Koog P. Hong, «The Deceptive Pen of Scribes: Judean Reworking of the Bethel Tradition as a Program for Assuming Israelite Identity.», Vol. 92 (2011) 427-441
Nadav Na’aman has recently proposed that the Judean appropriation of Israel’s identity occurred as a result of the struggle for the patrimony of ancient Israel. This paper locates textual evidence for such a struggle in the Judean reworking of the Jacob tradition, particularly the Bethel account (Gen 28,10- 22), and argues that taking over the northern Israelite shrine myth after the fall of northern Israel was part of the ongoing Judean reconceptualization of their identity as «Israel» that continued to be developed afterwards.
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THE DECEPTIVE PEN OF SCRIBES
Assyria, created original propagandist work, and reworked the foundational
epic to serve Assyrian interests 12.
This analogous sequence of events indeed makes Josiahâ€™s reform look
strikingly similar to that of Assyria. The Deuteronomistâ€™s (Dtr) presentation
in 2 Kgs 23 affirms Josiahâ€™s claim on Northern territories and even ex-
tended it to one of the most important sanctuaries of the North, namely
Bethel (2 Kgs 23,15-20) 13. Josiah then celebrates the major Israelite
religious festival, Passover, in Jerusalem (2 Kgs 23,21-23). Dtr also claims,
based on a treaty motif 14, that the fall of Samaria is a manifestation of
divine abandonment of northern Israelite monarchy (2 Kgs 17,7-24) and
promotes the idea of a divine choice of Judah, perhaps as an ideal covenant
partner with YHWH, through Josiahâ€™s faithfulness (2 Kgs 23,21-25).
Naâ€™aman carries his argument only this far, without pushing further
to the last, and arguably most important, point of the analogy, in which
the conquering group rewrites the otherâ€™s tradition. To be sure, the above-
established analogy â€” of Assyria and Babylon to Judah and Israel â€” is
significant enough 15. Yet one can make a convincing case that Judean
scribes also made analogous attempts to rework northern tradition as part
of their program to assume the newly vacant Israelite identity when
Judeans were negotiating with new reality after the sudden fall of the
Northern Kingdom. The sole purpose of this article is, therefore, to
demonstrate, through one telling example, Judean scribesâ€™ reworking of
the northern tradition as part of Judean identity reformulation. By con-
sidering the Jacob story, particularly the Bethel account (Gen 28,10-22),
I would like to demonstrate that the skillful â€” or deceptive from a
Northern point of view â€” pen of the Judean scribes reworked this
northern tradition and thus attempted to rewrite the past once and for all.
See NAâ€™AMAN, â€œPatrimonyâ€, 9-12 for a more detailed discussion.
Whether there is a fundamentum in re to this literary claim is another
question, of course. I do not share the confidence in the historicity of Josiahâ€™s
northern campaign that Naâ€™aman displays in â€œPatrimonyâ€, 18-21. My reservation
about the historicity does not, however, diminish the significance of this literary
presentation of Josiahâ€™s campaign. Important for our purposes is the sheer fact
that such literary claims have been made, assuming that they exhibit the
motivation of the scribes intended to make certain points by doing so.
The treaty motif constitutes the heart of Deuteronomy. What makes
Israel the people of YHWH is fidelity to the mutual covenant, the breach of
which will only forfeit Israelhood. Note that the Assyrian Tukulti-Ninurta
epic that frequently relies on a treaty motif as well to highlight the divine
abandonment of the Babylonian king. MACHINIST, â€œLiteratureâ€, 458, 464.
In â€œPatrimonyâ€, Naâ€™aman further argues that Josiah may have plundered
the scrolls from Bethel (20). Although attractive, this must remain a conjecture,
due to a lack of evidence.