[b-hebrew] Yahwism (was: their altar)

Yitzhak Sapir yitzhaksapir at gmail.com
Mon Mar 7 09:09:07 EST 2005

Regarding the comments by Uri and Yigal,

The points regarding the use of Asherah as a possible
cult object are well taken.  Also, I only meant to point
out that the unique properties of Kuntillet Ajrud as a site 
that is apparently religiously and politically consistent 
with J, at the right time and place.  As for the capability 
of writing, one should note that this is the first site where
some type of literature of a religious-theological nature
is found in the area, at a time when writing at all is very
rare.  Its "Judahite" outlook is precluded by the fact that
it tells the history of Israel as led by the god of Israel.
Israel is the major entity described and Judah is just a 
small part of Israel, and this is not what I would expect
in a work written by a member of a once-great empire
that ruled over Israel (would one expect a source from
London to tell the story of the Chosen Nation USA,
describing England as a small state in the Union?) This
is a problem, whether or not the answer is that J was
written at a small Israelite "island" near Judahite

Nevertheless, I think many issues are problematic and
are just unknowns.  What was the religion of the
Canaanites at the time?  What was Yahweh worship like?
Where and when did it begin?  Can we speak of a Bronze
Age Yahweh at all? (or was the Canaanite Yah/Yaw meant?)
an Iron I Yahweh?  In light of all this, it is as unwise and hasty
to conclude that Kuntillet Ajrud was an apostate site as it is to 
conclude that it was definitely establishment sponsored, or 
that the members of the site were syncretic and applied the
"old" values to the new religion, out of misunderstanding or 
some other factor.  There are just a lot of unknowns that 
must be treaded carefully.  And here is not the place to
propound any ideas beyond a simple suggestion or
statement for thought.

In any case, thank you both for the references you brought

Peter Kirk peterkirk at qaya.org> wrote:
> On 06/03/2005 02:48, Yitzhak Sapir wrote:
> > Now, as for your claim that the concept of an Asherah is 
> > repugnant, Asherah is found only once in the Torah 
> > outside Deut ...

> Yes, but this is not the only literature describing the period 
> in question. There are for example the accounts in Kings. 
> Their dating and relaibility is perhaps uncertain, but then so 
> is that of J and the rest of the Torah. Nevertheless, this is 
> evidence which must not be ignored.

Because the Deuteronomist would inject his own values into 
historical descriptions of earlier periods, this is evidence that 
must be ignored.  If we want to know what the Yahwist found 
repugnant, we must look at J and only J.  (I think it's not even
clear today that J predates Deuteronomist, which is why in
my earlier message, I described it in terms of "classical"
criticism.  I think he does predate him, though.)

> > We have no evidence for Yahweh worship in this time in 
> > Jerusalem, for example. ...

> Yes we do. Well, at least we have detailed accounts of 
> Yahweh worship in Jerusalem in the 10th century, and 
> some less detailed accounts from the 9th century, e.g. the 
> time of Asa and Jehoshaphat, including a specific
> mention that an Asherah (an image of Asherah?) was 
> rejected and destroyed, 1 Kings 15:13.

The question of the capability of the Deuteronomist to be 
historically accurate regarding the 10th and 9th centuries 
BCE has been discussed at length in the last decade.  
Anyway, one should be careful about accepting detailed
accounts like these that are very much related to the
theology the Deuteronomist is trying to preach (David's
worship of Yahweh was perfect, hence Yahweh allowed
him a remnant-candle henceforth).

> > And all I argue from this hypothesis is that one cannot 
> > claim that "but this was clearly not the view of the 
> > establishment."  There is no "clearly" about it.

> It was clearly not the view of the establishment as 
> presented in the books of Kings, I agree that we cannot be 
> sure that this was the actual view of the establishment a 
> couple of centuries earlier, but note that the author of Kings 
> notes carefully distinctions between the establishment 
> views of Asa and Jehoshaphat and his own views, in 1 Kings
> 15:14, 22:43. This looks to me like the mark of real 
> historical reminiscence.

He notes some distinctions.  But there are other reasons why
such distinctions might have been placed.  They may be there to
explain why the Bamot remained in D's time if all the kings
beforehand did good in the eyes of Yahweh.  So just because 
of these statements, we can't accept the claims outright.  And
even if those statements are true, all we know is that those
parts are true.  We know nothing of other statements that may
be theologically loaded.

> > They worshipped Yahweh of Samaria, and the Yahwistic 
> > component in their names is a short one like in Israel, as 
> > opposed to Judah.  So I think that is sufficient reason for 
> > that claim.
> >
> If Samaria was their own home, why did they need to 
> specify "of Samaria"? This sounds to me more like a 
> conscious invocation of someone else' god.

Perhaps, although I think you are attempting to read modern
meanings into ancient words.  When you bless yourself by
the name of a god, it is unlikely to be someone else's god.
It is your god.  In any case, it seems more reasonable to
suppose some connection between the site and Israel than
with any other nation (Edomites, Judahites) in the area.

Yitzhak Sapir

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