[b-hebrew] II kings 22

jimstinehart at aol.com jimstinehart at aol.com
Wed Dec 12 16:48:02 EST 2012

The Biblical authors of II Kings wereprimarily interested in portraying King Josiah as a righteous ruler, who broughtJudah back to the proper practice of true Judaism.  As such, King Josiah can also be expected tohave a fine high priest of the Temple in Jerusalem, with whom King Josiah workswell.  But the Biblical authors have zerointerest in praising King Josiah’s scribe!!!
Everyone is hung up on the first verseI quoted, II Kings 22: 8:  “And Hilkiah the high priest said toShaphan the secretary, ‘I have found the book of the law in the house of theLORD.’  And Hilkiah gave the book toShaphan, and he read it.”
Note what that versedoes  n-o-t  say. Though the high priest Hilkiah will be presented as being an important,positive religious figure, nevertheless the text does not say that Hilkiah readthe sacred find, and specifically denies that Hilkiah gave the sacred text toKing Josiah, much less read it to him. No, the text says that Hilkiah gave the book to King Josiah’s scribe,who read it.
Remember, the Biblicalauthors have no interest whatsoever in portraying Shaphan as being an important,positive figure.
I have set forth alogical, simple explanation for the foregoing verse which fits everything theverse says and makes sense:  the sacredtext was written in cuneiform (using west Semitic words), and therefore theonly human being in Jerusalem who could read the darn thing was the guy whoseprofessional duties required him to be able to read cuneiform letters writtento Judah from Assyria and Babylonia. Yes, those cuneiform letters were written in Assyrian or Akkadian, butcuneiform could be used just as easily to write west Semitic (as we know fromthe dozens of west Semitic words in the Amarna Letters).  A native Biblical Hebrew speaker who can readcuneiform letters in Assyrian and Akkadian could easily read a sacred Hebrewtext written in cuneiform using west Semitic words.
Now let’s look at thealternative scenarios that you fellows have creatively floated.
1. Dave Washburn wrote:  “I don't know where you got this idea thatthere was such a sharp division between religious and secularmatters….”
I don’t know where you got the ideathat I think any such thing.  On theother hand, the first inclination of the authors of II Kings and Chronicleswould be to show high priest Hilkiah as working directly with King Josiahregarding this important sacred discovery. Why bring King Josiah’s scribe into the picture?  Your comment that there was not “a sharp divisionbetween religious and secular matters” explains nothing.
Dave Washburn continued:  “Now Iremember why I usually don't read your material.”
You mean you’re not super-excited aboutinvestigating the possibility that some of the oldest parts of the Torah mayhave been written in cuneiform using west Semitic words, thereby enabling thereto be sacred Hebrew religious w-r-i-t-t-e-n  texts dating allthe long way back to the Late Bronze Age? If that’s not an exciting possibility, then what in life is exciting?
2. Prof. Yigal Levin made a series of alternative suggestions, startingwith the following:  “Jim, I just re-read the passage.  Nowhere does it say that Hilkiah and Josiahcould not read the book that had been found.”
Itdoesn’t?  Gosh, if two different Biblicalauthors (II Kings and Chronicles) are trying to build up King Josiah, and showhim as correctly interpreting Judaism with his high priest Hilkiah, then whywould the text not say that Hilkiah read the sacred find, or that Hilkiah tookthe sacred text to King Josiah?  Why saythat Hilkiah gave the text to the scribe, who read it?
Prof.Levin continued:  “Not because the kingcould not read, but because reading to the king was the scribe's job.”
Isthere any support in the Bible, or outside of the Bible, for that?  The assertion is that the King could readjust as well as the scribe, but the King had a scribe read things to the King?  Doesn’t it make much more sense here that thesacred text was written in cuneiform, and only the scribe could read thatwriting system?
Prof. Levin then specifically supported Dave Washburn’s odd comment above:  “I agreewith Dave.  Andremember that Shaphan was in charge of the repairs tothe Temple in the first place. Soquite naturally anything of importance that was found would be brought to him.”
Yes, any gold or silver found in theTemple would be handed over to the scribe, that’s for sure.  But an ancient sacred religious text?  What are high priests of Jerusalem good forif not for examining and commenting on ancient sacred Hebrew religious texts?
3. Nir Cohen had so many alternative ideas that there’s not room to setforth all of them here.  Nir Cohen startsout:  “the scribe (SOFER) was therespecifically to read and write.”
Yes,but we know for a fact that King Josiah could read alphabetical Hebrew verywell, as II Kings 23: 2 specifically says:  “And the king went up to the house ofthe LORD, and with him all the men of Judah and all the inhabitants ofJerusalem, and the priests and the prophets, all the people, both small andgreat;  and he read in their hearing allthe words of the book of the covenant which had been found in the house of theLORD.”  
NirCohen continued:  “his job may haveincluded not just the physical reading, but also the grammaticalinterpretation, and even political censorship of certain difficult passages inthe text. it must have been considered a very responsible job.”
Waita minute!  The Biblical authors are boundand determined to build up King Josiah. King Josiah, in conjunction with the high priest of Jerusalem, isinterpreting this important ancient sacred Hebrew religious text.  King Josiah is definitely  n-o-t relying on his scribe here for “political censorship of certaindifficult passages in the text”.
NiCohen then wrote:  “moreover, the SOFERhad to read the text LOUDLY in front of a gathered assembly, a task which thepriest or the king may have considered unworthy of office. could even beembarrassing if these dignitaries had glitched over a complicated word.”
Thetext explicitly denies all of that.  See IIKings 23: 2 quoted above. 
Switchinggears, Nir Cohen then came up with this interesting argument:  “both priest and king may have been totallyabsorbed in the hectic reconstruction work in the temple and desperate defenceplans in view of incoming invasions.  theydid not have time to read.”
ButKing Josiah  d-i-d  read the sacred text to himself, once it hadbeen transformed from cuneiform to alphabetical Hebrew by the scribe, and thenhe  d-i-d take the time to read this text to all the assembled multitude ofJerusalem and Judah.
4.  Finally, Karl W. Randolph weighed in asfollows:  “There’s another considerationthat was common before the typewriter:  evenin societies with near universal literacy, there was ready employment foranyone who could write with good, clear penmanship.”
Butthat’s not the issue here.  First andforemost was determining precisely what this ancient text was.  Hilkiah gave it to the scribe to read, andthen later the scribe read it to King Josiah. Penmanship isn’t the issue. Rather, the problem was that this ancient sacred text was written incuneiform (using west Semitic words), and accordingly the only one in Jerusalemwho could read it was Shaphan the scribe, who as part of his regular dutiesread cuneiform letters sent to Judah from Assyria and Babylonia.
*       *      *
Guys,the only realistic way that part of the Torah can be a  w-r-i-t-t-e-n text dating all the long way back to the Bronze Age is if the writingsystem used was cuneiform, using west Semitic words.  That’s the “missing link” to discover thetrue antiquity, and pinpoint historical accuracy, of the Patriarchal narratives.

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