[b-hebrew] OT- perspective (was Josiah's book of the Law)

Yitzhak Sapir yitzhaksapir at gmail.com
Sat Aug 6 20:03:55 EDT 2005

On 8/5/05, Harold R. Holmyard III wrote:
> Dear Yitzhak,
> >Where is "and the empire that he fought?"  Besides building an ivory house,
> >I don't see any thing that is so different from other kings who didn't
> >successfully defend against the Assyrian empire.
> HH: You seem to be requiring the Bible to give a
> certain piece of information to be fair or
> complete. But that is a subjective, obviously
> debatable position to take.

Besides the following paragraph, I also relate to the comment of subjectivity 
in my reply to Brian, below.

I am not sure why it is so subjective.  If the Bible doesn't provide us with 
a certain relatively important piece of information regarding a king, it is by
definition incomplete.  It may be due to the Biblical editor's subjective
assessments.  But essentially, we cannot take the Bible as historically
complete since we are bound by the Biblical editor's subjective 
assessments on various events in history.  That is, we cannot make our own
assessments.  Now, the statement I originally responded to in this thread
went: "If only other historical sources were so complete and so honest about 
the failings of their kings."  This statement reflects completeness
and reliability
only so far as "failings" are concerned.  In this case, the issue of Ahab and
Mesha is interesting in that it appears that a failing of Ahab is not conveyed
reliably.  However, in the precursor of this thread, Mr James Read made a much
more sweeping statement: "10) Fragments of ancient letters, while they do give 
us the possibility to view things from the perspective of other
nations, can hardly
compete against the completeness of records such as Kings and Chronicles 
whose agendas were to faithfully represent the history of a nation
that believed
that lying was one of the worst and most punishable of sins."  Now "fragments
of ancient letters" appears to be James' belittling term for archaeological
evidence.  It is not signficant evidence, only "letters."  It is not
complete, only
"fragments."  This and other recent comments by James Read have the effect
of attacking scholarship for the reason that study is unnecessary.  Rather than
studying scholarship written by scholars motivated to write conspiracy theories
against the Bible (it can't possibly be that their motivation is to
better understand
the true signficance of the Bible) because of the pressure to produce original
studies (impossible, since all knowledge is known beforehand and passed by
tradition) one should only study the "traditional" sources.  It almost
appears that
he would create a new commandment "Thou shalt not study!"

It is in light of this extreme belief in the uselessness of
scholarship that the Battle
of Qarqar should be viewed.  A battle by Ahab against the Assyrian empire is a
signficant event.  But Read would have me believe that the Bible is so complete
that a "fragment" of the Assyrian king relating to the battle will
teach me nothing
about Israelite history but only about Assyrian history.  For Read,
Israelite history
is represented faithfully, completely, and honestly by the Bible.  And
it is in light
of this sweeping definition of completeness, that the absence of the
Battle of Qarqar
should be viewed.

> HH: I am not sure that losing a dependency is
> necessarily the disaster 1 Kings 21:28-29 had in
> mind anyway. It is possible that Ahab did suffer
> some losses of territory to the Moabites, but
> that would not necessarily be disastrous like the
> great wrath that came on Israel in Joram's time
> in his war against Moab (2 Kings 3:27). 
> So we can well say that
> the prophecy of 1 Kings 21:28-29 was fulfilled in
> the days of Ahab's son, even leaving aside the
> problems with Moab.

The revolt of Moab is represented as the dissolution of the "Israelite
empire" and
the institution of vassalship that Israel instituted in Moab.  It
should be clear that
vassalship is related to a show of force.  "If you don't want me to completely 
conquer you, you will pay tax."  Kings who refrain from paying the tax
are due to
see a show of force by the conqueror.  If the previous can indeed get away with 
paying tax without the military price, he has successfully revolted.  If 
Israel cannot defend itself against a personal loss of territory to
the Moabites, it
evidently cannot impose the vassalship.  Thus, the revolt, as
represented by the
Bible, refers to a more initial stage than that represented by the Mesha stele.

The second issue is: Is this revolt related to the Biblical claim of
evil upon Ahab's
son.  The evil spoken of in 1 Kings 21:28-29, is related to the evil
described in vs.
21-22.  Simply said, it described the fall of Ahab's house.  But this
fall, while also
having personal ramifications, must necessarily include also wider
Moab's revolt against Ahab's empire is such a ramification.  It furthermore 
becomes clear that while the Bible does not tie the revolt of Israel, 
Libnah, or
Edom to the death of a particular king, the revolt of Moab is directly
tied to the
death of Ahab.  In fact, in 2 Kings 3:5 the word "kmwt" (as opposed to
")xry") is
used: "As Ahab died," which is ambiguous.  It could mean after, but it
could also
mean "in Ahab's last days."  It almost appears as if the author of 3:5 wants to 
make the point that the revolt occured after Ahab died, but can't, because he 
realizes it did not, so he attempts to gloss it over.  And if we now
ask "why did
he feel the need to mark it after Ahab died," verses 1 Kings 21:28-29 come to 

So the question is not "is the prophecy of 1 Kings 21:28-29 fulfilled
even without the
mention of Mesha's revolt."  The prophecy likely relates to not one
evil, but to all the
"evils" that would lead to the fall of Ahab's house, and this includes
the dissolution of
his empire, and the revolt of Mesha.  Of course, claiming that the
prophecy was fulfilled
anyway is a claim without supporting evidence.  The Bible says events
that fulfilled
the prophecy happened later, but we cannot confirm it, especially in
light of the
Mesha stele.  It is even worse to try to make a comment based on the length of 
reign, accepting the length of reign given in the book of Kings as
authoritative and
hence dismissing the Mesha stele.  The Mesha stele is more
authoritative for this
issue than the figure of length of reign given in the Bible, and the
reign lengths in the
Bible are problematic anyway and at times are at odds with one another.

On 8/5/05, Brian Roberts wrote:
> On Friday, August 5, 2005, at 12:29  PM, Yitzhak Sapir wrote:
> > Perhaps.  I mean, without a specific inscription I wouldn't know.
> > But, in order to
> > name such a specific inscription he has to (1) name one, then (2) to
> > show that we
> > know that it is not complete, then (3) to show that we know that it is
> > not honest, then
> So, the assumption here begins with the assumption of honesty on the
> part of Egyptian inscriptions?
> > (4) to show that there is a place in the Bible that is more complete
> > than this
> > particular source, then (5) to show that that same place in the Bible
> > is more honest.
> And the assumption here begins that the biblical text is more than
> dishonest? Or more than honest?
> > (2) and (3) are tricky, but not as tricky as (4) and (5).

I did not create the logic of the statement.  The original statement was
"If only other historical sources were so complete and so honest about the
failings of their kings."  What I wrote above is simply the necessary 
assertions needed to stand behind the statement.  Of course, simply claiming
that the statement is subjective and depends on the individuals personal
beliefs reduces the force of the statement.  "Other historical sources
are not as complete and as honest about the failings of their kings, if you
assume that the Bible is complete and honest" just doesn't have that 
same ring to it.  So claiming subjectivity reduces the force of the
statement significantly.  Your problem with the apparent incosistency,
however, should be alleviated by the fact that the completeness of one is
to be compared to the completeness of the other.  How do you measure
completeness? I don't know.  Perhaps by drawing up a list of events in the
reign of the king and seeing how many are mentioned and disclosed and 
how many are related by external sources, then seeing which one has a 
greater percentage of mentioned events?  In any case, some measure 
must be developed for completeness, and the same for reliability.  Then
the two can be compared.  Because the measures are compared, it
appears to me that the assumptions behind the base claims are the same.

On 8/5/05, Peter Kirk wrote:
> How about Ramesses II's records of his "victory" at Kadesh, when we know
> from other sources that it was at most a matter of salvaging some honour
> from what was nearly an ignominious rout? No need to appeal to the Bible
> for confirmation, we have that from other archaeological records.

The following are Ahlstrom's comments: " ... The Battle is well known not only
from inscriptions, but also from scenes on the temple wall at Karnak and at
other temples in Egypt and in Nubia.  The texts are known as the 'Poem'
and the 'Bulletin.' ... It is difficult to get a reliable picture of
the events of
this battle from the records of Ramesses II.  ..."  I do not find reference to
Hittite descriptions of this battle in various history books I have on
hand, which
suggests that the negative outcome of the Battle is known by comparing this
Egyptian inscription to other Egyptian sources (such as the fact that 
Ramesses makes more campaigns to the area).

And even so, that is only proving that it is not reliable.  If Ramesses II lies
about his loss at Qadesh and describes it as a victory, then the Ramesseside
inscriptions are "complete" in the sense they also tell us about the failings of
the king.  They are just not reliable, in that they don't reliably describe the
outcome.  And then, you still have to compare it to the Bible. Now, in the Bible
you may be used to "reconcile" or "harmonize" inconsistencies, between Biblical
verses themselves or between the Bible and the Mesha stele (as with Howard
above).  But this analysis of the "victory" of Qadesh is necessarily a result of
not applying this harmonization or reconciliation to Egyptian
inscriptions.  If we
did, we probably could remain with a "honest" "reconciled and
harmonized" account
of a "true victory" at Qadesh.

Yitzhak Sapir

More information about the b-hebrew mailing list