[b-hebrew] II kings 22 ENDING THREAD

George Athas George.Athas at moore.edu.au
Wed Dec 12 17:49:01 EST 2012

There is absolutely nothing in the text that demands the interpretation that the scroll which Hilkiah found was written in cuneiform. The suggestion comes from factors outside the text, but which again are in no way dependent on the text. Therefore, Jim's scenario has no evidence from the text itself, and is a purely speculative hypothesis that cannot in any way be proved or disproved. It is, therefore, for all intents and purposes, curious but of no value at all for understanding the text.

I don't see why we need to continue this conversation any further on list. It is not advancing our understanding of Biblical Hebrew language or literature, though it is giving us a glimpse at Jim's interesting imagination (the proposed scenario would make a nice visual scene in "Josiah: The Movie (adapted from the Bible)".

Everyone can have one final post on this subject, and then the thread ends.

ONE post each, followed by END OF THREAD.

Co-moderator of B-Hebrew
Sydney (only for another couple of hours), Australia

On 13/12/2012, at 8:48 AM, "jimstinehart at aol.com<mailto:jimstinehart at aol.com>" <jimstinehart at aol.com<mailto:jimstinehart at aol.com>> wrote:

The Biblical authors of II Kings were primarily interested in portraying King Josiah as a righteous ruler, who brought Judah back to the proper practice of true Judaism.  As such, King Josiah can also be expected to have a fine high priest of the Temple in Jerusalem, with whom King Josiah works well.  But the Biblical authors have zero interest in praising King Josiah’s scribe!!!
Everyone is hung up on the first verse I quoted, II Kings 22: 8:  “And Hilkiah the high priest said to Shaphan the secretary, ‘I have found the book of the law in the house of the LORD.’  And Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan, and he read it.”
Note what that verse does  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 read the sacred find, and specifically denies that Hilkiah gave the sacred text to King 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 Biblical authors have no interest whatsoever in portraying Shaphan as being an important, positive figure.
I have set forth a logical, simple explanation for the foregoing verse which fits everything the verse says and makes sense:  the sacred text was written in cuneiform (using west Semitic words), and therefore the only human being in Jerusalem who could read the darn thing was the guy whose professional duties required him to be able to read cuneiform letters written to Judah from Assyria and Babylonia.  Yes, those cuneiform letters were written in Assyrian or Akkadian, but cuneiform could be used just as easily to write west Semitic (as we know from the dozens of west Semitic words in the Amarna Letters).  A native Biblical Hebrew speaker who can read cuneiform letters in Assyrian and Akkadian could easily read a sacred Hebrew text written in cuneiform using west Semitic words.
Now let’s look at the alternative scenarios that you fellows have creatively floated.
1.  Dave Washburn wrote:  “I don't know where you got this idea that there was such a sharp division between religious and secular matters….”
I don’t know where you got the idea that I think any such thing.  On the other hand, the first inclination of the authors of II Kings and Chronicles would be to show high priest Hilkiah as working directly with King Josiah regarding this important sacred discovery.  Why bring King Josiah’s scribe into the picture?  Your comment that there was not “a sharp division between religious and secular matters” explains nothing.
Dave Washburn continued:  “Now I remember why I usually don't read your material.”
You mean you’re not super-excited about investigating the possibility that some of the oldest parts of the Torah may have been written in cuneiform using west Semitic words, thereby enabling there to be sacred Hebrew religious  w-r-i-t-t-e-n  texts dating all the 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, starting with the following:  “Jim, I just re-read the passage.  Nowhere does it say that Hilkiah and Josiah could not read the book that had been found.”
It doesn’t?  Gosh, if two different Biblical authors (II Kings and Chronicles) are trying to build up King Josiah, and show him as correctly interpreting Judaism with his high priest Hilkiah, then why would the text not say that Hilkiah read the sacred find, or that Hilkiah took the sacred text to King Josiah?  Why say that Hilkiah gave the text to the scribe, who read it?
Prof. Levin continued:  “Not because the king could not read, but because reading to the king was the scribe's job.”
Is there any support in the Bible, or outside of the Bible, for that?  The assertion is that the King could read just 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 the sacred text was written in cuneiform, and only the scribe could read that writing system?
Prof . Levin then specifically supported Dave Washburn’s odd comment above:  “I agree with Dave.  And remember that Shaphan was in charge of the repairs to the Temple in the first place. So quite naturally anything of importance that was found would be brought to him.”
Yes, any gold or silver found in the Temple would be handed over to the scribe, that’s for sure.  But an ancient sacred religious text?  What are high priests of Jerusalem good for if 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 set forth all of them here.  Nir Cohen starts out:  “the scribe (SOFER) was there specifically to read and write.”
Yes, but we know for a fact that King Josiah could read alphabetical Hebrew very well, as II Kings 23: 2 specifically says:  “And the king went up to the house of the LORD, and with him all the men of Judah and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and the priests and the prophets, all the people, both small and great;  and he read in their hearing all the words of the book of the covenant which had been found in the house of the LORD.”
Nir Cohen continued:  “his job may have included not just the physical reading, but also the grammatical interpretation, and even political censorship of certain difficult passages in the text. it must have been considered a very responsible job.”
Wait a minute!  The Biblical authors are bound and determined to build up King Josiah.  King Josiah, in conjunction with the high priest of Jerusalem, is interpreting this important ancient sacred Hebrew religious text.  King Josiah is definitely  n-o-t  relying on his scribe here for “political censorship of certain difficult passages in the text”.
Ni Cohen then wrote:  “moreover, the SOFER had to read the text LOUDLY in front of a gathered assembly, a task which the priest or the king may have considered unworthy of office. could even be embarrassing if these dignitaries had glitched over a complicated word.”
The text explicitly denies all of that.  See II Kings 23: 2 quoted above.
Switching gears, Nir Cohen then came up with this interesting argument:  “both priest and king may have been totally absorbed in the hectic reconstruction work in the temple and desperate defence plans in view of incoming invasions.  they did not have time to read.”
But King Josiah  d-i-d  read the sacred text to himself, once it had been transformed from cuneiform to alphabetical Hebrew by the scribe, and then he  d-i-d  take the time to read this text to all the assembled multitude of Jerusalem and Judah.
4.  Finally, Karl W. Randolph weighed in as follows:  “There’s another consideration that was common before the typewriter:  even in societies with near universal literacy, there was ready employment for anyone who could write with good, clear penmanship.”
But that’s not the issue here.  First and foremost was determining precisely what this ancient text was.  Hilkiah gave it to the scribe to read, and then later the scribe read it to King Josiah.  Penmanship isn’t the issue.  Rather, the problem was that this ancient sacred text was written in cuneiform (using west Semitic words), and accordingly the only one in Jerusalem who could read it was Shaphan the scribe, who as part of his regular duties read 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 writing system used was cuneiform, using west Semitic words.  That’s the “missing link” to discover the true antiquity, and pinpoint historical accuracy, of the Patriarchal narratives.
Jim Stinehart
Evanston, Illinois

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