Lecture 9 -(6.2) Josiah’s & (7.1) Exilic Jerusalem

(6.2) Josiah’s Jerusalem

Today we finished talking about Josiah’s Jerusalem. Prof. Cargill began class with the important distinction between actual historical events in Jerusalem which then attracted stories, such as Sennacherib’s invasion, and unvalidated myths like the Akedah. We then discussed the ostracon found at Mezad Hashavyahu, an ancient fortress on the border of Judea near the Mediterranean sea. This tablet contains a complaint by a servant whose employer took his coat and did not return it. While it (1) might seem an odd requirest (2) might not seem like something written in law, it ends up it is something which is explicitly discouraged by a law discussed in the books of Exodus and (less directly in) Amos. It was law because it seemed like the only way you could trust a person to come to your residence and do work for you was to ensure some king of collateral, which was usually their coat. Unfortunately some people abused this right and wouldn’t give servants coats back, something that became punishable by law. The question is whether (1) the ostracon cites law from Exodus (as in, the Bible already existed and it is simply being referenced as law) or (2) this law already in historical existence and the Bible actually just picked it up later when it was being written. No matter what happened, this shows how writing found in archaeological digs began to parallel and cite rules from the Hebrew Bible. It is reasonable to suggest this could be due to the growth of literacy, as now even the commoner could write down a law or proverb they believed, something which either was picked up by Bible writers later on or was inspired by them. Which is true we may never know. Similarly to this Tavneh Yam Letter (Mezad Hashavyahu Ostracon), there were two silver amulets found at Ketef Hinnom. Inscribed in this jewelry was a verse from the Book of Numbers. Just like the Ostracon, this was important because it reflected how growth in literacy may have been contributing to parallels seen in rules of the bible and artifacts of the period, but also because it shows literacy was becoming so widespread people were wearing their writing. Before moving to Excilic Jerusalem, we discussed an excerpt from the writing of Jack Goody (“The Domestication of the Savage Mind [1977]), who characterized literacy as a rise in semi-permanent communication. This rise of a more permanent medium of communication of ideas led to the ability to analyze thoughts and compare stories. This allowed more comparative and global studies of what was accepted as truth.

(7.1) Exilic Jerusalem

Then we moved our discussion towards the various exile period leading up to the tragic fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians in 586 BCE. In addition we discussed the the efforts which have been made by the ancient peoples to reconcile with the destruction of the Temple and thus the apparent break in the Lord’s promise to David. There was not a single Babylonian exile, rather, there were three. In the first, King Jehoiachin and other nobles (prophets) were exiled, and in the second (586 BCE), all the craftsmen and administrators were driven out, leaving behind the unskilled, uneducated commoners (who were probably used as slaves/servants to the now occupying Babylonians). Nearing the end of Judah’s long , Josiah was killed by Pharaoh Neco and two separate accounts of how this happened were given in Kings and 2 Chronicles. Josiah’s grandson Jehoiachin (not to be confused with Josiah’s son Jehoachim) ruled Jerusalem at a young age. King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon then conquered Jerusalem and put Zedekiah (Jehoiachin’s uncle, who had planned rebellion) on the throne. In 2 Kings 24-25, there is evidence for this narrative, including the exile of the royal family. Physical evidence for the destruction of the city (in 586 BCE) is found in the form of burnt layers of rubble and a decline in the population of Judah at this time point. The bible, however, gives two explanations for the end of Josiah’s rule: (1) the “pre-exilic” explanation gives an account where Josiah was simply praised and no real reasoning for his death was given and (2) the “post-exilic,” which gives in a Deuteronomistic fashion his punishment by God, and why Jerusalem was “rejected.” After the catastrophic fall to the Babylonians, many reacted by “singing the blues” or mourning the loss, which is reflected in the soulful songs of Lamentation 1 (in which there is a similar sense of self-blame) and Psalms 79 and 137. People sought to redefine the Lord’s promise to David, both in terms of making it conditional (only if David kept God’s command) and in that God’s name would live in the Temple, not His actual being. This brought about the notion of cognitive dissonance – the “uncomfortable feeling caused by holding two contradictory ideas simultaneously”. This feeling was felt by the Jewish people and anyone that believed in God’s Promise to David who had to come to hard grips with the historical evidence showing that the entire Davidic Line, the Temple at Jerusalem, and everything else that God has promised for “His People” seemed to have disappeared with the Babylonian invasion. Cognitive dissonance is on my mind everyday as I go to school working for a “degree” that I’m beginning to feel is worthless compared to other things I could/am doing for the world outside of school. I have the cognitive dissonance of valuing my education while at the same time doubting its worth in comparison to the outstanding evidence of what else is out there. I’m trying my best to get the best of both worlds.


shaped the beliefs and the faith of the Jewish people.


~ by Andru on February 2, 2011.

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