[b-hebrew] II kings 22 ENDING THREAD

jimstinehart at aol.com jimstinehart at aol.com
Wed Dec 12 18:31:35 EST 2012

Karl W. Randolph wrote:  “By this time Torah scrolls were writtenusing iron age font, examples of which were used as late as a couple of theDead Sea Scrolls.  Hilkiah recognized theimportance of this scroll because he could read it, therefore he didn’t throwit out with the trash, but gave it to the scribe to bring to the king.  You need to bring evidence to back up yourtheories, but so far you have but conjecture upon conjecture.”
And earlier, Prof. Yigal Levin hadwritten:  “In general, I find the idea ofa book, Deuteronomy or otherwise, being ‘lost’ in the Temple since the days ofMoses highly unlikely.  Since the Templeitself was only built centuries after Moses, where would it have been in themeanwhile?”
One traditional theory regarding thosetwo questions is that what priest Hilkiah had found was one of two  o-r-i-g-i-n-a-l-s  of the Book of Deuteronomy.  It was not a mere copy!  Rather, the Biblical authors of II Kings andChronicles are claiming (whether historically accurately or not) that one oftwo  o-r-i-g-i-n-a-l-s  of the Book of Deuteronomy was found in theTemple in Jerusalem.  So forget the IronAge!  We’re going way back to the BronzeAge, which would necessarily entail a Bronze Age-style writing method, such ascuneiform.
The 1951 scholarly article that Ipreviously cited explains the Biblical theory here this way:
“[W]hat exactly is implied by Hilkiah’swords ‘I have found the book of the law in the house of the LORD’?  Do they imply that the book had been ‘lost’,and if so, what would constitute a ‘loss’ of a law-book in the Temple?  There may be no certain answer to thesequestions, but we may at least observe that it is difficult to account forHilkiah’s behaviour throughout the incident unless he regarded his finding ofthe book as a discovery of something which, so far as his experience wasconcerned, had not been known in the Temple for some time.  Yet there is no reason to suppose that hisattitude to the authority and antiquity of the book was any different from thatof Josiah and Huldah.  Now if the bookwas Deuteronomy, as seems probable for the reasons already advanced, someinteresting light is thrown on the situation;  for Deuteronomy makes three stipulations aboutits own use and preservation:  (a)the prototype was to be placed in the custody of the priests the Levites by theside of the ark of the covenant.  It wasthere a witness against the people, and was to be read to the assembly of allIsrael at the end of every seven years (Deuteronomy xxxi. 9 ff., 24 ff.).  (b) A copy was to be made from thisprototype for the use of the king when he should arise.  ‘It shall be with him, and he shall readtherein all the days of his life:  thathe may learn to fear the LORD his God’ (Deut. xvii.18 ff.).  (c) An engraving of the law was to bemade ‘very plainly’ on the plaster surface of great stones to be set up for thepurpose on Mount Ebal when the Jordan had been crossed (Deut. xxvii.1-8).  On any view of the antiquity of Deuteronomy,then, there is no reason to suppose that more than two copies of Deuteronomy oughtto have been in existence in Jerusalem in the time of Josiah [p.32]—theprototype by the ark (or its descendant) and a royal copy.  It is easy now to see what a loss of this lawwould imply.  The king’s copy had clearlyperished or was long lost, not surprisingly, and the priests’ prototype was nolonger by the ark but either perished altogether or was concealed somewhereelse in the Temple, deliberately or accidentally….”
DonaldW.B. Robinson:  “Josiah’s Reform and theBook of the Law”.  http://www.biblicalstudies.org.uk/pdf/josiah_robinson.pdf
The claim being made at II Kings isthat a Bronze Age  o-r-i-g-i-n-a-l  of Deuteronomy (or possibly some other ancientportion of the Torah) was discovered in the Jerusalem Temple in the 7thcentury BCE.  In order to make aplausible case for that claim, a Bronze Age-style writing method, not Iron Agealphabetical Hebrew, would need to be supposed: cuneiform.
Per Nir Cohen’s comment, that originalwould not have been written in Akkadian cuneiform.  Rather, it would have been written incuneiform using west Semitic words, just as dozens of west Semitic words arewritten in cuneiform in the Amarna Letters.
Whether the story is historicallyaccurate or not is questionable.  But thestory makes sense, as I see it, if and only if what was discovered wasconceptualized as having been written in cuneiform using west Semitic words, sothat only Shaphan the scribe could read it.
George Athas is of course right that IIKings does not explicitly say that what was found was written incuneiform.  But II Kings does verystrongly imply that neither Hilkiah nor King Josiah could read it.  Only the scribe, whose professional dutiesrequired him to read cuneiform letters from Assyria and Babylonia, could readthat type of writing system.  However, Shaphancould transform it into alphabetical Hebrew very quickly and easily, becausethe words, though written in cuneiform, were, you see, west Semitic.
The reason why Hebrew common words in the oldest part of the Torah read for the most part like 7th century BCE classical Biblical Hebrew is not because the Torah is late fiction ginned up in the 7th century BCE.  Rather, it's because the 7th century BCE is when the ancient cuneiform versions (using west Semitic words) were transferred over into alphabetical Hebrew.  T-h-a-t  is what is super-exciting about King Josiah's discovery.
Jim Stinehart
Evanston, Illinois 

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