John Van Seters, «Dating the Yahwist’s History: Principles and Perspectives.», Vol. 96 (2015) 1-25
In order to date the Yahwist, understood as the history of Israelite origins in Genesis to Numbers, comparison is made between J and the treatment of the patriarchs and the exodus-wilderness traditions in the pre-exilic prophets and Ezekiel, all of which prove to be earlier than J. By contrast, Second Isaiah reveals a close verbal association with J’s treatments of creation, the Abraham story and the exodus from Egypt. This suggests that they were contemporaries in Babylon in the late exilic period, which is confirmed by clear allusions in both authors to Babylonian sources dealing with the time of Nabonidus.
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quarters of the daughter of Nabonidus, priestess of Sîn, and inter-
preted by the excavators as a kind of museum collection 32. Scholars
have generally dismissed Nabonidus’s interest in the past as merely
that of an aged antiquarian, but Beaulieu strongly disputes this view
and points to the fact that “He is the only Neo-Babylonian king who
makes references to history in his inscriptions”. He goes on to cite
examples of the way in which he refers to earlier Assyrian and
Babylonian kings “for political or religious reasons” and concludes
that “most of these references are not incidental: they belong to his-
torical narratives with a specific purpose. They attest not only to
curiosity about the past, but also to true historical consciousness” 33.
At times Nabonidus attempts to date ancient rulers, such as Ham-
murabi and Naram-Sin, or to use Sargon of Akkad (3rd millennium
BCE) as an example of the ideal ruler. Furthermore, this use of the
past was inscribed on public monuments for all to observe and be
instructed by it. I would suggest that it is in just such an environment
that the Yahwist as historian also makes use of the past, not with
references to ancient kings but to the ancestor Abraham and to
Moses as the one who led his people out of slavery to freedom 34.
2. Nabonidus’s piety. Another feature of Nabonidus’s reign is the
distinctive nature of his piety. This is directly related to his concern
to have the god Sîn recognized as the principle deity of the Baby-
lonian pantheon, and he saw his role as the one who would do all
in his power to make this happen. Resistance to this exaltation of
Sîn Nabonidus regarded as a “sin” (ḫītu) ̣ against the deity, so that
he adopted the quite unique role of intercessor on his people’s be-
half. Thus, in a prayer to Sîn he states: “(O Sîn), establish the fear
of your great godhead in the heart of your people, so that they do
not commit any sin against your great godhead. May their founda-
tions be as firm as heaven”. In the same text Nabonidus offers a
similar prayer on behalf of his son, Belshazzar 35. The language
that is used here is remarkably similar to that used in the scene on
Mount Sinai in J when the people experience the divine theophany
and are thrown into a panic and they beg Moses to serve as inter-
mediary on their behalf: “You speak to us and we will listen, but
do not let God speak to us lest we die”, to which Moses replies,
MOOREY, Ur, 251-53.
BEAULIEU, Nabonidus, 139.
One is reminded of the fact that Josephus, in writing his Antiquities of
the Jews when living in Rome, was very strongly influenced by the style and
content of the work of Dionysius of Halicarnassus in his Antiquities of Rome.
BEAULIEU, Nabonidus, 64.