Israelite And Aramean History In The Light Of Inscriptions -- By: A. R. Millard

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 41:2 (NA 1990)
Article: Israelite And Aramean History In The Light Of Inscriptions
Author: A. R. Millard


Israelite And Aramean History In The Light Of Inscriptions

A. R. Millard

‘Comparisons are odious’ we are told, yet analogies are the historian’s staple diet! Ancient Israel is often treated as unique in world history, yet at the same time many scholars try to fit her history into an acceptable mould by adducing analogies from other times and nations. While both approaches can be supported, there should be no doubt that the most positive and most productive essays in understanding the history of Israel will be those which view it in the terms of Israel’s contemporaries before attempting any assessment. That is a large task, barely begun. The following paragraphs try to show some lessons from comparison of Israel and Judah with the Aramean states.

I. Sources

Israel’s history can be read in a continuous narrative in Samuel- Kings from the establishment of the monarchy to its fall. In this Israel is unique. Despite the accumulation of monuments and manuscripts from Egypt, Mesopotamia and Syria over the past two hundred years, nothing approaches the Hebrew narrative in its range or variety, the nearest approaches are to be found in the Hellenistic compilations of Manetho and Berossus.1 For the first millennium BC almost all the extra-biblical texts are contemporary inscriptions, often relating to a single occasion and frequently presented as the speeches of the kings whose names they bear. Through the sack and desertion of Assyrian cities, numerous royal records have been preserved from the Assyrian empire.2 It should be remembered that for many small states of the Near East those inscriptions are the

only contemporary sources of historical information (e.g. Tyre, Media). Indeed, it is a salutary exercise to discover how little would be known of ancient Israel and Judah were they the only sources for that history. No text earlier than about 850 BC names either of those kingdoms, and the first to do so, inscriptions of Shalmaneser III of Assyria (858–824 BC), would leave an insoluble puzzle were it not for the complementary biblical reports. Shalmaneser lists Ahab the Israelite among his opponents at the battle of Qarqar, then in subsequent texts reports tribute paid by Jehu, son of Omri. It would be logical to conclude rulers of two different states—Israel and Beth Omri were in view, logical, but wrong. (For these and the following texts see Appendix 1.) Thereafter Joash, Menahem and Hoshea of Israel (called Beth-Omri), Ahaz, Hezekiah and Manasseh of Judah appear in Assyrian royal monuments. The Babylonian Chronicle gives a date for the fall of Samaria, which Sargon of Ass...

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