Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 19:4 (Fall 1976)
Article: Book Reviews
Author: Anonymous

Book Reviews

Old Testament

Imperialism and Religion: Assyria, Judah and Israel in the Eighth and Seventh Centuries B.C. E. (Society of Biblical Literature Monograph Series, Volume 19). By Morton Cogan. Missoula: Scholar’s Press, 1974, 136 pp., $4.20 ($3.00 to SBL members).

Cogan’s thesis is that the Neo-assyrian western expansion in the eighth and seventh centuries B.C. was primarily military and political in intent and had little or no stress upon imposition of the Assyrian religion on conquered peoples. In particular, he is highly critical of the view advocated by Olmstead, Ostreicher, Noth, and others, that Israel, as well as other conquered nations, was coerced into following the cultic faith of Neo-assyria. Cogan’s argument is based on an analysis of the Scripture, Neo-assyrian texts, and other relevant material.

Two significant questions are raised in the monograph. First, in what way did Assyrian conquest affect the indigenous religion of conquered territories? Second, did the imperial policy of Neo-assyria uniformly include imposition of the worship of Ashur and other Assyrian deities? Cogan also attempts to assess, in light of the Biblical account, the influence and pertinence of Assyrian religion on Israel and Judah.

On the whole, the monograph is a healthy corrective to the excesses that were indicative of earlier attempts to analyze the significance of Neo-assyrian cultic practices on the religion of Israel. Olmstead, for example, held that Assyria, like later Roman policy, routinely enforced the worship of Ashur upon conquered territories (see his History of Assyria and History of Palestine and Syria). More recently Robinson, Noth, Bright, and Gray have advocated the same view.

Extensive study by Cogan of the Neo-assyrian texts of the eighth and seventh centuries B.C. demonstrates that insistence on religious conformity was not a basic Assyrian policy. That the Assyrian inscriptions show the superiority of the god(s) of the conquerors is evident, but there is no clear assertion that the conquered peoples were obligated to worship Ashur. In fact, at times the inscriptions indicate that the local deities were working in favor of the Assyrian conquest. Sennacherib, on one occasion, asserts that “their gods abandoned them, rendering them helpless” (The Inscriptions of Sargon II, King of Assyria, Part I—The Annals, lines 267–273). Curiously, the military conquests of Neo-assyria were often seen as a judgment on a territory brought about by the displeasure of the local deity. This point is made in the inscriptions of Esarhaddon, where the king declares that the conquest of Babylon was due to the anger of Marduk. The problem, of course, is in assessing how much such assertions are due to r...

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