Building on Stone? Deuteronomy and Esarhaddon’s Loyalty Oaths (Part 1): Some Preliminary Observations -- By: Markus Zehnder

Journal: Bulletin for Biblical Research
Volume: BBR 19:3 (NA 2009)
Article: Building on Stone? Deuteronomy and Esarhaddon’s Loyalty Oaths (Part 1): Some Preliminary Observations
Author: Markus Zehnder


Building on Stone? Deuteronomy and Esarhaddon’s Loyalty Oaths (Part 1): Some Preliminary Observations

Markus Zehnder

University Of Basel And Ansgar Theological Seminary

Author’s note: The core elements of this article were presented for the first time at a lecture at the University of Greifswald in January 2007.

This article addresses the question of a possible dependence that is often claimed to exist between a postulated “Ur-Deuteronomium” and the so-called “Vassal Treaty of Esarhaddon” (VTE). It investigates the textual and reconstructed historical points of contact, concluding that the arguments brought forth in support of the dependence theory are not strong enough to recommend it. In the context of this investigation, the numerous important differences that separate VTE and Deuteronomy are highlighted.

Key Words: Deuteronomy, “Vassal Treaty of Esarhaddon,” loyalty oath, curse

Introduction

Problems In Assessing The Historical Setting Of Deuteronomy

As most readers of this article will know, opinions about the origins and the correct historical localization of the book of Deuteronomy differ widely. However, it is possible to identify a limited number of assumptions held by most commentators. Among these, we find the view that the textual claim of a Mosaic background is fictitious and that in some way the book has to be related to the reform of King Josiah mentioned in 2 Kgs 22-23. Most authors also reckon with a highly complex process of composition and redaction, with many seeing some relation to King Hezekiah and the prophet Hoshea.1

A closer look shows that even these seemingly foundational pillars are not shared by all scholars involved. It will suffice to mention Eckart Otto,

one of the “big players” with respect both to research on OT law corpora in general and Deuteronomy in particular. With regard to the deuteronomic laws in chaps. 12-26, he states in his 1999 monograph Das Deuteronomium that it is more unclear than ever which literary-critical criteria can be applied to distinguish between predeuteronomic, deuteronomic, Deuteronomistic, and post-Deuteronomistic layers within the law sections of Deuteronomy.2 In a situation in which even the criteria are under dispute, one cannot expect agreement about the results of these investigations.

The Recent Trend: The “Vassal Treaty Of Esarhaddon” As Historical Background Of An “Ur-Deuteronomium”

In the last cou...

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