter episodes from the epic cycle of the Trojan War which had evolved over several centuries mainly to exalt the piratical and plundering skills of the Greek clan leaders, the poet ironically restructured the material around the story of what happened when -- as was no doubt frequently the case among Greek chieftains of the time -- the leading figures in the Trojan expedition disgrace themselves in a quarrel over the distribution of concubines taken in pirate raids in the vicinity of Troy which both violated prevailing moral standards and had nothing to do with the ostensible aim of the expedition. Not only, the poet shows, does their conduct bring the entire operation before Troy (which he treats symbolically as a social aim around which all the Greeks have united, an achievement long sought but never attained by later humanists of Greek antiquity) grinding to a halt and the brink of failure. The two leaders, Agamemnon and Achilles, nearly provoke the dissolution of the united Greek force in a childish name-calling session before a council of the Greek chiefs. From this point, the main theme of the poem revolves around the political organizing efforts of Odysseus and a few others possessing appropriate qualities of outlook to drum a minimal quantity of social responsibility and self-discipline into the heads of the two protagonists, whose deficiencies in these areas no doubt typified the general qualities of most of the Hellenic leaders of Homer's time (and many since).
The subject of the slightly later Odyssey is the nature of the mental qualities required to conduct the type of trading expeditions already being carried out in the eighth century BC by the Phoenicians. The poet structures his epic around a series of common folk tales, told by Greek mothers and other mothers throughout Europe to their children to foster the conviction that the world outside the confines of the clan and its fetishes was too threatening to risk entering. Addressing himself to the psychological difficulties faced by Greeks who had been subjected to such conditioning when they were subsequently called upon to join the burgeoning trading and colonial expeditions, the poet contrasted the response of the undisciplined and hysterical individual (represented by Odysseus's crew) and the creative and self-conscious individual (Odysseus) to the challenging and unfamiliar circumstances of long sea voyages. The object lesson is that the crew perish to the man through their own folly, while Odysseus, the man "of many ways" who "learned of the minds of many men," survives. (10)
This Promethean outlook produced far-reaching consequences in the sphere of religion which were for the most part only implicitly foreshadowed in the levity and irreverence with which the Homeridae treated the myths surrounding the Olympian gods. Prior to the first millennium BC, the civilizations of the Mediterranean world made no clear distinction between the processes that govern nature and such processes of human thought and action as they knew empirically from their own internal experience. Natural events were thus attributed to the actions of a plethora of gods, daimones, and numina, who were further- more presumed to think and act with all the bestiality, vindictiveness, and greed which also characterized much of the human population of those days. The behavior of these supposed intelligences, and of the often wealthy priests who ministered at their sanctuaries, was "regulated" by a system of organized ritual propitiation -- the bestowing upon them of gifts, in the form of sacrifices and other offerings, by their devotees. Propitiatory worship by means of offerings was universal throughout Mesopotamia, Palestine, Syria, and the Hellenic world, and regulations governing offerings form a major part of the "Mosaic" Law of the Old Testament.
Proceeding on the basis of the trade-and-development-oriented worldview bequeathed by the Phoenicians and their Homeric forebears, the Ionians in the sixth century BC for the first time rigorously described the workings of the universe in terms of natural processes which operate in a manner that is both consistent with and yet distinct from human mentation, which the most advanced Ionian thinkers recognized as the highest order of natural processes. As a result of this achievement, the Ionians not only exposed the entire, sacrifice-based religious and social outlook of their contemporaries as useless superstition, but, by distinguishing unique characteristics of the human mind, opened the way to the first scientific investigations into epistemology and the laws governing human society.
Despite the fact that it was nearly a thousand years before the last vestiges of paganism were eliminated in the Mediterranean world, it was Ionian science of the mid-first millennium BC which dealt paganism's death blow.
From its beginnings, the progress Of Phoenician-based trade and commerce encountered opposition. In Palestine, the rustic backwater of Canaanite civilization lacking its own direct access to the Mediterranean, the Phoenicians' opponents coalesced around the school of thought identified with the biblical prophets. In the Greek world, the same tendency formed, towards the end of the eighth century BC, around the writings of the reactionary Boeotian poet Hesiod. In his two principal surviving works, the Theogony and Works and Days, Hesiod, drawing on currents of reaction already well developed in the Near East, delivered blasts at trade, commerce, and above all Prometheus, in a story derived from the same source as the biblical story of Adam ("man"). (11)
Hesiod's argument against Prometheus was twofold: first, the simple claim -- as object lesson -- that Zeus had horribly punished Prometheus for his hubris in the theft of fire; and second -- the parallel with Genesis -- that Prometheus's deed, the giving of the capacity for skilled labor to man, was responsible for what Hesiod viewed as the current wretched condition of mankind. In an account substantially identical to the biblical story of man's origin in the idyllic "Garden of Eden," Hesiod claimed that the first men had lived in a blissful age of "gold," that this had degenerated to a slightly less blissful "age of silver," but that as a result of Prometheus's deed, the men of his day were forced to live in an age of "iron," characterized by the need to perform labor as the condition for survival. "For the gods," he claimed,
keep hidden from man the means of life .... Zeus, in the anger of his heart hid it, because Prometheus the crafty deceived him; therefore he planned sorrow and mischief against men. He hid fire; but that the noble son of Iapetus (Prometheus -- PA) stole again for men from Zeus the counsellor in a hollow fennel-stalk, so that Zeus, who delights in thunder did not see it. But afterwards Zeus who gathers the clouds said to him in anger:
"Son of Iapetus, surpassing all in cunning, you are glad that you have outwitted me and stolen fire -- a great plague to you yourself and to men that shall be. But I will give men as the price for fire an evil thing in which they may all be glad of heart while they embrace their own destruction." (12)
As in the Garden of Eden myth, this "evil thing" is woman -- Pandora, the Greek Eve -- who, Hesiod claims, unleashed diseases, sickness, and hard work on men. "For ere this," the poet, an avowed misogynist and zero-growth advocate, says, "the tribes of men lived on earth remote and free from ills and hard toil and heavy sickness." (13)
His close relation to Hesiod is sufficient to establish the author of the Genesis "Fall" story as standing squarely on the side of those ancients opposed to the Phoenician-originated movement of trade and progress in the early Iron Age, and it is the "Fall" story that establishes the monotonous schema of sin and divine punishment that runs through the earlier books of the Old Testament.
III. Israel in the Land of Canaan
The irony of the Old Testament's anti-commercial outlook is that ancient Israelite civilization was originally a product of the same Phoenician commercial culture that initiated the development of Ionian Greece, and developed as a result of a struggle to overcome precisely the backwardness for which the prophets stood. In fact, close association with the Phoenician trading cities, principally Sidon and Tyre, is the invariant characteristic of the high points of ancient Israelite culture. The view embodied in the story of the Fall is alien to the original constitution of the Israelite state.
It is one of the frauds of the Old Testament that one Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt and to the border of Palestine, and enjoined them not to mix with the ,and enjoined them not to mi with the local inhabitants (the Canaanites, etc.) but instead to exterminate them and to jealously guard their own racial purity and religious institutions -- which he had provided for them as per a series of mountain-top meetings and conversations with the Deity. The story that his successor Joshua then led the united twelve tribes of the Israelites across the Jordan River into Palestine and to a succession of miraculous (literally) victories over the existing inhabitants, divided Palestine among the tribes, etc., compounds the fraud.
While it is possible that Moses existed, the only conclusion that can be securely reached about his hypothetical personal role in Israelite history is that it was distorted -- in the direction of gross amplification -- beyond possible reconstruction in the centuries following the purported date of his "death." (14)
More likely, the Israelites entered Palestine as a series of disorganized and disunited tribes in the period around 1400-1200 BC. (15) This was a time of rapid social decay pervading the entire Mediterranean and Near Eastern world, which culminated around 1188 BC when a diverse horde originating mainly in the Aegean and Mediterranean area (called the "Sea Peoples" in the brief Egyptian account which reports their activity) swept across Asia Minor and down the Palestine-Syrian coast to the border of Egypt. The Sea Peoples raid was comparable in its trauma and effects to the impact of the Black Death on medieval Europe: The great cities of Asia Minor and northern Syria were destroyed, the empire of the Hittites was annihilated and the Hittites restricted to a string of cities in Cappadocia and northern Syria, Egyptian power was pushed back to the Sinai, and social chaos reigned in Palestine.
Like the Renaissance following the Black Death, the revival of Mediterranean civilization following the Sea Peoples' raid was based on a qualitative advancement in human civilization. In the period under consideration, the basis of this advance was the introduction of iron for widespread use in agriculture and manufacturing, and the men who initiated it were the inhabitants of the Phoenician cities in what is today Lebanon.
In the Late Bronze Age, Phoenicia and northern Syria (the meeting place of the Hittite and Egyptian Empires) had been thriving centers of Mediterranean-wide trade and a highly cosmopolitan civilization, which had already solved the challenge posed by an influx of merchants speaking numerous different languages by inventing the modern alphabetic system of consonants. (16) While much of this civilization was destroyed by the Sea Peoples, the remaining Phoenician cities -- principally Sidon, Tyre, and Byblos -- still possessed strongly established merchants' organizations (17) and long established trading connections with Egypt, the Sudan, etc. to build on.
Most importantly, the Phoenicians made a conscious, factional decision to foster the development of iron tools, which first found significant productive use in Palestine around the beginning of the first millennium BC. This decision was prompted by a twofold political problem which the Phoenician cities faced. On the one hand, tribes of herdsmen had invaded Palestine and the Phoenician hinterlands -- which would later be amalgamated into "Israel"- creating serious disruptions, the nature of which is sufficiently indicated in the Book of Judges. (18) Secondly, several groups of Sea Peoples, principally the Philistines, had settled along the Palestine coast, and were engaged in piracy and similar activities which disrupted Phoenician trade both overland and by sea. (19)
The Phoenicians' solution to this situation was conditioned by the fact that, in addition to their brigandage, the Philistines had created enormous resentment among the Israelites by imposing a policy of enforced backwardness based on the restriction of tools for the Israelites. (While the citing of biblical chapter and verse apropos of current events is a risky business, in this case there seems to be a clear object lesson for the architects of the Carter Administration's unhappy policy of restricting export of nuclear technology.) I Samuel 13:19 reports:
Now there was no smith to be found throughout all the land of Israel; for the Philistines said, "Lest the Hebrews make themselves swords or spears"; but every one of the Israelites went down to the Philistines to sharpen his plowshare, his mattock, his axe, or his sickle.
The Phoenicians, on the other hand, pursued a policy of fostering trade and commerce in Palestine. At an early date, the Canaanites in Palestine had become heavily intermingled with the Israelite newcomers (20) and even appear to have co-opted some of the Israelite groups into their commercial enterprises. (21)
It was this fight, Phoenician trade versus Philistine backwardness, that was the issue in the war fought by Saul and David, in which Saul was allied with the Phoenicians (22) and in which David, initially employed as a countergang leader by the Philistines against Saul, (23) was persuaded (probably through association with Abner's followers) to make association with the Phoenicians and to adopt the principles of their outlook as the principles of his state. (24)
In any case, by the close of his reign, David's prosperous kingdom was aligned with the celebrated King Hiram of the leading Phoenician city, Tyre, and the contested Israelite succession was secured by a son, Solomon, committed to continuing that association.
Of this Hiram, it is recorded by both Greek historians and the Bible that he was a great builder and innovator. The Greek source reports that:
He erected the Eurychoron (a broad plaza in Tyre between the city and the temple of the Chief Phoenician god, Baal Samin -- PA) and set up the gold pillar in the temple of Zeus (Baal Samin -- PA). Having gone for timber, he cut cedar wood from the mountains called the Lebanon for the temples of the sacred rites, and he tore down ancient temples and built new ones, both the temple of Herakles and the temple of Astarte, and he was the first to make the awakening of Herakles in the month of Peritios. He sent an expedition against the Uticans (the location and exact name of the city referred to are unknown" PA) who had refused to pay their tribute, and having subjected them once again to himself, restored it. He had with him a young boy Abdemunos, who always used to solve the problems which Solomon, the king of the Jerusalemites, used to propound to him. (25)
The Old Testament relates that Hiram was the contractor who built the celebrated temple of Solomon in Jerusalem -- the "first" temple destroyed in 586 BC by Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon -- supplying both timber and skilled craftsmen for the task. (26) The Old Testament also reports that Hiram engaged in joint trading ventures with Solomon, supplying crews for trading ships of Solomon's which sailed from the Israelite port of Ezion-geber on the Gulf of Aqaba. (27)
Solomon himself rebuilt numerous ruined cities throughout his kingdom, and made considerable improvements in Jerusalem as well. As a center of trade, his kingdom was highly cosmopolitan. Solomonic Israel was tolerant of a multitude of religious cults, and, in accordance with the common diplomatic practice of the period, the king maintained his sizeable, celebrated seraglio, reportedly including daughters of the kings of Egypt and Tyre.
After Solomon's kingdom split in two and went into a period of decline after his death (around 930 BC), the fortunes of Israel, the northern kingdom, were revived by the dynasty of another celebrated king, Omri (reigned c. 873-869 BC and possibly of Arab ancestry), who also made collaboration with the Phoenicians and adoption of Phoenician culture and commercial practices the cornerstone of his policies. Omri's influence was sufficient that for more than a century after his death Israel was referred to in Assyrian documents as "Omri-land." Even more important was his son, Ahab (reigned approximately 869-850 BC), the scope of whose building projects exceeded even those of Solomon.
Omri came to power at the same time as a vigorous new king of Tyre, Ithobaal, (28) and the two kings clearly patterned their relations and policies on those of Hiram and Solomon. Omri built a new Israelite capital city, Samaria (whence the name "Samaritans"), while Greek historians credit Ithobaal with founding new cities in Phoenicia and Africa. (29)
Archaeological results have confirmed biblical indications that Ahab made vast improvements in Israelite cities. (30) Not only, it turns out, was his celebrated "house of ivory" furnished with Phoenician ivories, but further evidence of Israelite-Phoenician cooperation in his urbanization program is provided by the numerous examples from Israelite buildings of the period of the Phoenician-styled "proto-Ionic" or "proto-Aeolic" capitals which several hundred years later evolved into the classic Greek Ionic style.
To cement ties between Samaria and Tyre, Ithobaal and Omri arranged a marriage between Ahab and one of Ithobaal's daughters, the widely slandered Jezebel. Ahab himself sent one of his and Jezebel's daughters, Athaliah, to be married to the king of Judah, the southern of the two kingdoms, drawing this state into I the general prosperity.
IV. Assyria and Reaction
Despite the manifest progress made in their reigns, the Old Testament remembers both Solomon and Omri and Ahab most for apostasy and the dilution of "Israelite" culture, coupled, in the case of the latter two kings, with allegations of commercial corruption.
Solomon's accomplishments in urbanizing his kingdom and building up its wealth and trade, and in erecting the very temple of Yahweh in Jerusalem, are overridden, in the Old Testament's evaluation of his reign, by his sins of taking foreign wives (polygamy, of course, is sanctioned by the Old Testament) and of permitting the worship of cults other than that of Yahweh. "For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites," I Kings 11:5 pronounces. "Solomon did what was evil in the sight of Yahweh, and did not wholly follow Yahweh."
The biblical censure of Solomon is mild in contrast to the frenzy of slander and imprecation directed against Omri, and especially against Ahab and Jezebel. Ahab is singled out for murdering to acquire property and for erecting a temple of Baal (the Tyrian city-god Melcarth or Tyrian Herakles) in Samaria, although this facet of Tyrian culture was certainly an advance over the bedouin-oriented system of worship centered around two golden calves which had been instituted in Israel following the break-up of Solomon's kingdom. Jezebel is damned for everything from murdering prophets to wearing make-up.
The key to the Old Testament's attitude lies not in Israel, but in developments in Mesopotamia.
The beginnings of the reigns of Ithobaal in Tyre and Omri in Israel coincided with the revival of the power of the Mesopotamian kingdom of Assyria, the third major factor, along with Egypt and Phoenicia, in the politics of the biblical world.
A lie circulated in many ancient-history books maintains that the development of imperial Assyrian power, which was eventually to embrace Syria, Phoenicia, Palestine, and Egypt, and its organic successors, the Neo-Babylonian and Persian empires, contributed,, through the establishment of law and order and centralized government over a wide area, to promote the spread of civilization and particularly of trade during the time of biblical Israel. Nothing is further from the truth.
It is true that Assyria (upper Mesopotamia) and Babylonia (lower Mesopotamia) had played a major pioneering role in the development of trade and commerce in the Mediterranean and Near Eastern world some thousand years prior to the period of biblical Israel. At that time, such a policy had been designed to compensate for the fact that Mesopotamia is severely lacking in both metals and wood, and the ancient Mesopotamian states depended on Lebanon for timber and on Asia Minor and Armenia for metals. In this earlier period, Mesopotamians had acquired these necessities through trade, but the process of collapse of the Bronze Age commercial networks, which culminated in the Sea Peoples raids, had left both Babylon and Assyria isolated and prostrate, and saddled with a social structure -- especially in Babylonia -- based on entrenched priesthoods with extensive interests in feudal-like temple estates.
As they evolved in the course of the first millennium BC, the Assyrian and Babylonian social structures increasingly generated large numbers of slaves, and corresponding shortages of skilled labor. The Assyrians in particular developed a system of agriculture and land speculation in which slaves were bought and sold with the plot of land they occupied. (31)
To meet their requirements for skilled labor and industrial products, the Assyrians and Babylonians, and the Persians after them, adopted a conscious policy of looting the populations and possessions of their neighbors, beginning in the early ninth century BC. (32)
The first of the evil Assyrian conquerors was Ashurnasirpal II (883-859 BC). Extracts from his inscriptions illustrate the character of his activity:
The tribute of the kings of the seacoast of the people of Tyre, Sidon, Gebail (Byblos), Malhata, Maisa, Kaisa, Amurru, and Arvad, which lies in the midst of the sea, -- silver, gold, lead, copper, vessels of copper, garments made of brightly colored wool, linen garments, a great pagutu and a small pagutu, maple-wood, boxwood, and ivory, and a dolphin ("sea-horse"), a creature of the sea, I received as tribute from them, and they embraced my feet. Into Mount Amanus I climbed up, and beams of cedar, cypress, juniper, and pine I cut down. (33)
The former city of Calah ... I built anew, peoples whom my hand had conquered, from the lands which I had subdued, from the land of Suhi, from the land of Lakê , in its entirety, from the city of Sirku on the other side of the Euphrates, from the land of Zamua to its farthest border, from Bî t-Adini and the land of Hatte, and of Liburna of the land of Hattini I took and I settled therein .... (34)
Feudal dues, forced labor, and overseers I imposed upon the land of Nairi. (35)
I cut off their heads, I burned them with fire, a pile of living men and of heads over against the city gate I set up, men I impaled on stakes, the city I destroyed and devastated, I turned it into mounds and ruins heaps, the young men and maidens in the fire I burned. (36)
History vs. the Old Testament
[Table in original - events which were listed side-by-side in original to indicate occurrence in same time-frame are grouped between lines below.]
Tribes that later became "Israel" begin migrations into Palestine. "Peoples of the Sea" invasions from the Aegean devastate eastern Mediterranean littoral. 1200 BC
Struggle of trade-oriented Phoenicians (Canaanites) against Sea Peoples (Philistines) settled in Palestine and engaged in piracy. Israelite kingdom formed under Phoenician influence to combat Philistines. 1000 BC
Israelite kingdom prospers under David and Solomon by developing industrially in conjunction with Phoenicians. Solomon's kingdom splits in two after his death. 900 BC
Composition begins of source materials later used for the history Judges-Kings.
Israelite revival under Omri and Ahab, who collaborate closely with Ithobaal of Tyre. Elijah attacks Ahab. 850 BC
Coup d'etat led by Jehu against the House of Omri in 842 BC expels Phoenician influences, ends pro-industrial policies, dismantles Israelite army and pays tribute to Assyria. 800 BC
Oldest source document later incorporated in the Pentateuch, J1, (Eissfeldt's L), attacking Prometheus (Adam).
Phoenicians colonize Carthage c. 814 BC, in period which marks the beginning of wide-scale Phoenician contact with Greeks. Renewed collaboration between Phoenicia and Israel under Israelite King Jeroboam II (786-746). 750 BC
Amos, working with Jerusalem priests, denounces wealth of Israel and calls for assassination of Jeroboam.
Homeric poems and first colonies by the Greeks. Assyrian revival under Tiglath-pileser III (745-727) menaces Israel and Phoenicia. 725 BC
With Israel threatened by Assyria, Hosea functions to subvert it from within.
Israel destroyed by Assyrians in 722 BC. Judah becomes a vassal of Assyria; Phoenicians are subjugated by Assyria by 700BC. Reactionary Greek poet Hesiod. 700 BC
Composition of E source later incorporated in Pentateuch (?) Prophets Isaiah, Micah support Assyrians against Israel.
Assyrian hegemony over Near East. 625 BC
Babylon breaks with Assyria by 625BC. War between the two Mesopotamian states culminates in 614-612 BC when Median allies of Babylon destroy main Assyrian cities. 600 BC
Deuteronomic Code written and foisted on Judah as of "Mosaic" origin by pro-Babylonian Jerusalem priests.
[end of table]
The appearance of Ashurnasirpal II in Syria and Phoenicia in 876 at the head of an army to gather tribute forced the Phoenicians and their commercial allies -- both the Israelites and the important Aramaean and Neo-Hittite cities of Syria -- to consider how to deal politically with the Assyrian threat. The Phoenicians adopted the same strategy they had earlier applied to the Israelites: conquer them with trade, backed, where necessary and possible, by judicious resistance by armed force. (37)
These efforts seem to have had effect. From the period of his first invasion of Phoenicia in 876 down to his death in 859 BC, Ashurnasirpal made no more major sorties against the Phoenicians, and an inscription from late in his reign records that the Tyrians and Sidonians were among those who sent emissaries to be present for the dedication banquet of his new palace at Calah. (38)
The next Assyrian king, Shalmaneser III, however, dumped his late father's principal advisors immediately on succeeding to the throne and embarked on renewed military operations against the Aramaeans and Israel. In 853 BC, Shalmaneser invaded Syria, and it was at this time that Ahab's skill in dealing with the Assyrians was made manifest, in an episode which has been blacked out of the biblical account of his reign. Despite the reported disruptive efforts of the prophets Elijah and Elisha, Ahab had, through much difficulty and delicate diplomacy, reached a modus vivendi with Israel's old and powerful northern antagonist, Damascus. (39) The consequence was that when Shalmaneser's forces marched into Syria, they were met by a powerful coalition of Aramaean forces at Qarqara on the Orontes River, which included a contingent of Ahab's forces numbering 2,000 chariots and 10,000 foot, sizeable enough for the Assyrians to place the Israelites third in their list of the enemy order of battle. (40) While Shalmaneser claimed that he won a crushing victory in the ensuing battle, the fact that his army conducted no more operations in the area has led most scholars to conclude that he suffered a humiliating check.
Although no direct positive evidence has survived, it is not difficult to conclude that Shalmaneser had a hand in the internal subversion in Israel, centered around the prophets Elijah and Elisha, which culminated some ten years after Ahab's death in a brutal coup d'é tat against his successors. There is no "smoking gun" to seal the case (as there is in the case of the prophet Jeremiah), but Shalmaneser was the principal beneficiary of Elijah and Elisha's work.
What characterized the two prophets was violent opposition to the commerce-oriented elements of Phoenician culture which had come to dominate Israel. This opposition reflected not only in their attacks on "Baal" worship but also in such stories as the tale of the "widow's oil" (II Kings 4:1-7) which attacks the alleged rapacity of the Canaanite business world. Rightly did Ahab term Elijah -- whose sedition he battled for years -- the "troubler of Israel." In 842 BC, after Ahab's death, an officer named Jehu staged a successful coup against Jezebel and Ahab's son ruling in Samaria. At the same time Jehu murdered the reigning king of Judah -- who was married to Ahab's daughter Athaliah -- but timely counteraction by this resourceful queen in Jerusalem prevented him from seizing power there too. (41)
Putting the political principles enunciated by Elijah into effect, Jehu ended Israel's alliance with the Phoenicians and moved to extirpate the influence of Phoenician culture on Israel. He based his power on a Yahwistic religious sect calling itself the Rechabites. (42) The principles of this sect, as articulated by its founder Jonadab b. Rechab to his followers, were:
to drink no wine all our days, ourselves, our wives, our sons, or our daughters, and not to build houses to dwell in. We have no vineyard or field or seed; but we have lived in tents, and have obeyed and done all that Jonadab our father commanded us. (43)
The other significant policies adopted by Jehu were the immediate payment of tribute to Shalmaneser, reversing the policy of Ahab on this account, and -- related both to his subservience to Assyria and his opposition to technology -- the dismantling of the powerful military machine built by Ahab. By the time of Jehoahaz, Jehu's son and successor, the Bible reports that "there was not left ... an army of more than fifty horsemen and ten chariots." (44)
Jehu and Genesis
There are strikingly close parallels between the activity associated with Jehu, and the Genesis story of Adam's Fall, parallels so close that a leading twentieth century German biblical scholar, Otto Eissfeldt, was led to conclude -- in the most cautious statement of the case -- that the seizure of power by Jehu and the movement around Elijah and Elisha provided the "soil" around which the Fall myth "grew." (45)
This is not to say that the entire Pentateuch (Genesis through Deuteronomy) is a product of the forces associated with Jehu. Beginning in the eighteenth century, scholars began to distinguish what proved to be several separate narrative documents which have been homogenized and digested into the present Pentateuch. Since the late nineteenth century, there has been broad agreement among all but the most bitter fundamentalist and talmudic die-hards that these basic documents are four: "J," or the "Jehovist" document, "E," the "Elohist" document, the Deuteronomic Code (D), and the Priestly Code (P), written in that order over a period spanning the ninth through fifth centuries BC (the earliest thus written 400 years after the purported date for "Moses"!), plus miscellaneous legal codes and a substantial quantity of redactional material added to reconcile, combine, or supplement the various sources. (46)
Despite often wild divergences in matters of detail, the various documents are in agreement in propounding a fantastic and demonstrably spurious reconstruction of Israel's history which maximizes Israel's historic and cultural connections to Mesopotamia, and minimizes or slanders those with Phoenicia and Egypt (which, at the time of Jehu, was ineffectually supporting the Phoenicians against Shalmaneser, and which continued to oppose the activities of the Assyrians and Babylonians throughout the formative period of the Pentateuch).
The Adam story is contained in what is commonly termed the J story of the creation. (47) The parallel which links the Adam story with Jehu -- in addition to the general hatred of progress and intellectuality identified above -- is the bedouin-oriented opposition to agriculture common to both the Adam story and the Rechabite sect. In the Adam myth, this opposition emerges in the "punishment" meted out by Yahweh Adam and Eve after he discovers that the pair have acquired knowledge: Mankind is "condemned" to practice agriculture, which one might otherwise regard as an important advance over the fruit-gathering existence depicted in the Garden of Eden. In the words of Genesis:
And to Adam he (Yahweh -- PA) said, "Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, 'You shall not eat of it,' cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth to you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; you are dust, and to dust you shall return. (48)
Proceeding to chapter 4 of Genesis, still within the J stratum, we learn that Cain murdered his brother Abel from pique over the fact that, Abel being a "keeper of sheep" and Cain a "tiller of the ground," Yahweh preferred Abel's sacrifices -- offerings of meat -- to Cain's offerings of grain, for which Yahweh "had no regard." Cain's punishment for murdering his brother is still another curse on the land: "When you till the ground, it shall no longer yield to you its strength; you shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth." (49)
In the realm of social science, the early Pentateuchal source places the origins of civilization in Babylonia (the "land of Shinar" of Genesis 11), and may have included the puzzling reference to Abraham's origins in "Ur of the Chaldeans" -- also in Babylonia.
Whether early in the development of the Pentateuch (ninth century BC) or late (sixth or fifth century BC), this "Ur of the Chaldeans" reference bears the odor of a politically motivated fabrication. Although Ur was indeed a very ancient city -- as has been made much of by defenders of the historical verisimilitude of the Bible -- prominent in Sumerian times in the third millennium BC, the Chaldeans had no presence in Ur in the purported period of Abraham, the mid-second millenium BC (this fact usually receives less attention in standard commentaries). The Chaldeans were active in southern Mesopotamia, however, in the period of Shalmaneser and Jehu, when some apparently helped to prop up the Babylonian end of Shalmaneser's operations. (50) During the period of Babylonian agent Jeremiah and the subsequent Judean exile to Babylonia, in the sixth century BC, the Chaldean dynasty of Nebuchadnezzar occupied the throne of Babylon.
The J story (as well as the later P, demonstrably written for the most part in Babylonia) also borrows from characteristically Mesopotamian mythology, particularly the flood story (both J and P versions of the flood legend are preserved in the present Genesis) which goes back to Sumerian times (third millennium BC) in Mesopotamia. (51)
Nothing in the Genesis myth explicitly identifies the story of Adam with the movement around Jehu; a propagandist writing a purported history of primordial sin to promote the unpopular policies of a current rule would naturally seek to avoid references in his document which indicate he is doing just that. But in addition to Eissfeldt's observation of the relation between the Rechabites and the anti-agricultural outlook of the Adam story, the following considerations support the conclusion that there is a direct connection:
First, Jehu is clearly responsible for literary-propaganda activity. In II Kings 9:25, for example, the Bible gives him virtual personal credit for creating the slander against Ahab regarding the acquisition of Naboth's field.
Second, the fact that the Rechabites persist as a nodal point of Mesopotamian influence in Israel down to the time of Jeremiah, a certified Babylonian hireling.
Third, the fact that the various documents contained in the Pentateuch were all preserved by the pro-Babylonian (later Persian) party around Jeremiah et al., pointing to at least a presumption of a continuous factional heritage in their composition.
V. Israel and Revival in Phoenicia and Ionia
Seven years after Jehu's coup d'é tat, the half-Phoenician Queen Athaliah was overthrown by a similar intrigue in Jerusalem (c. 837). The two kingdoms lived miserably under an anti-Phoenician regimen for some forty years. Worse for them, for a time after the death of Shalmaneser III (824 BC) Assyrian military power deteriorated rapidly, leaving the two pro-Assyrian states fair game for their more commercially oriented old enemies in Damascus, who remained Assyria's implacable enemies. "In those days," the Bible reports, "Yahweh began to cut off parts of Israel. Hazael (king of Damascus -- PA) defeated them throughout the territory of Israel." In Judah, the Syrians were kept at bay only by payment of a heavy tribute. (52)
In approximately 814 BC, however, developments occurred in Phoenicia whose impact soon drew Israel and Judah out of their misery. Pygmalion, the youthful king of Tyre, quarreled with his sister Elissa (Dido), in what was recorded as an attempt to seize the wealth of her husband Acerbas, a rich priest of Tyrian Herakles (Melcarth). The upshot of the struggle was that Elissa and a group of leading Phoenicians from Tyre and Cyprus fled to North Africa where they founded the city of Carthage. (53) Whatever the real differences that underlay the dispute between the two factions of Tyre, Carthage, the "new city," rapidly assumed the leading role in the western end of a major Phoenician trading push west into the Mediterranean which took the Phoenicians to Spain, North Africa, Italy, Sicily, and the Aegean region.
It was the Phoenician revival of this period that inspired Homer, and prompted other Greeks, led by the Ionians and the Dorian Corinthians to found some two score of colonies themselves between approximately 750 and 600 BC. (54) These colonies ranged from the Black Sea area where the Ionian city of Miletus was paramount, to Italy and Sicily where Corinthian networks were the major links with mainland Hellas and points further east, and included Marseilles (Greek Massalia) and the port of Naucratis, established as a joint venture of several Greek trading cities, in Egypt.
This great commercial movement, which produced a sharp increase in trade between the Levant and Egypt, (55) did not pass Palestine by untouched. Its impact was being fully felt in Israel by the reign of Jeroboam II (c. 786-746), the great-grandson of Jehu who completely reversed his ancestor's policies, once again emphasizing trade, commercial activity, and contact with the Phoenicians. Collaborating in his enterprises was King Azariah of Judah, who rebuilt the port of Elath on the Red Sea coast to facilitate southern trade. (56)
The Prophets Respond
The turn in policy in Israel and Judah drew a violent response from the supporters of the Jehuite anti-progress policies, who continued their pro-Assyrian orientation and opposition to commercial development. This is the policy which forms the actual content of the genuine oracles of Amos, Hosea, Isaiah, and Micah, whose fulminations against Jeroboam and on behalf of the Assyrians are the earliest prophetic utterances in the Bible definitely assignable to identified prophets.
The earliest of these prophets is Amos, whose activity is roughly datable to the period 760-750 BC. Amos identifies himself as a simple shepherd of Tekoa, a town not far south of Jerusalem, but his writing is closely connected with that of Isaiah, a member of the pro-Assyrian faction around the Jerusalem royal house and priesthood. It is these circles, and not the poor shepherds of Tekoa, that provided the "inspiration" for Amos's denunciations of wealth and progress, and, presumably, the money to finance the publication and preservation of his utterances.
The activity of the historical Isaiah is datable slightly later, from the year of the death of King Uzziah (Azariah), 746 BC, down to the reign of Hezekiah (c. 715-687 BC). Micah was a contemporary of Isaiah, while Hosea, a bizarre personality who apparently married an adulteress to symbolize what he considered Israel's foresaking of Yahweh, was a native of the northern kingdom whose activity occurred roughly during 750-730 BC.
Amos's ministry occurred for a period estimated at perhaps not more than several months, sometime around 760 BC. (57) He left his home in Judah and went to Israel to disrupt services at one of the chief national sanctuaries, Bethel, where he denounced the Israelite merchants for the wealth they were accumulating and called for the assassination of King Jeroboam. He proclaimed:
"Therefore because you trample upon the poor and take from him exactions of wheat, you have built houses of hewn stone."
Dressed stone houses were a major advance in those days. In Mesopotamia, lacking in stone, most houses were of (water-soluble) mud brick.
High living standards and culture also drew Amos's censure:
"Woe to those who lie upon beds of ivory, and stretch themselves upon their couches, and eat lambs from the flock, and calves from the midst of the stall; who sing idle songs to the sound of the harp." (58)
Officials at Bethel appear to have dealt promptly with the unwanted disrupter:
Then Amaziah the priest of Bethel sent to Jeroboam king of Israel, saying, "Amos has conspired against you in the midst of the house of Israel; the land is not able to bear all his words. For thus Amos has said, 'Jeroboam shall die by the sword, and Israel must go into exile away from hisland.' "
And Amaziah said to Amos, "O seer, go, flee away to the land of Judah, and eat bread there, and prophesy there; but never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the king's sanctuary and it is a temple of the kingdom." (59)
If the trend toward progress had continued uninterrupted in Israel and Judah, the career of Amos's co-factioneers would probably have suffered similar ignominious ends, and no utterances of Amos, Isaiah, Hosea, or Micah would have survived to edify succeeding generations.
In 745-744 BC, however, a new Assyrian king, a general who took the royal name Tiglath-pileser (III), seized power, and then promptly contrived to have himself named king of Akkad (Babylon) as well, under the royal name Pul. With this power base, he revived the moribund Assyrian military machine and began a series of military campaigns in Syria, Phoenicia, and Palestine that lasted virtually uninterrupted until his death in 727 BC.
The political fortunes and posterity of Isaiah and Co. were saved. The Assyrian invasions produced political turmoil in Israel, and a rapid turnover of kings.
Whitewashing Tiglath-pileser, Hosea blamed Israel's troubles on its tradition of independent monarchy dating back to Saul (60) and on the existence of the monarchy and its rising wealth:
Israel is a luxuriant vine that yields its fruit. The more his fruit increased the more altars he built; as his country improved he improved his pillars (pillars were used in Canaanite ritual -- PA). Their heart is false; now they must bear their guilt. (61)
In 735 BC, an anti-Assyrian king, Pekah, seized power in Israel, and formed a league with Damascus against Tiglath-pileser. The two kings attempted to persuade King Ahaz of Judah -- the grandson of Azariah -- to join them. In a meeting with Ahaz, Isaiah urged the king to ally instead with Assyria:
"Yahweh will bring upon you and upon your people and upon your father's house such days as have not come since the day that Ephraim (i.e. Israel -- PA) departed from Judah -- the king of Assyria." (62)
In other words, Isaiah was arguing that Tiglath-pileser would actually restore the full extent of the kingdom of David! Anticipating the loot to be gotten in the coming war, the prophet named his newly born son "The spoil speeds, the booty hastes."
Ahaz was convinced. He
sent messengers to Tiglath-pileser, king of Assyria saying, "I am your servant and your son. Come up, and rescue me from the hand of the king of Syria and from the hand of the king of Israel, who are attacking me." Ahaz also took the silver and gold that was found in the house (temple -- PA) of Yahweh and in the treasures of the king's house, and sent a present to the king of Assyria. And the king of Assyria hearkened to him. (63)
In 732 BC, Tiglath-pileser conquered and destroyed Damascus, and toppled Pekah from power in Israel. Isaiah's career now took a surprising turn for a man with his subsequent reputation for devotion to Yahweh. King Ahaz went to Damascus to pay obeisance to Tiglath-pileser, and saw there an altar that the Assyrian king had erected. Ahaz immediately sent back a model of the altar to a crony of Isaiah, Uriah the priest, for duplication in his own temple. Without a peep from the pious prophet, who may be assumed to have supported the deed, the sacred altar of Yahweh was shunted off into a corner to be preserved for use in divination, and the new one, built to Assyrian specifications, installed in its place. (64)
In 722 BC, the Assyrians -- under a new king, Sargon II -- completed the destruction of Samaria, the Israelite capital, carrying off its inhabitants into exile in Syria, Assyria, and Media -- the so-called "lost ten tribes." With this, the Assyrian conquest of Israel and Judah was essentially complete, although a rebellion by Ahaz's successor Hezekiah apparently caused Isaiah a little unease.
The Phoenician cities of the coast -- aided by Ionians -- continued to resist the Assyrians until about 701 BC, when the Assyrian king Sennacherib forced their great king Elulaeus to flee to Cyprus. From that time Assyrian domination in the region was not seriously challenged until after the death of the Assyrian king Ashurbanipal in c. 629 BC.
It would be interesting to know what Isaiah's Israelite and Judean opponents -- who also worshipped Yahweh -- thought of him, and what they had to say about his oracles. Some must have been actively involved in the Phoenician and Greek trading activity, but only Isaiah's side of the story has survived.
Extravagant claims have been made for the significance of Isaiah, Hosea, and Amos's utterances, that these prophets developed the seed of later Christianity and Judaism by attacking sacrifice and idolatry and demanding righteousness and justice as the measuring rod of piety. Nothing is further from the truth.
They were opposed not to sacrifice but, in keeping with the spirit of the earlier policy of Jehu, only to Canaanite-Phoenician rituals, which many less dogmatic Yahweh-worshippers happily practiced. Other than that, as the episode with Tiglath-pileser's altar shows, they were highly flexible on particulars of worship, and certainly practiced sacrifices according to their own (and Tiglath-pileser's) prescribed rituals
Their concept was not of a universal god but of a local, Judeocentric sect, which preached that Israel and Judah should be kept isolated from global developments and poor and underdeveloped. For obvious reasons, the Assyrians openly promoted this "religion," and were so supportive of this brand of "Yahwism" that after they deported the "ten tribes" of Israel, they sent back a priest of Yahweh to teach the ways and the "fear" of the "local" Israelite god to the Babylonian and other settlers whom they had settled in Israel in the Israelites' place. (65) And the Assyrians were so confident of "Yahweh's" support in return that when their army arrived before Jerusalem in 701 BC to end Hezekiah's rebellion, its general taunted Hezekiah's officers in Hebrew that he had no support for his revolt, and added:
"Moreover, is it without Yahweh that I have come up against this place to destroy it? Yahweh said to me, go up against this land, and destroy it." (66)
This is not to say that the Canaanite ritual practices attacked by Amos et al. were good. The fact is that little in any of the organized religions of the first millennium BC that have now perished, is a loss to subsequent posterity.
The point is merely that the transformation of the frequently morally reprehensible rites of the time was not the work of the priests and prophets of Yahweh or any other god, but of the numerically tiny group of thinkers and organizers who developed and carried forward the traditions of rationalistic, Ionian science and epistemology.
VI. Traitor Jeremiah and Deuteronomy
Among the Jerusalem priests, the period from roughly 700 to 625 BC -- the period of unchallenged Assyrian hegemony -- was spent mostly in importing a plentiful stock of Mesopotamian divinities into Yahweh's temple in Jerusalem. These were identified with the stars -- the "host of heaven" -- widely worshipped in Babylonia, and included the sun god Shamash, to whom a chariot was dedicated in the temple, and who possessed an altar on its roof. (67)
All this was later blamed on the unfortunate king Manasseh, who happened to rule at this time, but there is no evidence of opposition at the time to this policy by the Jerusalem priests.
By the mid-seventh century, however, the supply of loot available from Assyria's victims began to dry up. It was insufficient, at any rate, to satisfy both Assyria and Babylon, and the two partners grew increasingly at odds.
By 627 BC, shortly after the death of the Assyrian king Ashurbanipal, Babylon became independent under a Chaldean dynasty headed by Nabopolassar, father of the famous Nebuchadnezzar, and was at war with the Assyrians.
In approximately 626 BC, Assyrian control over Palestine and Phoenicia was effectively ended as a result of a raid by a large party of Cimmerians, one of the barbarian hordes that occupied the Black Sea area.
The situation posed a crisis for the Judean faction represented by the Jerusalem priesthood. Their country had been sucked dry by the Assyrians, with whom they had been allied and upon whom they had relied to maintain their power. This prop was gone. They could turn to Babylon -- then aiming to take Assyria's place as the dominant power in the area -- and in fact soon did -- but until after 612 BC the Babylonians were preoccupied with the final struggles to wipe out the remaining Assyrian forces, and could be relied on for little more than moral support.
Moreover, a century of Ionian and Phoenician organizing in the Mediterranean area was beginning to pay off handsomely for the Jerusalem priests' commerce-oriented enemies. In a major coup, Ionians and Phoenicians -- with aid from Gyges of Lydia, the major kingdom of Asia Minor -- had seized effective political control over the Twenty-sixth Dynasty of Saite pharaohs in Egypt. This dynasty, ironically, had originally come to power as vassals of Assyria, but by the late seventh century BC Egyptian trade was channeled through such Greek trading colonies in Egypt as Naucratis, Greek mercenaries formed the backbone of the Egyptian army, and Assyrian influence had vanished,
The Jerusalem temple faction resorted to a desperate stratagem. In 621 BC, in the reign of their puppet-king Josiah, a supposedly long-lost and forgotten law of "Moses" was "discovered" in the temple in Jerusalem. (68) By comparing the account of the discovery in II Kings with the legal codes of the Pentateuch, it has been determined with absolute certainty that this "law of Moses" consisted of the major part of what is today the Book of Deuteronomy.
Originally, the purpose of Deuteronomy was to provide the pro-Babylonian faction -- those named include a priest Hilkiah, a prophetess named Huldah, and others (no doubt among them a young prophet named Jeremiah, a fervid supporter of Deuteronomy whose "calling" to the ministry of Yahweh occurred in 626 BC and whose writing style is closely related to Deuteronomy) -- with a pretext to militarily crush all potential and-or actual political opposition, and at the same time to grab for themselves every possible loose shekel of revenue in the impoverished kingdom.
The pretext was that "Moses," in the "newly discovered" law, had enjoined that sacrifice -- the heart of religious worship -- could only be performed at the Jerusalem temple, and that all tithes were payable only to this temple as well. (69) This meant that the multiplicity of local cults and parishes, which had supported themselves and their priests for centuries through their own tithes and were the focus of local, grass-roots political organization, were immediately outlawed.
That the Phoneician-linked, trade-oriented segment of the Israelite-Judean population was especially viewed as a target of this coup is clear from "Moses's" repeated injunctions in Deuteronomy to enslave and exterminate the "Canaanites," and his insistence that the Israelites are a "chosen people" who must steer clear of foreigners and outsiders. (70)
Before anyone had time to question the authenticity of the document, Josiah's troops were sent out in a series of bloody raids against regional places of worship, destroying them and sometimes slaughtering their priests. (71) To give the required nationalist tinge to the effort to mobilize forces against the "Canaanites," the new law commanded the expulsion of the Mesopotamian gods in the temple -- now politically useless anyway. "Yahweh is our god, Yahweh alone," Deuteronomy proclaimed. (72)
In a seesaw battle for control of Palestine and Syria between the Egypto-Greek-Phoenician forces and the Babylonians, the Deuteronomists' own day of reckoning came in 609 BC. The final struggles between Babylon and Persia were waged through a kind of surrogate Warfare: the Babylonians had organized neighboring, semi-civilized tribesmen, the Medes, into a quasi-empire whose goal was to destroy the Assyrian cities. Assyrian efforts to enlist the barbarian Cimmerians as a counterforce proved unsuccessful, and the Mede hordes destroyed the Assyrian capital of Nineveh in 614 and Ashur, their mother city, itself in 612.
The year 609 found the remnant of the Assyrian army in the city of Hamath, in Syria, awaiting the final onslaught of the Medes. Since it was now very much in the interest of Egypt, Phoenicia, and the Ionians to prop up the remaining Assyrians against the growing power of Nabopolassar and his Median stooges, an Egyptian army including Milesian mercenaries was sent to Syria under the personal command of the Pharaoh Necho to aid the Assyrians. (73)
Josiah, allied with the Babylonians, led his army out to intercept Necho, and Necho crushed Josiah's forces and killed the king in battle at Megiddo. While the Medes annihilated the remaining Assyrians, they then withdrew, leaving the Greco-Egyptian forces for the time master of Syria and Palestine. In gratitude to his Greek allies, Necho dedicated his arms of victory to the god Apollo at Miletus (74) (where young Thales, of half-Phoenician parentage, was then reaching adulthood), and installed Jehoiachim, a new king more to his liking, in Jerusalem. (75)
Leadership of the Deuteronomic party passed to Jeremiah, of a priestly family from Anathoth north of Jerusalem. Jeremiah was well liked by the Babylonians, whom he served loyally, and equally hated by the Judeans. Even his own relatives and neighbors from Anathoth, whose altar had presumably been one of those shut down by Jeremiah's Deuteronomic law, accused him of being a false prophet and conspired to kill him, warning:
"Do not prophesy in the name of Yahweh, or you will die by our hand." (76)
A chronological summary gives the flavor of his activities:
609 BC: At the beginning of the reign of Jehoiachim, Jeremiah stands in the court of the temple and proclaims that unless the Deuteronomic law (presumably junked upon the death of Josiah or possibly even earlier, although the Old Testament is silent on this touchy subject) is restored, Yahweh "will make this city a curse for all the nations of the earth." (77)
Angered, the priests, prophets, and people demand his execution on the spot, but, through the intervention of officials linked to the Deuteronomic party, he is saved, although banned from the temple. (78) Jeremiah continues his attacks on Jehoiachim, singling out the king for remodeling his palace with Lebanese cedar. (79)
605 BC: Nebuchadnezzar's army routs the Greeks and Egyptians at Carchemish in Syria. Jeremiah seizes on the renewed Babylonian activity to publish a book which declared
that the king of Babylon will certainly come and destroy this land, and will cut off from it man and beast. (80)
The book is read aloud in the temple by Jeremiah's secretary Baruch. With the Babylonian army loose in Palestine, the priests become less antagonistic to Jeremiah's point of view, and they advise Jeremiah and Baruch to hide while they present the book to the king.
Less fearful of the Babylonians than his priests and officials, Jehoiachim slices up Jeremiah's book and burns it piece by piece as it is read to him. He gives orders for the traitor's arrest, but Jeremiah escapes.
601-597 BC: Jehoiachim is forced to pay tribute to the Babylonians in 602-1 BC, but rebels in 598. Jeremiah organizes a fifth column in Jerusalem, including the remnants of the Rechabites sect. (81)
The rebellion is defeated in 597, shortly after the death of Jehoiachim. Nebuchadnezzar carries off Jehoiachim's son and successor, Jehoiachin (also known as Jeconiah), into exile in Babylon, and makes his uncle king, under the regnal name Zedekiah. The Babylonian king also carries off the cream of Judah's skilled craftsmen, as well as a number of priests and nobles, a total of 3,023 captives, according to the book of Jeremiah, among them the future prophet Ezekiel.
597-586 BC: The decade of Zedekiah's reign is a period of bitter struggle between the Babylonians on the one hand and the progressive tendency represented by the Phoenicians, Ionian Greeks, and their Egyptian allies on the other.
To emphasize the nature of the Ionian contribution to this struggle, it should be noted that it was in the year 594 BC that Solon of Athens introduced his celebrated legal code, which was based not only on a debt moratorium but on establishment of a new, silver-based currency which aimed (largely successfully) at thrusting Athens into a leadership role in commerce in both the eastern and western Mediterranean. (82) Solon was allied in his efforts with the governments of the leading trade-oriented Greek cities, most significantly Corinth and Miletus.
These Greek leaders had to be concerned with commercial developments in the East, and that they were is attested by a Babylonian document from Nebuchadnezzar's reign accusing the Ionians of militarily opposing Babylonian plans. (83)
The Babylonians, for their part, had their eye especially on the wealth of Tyre, which shared many trading routes with the Greeks, particularly those linked to Egypt. The Babylonians' envy and greed for Tyre was memorably expressed in the celebrated denunciation of the Phoenician city -- enumerating down to minutiae the details of its wealth -- composed by Nebuchadnezzar-agent Ezekiel in the course of Nebuchadnezzar's thirteen-year siege of the Phoenician city, and preserved in chapters 26 to 28 of the Old Testament book bearing Ezekiel’s name.
Palestine, in the middle of the battle between the two tendencies, saw competition for the allegiance of the Judeans not only in Judah but in Babylonia as well, where exiled Judeans took part in at least one revolt against Nebuchadnezzar. It is the pressures exerted by the various factions which accounts for the vacillating policies pursued by the unfortunate Zedekiah.
In 594-3 BC, envoys from Sidon, Tyre, Edom, Moab, and Ammon sent envoys to Jerusalem to try to persuade Zedekiah to rebel. This coincided, according to the Chaldean Chronicle, with a rebellion in Babylon itself. Members of the Judean exilic community were drawn into the rebellion, and dispatched letters to Jerusalem demanding that Jeremiah be arrested for urging them to regard their exile as permanent. (84)
Jeremiah met the challenge by (literally) placing a pair of yoke bars on his back, to symbolize subservience to Babylon, and telling the king:
"Do not listen to the words of the prophets who are saying to you, 'You shall not serve the king of Babylon, 'for it is a lie which they are prophesying to you.... Serve the king of Babylon and live. Why should this city become a desolation?" (85)
In this year, Judah did not revolt, but there was sufficient unrest among the exilic community that the following year Ezekiel received his "call" to curb the "rebelliousness" of the people of Israel.
Jeremiah, meanwhile, sent letters to Babylon informing on those exiles who had attempted to foment revolt in Judah, so that they could be burned alive by the Babylonians as an example. (86)
In 588 BC, however, the Phoenician-linked faction raised another rebellion, backed this time by a sortie by the Egyptian army. The Babylonians besieged Jerusalem, and Jeremiah and Ezekiel worked strenuously to aid them. The overwhelming anti-Babylonian sentiment forced the equivocal king to imprison Jeremiah on charges of treason, (87) but, as the Judeans' military fortune declined, he met secretly with Jeremiah to discuss possible surrender. (88)
In Babylonia, meanwhile, "Yahweh" commanded Ezekiel, "And you shall set your face toward the siege of Jerusalem, with you arm bared; and you shall prophesy against the city." (89)
In 586, Nebuchadnezzar took and sacked Jerusalem, destroying the city wall, the palace, and Solomon's temple. The leading Judean priests and nobles and the sons of Zedekiah were executed before the Babylonian king at Riblah in Syria. (90) Zedekiah was merely blinded, presumably leniency for his secret negotiations with Jeremiah.
In notable contrast, Nebuchadnezzar gave personal orders to his officers that Jeremiah be protected and furnished a pension. (91)
VII. Babylonian Exile and New Works of Moses
The Judeans' Babylonian exile marked a watershed in the development of Israel's holy books and the political tendency which wrote them, but this tendency was hardly, as is often claimed, engaged in a struggle to preserve Israel's "national" traditions in the midst of the sin and depravity of Babylon.
The Judeans, it is true, did have their own cultural and religious traditions, which can be dimly discerned through the falsifications and distortions of the Deuteronomic history Judges-Kings. These traditions did not differ qualitatively from those of the Israelites and Judeans' neighbors. At an early date, for example, the god Yahweh was regarded as having strong oracular powers. David, among others, carried with him an "ephod" (possibly a deliberate textual corruption for an original "ark," made in deference to the late "ark of the covenant" hoax), through which he tapped the resources of the divine prescience. Samuel 23:9ff. recounts:
David knew that Saul was plotting evil against him; and he said to Abiathar the priest, "Bring the ephod here." Then said David, "O Yahweh, the God of Israel, thy servant has surely heard that Saul seeks to come to Keilah, to destroy the city on my account. Will the men of Keilah surrender me into his hand? O Yahweh, the God of Israel, I beseech thee, tell thy servant." And Yahweh said, "He will come down." Then said David, "Will the men of Keilah surrender me and my men into the hand of Saul?" And Yahweh said, "They will surrender you."
As we saw, Yahweh retained this oracular attribute as late as the period of the historical Isaiah, and probably later.
Nor were idols unknown in preexilic Judean history; from the teraphim (household idols) which Jacob and Rachel stole from Laban (they were prohibited by the Deuteronomic Code), to the two golden calves erected at Dan and Bethel by the Israelite king Jeroboam I, to the cherubim which guarded the very altar of Yahweh in the temple of Solomon. The idols and iconography common to the ancient Near East were equally the property of the Judeans and Israelites.
There is no question of the preexilic Old Testament authors groping toward (much less originating) the process-conception of God expressed by Spinoza's concept of extended being or the Christian Neoplatonists' concept of the Logos. The Yahweh of the Old Testament was fully anthropomorphic, complete with an entourage of winged genii, and the prohibition on representations of his image was due not to a desire for abstraction, but rather to a primitive belief that Yahweh's image was taboo, and the human being who looked upon it profane. Writing as late as the middle of the eighth century, that is at the same time as hubristic Greeks were molding their conception of Odysseus who repeatedly foils the will of the Olympian gods, Isaiah could commit to the scroll such superstitious drivel, regarding his vision of Yahweh (Isaiah 6:1ff.), as:
In the year that King Uzziah died, I say the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and his tram filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim; each had six wings; with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said:
"Holy, holy, holy is Yahweh of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory." And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: "Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, Yahweh of hosts!" Then flew one of the seraphim to me, having in his hand a burning coal which he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth, and said: "Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin is forgiven."
Nor, apart from the Deuteronomic cult, were most Israelites and Judeans monotheistic, or, more accurately, henotheistic, for even Deuteronomy recognizes the existence of other gods, and, dogmatically, merely forbids their worship. Apart from that, few Judeans, even those who acknowledged Yahweh as their nation's god (as Ashur was for the polytheistic Assyrians and Chemosh for the Moabites), thought to deny other gods their due. Ahab for example, who erected a temple of Tyrian Baal in Samaria, gave his children names compounded from Yahweh. Particularly self-serving is I Kings's claim that Solomon's adoption of foreign cults was due to the bad influence of his foreign wives; the Deuteronomic historian is doctoring history to make his cult's prohibitions against foreign marriages and foreign gods reinforce each other. The reality is that the foreign cults were there all along.
The so-called Song of Moses in Deuteronomy, for example, presupposes a theology in which Yahweh is subordinate member of the Canaanite pantheon, receiving his allotted domain from its head El, or ‘Elyon [leading apostrophe included in source-article in this case and in following case - transcriber], "the Most High":
When the Most High ('Elyon -- PA) gave to the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons of men, he fixed the bounds of the peoples according to the number of the sons of God. For Yahweh's portion is his people (viz., only Israel, not the universe, or even the entire Near East -- PA), Jacob his allotted heritage. (92)
Religion was a political question in the ancient world, as it is today, and the reason that the majority Judeans opposed the Deuteronomists' henotheism was because the "foreign" gods represented ties to foreign merchants and the trade that accompanied them, and because the Deuteronomists' "Yahweh-alone" dogma was openly propagated as pro-Babylonian. This is particularly clear in the reply of the Judean exiles in Egypt, who had fled there after Nebuchadnezzar's annexation of Judah, to Jeremiah Jeremiah had commanded them (Jeremiah 42:9ff.) :
"Thus says Yahweh, the God of Israel, to whom you sent me to present your supplication before him: If you will remain in this land, then I will build you up and not pluck you up; for I repent of the evil which I did to you. Do not fear the king of Babylon, of whom you are afraid."
The exiles in Egypt replied (Jeremiah 44:16ff.):
"As for the word which you have spoken to us in the name of Yahweh, we will not listen to you. But we will do everything that we have vowed, burn incense to the queen of heaven and pour out libations to her, as we did, both we and our fathers, our kings and our princes, in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem; for then we had plenty of food, and prospered, and saw no evil. But since we left off burning incense to the queen of heaven and pouring out libations to her, we have lacked everything and have been consumed by the sword and by famine.”
The "queen of heaven" referred to is the Phoenician goddess Astarte, popular among Phoenician merchants and sailors, whose worship had been spread to such far-off places as Grecian Corinth a century earlier.
There is little of significance for later humanist philosophy and theology in either Jeremiah's hoked-up "prophecy," or in the pragmatic views held in opposition by the Judean patriots. In Corinth, as a matter of fact, the popularity of the temple of Aphrodite (as the Phoenician goddess as known in Greek) among sailors was due to the fact that it functioned mainly as a brothel, which had international notoriety. The point is that the Deuteronomists were hardly concerned to preserve Judah's old religious and cultural traditions in the midst of the Babylonian exile. Rather, the Babylonians used them to create entirely new ones, corresponding to the Babylonians' principles of administration of their subject peoples.
Like the Roman and British empires after it, Nebuchadnezzar's Babylon pursued a policy of "local control" and "cultural relativism" in the administration of its subjects. As a matter of policy, the various ethnic groups of craftsmen, etc., carried off by the Babylonians were settled by themselves under a Babylonian-sponsored ruler of their own origins. Greeks, for example, who were resettled by the Persians (who merely continued Babylonian policy in this respect) in the fifth century, preserved their local Greek customs for more than a century in the middle of Iran, where Alexander the Great found them during his conquest of Persia in the fourth century BC. (93)
Accordingly, besides drumming up support for Nebuchadnezzar's foreign policy (Ezekiel), the Babylonians' exilic Judean employees were assigned to mold an appropriate new "ethnic identity" for the Judeans, whose cultural and commercial ties to the Phoenicians were too close for the Babylonians' comfort.
Their creative efforts were stimulated by payments and subsidies from the Babylonian royal fisc [treasury - transcriber]. II Kings concludes with the note that "Evilmerodach [not “Evil Merodach” - transcriber] king of Babylon (reigned 562-560 BC -- PA), in the year that he began to reign, graciously freed Jehoiachin, king of Judah from prison; and he spoke kindly to him, and gave him a seat above the seats of the kings who were with him in Babylon. So Jehoiachin put off his prison garments. And every day of his life he dined regularly at the king's table; and for his allowance, a regular allowance was given him by the King, every day a portion, as long as he lived." (94) Administrative documents from the reign of Nebuchadnezzar record payments both to Jehoiachin and his sons, as well as to an unnamed "eight men from Judah." (95) The exilic editor of II Kings being so well acquainted with such payments, it is not hard to imagine that he may have been one of those anonymous eight.
The Deuteronomistic works were their starting point. The Deuteronomists had, besides their lawbook with its emphasis on Israelite exclusivity, an edition of the history Judges-Kings (originally perhaps written before the untimely death of Josiah, to gauge from the unfulfilled prophesy of his peaceful death in II Kings 22:20), written with the purpose of showing that obedience to the Deuteronomic law was the path to peace and happiness on earth, and disobedience would lead to the opposite. They also had collections of prophetic oracles, notably those of Amos, Isaiah, et al., and a combined JE version of Israel's origins (in Babylonia) under the patriarchs and Moses, perhaps already combined with the Deuteronomic legal document.
Where Deuteronomy had concentrated on Yahweh's gift of the land of Israel to the Israelites as the mark of their uniqueness, emphasis on this -- unsuited to the conditions of exile in Babylon -- was now replaced with emphasis on the practice of various fetishistic rituals supposedly enjoined by Yahweh himself, to form the basis of the special "Judean" identity.
As the German biblical scholar Julius Wellhausen described the process:
Circumcision had been in use before without any particular religious stress having been placed on it; it was not commanded in any law. Now it became, next to the sabbath, of the greatest possible importance as a symbol of Jewishness. Similarly, other old usages were also practiced more assiduously than before, because they could serve for the deepening of Jewish specialness and the seclusion against heathendom. Through this the priests who had been placed out of work by the destruction of the temple found an opportunity to intrude and give answers out of their Law to questions on what was clean and what unclean, what permitted and what forbidden, in the daily life of every individual. (96)
In addition to this ritualistic cant, the Judean exilic writers were heavily influenced in their doctrines by the chief Babylonian cult, that of Bel Marduk, whose priesthood and temple, the Esagila, was a powerful political force in Babylon. In addition to possessing a creation account which was closely paralleled in the later "Priestly Code" account of Genesis 1-2:4a, the Marduk cult preached the doctrine that man's role on earth is to make life comfortable for the gods, through his services to their priests (who commonly owned large estates and business and banking enterprises). The Babylonian national epic, the Enuma Elish (or "Babylonian Genesis") is quite frank on this account. Marduk declared to the other gods:
Verily, savage-man I will create. He shall be charged with the service of the gods That they might be at ease!
The gods build the Esagila in Babylon as a dwelling for Marduk, and proclaim,
May he (Marduk -- PA) shepherd the blackheaded ones (mankind -- PA) his creatures. To the end of days, without forgetting, let them acclaim his ways. May he establish for his fathers (the other gods -- PA) the great food-offerings; Their support they shall furnish, shall tend their sanctuaries. May he cause incense to be smelled ... their spells. Make a likeness on earth of what he has wrought in heaven. May he order the black-headed to revere him. May the subjects ever bear in mind to speak of their god. And may they at his work pay heed to the goddess. May food-offerings be borne for their gods and goddesses. Without fail, let them support their gods! (97)
Adopting this model in their exile, the remnants of the Jerusalem priesthood, the "sons of Zadok," followed up the coup they staged with the Deuteronomic code, by beginning to elevate themselves to the exalted status of the Aaronic high priesthood of the Priestly Code and the later Judean "theocracy."
At the center of their doctrinal reworking was the priest-cum-prophet Ezekiel. In his book there first appears the fetishistic concern with ritual purity which dominates the "Mosaic" laws of the later "Priestly Code," as well as the first efforts to raise the Zadokite priests, the equals of the other Levites in Deuteronomy, above them. And whereas under the monarchy the priests had been in the service of the king, in Ezekiel the Zadokite priests begin to appear as the king's equals -- a condition well suited to a government subservient to Babylon.
"Other priests attached themselves to him," Wellhausen concluded, and thus began the work of the numerous busy hands that, roughly in the century 550 to 450 BC, produced the "Priestly Code" and incorporated it into the modern Pentateuch. (98)
The Second Isaiah
Nevertheless, the Babylonian priests and their various stooges did not have a political monopoly in Babylon. The entire Mediterranean world was an arena of political struggle between forces favoring progress, represented, following the Babylonians' capture of Tyre mainly by the Ionian cities and their ally King Croesus of Lydia, and the sterile reactionaries centered in Mesopotamia. Each side developed its political intelligence networks to subvert the other, the Babylonians having among their foreign hirelings the brother of the Lesbian poet Alcaeus, who fought as a mercenary in Nebuchadnezzar's army, as well as the otherwise unidentified "Zabiria the Lydian" and unnamed Greeks and men of Tyre, Arvad, and Byblos, who are listed in surviving Babylonian financial records as recipients of Babylonian payments.
Among the Ionians, the period following the death of Nebuchadnezzar in 562 BC was the highpoint of the scientific school of the Milesians Thales and the even more powerful thinker Anaximander, one of whose principle areas of activity was the development of geo- graphy and cartography to aid in commerce. Another Ionian thinker, Xenophanes of Colophon, began to articulate a systematic concept of a truly universal and abstract deity, ridiculing all notions of anthropomorphism as well as animal and vegetable attributes of deities, etc.
The Near Eastern political networks who were the Ionians' cothinkers are clearly responsible for the original portions of the Book of Job (concluding with chapter 27), a political attack on the Neo-Babylonian status quo in the form of an Arab merchant's dialogue with God. The first twenty-seven chapters of Job consistently prefer the abstract "God" over the proper name "Yahweh" (which appears only once) in referring to the deity, and he has been entirely freed from his narrow fiefdom over the Jerusalem temple which preoccupied the Deuteronomists, and given a more universal scope. (Instead of being suppressed, the Book of Job has been co-opted into line with orthodoxy by the later addition of chapters 28ff., particularly the crass speeches of Elihu.)
The Ionian networks clearly played their part in the political paralysis which seized Babylon in the period from 562BC, the death of Nebuchadnezzar, to 538BC, the occupation of Babylon by Cyrus of Persia - a period which saw such events as a successful strike by stonecutters against a building project sponsored by the king and a wealthy temple, and a marked diminishing of the power of the priests of Marduk which was reflected in the cancellation for some years of their new year's celebration.
The faction around the Marduk priesthood was able to resolve the situation in their favor, however, through the use of the army of Cyrus of Persia. From the point of his seizure of rule over the Median Empire sometime around 550 BC, when it appeared that the former Babylonian stooge Astyages the Mede was going to establish a durable entente with Greek-ally Croesus of Lydia, Cyrus's career had been guided by influential factions in Babylon. (99) In 546 BC, he successfully conquered both Lydia and the Ionian cities of Asia Minor, in what proved to be a fatal blow to Ionian development. In 538 BC, the priests of Marduk resolved their ongoing dispute with the reigning king of Babylon, Nabonidus, by inviting Cyrus to take over the kingship of Babylon himself. As Cyrus relates the story of his "conquest":
Marduk, the great lord, a protector of his people/worshippers, beheld with pleasure his (i.e. Cyrus') good deeds and his upright mind (lit.: heart) (and therefore) ordered him to march against his city Babylon. He made him set out on the road to Babylon going at his side like a real friend. His widespread troops -- their number, like that of the water of a river, could not be established -- strolled along, their weapons packed away. Without any battle, he made him enter his town Babylon, sparing Babylon any calamity. He delivered into his (i.e. Cyrus') hands Nabonidus, the king who did not worship him (i.e. Marduk). All the inhabitants of Babylon as well as of the entire country of Sumer and Akkad, princes and governors (included), bowed to him (Cyrus) and kissed his feet, jubilant that he (had received) the kingship.... (100)
Cyrus also had his supporters in the Judean exilic community, among them the anonymous author of Isaiah 40-55, the so-called Second Isaiah, who proclaimed, in chorus with the priests of Marduk, that
Thus says Yahweh to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have grasped, to subdue nations before him and gird the loins of kings, to open doors before him that gates may not be closed: "I will go before you and level the mountains, I will break in pieces the doors of bronze and cut asunder the bars of iron. I will give you the treasures of darkness and the hoards in secret places, that you may know that it is I, Yahweh, the God of Israel, who call you by your name. For the sake of my servant Jacob, and Israel thy chosen, I call you by your name."
While Cyrus directly acknowledged the support of the powerful Marduk, Yahweh's was merely one of a plethora of less significant but nevertheless loyal cults whose worship he encouraged to assist in the management of his new subjects. The lack of explicit royal recognition of Yahweh did not trouble the politically oriented Second Isaiah. His Yahweh declares to Cyrus:
I surname you, though you do not know me. I am Yahweh. (101)
The Second Isaiah is transparently a counterinsurgent, who betrays very clearly the degree to which opposition to Babylon and the cosmopolitan worldview reflected in Job had penetrated the exilic community. The Second Isaiah pays lip service to both notions, but his conviction is belied by his preoccupation with the establishment of the Deuteronomic cult in Jerusalem:
"I made the earth, and created man upon it; it was my hands that stretched out the heavens, and I commanded all their host. I have aroused him in righteousness (i.e. Cyrus -- PA), and I will make straight all his ways ; he shall build my city (Jerusalem -- PA) and set my exiles free, not for price or reward," says Yahweh of hosts. (102)
The goal of the restoration, this counterinsurgent states, is to institute the Babylon-devised rigamarole of "Mosaic" ritual in Jerusalem, including collection of the profitable tithes, and he makes very clear that Yahwism as he conceives it in Babylon is not currently practiced in Palestine, where worship has followed a more independent course:
"Yet you did not call upon me, O Jacob; but you have been weary of me, O Israel! You have not brought me your sheep for burnt offerings, or honored me with your sacrifices. I have not burdened you with offerings, or wearied you with frankincense. You have not bought me sweet cane with money, or satisfied me with the fat of your sacrifices. But you have burdened me with your sins, you have wearied me with your inequities." (103)
Put on your beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city; for there shall no more come into you the uncircumcised and the unclean.
Depart, depart, go out thence (i.e. from Babylon - PA), touch no unclean thing; go out from the midst of her, purify yourselves, you who bear the vessels of Yahweh. (104)
History vs. the Old Testament
[Table in original - events which were listed side-by-side in original to indicate occurrence in same time-frame are grouped between lines below.]
Solon promulgates debt moratorium legislation (Seisachtheia) at Athens, 594. Thales reported to have predicted eclipse of the sun, May 18, 585. Babylonian hegemony firmly established over Judah when Nebuchadnezzar crushes rebellions in 597 and 587-6BC, each time carrying leading Judeans into exile. 575 BC
Recording of the oracles of Babylonian agents Jeremiah and Ezekiel. Locus of Old Testament literary activity shifts to Babylonia.
Babylonians fund insurgencies among Greeks, Lydians, and Medes, as well as maintaining counterinsurgents among their own subject Phoenician and Judean populations. Captive Judean King Jehoiachin raised to privileged status by Evil-Merodach [spelled "Evilmerodach" in earlier occurrence], who succeeds Nebuchadnezzar in 562. Babylonian-sponsored Cyrus of Persia overthrows Astyages the Mede, in c. 550, ending alliance between Medes and pro-Greek Lydia. 550 BC
Completion of revised edition of the Deuteronomistic history Judges-Kings some time after 562BC. Development of laws governing ritual purity and their attribution to “Moses” (e.g. Leviticus 17-26).
Backed by Babylonians, Cyrus conquers Lydia and Ionia in 546 BC, and is invited into Babylon itself to make a coupon behalf of the Babylonian faction associated with the priesthood of Marduk, in 538. Cyrus adopts "local control" policy vis-à-vis religious cults, which eventually results in restoration of the temple in Jerusalem. 525 BC
Anonymous "Second Isaiah" extols Cyrus, even though, he admits, Cyrus has never heard of the Judean god Yahweh.
Cambyses, Cyrus's successor, conquers Egypt in 525 BC. Cambyses is overthrown in a coup in 522 BC by his brother Bardiya. In ensuing chaos, Darius, an upstart sponsored by a faction of Persian nobles, gets the better of several Babylonian contenders for the throne. Striking a deal with the Babylonians, Darius gains secure position on the throne by 518. 500 BC
Oracles of Haggai and Zechariah.
Ionians revolt against Persia in 499; revolt is crushed in 494. Persians raze Miletus. Ionian philosopher Heraclitus flourishes. Darius invades Greece and is beaten at Marathon, 494. Xerxes's subsequent invasion is defeated in 480 at Salamis. Athens leads formation of Delian League against Persia, 478. 475 BC
Athenians send expedition to Egypt to support revolt against Persia, 460-59, and send additional troops to Phoenicia, at this time a Persian satrapy, in 459 or 458. Persian government sends Babylonia-based Ezra on a counterinsurgency mission to Jerusalem, to forestall tendencies toward revolt in 458. 450 BC
"Malachi" ("The Messenger") and "Third Isaiah" denounce apostasies in Judah.
Eunuch Nehemiah is dispatched to Jerusalem in 445-44 BC to shore up Ezra's forces in the wake of rebellion in Syria. Treaty between Pericles and Persia ends possibility of successful revolt. 425 BC
Memoirs of Nehemiah.
[end of table]
VIII. Persia, Ezra, and the Torah
From the beginning of Cyrus's reign, the Persian government based its administrative policy -- both domestic and foreign -- on the principle of "divide and rule," the paradigm being its notorious funding of both Athens and Sparta to war against each other in the period around 400 BC. Domestically, this was expressed in a policy of pluralism and the fostering of both local "self-government" and local cults. An inscription of Darius the Great (I, reigned 522-486 BC), for example, touts the Persian monarch as a great defender of the cult of Apollo of Magnesia on the Maeander (near Miletus) against his own "over-zealous" officials. (105)
The details of this policy as it applied to the Judeans are garbled and sometimes contradictory. The difficulty lies in the fact that both the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, the main sources for the details in question, stem from the at best notoriously unreliable and at worst outright lying hand(s) responsible for the two books of Chronicles. Applying the accounts of events in Kings as a check for the veracity of the corresponding accounts in Chronicles long ago revealed, for example, that the Chronicler freely rewrote those sections of Kings which did not correspond to the dogma of the Priestly Code (which was not in existence when Kings was written). In the cases of the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, the difficulty of determining the accuracy of events is compounded by the fact that no other source exists to cross-check the majority of the Chronicler's claims.
In the one significant case where there is an outside check, the report in the book of Ezra of the return under Cyrus and the rebuilding of the temple, the veracity of the Chronicler's account is impeached by contradictory details in the book of Haggai. Ezra 1 forthrightly reports a decree of Cyrus commanding the rebuilding of the temple in his first year of rule (referring to his accession in Babylon in the year 538 BC). It further claims that funds from the Persian treasury were made available for this purpose. But Haggai 1 states clearly that in the second year of Darius (520 BC), the temple was not only still in ruins, but the local population in and around Jerusalem was not eager to see it reconstructed under the aegis of a group of priests and nobles who had returned from Babylon apparently for that purpose. Once the temple was rebuilt, the book of Ezra claims that it was richly appointed with utensils and other ritual paraphernalia, but Haggai 2:3 describes it as an impoverished and mediocre structure, especially by comparison with the old temple of Solomon.
Proceeding in the book of Ezra's account, the list of purported "returnees" under Cyrus reported in chapter 2 is repeated name for name as a census of Judeans living 100 years later in the book of Nehemiah, chapter 7!
Thus, while the books of Haggai and Zachariah confirm that some sort of "return" had occurred before the second year of Darius, the details of this return, as reported by the book of Ezra, cannot be regarded as wholly the truth.
Fortunately, there is a consistent method behind the Chronicler's lying, which makes it possible to restore the essence, if not the details, of the three-quarters of a century separating the Second Isaiah from the return of Ezra the Scribe from Babylon bearing with him the "law" of Yahweh.
The outlook elaborated by the authors of the Priestly Code was perfectly suited to Persian administrative requirements. The Palestine-Syria region, which had been bled under Nebuchadnezzar and was bled again under Darius and Xerxes, was perpetually a hotbed of revolt. It was also well situated to make the outside contacts, particularly with the Greek world and with Carthage, which could make revolt a success. The doctrines expressed by the Babylonian-inspired priestly circles were so "exclusionary" that, for example, when the Samaritans -- descendants of settlers placed in Israel by the Assyrians and at that time graciously supplied with priests of "Yahweh" to maintain the continuity of the Yahweh cult in Israel -- offered to help with the rebuilding of the temple, Haggai successfully protested on the grounds that they were "unclean."
The internal features of the Priestly Code's belief structure required that it be portrayed as having existed among the Judeans -- the "chosen people" -- from time immemorial, from, in fact, the very act of creation by God in the Priestly Code's Genesis which already celebrates the sectarian institution of the sabbath. However, Israelite and Judean history was for the most part a history of opposition to the principal features of the Priestly Code and its lineal predecessors.
Moreover, there is considerable evidence from the prophecies of "Malachi" and the "Third Isaiah," apparently written in the period preceding Ezra's arrival in Jerusalem, as well as from the events of Ezra and Nehemiah's activity, that many Judeans continued to disobey the Deuteronomic and Priestly Codes' strictures right down to the time of the living memory of the Chronicler (who wrote most likely in the fourth century BC towards the end of the Persian period).
For the premonarchic period, there was little to check the imaginations of the Priestly authors as they fabricated their "Mosaic" stories, rituals, and injunctions to supply "traditional" precedents for their own practices (we will demonstrate in examples below), and the Chronicler enjoyed a similar latitude in his inventions apropos of the period of monarchy, which had come to a close in 587 BC, more than 200 years before his time. His source, the two books of Kings, was rare, and in any case Hebrew, the language of Kings, was being replaced by Aramaic as the language of most Judeans. The two books of Chronicles essentially rewrite Kings to make it appear that the Priestly Code was already in existence in the monarchic period.
With respect to the Persian period itself, however, the Chronicler was approaching events within or close to living memory of his contemporaries. Rather than risk being caught in too blatant a forgery, the Chronicler appears simply to have omitted or obscured major events which tended to expose the real unpopularity of his cause, while exaggerating or embellishing others, for instance the amount of financial help the Persians contributed to the rebuilding of the temple, which were appropriate to his purpose. Consequently, there are substantial gaps in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah's account of the events of the sixth and fifth centuries BC, and details, as noted above, which are demonstrably spurious. But the basic outline of the remaining events seems accurate.
In this outline, there is a gap of some sixty years, between the year 519, when the book of Zechariah indicates that a member of the Davidide line, Zerubbabel ("Offspring of Babylon") was involved in an unsuccessful revolt against Darius, (106) and Ezra's arrival in Jerusalem in the year 458 BC, for which neither the Chronicler nor any other source furnishes historical information on events in Judah. It is clear that some of the priestly institutions being evolved in Babylon, such as the institution of the high priesthood, were in effect in Jerusalem and that others, particularly the injunction against foreign marriages commanded by both the Priestly and older Deuteronomic Codes, were not. Wellhausen's assessment of the situation was that "the priests who had stayed in Babylon took as great a part, from a distance, in the sacred services, as their brothers at Jerusalem who had actually to conduct them. The latter indeed lived in adverse circumstances and do not appear to have conformed with great strictness or accuracy to the observances which had been agreed upon." (107) The pro-Babylonian "Malachi" cornplains: "Judah has been faithless, and abomination has been committed in Israel and in Jerusalem; for Judah has profaned the sanctuary of Yahweh, which he loves, and has married the daughter of a foreign god." (108)
These sixty years of missing history were eventful for the Persian Empire. Upon gaining the throne, Darius commenced upon a reorganization of the realm which transformed Persia from a loose confederation of states into a tightly administered region devoted to tax farming and securing a steady flow of loot from the provinces toward the royal treasury at Persepolis and the banks of Babylon. By adopting a conscious policy of restricting the supply of specie, the Persian government forced citizens to turn more and more to moneylenders for the cash required to pay the tax collectors. The result was a sharp jump in prices in the reign of Darius. (109)
Among those burdened with rising debts, inevitably, were the rude Persian nobility themselves. First under Darius, and then under his son Xerxes, they attempted to solve their problem by looting Greece. Both attempts by Darius and Xerxes failed, and when Xerxes's expedition ended in utter rout in 479 BC, the Athenians responded to the situation by organizing the Ionian cities into the Delian League and pursuing an active anti-Persian policy for approximately a quarter century, until the hegemony of Pericles.
The assassination of Xerxes, who had quarreled with the Babylonians in 465 BC, and his replacement by the more pro-Babylonian Artaxerxes I propelled the Persian empire's situation from bad to worse. In 460 BC Egypt revolted with Athenian support. With their forces in control in Egypt, Athenian troops were operating on the Phoenician coast in 459 or 458. (110)
It was in these circumstances that the final denouement of the story of the Pentateuch and "Mosaic" Law occurred. The book of Ezra contains what it describes as a decree of Artaxerxes issued to the Jewish scribe Ezra in 458 BC:
Artaxerxes, king of kings, to Ezra the priest, the scribe of the law of the God of heaven. And now I i make a decree that any one of the people of Israel or their priests or Levites in my kingdom, who freely offers to go to Jerusalem, may go with you. For you are sent by the king and his seven counselors to make inquiries about Judah and Jerusalem according to the law of your God, which is in your hand, and also to convey the silver and gold which the king and his counselors have freely offered to the God of Israel whose dwelling is in Jerusalem.... And I, Artaxerxes the king, make a decree to all the treasurers in the province Beyond the River: Whatever Ezra the priest the scribe of the law of the God of heaven, requires of you, be it done with all diligence, up to a hundred talents of silver.... Whatever is commanded by the God of heaven, let it be done in full for the house of the God of heaven, lest his wrath be against the realm of the king and his sons.... And you, Ezra, according to the wisdom of your God which is in your hand, appoint magistrates and judges who may judge all the people in the province Beyond the River, all such as know the laws of your God; and those who do not know them, you shall teach. Whoever will not obey the law of your God and the law of the king, let judgment be strictly executed upon him, whether for death or for banishment or for confiscation of his goods or for imprisonment. (111)
This "law" and "wisdom" of God that Ezra took with him, substantially the modern Pentateuch, was an extraordinary document.
With the inclusion of the Priestly Code to the older J,E, and D documents, the Pentateuch is a program for the erection and functioning of an elaborate, priestocratic organization. Its psychological premise was that the people of Judah, denied their own secular government, could be induced to accept as an illusory substitute, "their own" sacred priestocratic structure. "The state suffered not a crisis, but destruction," Wellhausen wrote. "In earlier times the national state as it had existed under David was the goal of all wishes. Now a universal world empire was erected in imagination, which was to lift up its head at Jerusalem over the ruins of the heathen powers." (112)
In the form in which it presently exists, numerous hands have contributed to its formation. Whether Ezra was the editor who inserted the Priestly Code into the Pentateuch or whether it was an associate or someone before him is irrelevant; on the one hand, there is a tradition that Ezra wrote the Pentateuch, contained in the later "Ezra Apocalypse" (IV Esdras), but on the other hand, Ezra is identified in the book of Ezra only as a "scribe," and in any case there are clear indications of additions to the Pentateuch after the period of his activity.
Some of the institutions of Ezra's law had already been imported from Babylon, such as the high priesthood, but others came as a distinct shock to the Judeans.
For instance the new levels of tithes. Compared to the level of tithes in Israel's earlier days, under the Priestly Code,
the amount which at least is required to be given is enormous .... The priests receive all the sin and trespass offerings, the greater share of the vegetable offerings, the hides of the burnt offerings, the shoulder and breast of meat offerings. Over and above are the firstlings, to which are added the tithes and first-fruits in a duplicate form, in short, all kodashim, which originally were demanded merely as ordinary meat offerings (Deut. 12:26 -- ver. 6, 7, and so on), and were consumed at holy places and by consecrated guests indeed, but not by the priest. And notwithstanding all this, the clergy are not even asked (as in Ezekiel is the prince, who there receives the dues, 45:13 seq.) to defray the cost of public worship; for this there is a poll-tax.... (113)
Payments of sin offerings were required, for example, by anyone who "touches an unclean thing" (Lev. 5:2) or "human uncleanliness, of whatever sort" (Lev. 5:3), and by a woman who has given birth, and is accordingly "unclean," for either seven days, if the child is a boy, or fourteen if it is a girl, according to Lev. 12:2, 5.
In addition, the Priestly Code revived the old and long-disobeyed Deuteronomic prohibition against mixed marriages, all, of course, commanded personally by Moses.
These institutions were a novel and bitter pill for the citizens of Judah. To sweeten them, the Priestly Code introduced some novel new historical "facts," which consoled them that the Priestly Code had really been in effect throughout Israel's earliest history. Regarding the "Mosaic" tabernacle of Exodus, Wellhausen observed:
Until the building of Solomon's temple the unity of worship according to it had, properly speaking, never had any existence.... The Priestly Code, on the other hand, is unable to think of religion without the one sanctuary, and cannot for a moment imagine Israel without it, carrying its actual existence back to the very beginning of the theocracy, and, in accordance with this, completely altering the ancient history. The temple, the focus to which the worship was concentrated, and which in reality was not built until Solomon's time, is by this document regarded as so indispensable, even for the troubled days of the wanderings before the settlement, that it is made portable, and in the form of a tabernacle set up in the very beginning of things. For the truth is, that the tabernacle is the copy, not the prototype, of the temple at Jerusalem. The resemblance of the two is indeed unmistakable, but it is not said in I Kings 6 that Solomon made use of the old pattern and ordered his Tyrian workmen to follow it. The posteriority of the Mosaic structure comes into clearer light from the two following considerations.... In the first place, in the description of the tabernacle mention is repeatedly made of its south, north, and west side, without any preceding rubric as to a definite and constantly uniform orientation; the latter is tacitly taken for granted, being borrowed from that of the temple, which was a fixed building, and did not change its site. In the second place, the brazen altar is, strictly speaking, described as an altar of wood merely plated with brass, -- for a fireplace of very large size, upon which a strong fire continually burns, a perfectly absurd construction, which is only to be accounted for by the wish to make the brazen altar which Solomon cast (II Kings 16:14) transportable, by changing its interior into wood. (114)
Of a similar mold is the Priestly Code's creation story in Genesis 1. The Priestly author has taken the shell of a typical cosmology of the period -- the creation story associated with the Enuma Elish is often cited as a parallel -- and then distributed the (eight) acts of creation over six days, reserving a seventh for God to rest, to impart cosmological significance to the sectarian dogma of the sabbath. Already by Philo's time it was a scandal that the sloppy Priestly author, in copying his prototype, postponed the creation of "lights in the firmament of the heavens to separate the day from the night" until the "fourth" day, leading Philo to question how the duration of the three prior days of creation could have been demarcated without night and day.
The Code was hardly a defense of "monotheism" either. The Priestly creation account itself contains the embarrassing polytheistic formulation "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness" so troublesome to later exegesis, and preserves from an older source the even more awkward story of how "the Sons of God saw that the daughters of men were fair; and they took to wife such of them as they chose." (115)
Ezra could hardly have expected a friendly welcome for this concoction, and it appears he did not even attempt to introduce it upon his arrival. In fact, it looks like Ezra's mission fell on its face. Both Ezra and his later collaborator Nehemiah began their efforts by focusing on the question of mixed marriages, whose dissolution they merely saw as a means to break the politically troublesome Jerusalemite ties to the merchants of Arabia and the Phoenician and Palestinian coast. Not long after his arrival, in 458, Ezra summoned the Judeans to an assembly -- in the midst of a rainstorm -- and commanded the Judeans to give up their foreign wives. They agreed, but pointed out that "the people are many, and it is a time of heavy rain; we cannot stand in the open. Nor is this a work for one day or for two; for we have greatly transgressed in this matter." The book of Ezra then breaks off with the report that a commission was formed to determine the number of foreign wives and made findings, but it makes no mention of any actual divorces. (116)
The conclusion that this abrupt and informative end of the book indicates failure of Ezra's mission is strengthened by the fact that there is no historical data in the Old Testament which records the events of the next 13 years, and that when the historical thread resumes, in 445 BC, a delegation of Jerusalemites of the Ezraite party has arrived in Susa, Artaxerxes's capital, to plead for assistance from Nehemiah. Nehemiah was a Jew, eunuch, and cupbearer to the king. (117)
Using his influence over Artaxerxes, Nehemiah had himself named governor of Judah, and promptly departed for Jerusalem with a guard of Persian troops. (118)
Again, the political situation in 445-44 BC was precarious for the Persians. Syria had recently revolted, under the leadership of an old Persian crony of the late Xerxes, and while the rebel had been bought off through the intervention of the Persian Queen Mother, the sentiment for revolt was still widespread among the local population which lacked such connections to the royal household.
Nehemiah's tactic was to use his position in Jerusalem to disrupt any possibility for unity of action by the various cities in and around Palestine. He began by rebuilding the Jerusalem fortifications, using contracts on the project to bribe local craftsmen. Since a fortified Jerusalem under Persian official Nehemiah was a de facto military threat to the surrounding, less loyal cities, notably Samaria, tensions immediately arose. Nehemiah instituted strict observance of the sabbath and other measures to restrict the activities of foreign merchants in Jerusalem, and organized the "Levites" as a religious police force to break up marriages with foreigners. (119)
The outcome was a near civil-war situation between the Samaritans and Jerusalem, precisely the overall policy goal of the Persians, who appear to have encouraged both sides in the dispute. Now was the moment for Ezra to publicly unveil his law and impose its complete provisions on the populace. In a great assembly, apparently in 444 BC,
... all the people gathered as one man into the square before the Water Gate; and they told Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses which Yahweh had given to Israel. And Ezra the priest brought the law before the assembly, both men and women and all who Yahweh could hear with understanding.... And he read from it facing the square before the Water Gate from early morning until midday,... the Levites helped the people to understand the law, while the people remained in their places. (120)
Evidently the Judeans did not like what they heard, "for all the people wept when they heard the words of the law." In response, Ezra enjoined them, "This day is holy to Yahweh, your God; do not mourn or weep," but the commotion grew beyond arresting, and he was forced to send the crowd home commanding them to celebrate a feast. (121)
The remainder of the month was devoted to further feasts and holy days, as well as special study of Ezra's law by leading Judeans. At the end of the month, a sufficient number of leading Judeans to pass as a representative quorum of the citizenry signed a covenant in Nehemiah's presence pledging that they would pay the tithes demanded by the new law. (122)
Nehemiah's first governorship lasted 12 years, until 433 BC, at which time he departed for Susa. The rebellious forces he had kept in check immediately resurfaced, with his old enemies almost immediately regaining positions of influence in even the Jerusalem temple. Nehemiah returned for a second gubernatorial term, to deal forcibly with the ongoing problem of mixed marriages:
In those days also I saw the Jews who had married women of Ashdod, Ammon, and Moab; and half of their children spoke the language of Ashdod, and they could not speak the language of Judah, but the language of each people. And I contended with them, and cursed them and beat some of them and pulled out their hair; and I made them take oath in the name of God, saying, "You shall not give your daughters to their sons, or take their daughters for your sons or for yourselves. (123)
Nehemiah was able to win nominal acceptance of the law, ending centuries of purported sin and disobedience by the Israelites which the Bible asserts goes back to the very period of the Exodus. With the law accepted by all -- or rammed down their throats -- disagreements began to assume the form of interpretation of the law: the Talmud.
The Persians now felt confident enough to proceed to impose this new belief structure on the Jews of Egypt, who since the days of Jeremiah had continued to follow their own, polytheistic brand of Yahweh-worship. A decree of the Persian king Darius II dated 419 BC commands the Jews of Elephantine, the old enemies of Jeremiah who had never even accepted the Deuteronomic law, to begin observing the Passover, one of the major points of the Deuteronomic program:
To my brethren Yedoniah and his colleagues the Jewish garrison, your brother Hananiah. The welfare of my brothers may the gods seek at all times. Now, this year, the fifth year of King Darius, word was sent from the king to Arsames (satrap of Egypt) saying, "Authorize a festival of unleavened bread for the Jewish garrison." So do you count fourteen days of the month of Nisan and observe the passover, and from the 15th to the 21st day of Nisan observe the festival of unleavened bread. Be ritually clean and take heed. Do no work on the 15th or the 21st day, nor drink beer, nor eat anything in which there is leaven from the 14th at sundown until the 21st of Nisan. Bring into your closets anything leavened that you may have on hand and seal it up between those dates. By order of King Darius. (124)
For their efforts Ezra and Nehemiah have been recognized, along with King Artaxerxes, as the founders of modern Judaism. But they would not have succeeded without important indirect assistance from the famous Pericles of Athens. In 449 BC, upon assuming power in Athens, Pericles reversed the Delian League's anti-Persian policy and concluded a corrupt treaty with the Persians which recognized Palestine as Persia's "sphere of influence." Cut off from their traditional support from the west, Palestine and Phoenicia were powerless to mount any serious resistance to Persian policies. Ironically, this same Pericles was also the funder and patron of the indifferentist sophist movement, whose bitterest enemy, Plato, probably had more to do than any other individual in determining the particular form that philosophical Christianity and Judaism later assumed. Ironically, Plato's dialogue with the greatest influence on later Judeo-Christian doctrine, his Timaeus, was named for a contemporary of Nehemiah, Timaeus of Italian Lokri.
The certification of the Pentateuch as canonical under the Persians by no means brought an end to the production of Jewish canonical books. Chronicles was written after the Pentateuch, as were many psalms and the present edition of the Psalms as a whole. The present edition of the prophetic books is quite late, and the fact that the Book of Daniel was written around 166 BC, in the reign of the Seleucid monarch Antiochus IV Epiphanes, was already known to the third century AD Neoplatonist Porphyry. (125)
The books of the Hebrew Old Testament were not fixed until about 100 AD, and the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament made in the third century BC, differs from it considerably. Nor is the viewpoint of the Mosaic Pentateuch maintained in all its particulars throughout the other books. The book of Ruth, for example, is a clear polemic against the "Mosaic" prohibition against mixed marriages.
The primary invariant in the Jewish faith as articulated by Ezra and Nehemiah is that its most ardent defenders were the foreign governments which ruled the Jews. When Alexander the Great conquered Palestine in the latter part of the fourth century BC, bringing with him a train of Aristotelian philosophers to help him administer his new empire, the Persian policy of supporting the temple was continued. No less than the celebrated Aristotelian Theophrastus pronounced the Jews a "philosophical race," while another Aristotelian Clearchus compared them with the Indian Brahmans and the Persian magi. (126) A probably reliable tradition holds that the Septuagint translation of the Hebrew books was undertaken upon commission of king Ptolemy II Philadelphus (285-246 BC), a member of the bankrupt Hellenistic dynasty in Egypt then ruling Palestine, and both the Seleucid Greek dynasty in Syria and the Ptolemies sponsored the Jerusalem priesthood to collect tribute and farm taxes. (127)
The Romans later manipulated the "nationalistic" Maccabees to further their own interests against the Seleucids.
By the first century AD, when the Neoplatonic currents that eventually overturned the Hellenistic Roman system and paved the way for the later Islamic developments were active, it was easier for the majority -- especially the mass organizers of Christianity -- simply to accept the canonical authority of the Old Testament, with the necessary exegetical qualifications.
But in the first century AD, when Paul of Tarsus initiated the form adopted by subsequent Christian doctrine, the Old Testament served a new purpose: it was not politically possible in those days simply to start a new religion on its merits, Christianity had to demonstrate its antiquity and historical traditions. The early Church fathers accordingly pointed to the Old Testament, claiming to find within it certifiably antiquated "prophesies" of the coming of the Christ. At the same time, however, the doctrine of Christ's redemption of man's sin gave Paul et al. all the pretext they needed to discard most of the aspects of Old Testament-enjoined religious practice as no longer necessary. In the second and third centuries AD, when some defensive Christians even resorted to writing fake gospels and epistles in order to establish the historicity of the faith's earlier figures, there was no mood to then discard a religious book such as the Old Testament which even in those days could be shown to antedate Plato. Instead, the Neoplatonists who dominated Christianity followed Philo in accepting the canonical authority of the Old Testament, but reinterpreting it allegorically or passing it off as a "mystery" whose "true" meaning is hidden from all but a few.
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1. Cf. Plato, Republic II, 328c, ff.; III. 414b,ff.; Second Letter, 314a, ff. This view was deliberately promoted by the Roman Empire, and one of the bases of its administration. The Greek geographer Strabo, a member of the circle of Stoics who advised Augustus, writes, for example: "For in dealing with a crowd of women, at least, any promiscuous mob, a philosopher cannot influence them by reason or exhort them to reverence, piety, and faith; nay, there is need of religious fear also, and this cannot be aroused without myths marvels. For thunderbolt, aegis, trident, torches, snakes, thyrsus-lances -- arms of the gods -- are myths, and so is the entire ancient theology." (Strabo, I.2.8)
2. Cf. Philo's "exegesis" of Genesis 1, which, he says, begins with "an account of the creation of the world, implying that the world is in harmony with the Law, and the Law with the world, and that the man who observes the law is constituted thereby a loyal citizen of the world, regulating his doings by the purpose and will of Nature, in accordance with which the entire world itself also is administered." (De Opificio Mundi, 3, F.H. Colson and G.H. Whitaker, trans., in Philo I, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1929.)
3. Cf. Galatians, 3:23ff.: "Now before faith came, we were confined under the law, kept under restraint until faith should be revealed. So that the law was our custodian until Christ came, that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a custodian." In his essay On Christian Liberty, Milton wrote that "the state of religion under the Gospel is far differing from what it was under the Law. Then was the state of rigour, childhood, bondage, and works; to all which force was not unbefitting. Now is the state of grace, manhood, freedom, and faith; to all which belongs willingness and reason, not force." In his essay, Milton supplies additional relevant citations from the New Testament, particularly Paul.
4. E.g., the obsessive efforts by certain twentieth century scholars to trace the origins of modern culture back to a supposed "stern Mosaic monotheism" of the 12th century or so BC, which, it is alleged, waged a dogged, if lonely and unheralded, battle against peasant fertility cults and idolatry for the next 1,200 years, retaining its own essential purity and finally becoming a mass force following the birth of Jesus.
5. B. Spinoza, A Theologico-Political Treatise, R.H.M. Elwes, trans. (New York: Dover Publications, 1951), p. 233.
6. Deuteronomy, 7:1-3.
7. Text in F. Jacoby, Fragmente der griechischen Historiker, No. 790. This text was handled gingerly by scholars in the past, on the grounds that the Phoenician original has not survived, and because at the time the Greek translation was made, by one Philo of Byblus working around the time of Nero, forgeries of "ancient" documents flourished. The text's claim to authenticity was not helped by the fact that Philo freely adapted parts of the original to conform to his own philosophical bias, derived from the Hellenistic philosopher Euhemeros. But comparison of the text with recent Canaanite literary discoveries indicates that the kernel of the work, at least, is genuine. The Phoenician original was dated to the time of the Trojan War (c. 1200 BC) by the Neoplatonist Porphyry, but from the nature of the document, this date is clearly too early, and is in any case based on Porphyry's misconception of the date of "Semiramis," a ninth century BC Assyrian regent mentioned by Philo of Byblus. The ninth century date for the document is suggested by both the character of the work and by Philo's charge that the Phoenician myths in it were later perverted by the reactionary Hesiod, who wrote around the end of the eighth century. See also Eduard Meyer, Geschichte des Altertums, 2te Aufl., Bd. 2, Abt. 2 (Stuttgart and Berlin: 1931), pp. 178ff. Meyer notes certain general conceptual relationships between the Phoenician document and Genesis 2:4b ff., which was written in the ninth century.
8. Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound.
9. George Thomson, Studies in Ancient Greek Society: The Prehistoric Aegean (London: Lawrence and Wishart, 1949), pp. 114-123.
10. Odyssey, I:1,3.
11.Until recently it was possible to maintain that the similarities between the biblical "Adam" myth and the Hesiodic "Prometheus" myth were coincidental, on the grounds that a professed rustic such as Hesiod (who parades himself as a mere spokesman for the peasants of Boeotia, or "cow-land,") would not have had access to such Near Eastern literary materials. The discovery in this century of a Bronze Age Hittite literary model for Hesiod's Theogony -- confirming that other elements of Hesiod's writing besides the Prometheus myth are based on Near Eastern parallels -- has disproven this contention, Furthermore, the image of Hesiod as a rustic is inaccurate in any case. Hesiod's father hailed from the Greek city of Kyme in Asia Minor, which was a participant in the founding of the first Greek colony in Italy around 750BC. Himself a participant in Kyme's overseas activities, Hesiod's father developed "cold feet" according to the poet, and repaired to Boeotia to farm -- hence the fact that the poet found himself in Boeotia. Even so, Hesiod was hardly removed from urban civilization: as he himself relates, he maintained contacts in Chalcis, a city on the island of Euboea which was one of the leading Greek colonizing cities in the period of Hesiod's lifetime. Moreover, ordinary peasants in the eighth century BC were even less likely to publish books than today. All copies were reproduced by hand and were priced accordingly. Therefore Hesiod was a mouthpiece for reactionary political factions in Chalcis. As is discussed below, similar considerations can be profitably applied to the writings of the prophet Amos in Judah, whose professions of being a simple but rigidly moralistic shepherd are often taken far too seriously.
12. Hesiod, Works and Days, 42,47-59, in H.G. Evelyn-White, trans., Hesiod, The Homeric Hymns and Homerica Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1920).
13. Works and Days, 90-92.
14. In the earliest versions of the Exodus myth, Moses appears primarily as a leader of a group of cattle herdsmen (cf. Exodus 10:26), and there is no trace of his later role as a lawgiver. Down to the reign of Hezekiah at the end of the eighth century BC, that is to say prior to the composition of the Deuteronomic law, Moses was associated with a bronze serpent named Nehushtan which was kept in Solomon's temple, and which apparently was believed to have medicinal powers (Numbers 21:4ff., II Kings 18:4). A profound embarrassment to later Judeans and their tradition of Moses the "lawgiver," the report of this serpent has vanished from the account of Hezekiah's reign in II Chronicles 29-31.
15. This view is based on the account of the Israelites' occupation of the land in Judges 1ff. The wildly contradictory picture presented in Joshua is late fiction.
16. Details may be found in Cyrus Gordon, The Common Background of Greek and Hebrew Civilizations (New York: W.W. Norton and Co., 1965), or any other source dealing with the discoveries since 1929 at Ras Shamra (ancient Ugarit) in Syria.
17. B. Mazar, "The Philistines and the Rise of Israel and Tyre," Proceedings of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, Vol. I (1967), No. 7, p. 3.
18. Cf. Judges 5 (the "Song of Deborah"), 18:27-29, and the story of Simeon and Levi's raid on Shechem (Genesis 34:25ff.) which properly applies to the period of the Israelites' occupation of Palestine.
19. On Sea Peoples' sea piracy, see the Egyptian report known as "The Journey of Wen Amon," in James B. Pritchard, ed., Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament, Third Edition with Supplement (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1969), p. 26. Inland, the Philistines had hired groups of brigands to loot both farmers and merchants, as the report of David's association with them in II Samuel 27:8-12 indicates.
20. Judges 1.
21. The Song of Deborah states that the Danites shunned the battle with the kings of Canaan and instead stayed "with the ships," while "Asher sat still at the coast of the sea, settling down by his landings." (Judges 5:17.)
22. The son who succeeded Saul at the head of Saul's kingdom bore the Canaanite name of Eshbaal. The very existence of his kingdom has been virtually blacked out of the Old Testament, in the interests of the spurious claims to legitimate succession to Saul put forward on behalf of David.
23. Mazar, op. cit., p. 14: "Apparently the Philistines also employed the ancient device of divide et impera by supporting David as lord of Judah against the house of Saul in Israel."
24. So little were "religious issues" (in the modern sense of the term) at issue in the struggle, that in the final phases of the war, the "ark of Yahweh" ("Yahweh" is the personal name of the chief ancient Judean god, the so-called ineffable Tetragrammaton commonly rendered by the "LORD" in translations of the Old Testament), later introduced as the "holy of holies" at the central sanctuary in Jerusalem by David and Solomon, was actually banished to the Gibeonite (non-Israelite) town of Kiriath-jearim. The grounds for this were the ark's presence at a disastrous Israelite defeat at the hands of the Philistines and further bad omens received when the Philistines returned it to the Israelites (I Samuel 5-7:1). It languished at Kiriath-jearim until after David had gained control of Jerusalem (II Samuel 6). Whether exclusive worship of Yahweh was a factor in Saul's kingdom may be questioned from the fact that his son, Eshbaal, bore a name formed from the Canaanite divine appellation "Baal."
25. Menander of Ephesus (c. 200 BC), quoted by Josephus, Contra Apionem, I. 118-120.
26. I Kings 5ff.
27. I Kings 9:26. The location of "Ophir" is not known. Possible locations include the Sudan and Ethiopia, the Arabian peninsula, and Ceylon.
28. For dates, see Pierre Cintas, Manuel d' Arché ologie Punique, Vol. I (Paris: A. et J. Picard, 1970), p. 200, with discussion on preceding pages, and W.F. Albright, The Biblical Period from Abraham to Ezra (New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1963), p. 117. These dates are not necessarily exact.
29. Menander, in Josephus, Antiquitates Judaicae, VIII, 324.
30. I Kings 16:32-34; Yigael Yadin, Hazor: The Rediscovery of a Great Citadel of the Bible (New York: Random House, 1975), pp. 158-170, 214.
31. Isaac Mendelsohn, Slavery in the Ancient Near East (New York: Oxford University Press, 1949), pp. 23, 41, 110-114.
32. A.T. OImstead, History of Assyria (New York: Charles Scribner's and Sons, 1923), p. 81.
33. D.D. Luckenbill, Ancient Records of Assyria and Babylonia (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1926-27), Vol. I, pp. 166-7.
34. Ibid., p. 171.
35. Ibid., p. 182.
36. Olmstead, History of Assyria, p. 97.
37. The fact that Phoenician and Aramaean merchants achieved considerable success in this effort, without fundamentally altering the character of the Assyrian system, is often wrongly interpreted as evidence in support of the contention that Assyrian imperialism served to foster commerce.
38. Ancient Near Eastern Texts, p. 560.
39. I Kings 20.
40. Ancient Near Eastern Texts, p. 279.
41. II Kings 9; 11:1-3.
42. II Kings 10:15-16.
43. Jeremiah 35:8-10.
44. II Kings 13:7.
45. O. Eissfeldt, The Old Testament: An Introduction (New York: Harper and Row, 1965), p. 198.
46. Summaries of the modern view of the development of the Pentateuch, called the "Graf-Wellhausen hypothesis" after the nineteenth century scholars Karl Heinrich Graf and Julius Wellhausen who were its foremost exponents, are contained in Eissfeldt, The Old Testament... and R.H. Pfeiffer, Introduction to the Old Testament (New York: Harper and Row, 1948). Wellhausen's own, livelier exposition of his discoveries is contained in his Prolegomena to the History of Ancient Israel (Cleveland: Meridian Books, 1957).
47. Many scholars divide the originally identified J source into two further independent documents, but there is no general agreement as to what these two documents were. Eissfeldt assigns those elements of J which he associates with Jehu and the Rechabites to what he calls the "L" (Lay) source, distinct from the later basic J document. Eissfeldt makes the L document the earliest of the Pentateuchal sources.
48. Genesis 3:17-19.
49. Genesis 4:12.
50. Ancient Near Eastern Texts, p. 277.
51. Ibid., p. 42-44.
52. II Kings 10:32; 12:17-18.
53. Justin, Universal History, XVIII, 4ff.; in Cintas, Manuel..., pp. 17-19.
54. A list of the Greek colonies, together with approximate or proposed foundation dates, is contained in R.M. Cook, "Ionia and Greece in the Eighth and Seventh Centuries BC," Journal of Hellenic Studies, LXVI, pp. 67-98. Cook's analysis of the Ionian developments, however, is perverse.
55. This conclusion is drawn from the relative quantities of pottery from different periods recovered from the coast off Palestine. See D. Barag, "A Survey of Pottery Recovered From the Sea Off the Coast of Israel," Israel Exploration Journal, 13 (1963), pp. 13-19.
56. II Kings 14:22.
57. R.H. Pfeiffer, Introduction, p. 577.
58. Amos 5:11, 6: 4-5.
59. Amos 7:10-13.
60. Hosea 10:9.
61. Hosea 10:1-2.
62. Isaiah 7:17.
63. II Kings 16:7-9.
64. II Kings 16:10-18: Olmstead (History of Assyria) argued that the revised ritual included worship of a statue of King Tiglath-pileser in the Jerusalem temple. The Assyrian king's annals state specifically that he imposed such worship on the inhabitants of Gaza. Cf. Ancient Near Eastern Texts, p. 283. On Uriah's connection to Isaiah, see Isaiah 8:2.
65. II Kings 17:27-28.
66. II Kings 18:25
67. II Kings 21:5, 23:11-13. The anonymous references to the "kings" of Judah who built these altars in II Kings 23 probably means that Hezekiah, regarded later as exceedingly pious, had a hand in this activity.
68. II Kings 22:8ff.
69. Deuteronomy 12:1-4. The Deuteronomic author is careful not to mention Jerusalem by name, because the Israelites are supposedly being addressed by Moses east of the Jordan, before they entered Israel.
70. Deuteronomy 7:1-17, 20:10-18.
71. II Kings 23.
72. Deuteronomy 6:4. Judging from Ezekiel, this expulsion was short-lived.
73. II Kings 23:29; Herodotus II. 159.
74. Herodotus II. 159.
75. II Kings 23:24.
75. Jeremiah 11:21.
77. Jeremiah 26:6.
78. Jeremiah 36:50.
79. Jeremiah 22:13-23.
80. Jeremiah 36:29.
81. Jeremiah 35:1, 11.
82. The foreign trade implications of Solon's economic reforms have been reconstructed by J.G. Milne, The First Stages in the Development of Greek Coinage (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1934), 19 pp.
83. Ancient Near Eastern Texts, p. 308.
84. Jeremiah 27:3, 29:27.
85. Jeremiah 27:14, 17.
86. Jeremiah 29:21-22.
87. Jeremiah 32:3, 38:4. The treasonous role of the pro-Babylonian group during this siege indicated in the Old Testament account has been strikingly confirmed by the contents of a contemporary letter written on a potsherd which was recovered by archaeologists from the guard tower of the Judean fortress of Lachish, also besieged by Nebuchadnezzar (Ancient Near Eastern Texts, p. 322). The facts of Jeremiah's treason are notoriously well known but usually glossed over in modern Israel.
88. Jeremiah 37:17ff., 38:14ff.
89. Ezekiel 4:7.
90. Jeremiah 52:24-27, 39:6.
91. Jeremiah 39:11-14, 40:1-5.
92. See O. Eissfeldt, "El and Yahweh," Journal of Semitic Studies, Vol. I, No. 1 (Jan. 1956), pp. 25-37. Eissfeldt cites also Psalm 82.
93. J.B. Bury, A History o[ Greece to the Death of Alexander the Great, (New York: Modern Library, n.d.), p. 780. Interestingly, these had been priests of Apollo who sided with the Persians against the Milesians and were deported for their own safety by Xerxes. Xerxes's father Darius I was a strong supporter of the cult of Apollo in Ionia. On the general practice of deportees preserving "their own" customs in Babylonia, See Elias Bickerman, From Ezra to the Last of the Maccabees (New York: Shocken Books, 1962), pp. 5-6.
94. II Kings 25:27-30.
95. Ancient Near Eastern Texts, p. 308.
96. Julius Wellhausen, Israelitische und jü dische Geschichte, 6te Ausg. (Berlin: 1907), pp. 149-50.
97. Ancient Near Eastern Texts, pp. 70-71. The Enuma Elish was recited every year in Babylon at a great New Year's celebration.
98. J. Wellhausen, Prolegomena to the History of Ancient Israel
99. A.T. Olmstead, History of the Persian Empire (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1948), pp. 36-37.
100. Ancient Near Eastern Texts, pp. 315-6.
101. Isaiah 45:1-5.
102. Isaiah 45:12-13.
103. Isaiah 43:22-24.
104. Isaiah 52:1, 11.
105. Eduard Meyer, Die Entstehung des Judenthurns (Halle a.S.: Max Niemeyer, 1896), pp. 19-21.
106. The circumstances of this revolt reflect favorably on neither the Babylonians nor the Judeans. When Darius attempted to usurp the throne following the overthrow of Cambyses (which was apparently sponsored by Babylon), the Babylonians sponsored an alternate candidate. In the course of the fight against Darius, the Babylonians ordered their Judean stooges to revolt, as Zechariah 6:10-14 explicitly states. Later, when the Babylonians struck a deal with Darius on favorable terms (as indicated by the fact that Darius later claimed Babylon had remained loyal all along in his notoriously lying Behistun inscription, copies of which were circulated throughout his empire for propaganda purposes), Zerubbabel was apparently left holding the bag, and disappeared from further Judean history.
107. Wellhausen, Prolegomena, p.404-5.
108. Malachi 2:11.
109. Olmstead, History of the Persian Empire, p. 194.
110. M.H. Tod, A Selection of Greek Historical Inscriptions to the End of the Fifth Century BC (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1933), pp. 40-43.
111. Ezra 7:12ff.
112. Wellhausen, Prolegomena, p. 419.
113. Ibid., pp. 158-9.
114. Ibid., pp. 36-7.
115. Genesis 1:26, 6:2.
116. Ezra 9-10.
117. Nehemiah 1:1-3.
118. Nehemiah 2:1ff.
119. Nehemiah 2:17-6:18.
120. Nehemiah 8:1-3, 7.
121. Nehemiah 8:9-12.
122. Nehemiah 10.
123. Nehemiah 13:23-25.
124. Ancient Near Eastern Texts, p. 491.
125. Eissfeldt, The Old Testament..., p. 517.
126. Bickerman, From Ezra..., pp. 48-49.
127. Ibid., p. 57.
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