January 23, 2008

Jezebel

While I wait for the cat to get home (it's a cold night), a few words on inversion.

One of the real pleasures of reading The Bible Unearthed is the frisson of hearing another side of the story. The wickedness of Ahab and Jezebel is transformed into an account of...well, here's a fragment:

The true character of Israel under the Omrides [the dynasty that included Ahab--id] involves an extraordinary story of military might, architectural achievement, and (as as can be determined) administrative sophistication. Omri and his successors earned the hatred of the Bible precisely because they were so strong, precisely because they succeeded in transforming the northern kingdom into an important regional power that completely overshadowed the poor, marginal, rural-pastoral kingdom of Judah to the south. The possibility that the Israelite kings who consorted with the nations, married foreign women, and built Canaanite-type shrines and palaces would prosper was both unbearable and unthinkable.

Moreover, from the perspective of the late monarchic Judah, the internationalism and openness of the Omrides was sinful. To become entangled with the ways of the neighboring peoples was, according to the seventh century Deuteronomistic theology, a direct violation of divine command. But a lesson could still be learned from that experience. By the time of the compilation of the books of Kings, history's verdict had already been returned. The Omrides had been overthrown and the kingdom of Israel was no more. Yet with the help of archaeological evidence and the testimony of outside sources, we can now see how the vivid scriptural portraits that doomed Omri, Ahab and Jezebel to ridicule and scorn over the centuries skillfully concealed the real character of the first true kingdom of Israel.


Posted by Ideofact at January 23, 2008 12:30 AM
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