Further on Bīt-PN usage

I’ve updated my notes file with information from the inscriptions of Tiglath-Pileser III. I’ve also altered the format, hopefully making it easier for reading. And though I will continue to collect evidence and present analyses here soon, and most likely eventually publish the final result, I thought a preliminary summary was in order.

The evidence is conclusive. The Assyrians, drawing upon a wider Aramean form of usage (which on occasion even displays in GNs bearing an Aramaic emphatic suffix) believed that the vast majority of the Bīt-PN territories were both named after individuals, former rulers of those territories, and that the current rulers were considered direct descendants of the eponymous ruler. A very strong possibility for the source of the Assyrian belief that each of these territories was still ruled by the same dynasty is the unusual dynastic situation in Assyrian history: one dynasty from beginning to end. It is thus possible that the default assumption on the part of the Assyrian scribes is that other kingdoms were also single, long-lasting dynasties. Unfortunately, there are no Assyrian scribes around to ask! The evidence is clear, however, whatever the reason. The Assyrians believed that the various rulers were descended from those rulers for whom the territories were named in Aramean, and thus Assyrian practice. There is also a definite relationship seen between the territory ruled and the dynastic association. One ruler (Ahunu of Bīt-Adini) loses his dynastic association in the inscriptions at the point that he abandons his territory. Thus, this naming convention needs to be understood in a more complex light. It bears an unusual, intertwined connotation in reference to both territory and dynasty.

Regarding the BYTDWD of the Tel Dan inscription, we happen to know of a DWD/DWYD/David from other ancient near eastern sources, mostly in the various biblical texts, and also in Moabite (the Mesha stela) and perhaps Egyptian (a potential toponymic reference in Shishak’s list) inscriptions. Thus, a ruler named DWD in the Palestinian area is known of through various sources external to the multiple sources which are the biblical books themselves.

If we are to apply the Assyrian/Aramean usage to the BYTDWD found in the Tel Dan stele, this would connote that DWD/David was a former ruler of the territory so named, was considered to be a dynastic founder, and that either a direct descendant of this person ruled that territory, or someone who was thought to be a direct descendant ruled. The usage itself connotes that the ruler was a direct descendant.

With that in mind, we have to understand why it appears that, in our current understanding of the Tel Dan stele, only Judah is referred to as the House of David. In biblical usage, the reason is clearly that the dynasty of David was ruling there. In the Aramaic usage, as in the Assyrian, this was also the assumption in the usage of the term. The tie between the territory name and the belief in a continued dynastic rulership were intertwined in the Aramean/Assyrian usage. Thus, the connotation is both that the “son of David” rules in the “House of David” and also the “House of David” is called such because David and the “son of David” rule/d there. This usage is the standard form in the Assyrian.

We see the unusual belief of a single dynasty for other kingdoms, and the importance in Assyrian eyes of a connection to the dynasty and territory name, in the case of Assyrian reference to Israel. It is, as is well-known, usually referred to as Bīt-Humri. An item of interest is the reference to Iaua son of Humri, Jehu son of Omri. From the biblical texts (2 Kings 9-10), we learn that Jehu was actually responsible for ending the dynasty of Omri, by killing the kings of both Israel and Judah (the deaths of whom appear to be referred to in the Tel Dan stela). Yet, because Jehu/Iaua was a local dynast ruling within his traditional territory, that of Bīt-Humri, the House of Omri, he was still considered “son of Omri,” however incorrectly. Later, when much of the territory of Bīt-Humri was taken by Tiglath-Pileser III and annexed to Assyria, the rulers are no longer referred to as “son of Omri.” The reason seems to be that the local integrity of rulership was compromised both in matters of lost territory and in the loss of legitimacy by the rulers of the northern kingdom in their rebellion, as in the case of Ahunu of Bīt-Adini. Or it could simply be a matter of the Assyrians finally having learned that the dynasty of Omri was long over, and thus everyone ruling Bīt-Humri at that point might have been considered the “son of a nobody.” The patronymics for the last two rulers were not recorded, unfortunately.

Questions? Comments?

Hayim Tadmor z”l

As noted on the ANE list and elsewhere, Hayim Tadmor passed away today. I was rather shocked, and entirely saddened, as just yesterday I had finished spending several days working through his stunningly excellent The Inscriptions of Tiglath-pileser III King of Assyria, which I hope will still be reprinted soon.

May his memory be for a blessing.

PS Death sucks.