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

Peter Kirk peterkirk at qaya.org
Sat Aug 6 21:01:18 EDT 2005

On 07/08/2005 01:03, Yitzhak Sapir wrote:

>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 ...

Yitzhak, can you name me any work of ancient or for that matter modern 
history which is "historically complete", in the sense you require of 
recording every event within its scope, with no editorial selection 
being made? As for certain information being "relatively important", are 
you really in a better position than the editor writing much nearer the 
time to judge what was important to his audience? Or are you just 
dreaming up some idealistic modern standards for history writing which 
in fact no one has ever followed?

James may have claimed that Kings and Chronicles are complete, but I 
don't, at least in the sense you seem to require. Indeed it is easy to 
prove that neither of them is - because both include events omitted in 
the other. Anyway I don't think James meant completeness in quite the 
sense you seem to, that the editor is not permitted to be selective. But 
incompleteness does not imply unreliability or historical worthlessness.

>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. ...

To whom? How do you know? And what do you know about what really 
happened, and how the Battle of Qarqar might be related to the battle of 
Ramoth Gilead (1 Kings 22) and Jehu's revolt? Perhaps we do have an 
account in the Bible, but told from a different perspective, and one 
which perhaps chose to keep quiet about Jehu being an Assyrian vassal. 
Perhaps the Assyrians as well as Mesha were a bit confused between Ahab 
and his son - perhaps because something was happening that we don't 
entirely understand. There are so many uncertainties here that we really 
cannot assume that there is a conflict between the Bible and Assyrian 
records here.

>... 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.
If sweeping definitions of completeness are to be criticised, perhaps 
you should look more carefully at your own one.

>...  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 

To speculate here, I wonder if Ahab's death was not in fact as sudden as 
it seems in 1 Kings 22, if perhaps he was seriously wounded but didn't 
die for some time, and so continued to be reckoned as king while his son 
Joram was reigning in practice (and officially co-regent) - and fighting 
against Moab and perhaps at Qarqar. On this basis KMWT could mean "As he 
was dying".

>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. ...

1 Kings 21:17-24 describe the disaster prophesied for Ahab's house, 
which in v.29 is delayed until after Ahab's death. This is not a 
prophecy of military defeat or the breakup of his kingdom, but a very 
specific prophecy that all of his descendants would be put to death - 
which was fulfilled at the time of Jehu's revolt. So there is no 
conflict here with the revolt of Moab being before Ahab's death.

>... 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. ...

Well, we cannot confirm, apart from the Bible, that all of Ahab's 
descendants were put to death, but the Mesha stele has nothing to do 
with it.

>... 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.

Thiele's work on these reign lengths in the Bible has demonstrated that 
they give a consistent picture.

> ...
>On 8/5/05, Peter Kirk wrote:
>>How about Ramesses II's records of his "victory" at Kadesh, ...
>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. ...

No, it doesn't prove that. It proves rather that Ramesses II rewrote 
history to glorify himself. He certainly didn't record every last detail 
of his campaigns. I am sure that he omitted minor defeats entirely, 
while exaggerating similarly minor victories into major ones. Qadesh was 
so major that he couldn't simply ignore it, so he recast it as a 
victory. That has always been the way of absolute rulers, from before 
Ramesses until today. Indeed even of not so absolute rulers - even 
modern democracies celebrate and build monuments to their victories like 
WWII but try to forget their defeats like Vietnam. It was not the way of 
the biblical authors, for reasons that we can only speculate about - but 
part of the difference is that the Bible books were not rulers' 
monumental inscriptions but accounts probably originating from outside 
the royal court - so the modern analogy might be to popular literature 
and Hollywood, which have not painted past presidents as all-conquering 
heroes or ignored Vietnam.

Peter Kirk
peter at qaya.org (personal)
peterkirk at qaya.org (work)

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