Score!

Sometimes living in Berkeley is just like living in a dream.

This afternooon, in a gorgeously breezy, warm (65-ish), cumulus-strewn and peekingly sunny break between alternately Noachically Delugional and St. John the Divinely Apocalyptic storms (“Each Comes Complete with Your Own Power Outage and Free Bonus Reading by Candlelight!”), I took a walk downhill to one of our many unbelievably great Berkeley bookstores, Black OakBooks.

And what to my wondering eyes did appear?
But Labat’s Sixth Edition, at a price not too dear!

Yes, rather than a brand new copy, which I had been planning on buying at near $100, I found a used copy in perfect condition, without a single mark but the bookseller’s price in pencil, positively a steal at $35.

On picking up and seeing the price in the most beauteous copy of said Manuel d’épigraphie akkadienne, in the middle of the oh-so-intellectually quiet store, the beguilingly blended wafting scents of damp wool and of aging books all around, Kevin was heard to exclaim, over the unobtrusive tip-tap of patrons’ umbrellas on the wooden floors, and quite indecorously loudly, “Score!” It will deservedly replace my old spiral-bound photocopy, a gift from my Akkadian professor so long ago, of the second edition.

I also picked up a similarly spotless hardback copy of Ugarit in Retrospect: 50 Years of Ugarit and Ugaritic for a mere $25, also a deal as a new copy is about $10 more.

And two loaves of Provolone-Olive bread from the Cheese Board.

And a nice large double mocha espresso at the French Hotel’s café for the walk homeward.

All in all, it was a beautiful day, the penultimate in a weekend through weekend vacation!

Happy New Year to everyone!

Rabbat-Ammon in 1847

“The dreariness of its (Ammon’s) present aspect,” says Lord Lindsay, “is quite indescribable,—it looks like the abode of death,—the valley stinks with dead camels, one of which was rolling in the stream; and though we saw none among the ruins, they were absolutely covered in every direction with their dung. That morning’s ride would have convinced a sceptic; How runs the prophecy? ‘I will make Rabbah a stable for camels.'”

The prophecy to which Lord Lindsay referred is Ezekiel 25.5:
I will make Rabbah a pasture for camels
and Ammon a fold for flocks.
Then you shall know that I am the LORD

The excerpt from Alexander William Crawford Lord Lindsay’s Letters on Egypt, Edom, and the Holy Land (London, 1847) is quoted in Rev. Alexander Keith’s Evidence of the Truth of the Christian Religion Derived from the Literal Fulfillment of Prophecy; Particularly as Illustrated by the History of the Jews, and by the Discoveries of Recent Travellers (phew!), 35th edition [!], Edinburgh, 1854, page 174. I also have a copy of the 39th edition, from 1872. The book’s multiple editions made it a mainstay of popular religion throughout the Victorian Age. He also wrote the entirely fascinating The Signs of the Times, as Denoted by the Fulfillment of Historical Predictions, Traced Down from the Babylonish Captivity to the Present Time (Edinburgh, 1834), in which the prophecies of Daniel and Revelation are tied, in the historicist manner, to various events in European history, most notably to Napoleon’s campaigns! The two small volumes are half-calf with marbled covers and marbling on the edges, and include some pullout maps which are fine examples of early nineteenth century mapmaking.

The Rev. Alexander Keith and his son George Skene Keith were also responsible for taking the first ever photographs of the Holy Land in 1844. These photographs, converted into engravings, appear in various editions of the Evidence… book. Rev. Keith (1791-1880) was also one of the many ministers involved in the formation of the Free Church of Scotland.

The primary value to moderns of the Evidence… book is its important picture of the state of the territories of the Holy Land in the years before Jewish settlement in the area and a counteracting/corresponding Ottoman transfer of Muslim populations into those territories. The picture described is one of a beautiful, fertile, productive land which is only sparsely populated by melancholy and oppressed inhabitants. What little settled population lived there was constantly intimidated by bands of marauding bedouin Arabs or the Turkish authorities. Although I would certainly think we can all regret the loss of the unspoiled natural beauty of the region which has since occurred, no one can miss the oppression of people in those days.

Modern Hebrew Poetry: Y. Amichai

אִם אֶשְׁכָּחֵךְ, יְרוּשָׁלַיִם
יִשָּׁכַח דָּמִי
אֶגַּע בְּמִצְחֵךְ, אֶשְׁכַּח אֶת שֶׁלִּי
יִתְחַלֵּף קוֹלִי
בַּפַּעַם הַשְּׁנִיָּה וְהָאַחֲרוֹנָה
לְקוֹל נוֹרָא םִן הַקּוֹלוֹת
אוֹ לְאֵלֶם

If I forget thee, Jerusalem,
Let my blood be forgotten.
I shall touch your forehead,
Forget my own,
My voice change
For the second and last time
To the most terrible of voices —
Or silence

Old Testament Dates

I’ve just added a couple of new web pages to my Bombaxo website, which some may find of interest.

First is the page of Old Testament Dates. This includes a scheme of calendar dates for the rulers of Israel and Judah. It also provides modern dates for various dates mentioned in the prophetic and historical texts. See there for more details.

I’ve also added a page of notes regarding the Dates of the Twelve Minor Prophets, as given in the above-mentioned file. The notes explain my particular reasons for the dates given.

Some may say that such dating schemes are nuts.

To those who would say such, I hereby give, in keeping with this season of giving, perhaps a bit too generously, just as much caring about their opinion as can fit between these two lines: =

The reason for the season!

Now Maccabeus and his followers, the Lord leading them on, recovered the temple and the city; they tore down the altars that had been built in the public square by the foreigners, and also destroyed the sacred precincts. They purified the sanctuary, and made another altar of sacrifice; then, striking fire out of flint, they offered sacrifices, after a lapse of two years, and they offered incense and lighted lamps and set out the bread of the Presence.

When they had done this, they fell prostrate and implored the Lord that they might never again fall into such misfortunes, but that, if they should ever sin, they might be disciplined by him with forbearance and not be handed over to blasphemous and barbarous nations. It happened that on the same day on which the sanctuary had been profaned by the foreigners, the purification of the sanctuary took place, that is, on the twenty-fifth day of the same month, which was Chislev. They celebrated it for eight days with rejoicing, in the manner of the festival of booths, remembering how not long before, during the festival of booths, they had been wandering in the mountains and caves like wild animals. Therefore, carrying ivy-wreathed wands and beautiful branches and also fronds of palm, they offered hymns of thanksgiving to him who had given success to the purifying of his own holy place. They decreed by public edict, ratified by vote, that the whole nation of the Jews should observe these days every year.

(2 Maccabees 10:1-8 NRSV)

חנכה שמח

Assyria, Israel, Amos, Sakkuth, and Dēr

There is an interesting passage in Amos 5.26-27 (NRSV):

You shall take up Sakkuth your king,
and Kaiwan your star-god, your images,
which you made for yourselves;
therefore I will take you into exile beyond Damascus,
says the LORD, whose name is the God of hosts.

We know of the city Dēr as the home of the deity Sakkud from various texts, including this one, describing the conquering of Dēr in about 813 BC by Šamšī-Adad V (RIMA 3, A.0.103.2: iii.37’b-48′):

I marched to Dēr. Dēr, the great city whose foundations are as firm as bedrock, (40′) …, I surrounded (and) captured that city. [I carried off] the deities Anu-rabû, Nannai, Šarrat-Dēr, Mār-bīti-ša-pān-bīti, Mār-bīti-ša-birīt-nāri, Burruqu, (45′), Gula, Urkītu, Šukāniia, Nēr-e-tagmil, Sakkud of the city Bubê—the gods who dwell in Dēr—together with their property, […]

In the Dictionary of Deities and Demons, we read about, s.v. Sakkuth:

The problem of why the Israelites adopted an obscure god like Sakkut remains unsolved. The Israelites may have borrowed the worship of this planet from the Assyrians. In this case there are two options. (1) The Israelites took over the worship before the fall of Samaria. Then Amos 5:26 can be interpreted as a prophetic accusation for not having served Yahweh (e.g. BARSTAD 1984). (2) Amos 5:26 refers to one of the deities mentioned in 2 Kgs 17:28-30 who were brought to the Samaritan area by Assyrian settlers. This view implies that the text is a later insertion by a (deuteronomistic) redactor who confused situations before and after the conquest of the capital (H. W. WOLFF, Dodekapropheton 2. Joel und Amos [BKAT XIV/2; Neukirchen-Vluyn 1969] 310-311).

There are, however, other options, taking into account both the Assyrian and Hebrew texts.

Notice this important piece of Assyrian information from Tiglath-Pileser III from accounts of his Eighth Campaign, 738 BC (Ann 13*:3-5, Tadmor, 67):

600 captives of the city of Amlate of the Damunu (tribe), 5,400 captives of Der | in the cities of Kunalia, […], Huzarra, Tae, Tarmanazi, Kulmadara, Hatatirra, Irgillu, | [cities] of the land of Unqi, I settled.

Elements in play here:
1.) Dēr, the home of Sakkud, was subject to Assyrians, first (?) subjugated by Samsi-Adad V, then being (largely? entirely?) depopulated by Tiglath-Pileser III in 738
2.) Exile of Israelites by Assyrians in 734-732 by Tiglath-Pileser III
3.) Settlment of Israelites in “cities of the Medes” is noted in 2 Kings 17.6, which category undoubtedly applies to Dēr
4.) Apparent mention by Amos 5.26 of Israelites worshipping Sakkud/Sakkuth

There are two, I feel more likely, conclusions possible here than those mentioned by DDD. (1) Some Israelites were settled in Dēr by Tiglath-Pileser III, where they turned to worshipping local deities, including Sakkud. In their contact with the homeland, they transferred images of their new god back to Samaria before its fall, and this worship of Sakkud is what Amos 5.26 refers to. (2) Amos 5.26 is a genuine prophecy dating prior to Tiglath-Pileser’s exile of the majority of Israel, a threat to unfair and unfaithful Israel of exile to the lands of Dēr (and other places). Knowledge that Dēr had fallen, was depopulated, and was a very likely settlement of any exiled Israelites did not require Divinely given foreknowledge (though such certainly wouldn’t hurt!). News of the Assyrians destroying yet another city and deporting its inhabitants must have been quite widespread, no doubt as intended by the Assyrians themselves as a kind of deterrent against further insurrections.

Of the two options, I find the second given here more likely, owing to the wider context of chapter 5 of Amos, especially including reference to Gligal (5.5) which would surely have been included in the exile of Gilead, and “house of Joseph” (5.6), which would seem to imply that the regions of Manasseh, Ephraim, and Benjamin were still considered intact. Relatedly, practical knowledge of Assyrian treatment of rebellious subjects is all that was necessary for anyone to propose Israelite deportees being resettled in Dēr, home of Sakkud.

Always falling back onto suggestions of interpolation is so passé, don’t you think? In this case, it is also completely unnecessary.

I am

“I am.” With this statement is begun an eternal relationship, both a trans-historical and historical relationship. For there is no “I” where there is not also a “you.” For here we have an “I” that always “am,” an eternal state of presence, a self-defined, self-aware existence dependent on no other, and yet implying the existence of another who is not also “I am,” this “I am” who is by nature aside from time, being always “I am,” in an eternal present. And there is the other: the other is a “you” who simply “will be” or “were” or “are” for a time, a kind of “is” which is neither permanent nor self-determined, not subjective but rather objective, quite unlike the “I am.” This “you” is stuck to the historic, not transcending it, not causing it, not separate from it and independent, but this “you” is tied to history and is experiencing it, indeed suffering its imposition with its state of being imposed upon it, not springing outward from it in an act of self-will. And yet, and yet. This “I am” yet says “I am with you always”! Ah, the surprise has been sprung! The relationship is revealed! The relationship of the trans-historical and the historical is established through that process of revelation, with the simple statement “I am.”

This weekend we will celebrate that relationship’s important change in its revelation, from “I am” to “I am here.”

May that God, the I Am, bless those who bless Him!