[b-hebrew] Jerusalem - spelling, in historical perspective
JimStinehart at aol.com
JimStinehart at aol.com
Mon Feb 7 12:24:17 EST 2011
1. You wrote: “The original name of Jerusalem is Canaanite and it was
URU-SALIM meaning "City of Salim. It is also so called in the Amarna Tablets…."
The Execration Texts of the 19th and 18th centuries BCE refer to a “
Rusalimum”. This is usually, though not always, viewed as being an early name of
Jerusalem. Note the difference from Urusalim of the Amarna Letters.
Scholars split as to explaining the first component of the Biblical version of this
2. You wrote: “[Jerusalem] was the "City of Shalem" often referred to
simply as Shalem.”
To the best of my knowledge, Jerusalem is n-e-v-e-r referred to as “Shalem
” in any non-biblical inscription.
3. Consider now that a high priest, to whom victorious fighters would
render great tithes, would be expected to be associated with a temple. There
was no temple at Jerusalem prior to the Iron Age, based on archaeology and
other non-biblical evidence. Melchizedek, as a high priest, needs a temple.
Archaeologically, the main sites of temples in Late Bronze Age Canaan,
which in many cases carry over from the Middle Bronze Age, are:
(i) Beth Shan
(ii) Tel Mevorakh
Many were first built at the end of the Middle Bronze Age, and continued
into the Late Bronze Age. Many have obvious similarities to Syrian temples.
Shechem and Megiddo famously have migdal fortress temples, which suggests
Hurrian architectural influence. By contrast, the Temple of Mekal at Beth
Shan is pure Canaanite. 5 of the 6 sites are located well north of Jerusalem.
Note that half of the temple sites (3 of 6) are in or near the Jezreel
Valley: Tel Mevorakh (just northwest of the Jezreel Valley), Megiddo and Beth
Shan. Thus the most likely site for a high priest in Late Bronze Age Canaan
is the Jezreel Valley, which is where one finds the most Bronze Age temples.
If chapter 14 of Genesis was composed in the Bronze Age, by an author who
knew what he was talking about (my view), then there was no high priest in
Jerusalem during the Bronze Age, and no temple at Jerusalem. There was the
famous Temple of Mekal at Beth Shan in the mid-14th century BCE, but no temple
So the claim that Melchizedek is portrayed as being a high priest at
Jerusalem (who is also the king of Jerusalem) would only work if chapter 14 of
Genesis were composed late, by a person who did not know what he was talking
about. Although that is certainly a mainstream view (though probably a
minority view) within the university community, it is demonstrably false. Look at
all the Hurrian words in chapter 14 of Genesis, with knowledge of Hurrian
having vanished from Canaan by the end of the 13th century BCE. Moreover,
scholars have noted that the protocol at the end of chapter 14 of Genesis
(where Melchizedek appears) has a close parallel to the diplomatic protocol in
the Great Syrian War in the mid-14th century BCE, when the Hurrians in Syria
were disastrously and definitively defeated by the Hittites. In particular,
when Abraham says at Genesis 14: 23 that “I would not take a thread or a
sandal strap or anything that is yours”, that is almost verbatim the wording
used in several treaties in Syria at the end of the Great Syrian War.
So Jack, unless you are asserting that chapter 14 of Genesis was composed
late, by a person who did not know what he was talking about, Melchizedek
cannot be a high priest of Jerusalem, because there was no temple in Bronze Age
Jerusalem. By contrast, e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g in the received text makes
perfect sense if Melchizedek is the high priest of the Temple of Mekal at
Beth Shan. Jerusalem has nothing to do with chapter 14 of Genesis. Jerusalem
was not a holy city to the Hebrews prior to the Iron Age, and Jerusalem was
not a holy city to anyone prior to becoming a holy city to the Hebrews.
What the received text of chapter 14 of Genesis says fits perfectly with
the historical record, as being an accurate account by a contemporary. But we
need to recognize that just as the pagan god Mekal had two different kinds
of attributes, so also does Mekal’s high priest at Beth Shan have a double
name that exemplifies those two different sets of divine attributes:
Mekal was both a god of “righteous victory”/CDQ, and a god of “protection”
/$LM. If you’re a high priest, you can have a very long, grandiose name
that highlights both aspects of Mekal. Remember, chapter 14 of Genesis
consistently gives us very long names, never shortened names. Ashteroth-karnaim
(not just Ashteroth), Xa-tsi-ts-ni tam-ri (not just Hasi), (YN M$P+ HW) QD$
[not just QD$ or Kedesh or ka-du-u-$a], etc.
So if chapter 14 of Genesis is very old [which is probably the majority
view of university scholars, by the way], then it makes no sense for
Melchizedek to be portrayed as being a high priest of Jerusalem, where there was no
temple in the Bronze Age, whereas it makes perfect historical sense for
Melchizedek to be portrayed as being the high priest of the Temple of Mekal at
Beth Shan. Why not consider an historical interpretation of this text? The
Patriarchal narratives have pinpoint historical accuracy, if we’re willing to
look at the text from an historical perspective.
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