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Exiled Gods

Tyler Williams provides a summary of “The Exiled Gods of Bablyon in Neo-Assyrian Prophecy” by Martti Nissinen:

In his paper, Martti examined an incident in Assyrian and Babylonian history when the Assyrian king Sennacherib razed the city of Babylon and deported its gods in 689 BCE. The deportation and/or destruction of a defeated nation’s gods (i.e., the statues) was a standard practice for the Assyrians (and other ancient peoples) and was considered an unambiguous sign of humiliation and demonstration of the power of the victorious monarch and his gods. What is particularly interesting is how the event was understood by each nation. Obviously the victorious nation interpreted the events as vindication of the superiority of their king and gods. More interesting is how the defeated nation understood the calamity ideologically. More often than not, the defeated nation would interpret the defeat and deportation of their gods as a sign that their gods were angry with them — not that the other nation’s gods were stronger.

Of course, that is also what the ancient Hebrews did after the fall of Jerusalem in 587 BC. I’m thankful for Tyler (and Martti) for bringing this historical context to light. Asking, “How did other ancient peoples respond to being exiled?” opens up some interesting possibilities for understanding Old Testament history more fully.


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