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Monthly Archives: February 2008


Signs of the Kingdom

A black Gospel choir singing a Russian liturgical piece.

(H/T: Per Christum)


Christian Reconciliation Carnival #11: Call for Submissions

The next Christian Reconciliation Carnival will be hosted here in early April. The deadline for submissions is March 31, and the carnival will be posted very shortly thereafter. Here is a link for information about submitting posts.

This quarter’s Carnival catches the Christian family in its almost yearly East-West time warp. By the end of March, most of us‚Äîthose who follow the Gregorian calendar‚Äîwill have already passed Easter heading for Pentecost. Orthodox Christians following the Julian calendar, however, will be near the beginning of Great Lent and Pascha will still be a month away. At the same time, thousands of Christians in the free-church tradition will have celebrated Easter without giving a moment’s thought to a Lenten season of preparation, and will be largely oblivious that Pentecost is looming on the horizon.

All of this prompts me to propose “Reconciliation and Liturgical Time” as the special topic for this Carnival. How are divergent or competing understandings of the liturgical year an obstacle to reconciliation? Conversely, how does the idea of liturgical time open up possibilities for greater unity? In any event, how do we live out our Christian discipleship among fellow believers who approach liturgical time differently?

I look forward to your insights.

iMonk among the Mainliners

He had a good time, and if you are part of an evangelical / fundamentalist / charismatic / confessional-type church tradition, you ought to read why.

In Canada, I’d Be an Excellent Preacher

If Neil Young’s Canadian sermon typology is any indication, I could be Fred Craddock in a tuque, eh?

What Kind of Craven Slimeball Deletes Another Person’s Blog?

Charles Halton reports it has happened to Dr. Jim West, a pioneer of the biblioblogosphere, with whom I believe I probably disagree about practically everything. Still, this sort of despicable act is so far beyond the pale as to be incomprehensible. Therefore, I am following Charles’ lead and hereby adding a link to Jim’s (presently defunct) blog on my blogroll, and will update the link when/if he sets up his new blog. I encourage other bibliobloggers to do the same.

Update: Chris Tilling has posted a letter from Dr. West:

‚ÄúI want to thank all those who have dropped me a line or posted on their own blog words of encouragement and urging continuation. I’m appreciative and even (potentially) a bit humbled (ah but that’s already passed, thankfully- what a wretched feeling that humility nonsense is).

While I appreciate your sentiments, I don’t think I’ll re-enter the fray. I’ll post from time to time on biblioblogs.com and occasionally on moderatebaptists.blogspot.com (both of which are ‘group’ blogs); and of course I’ll remain active on the biblical studies list- but at present I don’t imagine I’ll launch another private blog. I think I’ll just let the vacuum caused by my absence naturally fill with newer, better, and more adorably oriented biblioblogs, and focus on my printed works aimed at church folk.

With all my denunciations of total depravity and my constant assertions concerning the reality of Divine Providence, it would be hypocritical were I surprised to be the victim of the one and the servant of the other. Perhaps this ‘closed door’ is best after all.

Receive all my best wishes, biblioblogging brothers (and I think 1 or 2 sisters), as you carry on the work. It’s yours now. Do well.‚Äù

Update 2: He’s ba-a-a-ack!

A Hurrian Cadre in King David’s Court

The Hurrians were ubiquitous throughout the ancient Near East. As a people, they were more widely spread than any other group before the Arameans. They flourished from the middle of the third millennium till the end of the second. They were probably the main population component of the Kura-Araxes culture which spread from Eastern Anatolia during the Late Uruk period (ca. 3000 BC) into the more civilized areas of the Fertile Crescent (Giorgi I Kavtaradze, “The Chronology of the Caucasus during the Early Metal Age: Observations from Central Trans-Caucasus,” A View from the Highlands: Archaeological Studies in Honour of Charles Burney, ed. Antonio Sagona [Peeters, 2004] 551). They were certainly the core population group of the Mitanni Kingdom of northern Mesopotamia. Hurrian texts have been found at Boghazköy (ancient Hattusas, center of the Hittite empire), Ugarit, Nuzi, Mari, and Tell el-Amarna in Egypt.

The Hurrians greatly influenced the Hittites “in regard to writing, literature, law, religion, and art; small wonder that the Hittite vocabulary teems with Hurrian loan words” (E. A. Speiser, “Hurrians,” IDB 2:665). Some have even postulated that the biblical “Hittites” might be better understood as ethnic Hurrians.

Hurrians in the Bible

Hurrians settled as far south as central Palestine, so it is no surprise that they would be encountered in the Old Testament. Hurrian names have been discovered at Jerusalem, Taanach, possibly Shechem, and elsewhere. Although the main biblical term for this people was “Horites” (cf. Gen 36:20), Speiser suggests this term was eventually replaced by other designations such as “Hivites” (Gen 10:17) and “Jebusites” (Gen 10:16). Perhaps this was in part to avoid confusion with the people of the same name who lived in Seir (Speiser, 665).

The court of King David seems to have a rather strong connection to the Hurrians who lived in Canaan around the turn of the first millennium.

The Hurrians of Gath

Akish. When David fled from King Saul, he ended up in the employ of King Achish (or Akish) of Gath (1 Sam 21). Although a Philistine, Akish seems to have a Hurrian name. Richard S. Hess has suggested that Akish is perhaps a short form of a name based on the Hurrian element aki, roughly translated “gift” (Amarna Personal Names [Eisenbrauns, 1993] 152). This sort of abbreviation, called a hypocoristicon by people who love giving things long, unpronounceable names, is common even today. For example, we think nothing of a William who goes by Bill or an Elizabeth who prefers to be called Betty. In the case of Akish, the long form may possibly be Aki-Shimige, “Gift of [the god] Shimige” or perhaps “Shimige has given.” Another possibility might be that Akish had a mixed Hurrian-Canaanite name such as Aki-Shamash, replacing the name of the Hurrian sun-god with that of the Canaanites.

Yet a third possibility is that Akish is a hypcoristicon for Akksharur, “the king gives” (Hanna E. Kassis, “Gath and the Structure of the ‘Philistine’ Society,” JBL 84/3 (1965) 268 n. 54).

The Hurrians of Hebron

David’s first capital was established at Hebron, where he ruled for seven and a half years (2 Sam 2:11). Hebron had long been an important Hurrian center in Canaan. At the time of Israel’s wilderness generation, the Bible indicates that Hebron was ruled by three “sons of Anak”: Sheshai, Talmai, and Ahiman (Num 13:22). Sheshai is a Hurrian name attested at Nuzi and, most likely, on scarabs from Egypt and Canaan from the Hyksos era. Talmai is also “typically Hurrian, with deity’s name omitted” (Kenneth Kitchen, On the Reliability of the Old Testament [Eerdmans, 2003] 177).

In the time of Joshua, the king of Hebron was Hoham, which is also best considered a Hurrian-based name with the elements huhha and (a)m (Kitchen 177). Hebron seems, therefore, to be a longstanding Hurrian dynastic center. When David established it as his first capital, it would have made sense for him to recruit capable Hurrians to serve at his court. In fact, the Bible names several of them.

Seraiah. David’s chief scribe or secretary is named Seraiah in 2 Samuel 8:17. This is a perfectly fine Hebrew name meaning “Yah[weh] is ruler.” Elsewhere, however, this man’s name is given as Sheva (2 Sam 20:25) or Shavsha (1 Ch 18:16). According to Benjamin Mazar, these forms are probably derived from Hurrian Shawu[shka]-Sha[rru], “Shawushka is king” (The Early Biblical Period: Historical Studies [Israel Exploration Society, 1986] 134ff.)

Seraiah/Sheva’s son, a scribe during the reign of Solomon, had a name that can be understood as a mixture of Hurrian and Hebrew: Elihoreph (1 Kgs 4:3), perhaps originally Eli-Harpa, “my god is Harpa” (cf. Elijah, “my God is Yah[weh]) (Mazar, 133-35).

Ittai. Later in his career, David had a man named Ittai of Gath as his “captain” (2 Sam 15:22). This is likely derived from the Hurrian name Eteia, attested in numerous Nuzi texts. In fact, the LXX gives the name in the form Ethei.

Maacah. In Hebron, David took Maacah “daughter of King Talmai of Geshur” as a wife (2 Sam 3:3). I have already noted that Talmai is a “typically Hurrian” name, so Maacah was likely either Hurrian or at least had some claim to Hurrian heritage on her father’s side.

The Hurrians of Jerusalem

Jerusalem was apparently a Hurrian-controlled city before it was captured by David. During the Amarna period, the king of Jerusalem was named Abdi-Heba (or Abdi-Hepa), another mixed Hurrian-Semitic name meaning “servant of [the goddess] Heba.” (Actually, the first element is represented by a logogram; its actual form is uncertain and thus the name might have been purely Hurrian.) The Bible calls these original inhabitants of Jerusalem “Jebusites,” but it is not entirely clear whether the entire population was Hurrian or simply ruled by a Hurrian aristocracy. At any rate, during the time of the Conquest, the king of Jerusalem was Adonizedek (Josh 10:3), a thoroughly Semitic name.

Araunah. Araunah (or Aravnah/Arawnah), from whom David bought a threshing floor and turned it into an altar (2 Sam 24:16, 24), can be explained as a form of Ewri, Hurrian for “lord” (Speiser, 665).

Naharai. When David transferred his capital to Jerusalem, he seems to have continued to find capable Hurrians to serve him. Naharai of Beeroth (2 Sam 23:37) was one of David’s “mighty men,” a hand-picked elite within David’s army that perhaps served as a council of war. (These may well have been among those warriors who had followed David since the time when he was fleeing King Saul.) Naharai was the armor-bearer of David’s general, Joab. He also possessed a Hurrian name, which might have originally been a hypocoristicon for Nihria[-Teshub] (Mazar, 137-38).

Uriah. Might Uriah “the Hittite” (2 Samuel 11:3) have been a Hurrian? Urhiya is “a pure Hurrian name” (Kitchen 176) meaning “[deity X] is true.” There was a general by this name, a Hurrian or Canaanite by descent, in the service of Ramesses II. David’s Uriah was also a member of his “mighty men” (2 Sam 23:39)

“David”: A Hurrian Throne Name?

As we have seen, David served as vassal under a Hurrian “Philistine” king from Gath, had Hurrians among his “mighty men,” and employed a Hurrian as his chief secretary. Throughout his reign, he seems to have been surrounded by a small but strategically placed cadre of Hurrians. Is it possible that David himself took a Hurrian throne name?

It could be argued, for example, that the name David itself might be understood as a Hurrian name (i.e., Tadua) composed of tad, “to love,” plus the formative element wa. Its meaning, “beloved [of deity X],” would thus be identical to that of David understood as a Hebrew name‚ which may have been pronounced Dud or Dawd in this early period. A similar name may be seen in its longer form in the Amarna correspondence: Tadu-Heba. In at least some dialects, the cuneiform symbol used to signify “ta” must have been very close to “da.” In Hatti, the name Tadu-Heba is sometimes written as Dadu-Heba or Dudu-Heba (Hess, 153).

It is worth noting that some have interpreted 2 Samuel 21:19 to say that David also went by the name Elhanan, which was perhaps the name given to him at birth. A. M. Honeyman explains how this line of reasoning goes:

I Sam 17 tells how David slew the Philistine Goliath. But among the miscellaneous notices of encounters with the Philistines there is one which ascribes the slaughter of Goliath to “Elhanan the son of Ya’are-Oregim of Bethlehem.” The Chronicler senses a difficulty and “improves” the text by making “Elhanan the son of Ya’ir” slay “Lahmi, the brother of Goliath the Gittite.” The right resolution of the textual tangle is on quite other lines. The word ‘oregim has been introduced by dittography from the end of II Sam 21:19. The reading ya’iri is a corruption, of which there is an acknowledgment in the smaller lettering of the resh in many MSS. The ‘ayin resh of ya’iri results from a mis-reading of shin. The original reading was yishai; the slayer of Goliath was Elhanan the son of Jesse of Bethlehem. Elhanan can be none other than he who reigned as David…. (“The Evidence for Regnal Names among the Hebrews,” JBL 67/1 [1948] 23-24)

If that is the case, and given his many ties to Hurrians throughout his early career, might David have assumed a Hurrian name at his coronation? Or, might he have chosen a Hebrew throne name that would be phonetically similar to the same name translated into Hurrian?

Even if this last point is dismissed (and it is certainly speculative), the evidence is quite solid that David elevated numerous Hurrians to high position in his court. His court must have looked remarkably like the demographic makeup of his kingdom; it was certainly not limited exclusively to native-born Israelites. Whether and to what extent we might discern other Hurrian influences throughout the united monarchy period is a subject worthy of additional study.

technorati tags: david, gath, hebron, hurrians, jerusalem

Was Shoshenq I Late for His Own War?

When a city is burned and there are short-lived grains involved, the age of the grains as determined by radiocarbon dating serves to date the entire destruction level. Thus, the recent work on 14C dating of grains found in city IV of Tel Rehov provides a check against the chronology of both Egypt and Israel. The destruction of Rehov city IV is associated with a military campaign of Pharaoh Shoshenq I, the founder of Egypt’s 22nd dynasty. Shoshenq I has long been associated with the biblical character “Shishak” (or Shishaq) who invaded Judah in the fifth year of King Rehoboam (1 Kgs 14:25-28).

According to almost all biblical scholars, the fifth year of Rehoboam works out to ca. 927 BC. The destruction layer at Rehov, however, is carbon dated to between 914 and 823 BC, with the highest relative probability placing the event ca. 874-867 (871 being the precise middle of the range). If this is an accurate dating, the chronology of both Egypt and Israel/Judah needs to be down-shifted about sixty years!

Another option, however, is that the conventional chronology of Israel and Judah may still stand at this point (Thiele is hard to refute, although there may be some room for minor tweaks here and there), but that the biblical “Shishak” has been mis-identified. It should be noted that the Shishak-Shoshenq identification was the product of Victorian Christians working at the dawn of modern Egyptology and eager to “prove” the Bible through discovering its connections with the newly available resources of ancient Egypt. This was not a time of dispassionate, value-neutral scholarship! Finding evidence of a Pharaoh named Hedjkheperre Shoshenq I, whose monuments indicate a campaign into Canaan in his twentieth year, it was perhaps natural for these early Egyptologists to comb the pages of their Bibles to find something similar. First Kings 14 was the obvious answer, and the verbal similariy between Shoshenq and Shishak was too good to pass up.

Thus, on the basis of the biblical text, a date was determined for the 20th year of Shoshenq I: 927 BC. But is it absolutely certain that Shoshenq was in fact “Shishak”? Actually, to my mind this is not certain at all. There are, in fact, some discrepancies between the careers of the two Pharaohs. Most significantly, the list of place-names in Shoshenq’s victory monument indicates that his army mainly traversed the central hill country down to the Jordan valley, then up to the eastern entrance of the Jezreel valley and westwards along its floor before crossing the Mount Carmel ridge and heading home along the coastal plain. As Rohl explains,

The whole situation is topsy-turvy: whilst Shishak attacks Judah and enters Jerusalem to plunder the Temple of Yahweh, Shoshenk attacks Israel and does not mention Jerusalem as one of the defeated cities in his campaign record; Shishak is allied to Israel and subjugates Judah whilst Shoshenk subjugates Israel and avoids confrontation with Judah. So can we honestly continue to contend that the Palestine campaign of Shoshenk I is identical with that of Shishak as mentioned in Kings and Chronicles? (Pharaohs and Kings [Crown, 1995] 127)

Rohl argues a better case can be made for Ramesses II as the biblical Shishak. Based on calculations independent of attempts at biblical synchronism, Rohl had estimated that Ramesses II reigned in the late tenth and early ninth centuries—an astounding 300 years later than in conventional chronology, and even more if the Tel Rehov 14C date is accepted! Egyptologists accept that Ramesses did in fact campaign in Palestine and even plundered Jerusalem in the eighth year of his reign. Perhaps this campaign is to be equated with the Egyptian invasion in Rehoboam’s year 5. Perhaps there is a new identification for Shishak that, while still unorthodox, does not require quite such a radical chronological revision.

First, however, we need to ponder the name “Shishak.” The verbal similarity with Shoshenq would seem to count against the identification of Shishak with Ramesses, but not necessarily. Ss, Ssw, Ssy, or Sysw, pronounced “Sesa” (or something similar), can be demonstrated to be a common abbreviated form of the name Ramesses. This is one of Rohl’s arguments in favor of Ramesses II. There are, in addition, numerous examples of the Semitic scripts of Western Asia substituting Egyptian “s” with “sh” and vice versa. (Ibid., 157).

Presented with a name that might have been written “Shisha” in Hebrew characters, a biblical writer or redactor may have made a play on the name by adding a letter qof at the end, creating a pun on the Hebrew word “assaulter” or “the one who crushes” (Ibid., 163).

So perhaps the biblical “Shishak” was in fact a Pharaoh named Ramesses, of which there were a total of eleven during the New Kingdom era. If Rohl’s identification with Ramesses II is too extreme, might any of the others fit? Jeremy Goldberg agrees that Shoshenq I makes a terrible fit with the biblical “Shishak,” but he proposes that it was in fact Ramesses IX (who reigned 934-915 in his chronology) who invaded Judah in Rehoboam’s fifth year. In “Centuries of Darkness and Egyptian Chronology: Another Look,” he explains,

This is unsubstantiated, but then again, no at all appropriate Egyptian record of Shishak’s campaign appears to exist. A Ramesses IX identification would at least help explain this lack by the late Dyn. 20 breakdown of royal authority and increased dependence on foreign troops. Perhaps very significantly, this choice agrees excellently with surprising evidence from Beth-Shan, where Egyptian royal stelae were restored to a position of honor for a significant period beginning during late Dyn. 20. Since there is no evidence for on-going Egyptian military domination of this region then, such continuing respect for Egypt should reflect a pro-Egyptian tendency by its ruler, in very good agreement (contrast the accepted chronology) with expectations concerning Jeroboam. This evident late Dyn. 20 restoration of the Egyptian position in Palestine is best associated with Ramesses IX, since he is the only late Dyn.20 king for whom remains of any monument have been found in Palestine.

With Ramesses IX identified with the biblical “Shishak” and slipped into place ca. 927 BC, Shoshenq I is allowed to be down-dated as well. In fact, Goldberg assigns his campaign a date of around 850 BC‚Äîonly 17 years below the highest relative probability dating for the Tel Rehov destruction! This places Shoshenq’s foray into Canaan in a historical context that, unlike the era of Rehoboam and Jeroboam, makes some degree of biblical sense:

Shoshenq I’s campaign would then be dated to c. 850, and would have respected to some degree the independence of a still powerful Judah, while treating Israel (in the wake of 2 Kg 3:27) as a weak vassal. The main focus would likely have been a demonstration (at least) against Damascus (cf. the alignment implied by 2 Kg 7:6). In view of the great wealth of Israel and Judah a few years earlier (1 Kg 22:39, 2 Chr 17:5,11f.), their treasuries would probably have contributed significantly to Shoshenq I’s great profit from this campaign.

There may yet be found a compelling reason for maintaining the Shoshenq-Shishak connection, although to me the Egyptian and Hebrew documents seem to describe two very different military campaigns. Should that connection stand, biblical scholars will have to decide how to trim a couple of generations off the biblical chronology in order to bring the fifth year of Rehoboam down to something close to 871 BC. Otherwise, we will be left with the embarrassing situation of Shoshenq I showing up 56 years late for his own war.