Reproducible Revolution

•February 12, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Yesterday, the 11th of February 2011, the fruit of a revolution that started only a few weeks ago was reaped. The people of Egypt asserted their authority to bring down the long-standing dictatorship of Mubarak.

For now (I might add more to this later), all I want to comment on is what I found to be the most fascinating about this revolution. What interested me the most was actually not so much the revolution itself (the idea of a people taking action and rallying against a dictator for the sake of democracy and better rule), as this has all happened before. What was astounding was the nature with which it all started and became a reality. It was a revolution staged by technology. By using social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook, young and old Egyptians alike called out to one another and instantaneously created a collaborative effort to take down the dictatorship that had stood for many decades beforehand. This is a powerful indicator of how politics could be affected by the people in years to come. Dictators have always known the threat of agitated subjects, but now they know how immediate a threat the people truly can be. Armed with social networking abilities (and thus the ability to recreate a scene such as that at Tahrir Square), the voices of the people can be made louder than ever before. This Egyptian revolution was not significant in its showing of revolution as a possibility to overthrow a regime (as that has been shown many times before), but rather in its display of how easily reproducible revolution has become. Revolution-making has been simplified by new technologies that allow people to communicate effectively and rally around a cause without even stepping away from their lives and work. Something tells me a lot more revolutions are to come. And something tells me the catalyzing effect of technology will be ever-present and at the forefront of these future fights for justice and democracy.

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Lecture 10 – (8.1) Persian Jerusalem

•February 12, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Today we discussed “Persian Jerusalem” (539-333 BCE), the first couple hundred years of the so-called “2nd Temple” Period (539-70 BCE). It was during this period that the “2nd” Temple was supposedly rebuilt (515 BCE). We covered the return of the concept of a “mobile God” (as we saw with the Ark of the Covenant) as expressed by Prophet Ezekiel (Ezekiel 1), King Cyrus and his Edict of Return (539 BCE), varying changes in the Jewish faith thought to have been influenced by Zoroastrian religious traditions, the concept of restoring the “Holy lines” and the Temple during the First Return (late 6th C. BCE), various lines of evidence supporting the thought of a “rebuilding of the temple”, as well as the conditions in Jerusalem at the time that may have made this process difficult. This truly was a whirlwind tour of the Persian Period – the fastest almost 200 years ever.

A first important note before delving into the interesting pieces of this lecture is that there are no non-biblical texts dealing directly with Jerusalem during this period. All of the evidence we get is from biblical literature (Chronicles, Minor Prophets [Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi], Ezra [written in Aramaic (like book of Daniel too); 4:8-6:18; 7:12-26), Nehemiah, and “Second” Isaiah [Ch. 40-66; “2nd” Isaiah as a school of thought, more than one writer]) and assorted archaeological Excavations. The most interesting insight gained from where evidence comes from for this period is the fact that Jews came back from exile speaking Aramaic, as evidenced by many of these chapters in the bible originally being in Aramaic. It became the dominant spoken language for Jews coming back to Judah.

Next we broke into the Prophet Ezekiel’s apocalyptic “Merkevah” vision of a reemergence of God as a mobile entity. Ezekiel has a vision of a “mobile God”, much like the vision we saw with the Ark of the Covenant in pre-exilic eras. In Ezekiel’s story of  a return to Jerusalem with a vision for a utopian Jerusalem with a Temple and a messiah, it becomes clear that Ezekiel has predicted a Jewish return to Jerusalem. His vision is one that depicts God as having returned to Jerusalem and that he is mobile again, this time on wheels (“pimped”). We saw the idea of a mobile entity (the Ark) dissapear once a “permanent temple” became a reality. However, it reappears here after exile, seeming to symbolize a reemerged need to have God be placed in Jerusalem. Dr. Cargill used this moment to build up the idea that some people believe in the necessity for a permanent temple/place of God, while others have in a way “adapted to the exile mentality”, in that they are okay with God as “removed” – a God who operates through angels/at a cosmic distance. He also took a moment to mention that he believes the Ark disappeared from the temple (and was thus not accounted for in the “Temple Lists”) due to either Hezekiah’s or Josiah’s reforms.

Next we attempted to reconcile this mention from Ezekiah of a “messiah” with archeological evidence of what prominent figure may have deserved such a title during this period. Here we examine the Cyrus Cylinder (539 BCE), a clay cuneiform cylinder that announced “a general return to the homelands” for the Jewish people [Edict of Return (539 BCE)] . It depicts the Jewish people returning from exile in Babylon to “liberate” their homeland. This “liberating” attitude is the same one used by Americans in invading modern day Iraq, claiming that we are freeing the land of bad influence and restoring its purity under democracy. Whether “liberation” is actually what is happening in Iraq and what happened when the Jewish people returned to Jerusalem is up for the reader to decide. The archeological evidence (Cyrus Cylinder) and biblical literature (2 Chron 36:22-23 and Ezra 1:1-3) both depict it as a liberating event. This building up of the image of Cyrus, the Persian king who opposed and conquered the Babylonian empire, lead him to be viewed by Judean Exiles as the great deliverer. We see this in the bible in passages such as Isa. 44:24,28 and Isa. 45:1,5. Here Cyrus is referred to as “my sheperd” or the “anointed one”. Not only is he considered an influencial figure that was felt by many to be the deliverer, but his actions were deemed actions supported by God. God was working through Cyrus to save His people (“Except for me there is no god. I equp you, though you do not know me” (45:1,5)). Cyrus is a messiah to the Judean exiles. He is viewed by the Jewish people as carrying out God commands (and we see on the Cyrus Cylinder that their was belief that Babylonians own God [Marduk] ordered it). This argument brought strength to the idea that the Biblical author must rationalize history, even if it involved depicting a foreign king as God’s chosen deliverer. This is a rationalization of the promise in samuel 7, and even though it is not someone of the Davidic line coming back to help, it’s something to work with, which they did.

It was also thought that the Jewish faith changed drastically during the period due to Zoroastrian religious influences. Zoroastrians believe in six periods of creation, a first couple of Mashya (man) and Mashyana (woman) (Adam and Even parallel), commandment being given on a mountain (like Moses), etc. In other words, there are many parallels between the religions that make it clear these two religions were somewhat intertwined and might have influence each other. One of the most influential ideas thought to have altered the Judaic faith was the introduction of angels and an evil counterpart to God in Zoroastrianism, which seems to have carried over to Judaic thought and written down in its texts. Angels are important because they stress the simple idea of figures other than God coming down to impart his wishes, further suggesting his removal from earth and existence among the clouds/heavens. An evil counterpart (Satan/Devil) is also a vital new idea, as it stresses the idea of an opposing force being responsible for fate of the world. The introduction of such a figure seems almost a way to rationalize when things go wrong in the world, as some other force of nature other than God is working to fight for its own way. I found the introduction of such concepts into the Jewish faith to be fascinating and I think the way religions change over time (no matter the influence) is an interesting topic. For example, I wrote a paper for a previous class on how Buddhism and Christianity became universal religions (which essentially requires a “watering down” of the original, more rigorous practices of a smaller group), and I think its interesting how thoughts on a “divine presence” and what this means for human actions on earth change through time. Examining such changes I feel reveal some interesting psychological phenomena that might be interesting to trace through the historical context.

After Cyrus [who was said to have been commanded by either the Hebrew God (Bible) or the Babylonian God Marduk (Cyrus Cylinder)]  took down the Babylonian threat to Jerusalem, there was an era that became known as the First Return (late 6th C. BCE), in which there was talk of restoring the “Holy lines” and the Temple (hence “2nd temple period”). The Leading figures were Cyrus (already discussed), Cambyses II, Darius I “the Usurper”, Zechariah and Haffai (Prophets), Zerubbabel, and Joshua (the high priest). Joshua actually is the name of Jesus in hebrew!  This brings clarity to the point that after people of Jerusalem led back to “their city” from exile, the new high priest line becomes the strong point of authority. The establishment of the Temple (between 520-515 under Darius I) and the high priesthood (to become the “holy line”) where the center point of this period and shaped Jerusalem’s growth in the future. With Jerusalem under the control of the Persians at this point (a Persian Province), the establishment/maintenance of a “holy line” of priests that became the center point of Jerusalem’s authority was vital in maintaing both their heritage and the way Jerusalem grew in this period.

Then there was the temple. Many asked, after exile, whether a temple was really necessary. This becomes understandable when one realizes that during the long period of exile in which people were removed from the central monument of a faith, people either (1) lose faith, or (more commonly) (2) learn to adapt. We see the with the formation/following of new laws (Torah), food practices (Kosher), keeping timely occasions (holidays, sabbath, etc.). These were all ways to maintain faith and feel a connection with God without actually being in the sacred space, Jerusalem, at its most sacred monument, the Temple. The development of these adaptations allowed faith to exist beyond the temple walls and even outside Jerusalem, and marked an important shift in mindset that would allow religious ideals to spread more rapidly (decentralization of religion).

There were various lines of evidence supporting the thought of a “rebuilding of the temple”. Wee see it in Haggai 1 (“rebuild the House”), the relation between the timeliness of the building (and destruction) between the first and second temple (Ezra 3:8 v.s. 2 Chronicles 3:2) (Flashback to Solomon), references to “other temples” (Ezekiel’s utopian temple [40-48], Samaritan Temple, “Request to build a temple”, Qumran Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS) “Temple by God’s hands”), and other various artifacts found in archaeological digs (coins, letters, DSS (Temple Scroll).

We also see how conditions in Jerusalem at the time that may have made this temple building process difficult. For one, (1) the city is small and depopulated (even long after first return, around 1,500 people (400 BCE) as compared to ~40,000 in 600BCEand 150 BCE), making a labor force to dedicate themselves to building the temple less possible. This is commended in Ezra 3, which states that the rebuilt temple “pales in comparison to the former glory”.  The workers and resources available during the first temple building were no longer there. (2) Heavy taxation by the Persian Empire also contributed to the poverty in Jerusalem, which like the small size contributed to a loss of proper resources for building and the labor force. (3) Conflicts. There was conflict with the “Samaritans” which began in this era of the “2nd temple”, as the Samaritan people already had their own temple at Mount Gerizim (didn’t want the competition; already had their temple established). This constant conflict made building the temple even harder, as now the few and very poor Jews actually in Jerusalem not only had the aforementioend problems to deal with, but also had to find a way to protect themselves. This problem is reflected upon in Nehemiah 4:16-23,  as people “labored on the work with one hand and with the other held  a weapon…each of the builders had his sword strapped at his side while he built.” It was made clear building this temple was not made easy by the environment of Jerusalem at the time. However, it was apparently still done, albeit less “fabulous” than the previosu one. Harod made adjustments later to build it up, as we will see. I think the most interesting part of all is how by the time Jerusalem was open after exile (thus allowing Jews to return), the mood of “decentralization” of religion may have already begun to kick in and forced people to ask themselves: “Is a temple even necessary?”. I think these ideas that decentralize religion are powerful psychological indicators of the mood shift of a people that occurs with displacement/exile from a land they once called home.

Lessons on courage from Egypt: inner beauty revealed in times of struggling for justice

•February 5, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Pretty much everyone knows about what’s going down in Egypt right now, unless you’ve been living in a cave or are living the busy life of a college student (which I’ve found tends to keep you in a bubble unless you constantly are consciously making an effort to escape it once in awhile). Thankfully, I am someone who does manage to escape his individualistic concerns and look out at the world bit, and I’ve found the Egyptian democracy movement fascinating.

Barricades formed on both sides where Egyptian protestors and government supporters of Mubarak continued to clash just outside Tahrir Square. (c) NYT

While I’m unsure of how many people believe it accurate to associate the two, I found it fascinating to find that the self-immolation by a single Tunisian man may have been the spark that started it all. One man’s display of frustration with the government set off a chain of more than a dozen other men to also set themselves on fire in Egypt, Algeria, and Mauritania. Some used these events to  reflect back on the gruesome images of Thich Quang Duc, a Buddhist monk who burned himself to death in Saigon during the Vietnam War in 1963. Many remember the way his body eerily stood still amongst the flames, a symbol of a man giving up his body in response to an unbending authority. I can’t help but think that this kind of display is the cause of the mass demonstations we are now seeing in the Egyptian streets, with the people rising up against a similar stubborn authority. This man’s lighting himself aflame has coincidently ignited a revolution.

However, what I want to focus on here is not self-immolation events or such desperate attempts to show the desire for a new way of life or an attempt to “escape” the current one. Rather, I want to show here is some of the displays of determination and courage by some of the Egyptian people that go beyond literal self-sacrifice. These displays were described in Nicholas Kristof’s of the New York Time latest article on his travels in Egypt.

A carpenter Kristof had met in a field hospital had his arm in a sling, leg, in a cast and head bandaged in a hosptial set up by the democracy movement. This was his seventh time in 24 hours when this man needed medical treatment. This is determination for justice if I ever saw it.

“I’ll fight as long as I can.” [said this man]

Furthermore, Kristof describes a double-amputee who had lost his leg’s many years prior in a train accident, but whom still had…

…rolled his wheelchair into Tahrir Square to show support for democracy, hurling rocks back at the mobs that President Hosni Mubarak apparently sent to besiege the square. [This man] was being treated for a wound from a flying rock. I asked him as politely as I could what a double-amputee in a wheelchair was doing in a pitched battle involving Molotov cocktails, clubs, machetes, bricks and straight razors.

“I still have my hands,” he said firmly. “God willing, I will keep fighting.”

Demonstrators in Egypt rally together around their belief in a better Egypt. (c) NYT

I take back my comment earlier. This man here has shown the kind of determination and an inner strength required in any revolution and which if  instilled into the hearts of more of his countrymen, will surely lead to a better Egypt.

Lastly, I found the most inspiring part of all to come from a man working on the front lines of the demonstrations…

At Tahrir Square’s field hospital (a mosque in normal times), 150 doctors have volunteered their services, despite the risk to themselves. Maged, a 64-year-old doctor who relies upon a cane to walk, told me that he hadn’t been previously involved in the protests, but that when he heard about the government’s assault on peaceful pro-democracy protesters, something snapped.

So early Thursday morning, he prepared a will and then drove 125 miles to Tahrir Square to volunteer to treat the injured. “I don’t care if I don’t go back,” he told me. “I decided I had to be part of this.”

“If I die,” he added, “this is for my country.”

This is the kind of willingness to be involved I was discussing earlier in my post concerning Patrice Lumumba’s assassination. This is the kind of courage most people seem to lack. This man, at a reasonable age to simply consider himself out of the equation in terms of his nation’s fight for democracy, has risen above this sense of removal to become engaged in truly helping his people fight for justice. I like to think of this kind of movement to the front lines as one of the most heroic moves a man can make. It’s about being willing to “break” away from your own individualistic concerns, which here was catalyzed by this man’s allowance of “self-snapping”. This display of inner fragility is a sign of strength in my opinion. To be willing to let injustices one sees in the outer world drive your inner world into chaos is a strength that has a value beyond measure. This man decided to write his will (admitting his willingness to die for his beliefs in a better way) and head out to be a part of the revolution. This is the kind of display of inner strength in a nation’s fight for justice I think should inspire us all. One might argue this older man had nothing to lose, but I believe the majority of 62-year old men in the world, faced with a similar choice of either leaving their family behind or heading out to fight for what they believe in, would not make the same choice of the latter. This type of choice requires the willingness to die for one’s belief in a better way. People that make these kinds of choices have an uncommon itch that keeps them moving towards their goals, despite the sacrifice often necessary. This feeling, although different than the stir in the stomach of the revolutionary who started this current revolution in Egypt, is the kind of flame that keeps the world moving in a better direction.

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

•February 2, 2011 • Leave a Comment

(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.

Lecture 8 – (5.2) Hezekiah’s and (6.1) Josiah’s Jerusalem

•February 2, 2011 • Leave a Comment

(5.2) Hezekiah’s Jerusalem [Hezekiah (715-689BCE)]

Now having set the stage for the Assyrian clash with Jerusalem, we started to get into more into the details of what went down in this clash and also reflected back on what this meant for the promise. Before this however, we also spent a moment covering the birth of government and writing during this period as a means for understanding how this contributed to the birth of literature. Dr. Cargill also built up the idea of a messiah and how it may relate to this period, specifically to the deliverance of Jerusalem from Assyria. Essentially, his point here was to say that Hezekiah was, in the historical context, the most likely benefactor to the saving of Jerusalem from assyria, and thus could be considered the messiah that helped to continue the line of David in Jerusalem. We then see the different interpretations of what happened in the clash between Hezekiah and Sennacherib (of Assyria). However, in the end, how exactly the skirmish went down was unimportant, what mattered was the Jerusalem survived and lived on after Assyria attempted to take over. So how was the Assyrian failure to conquer Jerusalem interpreted? This Assyrian failure to destroy Jerusalem was the single greatest catalyst for the snowballing legend of an inviolable Jerusalem. Coupling this event itself with the birth of writing, and it becomes increasingly clear why this made Jerusalem huge! Not only was it a hugely significant event, but the catalyzing factors were poised and ready in this era to make it known to much of the ancient world!

The first main idea was the birth of government and writing under Hezekiah. I think it definitely made sense that as Jerusalem expanded, it needed a central area for administration, especially if as believed, Hezekiah was preparing his city for war/survival-under-anticipated-siege-attempt. The growth of writing was central to this growth of administration. It provided a more universally known administrative tool (consistent language/documentation) and it was easier to learn. Eventually literature begin to emerge. This was important becayse many religions are based in literature, in writing. In addition, laws and rules began to become written down. Why this phenomenon was important was because the concept of written rules finally made king himself subject to law. For this to happen, however, needed people (1) trained in writing, and (2) authoratative and willing to actually encorce punishment if laws are broken. Most important in the context of our discussion, however, was how this writing gave birth to religion. The history of relgion rooted in the start of use of text. All major faiths of today, if you think about it, are based in a text. They each follow “the book” of their own. Writing also grew in the form of propoganda, as people began to use bits of literature (proverbs) promoting the state (e.g. on modern day money).

We then discussed how the concept of a “messiah” (Isaiah 7,9,11). A Messiah is literally somone who “has oil smeared on their head”. This smearing on the head designates them as an authority. In ancient Jerusalem, two lines were annointed: (1) the  high priest line and (2) the royal line (kings). Main idea here was that Messiah does not necessarily mean Jesus or some apocalytic savior, but rather can refer to an anointed descendant of one of these line ((1) or (2)). I found this interesting and enlightening as I had always assumed messiah to mean the idea of a man/woman descending from heaven to save the people, a “mythical” and “divine-type” savior if you will. I think this was cool to ground it more in the real.

We then covered in more detail the Prophecy of Deliverance from Assyria in Isaiah 7-11, and it becomes increasingly clear that this passage is describing a messiah that will save Jerusalem from Assyria. It then becomes clear, that although there are other interpretation of a messiah from above who comes down to continue the Davidic line, the person they might actually be referring to is Hezekiah himself! In the historical context it makes sense! Its important to remember all of this talk of a messiah and someone coming down to restore things is all about the Promise given in 2 Samuel 7. Thus, people find different ways to reconcile with the idea of Jerusalem and the line being threatened, and in this case Hezekiah lifts them out of trouble! It all makes sense, if you remember the promise it basically says: There is going to be a king who is descendent of david and his presence will be evidence of God, and there will be peace when he comes. In the historical context, this points to Hezekiah. This is the big story behind Jerusalem’s inviolability. After this it seems Jerusalem is untouchable and this idea is spread through mythical stories, now which could be captured in literature. It was only 700 years later when people start looking up to sky for messiah (After Babylonian takeover in 586 BCE). Only then, during a post-excilic era, did this idea of a long-term prophecy for a future messiah to save the Davidic line develop. What do YOU do when faced with a broken promise from God? These types of reinterpretations of the promise to David (2 Sam 7) are what make up a large portion of the later bible.

(6.1) Josiah’s Jerusalem

Now we moved past Hezekiah (715-689BCE), into the reign of Josiah (640-609 BCE). Between these two reigns was the reign of Hezekiah’s son (from Hephzi-bah [wife]), Manasseh, who become king at an age of 12 years and reigned for many years (55?) [697-642 BCE] (2 Kings 21:1, 2 Chronicles 33:1). He was the first king who did not have a direct experience of  a Kingdom of Israel (to the noth), which had been destroyed by Assyrians in 721 BCE and most of the population exiled. Most notably, he re-established pagan worship and reversed religious reforms made by his father, Hezekiah. Therefor, the Bible depicts him as bad (2 Kings 21:2-16; 2 Chronicles 33:2-19).  Josiah, on the other hand, came in and attempted to restore much of what Manasseh had destroyed in terms of religion (therefore depicted as a “good king” in the bible). He imposed religion in a deuteronomistic fashion, in the idea of strict rules to follow to obey God. This ideal built on the notion that if bad things happen you must be doing something wrong, and if life is going well, you must be doing things right. (We see later than Joab challenges this, that sometimes bad things happen to good people). The main theme here is we see a biblical bias once again, where kings not praised in so much as they helped people, but only in narrow sense of how they effected religion.

Reflecting back on urbanization and growth, we see in Josiah’s time how some people didn’t like political and religious power together (especially if you’re not religious). There was much political unrest and relgious unrest came with it, new religious movement came out under Josiah as he worked to rebuild the Jerusalem under One God that had been lost with Manasseh. We also get here the idea that if don’t have king that is charismatic leader (as Josiah too yong), can lead to/precipitate to a “rule under text.” Which is what happened here. Thus, what we see under Josiah are two main things (1) Reinitiation of Religious reform like his father’s (back to one God) and (2) “Deuteronomic” reform under the new set of rules, contained in what is now referred to as the Torah.

(1) Hezekiah knocked down shrines, pillars, sacred posts, bronze serpents…everything that potentially represented a false idol. It has been suggested it wasn’t about a false idol or not. Some believe even if people outside of Jerusalem temple worshipping the same God, Hezekiah may have just wanted to known down any ways that decentralized worship outside of Jerusalem (killed alternative shrines). We see the same thing with Josiah, pretty much. The same chain of destruciton of alternative shrines occured. However, the key difference is that while Hezekiah did acknowledge their could be alternative shrines to a Hebrew God, Josiah believed shrines were all pagan outside of Jerusalem. He believed it was only in the Jerusalem temple that God could truly be worshipped.

(2) Next, there was the idea that in order to “rule under text”, a text needed to be discovered. Conveniently, or however you’d liek to think of it, a book was discovered that became the “Book of the law/covenant/Torah”. Under this book, Jerusalem fell under “Deuteronomic” Reform (2 Kings 22-23). One passage in 2 Kings 22 describes how the scroll was “found” (interpret as you will, many believe it was made to make up for kings lacking charisma). In this book it outlined how to read/obey the book, including worship ONLY IN JERUSALEM AND ONLY FOR YAHYEH. There is no other location or God that can be worshipped according to the Torah.

Finally, the evidence for literacy was covered, including the variety of number inscriptions (ostraca, graffiti, seals/seal impressions, economic texts) and also the literally evidence for textualization of religion (2 Kings 23). One tantalizing piece of evidence is the Lachish Letter 3 (587 BCE), also known as the “Letter of a ‘Literate’ Soldier”. In this letter, we see a soldier writing and complaining about having a scribe sent to him to help him write, when he can already “write” (because he’s not that great a writer) himself. He is offended by it. Here we see the idea of stigma already developing around the inability to read and write. Why would the man need a scribe if he already could write? Basically, people were beginnignto learn to read and write. There was a transition from the cult of Yahweh to one based on letter of the law. It became all about text and tradition. Following the law became paramount. Remember also how this development of writing also took over and assumed authority that king had previously. Law, in a way, replaced the line of kings. The new authority was the written word.

This was a great lecture and I really felt like I learned a lot concerning the idea of interpreting the Promise to David as well as the idea of a messiah in the historical context of Hezekiah saving Jerusalem.  The idea of a Torah appearing as a means of imposing authority under a “weak” king was also a new and interesting idea to me. I also found the general birth of writing and its effects on religion’s growth as well as the growth of Jerusalem’s sacred image enlightening.

Lecture 7 – (5.1) Hezekiah’s Jerusalem

•February 1, 2011 • Leave a Comment

In this lecture we discussed the Jerusalem that started at the end of the era of David/Solomon and continued through the reign of Hezekiah (hence Hezekiah’s Jerusalem). We addressed the issue of what makes a Golden Age in the context of the rule of David and Solomon. We then continued with Jerusalem’s division into “Israel” (North) and “Judah” (South), discussing the rulers themselves as well as the build-up of alternative shrines in both regions. We then discussed the various skirmishes involving Israel and Judah, including the Egyptian campaign against Israel (925) as well as the Israel-Judah infighting (fighting among themselves), which all show how Israel and Judah were not only vulnerable, but were constantly calling upon larger nations/empires for help to fight their battles. The Assyrian empire grew to new heights in the 8th century BCE (800 BCE), including expansion into areas that were of prime importance to Jerusalem, such as Shalmaneser V (727-722 BCE) conquering and exiling the people of Samaria (Israel/North) in 721 BCE.  Dr. Cargill then highlighted the Assyrians brutal war tactics, where they would walk into their next conquest with the previously conquered enemies’ heads on sticks. The lecture then took a turn and we began to look into how Jerusalem grew during the 8th century (after it had previously been divided in 925 BCE). Topographically Jerusalem saw an expansion into the Western Hill and the city itself saw a huge growth in urbanization. A global economy developed thanks to Aramaic writing. The olive industry and administrative sites bloomed as it seemed Hezekiah was preparing for something. Many believe the growth of Jerusalem and the various preparations made by Jerusalem indicated Hezekiah was set to engage with Assyria soon.

The first important question of the lecture was: What was it that made David/Solomon’s rule of the 10th century BCE (1000 BCE) a Golden Age? First, we learned an age becomes golden upon a person’s DEATH. Only when David/Solomon were gone did people look back and memorialize the time of their rule. They ruled over a “united kingdom” (not split). Great palaces and a temple remained symbols of their great reigns, and the building of the temple is founded, remembered, and chronicled…constant reminders given for the greatness that was the time of David In Solomon.

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. David and Solomon and their Golden Age came to an end in ~925 BCE when the kingdom of Jerusalem became divided into Judah (South, Jerusalem) and Israel (North, Samaria) (1 Kings 12). I honestly never knew the terms Israel and Jerusalem ever existed separately so I found this enlightening. 1 Kings 12:1-14  showed us how Rehoboam (king of Judah) had to decide between submitting to please the people (in light of being asked to lower taxes) or asserting his authority. This brought up the interesting vulgar suggestion of his comrades, who tell him to respond to Israel in the North with something like: “My little finger is better than my father’s loins”. A way of saying I am big daddy! haha. This passage also revealed the southern Bias of the bible, with north depicted as evil, and not simply as a people rebelling against monarch/potential-tyranny in the south, which may have been more of the truth.

It is said that in 925 BCE Egypt (led by Pharaoh Shoshenq; Shishak in Bible)  invades Jerusalem, and “carried off the treasures of the temple of the LORD” (1 Kings 14:25-26). However, there is evidence outside the bible that suggests there may have been a bribe and invitation to Shoshenq to restore order. Here again we see the southern bias of the bible, which seems to ignore the this possible pact that may have been made and instead depicts Shoshenq’s visit as a “raid”.

The division into two states in  925 BCE also catalyzed the movement to build alternative shrines. Jeroboam, King of Israel, built up the alternative shines of Bethel and Tel Dan in the North.  What I found curious was that this was not a one sided issue. It made sense for the north to build up shrines, as they had, in a sense, “lost” Jerusalem. However, what we see is building of shrines (Beer-Sheva and Tel Arad) in the smaller Judah as well, even with Jerusalem. It seemed that these shrines (which resemble comparative models to those given in literary texts of Solomon’s temple) began to pop up everywhere as people realized they could not be in Jerusalem but wanted there own place to worship, the increasing populations in Jerusalem and in surrounding areas might have forced this anyways and might not be as much a reflection of the division of the state.

I have also always found shifts in wars very interesting. Like any normal human being, I think war is pointless and a disgusting display of irrationality, but when referring to it in history, I think it is interesting to look for the patterns for who sided with who. This “psychological view of war” gives interesting perspective. With Israel and Judah, what we see is a lot of fighting between the two, yet not by the two. It seems they were both smart enough to recruit their more powerful neighbors and pit them against each other. For example, when Baasha (King of Israel) invades Judah (875 BCE), Asa (King of Judah) teams with Ben-Harad of Syria (1 Kings 15:16-20). We see the opposite later where Jehu (king of Israel) become vassal (person under protection of/interior to) Assyria (under Shalmaneser III) in ~841 BCE.

Then we talked about the Rise of Assyria. The “Assyrian Menace” only grew stronger from 745 BCE through the reigns of Tiglath-Pileser III, Shalmaneser V (727-722BCE) who conquers and exiles Samaria in 721 BCE, Sargon II (who continues policy of deportation), Sennacherib (Conquers Philistia, Judah), Esarhaddon (takes Egypt, all until it fell (to the Babylonians) in 609 BCE. The 721 BCE takeover of Jerusalem by Shal. V led to installation of Israelite king, but under strict authority (like modern day american in Iraq). The Bible portrays this fall of Israel in the noth as “punishment” for leaving Jerusalem…The coolest part of talking about the Assyrians was their military tactics. I thought it reflected the brutality of war as Dr. Cargill described how they would march into their next conquest with the heads of the previous one on sticks that they carried. Talk about intimidation! I thought it was amazing how much the Assyrians catalogued not only their events, but the brutality of them, it seems obvious they were proud of their work. We saw various images on the “Palace Reliefs” in assyria, where carvings of various brutal public displays of impaled and beheaded rebels against the empire. Dr. Cargill emphasized a curious difference between wars of this time and today: while Assyrian military tactics involved bragging and attempting to stir fear into opposition, today we see that when a member of one nation attacks and harms/kills a person from another, the leader of the harm-causing nation apologizes to the other. It’s curious how times change. I find it more interesting how the reactions to violence has changed more than the violence itself. Perhaps its because this latter components really hasn’t changed much.

Funny how things change.

We then finished up by talking about the Growth and Urbanization of Jerusalem, in the 8th century BCE during the reign of Hezekiah (715-689 BCE). Here we saw the massive changes that led from the “town” that was Jerusalem to the expansive city much like the one we see today. Just as the Assyrian empire moved to walled cities and rural villages began to disappear as industry developed, we began to see similar urbanization in Jerusalem, which expanded onto the Western Hill and its many industries blossomed. In Assyria too, we see other attempts to expand into a new age with the move to a more universal language, Aramaic. They moved from Acaidic –> Aramaic, which is a syllabic rather than symbolic language, making it much easier to learn and therefore more widely accessible to all. This led to Assyria’s growth of a more “global” economy in which everyone had a part. You see the birth of literacy as well, first only in merchant-items/crafts such as economic seals, recepits (ostraca), and “signature” literacy, but eventually more literary work grew out of it. Going back to Jerusalem, many agriculture industries (such as the Olive Industry and Wine Industry) blossomed in the late 8th and 7th centuries. Suburbs grew outside Jerusalem. What become clear, however, is that some form of administration needed to appear. Someone needed to collect taxes. Therefore, what we also saw was the growth (as evidenced by archaeological findings) of a New Royal Administrative Site. This evidence included LMLK (“Belonging to the king”) seal impressions found in pottery at the Ramat Rahel site (2k south of Jerusalem). Looked clear that Jerusalem was stockpiling resources (grain, etc.) for an encounter with Assyria. Besides a huge growth in population and topographical size of the city, there were some anthropological changes in the attributes of the people living there as well. There was social dislocation due to the size, changing family structure, new relgious movement, and more urabn centers. There was also a centralization of power and social justice issues became more real as specialization developed and certain people inevitably started to earn more than others -a gap between the people (rich and poor) developed.

Lastly, we finished up with Hezekiah’s Preparations, which included his fortifying of Jerusalem (“Broad Wall” (Isaiah 22:9-11)), building of a tunnel (Hezekiah’s Tunnel) connecting the Gihon to the more interior Siloam Pool, allowin access to water from within the city, and finally the administrative increases, evidenced by the LMLK seal impression found (described above) and evidence of other administrative centers. I found it interesting to see how Jerusalem actually was thought to have been preparing to fight, which makes more sense to me now in light of the Assyrian failure that is to come upon attacking the city.

Modern Sudan…or should I say, Sudans?

•January 22, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Abyei straddles the disputed border between north and south Sudan, and is claimed to be home by two rival ethnic groups. (© NYT Jeffrey Gettleman)

This is a truly historic time in Sudan. A referendum has been made for secession for the south. The southern part of Sudan is working to break away and form a new nation, free from the inhumane acts of civil war and violence that have plagued the entire country (specifically the Darfur region) for the last few decades. The vote on this referendum was actually made yesterday, January 21st, and as expected, the Southern Sudanese Voted Overwhelmingly for Secession.

Voters in nearly every state in the south chose independence by 99 percent; in Eastern Equatoria, only 229 people voted for unity with the north out of 455,466 votes, according to the preliminary results.

Now the wait begins. Southern Sudan will not achieve formal independence until July 9, when the United States-backed peace treaty that put the referendum in motion is set to expire. By then southern Sudan hopes to pick a national anthem and a name; leading contenders are Nile Republic and South Sudan.

However, there are hints that this referendum period will not pass so easily…

…There are still a number of delicate and potentially combustible issues that need to be resolved before Sudan can peacefully break in two, namely how the two sides would share the south’s sizeable reserves of crude oil and what to do about the Abyei region, which straddles the north-south border and is claimed by both.

Fighting this month in Abyei claimed dozens of lives, and Western diplomats worry that the region could threaten what has been an otherwise remarkably peaceful and orderly referendum period.

In other words, while the political process of division is under way, there remain some obstacles to true division between the two nations. I think even if the referendum period goes somewhat smoothly and divisions of these sensitive regions are made with at least moderate agreement between the people, I think outbursts of violence will continue and possibly rekindle animosity that will now manifest itself in a war between nations. My belief is that a slower process of making the divide might be a good idea. There is a necessity in at this time to work out concretely, using the evidence available, who truly owns what; who ones the disputed land and resources. In cases where things are still unsure, a temporary division should be made, with reversibility left in tact in acknowledgement of the sensitivity of the time. Personally, I think divides of any kind cannot change the sentiments of certain people for those on the other side. We see a “sister” situation in Israel/Palestine with one side condemning the other as they fight for sacred space. Forming borders contributes to the natural illusion that people on the other side are extremely different from yourself — when in fact, they are not.

Also, for those with little background on the conflict in Sudan as well as this referendum, a series of questions (so far broken into 3 “Takes”) posed by the public to NYT Columnist Nicholas Kristof along with President Carter (who is in South Sudan at the moment observing the referendum) provide helpful insight into what is really going on:

Take 1 – Answering Your Sudan Questions (NYT Kristof Blog)

Take 2 – Answering Your Sudan Questions (NYT Kristof Blog)

Take 3 – Answering Your Sudan Question (NYT Kristof Blog)

Also, if you were curious on what should be done about the Abyei region (the region of current conflict which may prevent a smooth referendum period), read this article:

Roots of Bitterness in a Region Threaten Sudan’s Future

Also, for a video about how progress on the anthem is going, click here.

Finally, there was an article last year about the homecoming of a South Sudanese “Lost boy” (now a man) making his homecoming when the idea of a referendum were still very premature, and it provides an interesting angle:

For “Lost Boy”, Vote in Sudan Is Homecoming