[b-hebrew] Re: The Priestly Stratum

Pastor Mark Eddy markeddy at adams.net
Mon Mar 3 22:01:36 EST 2003

I sent this to Liz, but I thought somebody else on the list might have some response too.
----- Original Message -----
From: "Lisbeth S. Fried" > > ----- Original Message -----
> > From: "Lisbeth S. Fried"
ME wrote:
> I know that the prophecies
> > of Jeremiah were not compiled until the exile
> > had begun, but it seems to me that there were at least two
> > groups in Israel at his time. The "orthodox"
> > monotheists, such as Jeremiah, and large number of other
> > people who worshipped many gods. What else does
> > Jer. 11:11-13 mean?
>   13 For the number
> > of your cities became (the number of) your
> > gods, O Judah;
> This actually was the starting point of my research.
> I assumed that at the time of Jeremiah there were
> cult sites in every city and that I would be able to
> find them in the Iron Age II strata of Judah.

Why assume that we could find them? Hezekiah's prayer in Isaiah 37 says:
18 Truly, YHWH, the kings of Assyria dried up all the lands and their land, 19 and gave their gods into
the fire, for they were not gods, but the work of men's hands, wood and stone. And they were destroyed.
Especially the relatively small wooden gods would have been burned, without leaving a trace that they had
ever been gods.

Isaiah 44:9-20 mocks the people who cut down a tree, make a god out of part of it, and burn the rest to
keep warm or bake bread. When such wooden gods are destroyed, they don't look any different from the ashes
from a stove.

When 2 Kings 23 describes Josiah's reforms, it specifically notes in verse 4 "And the king commanded ...
to bring out of the temple of YHWH all the vessels made for Baal, and for Asherah, and for all the host of
the heavens. And he burned them outside Jerusalem in the fields of the Kidron and carried their ashes to
Bethel." I wouldn't look anywhere around Jerusalem for remains of any of these cult objects.
Verses 6-7 say, "And he brought out the Asherah from the house of YHWH, outside Jerusalem, to the wady
Kidron, and burned it at the brook Kidron and crushed it to dust and threw the dust of it on the graves of
the sons of the people.  7 And he broke down the houses of the male cult prostitutes who were in the house
of YHWH, where the women made weavings for the Asherah."
Similar destruction of other cult objects is described in verses 10-16 in and around both Jerusalem and

Jeremiah 10:8-11 again lampoons the idols of wood, silver, and gold. We know that the Babylonians were
looking for gold as booty. So we wouldn't expect them to have left any trace of silver or gold images in
Judah. They carted that stuff off to Babylon.

Although Chronicles was written considerably later, 2 Chr. 15:16 describes how images of other gods were
disposed of:
"And even Maacah, mother of Asa the king, he removed from being queen because she made a detestable image
for Asherah. Asa cut down her destable image, and crushed [it], and burned [it] at the wady Kidron."

You wouldn't find any remnant of gods or their altars in the streets of Jerusalem or the surrounding
towns, if they were disposed of in the ways described above. So you found what we should expect to find:

> Nope, they weren't there, nothing, nada.
> In fact, there was hardly any Judah there at all. Most
> had been conquered, and very lightly rebuilt.
> There was no cult site in Judah from Megiddo to Beer Sheba
> between 701 and 586 except for the temple in Jerusalem.
> This in spite of what Jeremiah had to say.

Small shrines in homes or city squares would hardly show up as a "cult site," certainly nothing anywhwere
near the size of the Jerusalem temple. And remember, the temple itself was used as the main "cult site"
for other gods according to the passages above.

> > But there is evidence that some people
> > did worship Ashera, e.g. Jer. 17:2. And I remember hearing
> > that something with male and female figures on
> > it, dated to the 7th or 8th century B.C., was unearthed in
> > the 1980s with an inscription, to "YHWH and his
> > consort." I didn't subscribe to BAR at that time, so I don't
> > have the details about this in front of me.
> None of the cult sites that I did find (all dated to before 701)
> cotained those figurines. They were found in domestic strata only,
> or in favissae.

This is what I would expect to find, if the Hebrew Bible is historically accurate.

> > > I don't know who
> > > wrote the grafitti on the Kuntillit Adjrud pithoi. I can tell
> > > you tho that there was only one matzevah at Arad, the
> > > other one you see in all the photos was part of the wall
> > > and had fallen into the cella area.
> > > All the polemics that you read in Ezekiel, etc. are just their
> > > way of explaining the disasters. The temple was captured,
> > > the people deported -- ERGO they must have worshipped
> > > other gods.
> >
> > But Jeremiah was in Jerusalem at the time, and he saw the
> > altars to other gods and how they were being
> > used.
> Did he???
> He talks about sacrificing children in the valley of Topheth.
> That has been excavated over and over again, and there is nothing
> there, it was just a garbage dump. There is no evidence whatsoever
> of any sacrifices ever held there.

What kind of evidence would you expect of illicit killing and burning of children? We certainly shouldn't
expect that they had elaborate altars for such practices, which were criminalized during much of the
period. And although they were tolerated by some regimes and by certain segments of the population, how
many parents took their idol worship so seriously that they would burn their children? What better place
to hide the ashes of an illicit sacrifice than in a garbage dump, "where their worm does not die and their
fire is not quenched"?

> And how does anyone know that the word of YHWH did NOT
> > come to Ezekiel, when he prophesied against
> > the altars and idols of Israel (e.g. Ezek. 6)?
> Unfortunately we cannot excavate under the temple mount to find out,
> and the WAQF is doing a good job of destroying anything we might find
> there.
> And what about
> > Ezekiel's claim (e.g.) that in the 12th
> > years of his captivity he received news directly from an
> > escapee from Jerusalem that the city had been
> > captured (Ezek. 33:21)? Ezekiel knew (at least second hand)
> > of the religious conditions in Jerusalem in
> > its last days, and that included the fact that some people
> > worshipped many gods. He wrote, not just to
> > explain Jerusalem's fall, but to condemn idolatry. Or is
> > Ezekiel one of the lying prophets about whom
> > Jeremiah claimed: "And YHWH said to me, 'The prophets are
> > prophesying falsehood in My name. I did not send
> > them, and I did not command them and I did not speak to them.
> > They are prophesying to you a false vision,
> > and worthless divination, and the deceit of their own
> > hearts'" (Jer. 14:14)? If he was a lying prophet,
> > just making up a charge of polytheism is Jerusalem, then he
> > did not help set up the cultus of post-exilic
> > YHWHism, but he was engaged in starting a cult (like
> > Mormonism). In which case, why are we studying what
> > that liar wrote?
> A lie is a falsehood which is said knowingly. I beleive that
> these prophets assumed that there was idolatry because
> the god had left the temple.
But that's not what the prophets wrote. They wrote that YHWH told them things (e.g. Jer. 27:22; Ezek.
13:7), just as the false prophets, whom Jeremiah and Ezekiel condemned, claimed (e.g. Jer. 28:4; Ezek.
13:6). Did YHWH tell them things? Or were they lying when they made such claims? If YHWH didn't tell them,
and they claimed that YHWH did tell them, then they were false prophets. And everyone agrees that Deut. 18
was around by the time of Jeremiah and Ezekiel. Deuteronomy 18:20 said, "But the prophet who presumes to
speak a word in My name that I did not command him to speak, and who speaks in the name of other gods,
that prophet shall die." Doesn't the choice of which so-called prophets of YHWH had their writings copied
and preserved say something about the verdict of history concerning whether they were truly prophets or

> It had become unfit for habitation
> so he left. Ezekiel and Jeremiah knew that YHWH had left
> the temple because the temple was destroyed. It could not have
> been destroyed if YHWH was still living in it. The only possible reason
> it could have become unfit is that the people sinned, and they must have
> done this by worshipping other gods.

How would they have known that YHWH had ever lived in the temple in the first place?

If they claimed to speak for YHWH, but they simply assumed things and then wrote that YHWH had told them
such things, they were violating their own ethical principles: Jeremiah 23:31 "Look, I am against the
prophets, declares the LORD, who use their tongues and declare, 'declares the LORD.'" There were plenty of
religious quacks at the time. Those who kept the faith in YHWH determined that Jeremiah and Ezekiel were
not among the false prophets.

> But whether he lied or not, Ezekiel kept the faith in YHWH alive and
> thus enabled the Jews to return to their land.

The ethics behind this statement are disturbing. Does the end justify the means? If it took lies to keep
the faith in YHWH alive, is it worth keeping alive? If such faith is based on lies (intentional or
unintentional), what claim did the Jews have to "their land"? The Hebrew Bible claims that this land was
given to them because God promised to give it to Abraham and his offspring. If God did not actually,
historically make that promise, then the Jews had no more right to the land than the Canaanites, or
Babylonians, or whoever might take the land by force. If God did not promise the land to Abraham, then the
book of Joshua describes the cruel, unethical pillage of the land by followers of YHWH. But if a living
God did promise the land to Israel, then they had "their land" to which they could and ought to return.
And if such a living God, who condemns false prophets to death, really exists, then He was totally capable
of giving revelations also to Jeremiah and Ezekiel.

Mark Eddy

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