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
of this foundational northern tradition. In order to make this significance
evident, it is necessary to locate the function of this insertion of the promise
in 28,13*-14 within the broader exilic redaction (Vg) to which it belongs.
Therefore, I will first briefly review this broader reworking in Vg, particularly
in relation to the Jacob tradition to the Abraham tradition and then return to
revisit the significance of the inserted promise to the Bethel account.
In many ways, Judean scribesâ€™ reworking of the northern Jacob tradition
resembles the Assyrian scribesâ€™ redirection of the earlier Babylonian
tradition. After Sennacheribâ€™s conquest of Babylonia, Assyrian scribes
reworked EnÅ«ma EliÅ¡, the foundational Babylonian epic of creation 38. One
of the decisive changes made by this Assyrian reworking is that the
Babylonian god Marduk was replaced by Assyrian Ashur. Furthermore,
Ashur is spelled AN.Å AR, the name of a god who preceded Marduk in the
Babylonian theogony 39. The ramifications of this literary reworking are
apparent: not only is Assyriaâ€™s position in the Mesopotamian mythical
world secured, but also Assyriaâ€™s supremacy over Babylonia is legitimized.
Against this analogy, then, the sheer fact that the Abraham tradition is
placed ahead of the Jacob tradition â€” Jacob being Abrahamâ€™s grandson
â€” must be taken seriously 40. Just as Assyrian scribes elevated the status of
their god, Judean scribes placed Abraham at a higher position than Jacob
in genealogy. To be sure, Judeans did not make a change in the realm of
deities because they, unlike Assyrians, worshipped the same deity with the
northern Israelites. Rather, they reworked the ancestral history, which, in
fact, may have warranted a similar outcome.
This subtle, but decisive, touch appears to have changed the way in
which Israelâ€™s past was remembered. Israel had always defined their iden-
tity through Jacob. Judah may have been part of that Israel or at least
may have longed for a placement within that Israel 41. So when the oppor-
For a more detailed bibliography on Sennacheribâ€™s reform, see
NAâ€™AMAN, â€œPatrimonyâ€, 11, n. 29.
NAâ€™AMAN, â€œPatrimonyâ€, 12. For a detailed discussion, see W.G. LAMBERT,
â€œThe Assyrian Recension of EnÅ«ma EliÅ¡â€, Assyrien im Wandel der Zeiten (eds.
H. WAETZOLDT â€“ H. HAUPTMANN) (Heidelberg 1997) 77-79.
Here, I assume a genealogical relation in a biblical text not as
something given but as socially constructed. See R.R. WILSON, Genealogy
and History in the Biblical World (Yale Near Eastern Researches 7; New
Haven, CT 1977).
See CLEMENTS, Abraham and David, 44 esp. n. 34 for the citation of T.H.
Robinsonâ€™s foundational study of arguments for Judahâ€™s Canaanite origin. For
an argument for Judahâ€™s exclusion from the â€œall Israelâ€ during the time of
Saulâ€™s reign, see also J.W. FLANAGAN, â€œJudah in All Israelâ€, No Famine in the
Land. Studies in Honor of John L. McKenzie (eds. J.W. FLANAGAN â€“ A.W.
ROBINSON) (Missoula, MT 1975) 101-116.