JEDP (Melchizedek) (JDS)

Jonathan D. Safren yonsaf at
Mon Dec 20 15:29:17 EST 1999

Ian Charles Hutchesson wrote:

> > The Melchizedek episode is also the only place in the Pentateuch
> > where the expression qoneh $amayim we'eretz is used. Yet a similar
> > expression, el kunirsa (=el qoneh eretz) is used in Hittite texts.
> > So, arguing on logic similar to yours, I could make a case
> > for Gen. 14 being Late Bronze.
> You might like to change culture for the argument, Jonathan, but it's only a red herring. You have *absolutely no evidence* to justify any attempt for an early dating, so you give a contrived analogy (that doesn't work because you don't acknowledge that the term in your analogy has plain examples in the Hebrew tradition that can be dated). All you need to do is provide datable exemplars regarding el elyon to any period prior to the second century BCE, instead of talking about Hittite similarities (for which you'd have to establish a trajectory anyway). It is normal to work from datable materials to provide evidence for dating. I can date *all* datable usage of el elyon to the second century (or a little later). el elyon is translated into Greek in the Hebrew tradition as theos hypsistos and I indicated in the previous post that his term is used for the Hasmoneans. I'd take your argument regarding your Hittite term as sophistry.

How about the eighth-century Sefireh Inscruption, where el and elyon are mentioned together? el elyon and el qoneh $amayim wa'eretz are not only ancientexpressions, they are not even Israelite in origin.

> > An Adonizedek is also mentioned in Judges 1, in which there are
> > local infiltrations
> > and conquests, in which Israelites live side by side with the
> > Canaanite population
> > until they are strong enough to take control. This situation
> > fits the archaeological
> > evidence of setlement in the hill-country in the late 13th- 11th
> > centuries BCE.
> If we are talking about the same period, there is not only no evidence for a conquest, but no evidence for infiltration either: there is no change in cultural artifacts, there is just new aggregations -- a type of re-urbanization. There is no way to justify the content of Judges -- just as there is none for Joshua -- (though perhaps some of Judges material is a lot older than Joshua material), so we are left with patently non-realistic accounts on which you would like to pin historical value. Sorry, I can't really see the rationale.

If you want to call new settlements in the hill-country "new aggregations" or "re-urbanization" that's fine by me.
Incidentally, you might have been interested in Anson Rainey's lecture on the Settlement Period in a symposium held on the Biblical Period at Ben-Gurion University last Thursday. He claimed that the reason pottery in these new hill-country settlements was similar to Canaanite pottery was because this kind of pottery was common to both Cis- and Trans-jordan, and that the evidence is for the movement of a wave of settlement from the East westward. I don't remember all his evidence.

> > Adonizedeq, whether he is king of Bezeq as written, or king of
> > Jerusalem, as some scholars have argued, is an early name.
> Whatever he was king of, do you really think that we are getting a view into an early period?

Yes. The whole picture presented by Judges 1, one of gradual infiltration by disparate groups, few and local conquests, and final subjugation and assimilation (but not annihilation) of Canaanite populationsis the one which archaeology supports.

> I think it's quite damning that despite the proposal that Melchizedek refers to someone from a very early period, there is no speculation on, or use of, the mystical personage until Hasmonean times -- and then Melchizedek becomes relatively popular.

Many religious ideas come into full flower late, Ian, even though their roots may be early. The Jewish idea of Messiah developed during late Second Temple, but it was based on the ideal Davidic king envisioned by Isaiah and other prophets of the 8th and 7th centuries BCE.
Angels - divine messengers - were around since pre-Israelite times, but when did angelology bwecome important?
So even if you are right that Melchizedek became popular during Hasmonean times, it proves nothing about when he may have lived.
Nitey nite,

Jonathan D. Safren
Dept. of Biblical Studies
Beit Berl College
44905 Beit Berl Post Office

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