In his recent book, The Post-American World (2008), Fareed Zakaria explains that after the end of the Cold War there was a brief “American interlude,” when the United States enjoyed a uni-polar status of unrivaled dominance, but that this phase has already come to a close. For about a half century, US-Soviet détente had produced a bi-polar, international power structure, whereas the present growth of markets and finance, of production and communications, has come to be known as “globalization
Growth takes place whenever a challenge evokes a successful response that, in turn, evokes a further and different challenge. We have not found any intrinsic reason why this process should not repeat itself indefinitely, although a majority of civilizations have failed, as a matter of fact.1
Applied to the present global situation, Toynbee
Although some repetition will be necessary for purposes of review, I hope to say more on this occasion about the earlier phases of Israelite religion, namely, the transitions from what I would call “selective polytheism
In contemporary Assyria, during the reign of Sennacherib
The term “monotheism,” as just defined, is to be differentiated from “henotheism
In surveying the many studies on the origins of Israelite monotheism it became clear to me that new methods were needed to address the political aspects of this complex problem. A political approach to the history of religious ideas proceeds on the theory that developing conceptions of the divine cannot be explained solely as the consequence of the innate human urge to seek after truth, and to comprehend the universe and the mysteries
In ancient Israel, evolving biblical conceptions of Yahweh
In Israel, the credibility of the nationalist God-idea had run its course in the Neo-Assyrian period, because in terms of military might, withstanding the Assyrian onslaught was impossible. Yahweh as national God had come through on his promise by enabling the Israelites to secure victory over Philistines
In my previous studies, I favored this political approach to the study of monotheism over thematic interpretations, such as had been espoused by Simo Parpola in his Introduction to the volume on Assyrian prophecies from the reign of Esarhaddon, Sennacherib’s
The methodology of Mark S. Smith in investigating the background of Israelite monotheism, applied in his work The Origins of Biblical Monotheism (2001), parallels Parpola’s thematic approach to religion in the Neo-Assyrian Empire in important ways. Smith describes models of West-Semitic conceptualization, especially those at Ugarit
It has been my goal to connect developments in religious thought directly to proximate events and changing challenges in the political sphere. The Hebrew Bible
Recourse to the Hebrew Bible
Precisely because I advocate a political approach to the emergence of Israelite monotheism it might be helpful to inquire how a politically oriented historian would evaluate the reliability of prophetic texts taken from the Hebrew Bible
So much for what is arguably the best-documented period in ancient Near Eastern history. It is another matter to identify in time and circumstance the Sitz-im-Leben of the authors and redactors of biblical texts that refer to earlier periods of Israelite history. These include the “heroic” literature of Judges and 1 Samuel
There is, first of all, a critical difference between the two biblical collections. The notion that the Israelites of Iron Age I were descendants of settlers who had inhabited Canaan
In contrast, the period of reference of core-Judges, although admittedly reaching back quite far, still falls within the historical limits of Israelite societal formation in Canaan
The canonical arrangement of biblical books and their contents is hardly chronological in its particulars, so that when one proposes that first Isaiah was the first Israelite spokesman to proclaim global monotheism, this conclusion is based on critical methods for dating biblical texts. In the present case, it means that in no biblical text that can reliably be dated prior to the mid-to-late eighth century BCE, does one find similar expressions of global monotheism. The consequence of such literary sequencing is that when we study First Isaiah’s pronouncements against the background of earlier, biblical conceptions of God, we can point to three, progressive phases in the development of Israelite religion, each a response in its time to a particular set of challenges.
In attempting to define the phases of Israelite religion, it would be well to state my “take” on the nature of the Israelite presence in Canaan
The relevance of positing the sequence: (a) settlement (b) war, is brought out by Biblical reports on the beginnings of Israelite life in Canaan
In the late ninth to early eighth century BCE, to which period I would assign the early strata of the so-called Patriarchal Narratives, cults
To return to the same Patriarchal Narratives, we note that Abram feasted with Melchizedek
To add to the complexity of the Patriarchal Narratives, we note that the pre-henotheist report of Jacob’s theophany at Bethel functions positively as a hieros logos of the cult-site of Bethel (Genesis
There is pre-henotheist El
The discovery of the Deir ’Alla
As regards Baal
It remains to explain the difference between the respective fates
The Hebrew Bible
To bless Baal
on the day of battle, To (bless) the name of El on the day of battle.8
The above epigraphic
What is needed is a comprehensive phenomenological analysis of Yahweh’s persona, if one may use that term. Such an investigation, along the lines of Mark Smith’s treatment, would trace the synthesis of divine traits in Yahweh, including the female element represented by Asherah
The religious policy of Phase I, representing the first response to the challenge of Israelite life in Canaan
To maintain national unity it was claimed that Yahweh, alone, can grant the Israelites victory over their enemies, and entitle them to the lands they had settled. Thus, Elijah
With escalating aggressiveness, the Israelite prophets
spoke to the entire House of Israel as follows: If with all your heart you are returning to Yahweh, remove the foreign gods from your midst, and the Ashtoreth-images , and direct your heart to Yahweh and worship him alone. He will rescue you from the power of the Philistines . Thereupon the Israelites removed the Baal -images and the Ashtoreth-images and worshiped Yahweh alone. (1 Samuel 7: 3–4)
The Deuteronomic school went territorial, prohibiting worship of any god except Yahweh even by non-Israelites who inhabited the land, God’s country. This ideology
The existence of the gods of Egypt
In summary, the first call to Yahwist henotheism
Before proceeding to the third phase, a word is in order about the phenomenology of Yahwist henotheism
In my study entitled “Assyrian
Sennacherib, the great king, the powerful king, king of the entire world (šar kiššāti), king of the land of Assyria
, king of the four quarters […pietistic titulary]; consummate warrior, valiant man, foremost among all of the kings, the great king who swallows up those who do not submit, who strikes the wicked with lightning–Aššur , the great mountain, has handed over to me unrivaled kingship [d Aššur šadû rabû šarru-ut la ša-na-an ú-šat-li-ma-ni-ma] over all who dwell in palaces ; he has increased [the power of] my weapons. From the upper sea of the west to the lower sea of the east, all of the black-headed creatures has he placed under my feet, and powerful kings feared my onslaught.9
When we compare this passage from Sennacherib’s annals to corresponding passages crediting divine powers for world domination, such as are found in the earlier annals of Tiglat-Pileser III
Beginning with First Isaiah, and anticipated to a degree by his contemporaries, Amos, Micah, and Hosea, the prophetic horizon expanded to global proportions in response to the immediate threat of a world empire, against which military resistance was futile. Implicit in the prophetic response is the conclusion that global monotheism would most likely emerge in a uni-polar imperial age, since it is the hypostasis of the kosmo-krator “world ruler,” in the Assyrian
, rod of my rage! He is an arm-staff of my wrath! I mobilize him against an ungodly nation, I deploy him against a people who provoke me. To take spoils and seize booty, And to subject it to trampling, like the mire of the streets. But he does not perceive it thus, nor does he so comprehend; For it is in his heart to destroy, to terminate nations, more than a few.
As I have devised, so is it happening; as I planned, so shall it come about. To break Assyria
in my land; to crush him on my mountains. His yoke shall be removed from him; And his tributary burden removed from their back. This is the plan devised for all the earth; And this is the arm outstretched over all the nations. For Yahweh of the heavenly hosts has devised it, who can foil it? And his outstretched arm—who can stay it?
Until quite recently, I regarded the prophetic doctrine of relying on Yahweh as wide-eyed and unrealistic. That was before I realized that First Isaiah and his contemporaries were in the process of redefining power concepts; of divorcing divine power from political and military might. In the heroic tradition, preserved primarily in the books of Judges and Samuel
The spirit of Yahweh shall alight upon him; A spirit of wisdom and insight. A spirit of courageous counsel; A spirit of enlightenment and reverence for Yahweh. He shall sense the truth through his reverence for Yahweh, So that he shall not judge by what his eyes see, Nor decide by what his ears hear. He shall judge the poor equitably, And decide fairly for the lowly of the land. He shall strike down to the earth by ‘the rod’ of his speech, By the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked. Justice shall be the girdle of his waist, And faithfulness the girdle of his loins.
It would appear that both in Judah and in Assyri
Overall, I regard Mario Liverani’s study of Israelite history (Liverani 2005) as a paradigm of contextual method, and I have utilized it here as a benchmark in assessing the validity of biblical sources as evidence. I am not entirely comfortable, however, with Liverani’s bifurcation, whereby he distinguishes systematically between “normal history” and “invented history.” If by “invented” he means “exceptional,” namely, what would not qualify for inclusion in a history of events, socio-political developments and economic trends, representing “the view from above,” then I agree in principle, if not in every instance. The Israelites, later Jews, created in the Hebrew Bible a narrative, some of it realistic and historical, other parts of it imagined, and virtually all of it ideological, reflecting “the view from below;” recording what was of primary concern to them. In my opinion, the transitions on which I have focused here constituted real turning points in the history of Israelite religion. Most of all, what the Hebrew Bible
Ackerman, S. (2006). Asherah. In: The New Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible Abington: Abington Press 297-299
Ahituv, S. (2008). Echoes from the Past: Hebrew and Cognate Inscriptions from the Biblical Period. Berlin: Carta.
Eissfeldt, Otto (1956). El and Yahweh. Journal of Semitic Studies 1: 25-37
Frahm, E. (1997). Einleitung in die Sanherib Inschriften. Vienna: Institut für Orientalistik der Universität Wien.
Gray, G.B. (1912). A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Book of Isaiah, I–XXXIX. Edinburgh: TT Clark Edinburgh.
Knauf, E.A. (2003). Ist die Erste Bibel monotheistisch?. In: Der eine Gott und die Götter: Polytheismus und Monotheismus im antiken Israel Ed. by Manfred Oeming, Konrad Schmid. Zürich: Theologischer Verlag Zürich 39-48
Levine, B.A. (2000). Numbers 21–36, Anchor Bible Commentary 4A. New York: Doubleday.
- (2003a). `Ah, Assyria, Rod of my Rage' (Isa 10:5): Biblical Monotheism as Seen in an International Political Perspective: A Prolegomenon. Eretz-Israel 27: 202-209
- (2003b). `Weihe, Assur, Rute meines Zorns!' Der biblische Monotheismus als Antwort auf die neue politische Realität des Assyrischen Weltreiches. In: Der eine Gott und die Götter: Polytheismus und Monotheismus im antiken Israel Ed. by Manfred Oeming, Konrad Schmid. Zürich: Theologischer Verlag Zürich 77-96
- (2005). Assyrian Ideology and Israelite Monotheism. Iraq (= Rencontre Assyriologique Internationale 49/ 2) LXVII/1: 411-427
- (2007). The View from Jerusalem: Biblical Responses to the Babylonian Presence. In: The Babylonian World Ed. by Gwendolyn Leick. New York: Routledge 541-561
- (2009). Religion in the Heroic Spirit: Themes in the Book of Judges. In: Thus says the Lord: essays on the Former and Latter Prophets in honor of Robert R. Wilson Ed. by R.R. Wilson, J.J. Ahn, J. A.. Edinburgh: T&T Clark 27-42
Liverani, M. (2005). Israel's History and the History of Israel. Sheffield: Equinox.
Luckenbill, D.D. (1924). The Annals of Sennacherib. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Olyan, S.M. (1988). Asherah and the Cult of Yahweh in Israel. Atlanta: Scholars Press.
Parpola, S. (1997). Assyrian Prophecies SAA IX. Helsinki: The Neo-Assyrian Text Project, Helsinki University Press.
Schoors, A. (1997). Historical Information in Isaiah 1–39. In: Studies in the Book of Isaiah Ed. by J. Ruiten, Vervenne van. Leuven: Leuven University Press 75-93
Tadmor, H. (1989). The Sin of Sargon and Sennacherib's Last Will, Part 2: The Histroical Background. State Archives of Assyria Bulletin 3: 25-32
Toynbee, A.J. (1951). A Study of History (Abridgement of Vols, I–VI, by D.C. Somervell). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
- (1957). A Study of History (Abridgement of Vols. VII–X, by D.C.Somervell). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Yusa, M. (1987). Henotheism. In: The Encyclopedia of Religion Ed. by M. Eliade, C.J. Adams. Berlin: Macmillan 262-267
Zakaria, F. (2008). The Post-American World. New York: W.W. NortonCo..
See (Zakaria 2008, Frontwork).
See the listing in Reference Bibliography, under (Levine 2003a; 2003b; 2005; 2007; 2009). An abridgment of the Arnold Toynbee’s history, in 2 volumes, was utilized (Toynbee 1951; 1957).
See the entry “Henotheism,” by Michiko (Yusa 1987), and bibliography cited, on the usage of this term in modern scholarship. Also note the periodization adopted by (Knauf 2003), who refers to “residueller Polytheismus,” and “programmatischer Henotheismus.”
In addition to the name Yerubbacal, itself, note the following Baalist names: ‘Ešbacal, son of Saul (2 Sam 2:8, et cetera, with the derogatory substitution of bōšet “shame,” and see 1 Chron 8:39), and Merîba’al, son of Jonathan (1 Chron 9:40, written as Mepîbōšet in 2 Sam 4:4, et cetera).
For text, bibliography and notes see (Ahituv 2008, 40–42).
See the pioneer study by Otto Eissfeldt (1956, 25–37).
For a discussion of the overall relevance of the Deir ‘Alla inscriptions for an understanding of Israelite religion see (Levine 2000, 241–275, “Comment 5: The Balaam Inscriptions from Deir ‘Alla.”).
For annotated texts, see (Ahituv 2008, 313–329 (Kuntillet ‘Ajrud); Ahituv 2008, 220–232 (Khirbet el-Qom (Makkedah)). Also see (Ackerman 2006) and bibliography cited, especially the monograph (Olyan 1988).
Cited from (Luckenbill 1924, 23–24, Oriental Institute Prism, H2, lines 1–16). Also see (Frahm 1997, 102–105).
See the discussion of rûah YHWH “the spirit of Yahweh” in (Levine 2009).
Table of Contents
Introduction to Melammu: Early Globalization
M. J. Geller
2 Global Monotheism:
The Contribution of the Israelite Prophets
Baruch A. Levine
6 Gilgamesh’s Plant of Rejuvenation and Qāṭīne’s Sīsīsāmbur
7 Some Observations about “Foreigners” in Babylonia
during the VI Century BCE
8 The Religious Reform of Nabonidus: A Sceptical View
9 New Light on George Smith’s Purchase of the
Egibi Archive in 1876 from the Nachlass Mathewson
Strahil V. Panayotov, Cornelia Wunsch
10 Phrygian Bronzes in the Greek World:
Globalization through Cult?
11 Power and Ritual in the Achaemenian Royalty
12 Religious Ontology and Taxonomic Structures in Indo-Iranian Oral Poetry
13 Elements of “Globalization” in Ancient Iranian Numismatics
15 India and World Trade: From the Beginnings to the
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