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

Peter Kirk peterkirk at qaya.org
Thu Mar 10 05:38:01 EST 2005

On 10/03/2005 06:04, Yitzhak Sapir wrote:

>Thank you very much for the websites.
>The identification of the site as a trading center seems
>to me odd because I do not know what merchants or 
>an innkeeper or any type of person who would operate 
>such a trading center would have had to do with such 
>writing. ...

This seems to be based on some presuppositions about who was likely to 
have been literate, in a society for which we have no other evidence of 
literacy. But (from my limited understanding) literacy in Mesopotamia 
was very much an activity of traders, and a high proportion of surviving 
tablets are records of trading transactions. And we know that Semitic 
miners in the Egyptian mines at Serabit-el-Khadim, not very far from 
Kuntillet Ajrud, were literate, several centuries earlier. So your 
apparent assumption that writing was only for the royal establishment is 


>The suggestion that the pictures allow us to conclude 
>there was syncretism because they show Egyptian gods
>is far fetched.  There is no reason to suppose Egyptian 
>gods are involved rather than Baal or Yahweh, especially
>in light of the text. ...

On this point I am only repeating what was said in one of the papers I 
pointed you to, based on an Internet search.


>Your other points seem to center around the
>comparison between use of D material from Kings and
>use of J material.  If we identify that Kings has
>a theological aim in the book to prove that "King
>David acted in perfect religious faith to Yahweh and
>hence Yahweh preserved his royal line for generations
>to come," one cannot now accept historical statements
>that seem to have behind them only this theological
>aim.  To make sure of this we might suggest that any
>claim of the book of Kings may be tested for internal
>consistency.  By this, we might suggest that since
>Solomon is said to have had idols in Jerusalem, we
>cannot be sure he built the Temple to Yahweh.  That
>claim seems to overlap the theological aim of Kings
>and yet is internally inconsistent with the "idols"
>factoid. ...

Your point here is not entirely clear. I would hold that small 
inconsistencies in Kings suggest that the author was faithfully 
(although maybe selectively) reproducing sources and putting a 
theological spin on them - and that the same is very likely true of the 
Pentateuch. Thus, if we can find some historically useful material in J, 
we can find similarly useful material in an underlying layer of Kings, 
perhaps after stripping off some layers of obvious editorial comment 
like 1 Kings 15:11,14. But with Kings as with the Pentateuch, such 
analysis is necessarily speculative and so its results are necessarily 
uncertain. But I am not sure if you are agreeing or disagreeing with 
this approach to Kings.


>The Mesha stele is ambiguous.  Viewed in light
>of the book of Kings, one may suggest worship of
>Yahweh alone.  Viewed in light of contemporaneous
>inscriptions, one may suggest that the Temple
>was to Yahweh, but Baal and Asherah may have 
>been present there as well. ...

I have no quarrel with this as a tentative suggestion, which can be 
neither confirmed nor denied on current evidence. I would personally be 
surprised if Baal and Asherah were in Solomon's Temple from the start, 
but even according to Kings there seem to have been other gods there by 
the time of Ahaz, and specifically an Asherah image in the time of 
Manasseh. And I accept that this may have started much earlier, with 
Kings keeping silent either from ignorance or because it suited an 
overall picture.

>...  My final conclusion is not: J 
>lived at Kuntillet Ajrud, but rather:  There is
>no reason that Kuntillet Ajrud should be 
>viewed in opposition to the established
>religion of the time.
OK, but I would also say that the opposite, that there is no reason that 
Kuntillet Ajrud should be assumed to represent the established religion 
of the time. There is simply insufficient evidence either way.

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

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