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Thread: Historical Israel & Judah

  1. #1

    Default Historical Israel & Judah

    I broke this off from a discussion in the Ancient vendettas thread, the relevant parts of which I’ve quoted here for context. I’ve also added bold headings for the topics I’ve addressed, assuming that not every reader will be interested in every topic.

    Biblical Claims of Authorship from a Linguistic Perspective:

    Quote Originally Posted by sumskilz View Post
    Ecclesiastes doesn’t claim to be written by Solomon. It claims to be written by Qōheleṯ, which Ecclesiastes is a translation of. As far as I know, the idea that it was written by Solomon is simply a tradition.
    Quote Originally Posted by Lord Thesaurian View Post
    It could be the reason Solomon is regarded as the author, at least in the Christian tradition I know (along with Proverbs and Song of Songs) is because Ecclesiastes identifies the קֹהֶלֶת who collected these sayings as “the Son of David, king in Jerusalem” in the KJV.
    Quote Originally Posted by sumskilz View Post
    Oh... this didn't occur to me, because the expression “son of David” can mean “patrilineal descendent of David” which seems to be the obvious meaning in context. It’s the same with the expression typically translated as “children of Israel”. It could be “sons of Israel”, but in context, it means “descendants of Israel” with Israel being Jacob.

    I’ve seen some debate about whether Athaliah was the daughter or sister of Ahab, because she’s referred to as the “daughter of Omri”, but it’s the same issue. She was called a “daughter of Omri” because she was Omri’s granddaughter and a princess of his line. Incidentally, she was also the granddaughter of Ithobaal I of Tyre, and almost certainly a historical person. Although the allegation that she had her own family killed off is almost certainly false. It makes no sense, and it was Jehu who had every reason to have them killed.
    Quote Originally Posted by Lord Thesaurian View Post
    I suppose alot can go wrong when using בֵּן in so many different contexts, but it would seem to always refer to offspring.
    Offspring in its broadest sense is not a bad translation. In Hebrew, there are a lot of prefixes and suffixes involved in indicating relationships, so to see the full usage of the word you’ve got to look beyond the singular in isolation.

    Some examples of the broader usage:

    In 2 Chronicles 22:9, Ahaziah is referred to as ben-yəhōwōšāp̄āṭ (בן-יהושפט), but Jehoshaphat was his grandfather. In Genesis 31:55, Laban’s grandchildren are referred to as bānāw (בניו). The term ben-ᵓāḏām (בן-אדם), which appears in Ezekiel 2:1, is quite common. Sometimes it’s translated as “son of man”, but it literally means “descendent of Adam”. It’s just a flowery way to say “man”. The term bənę lęwî (בני לוי) in Nehemiah 12:23 means “descendants of Levi”. In Joel 4:6, bənę yəhūḏāh (בני יהודה) refers to the “descendants of Judah. These previous two examples can be repeated for all the twelve tribes, because they were patrilineages. All of which are collectively referred to as the bənę yiśrāᵓęl (בני ישראל) because they were conceived of as the patrilineal descendants of Jacob (see Exodus 1).

    The cognate of the word is used the same in other Semitic languages. For example, Muhammed was of the Banū Hāshim (descendants of Hashim). The main reason why using bęn (בן) so broadly in ancient Israel/Judah didn’t matter is because the nuclear family didn’t matter. They didn’t even have a word for it. The smallest family unit was the bęṯ-ᵓaḇ, which can be imperfectly translated as “house of the father”. The problem with this is that it doesn’t necessarily mean house literally, and ᵓaḇ is just as broad (and in the same way) as bęn. In the context of the bęṯ-ᵓaḇ, ᵓaḇ means the oldest living male of the patrilineage. So ᵓaḇ can refer to any male progenitor, the founder of a lineage, a father, a grandfather, etc. Abraham (אברהם) was considered to be the father of “the children of Israel” though Isaac, and the Arabs through Ishmael (although Arab used to have a somewhat different meaning than today). Like so many of the legendary figures, his name ᵓaḇrāhām, meaning exalted ᵓaḇ, reflects his role in the story.

    Returning to Ecclesiastes/Qōheleṯ… If the first line was in the original text, then I believe it was as I originally assumed, that the author was claiming (and may have actually believed) that Qōheleṯ (whether or not he was himself the author or the source) was a patrilineal descendent of David. This was a common claim for Jews to make in the Hellenistic period, which is ultimately unverifiable either way. It is also possible, that this line was added after the fact, in which case it may indeed have been someone attributing the text to Solomon. If so, the person who added the line may have himself believed it, though it is not possible that it is historically accurate.

    Song of Songs, which some call Song of Solomon, may begin with a similar attribution added after the fact. In Hebrew: šîr ha-šîrîm ᵓăšer li-šlōmōh. The trouble is that this is a title that can be translated any of three ways:

    • Song of Songs by Solomon
    • Song of Songs for Solomon
    • Song of Songs about Solomon

    Only the first of the three, if it was the intended meaning, is an attribution to Solomon, but this interpretation is the source of the tradition that it was written by Solomon. However, I have gone over the text carefully and I am certain that it is from the Achaemenid period. I’m also certain that those who suggest that it dates to the Hellenistic period are wrong, but in any case, there is no plausible historical argument for it having been written by Solomon. Also, while it references Solomon, I don’t think it is about Solomon. The references seem to be similes, so I think the title was added later in the text’s development regardless of the intended meaning.

    As an aside, there are some abstract usages of bęn (בן). For example, bin ha-kōwṯ (בן הכות) in Deuteronomy 25:2, that is literally “son of the beating” which means someone who deserves to be beaten. These types of usages come from the fact that the word is derived from the verb stem b-n-h which means “to create”. In other words, he brought that beating on himself.

    Allegations against the Omride Dynasty:

    A relevant point about Athaliah repeated from the previous section:

    Quote Originally Posted by sumskilz View Post
    Incidentally, she was also the granddaughter of Ithobaal I of Tyre, and almost certainly a historical person. Although the allegation that she had her own family killed off is almost certainly false. It makes no sense, and it was Jehu who had every reason to have them killed.
    Quote Originally Posted by Lord Thesaurian View Post
    I do find it odd that Omri and his immediate descendants are regarded as idolaters given Judaism as it would come to be understood doesn’t appear to have been entirely monotheistic at the time, but perhaps it’s because the priests who would later write all this down certainly were. I tend to find the timeline of all that confusing though.
    The Book of Kings is the most useful biblical text for historians of pre-exilic Israel and Judah, because its basic outline consistently matches extrabiblical sources and archaeology. The texts itself mentions its sources, which include the Book of the Annals of the Kings of Israel and the Book of the Annals of the Kings of Judah. These two sources were apparently chronicles of the reigns of the kings of the two dynasties. There is not really any doubt that they are the reason that the basic outline is historical. This outline was embellished and expanded using other sources with the details of the stories being modified and/or filtered to fit the ideology of its late redactor(s). The perspective of the late redactors was monolatrous and/or monotheistic and Judahite. Its main concern was in explaining the theological reasons for why this history unfolded the way it did.

    Its unlikely that religion in Israel was any more idolatrous than what was common in contemporary Judah. The Kingdom of Israel was destroyed by the Assyrians 721 BCE, whereas the Kingdom of Judah survived a massive Assyrian onslaught under Sennacherib in 701 BCE during the reign of Hezekiah. Because Hezekiah was seen as a religious reformer, idolatry was retrospectively interpreted as the reason Israel was destroyed whereas Judah was spared, and anything that fit this narrative was emphasized. For example, Hezekiah seems to have centralized worship of Yahweh in Jerusalem, but his reputation as a reformer was somewhat exaggerated. Some reforms that probably first took place during the reign of Josiah were likewise attributed to Hezekiah. These weren’t necessarily fabrications, but rather may have been interpolations based on the notion that Josiah was following in the footsteps of Hezekiah. In other words, I think the narrative may have largely expanded via suggestion bias. I say this because sometimes this happens even with narratives devised by modern secular historians (see for example, the Sea Peoples)

    In contrast to the Book of Kings, anything in the Book of Chronicles can pretty much be disregarded as a historical source regarding the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah, because it was written in the late Persian or early Hellenistic period, and appears to completely rely on earlier biblical books as its sources, which it embellishes and reinterprets.

    Pre-Monarchic Israel & the Reigns of Saul, David, and Solomon:

    In the broader sense regarding the thread title, there is now general agreement that the biblical texts contain authentic historical memories dating back to the Iron I (c. 1225–1000 BCE) and one from the Late Bronze Age (the fact that Hazor was the leading city of a powerful local coalition), but anything earlier than that is a matter of dispute. In any case, earlier memories if authentic only very vaguely reflect the historical realities known to us from extra-biblical sources. Those historical memories of the Iron I are primarily contained within the Book of Judges, which is a collection of folk stories interpreted through a later theological lens.

    The reigns of David and Solomon were probably limited to the Judean Highlands. If something like the United Monarchy existed, it was probably more of a patronage network than a kingdom. David was known as a conqueror and Solomon as a great building. On a very local scale, there is archaeological evidence in support of these notions. I've discussed this in depth here, but for an updated summary, the following recycled from a relatively recent post in Ethos, Mores et Monastica should suffice:

    Historians, and biblical scholars generally doubt that David and Solomon ruled over a great monotheistic “United Monarchy” that included the territories of both Israel and Judah. The main reasons for this is that most of the monumental architecture traditionally believed to have been built under the reign of Solomon dates to the reigns of Omri and Ahab, archaeological estimates of the population of the Judean and Samarian Highlands during the period David and Solomon would have reigned are quite low, extra-biblical primary sources refer to Judah as the “House of David” whereas Israel is referred to as the “House of Omri”, while the Bible itself retains ample evidence that early Judah was polytheistic.

    Determining exactly what portion of, and what details from, the early monarchic stories constitute historical memory isn’t an easy task. Obviously, a lot of anachronistic embellishments went into them when they were written down centuries later, but a couple points to consider:

    • Israel as a tribal affiliation predated the Kingdom of Israel, the earliest extrabiblical corroboration of this being the Merneptah Stele c. 1208 BCE.
    • Based on the fact that the Kingdom of Edom is essentially invisible to archaeology outside of their industrial scale copper mining, Erez Ben-Yosef makes the reasonable point that if a united monarchy based largely on patronage networks existed for a couple generations, it might likewise be invisible to archaeology.
    • Ben-Yosef also notes that the survey methodology used to estimate the population can’t really account for tent-dwelling pastoral semi-nomads.
    • The biblical text relevant to this period certainly contains authentic historical memories. For example, Shoshenq I’s campaign in the Levant c. 925 BCE.
    • During the Eleventh Century, a cluster of settlements developed on the Benjamin Plateau. These include Mizpah, which was Saul’s capital according to the biblical text.
    • Based on archaeological evidence, by the late-Eleventh/early-Tenth Century BCE, Jerusalem appears to have become the capital of a small kingdom, which included the Benjamin Plateau to the north. This is contemporaneous to David's reign according to the biblical text.
    • Subsequently, a series of building projects were carried out in the settlements on the Benjamin Plateau, which appear to represent Jerusalem’s efforts to solidify their hegemony there. This is roughly contemporaneous with Solomon’s reign according to the biblical text.

    The last three points match the rough outline of the biblical text, only on a smaller scale. For these reasons, archaeologists working on this period in Israel find it completely reasonable to accept that Solomon built a temple of Yahweh in Jerusalem, regardless of whether or not the northern Israelite kingdom had ever been ruled from there.

    Judahite Monolatry or Monotheism:

    Quote Originally Posted by Lord Thesaurian View Post
    Ah ok. I was under the impression that the true identity of El as Yahweh or vice versa was initially a theological source of conflict between Judah and the other tribes. If memory serves, the earthquake in 760 BCE precipitated a clash between the cults of Baal and El precisely because El was considered impersonal and therefore inferior to Baal as a source of divine aid. I had thought the origin myth of a single nation of Israel under a single God El/Yahweh must’ve therefore come after that period, possibly as a result of the Assyrian conquest and the religious conflict with Baal.
    Exclusive veneration of Yahweh developed in Judah. Yahweh was the national god of Israel according to extra-biblical sources. Yəhōšafat (Jehoshapat in English) the king of Judah c. 870–848 BCE had a Yahwistic name. ᵓĂḥazyāh (Ahaziah in English) the king of Israel c. 853–852 BCE likewise had a Yahwistic name. Therefore, I don’t see any reason to accept any hypothesis which proposes that the two kingdoms initially had different national gods.

    Quote Originally Posted by Lord Thesaurian View Post
    If I recall correctly, Josiah was installed by the priesthood to reverse the polytheistic practices of his father and grandfather and codify certain oral traditions from the Torah into law. But I don’t think that yet meant other gods didn’t exist, only that they shouldn’t be worshipped. Perhaps I misunderstand that point though. My understanding of Ezekiel is to reassure a nervous Jewish diaspora that assimilation by Babylonian gods couldn’t succeed because those gods didn’t exist and the real God had a special covenant with the tribes of Israel, signaling the arrival of monotheism as Abrahamic religions know it today.
    This may be true, and it’s widely accepted, but these types of hypotheses that biblical scholars come up with are tenuous.

    The view that true monotheism developed during the Exilic period is based on the fact that most of the explicitly monotheistic statements can be found in the writings of the hypothesized Deutero-Isaiah, that is Isaiah 40–55 written from the perspective of a Judahite in exile in Babylon after Jerusalem had been destroyed.

    The argument that Josiah’s reforms represented monolatry rather than monotheism is based on the assumption that “the Book of the Law” found in the temple (2 Kings 22:8) was Deuteronomy, which includes “You shall have no other gods before me” (Deuteronomy 5:7). But what 2 Kings 22:8 actually says was found was “the Torah scroll”. Incidentally, what Deuteronomy 5:7 literally says is “You will have no other gods on (or over) my face”. What it actually means though, is “over me”. That is no god is greater than Yahweh. If this line really reflects Josiah’s reform, then what was the problem with Asherah? Something isn’t consistent in the hypothesis.

    Then there is 2 Kings 19:19: “Now, Yahweh our God, deliver us from his hand, so that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone, Yahweh, are God.” This is attributed to Hezekiah, Josiah’s great grandfather, but sits in a passage that most biblical scholars seem to argue was written during the reign of Manasseh, Josiah’s grandfather, or is at least pre-Exilic. Oh, except for this line, which they argue was added during the Exilic period, based on the fact that it’s clearly monotheistic. Okay, maybe, but you can see how that’s circular reasoning.
    Last edited by sumskilz; December 02, 2022 at 07:16 AM. Reason: fixed typos
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    You don't seem to be familiar with how the burden of proof works in when discussing social justice. It's not like science where it lies on the one making the claim. If someone claims to be oppressed, they don't have to prove it.


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    Default Re: Historical Israel & Judah

    Enjoyable read thanks
    IN PATROCINIVM SVB Dromikaites

    'One day when I fly with my hands - up down the sky, like a bird'

    But if the cause be not good, the king himself hath a heavy reckoning to make, when all those legs and arms and heads, chopped off in battle, shall join together at the latter day and cry all 'We died at such a place; some swearing, some crying for surgeon, some upon their wives left poor behind them, some upon the debts they owe, some upon their children rawly left.

    Hyperides of Athens: We know, replied he, that Antipater is good, but we (the Demos of Athens) have no need of a master at present, even a good one.

  3. #3

    Default Re: Historical Israel & Judah

    Quote Originally Posted by sumskilz
    I broke this off from a discussion in the Ancient vendettas thread, the relevant parts of which I’ve quoted here for context. I’ve also added bold headings for the topics I’ve addressed, assuming that not every reader will be interested in every topic.
    Much appreciated
    Returning to Ecclesiastes/Qōheleṯ… If the first line was in the original text, then I believe it was as I originally assumed, that the author was claiming (and may have actually believed) that Qōheleṯ (whether or not he was himself the author or the source) was a patrilineal descendent of David. This was a common claim for Jews to make in the Hellenistic period, which is ultimately unverifiable either way. It is also possible, that this line was added after the fact, in which case it may indeed have been someone attributing the text to Solomon. If so, the person who added the line may have himself believed it, though it is not possible that it is historically accurate.

    Song of Songs, which some call Song of Solomon, may begin with a similar attribution added after the fact.
    I’d imagine literacy at the time David and his son are supposed to have existed would also preclude such a prolific career. It does make me wonder what sort of reputation the two must’ve had to be aggrandized in such a way for thousands of years afterward. Was this also part of the expanded narrative you mention, perhaps to create legitimacy for Judah’s later dominance after the fact?
    Its unlikely that religion in Israel was any more idolatrous than what was common in contemporary Judah. The Kingdom of Israel was destroyed by the Assyrians 721 BCE, whereas the Kingdom of Judah survived a massive Assyrian onslaught under Sennacherib in 701 BCE during the reign of Hezekiah. Because Hezekiah was seen as a religious reformer, idolatry was retrospectively interpreted as the reason Israel was destroyed whereas Judah was spared, and anything that fit this narrative was emphasized. For example, Hezekiah seems to have centralized worship of Yahweh in Jerusalem, but his reputation as a reformer was somewhat exaggerated. Some reforms that probably first took place during the reign of Josiah were likewise attributed to Hezekiah. These weren’t necessarily fabrications, but rather may have been interpolations based on the notion that Josiah was following in the footsteps of Hezekiah. In other words, I think the narrative may have largely expanded via suggestion bias. I say this because sometimes this happens even with narratives devised by modern secular historians (see for example, the Sea Peoples)
    In that case, would the mythology surrounding Elijah have also been part of that expansion, or was it a reflection of historical religious conflict?
    The Book of Kings is the most useful biblical text for historians of pre-exilic Israel and Judah, because its basic outline consistently matches extrabiblical sources and archaeology. The texts itself mentions its sources, which include the Book of the Annals of the Kings of Israel and the Book of the Annals of the Kings of Judah. These two sources were apparently chronicles of the reigns of the kings of the two dynasties. There is not really any doubt that they are the reason that the basic outline is historical. This outline was embellished and expanded using other sources with the details of the stories being modified and/or filtered to fit the ideology of its late redactor(s). The perspective of the late redactors was monolatrous and/or monotheistic and Judahite. Its main concern was in explaining the theological reasons for why this history unfolded the way it did.
    This is fascinating to me because I was under the impression the entirety of David/Solomon’s story and the characters therein were part of the Israelite founding mythology developed during the Assyrian exile.
    Historians, and biblical scholars generally doubt that David and Solomon ruled over a great monotheistic “United Monarchy” that included the territories of both Israel and Judah. The main reasons for this is that most of the monumental architecture traditionally believed to have been built under the reign of Solomon dates to the reigns of Omri and Ahab, archaeological estimates of the population of the Judean and Samarian Highlands during the period David and Solomon would have reigned are quite low, extra-biblical primary sources refer to Judah as the “House of David” whereas Israel is referred to as the “House of Omri”, while the Bible itself retains ample evidence that early Judah was polytheistic.
    This makes sense. I think even in Kings, occasional warring between Israel and Judah is described, not to mention God raising various “adversaries” and alternative houses to rule over David’s former domain.

    Given the social importance of the priesthood in Judah, would you necessarily contrast this with a lack of cohesion among the northern tribes?

    Might Jerusalem have been more of a city state that had a loosely defined hegemony, not unlike the ancient kingdoms of Mesopotamia? Tizrah was some kind of alternate, northern capital?

    Is this sort of divide the reason the Samaritans developed their own brand of Judaism and were outcasts/heretics by the time Jesus came around?
    The last three points match the rough outline of the biblical text, only on a smaller scale. For these reasons, archaeologists working on this period in Israel find it completely reasonable to accept that Solomon built a temple of Yahweh in Jerusalem, regardless of whether or not the northern Israelite kingdom had ever been ruled from there.
    Is there a consensus on whether the Ark of the Covenant was ever real as described?

    Did Solomon actually abandon worship of Yahweh for the other Canaanite gods?

    Was his son really a tool that caused the downfall of his dynasty?
    Exclusive veneration of Yahweh developed in Judah. Yahweh was the national god of Israel according to extra-biblical sources. Yəhōšafat (Jehoshapat in English) the king of Judah c. 870–848 BCE had a Yahwistic name. ᵓĂḥazyāh (Ahaziah in English) the king of Israel c. 853–852 BCE likewise had a Yahwistic name. Therefore, I don’t see any reason to accept any hypothesis which proposes that the two kingdoms initially had different national gods.
    I suppose what I meant was the exclusivity you mention, and whether that was a source of tension with the other tribes. Would what you describe also preclude the historicity of actual clashes between supporters of Baal vs El/Yahweh? So much of Kings is dedicated to the topic. In that same vein, would monolatry in Judah fully explain the conflict, or was it really a matter of “turning away” from monolatry as described in Kings?
    Then there is 2 Kings 19:19: “Now, Yahweh our God, deliver us from his hand, so that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone, Yahweh, are God.” This is attributed to Hezekiah, Josiah’s great grandfather, but sits in a passage that most biblical scholars seem to argue was written during the reign of Manasseh, Josiah’s grandfather, or is at least pre-Exilic. Oh, except for this line, which they argue was added during the Exilic period, based on the fact that it’s clearly monotheistic. Okay, maybe, but you can see how that’s circular reasoning.
    Would monotheistic interpretation then be part of a later narrative, or merely how people can interpret it based on thousands of years of theological hindsight? After all, Mannasseh is supposed to have caused controversy by rebuilding shrines to other gods, but that’s because those gods were not to be worshipped as you note from The Law, not necessarily because they also didn’t exist. To me it’s confusing to disentangle the historicity of the religious conflict from Kings’ detailed recounting of various client states rebelling against the Israelite monarchy. Similarly, could it be that a real religious conflict made the monarchy as unstable as it reads in the text, and this created opportunities, or was Israel/Judah’s dominance in the first place exaggerated after the fact?

    The major wrinkle I see is that the exile was facilitated by Judah teaming up with Assyria against the other tribes, which would complicate the idea of an Israelite monarchy dominating the region in the first place, let alone falling to ruin because of either religious conflict and/or rebellious clients. If I’m not mistaken, it makes more sense that these were part of a later sort of pro-Judah narrative to legitimize its subsequent dominance over the other tribes, the expansion of Jerusalem and the decline of the cult of Baal. It’s also a bit ironic the latter would have occurred because of the Assyrian conquest when the latter is supposed to be a punishment for idolatry, to say nothing of Egypt’s later subjugation of Judah while Babylon conquered Assyria and the “lost” northern tribes.
    Last edited by Lord Thesaurian; December 03, 2022 at 10:17 PM.
    Of these facts there cannot be any shadow of doubt: for instance, that civil society was renovated in every part by Christian institutions; that in the strength of that renewal the human race was lifted up to better things-nay, that it was brought back from death to life, and to so excellent a life that nothing more perfect had been known before, or will come to be known in the ages that have yet to be. - Pope Leo XIII

  4. #4

    Default Re: Historical Israel & Judah

    Quote Originally Posted by Lord Thesaurian View Post
    Might Jerusalem have been more of a city state that had a loosely defined hegemony, not unlike the ancient kingdoms of Mesopotamia? Tizrah was some kind of alternate, northern capital?
    I started to answer this question, because it’s one of the easier ones, but then realized I was basically writing a narrative history. So I’ve just organized it with headings like in my last post, this time addressing the emergence of the Kingdom of Israel, and then elaborating on the issue you brought up about literacy in Judah, before addressing the question of how the grandiose stories about David and Solomon came about. Some of the other stuff you brought up is more difficult to answer, in any definitive manner at least, but I’ll try to in a future post.

    The Late Bronze Age to Iron I Transition & The Origin of the Kingdom of Israel

    I’m assuming that everyone reading this will probably know about the Late Bronze Age collapse which marked the transition from the Late Bronze Age to the Iron Age I, but if not, the Wikipedia article is probably good enough. In any case, it led to a bit of a dark age, so any historical reconstruction of the Iron I has to rely heavily on archaeology, and it was during this period that the tribal affiliation known as Israel rose to local prominence.

    The central highlands of the southern Levant were the heartland of Israel and Judah, and as far as can be surmised, they were the original territory associated with the Israelite tribal identity. These highlands consist of the Samarian Hills in north and the Judean Hills in the south. During the Late Bronze Age, two populated areas existed in the highlands around Shechem in north and Jerusalem in the south. We know from the Amarna letters that the kings of Shechem and Jerusalem were Egyptian clients. In between was only sparsely populated, but then during the Iron I, hundreds of small rural settlements sprung up, with a ceramic assemblage suggesting an agro-pastoral life style. These settlements had an architectural layout reminiscent of the way Bedouins arrange their tent camps. There is almost no doubt that the people who lived in them were the Israelites.

    In northern Samaria and the adjacent Jezreel and Beth-Shean Valleys, the Canaanite urban system survived the Late Bronze Age collapse and exhibited strong cultural continuity into the Iron I. This is sometimes referred to as “New Canaan”. Then in the late Iron I (early to mid-10th century BCE), almost all the urban centers in this region were destroyed. After which, it was almost a century before any of them were revived, indicating a relatively complete break in cultural and political continuity. Presumably, this was the historical event that inspired the conquest of Canaan narrative. The rural agro-pastoralist people of the highlands had apparently conquered and/or destroyed the last local remnants of Late Bronze Age Canaan (with one exception). Again, we’re looking at something that was on a much smaller geographic scale than what’s depicted in the biblical narrative. The one major exception was Tel Reḥov, which survived intact from the Iron I into the Iron IIA. Otherwise, there were no other urban centers left in Samarian Hills or Jezreel and Beth-Shean Valleys throughout the Early Iron IIA.

    When a new urban center final did arise in the late 10th to 9th century BCE, it was at Tell el-Farʿah (N), which is biblical Tirzah. According to the Book of Kings, Tirzah was Baasha’s capital, the king who ruled Israel before the Omrides. Then the sites in northern valleys start to revive. Monumental architecture appears at Tel Megiddo in the Jezreel Valley, and a fortified town was built on the upper mound of Tel Hazor in the Huleh Valley. The most obvious conclusion is that this represents the beginnings of the Kingdom of Israel.

    It should be noted that Tirzah is less than a day’s walk from Tel Reḥov, the one remaining Canaanite urban center in the region. Tirzah may have in fact have been an expansion, or an offshoot, from Tel Reḥov. In any case, Tirzah didn’t last long. It was destroyed, and then a new palace compound was built at Samaria, which was Omri’s capital according to the biblical text. Samaria should not be confused with the region of the same name, which surrounds it and is basically synonymous with the Samarian Hills. Prior to the construction of the palace, there had been no urban settlement there, which is in line with the biblical account of its foundation.

    Subsequently, two more palace compounds were built, one at Tel Megiddo and another at Tel Jezreel, both in the same architectural style as the one in Samaria. At all these sites, including Tel Reḥov, a large number of hippo jars and cylindrical holemouth jars have been found. These are two ceramic types that are exclusively associated with the Kingdom of Israel. They appear to have been used in some sort of centralized administrative system. Epigraphic finds from this period also connect the descendants of Nimshi with Tel Reḥov, which is the patrilineage of Jehu, the general in Omride service who ultimately usurped the throne and had all the potential Omride heirs killed. He’s pictured on the Black Obelisk from Nimrud prostrating himself before Shalmaneser III, on which he is described as “Jehu of the people of the land of Omri”.

    The Omrides were a major component of the anti-Assyrian coalition who resisted Assyrian expansion. After the death of the last Omride king, Israel became an Assyrian client.

    The Reigns of David & Solomon

    David and Solomon are said to have each reigned for 40 years. This is a symbolic number, which generally just means a long time, and indicates that the author(s) probably didn’t know the actual numbers. Presumably, the recorded events in aforementioned Book of the Annals of the Kings of Judah began with the reign of Rehoboam in the late 10th century BCE. Interestingly, the oldest Hebrew inscription ever found in Jerusalem, the Ophel pithos sherd, dates to the Early Iron IIA (mid-10th to early 9th century BCE). It’s a fragment with only seven letters on it that seems to refer to the wine that would have been contained in the pithos. So writing was perhaps known in Jerusalem during the reign of Solomon or shortly thereafter, but to quote Nadav Naᵓaman:

    “No basis exists for the assumption that the small and sparsely-inhabited stronghold of 10th century BCE Jerusalem suddenly ab nihilo sprouted a circle of writers who, immediately after adopting alphabetical script, began to compose historiographical works of high quality that served no useful purpose in the everyday life of the young kingdom.”

    Not to mention, that portions of the texts can be roughly dated based on the characteristics of the language since it changes over time. The Song of Deborah, for example, is likely the oldest biblical text, based on linguistic analysis anyway. The reason for this is in the name, it’s a song, and so it probably remained fairly stable in its oral form, meaning it wasn’t initially preserved as a text.

    Previously, I mentioned the building projects in Jerusalem and on the Benjamin plateau that date to roughly when Solomon probably reigned, but these are more rudimentary than you might imagine. It wasn’t until the 8th century that large fortifications, major public complexes, luxury items, and mass production of pottery first appeared in Judah. This is the most plausible period for the production of the earlier literary layers of the biblical historiography. Prior to that, it would probably have been limited to the aforementioned chronicles.

    So the stories about David and Solomon were probably oral traditions that were naturally embellished over time, then like the folk stories that made up the Book of Kings, they were curated and arranged based on literary, ideological, and/or theological concerns of the later authors. Biblical scholars have noticed a lot of parallels between various parts of their stories and other Near Eastern literature, as well as similarities with the historical realities of later kings, either Israelite or Judahite. Although it’s difficult to prove any of these had actually inspired the stories about David and Solomon, some seem quite plausible, such as several of Solomon’s alleged accomplishments mapping quite closely to those of the Omrides. Also, according to 2 Samuel 21:19, some guy named Elhanan killed Goliath, which suggests that David was inserted into a story about another folk hero. In the Hebrew original, it doesn’t actually say “the brother of Goliath” as you’ve probably seen in English translations.

    Synthesis

    So if you compare the Israelite and Judahite timelines according to the archaeology of the dark age that I’ve laid out, you’ll notice that it matches quite well with the chronology of the biblical narrative from Samuel to Kings, with the folk stories in Judges taking place during the Iron I. You'll also notice that during the reigns of David and Solomon, there was nothing in Israel for them to have ruled over, except an agro-pastoralist tribal confederation who were completing their destruction of the Canaanite cities in the northern valleys. Israel’s ascendance as a significant local power happened after Solomon’s reign.

    So Rehoboam probably didn’t cause the downfall of the dynasty. He seems to have been used as a narrative element to explain why Judah had nothing left to show for all that David and Solomon had supposedly achieved. Although, this is likely factual:

    “In the fifth year of King Rehoboam, Shishak king of Egypt attacked Jerusalem. He carried off the treasures of the temple of Yahweh and the treasures of the royal palace.” (1 Kings 14:25–26)

    Shishak is Shoshenq I of Egypt’s 22nd dynasty who invaded the southern Levant at this time, according to the Bubastite Portal. In the original texts, it’s clear that these are the same name. It is reasonable to assume that this was something that was recorded in the Book of the Annals of the Kings of Judah.
    Last edited by sumskilz; December 07, 2022 at 12:37 AM. Reason: formatting nonsense
    Quote Originally Posted by Enros View Post
    You don't seem to be familiar with how the burden of proof works in when discussing social justice. It's not like science where it lies on the one making the claim. If someone claims to be oppressed, they don't have to prove it.


  5. #5

    Default Re: Historical Israel & Judah

    Quote Originally Posted by sumskilz View Post
    I started to answer this question, because it’s one of the easier ones, but then realized I was basically writing a narrative history. So I’ve just organized it with headings like in my last post, this time addressing the emergence of the Kingdom of Israel, and then elaborating on the issue you brought up about literacy in Judah, before addressing the question of how the grandiose stories about David and Solomon came about. Some of the other stuff you brought up is more difficult to answer, in any definitive manner at least, but I’ll try to in a future post.

    The Late Bronze Age to Iron I Transition & The Origin of the Kingdom of Israel

    I’m assuming that everyone reading this will probably know about the Late Bronze Age collapse which marked the transition from the Late Bronze Age to the Iron Age I, but if not, the Wikipedia article is probably good enough. In any case, it led to a bit of a dark age, so any historical reconstruction of the Iron I has to rely heavily on archaeology, and it was during this period that the tribal affiliation known as Israel rose to local prominence.

    The central highlands of the southern Levant were the heartland of Israel and Judah, and as far as can be surmised, they were the original territory associated with the Israelite tribal identity. These highlands consist of the Samarian Hills in north and the Judean Hills in the south. During the Late Bronze Age, two populated areas existed in the highlands around Shechem in north and Jerusalem in the south. We know from the Amarna letters that the kings of Shechem and Jerusalem were Egyptian clients. In between was only sparsely populated, but then during the Iron I, hundreds of small rural settlements sprung up, with a ceramic assemblage suggesting an agro-pastoral life style. These settlements had an architectural layout reminiscent of the way Bedouins arrange their tent camps. There is almost no doubt that the people who lived in them were the Israelites.

    In northern Samaria and the adjacent Jezreel and Beth-Shean Valleys, the Canaanite urban system survived the Late Bronze Age collapse and exhibited strong cultural continuity into the Iron I. This is sometimes referred to as “New Canaan”. Then in the late Iron I (early to mid-10th century BCE), almost all the urban centers in this region were destroyed. After which, it was almost a century before any of them were revived, indicating a relatively complete break in cultural and political continuity. Presumably, this was the historical event that inspired the conquest of Canaan narrative. The rural agro-pastoralist people of the highlands had apparently conquered and/or destroyed the last local remnants of Late Bronze Age Canaan (with one exception). Again, we’re looking at something that was on a much smaller geographic scale than what’s depicted in the biblical narrative. The one major exception was Tel Reḥov, which survived intact from the Iron I into the Iron IIA. Otherwise, there were no other urban centers left in Samarian Hills or Jezreel and Beth-Shean Valleys throughout the Early Iron IIA.

    When a new urban center final did arise in the late 10th to 9th century BCE, it was at Tell el-Farʿah (N), which is biblical Tirzah. According to the Book of Kings, Tirzah was Baasha’s capital, the king who ruled Israel before the Omrides. Then the sites in northern alleys start to revive. Monumental architecture appears at Tel Megiddo in the Jezreel Valley, and a fortified town was built on the upper mound of Tel Hazor in the Huleh Valley. The most obvious conclusion is that this represents the beginnings of the Kingdom of Israel.

    It should be noted that Tirzah is less than a day’s walk from Tel Reḥov, the one remaining Canaanite urban center in the region. Tirzah may have in fact have been an expansion, or an offshoot, from Tel Reḥov. In any case, Tirzah didn’t last long. It was destroyed, and then a new palace compound was built at Samaria, which was Omri’s capital according to the biblical text. Samaria should not to be confused with the region of the same name, which surrounds it and is basically synonymous with the Samarian Hills. Prior to the construction of the palace, there had been no urban settlement there, which is in line with the biblical account of its foundation.

    Subsequently, two more palace compounds were built, one at Tel Megiddo and another at Tel Jezreel, both in the same architectural style as the one in Samaria. At all these sites, including Tel Reḥov, a large number of hippo jars and cylindrical holemouth jars have been found. These are two ceramic types that are exclusively associated with the Kingdom of Israel. They appear to have been used in some sort of centralized administrative system. Epigraphic finds from this period also connect the descendants of Nimshi with Tel Reḥov, which is the patrilineage of Jehu, the general in Omride service who ultimately usurped the throne and had all the potential Omride heirs killed. He’s pictured on the Black Obelisk from Nimrud prostrating himself before Shalmaneser III, on which he is described as “Jehu of the people of the land of Omri”.

    The Omrides were a major component of the anti-Assyrian coalition who resisted Assyrian expansion. After the death of the last Omride king, Israel became an Assyrian client.
    This leads to two questions:
    1) At what point did the Israelites diverge from nearby Semitic peoples? As I understand it, Bronze age Egyptian accounts don't suggest that the inhabitants of Jerusalem were any different from the other Canaanite cities of the region, so therefore Jewish/Israelite 'ethnogenesis' presumably occurred sometime in the early Iron Age (i.e. before the region was conquered by the Assyrians)?
    2) What caused Israelite religion to diverge from the other Semitic peoples? All of the surrounding cultures (and the Jews' own Canaanite ancestors) were polytheists, yet the Jews were not. Why?

  6. #6

    Default Re: Historical Israel & Judah

    Quote Originally Posted by Laser101 View Post
    This leads to two questions:
    1) At what point did the Israelites diverge from nearby Semitic peoples? As I understand it, Bronze age Egyptian accounts don't suggest that the inhabitants of Jerusalem were any different from the other Canaanite cities of the region, so therefore Jewish/Israelite 'ethnogenesis' presumably occurred sometime in the early Iron Age (i.e. before the region was conquered by the Assyrians)?
    2) What caused Israelite religion to diverge from the other Semitic peoples? All of the surrounding cultures (and the Jews' own Canaanite ancestors) were polytheists, yet the Jews were not. Why?
    Since the Merneptah Stele refers to a people in the southern Levant as “Israel”, the Israelite tribal identity must have already existed by c. 1208 BCE. I say “a people” because that is what is indicated by the hieroglyphic determinative, rather than a kingdom or a land or armed men. So that’s still the Late Bronze Age.

    Most of what is known about Late Bronze Age Canaan comes from the Amarna letters, which date to c. 1360–1332 BCE. In them, rural people not affiliated with any city-state are referred to as ᶜapiru. These seem to have been rural and/or itinerate people, brigands, rebels, etc. They were seen at minimum as a nuisance, sometimes as a serious threat, but also as a source of potential mercenaries. In a lot of the stories about David before he was a king, he is depicted in ways that are similar to how the ᶜapiru are described in the Amarna letters. If there was any identity group during the Amarna period who already considered themselves to be Israelites, they were apparently not important enough to be mentioned by name, but it’s not impossible that they could have existed among these ᶜapiru.

    The later layers in the biblical texts also exaggerate the distinction between Canaanite and Israelite. The early Israelites were largely the same as the Canaanites in both language and religion.

    Biblical Hebrew is a dialect of Canaanite, like Phoenician, Ammonite, Moabite, Edomite, and Philistine. Although the term “Canaanite languages” is sometimes used, these were mutually intelligible dialects that differed about as much from each other as American and British English do. There were probably more obvious differences in pronunciation, but in text, it’s not always possible to tell them apart because it depends on the presence of certain words that are spelled differently and a handful of known differences in vocabulary. For example, the content of Tabnit of Sidon’s sarcophagus inscription is the equivalent to about 120 words in English, and there is literally nothing in it that differs from the Hebrew of the same period.

    In Canaanite, the typical singular feminine suffix is -āṯ. The most distinctive feature of Hebrew is the tendency not to pronounce the t on these suffixes, so that on many words it became -āh. The h is basically silent, but it has to be there in text to indicate the syllable, because only consonants are written. There is some indication that this dialectal difference was already present in the highlands during the Amarna period. The Amarna letters are written in Middle Babylonian cuneiform, but you can get some sense of the Canaanite language of the time from proper names. For example, the king of Jerusalem was named Abdi-Ḥeba. This means “servant of Ḥeba”, the Hurrian goddess Ḫebat, with the spelling apparently adapted to the pronunciation in the local dialect.

    The head of the Canaanite pantheon was the creator god El, whose name simply means “god”. He was the father of the ᵓelōhīm “gods”, referring to all the other gods. In the Ugaritic texts, his epithets include “the merciful”, “the kind, the compassionate”, and “the creator of all”. In the Bible, the god of the Israelites is also sometimes referred to as “El” in the sense of a proper name, although more often as Elohim, which is the plural form “gods” but is used in sentences with singular grammar.

    The other Canaanite gods were also referred to as hā-ᶜęḏāṯ ᵓęl, which is “the divine assembly” or “the assembly of El”. In other words, El was the head of the Divine Assembly. According to Psalm 82, “God [ᵓelōhīm] stands in the divine assembly [hā-ᶜęḏāṯ ᵓęl], among the gods [ᵓelōhīm] he judges.”

    The consort of El (the Canaanite El) was Asherah, whereas we know from the Kuntillet Ajrud inscriptions, that Yahweh’s consort was Asherah. We also know from the Bible, that Asherah was venerated in the Temple of Yahweh until Josiah’s reforms (c. 632 BCE).

    In other words, many depictions of Yahweh in the Bible, who is sometimes referred to as El, are essentially the same as the Canaanite El, the creator/father god. I think Yahweh, was originally an epithet of El. It’s hard to concisely translate, but it’s the causal past tense continuous of “to be”, something like “he who caused existence, and continues to cause all”.

    There are other hypotheses regarding this. Some argue that Yahweh was a thunder/war god of southern origin, who was conceptually fused with El. Although, these characteristics could also be explained by a fusion of El and Baal. Since Yahweh is also often referred to as “gods” but in with singular grammar, he can be seen as a fusion of all that had been attributed to the other gods. It makes sense when considering that the Canaanite gods, both linguistically and conceptually, were anthropomorphizations of the forces of nature, whereas the Israelite religion as it moved toward Deuteronomistic monotheism, essentially came to the conclusion that there are not many, but rather only one. Deuteronomy 6:4 can be translated as “Hear Israel, Yahweh is our gods, Yahweh is one”.

    The latter stages of the move from polytheism to monolatry to monotheism seems to have taken place relatively late in the pre-exilic period, with some arguing that it wasn’t complete until the exilic period. I suspect that a lot of the depicted conflicts with polytheists reflect the times in which the texts were written rather than the historical periods they purport to depict. Extrabiblical sources are silent on this matter.

    As for the question of why Israelite religion evolved along the particular trajectory that it did, I don't know.
    Quote Originally Posted by Enros View Post
    You don't seem to be familiar with how the burden of proof works in when discussing social justice. It's not like science where it lies on the one making the claim. If someone claims to be oppressed, they don't have to prove it.


  7. #7

    Default Re: Historical Israel & Judah

    Sumskilz, apologies if this is a bit off-topic, but where do you derive those long ō vowels and syllabic vavs in words like yəhōwōšāp̄āṭ, Qōheleṯ and ᵓelōhīm? I have been taught to interpret יהושפט as yəhōšāp̄āṭ, in which the vav represents a long vowel. Also, I don't know what in קֹהֶלֶת consititutes a long o? Should I interpret that short o does not exist in Classical Hebrew?

  8. #8

    Default Re: Historical Israel & Judah

    Quote Originally Posted by Septentrionalis View Post
    Sumskilz, apologies if this is a bit off-topic, but where do you derive those long ō vowels and syllabic vavs in words like yəhōwōšāp̄āṭ, Qōheleṯ and ᵓelōhīm? I have been taught to interpret יהושפט as yəhōšāp̄āṭ, in which the vav represents a long vowel. Also, I don't know what in קֹהֶלֶת consititutes a long o? Should I interpret that short o does not exist in Classical Hebrew?
    Writing yəhōšāp̄āṭ is fine. That's how it's pronounced in modern Hebrew anyway, but yəhōwōšāp̄āṭ indicates that the w is both carrying an ō and acting as an ō, which it does because it's a semi-vowel in ancient Hebrew. That additional ō is indicated by the dot above, which is also the case with Qōheleṯ and the biblical spelling of ᵓelōhīm.
    Quote Originally Posted by Enros View Post
    You don't seem to be familiar with how the burden of proof works in when discussing social justice. It's not like science where it lies on the one making the claim. If someone claims to be oppressed, they don't have to prove it.


  9. #9

    Default Re: Historical Israel & Judah

    Quote Originally Posted by sumskilz View Post
    Writing yəhōšāp̄āṭ is fine. That's how it's pronounced in modern Hebrew anyway, but yəhōwōšāp̄āṭ indicates that the w is both carrying an ō and acting as an ō, which it does because it's a semi-vowel in ancient Hebrew. That additional ō is indicated by the dot above, which is also the case with Qōheleṯ and the biblical spelling of ᵓelōhīm.
    Thank you. I am aware of the dot, and I was taught it means a short vowel. Now that I check, the wikipedia article on Biblical Hebrew says that there is no distinction but that the vowel is always long in both e and o.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Historical Israel & Judah

    As for the question of why Israelite religion evolved along the particular trajectory that it did, I don't know.
    Creates the basis for very strong differentiation and keeping the community together?
    IN PATROCINIVM SVB Dromikaites

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    But if the cause be not good, the king himself hath a heavy reckoning to make, when all those legs and arms and heads, chopped off in battle, shall join together at the latter day and cry all 'We died at such a place; some swearing, some crying for surgeon, some upon their wives left poor behind them, some upon the debts they owe, some upon their children rawly left.

    Hyperides of Athens: We know, replied he, that Antipater is good, but we (the Demos of Athens) have no need of a master at present, even a good one.

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