The Land of Canaan and the Destiny of Israel: Theologies of Territory in the Hebrew Bible (Siphrut: Literature and Theology of the Hebrew Scriptures) 9781575062020, 157506202X

What part does the land of Canaan play in the biblical conception of “Israel”? To what extent does the religion promoted

218 31 2MB

English Pages 456 [454]

Report DMCA / Copyright

DOWNLOAD PDF FILE

Table of contents :
Title Page
Contents
Preface
Chapter 1: Introduction: The Significance of the Land in Defining Israel
Chapter 2: Sinai and Schechem: Two Convenants of Foundation
Chapter 3: Worship of the Lord on Foreign Soil
Chapter 4: Leaving the Land: Emigration in the Book of Genesis
Chapter 5: The Religions of Canaan: Coexistence and Exclusiveness in the Book of Genesis
Chapter 6: The People of the God of Abraham
Epilogue: Toward a Contemporary Theology of Israel and the Land
Bibliography
Index of Authors
Index of Scripture
Recommend Papers

The Land of Canaan and the Destiny of Israel: Theologies of Territory in the Hebrew Bible (Siphrut: Literature and Theology of the Hebrew Scriptures)
 9781575062020, 157506202X

  • 0 0 0
  • Like this paper and download? You can publish your own PDF file online for free in a few minutes! Sign Up
File loading please wait...
Citation preview

The Land of Canaan and the Destiny of Israel

Siphrut

Literature and Theology of the Hebrew Scriptures Editorial Board

Stephen B. Chapman Tremper Longman III Nathan MacDonald

Duke University Westmont College Universität Göttingen   and University of St. Andrews

1.  A Severe Mercy: Sin and Its Remedy in the Old Testament, by Mark J. Boda 2.  Chosen and Unchosen: Conceptions of Election in the Pentateuch and Jewish-Christian Interpretation, by Joel N. Lohr 3.  Genesis and the Moses Story: Israel’s Dual Origins in the Hebrew Bible, by Konrad Schmid 4.  The Land of Canaan and the Destiny of Israel: Theologies of Territory in the Hebrew Bible, by David Frankel

The Land of Canaan and the Destiny of Israel Theologies of Territory in the Hebrew Bible

David Frankel

Winona Lake, Indiana Eisenbrauns 2011

© 2011 by Eisenbrauns Inc. All rights reserved Printed in the United States of America www.eisenbrauns.com

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Frankel, David, 1961–   The land of Canaan and the destiny of Israel : theologies of territory in the Hebrew Bible / David Frankel.   p.  cm. — (Siphrut, literature and theology of the Hebrew Scriptures ; 4) Includes bibliographical references and indexes. ISBN 978-1-57506-202-0 (hardback : alk. paper) 1.  Palestine in the Bible.  2.  Palestine in Judaism.  3.  Bible. O.T.— Criticism, interpretation, etc.  I.  Title. BS1199.P26F73 2011 221.9′1—dc22 2011001232

The paper used in this publication meets the minimum requirements of the American National Standard for Information Sciences—Permanence of Paper for Printed Library Materials, ANSI Z39.48-1984. †Ê

Contents Preface . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

vii

1.  Introduction: The Significance of the Land in Defining Israel . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   1 The Prominence of the Land Theme  2 The Qualified Importance of the Land  17 A Renewed Emphasis on the Centrality of the Land  42 Synoptic Evaluation  63

2.  Sinai and Shechem: Two Covenants of Foundation . . . .   77 The Deuteronomic Conception of the Founding of Israel  78 Scholarly Work on Joshua 24: A Critical Evaluation  97 Joshua 24 as an Early, Independent, Foundation Tradition  104 Shechem and Sinai as Alternative Foundation Traditions  111 The Enduring Significance of the Sinai Tradition for Israel  133

3.  Worship of the Lord on Foreign Soil . . . . . . . . . . . . 137 Worship of the Lord on Foreign Soil: Preliminary Considerations  137 Worship of the Lord: Universalism, Particularism, and Territory  145 Theological Accommodations for Worship of the Lord on Foreign Soil: Israelites versus Foreigners  160 The Accommodation for Israelite Cultic Worship on Foreign Soil in Joshua 22  177 A Critical Analysis of 2 Kings 17:24–41  200

4.  Leaving the Land: Emigration in the Book of Genesis . . . 218 The Unique Relationship between Isaac and the Land  218 Three Approaches to Emigration in Genesis  224 The First Approach and Its Qualification  229 The Final Parting of Ways of Jacob and Esau  233 The Delegitimation of Emigration in Genesis 24:5–8  236 The Historical Context: Insiders and Outsiders in the Aftermath of the Exile  243 The Story of Abraham’s Descent to Egypt: Suppression and Incorporation  247 The Prohibition of Emigration to Egypt in Genesis 26:1–6  256

v

vi

Contents Genesis 26:2–5 and the Conception of the Completeness of the Land of Promise  262 Summary 267

5.  The Religions of Canaan: Coexistence and Exclusiveness in the Book of Genesis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

268

The Inhabitants of Canaan in the Pentateuchal Conquest Laws  268 The Inhabitants of Canaan in the Book of Genesis  277 Harmonizations of Genesis and the Conquest Laws  301 The Religions of Canaan in the Book of Genesis  326

6.  The People of the God of Abraham . . . . . . . . . . . . . 338 The Exclusion of Ishmael in the Non-Priestly Sources  338 The Exclusion of Ishmael in the Priestly Source (Genesis 17)  344 The Original Priestly Covenant with Abraham  360 Conclusion 379

Epilogue: Toward a Contemporary Theology of Israel and the Land . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

382

Bibliography . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

401

Indexes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 427   Index of Authors . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 427   Index of Scripture . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 431

Preface What place does the land of Canaan play in the biblical conception of “Israel”? To what extent does the religion promoted by the Hebrew Bible require that Israel live its communal life in the national homeland? Might Israel fulfill its destiny, however defined, outside the land? And how does life in the land, however demarcated, compare in importance with other elements presented as belonging to Israel’s ultimate destiny, such as, for example, adherence to the law? To what extent can the Lord of Israel be worshiped outside the land, and to what extent is the law of the covenant bound to the land and dependent on it? To what extent must the people of Israel take hold of and settle in the “entire land of Canaan” for them to fulfill their destiny? Might the land be shared with other peoples, or must non-Israelites be expelled, subjugated, or at least kept at a safe and isolated distance? Or might non-Israelites have a territorial share in the land of Israel while still preserving their non-Israelite identity? Might non-Israelites live in the land and even take part in the religious destiny of Israel? And would a situation of this sort require the complete rejection of all other religious cults, or might non-Yahwistic cults be somehow given a place and function within the land of Yhwh and the Yahwistic faith? These are just some of the questions that will be raised in this book. I will be asking these questions of the Hebrew Bible as a whole and of the biblical texts individually, inquiring how the individual biblical writers and editors addressed these issues. I will attempt to show that all of these questions were addressed by various biblical authors and that diverse and even opposing answers were given to them. It is thus extremely difficult to speak simplistically about the biblical conception of territory, as if the Hebrew Bible speaks in one voice on this issue, and my emphasis will lie instead on disclosing and comparing “theologies” of territory in biblical literature. At the same time, an attempt will be made to evaluate the place that territory plays in the final form of Hebrew Scripture as a whole. The issues that I raise in this book are not completely new. Many of them have been addressed in recent times by various scholars and theologians who have taken a renewed interest in the “territorial dimension” of the Hebrew Bible, and the present work is greatly indebted to them. At the same time, works of a predominantly theological or sociological orientation can sometimes suffer from a tendency to gloss over textual difficulties and inconsistencies, a tendency that can distract the interpreter from direct

vii

viii

Preface

and immediate attention to the broader issues that are at the center of his or her concern. And yet, at least from the perspective of this book, a great deal of significance is specifically embedded in the “small” details. Textual snags and jagged edges in biblical passages, far from being a mere nuisance in the analysis of broad theological and ideological issues, are of paramount consequence. They provide us with a most important key toward unlocking the terms of debate and the intensity of disagreement between biblical writers. An innocuous passage could be left alone by later readers and will therefore read smoothly and without complication. It is the controversial text that elicits editorial comment, qualification, or a thoroughly transformative reinterpretation, and this often results in an awkwardly formulated text. The snags and inconsistencies in the text often enable us to reconstruct the process of the growth of the text in question and to uncover the final editor’s transformative exegesis, thus providing us with an important window into the diversity of outlooks in ancient Israel. Diachronic analysis of the biblical text will thus constitute an essential component in the attempt of this book to retrieve something of the heated dynamic that animated the work of the authors and editors whose efforts consummated in the formation of the corpus of the Hebrew Bible. It will be shown, in particular, that behind the present form of several biblical texts can be found earlier forms that often displayed remarkably open and inclusive conceptions about the relationship between the people of Israel and the land of Canaan. It would be quite disingenuous to claim that the questions raised in this book have been raised out of academic and historical interest alone. As a religiously observant Jew and as a citizen in the modern State of Israel, I raise questions that are of great personal and existential significance. And yet, though the questions have been largely determined by my personal concerns, I have made every attempt to put my personal preferences on hold in order to elicit as accurately as possible the biblical answers to these questions. Indeed, there are many biblical conceptions expounded in this book with which I would most definitely not identify on a personal level. At the same time, I have presented here many new and hitherto unrecognized biblical conceptions and traditions that I believe may bear significant implications for the contemporary religious and political situation in the State of Israel. It seems to me that this is the proper way to attempt to bring out the theological relevance of biblical literature to the contemporary situation. The questions raised must be significant, without any predetermination of the answers. Only after the biblical conceptions are accurately identified, analyzed, and categorized can one begin the process of discussing the possible relevance of these conceptions for the contemporary situation. A modest indication of how an endeavor of this sort might proceed is provided in the epilogue of this book. The extent to which the theological

Preface

ix

conceptions reconstructed and presented in this book will be found both academically cogent and theologically meaningful remains, of course, to be judged by the reader.

Note to the Reader Abbreviations used in this book are the standard abbreviations found in the Society of Biblical Literature Handbook of Style (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1999).

Chapter 1

Introduction: The Significance of the Land in Defining Israel The theme of Israel’s relationship to its land is clearly pivotal, holding a central place within the overall structure of the narrative of the Hebrew Bible. With the exception of just a few biblical books, noted the Israeli scholar S. D. Goiten, 1 “the entire Bible is one long story with one theme: how the people of Israel merited the land of Israel, how they lost it, and how they regained it.” It may be readily granted that the political agenda of the times profoundly influenced Zionist students of the Hebrew Bible such as Yehezkel Kaufmann, David Ben-Gurion, and many others, 2 who discerned in it a pronounced preoccupation with the theme of the land. (It is similarly far from coincidental that contemporaneous Christian scholars of “Old Testament Theology” often failed to give proper attention to the centrality of this theme, highlighting in its place prophetic universalism. 3 The same desire to downplay the national-territorial quality of the biblical 1. S. D. Goiten, Bible Studies (Tel Aviv: Yavneh, 1967), 15 [Hebrew]. 2. Y. Kaufmann, The History of Israelite Religion (4 vols.; Tel Aviv: Bialik and Dvir, 1937– 56), 1.624–58 and elsewhere [Hebrew]. See the collection of essays in D. Ben-Gurion, BenGurion Looks at the Bible (trans. J. Kolatch; London: Allen, 1972). See also M. Cogan, BenGurion and the Bible (Beer Sheba: Ben-Gurion University, 1989) [Hebrew]. For a penetrating analysis of the central place of the Hebrew Bible and its study in early Zionist thought and in Israeli society and its later decline, see U. Simon, “The Place of the Bible in Israeli Society: From National Midrash to Existential Peshat,” Modern Judaism 19 (1999): 155–77. 3.  A typical example of this tendency is exhibited in W. Eichrodt’s classic Theology of the Old Testament, Volume One (trans. J. A. Baker; Philadelphia: Westminster, 1976). Expressions of nationalism are continuously referred to as narrow, and the height of spirituality is exemplified in passages that allegedly transcend nationalism and territorialism (cf., e.g., ch. 11, esp. pp.  482–85). There has been since then, however, a growing appreciation among Christian theologians and scholars of the centrality of the territorial orientation of the religion of the Hebrew Bible as more than just a passing phase in an evolutionary spiritual process leading to the New Testament. See especially: W. Brueggemann, The Land: Place as Gift, Promise, and Challenge in Biblical Faith (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1977); R. Rendtorff, Israel und sein Land: Überlegungen zu ein politische Problem (Munich: Chr. Kaiser, 1975); W. D. Davies, The Territorial Dimension of Judaism (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1982); Norman C. Habel, The Land Is Mine: Six Biblical Land Ideologies (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1995).

1

2

Chapter 1

tradition is clearly evidenced in much of the early Reform Jewish theology, which opposed political Zionism. 4 However, the thesis of the pervasiveness of the land theme within the biblical corpus is no mere anachronism through which later political concerns are projected back into the ancient past. 5 Concern with the relationship between the people of Israel and the land of Israel indeed manifests itself at nearly every turn in the biblical corpus, and this fact tends to indicate that life on the land constitutes a central element within the nationalreligious faith system that the Hebrew Bible both reflects and promotes. Let us review, then, some of the evidence for the prominence of the theme of Israel’s relationship to the land within biblical literature.

The Prominence of the Land Theme The Torah One of the first motifs that we encounter in the very first book of the Bible is the divine promise to the patriarchs, in which the promise of land is a major element. The motif of the promise of the land runs throughout the stories of the patriarchs and, to a great extent, may be seen as the literary “mortar” that holds together and imbues continuity into the diverse and variegated materials that comprise the patriarchal narrative. 6 Indeed, most of the dramatic action in the patriarchal stories takes place in the vicinity of cities or individual sites, and it is chiefly the patriarchal promises that lend these local traditions a broader national tenor (cf. esp. Gen 28:13–15). 7 The unconditional and interminable character of the promise of the land, whether stated explicitly or merely implied (Gen 12:7; 13:14– 4.  See, for example, K. Kohler, Jewish Theology, Systematically and Historically Considered (New York: Ktav, 1968), chs. 48–53. For an insightful analysis and discussion, see A. M. Eisen, The Chosen People in America: A Study in Jewish Religious Ideology (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1983), esp. pp. 12–22, 53–72. See also the illuminating discussion of Hermann Cohen’s anti-Zionist views in J. Melber, Hermann Cohen’s Philosophy of Judaism (New York: Jonathan David, 1968), 376–406. 5.  For a consideration of this problematic with regard to the modern historical attempt to reconstruct Jewish identity in Greco-Roman times, see S. Jones and S. Pearce, “Introduction: Jewish Local Identities and Patriotism in the Greco-Roman Period,” in Jewish Local Patriotism and Self-Identification in the Graeco-Roman Period (ed. S. Jones and S. Pearce; JSPSup 31; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1998), 22–28. 6.  Note that the only explicit connections between the figures of Jacob and Abraham are to be found in the promises to Jacob in Gen 28:4, 13–15; 35:12. Note also the editorial nature of Gen 26:3–5, where Isaac is presented as receiving the blessing due to the merit of his father, Abraham. On the originally independent nature of the Isaac tradition, see M.  Noth, A History of Pentateuchal Traditions: Translated with an Introduction by Bernhard W. Anderson (Engelwood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1972), 103. 7. See Z.  Weisman, “National Consciousness in the Patriarchal Promises,” JSOT 31 (1985): 55–73; J.  Emerton, “The Origin of the Promises to the Patriarchs in the Older Sources of the Book of Genesis,” VT 32 (1982): 14–32.

The Significance of the Land in Defining Israel

3

17; 15:7–21; 17:8; 16:3; 18:4, 13; 35:12), 8 underscores the cardinal importance of the land theme for Genesis and seems to indicate that life on the land is practically axiomatic for the constitution of “Israel.” In Exodus through Deuteronomy, the goal and purpose of the exodus from Egypt are depicted in terms of fulfilling the promise to provide Israel with a land “flowing with milk and honey” (Exod 3:8; Deut 7:23). 9 The laws of the Sinai covenant are given with the intention that they be implemented specifically in the land (Deut 4:1; 8:1; 11:31–32; etc.). Some of the laws are actually prefaced by the phrase “when you come into the land” or the like (Exod 34:11–12; Lev 25:2; Num 15:2; Deut 17:14; 26:1), clearly indicating that it is specifically for the regulation of life in the land that the covenant stipulations are made. 10 This connection between the laws and the land is clear even when the above-mentioned preface is lacking, since the reward promised for obedience is national prosperity and fertility in the land (see Exod 23:25–26; Lev 26:1–10; Deut 11:13–17; 28:1–14). The goal of the wilderness wanderings is the arrival in the land, and any apparent detour or delay requires explanation and justification (Exod 13:17–18; Num 13–14; Deut 2:14). The cardinal Israelite sin of the desert period is the rejection of the divine gift of the land, in light of the report of the spies that the land “devours its inhabitants” (Num 13–14). It is this land-oriented sin that brings on the punishment of the 40-year wandering in the desert and the death sentence for the entire exodus generation. According to Ps 106:24–27, the eventual exile of Israel from the land was already determined at the time of the incident of the spies and was actually a long-postponed punishment for this initial primal sin. The concluding chapters of Numbers deal with various issues related to the inheritance of the land. 11 8. Scholars often contrast this with the conditional covenant made at Sinai (Exod 19:5–6; 23:22). See J. D. Levenson, Sinai and Zion: An Entry into the Jewish Bible (Minneapolis: Winston, 1985). 9. See Naḥmanides on Lev 26:16, and Y.  Elizur, “The Land of Israel in Biblical Thought,” in Reflections on the Bible: Selected Studies of the Bible Circle in Memory of Yishai Ron (ed. M. Hobab; Tel Aviv: Am Oved, 1973), 33–46 [Hebrew]. Following the rabbis, these authorities see in Lev 26:32 and Ezek 36:8 an assertion that the fertility of the land is inherently connected to the people of Israel. When the Israelites are in exile, the land itself remains barren and uninhabitable. See also Deut 29:21–27. Though there may be some basis for deriving this idea from that which is implied in the biblical texts, the reading seems somewhat overstated. There is no unequivocal statement that the nations will fail in their attempts to live off the land. According to the implication of 2 Kgs 17:24–28, the foreign colonists succeeded in settling the northern territory of Israel after the initial attacks by lions were countered. 10.  See the discussion of Naḥmanides in his commentary at Lev 18:25. 11.  First, a census is taken to determine who will receive inheritances and how they are to be allotted (Num 26). This leads to the inheritance claims of the daughters of Zelophehad and the laws that derive from this incident (27, 36). The issue of the inheritance of the two Transjordanian tribes is dealt with in Num 32, and in Num 34 the exact contours of the land that is to be divided are outlined.

4

Chapter 1

The book of Deuteronomy continues to accentuate the issue of the land, its conquest and settlement, bringing the theme to an even higher level of prominence. The land is continually referred to here as the ultimate gracious gift that the Lord bestows upon the people of Israel. 12 The book begins with a lengthy retelling of the story of the spies (Deut 1:19–46), continues with a recitation of the laws that are to be adhered to so that Israel may inherit the land and flourish therein (see Deut 4:1, 40; 6:18; 8:1; 11:8–9; etc.), and warns that disobedience will bring plague and sterility to the land (Deut 28:15–44; 29:21–26) and that the Israelites will ultimately be forced to leave the land (Deut 4:25–27; 28:36–37, 63–68). The book ends with the tragic depiction of Moses, who is allowed to view the land from a distance but barred, in spite of his heartfelt pleadings, from actual physical entrance therein (Deut 34; compare 3:23–28). 13 The Historiographical Books The issue of Israel’s relationship to the land continues to dominate in the historical narrative that follows the Pentateuch, particularly in the book of Joshua. It is in the book of Joshua that the basic narrative tension of the Pentateuch, first elicited by the unfulfilled patriarchal promises of national life in the land, finally achieves its climactic resolution. It is here that the patriarchal promises are fulfilled and the goal of the exodus from Egypt realized. Von Rad, noting this thematic balance of weight, postulated an original “Hexateuch” that was only later truncated into the present five-book structure known as the Pentateuch. 14 In a way, the rabbis of the Talmud may be said to have anticipated von Rad’s position when they stated, “If it were not for the fact that the Israelites sinned, they would not have received more than the five books of Torah and the book of Joshua, for it [relates] the estimation of the land of Israel.” 15 The implication of this 12.  See P. D. Miller Jr., “The Gift of God: The Deuteronomic Theology of the Land,” Int 23 (1969): 451–65. 13.  There is no parallel to Deuteronomy’s depiction of Moses pleading with the Lord to enter the land in the book of Numbers. This seems to be the creation of the author of Deuteronomy, reflecting his concern to heighten the intensity of the divine punishment of exclusion from the land. In Num 27:12–23 the Lord, of his own initiative, commands Moses to climb Mt. Nebo and see the land before his death. Moses pleads here that God provide the people with a new leader but makes no supplications for himself concerning entrance into the land. Furthermore, Moses’ punishment in Num 20:12 is not that he may not enter the land but that he will not bring the people into the land. The divergence is slight but significant. Moses’ punishment consists of the fact that he loses his status as leader of the people. The fact that he will not enjoy the personal fulfillment of walking in the land is not the main issue. This understanding of the punishment of Moses is only found in Deuteronomy. Thus, while Deuteronomy highlights the significance of life in the land, the Priestly material in Numbers may be said to play down this element somewhat. 14. G. von Rad, “The Form-Critical Problem of the Hexateuch,” The Problem of the Hexateuch and Other Essays (Edinburgh: Oliver & Boyd, 1966). 15.  B. Ned. 22b. Note Rashi’s explanation of “for it relates the estimation of the land”: “the estimation of each portion of each tribe is written in it, and it would not suffice with-

The Significance of the Land in Defining Israel

5

statement is that the material in the book of Judges and in the books that follow is little more than a record of the later historical unfolding of the founding events that are fully related in the six books of the Hexateuch. Thus, the events of the Hexateuch alone are the fundamental and theologically constant foundational events. The subsequent books did not need to be written. 16 This rabbinic conception may be grounded not only in the discernment that Joshua brings thematic closure to the books of the Pentateuch but also in the perception of the editorial presentation of the book of Judges as a kind of appendix to the book of Joshua. The editors of the books of Joshua and Judges look back at the period of Joshua as an idyllic period of Israelite faithfulness to God, which was the natural product of the wonders they witnessed in relation to the conquest ( Josh 24:31; Judg 2:7). The sinfulness of the period of the judges is attributed to the birth of a new generation that did not experience those impressive, wondrous acts ( Judg 2:10). These editorial comments probably form the basis for the rabbinic distinction between founding divine acts of the Hexateuch and the subsequent history of sinful Israel that begins with the book of Judges. Historians have long argued that the distinction between an initial period of a unified national conquest of the land under the heroic leadership of Joshua and a later period of protracted and only partly successful tribal battles after Joshua’s death ( Judg 1:1a) is, to a great extent, an artificial construct of the historiographer. In reality, there was no single, unified conquest of the land by the entire twelve-tribe confederacy of Israel. The establishment of the people in the land was, rather, a protracted and gradual development, in which disparate clans and tribal groups slowly came to see themselves as sharing a distinctive national identity and in which military conquest played only a limited and qualified role. The picture that emerges from parts of the book of Judges, where clans and tribes sometimes act independently and where military achievements are often local and limited, is probably closer to the historical reality of “the conquest” than the picture that emerges from much of the book of Joshua. Of interest to us here, however, is not the historical reality but the historiographical out it. Since they rebelled and sinned, the great wisdom of the remaining books was added to them in order to perturb them further” (!) 16.  The question of Tetrateuch/Pentateuch/Hexateuch is complex and need not concern us here. In any event, the many literary connections between the book of Joshua and the materials in Exodus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy concerning the conquest and settlement make the unique connection between the Pentateuch and Joshua at some stage in the textual development of the biblical corpus difficult to deny. A detailed treatment of the issue can be found in A. G. Auld, Joshua, Moses, and the Land: Tetrateuch-PentateuchHexateuch in a Generation since 1938 (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1980). See also G. N. Knoppers, “Establishing the Rule of Law? The Composition Num 33,50–56 and the Relationships among the Pentateuch, the Hexateuch, and the Deuteronomistic History,” in Das Deuteronomium zwischen Pentateuch und Deuteronomistischem Geschichtswerk (ed. E.  Otto and R. Achenbach; Göttingen: Vanderhoeck & Ruprecht, 2004), 135–54.

6

Chapter 1

representation and what it tells us about the significance of the land theme within the Hebrew Bible. From the point of view of historical credibility, the story of the mixed successes and failures of the individual tribal battles of conquest, such as the account presented in Judg 1, for example, could have served well as the direct continuation of the exodus story. The biblical editors could easily have depicted the tribes as individually capturing their respective inheritances, attributing their failures to idolatry and sin. However, the editors prefaced the account of Judg 1 and all the battles of the period of the judges with the inaugural and foundational “period” of Joshua. The reason for this seems clear. The conquest and inheritance of the land was too important a theme to be depicted in the equivocal and partial terms of realistic historical presentation. Theological exigencies required that the fulfillment of the patriarchal land promise be depicted in terms of a dramatic and heroic act of divine grace to the nation as a whole, in which the conquest was both swift and complete. (See Josh 10:40–43; 11:16–17, 19–20, 23; 18:1; 21:43–45; of course, contemporary political concerns may well have influenced the historiography as well.) The book of Joshua establishes the conquest as an “event” that occurred within a brief span of time as the culmination of the saving acts of God for Israel. The events depicted in Judges, when made to follow the idyllic period of Joshua, become a subsequent fall from an original period of grace. Rather than reflecting the partial and gradual establishment of the Israelites in the land, the stories of Judges are made to reflect a lapse from an original pristine state of national and territorial completeness, 17 when all of Israel lived in the entirety of the land. In light of this editorial structure, the rabbinic understanding of the biblical books beginning with Judges as theologically secondary and ultimately unessential is, we may say, thoroughly grounded in the biblical text. Though the book of Judges presents material that in many ways may be seen as postfoundational, it still sets its focus on Israel’s secure hold on the land in the face of surrounding enemies that subdue them. In fact, the entire Deuteronomistic History may ultimately be seen as centering on the issue of Israel’s prosperity and fortunes in the land. Nothing is told here of the fortunes of the exiles who were expelled by Assyrian forces from the Northern Kingdom, and next to nothing is told of the fortunes of the exiles from Judah. According to M. Noth, 18 the entire Deuteronomistic His17. The picture that is reflected in the present form of the book of Joshua on the completeness of the conquest is, to be sure, complex and contradictory, reflecting various editorial layers. See, most recently, N. Wazana, All the Boundaries of the Land ( Jerusalem: Bialik, 2007), 199–229 [Hebrew]. This notwithstanding, the Deuteronomistic introduction to Judges clearly presents the entire book of Joshua in terms of an idyllic past. 18. See M.  Noth’s classic treatment of this issue in Deuteronomistic History (trans. J. Doull et al.; JSOTSup 15; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1981), 89–99. Note especially his minimalist position on Deuteronomy’s attitude toward the future on pp. 97–99. For the predominance of the theme of the land in the Deuteronomistic History, see J. G.

The Significance of the Land in Defining Israel

7

tory is little more than an attempt to provide a historiographical theodicy that would justify Israel’s loss of the land in terms of divine retribution for disobedience to the deuteronomic law. Scholars since Noth have come to appreciate the redactional complexity of the Deuteronomistic History, so that the subsuming of the entire corpus under a single purpose or agenda may now appear overly simplistic. 19 Nonetheless, the concern to justify the expulsions of Israel and Judah clearly holds a highly prominent place in many Deuteronomistic texts (e.g., Josh 23:13–16; 1 Kgs 8:46–50; 14:14–16, 22–24; 2 Kgs 17). The entire history thus reflects a land-centered perspective. Similarly, the concern of the book of Kings to depict synchronically the history of both Judah and Israel clearly shows that, in spite of its strongly pro-Judean slant, it conceives of “Israel,” at least initially, in terms of both the northern and southern tribes and in terms of the land as a whole. The book’s conclusion, which tells the story of the elevation of the exiled Judean king Jehoiachin in the Babylonian court to a position above all the other exiled kings (2 Kgs 25:27–30), certainly reflects more than simply the last incident of interest that the historiographer could report. 20 McConville, “Faces of Exile in Old Testament Historiography,” in After the Exile: Essays in Honor of Rex Mason (ed. J. Barton and D. J. Reimer; Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1996), 27–44. 19.  The literature on the Deuteronomistic History is enormous. For a good collection of representative essays, see G. N. Knoppers and J. G. McConville, eds., Reconsidering Israel and Judah: Recent Studies on the Deuteronomistic History (Sources for Biblical and Theological Study 8; Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2000). 20. So Noth, Deuteronomistic History, 74, 98. A more recent attempt to understand the story of Jehoiachin’s release and the book of Kings as a whole is that of J. R. Linville, “Rethinking the ‘Exilic’ Book of Kings” JSOT 75 (1997): 21–42. Linville understands Kings as promoting an “exilic” conception of Israel, wherein life outside the land is “normative” and according to which “a true relationship with Yahweh does not depend on political autonomy” (p. 23). According to Linville, Kings does reach something of a high point and resolution with Josiah, but this can be seen to serve the “exilic” ending well, as it anticipates a resolution to the problem of “Israel” surviving the punishment. The resolution is that “exile” is the normative status of “Israel,” a status accepted through conscious agreement with Yahweh in the days of the famous king. Josiah learns that his piety in the face of divine judgment will fail to secure salvation for the nation (22:15–20). Still, he and all the people make a covenant with Yahweh to obey every detail of the law. . . . Josiah’s reign provides a paradigm of “exilic” behavior; an ideal king carrying out a sweeping reform, in the full knowledge that exile will not be revoked . . . the monarchy could be retained as a symbol of “exilic” Israel . . . his story may have been shaped to imply that reconciliation with Yahweh is not to be confused with national sovereignty or salvation, and that Exile is not to be confused with abandonment by the deity. The book can then hurry to its conclusion, with the release of Jehoiachin again signaling that Exile is not destruction. (pp. 37–38) This interpretation appears rather forced and overstated. Josiah’s behavior can hardly serve as a paradigm of exilic behavior since no Judean king could use his regal authority to sponsor a public covenant of obedience to a civil law-code such as the deuteronomic law outside the land. The idea that “reconciliation with Yahweh is not to be confused

8

Chapter 1

It surely was written to indicate that hope for the restoration of the Davidic Kingdom in the land was not lost and that the future restoration of the monarchy was still a possibility. 21 Later biblical historiography displays the same concern to depict Israel’s fortunes in the land and to justify the exile, even if its theological tenets diverge from those of the Deuteronomistic History. 22 It is interesting to note that, in an unparalleled passage, the Chronicler depicts Hezekiah as encouraging the northern Israelites who still remained after the attacks of the Assyrians to repent by joining the Judeans in coming to the Jerusalem temple for the Passover sacrifice. Hezekiah promises that this will with national sovereignty or salvation” is only true of the book of Kings in the sense that national sovereignty in and of itself is not deemed sufficient for a proper relationship with Yahweh. Linville implies, however, that for the book of Kings national or political autonomy in the land is no longer deemed necessary for complete reconciliation with Yahweh. This hardly seems supported by the evidence. It is true that 1 Kgs 8:46–48 only mentions that the exiles who sincerely repent will be forgiven and that God will have their captors bestow mercy upon them. It does not speak of a return to the land as in Deut 30:3–10. Yet we cannot conclude from this reticence anything more than the fact that those living at the time of the exile felt that it would be religiously inappropriate to speak confidently of a return at the time that God’s wrath was raging. We certainly cannot conclude that the author viewed political autonomy in the land as completely a thing of the past. Indeed, if this were so there would be little need for the exiles of the text to direct their prayers to the temple, city, and land! Linville also argues that Kings may have been edited at a much later date than the immediate aftermath of the exile. If so, however, why is there no depiction of the new developments of exilic history that the author of Kings is supposedly so interested in promoting? 21.  Though the messianic implication of the story of Jehoiachin’s release and the exaltation of his throne above those of the other exiled kings is perhaps somewhat understated, it should not be completely denied. Even if an immediate implication of the story was that Israel could continue its existence and thrive as an exilic community under foreign domination (so C. T. Begg, “The Significance of Jehoiachin’s Release: A New Proposal,” JSOT 36 [1986]: 49–56), this does not contradict the fact that the story also opens up the possibility of a future restoration in the land. We should not minimize the fact that the story centers on the Davidic king and the exaltation of his throne in relation to all the other exiled kings. If the exclusive purpose of the narrator was to indicate that Israel could thrive in exile, he could have ignored the incident of Jehoiachin’s release and told, for example, of the release of the high priest instead (as related in Josephus, Ant. 10.154). On the significance of the story of Jehoiachin’s release as a reflection of a tempered and conditional messianic hope, see J. D. Levenson, “The Last Four Verses of Kings,” JBL 103 (1984): 353–61. This should be contrasted with the view of H. W. Wolff (“The Kerygma of the Deuteronomistic Historical Work,” in Reconsidering Israel and Judah [Sources for Biblical and Theological Study 8; Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2000], 77–78), who suggests that the story of Jehoiachin’s release hints at Israel’s new vocation to serve as a mission to the nations. I find this suggestion extremely forced. 22.  For the approach of the book of Chronicles to these issues, see S. Japhet, The Ideology of the Book of Chronicles and Its Place in Biblical Thought (trans. A. Barber; Frankfurt: Peter Lang, 1989), 125–98. Note in particular the Chronicler’s removal of the blame for the exile from Manasseh (in contrast to 2 Kgs 21:1–16; 23:26–27) and the depiction of Manasseh’s exile, repentance, and return to the land (2 Chr 33:10–16), no doubt symbolic of the Chronicler’s view of the divine workings with the nation as a whole.

The Significance of the Land in Defining Israel

9

lead to the return of their exiled brothers and children to the land (2 Chr 30:6–9). 23 The Chronicler diverges here from the historical presentation in Kings, insofar as Kings asserts that the northern Israelites were completely removed from the land (2 Kings 17). 24 For the Chronicler, the northern Israelites were never completely severed from the land. More importantly, the Chronicler here (as elsewhere) 25 exhibits a concern for the future fortunes of the northern Israelite populations, both those in the land and those who went into exile. The book of Kings, in contrast, shows little concern for the future fortunes of the exiles from the north and hardly seems to incorporate them in any hopes for the future. 26 Instructive for an appreciation of the centrality of the land for late biblical historiography is the conclusion of the book of Chronicles and the continuation of the narrative in Ezra and Nehemia. As noted by Kaufmann, Chronicles and Ezra–Nehemia pay no attention whatsoever to the events that transpired in the Babylonian Exile. 27 After describing the destruction 23.  This passage should be compared with and contrasted to the late material in 1 Kgs 8:46–48, where the exiles themselves are to pray in the direction of the land, city, and temple. This repentance will lead to forgiveness and the mercy of the captors, but not a word is said about returning to the land. Verse 34, however, may reflect the same idea as that of Chronicles. 24. For the Chronicler’s interest in and attitude toward the Northern Kingdom, see Japhet, The Ideology of the Book of Chronicles, 308–33; and n. 27 below. 25.  See the summary of H.  G. M.  Williamson, Israel in the Books of Chronicles (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1977), 130–31. 26. F.  M. Cross (Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Ethic [Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1973], 279–80, 283) assumes that there was an expectation of an ultimate reunion of the two kingdoms under a Davidide in his first edition of the Deuteronomistic History. He sees this expectation in 1 Kgs 11:39b and in the references to Josiah’s destruction of Bethel (1 Kgs 13:2–5; 2 Kgs 23:15–20). Yet the acts of Josiah are extremely limited in scope and hardly appear to reflect a “reincorporation of the North” (p. 283). The people enjoined to partake in the paschal sacrifice in v. 21 are the Judeans alone, as indicated by the fact that the call was issued only after Josiah returned to Jerusalem. The “entire people” that participate in it are identical to the “entire people” that Josiah brought into the covenant—“all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem” (2 Kgs 23:1, 4). The Passover of Josiah was said to have been unparalleled since the time of the judges (vv. 22–23), not since the time of the division of the kingdom. There is therefore no reason to assume that the text seeks to indicate that the northern Israelites participated in it. Indeed, the assumption of Kings that the Israelites of the north were completely removed from the land and replaced by foreigners implies that the northern populace would not have been invited to participate. Finally, the material in 2 Kgs 17:7–23, the bulk of which Cross assigns to his first Deuteronomistic editor, gives no indication whatsoever that there is any hope left for a restoration of Israel. The only remaining evidence of hope for a reincorporation of the north is the brief comment in 1 Kgs 11:39b. The originality of this clause, however, is highly suspect, is not attested in the LXX, and is often considered a gloss. See S. J. De Vries, I Kings (WBC 12; Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2003), 147, note; G. N. Knoppers, Two Nations under God: The Deuteronomistic History of Solomon and the Dual Monarchies (2 vols.; HSM 52–53; Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1993–94), 1.191, note T.  For further discussion, see nn. 90 (p. 37) and 158 (p. 70) below. 27.  Kaufmann, The History of Israelite Religion, 4.451–52.

10

Chapter 1

of Jerusalem and the temple and the exile of the inhabitants to Babylon, the biblical historian goes on to relate that, in the first year of the reign of Cyrus, king of Persia, the king sent forth an edict allowing the Judeans to return to the land and rebuild the temple. For both Chronicles and Ezra– Nehemiah, happenings outside the land of Israel are not deemed “national history,” so the events that transpired between the exile and the return need not be recorded. Only that which relates to the return of the exiles is deemed worthy of attention. 28 As a complement to this, we may observe that, at the other end of the biblical spectrum, the Abraham story begins with his travels as an elderly man to the land of Canaan. All that transpired in his life in the land of Ur or Haran until this point is again deemed historically irrelevant. 29 The Land Theme in the Cult The land theme holds a central place not only in the orientation and focus of the biblical historiographical literature. Its prominence is also reflected in the liturgical texts of the Bible. From passages such as Deut 33:26– 29; Ps 44:2–5; 48:8–11; 80:9–12, we may learn that the great “event” of the conquest was recalled in cultic liturgy with the purpose of praising Yhwh’s heroism in the past and goading him on to do more of the same. 30 It seems almost certain that a major theme of the “Book of the Wars of the Lord” (Num 21:14; cf. 1 Sam 18:17; 25:28) and perhaps of “The Book of Yashar” as well ( Josh 10:12 and see LXX 1 Kgs 8:13) was the cultic glorification of the Lord of Israel in light of his role in the battles of conquest. 31 Quite possibly the stones of Gilgal were pointed to in an ancient festival as a reminder of the miraculous crossing of the Jordan and the divine bestowal of the land ( Josh 4:20–24). 32 From Ps 95:8–11, we learn that the paradigmatic sin through which the Israelites of the desert period lost their right to enter the land was rehearsed and highlighted within liturgical contexts as a warning or reproof for the present. 33 The centrality of the land in cultic matters is most clearly expressed in the famous words of the psalmist from the Babylonian Exile, “How can we sing the song of the Lord on foreign land?” (Ps 137:4). Worship of the Lord is so bound up with the land of the Israelites 28.  The book of Daniel, which does depict life in exile, relates the fortunes of an individual and does not constitute historiography. 29. The significance of this observation is amplified following the assumption of J. Weingreen (“‫ הוצאתיך‬in Genesis 15:7,” in Words and Meanings: Essays Presented to David Winton Thomas [ed. P. R. Ackroyd and B. Lindars; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1968], 209–15) that many traditions circulated in ancient Israel concerning the early life of Abraham outside the land. 30.  See also 2 Chr 20:7 which, though late, surely reflects early usage. 31.  For this identification, see I. L. Seeligmann, Studies in Biblical Literature (ed. A. Hurvitz, S. Japhet, and E. Tov; Jerusalem: Magnes, 1996), 71 [Hebrew]. 32.  See on this Cross, Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic, 103–5. 33.  See W. M. Schneidewind, “Are We His People or Not?” Bib 76 (1995): 546–47.

The Significance of the Land in Defining Israel

11

that it would be an impossible self-contradiction to sing his praises in a foreign land. This explains the force of the plea of the psalmist, “Save us, Lord our God, and gather us up from the nations so that we may praise your holy name and glory in your praise” (Ps 106:47). Outside the land, the Lord cannot be praised. Of course, the entire book of Lamentations is also testimony to the centrality of life on the land for biblical religion. The centrality of the land for Israelite religion also comes to expression in the basically cultic designation of the land as the “inheritance of the Lord.” According to the Priestly passage in Lev 25:23, the land of Israel’s settlement is the Lord’s, and the Israelites are mere sojourners in his land. The implications of this idea are very significant. 34 On the one hand, it renders Israel’s national connection with the land much more precarious. The land is ultimately the Lord’s alone, so Israel has no real title to the land. 35 Indeed, it seems that there is no essential difference, following this conception, between the Lord’s relationship to the Israelites in the land and to the previous Canaanite population in the land. Both groups are expected to honor the requirements of the Lord of the land, and both risk expulsion if they fail to do so (Lev 18:26–28). On the other hand, the idea that the land belongs to the Lord as his own private estate implies an intimate and lasting relationship between the Lord and the land. The land of Israel is not merely the land that the Lord designated for Israelite settlement. It is the land that the Lord has chosen for his own home, and, as such, it is “holy territory” (Ps 78:54). In several passages where this concept of the land as the “Lord’s inheritance” is employed, one gets the clear sense that the primary relationship that the Lord maintains is his relationship with the land, and his relationship with the nation is secondary to it. 36 The laws, following 34.  The importance of the idea of the land as “Yhwh’s land” and its contrast with the idea of the land of promise was first highlighted by G. von Rad, “The Promised Land and Yahweh’s Land in the Hexateuch,” The Problem of the Hexateuch and Other Essays (Edinburgh: Oliver & Boyd, 1966), 79–93. See also Habel, The Land Is Mine, 75–114. 35.  In my opinion, von Rad (ibid.) did not sufficiently emphasize the extent of the theological gap that separates this theme from the theme of the patriarchal land promise. Von Rad emphasizes the cultic character of the theme of Yhwh’s land and contrasts it with the historical conception of the patriarchal land promise. The divergence goes beyond this. The patriarchal land grant implies a complete transferal of ownership of the land to the patriarchs and their descendants. Once the land is given as a gift, it belongs fully to Israel. This basically contravenes the conception of the land as belonging to the Lord permanently and being given to the Israelites only as resident aliens. The effect of the patriarchal land promise theme, it thus appears, would be to remove the sacral character from the land and understand the land in more “nationalistic” terms. 36.  See S. E. Loewenstamm (From Babylon to Canaan: Studies in the Bible and Its Oriental Background [Jerusalem: Magnes, 1992], 322–60), who discuses the relationship between the national and territorial meaning of the idea of the Lord’s inheritance. The primacy of the relationship between the Lord and the land is clearly reflected in the law of the sabbatical year (Lev 25:1–7, 20–22; 26:34–35). It is the land that must observe the sabbatical

12

Chapter 1

this conception, are the “demands of the deity of the land,” and they apply equally to all those who dwell there, regardless of their nationality (cf. 2 Kgs 17:26). The religion of Yhwh, according to this cultic conception, is thoroughly land centered. The Lord punishes the settlers of the north who took the place of the exiled Israelites with lion attacks for their failure to worship him even though they never entered into covenant with him, and he, for his part, never acted on their behalf. Ultimately, the basis of the deity’s claim to worship is his lordship over the land and not his acts of salvation for a covenanted community. Following this conception, one could hardly worship the Lord of the land on any other territory. On the contrary, outside the land of Yhwh, one perforce worships other gods (1 Sam 24:19). The land-centered character of this conception comes to further expression in its close connection with the land’s fertility. Obedience to the cultic demands of the land’s deity brings blessing and fertility to the land (Lev 25:18–22; 24:3–5, 9–10). This is a major focal point of cultic worship in general (Hag 1:3–11; Mal 3:10–12). 37 Instructive is the action taken by David to relieve the land of the famine that lasted for three years (2 Sam 21). David provides the Gibeonites with seven descendants of Saul to hang or crucify “before the Lord” (v. 9), so that the “inheritance of the Lord” might be blessed (v. 3). 38 The efficacy of this cultic act is clearly affirmed in v. 14: “Afterwards, God accepted supplication on behalf of the land.” Prophetic Literature Israel’s relationship to the land is a major thematic axis around which so much of prophetic literature revolves as well. Some of the prophets highlight the central act of divine benevolence—the bestowal of the good land. Ezekiel speaks of Israel’s land as being “the glory of all lands” that the Lord had sought out for them (Ezek 20:6; see also Jer 51:6–7; Mal 1:2–3). When Amos castigates the Israelites for their violations, the Lord reminds them, “It was I who destroyed the Amorites from before them, whose height was as high as the cedars, and whose strength was like that of the oaks, and I destroyed his boughs above, and his trunk below” (Amos 2:9). The prophet in Isa 17:9, according to the reading reflected in the LXX, speaks of the day when “his strong cities will be like the abandoned cities of the Hivites and Amorites, which they abandoned in the presence of the children of Israel.” 39 rest, and the Israelites must leave the land untilled so as to allow it this rest. Failure to grant the land this rest will result in the removal of the people not only as punishment but also in order to allow the land its rest. 37.  For the connection between cult and fertility in biblical literature, see G. A. Anderson, Sacrifices and Offerings in Ancient Israel (HSM 41; Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1987), 91–126. 38. For the exact meaning of the term crucify (‫)יקע‬, see P. K. McCarter Jr., 2 Samuel (AB 9; Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1984), 442 note. 39.  See BHK.

The Significance of the Land in Defining Israel

13

Perhaps the most prominent of the threats voiced by the canonical prophets is the threat of territorial devastation and dispersion of the land’s inhabitants (Mic 3:12; Jer 4:6–7, 27; 7:14–15; etc.). In various prophecies, mostly deriving from the preexilic period, a small remnant of inhabitants will survive the divine onslaught unscathed (1 Kgs 19:18; Isa 4:12–13; 37:31–21; etc.). These remnants survive in the land, and they will constitute the “Israel” with whom the Lord will continue his covenantal relationship. 40 For these prophecies, it appears, the people who have been exiled from the land are seen as on par with those who have been destroyed and killed. It is just as unfathomable for the exiles to return as it is for the dead to be resurrected. From the point of view of the national covenant with the Lord, the exiles are the rejected ones. Though they continue to live as individuals, nationally speaking, they no longer exist, and so the covenant continues with the survivors in the land. This conception may be seen as the prophetic counterpart to the cultic conception of the land as the Lord’s inheritance. Since there can be no worship of the Lord outside his land, any relationship with him must continue with the few who survive and continue inside the land. The formulation of some of the patriarchal and Zion-Davidic promises in terms of an unconditional and interminable oath (Gen 17:8; 2 Sam 7:13–16; Ps 89:29–38; 122:13–14) probably belongs within this general theological category as well. Punishment for disobedience is foreseen here in terms of limited assaults that do not endanger the constancy of divine presence in the land. An interesting example of this outlook is found in the liturgical historical review of Neh 9. It is striking to note that nowhere in this extensive review of Israel’s fortunes up until the time generally referred to as “postexilic” is there any reference to the exile or the return from exile. 41 Nor is there mention of the destruction of the temple or of the renewal of temple service. 42 The ultimate divine punishment, which God is said 40.  This idea was nicely emphasized by R. de Vaux, The Bible and the Ancient Near East (trans. D.  McHugh; London: Darton, Longman & Todd, 1972), 15–30. For a thorough examination of the conception of the “remnant” in prophetic literature, see G. F. Hasel, The Remnant: The History and Theology of the Remnant Idea from Genesis to Isaiah (Berrien Springs, MI: Andrews University Press, 1972). 41.  This is analogous to the downplaying of the exile in Chronicles ( Japhet, The Ideology of the Book of Chronicles, 363–73). The difference is that, while in Chronicles the temple constitutes a major theme of the book, in this liturgical piece the theme is not mentioned. 42.  Similarly, the prayer mentions the divine provision of “saviors” (Neh 9:27) but not the divine covenant with the Davidic Dynasty. The entire chapter speaks in terms of Israel as a whole without any mention of a division between north and south. The references to the kings, prophets, and priests in vv.  32–35 make no distinction between Israelites and Judeans. The land on which the supplicants now live as slaves is still “wide and fat” (v. 35), indicating that the land in its entirety is envisioned. It seems, then, that the prayer does not stem from individuals who sought to continue the Davidic ideology of Judah. Rather, there is somewhat of a return to the early outlook of divine kingship, which sees in human kingship something of a sin. This understanding is buttressed by the reference to the divine kingship in several textual witnesses to v. 35 (cf. BHS).

14

Chapter 1

to have visited upon the people in light of their continued disobedience, consists of his delivery of the people into the hands of the “peoples of the lands” without, however, destroying them, abandoning them, or forsaking the covenant (vv. 31–32). As a result of this punishment, the people now live on the land as slaves and must pay for the produce of the land to the subjugating foreign kings (vv. 36–37). This situation of divine chastisement is said to have prevailed continuously “from the times of the Assyrian kings until this day” (v. 32). It seems that the focus of the review is exclusively on the fate of the people in the land. History is presented in terms of two main periods—the period of national independence on the land and the period of national subjugation on the land. There is no reference to any period of divine grace and reconciliation that came to expression in the return of the exiles to the land of their ancestors. The periodization of Israelite history in terms of “exilic” and “postexilic” simply does not exist here. The perspective of the liturgical piece of Neh 9 is thus completely land centered, in accordance with the early prophetic outlook concerning the “remnant” in the land, which I have mentioned. 43 In spite of the devastations inflicted on the land and its people, a remnant in the land still endures, and the Lord never abandoned his covenant with this remnant. The presence of this ideology within the late context of Neh 9 indicates that the land-centered outlook is not exclusively an early outlook. 44 On the contrary, it continues to inform the religious outlook of individuals who lived in the land for a very long time. According to another prophetic conception, one that as a result of the work of the canonizers holds a much more prominent place in the Bible, the continuity of “Israel” is embodied in the exilic community rather than in any remnant in the land (see Jer 24, 29, etc.). 45 Even though it is con43.  For a somewhat similar analysis, see H. G. M. Williamson, “Structure and Historiography in Nehemiah 9,” in Proceedings of the Ninth World Congress of Jewish Studies, Division A: The Period of the Bible ( Jerusalem: World Union of Jewish Studies, 1988), 117–31. For “exile” as a spiritual condition that applied to life in the land in the postexilic period, see B. C. Gregory, “The Postexilic Exile in Third Isaiah,” JBL 126 (2007): 475–96. 44. What is remarkable is the fact that this liturgical piece has been preserved in a book that champions the view that “True Israel” is specifically and exclusively made up of Judeans who returned to the province of Yehud from the Babylonian Exile. The editors place the land-centered liturgical piece in the mouths of the returnees from exile, and in so doing, significantly blur the land-centered perspective of the original material. Within the liturgy’s new context and setting in Ezra–Nehemiah, the initial significance of the piece was covered over and brought into the service of the exilic theology that the editors sought to promote. 45.  For the theme of exile and return in prophetic literature, see the collection of essays in A. Gileadi, ed., Israel’s Apostasy and Restoration: Essays in Honor of Roland K. Harrison (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1988); J. M. Scott, ed., Exile: Old Testament, Jewish and Christian Conceptions ( JSJSup 56; Leiden: Brill, 1997). It has been argued compellingly that the original letter of Jer 29 is in vv. 4–7, and vv. 10–14 concerning the return after 70 years are

The Significance of the Land in Defining Israel

15

ceded that exile is equivalent to national death, the Lord will yet “resurrect” the dead body of Israel from the grave (Ezek 37:1–14). In spite of the exilic orientation, this conception also must be seen as land centered, for the present exile from the land constitutes a chastisement that serves as a prelude to a future return to the land. According to Ezekiel, the resurrected body of Israel will immediately be brought back to the ancestral land. The return of the exiles to the land will be accompanied by the return of the divine presence, which was said to have departed from the land at the time of the exile (Isa 52:12; Zech 2:14–16; etc.). At that time, the desolate and withered land will be restored to a new state of lush fertility (Ezek 36:8–12, 35; 47:1–12; Joel 4:18–21; Amos 9:13–15). The theological significance of the doctrine of the divine departure from the land and the future return, as opposed to the doctrine of the Israelite remnant in the land, is that the Lord’s presence on earth is not believed to be inexorably bound to a particular territory. 46 If the Israelites go into exile, the Lord leaves the land as well and, as perhaps implied in a few passages, may even follow them into the exile. 47 Thus, according to Ezek 11:16, the secondary. See W. McKane, Jeremiah xxvi–lii (ICC; Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1996), 738; A. Rofé, “Studies in the Composition of the Book of Jeremiah,” Tarbiz 44 (1975): 25 [Hebrew]. This would imply that Jeremiah was not prepared to speak of any imminent return, even one that would take 70 years to materialize, and only advised adjustment to the exilic reality in an open-ended way. We may also compare the prophecy of Jer 27:19–22 concerning the temple vessels. The last words of v. 22, ‫והעליתים והשיבתים אל המקום הזה‬, are missing in the LXX, which apparently reflects an earlier version of the text. That the original Jeremiah oracle would have forfeited all hope for the return of the temple vessels is indicated by Jeremiah’s oracle about the ark ( Jer 3:16). Cf. McKane, Jeremiah xxvi–lii, 703–8; P. R. Ackroyd, “The Temple Vessels: A Continuity Theme,” in Studies in the Religion of Ancient Israel (ed. G. W. Anderson et al.; VTSup 23; Leiden: Brill, 1972), 176–77. On the entire issue of the exclusively exilic provenance of prophecies of return from exile, see most recently B. Oded, “Redemption after Exile,” Beth Mikra 52 (2007): 7–41 [Hebrew], and the references cited therein. Oded contends that some of the prophecies of return from exile are of preexilic origin. 46. An interesting position is reflected in the story of the ark that is “exiled” from Israel, only to wreak havoc in the land of the Philistines (1 Sam 4–6, esp. 4:21–22). On the one hand, the ark can be captured in the battlefield and presents no threat to the Philistine armies there. On the other hand, once it is brought to foreign territory it begins to afflict the people and land and seeks to return to its own territory (6:9). For Mesopotamian parallels to the idea of the deity’s leaving from and returning to the temple, see P. D. Miller Jr. and J. J. M. Roberts, The Hand of the Lord: A Reassessment of the “Ark Narrative” of I Samuel (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1977), 9–17, 77–87. 47.  For an exposition of Ezek 11:16 and Ezekiel’s visions of the divine chariot in this direction, see M. Ben-Yashar, “The Chariot in the Book of Ezekiel and the ‫מקדש מעט‬,” in Studies in Bible and Exegesis, vol. 4 (ed. R. Kasher, Y. Sefati, and M. Zipor; Ramat Gan: BarIlan University Press, 1997), 9–22 [Hebrew]. This conception is fully developed in rabbinic literature. See A. J. Heschel, Heavenly Torah as Refracted through the Generations (trans. and ed. G. Tucker, with Leonard Levin; New York: Continuum, 2005), 104–26. The idea that the divine presence follows the exiles is hinted at in Gen 46:4, in a secondary passage that we will discuss below. It is also somewhat implied in the assertion of Jer 29:14 that the Lord will be present for the repentant exiles when they seek him.

16

Chapter 1

Lord can serve as a ‫מקדש מעט‬, a sort of spiritual sanctuary, for the Israelites in exile. 48 Further, any new non-Israelite inhabitants in the land or individual Israelite remnants there cannot take Israel’s place as worshipers of the Lord of the land, for the Lord removes his very presence from the land when he sends his people into exile. 49 Clearly, the Lord’s attachment to the land in this conception is far more equivocal. He is much more fundamentally the Lord of the people. Even for this conception, however, the exile comes as divine punishment and to live in exile is still tantamount to living under the shadow of divine chastisement. The centrality of life in the land for this prophetic understanding of exile is highlighted by the vision of the “new covenant” that will be formed at the time of the restoration ( Jer 31:31–34; see also the implication of Jer 3:1–5). With the end of national life in the land, the entire covenantal bond between God and Israel comes to an end (see also Zech 11:10–11). 50 In exile, Israel’s national existence hangs in suspension. Only a new covenant made upon return to the land and based on a new act of salvation other than the exodus ( Jer 16:14–16) will be able to restore the broken relationship between God and Israel. At the same time, as long as the Lord’s presence is removed from the land, his “divinity,” so to speak, also hangs in suspension. 51 It will not be possible for anyone (whether in the land or out) to invoke his name in cultic worship until he restores his presence in the land. All of the evidence assembled above, and much more not mentioned here, points to Scripture’s pervasive understanding of the land as the essential “playing ground” where “biblical religion” is supposed to occur. 52 48.  For a review of interpretations of the term ‫מקדש מעט‬, see Ben-Yashar, “The Chariot in the Book of Ezekiel,” 20 n. 78; W. Zimmerli, Ezekiel 1 (trans. R. E. Clements; Hermeneia; Philadelphia: Fortress, 1979), 115–16, 262–64; Paul M. Joyce, “Dislocation and Adaptation in the Exilic Age and After,” in After the Exile: Essays in Honour of Rex Mason (ed. J. Barton and D. J. Reimer; Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1996), 45–58. 49. Of course, the question about which community constitutes “Israel,” the small remnant in the land or the presumably larger exilic community, could never be determined by any “objective” criteria. 50. See the compelling interpretation of G.  W. Buchanan, “The Covenant in Legal Context,” in The Concept of the Covenant in the Second Temple Period (ed. S. E. Porter and J.  C. R. de  Rooh; JSJSup 71; Leiden: Brill, 2003), 40–43. For the understanding of Zech 11:10–11, see C. L. Meyers and E. M. Meyers, Zechariah 9–14 (AB 25C; New York: Doubleday, 1993), 268–70. 51. See Pesiq. Rab Kah.102b on Isa 43:12: “Similarly, You are my witnesses, says the Lord, and I am God—When you are my witnesses I am God, and when you are not my witnesses, I, as it were, am not God.” 52. What I mean by “biblical religion” is not the religion of the ancient Israelites whose story is told in the Hebrew Bible but the religion of people for whom the Hebrew Bible, to the exclusion of other written documents, served as the defining canonical text. Several attempts have recently been made to formulate a theology of the Hebrew Bible within a Jewish context. For the problematics involved in such an enterprise, see most

The Significance of the Land in Defining Israel

17

To a great extent, the Hebrew Bible appears both to reflect and to promote a national-religious faith system in which national life on the land constitutes a vital, indeed indispensable element. To say the same thing in different terms, the Hebrew Bible may be said to reflect and promote a type of Israelite national-religious “identity” in which life on the land is a critical component. 53 Having said this, we must be careful to avoid facile simplifications and unnuanced generalizations. 54 What does it mean to say that life on the land is of “central” importance within the structure of the religious system of the Hebrew Bible? Does it mean that there can be no “Israel” outside the land whatsoever? Does it mean that, outside the land, “Israel” does continue to exist but only in limbo form and that biblical religion outside the land hangs in suspended animation? Is presence in the land a sine qua non for living in covenant with the Lord of Israel or for worshiping the God of the land of Israel in any meaningful way? There should be little doubt that much of the evidence mentioned above does indeed reflect these land-centered outlooks. At the same time, we should not overlook other pieces of evidence that seem to point in a different direction. In the following paragraphs, I will attempt to gather evidence pointing to what appears to be a different current of thinking within the biblical corpus. This current reflects a more tempered view of the place of the land in biblical religion. Though life in the land is still usually seen to be important in these passages, and even central, it is clearly not seen as thoroughly indispensable.

The Qualified Importance of the Land The Narrative Traditions Perhaps the most prominent example of a text in which life in the land is presented as a value of qualified significance is the story of the settlement of the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and half of Menasseh outside Canaan, in the territory of the Transjordan referred to as “the land of Gilead” (Num 32). The story makes it clear that the settlement of these tribes in this area did not coincide with the original divine plan. The original divine plan called recently Z.  Zevit, “Jewish Biblical Theology: Whence? Why? and Whither?” HUCA 76 (2005): 289–340. See also S. Gesundheit, “Gibt es eine jüdische Theologie der Hebräischen Bibel?” Biblische Theologie (2005): 53–64. 53.  On the ways in which national identity is constructed, see B. Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (London: Verso, 1991); P. Connerton, How Societies Remember (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989). 54. See Elizur, “The Land of Israel in Biblical Thought”; and H. M. Orlinsky, “The Biblical Concept of the Land of Israel: Cornerstone of the Covenant between God and Israel,” ErIsr (Avigad Volume; 1985): 434*–55*. Reprinted in The Land of Israel: Jewish Perspectives (ed. L. A. Hoffman; Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1986), 27–64. These studies may be said to suffer from a certain one-sidedness.

18

Chapter 1

for settlement in the land of Canaan, which, as indicated by the territorial demarcations of Num 34:11–12, refers to the territory to the west of the Jordan. The tribes in question, however, asked to trade in their portions of Canaan for settlement in the Transjordanian territory. This request was granted after assurances were given that they would serve in the forefront of the conquest for Canaan before fully settling down in the Transjordanian territory. It is important to emphasize that the story does not attempt to justify the settlement of the two and a half tribes outside the land of promise in terms of some life-threatening circumstance. The Transjordanian tribes simply want to settle in the territory outside the land of Canaan because it appears to have fertile pastures that are suitable for their flocks. No consideration is given to the fact that the request most naturally implies that the land of promise is not sufficiently fertile and that such an implication is sacrilege (cf. Num 13–14). The only objection raised against the request concerns the obligations of the tribes in the battles of the conquest. Once assurances of their contribution to the war effort in Canaan are obtained, the request to live outside Canaan is readily granted. Moses is not even depicted as feeling constrained to consult with the Lord about the request. The implication of this story is fairly clear. Tribal settlements outside the land are legitimate as long as military obligations are honored and upheld. Another narrative piece that apparently deems life in the land unessential for “national” existence is the book of Esther. In opposition to the overwhelming majority of historiographical literature in the Bible, which focuses exclusively on Israel’s history in the land, this book focuses completely on life outside the land (see also the stories of Daniel). The book’s obvious disinterest in the idea of national life in the land of Israel is exhibited first of all in the fact that at the end of the book the two Jewish leaders, Mordechai and Esther, have no intention of gathering the exiles for a return trip to the land of their ancestors. What is more, though Mordechai and Esther reach the heights of political power and influence in the Persian Empire, they make no effort to use their positions to assist their brothers and sisters who have returned to Jerusalem beginning with the time of the declaration of Cyrus (see Ezra 4:6 concerning the difficulties of the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem during the reign of ‫)אחשורוש‬. This stands in marked contrast to the figure of Nehemiah, who prays and mourns over the plight of the Jewish community in Jerusalem, and even goes on to intervene with the Persian king on their behalf (Neh 1–2). In fact, the book of Esther never even mentions the community in Jerusalem. Mordechai is depicted as a semiregal Jewish figure with a significant measure of power within the Persian Empire. Though Mordechai is said to have used his influence for the benefit of the Jews within the various provinces that make up the Empire (Esth 8:9–15; 10:3), no reference is made to the fact that the Jews had their own semi-independent province in the land of Israel. Possibly this province was something of an embarrassment to the

The Significance of the Land in Defining Israel

19

authors of Esther, since it threatened to give credibility to the allegations of Jewish dual loyalty (see Esth 3:8). Mordechai’s Benjaminite rather than Judean descent may indeed have made him fit to take on kingly qualities that would deflect Jewish loyalties from the Davidic House of Jerusalem and encourage, instead, allegiances with the Persian dynasty. 55 In any event, from the perspective of the book of Esther, it seems, the “postexilic period” does not exist. Though hopes of ultimate national restoration on the ancestral land may lie hidden in the deeper recesses of the story, 56 these hopes clearly lie in the unforeseen future. For the present, the exilic period continues 55.  For the possibility that Benjaminite-Judahite rivalry reasserted itself in the Persian period, see J.  Blenkinsopp, “Benjamin Traditions Read in the Early Persian Period,” in Judah and the Judeans in the Persian Period (ed. O. Lipschits and M. Oeming; Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2006), 629–45; Y. Amit, “The Saul Polemic in the Persian Period,” in ibid., 647–61. For additional conceptions of an “unended exile,” see M. A. Knibb, “The Exile in the Literature of the Intertestamental Period, Heythrop Journal 17 (1976): 253–72; Robert P. Carroll, “Israel, History of,” ABD 3.575; idem, “Exile! What Exile? Deportation and the Discourses of Diaspora,” in Leading Captivity Captive: “The Exile” as History and Ideology (ed. L. L. Grabbe; JSOTSup 278; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1998), 62–79; idem, “Deportation and Diasporic Discourses in the Prophetic Literature,” in Exile: Old Testament, Jewish and Christian Conceptions (ed. J.  M. Scott; JSJSup 56; Leiden: Brill, 1997), 63–85. Carroll’s rhetoric is sometimes provocative and needlessly evaluative. His basic thesis is capsulated in statements such as the following: “We need to keep in mind that not all prophetic voices spoke of exile with restoration, but that some ancient voices never recognized any actual or possible return after catastrophic deportations. There is a literature of deportation which effectively has been silenced by the more dominant voices given prominence by the ideological holding of the canonizing strategies” (p. 71); “since the collapse of Jerusalem against the Babylonians to this day, Diaspora has been the normal and normative experience of the majority of Jews who have ever lived” (pp. 83–84). Though Carroll is surely correct in emphasizing the selectivity of the canonizers and in asserting that many in the diaspora (or even in the land) did not believe that the exile ended with the edict of Cyrus, there is no indication that the idea of a future return was ever given up as a possibility or as a future ideal by biblical writers or their constituents after the exile. Carroll admits that “any sense of the permanence of the diaspora experience” is missing from the prophetic literature but then asserts that this “might not convey very much positive information about the Hebrew Bible.” Again, “the rhetoric of return and rebuilding is very strong in Isaiah 40–55, but it may point to nothing more than fantasy or chauvinistic rhetoric . . . for many generations it must have represented no more than a conventional trope. Perhaps at best only a distant echo of ancient tales . . . without any sense of a place to which people might aspire one day to ‘return’ thither.” It is totally unclear why the hope of restoration should be dubbed “chauvinistic rhetoric.” Nor is it clear why those who believed in the Hebrew Bible as sacred Scripture would have taken the biblical rhetoric of return from exile as nothing more than “a distant echo of ancient tales.” Formulations of this sort sound much too modern, and the history of Jewish nationalism in ancient (and modern) times both inside the land and out (on which, see D. Mendels, The Rise and Fall of Jewish Nationalism [New York: Doubleday, 1992]) seems to belie Carroll’s assessment. Of course, this does not mean that many of the exilic communities did not adjust to their new environments and develop a lifestyle that was, practically speaking, one of permanence. Yet this does not stand in conflict with the preservation of the ideal of a future return. 56.  The book takes care to mention that Mordechai was part of the community that went into exile at the time of Jehoiachin (2:6). The memory of the Jerusalemite origins is

20

Chapter 1

unabated, regardless of whatever steps toward restoration may have been taken by some in the province of Yehud. It is worth noting that the failure of Mordechai and Esther to intervene on behalf of the community in Jerusalem and the temple was greatly disturbing to the rabbinic sages. They ameliorated this difficulty by supplementing the story with imaginative additions. According to b. Meg. 15b, the fact that Ahasuerus offered Esther specifically “until half [‫ ]חצי‬of the kingdom” was because he was indicating that he would not allow the rebuilding of the temple, which would divide the kingdom (‫)שחוצץ למלכות‬. 57 The implication of this is clear. We should not hold Esther accountable for not responding to the king’s offer with a request on behalf of the temple, since the rebuilding of the temple was specifically excluded from his offer. This is made even more explicit in the First Targum to Esther (at Esth 5:3), which reads: The king then said to her: What do you need, Queen Esther, and what is your request? Even if you were to ask for half of my kingdom, I would give it to you; only [the request for the re-]construction of the Temple, which is located within the border of half of my kingdom, I shall not grant you, for thus I have pledged in oath to Geshem the Arab, to Sanballat the Horonite, and Tobiah the Amonite slave, not to let it be [re-]built, for I fear the Jews, lest they revolt against me; this request I shall not grant you, whereas [any] other thing you request of me I shall decree that it be promptly carried out, and your wish shall be granted to you.

Other additions in rabbinic literature that seek to bring the theme of the land and temple back into the Esther story are also evidenced. According to the targum (at Esth 1:1), Vashti advised Ahasuerus to revoke the original decree allowing the work on the temple. In divine retribution for this sin, it was decreed that she be executed in the nude and that Ahasuerus, who accepted her advice, would lose reign over his subjects. Extrapolating from Dan 5, some of the midrashim understand the “vessels” used in Ahasuerus’s banquet (at Esth 1:7) to be a reference to the temple vessels. 58 According to several sources, Mordechai did not simply accept his position as a deportee at the time of the exile of Jehoiachin (2:6). Rather, he returned to live in the land of Israel, only to be deported again during the thus highlighted. The only purpose of this note, so it seems, is to preserve the memory of life in the land as the ultimate ideal. 57.  The idea seems to be that the king offered until half the kingdom, thus excluding the actual half, which is interpreted as the temple, which would divide the kingdom. The present form of the text in the Talmud reads: “half the kingdom, and not the whole kingdom, and not that which would divide the kingdom.” We would suggest that the first word “until” fell out of the text, thus requiring the addition of the doublet “and not the whole kingdom.” 58.  See the sources in B. Grossfeld, The Two Targums of Esther (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1991), 33 n. 38.

The Significance of the Land in Defining Israel

21

exile of Zedekiah. 59 According to other sources, Mordechai used a third of the money from Haman’s treasures to help rebuild the temple. 60 All of these additions bring into focus that which is lacking in the biblical text. The biblical story is exilic in orientation and has no immediate interest in the land or the temple. Similar observations may be made with regard to the Joseph story, which, as has been widely observed, exhibits multiple parallels with the book of Esther. 61 Throughout his administrative career in Egypt, Joseph shows no concern for the welfare of his family in the land of Canaan. He provides for his family by bringing them to Egypt and promoting their welfare there. Joseph never gives expression to the idea that the land of Canaan has been promised to his ancestors or that it is in the land of his fathers that he sees his future destiny. Indeed, he and his entire family (including his wife, who is the daughter of an Egyptian priest) continue to live out their lives in Egypt without making any concrete plans to return to the ancestral land. Joseph’s brothers receive from their regal brother their own permanent land holdings in the choicest region of Egypt. Some have even suggested, in my view quite plausibly, that the Joseph story originated as an independent novella in the Egyptian diaspora and that, in its original form, it sought to justify and promote Jewish life in Egypt. 62 The Jews can be fruitful and multiply in the land of Egypt under the sure protection and sponsorship of the successful Jewish courtier. This may coincide with another tradition that saw Egypt in a positive light as providing a haven for the first Israelites who migrated there. 63 We may also mention, in this connection, the biblical emphasis on the exterritorial origins of Israel’s first patriarch(s) (see Gen 11–12; Deut 26:5; Josh 24:2, 14). Aside from Isaac, the patriarchs are not born on the land and are not inextricably bound to it. Paticularly telling is the presentation of the lives of the 12 eponymous tribal patriarchs. They are depicted as having been born in Padan Aram (Gen 29–30) and having died and undergone burial (except Joseph) in the land of Egypt (Exod 1:6). If the tribal 59. L. Ginzberg, Legends of the Jews (trans. H. Szold; 7 vols.; Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1947), 6.459 n. 65. 60.  For the sources, see ibid.,6.480 n. 188. 61.  See M.  Gan, “The Book of Esther in the Light of the Story of Joseph in Egypt,” Tarbiz 31 (1952): 144–49 [Hebrew]. 62. See A.  Meinhold, “Die Gattung der Josephgeschichte und des Estherbuchs: Diaspranovelle I–II,” ZAW 87 (1975): 306–24; and 88 (1976): 72–93; H. M. Wahl, “Das Motiv des ‘Aufstiegs’ in der Hofgeschichte: Am Beispiel von Joseph, Esther und Daniel,” ZAW 112 (2000): 59–74; J. A. Soggin, “Notes on the Joseph Story,” in Understanding Poets and Prophets: Essays in Honour of George Wishart Anderson (ed. A. G. Auld; JSOTSup 152; Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1993), 336–49. 63.  For this tradition, see the largely neglected but important article of P. A. H. de Boer, “Egypt in the Old Testament: Some Aspects of an Ambivalent Assessment,” Selected Studies in Old Testament Exegesis (ed. C. van Duin; OtSt 27; Leiden: Brill, 1991), 152–67.

22

Chapter 1

patriarchs could be so marginally attached to the land, this attachment hardly appears indispensable for the identity or theological destiny of their descendants. The same idea is evidenced in the frequent employment of the designation “the land of Canaan” and the general avoidance of “the land of Israel” throughout most of biblical literature. 64 The clear preference for “the land of Canaan” seems to indicate that “Israel” as a people is distinct from the land and can ultimately exist independent of it. We mentioned above the observation of Y. Kaufmann that the Hebrew Bible hardly preserves any record of the history of Israelite life outside the land. The books of Ezra and Nehemiah pass over in silence all that transpired to the communities of Israel in exile. The implication of this is certainly significant. It seems to suggest that only when “Israel” (that is, the returnees from Babylon) lives in its land does it live and create a noteworthy “history.” At the same time, the significance of life in the land should not be overstated. For the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, where the story of the restoration in the land is depicted, the atmosphere of exile still prevails. In spite of the rebuilding of the temple and the restoration of at least some semblance of independence in Jerusalem and its surroundings, Ezra speaks of the community as standing before God in guilt and shame. This condition is said to have prevailed uninterrupted from the time of the fathers who were given over for slaughter and captivity “until this day” (Ezra 9:6–7). The restoration that has taken place is estimated as reflecting little more than a small modicum of divine grace, granted undeservedly to the sinful “remnant” (vv. 9, 15). In sum, restoration of life in the land and even the reestablishment of the temple and its cult does not significantly enhance the character of the relationship between God and Israel. 65 For all intents and purposes, Israel in the land seems to be thought of as little more than any another “exilic” community within the Persian Empire. 66

64.  For the uses of the terms in the Bible, see Japhet, The Ideology of the Book of Chronicles, 362–63 and n. 38. 65.  Some of the rabbis asserted that the divine presence did not abide in the Second Temple at all. According to one explanation, the divine presence refused to settle in the temple as a sort of punishment for the fact that so many people failed to heed the call of Cyrus to go up to Jerusalem. For the sources and brief discussion, see E. E. Urbach, “When Did Prophecy Cease?” Tarbiz 17 (1946): 2–3 [Hebrew]; G. I. Davies, “The Presence of God in the Second Temple and Rabbinic Doctrine,” in Templum amicitiae: Essays on the Second Temple Presented to Ernst Bammel (ed. W. Horbury; JSNTSup 48; Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1991), 32–36. 66.  Note also that in the prayer of Daniel 9, dated in the reign of Darius, son of Ahasuerus (v. 1), supplication is made on behalf of the Judeans, inhabitants of Jerusalem, and all Israelites in all their lands (v. 7). All of these populations are presented as living under the same shadow of divine disfavor. Verses 17–18 present the temple and city as desolate. The prayer is clearly a secondary addition. See B. W. Jones, “The Prayer in Daniel IX,” VT 18 (1968): 488–93.

The Significance of the Land in Defining Israel

23

The Limited Emphasis on the “Land of Yhwh” The understanding of national life on the land as an ideal of only relative or qualified importance and significance is not merely expressed in various narrative traditions scattered throughout the Bible. In fact, it appears to run quite deep, coming to expression in some of the most fundamental aspects of the biblical tradition. It comes to expression, first of all, in the relatively minor place that the conception of the land as the “Lord’s inheritance” holds within the overall scheme of the Hebrew Bible. It is possible, of course, that the understanding of Yhwh as the deity of the land was deeply rooted in ancient Israel. The decisive point is, however, that this idea is only faintly alluded to in the narrative and law of the Hexateuch. The land of promise is most often referred to as the “land of Canaan” rather than the “land of Yhwh.” The dominating idea in the narrative material of the Bible is that of a deity who comes to the aid of a people in distress and forms a covenant with them that is grounded in an act of salvation. The Lord’s claim to allegiance is thus based upon his activity for his people in history rather than on his ownership of the land on which these people are living. The deity is thus much more of a community-oriented deity than a land-based deity. One of the main functions of the covenant ceremony is to unify into a single community all the various groups that participate in it. 67 The historical bonds that unite the covenant community ultimately transcend territorial borders. This is why the Israelite tribes are prepared to attack the Transjordanian tribes in response to what is perceived as a breach of the terms of the covenant, in spite of the fact that the Transjordanians are thought of as having settled outside the land ( Josh 22; see also Judg 21:8–12). The limited emphasis on the land as “Yhwh’s inheritance” is reflected not only in the biblical narrative but in the law codes as well. It has often been noted that many of the originally agriculturally based festivals are interpreted in the Hebrew Bible in terms of God’s acts of salvation in his­tory. 68 Famously, in the farmer’s religious confession of Deut 26:5–10, which is made upon bringing the first fruits of the crop to the temple, no thanks are given to the deity of the land for the provision of fertility. Instead, the farmer expresses thanks for the deity’s activities in national 67. The point is made forcefully and succinctly by D.  Sperling, “Israel’s Religion in the Ancient Near East,” in Jewish Spirituality: From the Bible through the Middle Ages (ed. A. Green; New York: Routledge, 1987), 25–27. 68.  Sperling (ibid., 22), following a very common scholarly trend. It is irrelevant for our purposes here to determine the extent to which the passages that highlight the historical realm of God’s activity, as opposed to his role in providing fertility, accurately reflect Israelite religion as understood by the people. It is also irrelevant for our purposes here to determine the extent to which this orientation toward history mirrors or diverges from other ancient Near Eastern religions. For discussion of these issues, see J.  J. M.  Roberts, “Myth versus History: Relaying the Comparative Foundations,” The Bible and the Ancient Near East: Collected Essays (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2002), 59–71.

24

Chapter 1

history. Of course, God is still thought of as controlling the rains and blessing the land with fertility and life. But he does so in his capacity as the Lord of the people. He is not the deity of the land who, at least theoretically, could have been just as happy being Lord of the Canaanites (cf. Lev 18:24– 28). The Deuteronomic Law Code continually emphasizes that the land is a gift that is given by God in history to Israel (Deut 8:7–10; 11:10–12). Similarly, the Lord of the Covenant Code is depicted as being situated at Sinai. It is from Sinai that the Lord comes to redeem the slaves of Egypt (Exod 19:4). His own attachment to the land of Canaan is thus not presented as primordial or ultimately essential. 69 Finally, it is highly significant that the phrase “Yhwh’s inheritance” is often used to designate the people of Israel (Deut 4:20; 1 Kgs 8:51–53; 2 Kgs 21:14; etc.). 70 To be sure, both the land and the people can be thought of together as constituting God’s inheritance, so no strict dichotomy between God’s relation to the land and his relation to the people should automatically be assumed. At the same time, the much greater preponderance in Scripture of the “national” application of the term in comparison with the “territorial” application is surely significant. And in many cases, it is clear that the national signification is narrow and exclusive and does not incorporate the territorial signification with it. In Deut 9:26–29, for example, Moses warns God that if he destroys his “nation and inheritance” in the desert, the Egyptians will conclude that he was unable to bring them into “the land that he promised them.” The application of the divine “inheritance” strictly to the nation again points to the idea that the primary relationship is the one between God and the people. The relationship between God and the land is, for many of these texts, secondary to it, even if it is still important. This implies that the relationship between God and Israel is not completely dependent on the land and can ultimately exist independent of it. The Limited Commemoration of the Divine Bestowal of the Land in the Law The qualification of the importance of the land is also to be seen in the choice of the historical act of salvation that is emphasized and commemorated. It is striking to note that hardly a single commandment legislated in the Pentateuch relates to the historical act of the divine bestowal of the land of settlement to either the patriarchs or the Israelites. 71 The Sabbath, 69.  See also the passages depicting the arrival of the Lord from Sinai, Seir, and so on (Deut 33:2; Judg 5:4, etc.), all of which depict Yhwh as an outsider to the land. 70. H.  O. Forshey, “The Construct Chain nahalat Yhwh/Elohim,” BASOR 220 (1975): 51–53. 71. The rabbis interpreted Deut 8:10 as a commandment to bless God for the land (b. Ber. 21a), and this interpretation is followed by J. H. Tigay, Deuteronomy (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1996), 94–95. It seems more likely, however, that the text refers

The Significance of the Land in Defining Israel

25

the feasts of Mazzot and Booths, and a variety of other legal enactments are all said to commemorate the exodus from the bondage in Egypt. They all are intended to instill a sense of gratitude to the deity for his role in that event, and not for his role in Israel’s possession of and settlement in the land. There is only one solitary law, the law of the first fruits of Deut 26:1–11 referred to above, that recalls and expresses thanks for the land grant. Significantly, even in the prayer of the bringer of first fruits, only one verse is devoted to the bestowal of the land, while four deal with the theme of the exodus from Egypt. Again, not a single recorded festival commemorates the conquest and provision of the land, in spite of the fact that the three pilgrimage festivals are clearly rooted in agriculture and the gifts provided by the land. It surely would have been much simpler and more natural to present these festivals as festivals of thanksgiving to God for the good land that he gave them, rather than as commemorations of the exodus from Egyptian bondage. The fact that the connection between the festivals and the land grant was never made is a clear indication of the relatively secondary importance of this theme in biblical law. Indeed, throughout the Hebrew Bible, the Lord is predominantly referred to as the Lord of the exodus rather than the Lord of the conquest. 72 Nor should it be considered mere coincidence that the book of the “Wars of the Lord,” which probably presented a ritual exaltation of the Lord for his victories in the conquest of the land, is not preserved in the biblical corpus. The failure to preserve this material or any festival related to the land theme goes hand in hand with the preservation and canonization of a different festival in the biblical corpus—the Festival of Purim of the book of Esther. We have already emphasized the exilic character of this book. Naturally, the same characterization adheres for the festival. It commemorates and celebrates Jewish survival in the midst of the exile, assuring the exiles of God’s hidden protection. The festival is marked by feasting and drinking, the exchange of food portions, and gifts to the poor (Esth 9:17, 19, 22) and in no way expresses any anticipation of an imminent return to the land of Israel. The Limited Place of the Divine Bestowal of the Land in the Nonlegal Material We spoke above about the limited place of the conquest theme in the laws and rituals of the Pentateuch. This may be said to find its parallel in the muted position of the conquest story of the book of Joshua in comparison with the plagues and Sea of Reeds story in the book of Exodus. It can to a spontaneous exclamation of thanks rather than a ritual commandment. See S. D. Luzzatto, Commentary on the Pentateuch (Tel Aviv: Dvir, 1965), 521 [Hebrew]. 72.  The centrality of the exodus tradition was emphasized by Noth, A History of Pentateuchal Traditions, 47–51.

26

Chapter 1

hardly be denied that, dramatically speaking, the stories of the conquest pale in comparison with the stories surrounding the exodus. There is nothing in Joshua that compares with the sustained dramatic presentation of ten successive plagues through which the Israelite deity displays his supremacy over the forces of Egypt. Similarly, the story about the crossing of the Jordan River in Josh 3–4; 5:1 appears as little more than a dim reflection of the much more impressive event at the Sea of Reeds. Indeed, while the story of the sea event has left its imprint on a wide range of biblical texts ( Josh 2:10; 24:6–7; Isa 43:16–17; 51:10; 63:12), the story of the splitting of the Jordan has left nearly no mark whatsoever. 73 And though Joshua promulgates a law and establishes a covenant between God and Israel at Shechem ( Josh 24), the grounding events orchestrated by Moses at Sinai thoroughly outshine this almost innocuous event. All of this corresponds to the fact that the book of Joshua, whose theme of conquest and settlement theoretically brings closure to the earlier books, has been excluded by the earliest canonizers from the primary unit known as the Pentateuch. Canonically speaking, Joshua does not bring closure to the material that precedes it so much as it serves as the beginning of a new unit, the historical books. 74 As we have noted, following von Rad, the entire literary corpus from the patriarchal promises in Genesis to the covenant on the Plains of Moab in Deuteronomy anticipates the themes of conquest and settlement. And yet, within the structure of the Pentateuch, the themes of conquest and settlement are never completely realized. The narrative of the Pentateuch leaves the reader hanging in mid-air, with Moses viewing the land from afar yet remaining with the people of Israel on foreign soil. The theological significance of this division is unmistakable. The elements of the Heilsgeschichte that are of interminable significance for Israelite religion include creation, exodus, law, and covenant. The inheritance of the land is an important appendix—but an appendix all the same. 75 73. While in Josh 4:6–7, the children are to be instructed about the miracle of the crossing of the Jordan alone, in the parallel in vv. 22–24, the comparison with the crossing of the Reed Sea is unavoidable. 74.  It should be noted that we do not really find a significant literary indication in the book of Joshua that the patriarchal promises have presently achieved realization. God is never said to have “remembered” his covenant with the patriarchs at the time of the conquest, the way he does at the time of the exodus. Indeed, the names Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are scarcely mentioned in the entire book, and the connection between Joshua and Genesis is far from obvious. This lacuna in the book of Joshua is significant. Whatever the historico-critical explanation of this may be, within the context of the Hexateuch, the lacuna results in a minimization of the significance of the conquest. The conquest appears as a culmination of the exodus, perhaps, but not as clearly as the fulfillment of the most ancient hopes of the earliest patriarchs. The theological “depth” of the conquest theme of Joshua thus remains limited in comparison with that of the exodus theme of Exodus. 75. See on this point J.  A. Sanders, Torah and Canon (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1972), 45–53.

The Significance of the Land in Defining Israel

27

An examination of the “historical summaries,” biblical texts that review the main acts of divine salvation in Israel’s history, shows that here too the conquest is significantly overshadowed by the prominence of the exodus theme. It is possible, perhaps even likely, that many of these summaries are rooted in cultic recital. If so, the minor position of the conquest theme in relation to the exodus theme in these summaries may simply be an extension of what we have already noted in the realm of ritual. In any event, the imbalanced treatment given to the exodus is patent. In Ps 105, for example, the psalmist devotes some 43 verses to a detailed rehearsal of the history of Israel from the patriarchs to the exodus. Only at the end of the psalm, in v. 44 are we briefly told of the bestowal of the land. Similarly, of the 72 verses in Ps 78, most of which are dedicated to the plagues in Egypt and the wonders in the desert, only 2 verses speak of the conquest and settlement (vv. 53–54). The poem preserved in Isa 63:7–64:11 mentions the splitting of the sea and the guidance in the wilderness (63:11–14). Nothing is said about the provision of the land of promise. Again, the historical review in Ezek 20 elaborates at great length on the exodus and desert wandering periods (vv. 5–26). Though Israel continuously rebelled against God and his commandments, the Lord consistently refrained from destroying the people so as not to profane his own name (vv. 9, 14, 22). The Lord had revealed his promise to take the Israelites out of Egypt “in the sight of” the nations (v. 9). He thus could not fail to keep his promise without losing face. He could destroy them all the less once he actually took the Israelites out of Egypt in the sight of the nations (vv.  14, 22). Throughout this historical review, it is the exodus that establishes God’s reputation and commitment to stand by Israel. The entrance into the land is referred to ever so briefly (vv. 27–29), and has no significance for later happenings. Indeed, according to the prophet, even the future dispersion of the Israelites into exile was already determined by events that had occurred in the desert period, before the entrance into the land (vv. 23–24; cf. Ps 106:26–27). In some instances we can detect evidence of a concerted effort on the part of later authors or editors to minimize or limit the central place that the theme of the divine bestowal of the land once held. This tendency may be discerned, for example, in the formulations of Ps 136 when compared with Ps 135. Both of these psalms review the saving acts of God from creation onward, and there is a clear and direct correspondence between the elements listed in both of the psalms, with Ps 136 appearing to elaborate on the items mentioned in 135. Thus, concerning the exodus tradition, Ps 135 mentions in a most general way the plague of the firstborns and the sending of wonders and portents (vv. 8–9), while Ps 136 mentions, aside from the plague of the firstborns, the actual exodus from Egypt, the splitting of the sea, and the drowning of the Egyptians (vv. 10–15). Psalm 136

28

Chapter 1

also adds a reference to the wilderness wandering that is left unmentioned in Ps 135. Yet, when it comes to the conquest tradition, it is Ps 135 that is more elaborate and Ps 136 that is more concise. There are also some small differences in wording that may at first appear insignificant but, in fact, are probably not. Let us first cite the briefer text of Ps 136:17–22: For he destroyed great kings and killed huge kings; Sihon, the king of the Amorites, and Og, the king of Bashan, and gave their land as an inheritance, an inheritance for his servant Israel.

The fuller text in Ps 135:10–12 reads as follows: For he destroyed many nations and killed powerful kings; Sihon, the king of the Amorites, and Og, the king of Bashan, and all the kingdoms of Canaan; and he gave their land as an inheritance, an inheritance for his people Israel.

The differences between the parallel texts are significant. Whereas Ps 135 speaks of numerous nations and goes on to mention the many kingdoms of Canaan, Ps 136 speaks of huge kings, citing Sihon and Og alone. There should be little doubt that the earlier version is Ps 135. First, the parallelism in Ps 135:10 of “many nations”/ “powerful kings” is much more natural than the wooden, repetitive “great kings”/ “huge kings” of Ps 136:17. 76 Furthermore, the statement “he gave their land as an inheritance” applies much more naturally to the kingdoms of Canaan as a whole rather than to Sihon and Og alone. Once the conquests of Joshua were excluded, one could no longer speak of “numerous kings.” This phrase was thus emended to “huge kings,” now referring specifically and exclusively to the two Trans­ jordanian kings who are considered to have been giants (cf. Deut 3:11). Why does Ps 136 eliminate the mention of the many kingdoms of Canaan whose land was given as an inheritance? It seems that we have in this psalm, as we have suggested, a conscious diminution of the status of the giving of the land of Canaan in the Heilsgeschichte. The interminably significant saving acts that are to be ingrained in national memory are the actions accomplished by Moses and recorded in the Pentateuch. Correspondingly, the exodus theme is elaborated to include reference to the splitting of the sea and the wanderings in the wilderness. The conquests of Moses on the eastern side of the Jordan are also worthy of special citation. The extrapentateuchal conquests of Joshua are not. Somewhat analogous is the probable development of the text of Amos 2:9–11. 76.  The word pair ‫ רב ועצום‬is found often in biblical literature (cf. Exod 1:9; Num 22:3, 6). Great strength derives naturally from being numerous and not from a supposed extraordinary physique. The pair ‫גדול ואדיר‬, in contrast, is not attested. The most common word that parallels ‫ גדול‬is ‫( נורא‬cf. Deut 7:21; Ps 47:3; etc.). For ‫ אדיר‬as tall, see Isa 10:33–34; Ezek 17:23.

The Significance of the Land in Defining Israel

29

(9) Yet I destroyed the Amorite before them, whose stature was like the cedar’s and who was stout as the oak, destroying his boughs above and his trunk below! (10) And I brought you up from the land of Egypt and led you through the wilderness forty years, to possess the land of the Amorite! (11) And I raised up prophets from among your sons and nazirites from among your young men. Is that not so, O people of Israel?

Several scholars have noted that v. 10 appears to be secondary. 77 It seems extremely odd to refer to the exodus and wilderness period after the conquest of the Amorites (v. 9) instead of before it. Not only is this sequence historically incorrect, it is also awkward from the dramatic point of view. After the impressive depiction of the divine warrior destroying the giant Amorites before Israel in battle, the rather dull depiction of him taking Israel out of Egypt and leading them through the desert for 40 years, only once again to “possess the land of the Amorite” is both repetitive and anticlimactic. Nor is it possible, as some scholars suggest, to place v. 9 after v. 10. 78 Verse 10’s conclusion, “to possess the land of the Amorites,” does not lead smoothly into v. 9’s, “yet I destroyed the Amorites before them.” The reference to the Amorites in v. 9 is clearly the initial reference, and the reference to them again at the end of v. 10 seems like a sort of Wiederaufnahme. The emphatic ‫ ואנכי‬at the beginning of both verses is another strong indication that the verses are not an original unit. Apparently, v. 10 was added at a secondary stage because the original text was felt to be lacking. It began the Heilsgeschichte with the conquest and continued with the provision of prophets and nazirites in the land. The period of the exodus and the wilderness was totally glossed over. By adding v. 10 and repeating the emphatic ‫ואנכי‬, the supplementer insisted that the Heilsgeschichte begins with the exodus and the wilderness wanderings. The conquest cannot stand on its own as the central saving act. Perhaps we may also see in this addition an attempt to reinterpret the reference to the provision of prophets in v. 11. If v. 10 brings us back to the exodus and wilderness period, then the prophets of v. 11 are not only the ones that rose up in the land but also those who led the exodus from Egypt: Moses, Aaron, and Miriam (see Mic 6:4). The Subordination of the Land Theme to the Law The theme of the bestowal of the land may be overshadowed by editors not only to highlight the exodus tradition. Authors and editors may also seek to subordinate the theme of the bestowal of the land to the Sinai tradition or to the theme of the law in general. It should be noted that, while some texts present the land promise to the patriarchs as an absolute and everlasting commitment, according to Gen 18:19, its continued validity is 77.  See the discussion of Y. Hoffmann, The Doctrine of the Exodus in the Bible (Tel Aviv: Tel Aviv University, 1983), 33–35 [Hebrew]. 78.  See the citations in ibid.

30

Chapter 1

implicitly presented as dependent on whether or not Abraham’s descendants follow the ways of the Lord. 79 The conditional character of the land promise is continually highlighted in other parts of the Bible, particularly in Deuteronomy. 80 If the conception of the land promise as inviolable reflects the assumption that there can be no meaning to Israel without its land, the conception of the land promise as dependent on and subordinate to a certain way of life allows for the possibility that an additional element in Israel’s constitution, its way of life, can define its existence, regardless of location. The conception of the land promise as conditional also implies that Israel’s relation to the land is not self-evident, inherent, or absolute. Israel’s relation to the land is subordinate to its relation to God and his law. An interesting example of the tendency to subordinate the theme of the divine bestowal of the land to the Sinai tradition can be discerned in the development of the divine speech to Moses in Exod 6:2–8. The text reads as follows: (2) And God spoke unto Moses, and said to him, “I am the Lord: (3) and I appeared unto Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as El Shaddai, but by my name Yhwh I was not known to them. (4) I also established my covenant with them, to give them the land of Canaan, the land of their sojournings wherein they sojourned. (5) Now, I have heard the groaning of the children of Israel, whom the Egyptians keep in bondage; and I remember my covenant. (6) Therefore, say to the children of Israel, I am Yhwh, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will rid you of their bondage, and I will redeem you with a stretched out arm and with great judgments. (7) And I will take you to me for a people and I will be to you a God and you shall know that I am Yhwh your God who brings you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. (8) And I will bring you to the land concerning which I lifted up my hand to give it to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and I will give it to you for a heritage. I am Yhwh.”

Let us note the structure of this passage. First, God introduces himself to Moses as Yhwh and tells him about the patriarchal covenant regarding the bestowal of the land that he made using the name El Shaddai rather than Yhwh (vv. 2–4). Next, God emphasizes to Moses that, in spite of the suffering of the Israelites in Egypt, he has not forgotten this patriarchal covenant (v. 5). Presently, Moses is told to relate to the people that the deity’s name is Yhwh and that Yhwh will redeem them from the bonds of Egypt (v. 6). At this point, we would expect Moses’ message to continue in v. 8, which refers to the fulfillment of the patriarchal covenant through the bestowal of the land. The Israelites, we expect, will come to recognize the Lordship of Yhwh when he fulfills the patriarchal promises to which he initially re79.  It should be granted that there is no reference here to the lawgiving at Sinai. Indeed, this theme is hardly alluded to in Genesis. 80. M. Weinfeld, Deuteronomy 1–11 (AB 5; New York: Doubleday, 1991), 58–59.

The Significance of the Land in Defining Israel

31

ferred. Indeed, the Priestly covenant with Abraham, upon which our text clearly builds (compare “I am El Shaddai” in Gen 17:2 with our v. 3, and vv. 7–8 there with our v. 4), states, “I will give you and your seed after you the land of your sojourn, the land of Canaan as an eternal possession, and I will be for them a God.” The clear implication is that El Shaddai will be Israel’s God when he fulfills the promise and gives them the land. Exodus 6:8 indeed follows v. 6 perfectly: (6) Therefore, say to the children of Israel, “I am Yhwh, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will rid you of their bondage, and I will redeem you with a stretched out arm and with great judgments. (8) And I will bring you to the land concerning which I lifted up my hand to give it to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and I will give it to you for a heritage. I am Yhwh.”

In Exod 6:7, however, the Israelites are told that God will take them unto him for a people and be their God so that they might know that he is Yhwh, in light of the exodus, but before fulfillment of the land promise to the patriarchs. The idea that the exodus from Egypt would lead to the foundation of the God-Israel relationship in the desert before the fulfillment of the oath to the fathers is nowhere anticipated in the preceding material. What is more, v. 7 forms a climax of its own that relegates the expected climax of the fulfillment of the patriarchal covenant found in v.  8 to an anticlimactic position of secondary importance. It thus seems most likely that v. 7 is a late, secondary, Priestly addition that is presented to highlight the idea that the goal and culmination of the exodus is the establishment of the covenant at Sinai and not the arrival of the Israelites in the land. 81 The patriarchal covenant concerning the inheritance of the land is no more than a prelude to another covenant, the covenant at Sinai. It cannot, on its own, ground Israel’s national identity. Again, the actual settlement in the land becomes an appendix to the foundation of Israel and not the foundation itself. The Two Primal Sins of the Wilderness Period The previous example may well be just a small illustration of what occurs in the development of the Pentateuch at large. Though the Sinai event 81.  It is possible that the same type of development lies behind the Priestly material in Gen 17. There is a palpable repetitiveness in vv. 7 and 8. In v. 7, God establishes his covenant with Abraham and his seed as an “eternal covenant” so as “to be their God,” and in v. 8 he gives the land to Abraham and his seed as an “eternal possession,” again, “to be their God.” The repetitive structure can be accounted for on the assumption that v. 7 was added in exilic times, when the land no longer proved to be an eternal possession and when it was no longer theologically satisfying to depict the giving of the land as the prelude to and basis of the God-Israel relationship. At this stage, v. 7 was supplemented. In this position, the verse implied that the sign of the covenant, circumcision, would symbolize the eternity of the covenant. The Lord would be the God of Abraham and his descendants, who observe the covenant of circumcision, regardless of their location.

32

Chapter 1

is hardly mentioned in the various historical summaries outside the Pentateuch, it looms overwhelmingly large within the structure of the Torah itself. The introduction of the Sinai theme in between the exodus and the conquest may thus belong to a secondary development, as various scholars have suggested, 82 and this would parallel the addition of v.  7 in Exod 6 suggested above. The purpose of this development would again be to present the land theme as an appendix to the foundation of Israel. I suggest that this development is hinted at in the fact that the Pentateuch preserves two parallel “primal” sins of Israel in the desert—the sin of the golden calf and the sin of the spies. The parallels between these stories are many. Both stories represent a major rebellion of all Israel except for the Levites. In both stories, the 40-day unit plays a prominent role. In both instances, God is enraged and seeks to destroy Israel and begin anew with Moses. In both stories, God’s wrath is alleviated by Moses’ intercession, in which the argument is made that destroying Israel will harm the deity’s reputation. In both stories, a level of forgiveness is achieved, yet partial punishment is still meted out. Why, however, should this duplication exist? Why is there a need for two original sins for the people of Israel? Upon considering the similarities between these stories, we notice a striking imbalance. The story of the spies depicts a trespass that is quite understandable. The Israelites feared taking up the conquest in light of accurate reports of giant inhabitants and fortified cities in the land. In spite of this, the trespass was punished severely. The entire generation was condemned to die in the desert within a 40-year period, and only the next generation would enter the land. In contrast, the worship of the golden calf appears to constitute a much more severe transgression. Here we have an active and thoroughly unjustified attempt to replace the God of Israel with “other gods,” and not just a passive attempt to avoid the truly daunting dangers of battle. The Israelites of the golden calf incident had just experienced the revelation at Sinai and heard the very voice of God prohibiting them to worship other gods. In spite of this, the people fashion the golden idol. However, the punishment here is much less severe. The Israelites are first threatened with the Lord’s removal of his presence from the camp. They would have to go up to the land under the guidance of an angel alone. After Moses intercedes, even this punishment is removed. How are we to explain this gross imbalance? Why is the more severe sin hardly punished? I suggest that the answer to these questions lies in the secondary nature of the entire Sinai complex. Originally, there was only one primal sin, and that was the sin of the spies’ story. This was the sin attributed to Israel within the context of a story in which there was no lawgiving at Sinai. The exodus found its consummation in the conquest of the land and the settle82. See J.  Wellhausen, Prolegomena to the History of Israel (Edinburgh: Black, 1885), 342–45; von Rad, “The Form-Critical Problem of the Hexateuch.”

The Significance of the Land in Defining Israel

33

ment therein. At this earlier level of tradition, the land, not the law, was the main focal point of the narrative. Consequently, the major Israelite sin consisted of a rejection of the land, and the punishment, fittingly, related to it as well. With the introduction of the Sinai complex, a new theme was brought into prominence. This new theme was the giving of the law of the covenant. Thus, a new primal sin had to be introduced that would correspond to the new theme, and this came in the form of the sin of the golden calf, the great violation of the covenantal law. While a new primal sin could easily be supplied, a new punishment could not. The Israelites had already been condemned to wander in the desert for 40 years in the spies story, and this punishment could hardly be repeated. In other words, the sin of the golden calf goes largely unpunished because the story’s final author and editor is aware of the later episode of the spies in which the major punishment of death in the desert will be meted out. In sum, the two sins of Israel in the desert, one against the law and the other against the land, represent two major themes that vie with each other for prominence. In the final structure of the Pentateuch and in the removal of Joshua from the primary Torah unit (see above), the law supercedes the land as the ultimate category for defining “Israel.” Two Conceptions of the Territorial Extent of the Conquest This two-theme process is also reflected in the book of Joshua itself. We mentioned above that the book of Joshua presents the period of the conquest as a period in which national and territorial completeness was achieved. The entirety of the land was settled and inhabited by the entire tribal confederacy ( Josh 21:43–45). In a parallel fashion, Ezekiel’s reconstruction of the future redemption includes a delineation of the boundaries of the land as a whole, and of the tribal inheritances that are to be inhabited by each of the 12 tribes (Ezek 47:13–48). 83 The centrality of the ideal of the entire people inhabiting the entire land thus comes to expression both in the form of an original pristine state in the time of Joshua and a utopian reconstitution of this state at the final redemption. However, the book of Joshua, as is well known, also presents a very different picture of the extent of the conquest. In several sections of the book, the conquest is said to have been incomplete from the start. There is a great deal of territory that is left unconquered at the time of Joshua’s death ( Josh 13:1–6; 15:63; 16:10, 12–13; 23:3). One could interpret this material as reflecting a historiographical interest in presenting a more realistic and accurate account of the past. A major concern, however, is also theological. According to this version of Israel’s history, there never was a time when all 83. W. Zimmerli, “Israel im Buch Ezechiel,” VT 8 (1958): 75–90; idem, Ezekiel 2 (trans. James D. Martin; Hermeneia; Philadelphia: Fortress, 1983), 563–65.

34

Chapter 1

of Israel inhabited all of the land. The land was never given to Israel in its totality because it was, from the start, subsumed under a higher category— that of the law. 84 According to Judg 2:21–23, God purposely slowed down the progression of the conquest during the time of Joshua, leaving many peoples in the land untouched, so that he could use them to test the next generation’s loyalty to the commandments (see also Judg 3:1–6). Once this next generation failed the test by marrying into these peoples and adopting their gods, God decided to punish Israel and discontinue the conquest project ( Judg 2:19–21), in spite of his previous assurance to Joshua that he would complete it ( Josh 13:6). Disobedience is not depicted here as the sole reason for the incomplete nature of the conquest, since the period of Joshua was one of complete obedience. Even in this idyllic period, the land was not bestowed to Israel in its entirety because the inhabitants were needed to test Israel’s continual obedience to the law. When Israel continually failed the test in the initial period of the Judges, God decided to leave the remaining inhabitants in the land, no longer as a test but, rather, as a punishment. The implication seems to be that the vision of all the Israelite tribes living on all of the land was at that point irretrievably rescinded. (What else could the distinction between the preservation of the remaining peoples in the land as a punishment—as opposed to their preservation as a test—indicate? If the punishment is revocable, does it not remain a test?) This is also indicated in Josh 23:12–13, where Joshua forewarns the Israelites that intermarriage with the remaining inhabitants will bring God to discontinue the conquest project and that the Canaanite enclaves in the land will then harass them until Israel is totally removed from the land. Indeed, never again in the Deuteronomistic History is the Israelite task of completing the conquest and settling the entirety of the land revisited. The judges are presented as saviors from oppression rather than conquerors. God will continually call upon the people to return to a state of obedience and loyalty but will never call upon them to complete the conquest and settle the entire land ( Judg 5:7–10; 10:11–16; 1 Sam 6:3–4). In the time of Samuel, the Lord will oppress the Philistines and restore to Israel certain cities that they confiscated. The Philistine territory as a whole (identified in Josh 13:2–6 as part of the remainder of the land) will not be conquered, however, and peaceful coexistence with the Amorites of the land will pre84.  Several passages in Deuteronomy reflect the idea that the complete conquest of the entirety of the land, beyond the bounds of a more limited initial conquest is particularly dependent upon continued obedience to the law. See Deut 11:22–25; 19:8–9 (12:20). In contrast to this, in Exod 23:29–31, territorial expansion is not made dependent on obedience, though a clear exhortation against treaty-making is sounded. And in Exod 34:24, even this element is missing. Territorial expansion here is a completely unconditional promise. More akin to this conception, the Deuteronomist in 2 Kgs 14:23–27 gives an account of the territorial expansion in the days of Jeroboam II, who is assessed to have been a sinful king. The territorial expansion is attributed to undeserved divine grace.

The Significance of the Land in Defining Israel

35

vail as well (1 Sam 7:13–14). Nor will God demand of the Israelite kings that they complete the conquest. The demand made on Saul to destroy the Amalekites is clearly presented as unique, bearing no relation to the general conquest of the land. What is required of David is obedience to the law, and what is promised in return is a stable dynasty (1 Kgs 2:3–4). This dynasty is clearly thought of, however, as encompassing many non-Israelite territorial enclaves (2 Sam 24:7). God grants Solomon peace, stability, and dominion (1 Kgs 5:1, 4–5) but does not remove the many non-Israelites that continue to inhabit the land or confiscate their territories (1 Kgs 9:20–21). 85 Only in Chronicles do we find the attempt to depict the entire Israelite population as inhabiting the entire expanse of the land of Israel. 86 The complete possession of the entire land thus seems to be presented by at least one current within the Deuteronomistic corpus as a squandered and irretrievable ideal. The theological implication of this position is that the land in its entirety is not an indispensable element of Israelite religion. Israelite religion, as expressed in cultic worship and obedience to the commandments, functions fully on a land that is only partly possessed. The totalist ideal of all Israel on all the land is subordinated to the law, presented as a vision that was never actualized in historical reality and, by implication, unessential for the future era as well. 87 The Status of the Territory of Northern Israel A similar tendency may be reflected in various parts of the book of Kings with regard to the entire territory of Northern Israel. 1 Kgs 14:15–16, for example, depicts the entire Israelite population of the Northern Kingdom as condemned to destruction and exile already from the time Jeroboam set up the golden calves in Dan and Bethel. The sins of Jeroboam and the Israelites of his time were so severe that the entire kingdom was already 85.  In my opinion, the clause of v. 21a, “their sons who remained in the land after them,” is editorial and is presented precisely in order to portray the incomplete conquest as divine punishment. The removal of the clause allows for a simple and straightforward sentence: “Solomon pressed all the people that remained from the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perrizites . . . whom the Israelites could not destroy into corvée servitude as is still the case to this day.” In this original form of the sentence, however, there is no theological explanation for Israel’s inability to destroy these nations. Once the secondary clause was inserted, a distinction was implied between the times of Solomon and the time of the initial conquest. Those whom the Israelites could not destroy were now identified as the descendants of the inhabitants of the conquest period. The implication is that the original Israelite conquerors could have completely destroyed the inhabitants had they not continually disobeyed the Lord. It was only in Solomon’s time that Israel was incapable of completing the conquest as divine punishment for those earlier sins. 86.  Japhet, The Ideology of the Book of Chronicles, 352–62, 374. Note especially the comparison of Josh 13:2–5 with 1 Chr 13:2–5. 87.  A comparable situation is found in m. Sanh. 10:2–3, where Rabbis Akiva and Eliezer debate the future return of the ten northern tribes. See the analysis of J. Heinemann, Aggadah and Its Development ( Jerusalem: Keter, 1974), 103–9 [Hebrew].

36

Chapter 1

rejected at that time. No hope is given here of any future restoration. The rejection of Israel is total, and “Israel” most naturally refers not only to the people but to the territory as well. 88 Just as this passage does not fathom a restoration of the people, so it does not fathom a restoration of the land. In 1 Kgs 11:31–39, the Deuteronomist attributes the division of the Davidic empire to the sins of Solomon (following the reading of the verbs in v. 33 in the singular; see BHS). From the time of the division on, the Davidic Dynasty will rule over one tribe alone. According to 1 Kgs 11:39, this “affliction” of the Davidic “seed” would not continue “all the days.” This last verse seems to imply an expectation of a future restoration of the Davidic empire over the entirety of the land. Scholars, however, have generally recognized that this verse is secondary. Not only is it not attested in the LXX, it contravenes the clear finality implied in the earlier verses. According to the original material, Jeroboam was given the chance to attain an eternal dynasty over Israel, like David’s over Judah. However, how could he have attained an eternal dynasty if the affliction of David’s seed was determined as only temporary from the start? For the original passage, then, the loss of Davidic rule over Israel was final. If so, the future fall of the Israelite Kingdom foretold in 1 Kgs 14:15–16 could not signal its future return to the Davidic Dynasty and could only signal its complete demise. Verse 39 was added to bring the Deuteronomistic text in line with hopes for a Davidic restoration that would include the northern territory (see Hos 3:5; Obad 17–20; Mic 5:1–2; Ezek 37:15–28; Jer 31; Zech 10:6–10; etc., and contrast with Zech 11:14). 89 The implication of the original material seems to be that “Israel” as a theological category continued to exist, already in the time of Jeroboam’s sins, only in the form of the Judean population and the Judean territory. In spite of the fact that the book of Kings as a whole continues to record the 88.  The text of v. 16 states, ‫ויתן את ישראל בגלל חטאות ירבעם‬, which is often translated ‘He will give up on Israel’. It seems more likely, however, that the text is not fully in order. According to A. B. Ehrlich, a word must be supplied after ‫ ויתן‬such as ‫( לחרפה‬Mikra ki-­ Pheschuto [3 vols.; Berlin: Itzkowski, 1899–1901; repr., New York: Ktav, 1969], 2.303 [Hebrew]). If the word was a particularly harsh one, such as ‫לקללה‬, it may have been intentionally deleted (see E. Tov, Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible [2nd rev. ed.; Minneapolis: Fortress, 1992], 271–72). In either case, the implication of the text is the end of Israel. The general correspondence between peoples and the lands in which they live is widely attested. See, for example, Joel 2:18. 89.  See on this topic D. C. Greenwood, “On the Jewish Hope for a Restored Northern Kingdom,” ZAW 88 (1976): 376–85; M. Weinfeld, “Ezekiel’s Vision of a New Heart and a New Spirit Compared with Jeremiah’s Vision of a New Covenant,” in Studies in the Book of Ezekiel (ed. Y. Avishur; Jerusalem: Kiryat Sefer, 1982), 319–20 [Hebrew]; S. D. Ricks, “The Prophetic Literality of Tribal Reconstruction,” in Israel’s Apostasy and Restoration: Essays in Honor of Roland K. Harrison (ed. A. Gileadi; Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1988), 273–81. For an interpretation of the prophet’s breaking of the staff “so as to break the kinship between Judah and Israel” in Zech 11:14, see J. Priest, “The Covenant of Brothers,” JBL 84 (1965): 400–406.

The Significance of the Land in Defining Israel

37

fate and fortunes of the Northern Kingdom, this report refers, from this perspective, to an already rejected Israel. The sins of the Judges period accounts for the constriction of “Israel” from its theoretically ideal borders to the limited and partial territories captured by Joshua. In a similar way, the sins of Solomon and Jeroboam account for the further constriction of “Israel” to Judah alone. Israelite religion from the time of Jeroboam on continues to function in a completely adequate way within the confines of the Davidic monarchy, the Jerusalem cult, and the land and people of the Judean state. 90 And if “Israel” consisted exclusively of Judah from the time of Jeroboam on (and if Judah was considered adequate territory), there was little need to attempt a restoration of any other territory in the messianic future. The complete rejection of the north was apparently strengthened by the assertion of 2 Kgs 17:20–41 that all the Israelites were exiled and replaced with idolatrous foreigners. This depiction precluded the possibility of claim­ ing that the inhabitants remaining in the north constituted the “remnant” and that they continued to constitute “Israel.” The outlook that sees the north as “rejected Israel” may be seen as finding its theological counterpart in certain prophetic visions of the future redemption that appear to foresee a restoration for Zion and Judah alone (Zeph 3:14–20; Joel 4:18–20; Zech 8:7–8, 20–22; Isa 44:26–28; 49:14–21; 51:3; 52:1–10; 62; etc.). 91 The idea that 90. Contra Knoppers (Two Nations under God, 2.212–15, 233–34, 240, 244–45), who sees in Josiah’s northern campaign a reversal of the sins of Jeroboam that signals a return to the never-abandoned ideal of a united monarchy over all the land. The strongest piece of evidence for this position is found in 1 Kgs 11:39, a verse that is missing in the LXX and that Knoppers himself admits to be secondary (ibid., 2.191 note T). However, had the hope of a restoration of Davidic rule over all Israel been a theme of the Deuteronomist, why was this hope not mentioned in the original oracle of 1 Kgs 11:31–38, the oration about the fall of the north in 2 Kgs 17, or anywhere else? The limited cultic acts attributed to Josiah in 2 Kgs 23:15–20 hardly constitute “recovering the Davidic-Solomonic Kingdom.” Josiah does not annex the territory to his kingdom or seek in any way to displace the nonIsraelite population that has settled there. He only destroys and contaminates the cultic sites of the cities of Samaria and slaughters their priests. The limited significance of Josiah’s excursion into the north for the Deuteronomist comes into clear relief when compared with the treatment of the subject in 2 Chr 34:33, where Josiah brings all the northerners to worship the Lord ( Japhet, The Ideology of the Book of Chronicles, 328–33). According to G.  W. Ahlström (Royal Administration and National Religion in Ancient Palestine [Leiden: Brill, 1982], 71–72), Josiah was merely attempting to stop a rival Yahweh cult. For a review of the historical evidence pointing to the limited extent of Josiah’s territorial reign, see E.  Ben Zvi, “History and Prophetic Texts,” in History and Interpretation: Essays in Honour of John H. Hayes (ed. M. P. Graham, W. P. Brown, and J. K. Kuan; JSOTSup 173; Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1993), 113–20. Even if this notice of Josiah’s excursion to the north does give expression to a Deuteronomistic hope for a restoration of all of Israel under a Davidide, in accordance with the secondary material in 1 Kgs 11:39, it must surely be conceded that this hope is expressed with great reserve and was not shared by the bulk of the Deuteronomistic corpus. 91.  For the emphasis on Jerusalem as opposed to the land as a whole in later biblical literature, see M. Weinfeld, The Promise of the Land: The Inheritance of the Land of Canaan by the Israelites (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993), 201–8. Note the absence of

38

Chapter 1

“Israel” continues in Jerusalem and Judah alone may also have influenced the attitude toward the north in Ezra and Nehemiah. 92 Even when the theoretical vision of an all-Israelite future under Davidic rule is not abandoned as, for example, in the book of Chronicles, this value is still a utopian ideal and much less essential than the heavily emphasized theme of the Jerusalem temple. 93 The Subordination of the Land Theme to the Law in Psalms The subordination of the land theme to the theme of the law may be also be found in several psalms. Let us begin with Ps 105. This psalm, like many others, reviews the acts of the Lord on behalf of Israel in its early history. The psalm begins with the patriarchal period and concludes with the entrance into the land. What is unique about this review is the thought that is expressed at the conclusion of the psalm. The final verses read (vv. 44–45), “He gave them the land of nations; and the wealth of peoples, they inherited, so that they would observe his commandments and keep his teachings, Hallelujah!” The climax of God’s gracious acts in Israel’s history is no longer the simple bestowal of the land of promise, as it was, for example, in Deut 26:5–10. The commandments are not seen here, as they are elsewhere in the Hebrew Bible, as a way of regulating and directing life in the land (see, for example, Deut 30:15–20). Here, the land itself is given in order to provide a setting for the living out of the commandments! All the divine acts of grace that led up to the inheritance of the land were similarly oriented toward that final purpose. God’s ultimate end and goal for Israel is not merely its prosperity in the land but its observance of his commandments, which becomes an end unto itself. 94 This tendency to dethe phrase ‫ המה ובני יהודה יחדיו‬in LXX Jer 50:4. The phrase ‫ בית יהודה ובית ישראל‬in Zech 8:13 is probably secondary as well (cf. H. G. Mitchell et al., Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, Jonah [ICC; Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1980], 214 also citing earlier scholars). The passage quoted from Zeph 3:14 mentions “Israel” within the context of a prophecy about the restoration of Zion. It is clear that the reference is not to the Northern Kingdom but to Judah, which has the status of “Israel” for this prophet. Cf. M. Cogan and S. Aḥituv, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah (‫ ;מקרא לישראל‬Tel Aviv: Am Oved, 2006), 48 [Hebrew]. 92.  For the attitude toward the Northern Kingdom in exilic and postexilic material in general, see E. Ben Zvi, “Inclusion in and Exclusion from Israel,” in The Pitcher Is Broken: Memorial Essays for Gösta W. Ahlström (ed. S. W. Holloway and L. K. Handy; JSOTSup 190; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1995), 137–45 and n. 110. For the attitude in Ezra– Nehemiah, see H. G. M. Williamson, Ezra, Nehemiah (WBC; Waco, TX: Word, 1985), 111 (contra Koch). 93.  For the all-Israelite orientation of Chronicles, see idem, “The Concept of Israel in Transition,” in The World of Ancient Israel (ed. R. E. Clements; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), 156–57; idem, Israel in the Books of Chronicles. For the predominance of the themes related to temple service, Zion, and the Davidic ideology, see Japhet, The Ideology of the Book of Chronicles, 216–66; 445–67; H. G. M. Williamson, Studies in Persian Period History and Historiography (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2004), 150–61. 94.  It is possible that v.  45, which considers the observance of the commandments to be the goal of the occupation of the land, was added to the psalm at a late stage. Verse

The Significance of the Land in Defining Israel

39

pict the law as the ultimate end of God’s purposes for Israel, while still connected here to the giving of the land, clearly places the land theme itself in a subordinate, qualified, secondary position. We may also discern this tendency in Ps 111. In v. 6 we read, “He revealed to his people his powerful works, in giving them the heritage of nations.” The conquest is depicted here as the means by which God proves his power to his people. Significantly, the very next verse goes on to speak of God’s “works,” not in terms of military accomplishments, but in terms of the law. Verses 7–8 thus state, “The works of his hands are truth and justice; all his laws are enduring, well founded for all eternity.” God’s greatness and graciousness to Israel are displayed not only in the bequeathing of the land but equally, if not more so, in the bequeathing of true and just law. Eternity, it should be noted, is ascribed to his law alone, in spite of the fact that the land grant was often referred to in the Pentateuch in terms of an eternal possession. Corresponding to this transferal of “eternity” from the land to the law, Daniel and his friends are depicted observing various aspects of the law at the foreign court of Babylon and Persia (Dan 1:8–16; 3:8–18; 6:11–12). Even the much more theologically reserved Esther story depicts the Jews of the Persian Empire observing their unique laws throughout their dispersed communities (Esth 3:2–4, 8; 9:19, 21, 27–31). And, as we have noted, although Jeremiah believed that the devastation of Judah signified the end of the covenant made at the time of the exodus, many biblical texts affirm that, in spite of the exile, that grounding covenant continued and endured (Lev 26:44–45; Ps 106:45–47; Isa 50:1), thus ensuring the continued centrality of observance of the law. 95 Another interesting liturgical passage in which the centrality of the law appears to qualify the centrality of the land theme may be discerned in Deut 33:1–5, in what appears to be an ancient song in praise of the conquest deity. The passage depicts the approach of the Lord from Seir, accompanied 44’s reference to the giving of the land constitutes a perfectly reasonable climactic ending to the psalm’s review of God’s gracious saving acts in history, and the further reference at this point to God’s imposition of demands and restrictions on Israel coincides poorly with the general tone of thanksgiving, which climaxes with the jubilant “Hallelujah.” Were the keeping of the commandments an original component of the song of praise, one would expect the psalm to have mentioned the giving of Torah in the historical review. In fact, no mention of the lawgiving is made whatsoever until its sudden reference in v. 45. The reference in v. 5 to “the judgments of his mouth” refers not to the commandments but to the acts of salvation that were initiated by his fiats or commands (cf. vv. 31, 34) and to the oath to the patriarchs of v. 11. It is possible, nonetheless, that this reference (and see “his judgments” in v. 5) was interpreted by the supplementer as referring to the commandments. For the general tendency of later biblical material to understand the law as an entity of supreme importance in and of itself, see M. Noth, The Laws in the Pentateuch and Other Studies (trans. D. R. Ap-Thomas; London: SCM, 1966), 85–103; G. von Rad, Old Testament Theology, Volume One (trans. D. M. G. Stalker; Edinburgh: Oliver & Boyd, 1963), 85–92, esp. p. 91. 95.  Buchanan, “The Covenant in Legal Context,” 42.

40

Chapter 1

by his band of divine warriors. Verse 5 relates that a king was established in Jeshurun (= Israel) at that time, in the midst of the assembly of tribal leaders. The reference, many scholars believe, is to the divine king who establishes his kingship and authority after showing his prowess in battles of conquest. Within this context, the appearance of v. 4 seems out of place. It speaks not of the divine warrior conquering enemies but of the human figure of Moses teaching the law to the community of Jacob. What is more, v.  4 depicts Israel speaking in first-person plural (“Moses commanded us Torah”) while the surrounding material refers to Israel (in v. 5: Jeshurun) in the third person. It has thus been suggested quite plausibly by several scholars that v. 4 is a late supplement to the original text. 96 I would like to underscore two observations with regard to this verse. The first concerns the very supplementation of a passage about the teaching of the law within the context of the divine warrior. The effect of the addition is significant. When was a king established in Jeshurun? Not at the time of the conquest, insisted the supplementer, but at the time of the giving of the law. Perhaps even more suggestive is the description of the law as Jacob’s ‫‘ מורשה‬heritage’. The word ‫ מורשה‬is a common term used to designate an inheritance of land. In fact, the patriarchal land promise speaks of the land of Canaan as a ‫ מורשה‬for the people of Israel (Exod 6:8). The use of this term, then, with reference to the law is highly suggestive. The land is not the sole or even the main “inheritance” given to the Israelites. The Torah itself is an inheritance of Jacob and may perhaps even serve as a surrogate for the land when Israel is in exile. We may discern in this addition an ideological affiliation with the late Ps 119, which is dedicated single-mindedly to the glorification of the commandments as a selfcontained and self-sufficient entity. Here, too, we find the law depicted in territorial terms—‫( נחלתי עדותיך לעולם‬v. 111)—reminiscent of the language used with reference to the land of Canaan promised to the patriarchs, ‫אחזת‬ ‫( עולם‬Gen 16:8). The observance of the commandments is described as the psalmist’s allotted ‫‘ חלק‬plot’ (v. 57). 97 The effect of this language, it seems, is to qualify the indispensable character of life on the land. If the law is the “eternal inheritance,” then it must apply at all times and in all locations. This in no way negates the general importance of national life on the land as a theoretical ideal. It does, however, serve to qualify the urgency of the need for the realization of the ideal at any given moment. Spiritualization of the Exodus-Conquest Theme We conclude this section with a final passage, in which the conquest theme is not so much marginalized as it is spiritualized. We read in the late appendage to the prophetic book of Micah (7:18–20): 96. See Seeligmann, Studies in Biblical Literature, 192 and n. 3 [Hebrew]. 97.  Compare the use of land terminology in Jewish liturgy with reference to worship in synagogues and houses of learning—‫אשרינו מה טוב חלקינו ומה נעים גורלנו ומה יפה ירושתנו‬ (P. Birnbaum, Daily Prayer Book [New York: Hebrew, 1969], 27).

The Significance of the Land in Defining Israel

41

Who is a God like you, forgiving iniquity and remitting transgression; who has not maintained his wrath forever against the remnant of his inheritance, for he loves graciousness. He will again have compassion on us; he will conquer our sins. You will hurl all their sins into the depths of the sea.

This hopeful prayer for the restoration of the remnant of Israel articulates a strong sense of national guilt, almost certainly deriving from the period subsequent to the destruction of the temple. 98 The praying community refers to itself in territorial terms as “the remnant of his inheritance.” That which is needed for national restoration, it is here understood, is not a repetition of God’s display of power from the time of the exodus or during the conquest of the land. The true source of Israel’s misfortune is not the political enemy on the outside, but the corrupt inner spiritual state of the national soul. At the same time, however, just as in other prophetic statements of a similar kind, we find here also the conviction that Israel is incapable of purifying itself or mending its ways. What is hoped for, therefore, is a new heroic divine act in which God will “hurl into the depths of the Sea” Israel’s iniquity. The echo of the exodus narrative, when God “hurled into the depths of the sea” the ancient Egyptians is unmistakable (cf. Neh 9:11). What we seem to have here is another example of the prophetic motif of the “new exodus” highlighted particularly in Second Isaiah. 99 The “new exodus” will occur for this prophet, however, within the realm of the spirit. That which the Lord must now “conquer” or “subdue” or “throw into the Sea” is not the Egyptians or the Canaanite inhabitants in the land but Israel’s own propensity for sin (for similar “conquest” language relating to sin, see Gen 4:7). This fits in perfectly with the depiction of the remnant of Israel as God’s “inheritance” at the beginning of the passage. If the Israelite people are now thought of in terms of God’s “territory,” God’s new conquest of this territory must be wrought by the subjugation of Israel’s sinful heart. This spiritualization of the divine conquest may also reflect the heightened status of the law, as mentioned above. The new spiritual conquest allows for Israel to become obedient to the law (cf. Jer 31:33–34). Of course, the prayer for restoration here is not exclusively spiritual. There is every reason to assume that the prayer for the divine conquest of Israel’s sins goes hand in hand with the hope for a national-territorial restoration. Nonetheless, we should not overlook the fact that a new spiritual application of the conquest theme is indeed developed here.

98.  See J. L. Mays (Micah [OTL; London: SCM, 1976], 167), who assigns the passage to the postexilic period. 99.  See B. W. Anderson, “Exodus Typology in Second Isaiah,” in Israel’s Prophetic Heritage: Essays in Honor of James Muilenburg (ed. B. W. Anderson and W. Harrelson; London: SCM, 1962), 177–95.

42

Chapter 1

A Renewed Emphasis on the Centrality of the Land In the preceding section, we attempted to isolate a current in biblical literature that qualifies the central position that life in the land holds in so much of Hebrew Scripture. I would now like to argue that a contrary current or tendency can also be detected—one that seeks to reintroduce and highlight anew the ideal of national life in the land specifically within contexts where concern with this issue was not originally found or was deemed to have been insufficiently emphasized. Narrative Traditions In the previous section, we saw that the story of Num 32 concerning the settlement of the two and a half tribes in the territory of the Transjordan sought to lend legitimacy to Israelite settlement outside the land. This story, however, does not completely end here. A sequel to this story is found in the narrative of Josh 22. Here we read that the two and a half tribes, upon their return to their Transjordanian territory after the completion of the conquest, set up a large altar on the banks of the Jordan River. The altar is interpreted by the Israelites as a sign of religious secession from the confederacy of Yhwh, and the tribes gather at the central sanctuary of Shiloh, prepared for war. The Transjordanians then explain that the altar was built in the form and pattern of a Yhwh altar and that it was not meant for actual independent cultic worship but as a sign of the common religious loyalties that bind together the two groups, the Israelites of the Cisjordan and the Israelites of the Transjordan. Upon hearing this explanation for the building of the altar, the Israelite tribes at Shiloh bless God in relief, and civil war is averted. The story of the altar of the Transjordanians is not quite as simple as it may appear at first glance, and I shall devote a good deal of attention to it in another chapter. For our present purposes, however, we may note its apparent relationship to the original narrative in Num 32. The sequel, I suggest, presents a kind of counteraction on the part of a later author to the initial story and its implied significance. Of course, since the initial story was already canonical, it could hardly be rejected out of hand. The only way that its message could be qualified was by adding a new development to the story in which further clarifications and qualifications could be added. 100 100.  The paradigm for this process is provided by the story of the daughters of Zelophehad. According to the original story as presented in Num 36, the daughters of Zelophehad, who were the only heirs of their deceased father, were allotted their father’s tribal inheritance. The revolutionary implications of this story, which threatened to compromise the patriarchal character of the tribal system in however limited a fashion, did not go unnoticed. At a later stage, a new episode was added the purpose of which would be to temper the implications of the first story. According to the episode in Num 36, the tribal chieftains of Manasseh brought their concerns before Moses and contended that the rul-

The Significance of the Land in Defining Israel

43

In the initial story of Num 32, the issue of the cultic life of the Transjordanian tribes is never brought up. The residing of these tribes outside the land of Canaan was problematic only insofar as it seemed to imply a decision to opt out of their military obligations toward the tribal confederacy. Once these obligations were upheld, no other issue stood in the way of granting full legitimacy to the Transjordanian settlement. Originally, since nothing is said to the contrary, this probably implied the legitimacy of its cultic installations as well. In later times, however, the legitimacy granted to this settlement seemed too unreserved. Can life outside the land of Canaan truly be on a par with life inside the land? Is there no special significance to life on the land? The narrative sequel of Josh 22 was presented, for one thing, to qualify the legitimating tendency of Num 32. Israelites who live outside the land can indeed be full members of the people of the Lord and should not be told that they have no portion in the Lord (v.  25). This does not mean, however, that they can worship the Lord in their own land. The land in which they live is inherently contaminated (v. 19), so that all their cultic life must be carried out after a long pilgrimage to the sanctuary in the land. Any cultic structures outside the land can only be allowed if they are mere symbols that point to the connection with the homeland and fulfill no concrete religious function (vv. 26–29). In sum, if the original story of Num 32 seems to qualify the idea that life in the land is indispensable for national identity or Israelite religion, the sequel of Josh 22 is presented to counter this implication. Though Israelite tribes can legitimately settle outside the land, the new episode asserted, a settlement of this sort is one in which the worship of the Lord cannot take place. The outsiders must always return to the land to participate in the worship of the Lord, and their ing in favor of Zelophehad’s daughters was unfair, since they could eventually marry men of other tribes, whose sons would then inherit the territories. The inheritance of the tribe of Manasseh would thereby lose out unfairly. The divine ruling accepts this contention and stipulates that the daughters of Zelophehad must marry exclusively within the tribe of their father. The initial story, it appears, showed no concern for the preservation of the size of the tribal inheritance as a whole. It simply sought to legitimate the rights of women to inherit their fathers’ properties in cases in which there was no direct male heir. A daughter’s right to the inheritance of her father, it seems, was thought of as carrying more weight than the rights of the tribe as a whole. Perhaps we may say that the rights of the individual were seen as more decisive than the rights of the group. The sequel was thus formed to modify the situation. The initial ruling, of course, could not be reversed. It was still possible, however, to rectify the new and problematic situation created by the first instance’s legal precedent. This was done by adding the sequel in which a new law was promulgated, which required female inheritors to marry within the tribe. The expansion of the rights of the individual was now compensated for with the creation of a new constriction. The encroachment on the rights of the tribe was thereby neutralized. Alternatively, we may understand the original story as reflecting a concerted attempt to undermine the status of the tribal unit so as to bolster a greater sense of national unity. The second instance would then reflect the practical reversal of this original political agenda.

44

Chapter 1

own cultic symbols can be nothing more than a sign and reminder of the “real” cult situated in the land. The tendency to reaffirm the importance of life in the land can be seen in much of the work of the biblical editors. We mentioned above that it seems likely that an original novella about Joseph in Egypt was incorporated at some time into the fabric of the narrative of the Pentateuch. Probably this novella promoted an exilic agenda, justifying life in Egypt as a viable form of life, just as the story of Mordechai and Esther promoted exilic life within the framework of the Persian Empire. With the incorporation of the Joseph story into the Pentateuch, however, this original message is completely altered. Once the story of Joseph and his brothers serves as a prelude to the story of the harsh enslavement of the Israelites, Israel’s position in Egypt can no longer be thought of as secure and dependable. Even when the Israelites produce the wisest of men who reaches the highest eschelons of Egyptian society and proves to be of vital assistance to this society, their social standing remains precarious. All of the contributions of Joseph are quickly forgotten by the very next generation, when a new king rules the Egyptians (Exod 1:8)! The Israelite presence is quickly interpreted as a threat to the ruling power, and those who once held permanent land holdings in the most sought-after region of the empire (Gen 46:11) are converted into the lowliest class of forced laborer. Egypt proves to be a “splintered reed of a staff,” not only as an allied neighboring state (Isa 36:6), but also as a host to Israelites living as an internal exilic community and relying on Egyptian protection and patronage. The message of the Joseph story of Genesis within the broader context of Exodus is thus unmistakable. The people of Israel live a dangerous illusion when they dwell outside their ancestral land and trust in the good graces of foreign despots or in the enduring clout and influence of their politically prominent kinsmen. 101 In sum, an originally pro-exilic narrative is converted through the editorial process into a story that promotes a strongly anti-exilic perspective. The concern of late editors to emphasize anew the centrality of life in the land within contexts where it was not originally found is nicely illus101.  Something of the anxiety concerning the precariousness of Israel in the diaspora is reflected in Gen. Rab. 1118–20. See the discussion of M. Niehoff, The Figure of Joseph in Post-Biblical Jewish Literature (Leiden: Brill, 1992), 137–39. Perhaps even more telling is the version found in Exod. Rab. 1:9. According to this midrash, the king of Egypt was deposed by the Egyptians because he, remembering Joseph, refused to comply with their demands to bring harm to the Jews. He was reinstated only when he agreed to impose the harsh slavery that the Egyptians demanded. The midrashic account highlights the fact that kings are subject to the pressures of their subjects, so that good relations with the king is no guarantee of security in exile. Note also the midrashic comment of Sifra on Lev 26:5: ‫ ואי אתם יושבים לבטח חוצה לה‬,‫וישבתם לבטח בארצכם—בארצכם אתם יושבים לבטח‬. The verse states: “‘You shall dwell in safety in your land’—it is only in your land that you shall dwell in safety; you shall not dwell in safety outside the land.”

The Significance of the Land in Defining Israel

45

trated in the story of Jacob’s descent to Egypt in Gen 45:27–46:6. I shall briefly anticipate my lengthier discussion of this text in a later chapter, since the text provides an excellent illustration of the phenomenon we are attempting to describe. The text reads as follows: But when they recounted all that Joseph had said to them, and when he saw the wagons that Joseph had sent to transport him, the spirit of their father Jacob revived. And Israel said, “Enough; my son Joseph lives. I will go and see him before I die.” [So Israel set out with all that was his, and he came to Beer Sheba, and he offered sacrifices to the God of his father, Isaac. God said to Israel in a vision by night, “Jacob, Jacob.” And he answered, “Here I am.” And He said, “I am the deity, the God of your father. Fear not to go down to Egypt, for I will make you a great nation there. I will go down with you to Egypt, and I will surely bring you up as well; and Joseph’s hand will close your eyes.” So Jacob set out from Beer Sheba.] The sons of Israel put their father, Jacob, and their children and their wives in the wagons that Pharaoh had sent to transport him; and they took along their livestock and the wealth that they had amassed in the land of Canaan . . . and they came to Egypt.

Close attention to the text indicates that the entire account of Jacob’s stop at Beer Sheba (46:1–5a; bracketed above) is a late expansion to the text. It is much more natural to understand the formulation of 46:5b, “The sons of Israel put their father, Jacob, and their children and their wives in the wagons that Pharaoh had sent to transport him; and they took along their livestock and the wealth that they had amassed in the land of Canaan . . . and they came to Egypt,” as a depiction of Jacob’s initial departure from his home in Canaan. The verse refers back to the wagons mentioned in 45:19, 27, and fits perfectly in that context. It is with a bit of strain that the reader must now interpret the verse as stating that the sons of Jacob put their father and children and wives back into the wagons in which they had already traveled on their journey to Beer Sheba. Now, in the original form of the text, Jacob appears quite eager to move his entire family to Egypt and expresses no qualms about leaving the land of promise. The addition of 46:1–5a is presented, for one thing, to alter this depiction of the patriarch. Jacob, insisted the supplementer, was hardly indifferent to the fact that he was leaving the land. In fact, he was so disturbed about the idea that he stopped off at the sacred site of Beer Sheba, offered sacrifices to the Lord, and went to sleep in the hope of receiving a divine oracle. The Lord then appeared to Jacob and explicitly legitimated the descent from the land, adding the assurance that he would bring Jacob back to the land. The effect of this addition is quite apparent. It was only after Jacob heard the divine oracle and received the assurance that he would be brought back to the land that he proceeded to depart from the land of his fathers. If, in the original form of the text the importance of life in the land was totally ignored, the editorial supplement highlighted it anew.

46

Chapter 1

The Exodus of Abraham from His Home Another enlightening illustration of the tendency to bolster the importance of the land theme is found in the report in Gen 11–12 of Abraham’s first arrival in the land of Canaan. In the present form of the text, the circumstances leading to Abraham’s journey to the land are confusing. According to the report of Gen 11:27–31, Abraham’s homeland was Ur Casdim. His father, Terah, decided to leave for the land of Canaan, and took his entire family with him, including Abraham and Sarai, and Abraham’s nephew, Lot. Upon arrival at Haran, however, the family stopped and settled down. Terah, we are told, died in Haran at the age of 205, which would make Abraham 135 years old at that time (cf. Gen 11:26). At this point, we come to the report of Gen 12:1–5, which it appears is meant to be understood as an account of what happened next. According to this text, the Lord spoke to Abraham, ordered him to leave his homeland and his father’s household, and go off to an unnamed land that the Lord would show him. The Lord promised to make of Abraham a great and blessed nation. Abraham heeded the divine command and set off for the new land with Lot. Verse 4b tells us that Abraham was 75 years old when he left Haran, and v. 5 tells us that Abraham also took Sarai and the wealth amassed in Haran, set out for the land of Canaan, and finally arrived there. The traditional commentators struggled with the inconsistencies in this material, and offered various attempts at harmonization. 102 The difficulties, in brief, are these: how are we to understand the command to Abraham to leave his birthplace in 12:1 when, according to the preceding material, he had already left his birthplace, Ur Casdim, with his father? The fact that Abraham obeys the divine command and leaves Haran (12:4) seems to imply that Haran is considered Abraham’s “land and birthplace.” This coincides well with some passages (Gen 24:4, 7, 10; 27:43; 28:10) but contradicts Gen 11:27–32, according to which Haran is the place where Abraham’s family members arrived after having left their birthplace of Ur. (It also contradicts Gen 15:7, where the Lord is said to have taken Abraham from Ur Casdim to give him the land.) I should also mention the chronological difficulty. We noted above that Gen 11:32 implies that Abraham was 135 years old at the time of the death of his father. Yet, according to Gen 12:4b, Abraham was only 75 when he heeded the divine command and left Haran. 103 102. See Rashi, Ibn Ezra, and Naḥmanides, ad loc. 103.  According to the Samaritan version of Gen 11:32, Terah died at the age of 145 rather than 205 as in the MT.  If Terah was 70 years older than Abraham (Gen 11:26), this would make Abraham 75 at the time, which accords with Gen 12:4b. It is possible, however, that the Samaritan version reflects a late harmonization. The original import of Gen 12:4b may well have been that Abraham left his father’s house well before the latter’s death. For a recent treatment of the problem, see J.  A. Emerton, “When Did Terah Die

The Significance of the Land in Defining Israel

47

Critically speaking, two types of material, one Priestly and one nonPriestly, have apparently been combined here to form a somewhat awkward textual unity. Genesis 11 represents the Priestly source, 104 and the continuation of its report of Abraham’s arrival in the land of Canaan is found in Gen 12:5. 105 The intervening material belongs to a different report that did not originally continue the Priestly material of Gen 11. Genesis 12:5 indeed follows perfectly after Gen 11:31–32 (and is somewhat repetitive after 12:4). Gen 11:31–32: Terah took his son Abram, his grandson Lot, the son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, wife of his son Abram, and they set out with them from Ur of the Chaldeans for the land of Canaan; but when they had come as far as Haran they settled there. The days of Terah came to 205 years, and Terah died in Haran. Gen 12:5: Then Abraham took his wife, Sarai, and his brother’s son Lot, and all the wealth that they had amassed and the persons that they had acquired in Haran, and they set out for the land of Canaan, and they arrived in the land of Canaan.

Not only does the information related in Gen 12:5 follow naturally after what is told at the end of Gen 11, the language of the passages is strikingly parallel. Just as Terah “takes” Abraham, Lot, and Sarai, so Abraham “takes” Lot and Sarai. In both cases, they “set out to go to the land of Canaan,” and in the first case they “arrived” at Haran, while in the second they “arrived” at the final destination, the land of Canaan. Accordingly, only the non-Priestly report (Gen 12:1–4a) related that the Lord ordered Abraham to leave his homeland and father’s house and promised to make of him a great nation. Presumably, the homeland was thought of as Haran, 106 and it is at least possible that his father was assumed to have been alive at the time of the command. 107 The Priestly story, on the other hand, depicted Terah as the initiator of the migration to Canaan from the homeland of Ur. Terah, however, did not complete the journey and decided to settle in Haran on the way to Canaan. After Terah’s death, Abraham (Genesis 11:32)?” in Language, Theology, and the Bible: Essays in Honour of James Barr (ed. S. E. Balentine and J. Barton; Oxford: Clarendon, 1994), 170–81. 104. J. A. Emerton (“The Source Analysis of Genesis xi, 27–32,” VT 42 [1992]: 37–46) defends the attribution of vv. 28–30 to J, leaving only vv. 27, 31–32 to P. 105. H. Gunkel, Genesis (trans. M. E. Biddle; Mercer Library of Biblical Studies; Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1997), 258. Emerton, “The Source Analysis,” 38. 106.  One could, however, follow Emerton (ibid.) in assigning Gen 11:28–30 to J. In this case, both traditions identified the homeland as Ur, and only the editor who combined them implied in 12:4b that it was Haran. 107.  The requirement to leave the household of the father would be more demanding and significant following the assumption that the father is alive. This is more appropriate to the situation of the election of Abraham for a new and great destiny. Compare 1 Kgs 19:20 and Ps 45:11.

48

Chapter 1

continued his father’s trek and took his wife, wealth, and nephew to the land of Canaan. These two accounts were combined and brought together at the juncture where they both depicted Abraham leaving Haran. The insertion of Gen 12:1–4 between the Priestly pieces produces a new account according to which Abraham was twice taken away from the place where he was living. First, when Abraham was living in Ur, he was taken by Terah and brought to Haran. Then, while living in Haran (and, according to the apparently redactoral notation of 12:4b, while Terah was still alive), the Lord called upon Abraham and ordered him to leave for an unnamed territory, which turned out to be identical to the one for which Terah originally set out. The new structure makes relatively good sense, except for the striking confusion over where Abraham’s homeland and place of birth was. Perhaps the editor who combined the traditions assumed that ‫ מולדת‬refers here in a more general sense to the place of one’s clan’s settlement at the time, rather than the place of one’s actual birth. The differences between the Priestly and non-Priestly reports concerning the arrival of Abraham in the land of Canaan are far from trivial. Most important is the question who initiated Abraham’s departure from his home and his arrival in the land of Canaan. The Priestly tradition deals with this issue in a strikingly nontheological manner. The initiative to leave Ur did not come from Abraham himself. Nor did he leave in response to a divine command. Rather, it was Abraham’s father who decided to leave Ur for the land of Canaan. The text, of course, does not specify what motivated Terah to leave for Canaan, but there is no indication that his interest was in any way religious in nature. Terah seems to be thought of quite simply as a migrant in search of a better life. He decides to stay in Haran, it appears, because the city seemed financially promising (as indicated by the wealth his descendants amassed there; Gen 12:5). After Terah’s death, Abraham decides to carry out his father’s initial plan and sets out for Canaan. Once again, there is no religious motivation or goal to this move, which again appears to reflect a natural migration pattern. It is only after Abraham arrives in the land that the Lord will appear to him and promise to give to his seed the land of his sojournings. 108 There is no sense that Abraham’s migration to Canaan is part of the great divine plan for human history. Abraham arrived in Canaan, it seems, almost by chance. One almost gets the impression that, had he not decided to continue the trek of his deceased father, the entire event of the election of Abraham and all of the history of salvation that ensued from that election may not have taken place. In sum, the Priestly account of Abraham’s migration to the land of Canaan provides a good example of how the land theme can be treated in a theologically and dramatically understated way. 108.  Genesis 17:8.

The Significance of the Land in Defining Israel

49

It is against this background that we must understand the editorial supplementation of Gen 12:1–4. Once this material is placed in its present position, before Abraham’s departure from Haran, it becomes clear that Abraham’s arrival in Canaan is no simple nomadic migration. Abraham was chosen early on for a great national destiny, and it is the divine promise of this destiny that brings him to the land. The inserted material also highlights the idea that the destiny of becoming a great nation is inseparable from the land. Though Abraham was chosen to be a great nation while still outside the land, the fulfillment of this destiny was conditioned by the great command and challenge to break away from his homeland and father’s house and set out for the still-unnamed land. It is only after making the concerted effort to break away from the old territory and live in the new one that the promise of national greatness can take place. 109 This contrasts sharply with the Priestly account, which presents Abraham’s migration to the land, not as a break from the path of his father but, rather, as a continuation of it. The idea that migration to the land marks a dramatic new beginning and break from the past is restored once Gen 12:1–4 is in place. This is also the reason for the editor’s insistence, in v. 4b, that Abraham left Haran when he was 75 years old—that is, long before the death of Terah. The migration to Canaan was not a continuation and fulfillment of Terah’s ambitions. It was, on the contrary, a conscious break from the past, as befits the founding of a new civilization. It was difficult and challenging but also driven with purpose. The editorial supplementation of Gen 12:1–4, we suggest, is not simply born of the desire to conflate parallel sources so as to produce a fuller account, though it is probably this as well. It is also an attempt to add theological depth, dramatic tension, and a sense of the centrality of the land theme to the pivotal episode of Abraham’s first arrival in the land. We may discern an analogous development in the divine command to Abraham of Gen 13:17 to wander about the land in all its extremities as a sign of acquisition. In other sections, Abraham is depicted as wandering about the land of his own accord, almost unconsciously, and certainly without symbolic significance (Gen 12:6–9; 13:3–4; 20:1; 21:34). Genesis 13:17 bestows new national and territorial purpose to what were originally the natural wanderings of the seminomadic patriarch (also compare Deut 26:5 with Josh 24:3). Additions to the Psalms Characteristic of the reintroduction of the land theme is the tendency to add prayers for the restoration of Zion in psalms of an originally individualistic 109.  See the insightful observations of I. Heinemann, “The Relationship between the Jewish People and Their Land in Hellenistic Jewish Literature,” Zion 13 (1948–49): 4–5 [Hebrew] on the divergent approaches of the rabbis and Philo toward the “test” reflected in the demand that Abraham leave his home.

50

Chapter 1

nature. 110 A good example of this is Ps 69, which ends with the words (vv. 35–37): Heaven and earth shall exalt him, the seas and all that moves in them. For God will deliver Zion and rebuild the cities of Judah; they shall live there and inherit it; the offspring of his servants shall possess it; those who cherish his name shall dwell there.

This celebration of the future rebuilding and resettlement of Zion and the cities of Judah is alien to this psalm, which focuses on the personal plight of the individual and his miseries at the hands of his enemies. The prayer of the psalmist is for his own salvation from these enemies, who have falsely accused him of theft: “I am forced to restore that which I did not steal” (v. 5). His would-be comforters turn out to take advantage of his lowly state to intensify his suffering (vv. 21–22), and he prays for revenge and for their death (vv. 23–29). In all of this, there is no indication whatsoever that the source of his troubles is related to the destruction of Jerusalem. The fact that he promises to offer praise in song rather than sacrifice (vv.  31–32) does not imply that the temple is destroyed. On the contrary, it implies that the temple still stands and that the rich continue to offer expensive cattle. The psalmist knows, however, that the humble songs of the poor and downtrodden, who have unjustly been driven to a state of impoverishment, are dearer to the Lord than the costly offerings of the rich. The song of praise will be sung before the “humble ones,” which again most naturally hints at the temple courtyard. 111 The psalm concludes with vv. 31–34, in which the psalmist declares his intention to praise the Lord in song and bring joy to the seekers of the Lord when the Lord grants him his salvation. The transition from this theme to vv. 35–36, where the praise will come not from the psalmist but from heaven, earth, and seas, and not in response to the psalmist’s salvation but in response to the much more dramatic rebuilding of Zion and the cities of Judah is clearly secondary. Apparently, the reference in vv. 31–32 to the of110.  For the tendency to add prayers of national import at the end of various psalms, see M. H. Segal, Introduction to the Bible (2 vols.; Jerusalem: Kiryat Sefer, 1977), 2.580–81 and n. 9 [Hebrew]. 111.  As noted by many (cf. BHS), the reference to the Lord’s “captives” in v. 34 is probably corrupt for ‫( חסידיו‬cf. 1 Sam 2:8–9). Also of secondary origin is the section in vv. 7–13, where the psalmist seems to be thought of as praying not for himself but on behalf of the seekers of the Lord (v. 7). He is attacked not by those who seek his personal downfall but as the representative of the Lord and of those who hope in him (v. 10). Verses 8–11 read: “For because of you I endure reproach . . . for the zeal of your house consumes me, and the reproach of those who reproach you has fallen on me. When I wept in fasting, I was reviled for it. When I wore sackcloth, I became a byword for them.” Does the “zeal of your house” imply the destruction of the temple? Clearly, the temple has been severely violated to the extent that mourning is appropriate. This need not, however, imply total destruction. It could also refer to the incorporation in the temple of various foreign cultic items, which would have been considered a desecration by purist Yahwists. (Note also Ps 79:1, where mention is made of the contamination of the temple but not of its destruction.)

The Significance of the Land in Defining Israel

51

fering of song rather than animal sacrifice was understood as an expression of the impossibility of offering animal sacrifice after the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem. 112 The misfortunes and suffering of the psalmist were thus interpreted as deriving from the harsh conditions after the destruction, his personal enemies were the national enemies, and his personal salvation was understood in terms of national restoration in the land. A similar tendency is reflected in Ps 102, where vv. 14–23 again seem to be an insertion of national-territorial concerns into the psalm. The caption in v. 1 (“A prayer of the lowly man when he is faint and pours forth his plea to the Lord”) indicates that the psalm was originally an individual lament, perhaps for use at the temple precinct (“before the Lord”). This is also clear from the personal tenor of most of the psalm. Verses 12–13 emphasize the contrast between the endless lifespan of God and the brevity of life for the suffering psalmist. This theme is continued in vv. 24–28. Verses 14–23 clearly interrupt this natural continuation with a much more optimistic prayer for the restoration of Zion; “You will surely arise and take pity on Zion, for it is time to be gracious to her; the appointed time has come. For your servants take delight in its stones and cherish its dust.” In this section, the first-person-singular form totally disappears. The call to God in v. 2 that he hear “my prayer” is, in v. 18, turned into a confident assertion that he has not despised “their prayer” (that is, of his servants). It thus seems that vv. 14–23 identify the individual supplicant of the earlier psalm as a member of the community of servants of the Lord following the destruction of Zion. The author of these verses sees and interprets the troubles of the original psalmist as being caused by that destruction, and, ultimately, as being national in character. This identification would have been precipitated not only by the psalmist’s general expression of misery but, more specifically, by the evocative confession of v. 11, “because of your wrath and your anger, for you have cast me far away.” What could have been more natural for survivors of the destruction, whether in the land or outside it, than to see in this a reflection of the casting off of Israel into exile because of its sins? 113 The collective consciousness is so pervasive that 112. The same situation pertains in Ps 51:20–21. On the secondary nature of these verses, see, for example, A.  Weiser, The Psalms: A Commentary (trans. H.  Hartwell; OTL; London: SCM, 1965), 410. I strongly disagree, however, with Weiser’s understanding of the original psalm as expressing a sentiment that “could not be fully grasped and borne by the piety of a later period deeply rooted in cultic ritualism; for this would have meant nothing less than the disruption of the whole mode of religious life.” The import of the original psalm was not that God does not want sacrifices at all and that he wants the broken heart of the worshiper and nothing more. The original psalmist, rather, means to say that sacrifices are of secondary importance. That which is of ultimate concern to God is contrition. There is no reason to assume that the original psalmist sought to reject sacrificial worship altogether or that the idea that contrition is what God is ultimately and truly concerned with would have been alien to the thinking or beyond the grasp of the later period. 113.  See also Ps 14:7 and J. Becker, Israel deutet seine Psalmen: Urform und Neuinterpretation in den Psalmen (SBS 18; Stuttgart: Katholisches Bibelwerk, 1966), 43–45. It is difficult

52

Chapter 1

even the most personal of prayers are read, interpreted, and expanded in terms of communal experience in relation to the land. 114 Two Priestly Stances on the Relationship between the Law and the Land We noted in the previous section of this chapter that the centrality of the land is often tempered and relativized by the authority of the law. Life on the land is made dependent on obedience to the law, which can inform Israelite identity even outside the land. This is the significance of the Priestly passage that concludes the section about the tassels, which are meant to remind the Israelites to observe “all the commandments of the Lord” and to be holy unto God (Num 15:37–41). It should be noted that the law of tassels comes right after the story about the individual who gathered wood on the Sabbath at one of the stops in the desert (vv. 32–36). After consulting with God, Moses has the Israelites stone the wood gatherer to death outside of the camp. It is against this background that the law of the tassels is given. The tassels are to serve as a reminder to observe the commandments and not stray after one’s heart, as did the wood gatherer. What is the relation of life in the land to the commandments of the Lord that the tassels come to remind Israel to observe? The fact that the law of the tassels comes in direct response to the violation of the Sabbath in the desert probably indicates that life in the land is not thought of as essential for the observance of the commandments, of which the Sabbath is a prominent example. The people are sanctified to God, according to this Priestly outlook, through the observance of the commandments, regardless of where they are situated. This is expressed in the concluding pasto determine if the secondary additions were added in the land or outside it. Possibly the fact that no request for an ingathering of exiles is made in Ps 102:14–23 (only a rebuilding of the city and a gathering of foreign kingdoms to the city for worship of the Lord) indicates a setting in the land. Accordingly, v. 15 expresses the community’s tenacious refusal to abandon the stones and dust of Zion as the merit that will elicit the reward of renewal. The addition in Ps 69 may also derive from inhabitants in the land. What is asked for in v. 37 is the ability of the servants of the Lord to dwell in the land and inherit it. This may reflect the needs of a community that feels insecure and loosely grounded in the land. Compare Isa 65:9. 114.  Somewhat similar to the late addition of prayers for the restoration of Zion is the supplementation of prophecies of doom with consolation and restoration. Perhaps the most blatant example of this phenomenon is found at the end of Amos. For discussion of the secondary addition of Amos 9:11–15, see A. Rofé, Introduction to the Literature of the Hebrew Bible ( Jerusalem: Carmel, 2006), 252–53 [Hebrew]. Also striking is the incorporation of the restoration prophecy of Isa 2:2–4 into the book of Micah, specifically after Mic 3:12, predicting the destruction of Jerusalem. For the secondary nature of Jer 29:10–14, see above, n. 43. For discussion on the modification of prophecy in general, see R. P. Carroll, When Prophecy Failed: Reactions and Responses to Failure in the Old Testament Prophetic Literature (London: SCM, 1979); J. Blenkinsopp, A History of Prophecy in Israel (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1996), 191–93, 264–65; S. J. De Vries, From Old Revelation to New (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1995).

The Significance of the Land in Defining Israel

53

sage, which reads (v. 41): “I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt to be your God.” The exodus from Egypt alone, even without the bestowal of the land of Canaan, serves as the basis for the relationship between the Lord and Israel. Israelites must thus observe “all the commandments of the Lord,” wherever they are, in order to be holy to the Lord. It is certainly no accident that it is specifically the Sabbath law that serves as the backdrop here. Many scholars have noted that the significance of the Sabbath was greatly enhanced after the exile and particularly in P. 115 It is particularly significant to note that Israel’s participation in the divine rest represented by the Priestly Sabbath (Gen 2:1–3; Exod 20:11; 31:17) parallels, and may even somewhat displace, Israel’s participation in the divine rest represented by the land. In Ps 95:11, the land of Israel as a whole is referred to as the divine resting place, and the Israelites who were barred from entering from the desert were excluded from “his” rest. 116 Possibly, the Priestly authors sought to provide the people of Israel with a new divine rest in which to take part. If the Israelites living in exile cannot enter the divine rest in the spatial realm, they can at least “enter” the divine rest in the temporal realm by observing the Sabbath. 117 It is surely not by chance that the traditional Jewish prayer book refers to Israel’s observing the Sabbath in terms of “dwelling” in God’s rest. 118 As aptly depicted by A. J. Heschel, the Sabbath of Judaism is a “sanctuary in time.” 119

115.  See already Wellhausen, Prolegomena to the History of Israel, 114–16. Note in particular the Priestly depiction of Sabbath observance within the context of the manna story (Exod 16). The law is depicted here as a test of trust in God’s provision of bread from heaven. Bread comes from heaven and is not dependent on the land, and Sabbath observance is also disconnected from life on the land. Since the law is seen as a test of trust in God, it is clearly thought of as a theological entity in and of itself and not a means to regulate civil life in the land. 116.  The uniqueness of this terminology was noted by G. von Rad, “Divine Rest,” in From Genesis to Chronicles (ed. K. C. Hanson; Minneapolis: Fortress, 2005), 22–28. 117.  The eternal and enduring nature of the sign of the Sabbath is continually emphasized in the Priestly passages. This may be related to the connection between the Sabbath and the creation of heaven and earth, which are also considered stable and enduring (see, for example, Deut 32:1). The Sabbath may thus be founded on a more enduring building structure than the temple in Jerusalem, and this structure is the cosmos (see also Isa 66:1). The presentation of Sabbath observance together with fear of the temple in Lev 19:30 may reflect an earlier conception according to which both institutions were bound together and not connected to creation. The Priestly passages that do mention creation do not mention the temple. Since heaven and earth are visible at all times and everywhere, the Sabbath, by implication, should also be observed both all the time and no matter where. From Isa 56:1–8, we may learn that the Sabbath was indeed observed in exile. 118. See Birnbaum, Daily Prayer Book, 397: ‫‘ וגם במנוחתו לא ישכנו ערלים‬the uncircumcised do not dwell in its rest’. 119. See A.  J. Heschel, The Sabbath: Its Meaning for Modern Man (New York: Farrar, Straus and Young, 1951).

54

Chapter 1

It is in light of the supraterritorial implications of this Priestly passage on the Sabbath and the tassels that we should understand the force of the Priestly passage in Lev 25:38. This passage reads: “I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt to give you the land of Canaan, to be your God.” The passage is a verbal replica of Num 15:41, except for the additional words, “to give you the land of Canaan.” The somewhat overloaded formulation of the twofold goal of the exodus, “to give you the land of Canaan, to be your God,” in comparison with the more direct and simple “to be your God” probably indicates that the Numbers passage is the original formulation (see also Lev 22:32–33; Deut 4:20), and the formulation in Leviticus is an expanded version of it. We should probably discern a certain polemic tone underlying the Leviticus passage. God’s purpose in taking the Israelites out of Egypt was not to form the covenant with them directly thereafter. Rather, the first purpose of the exodus was to bring the Israelites into the land of Canaan. Only then could the Lord be Israel’s God. The fact that this editorial comment was made within a section dealing with the laws of the land—sabbatical, the Jubilee year, and other propertyrelated issues—is hardly coincidental. The editor sought to emphasize that observance of these laws, which are inherently bound to life in the land, forms the basis of the God-Israel relationship and that there can be no real relationship between these two parties without them. Israel is not the Lord’s people outside the land, where these laws cannot be observed, nor is the Lord Israel’s God there (cf. Lev 26:12). J. Milgrom has noted that the summation sentence of Lev 26:46 forms an inclusio with Lev 25:1, implying that Lev 25–26 once formed a separate scroll. 120 Originally, then, Lev 26:46 did not refer to all of Leviticus but only to the unit at hand. 121 The verse insists, with polemic force, I suggest, “These are the laws, rules, and ordinances that the Lord gave between himself and the children of Israel on Mount Sinai through Moses.” It is in accordance with this outlook that Lev 26:33–35, 43–44 presents the exile as the time that the land shall be desolate and deserted so that it may pay off its Sabbath years. The law of rest must be observed by the land itself as a personified feminine entity. The inhabitants are agents who are expected to facilitate its rest unto the Lord (25:2). The law is thus intrinsic to the land, and the people play a more secondary role. The entire conception reflected here of the national exile as the outcome of Israel’s failure to honor the Sabbath of the land (see also 2 Chr 36:21) rather than the Sabbath of creation (see Jer 17:19–27) testifies to the central position that the land plays in this Priestly conception of the Mosaic

120. J. Milgrom, Leviticus 23–27 (AB 3A; New York: Doubleday, 2001), 2342. 121. Strangely, Milgrom, who noted the connection of the verse to Lev 25:1, still sees the verse as referring to the entire book of Leviticus.

The Significance of the Land in Defining Israel

55

Law. 122 Again, outside the land, the Israelites will eventually come to confess their sins (26:40). They will not, however, return to the Lord and obey his commandments, as, for example, in Deut 30:2. It is only when God remembers the covenant and, in particular, when he “remembers the land,” that he will bring an end to the land’s desolation (Lev 26:42). The same idea is underscored by Ezekiel, who envisions future observance of the law only after God forcefully brings Israel back to the land (Ezek 36:22–28). We may thus say that, just as there is a Priestly tendency that seeks to present the commandments as authoritative beyond the boundaries of the land, so is there a counter tendency in Priestly literature to subordinate the observance of the law to life in the land. A comparable example to the renewed emphasis on the centrality of the land in late Priestly editing noted above is found in Lev 11:43–45. The passage appears to contain two parallel editorial comments on the particular importance of desisting from consumption of crawling creatures, as prohibited in the immediately preceding verses. 123 The doublet, which has been obscured by the Masoretic versification, emerges when the material is set out as vv. 43–44a, followed by vv. 44b–45:   You shall not make yourselves detestable with any swarming thing that swarms, and you shall not contaminate yourselves through them, thereby becoming unclean, for I am the Lord your God. And you shall sanctify yourselves and be holy, for I am holy.   You shall not contaminate yourselves with any swarming thing that swarms on the earth, for I am the Lord who brings you up from the land of Egypt to be your God. And you shall be holy, for I am holy.

The second passage, with slight verbal variations, is clearly a repetition of the first passage. The parallel structure that emerges and the fact that each passage can stand on its own without the other make it appear rather unlikely that both were written by the same hand. It seems most likely that the second passage constitutes an editorial expansion. It adds the significant idea, nowhere else attested in Priestly literature, that the Lord brings the Israelites up from the land of Egypt (‫ )המעלה‬to be their God. All other Priestly references to the exodus refer to the Lord as the one who brought the Israelites out of Egypt (‫)הוציא‬, not up from Egypt. 124 The reference to the deity as the one who brought Israel up from Egypt is found in a host 122. On the connection between the land and the law in the Holiness Code, see J. Joosten, People and Land in the Holiness Code: An Exegetical Study of the Ideational Framework of the Law in Leviticus 17–26 (VTSup 67; Leiden: Brill, 1996), 173–75. 123. The late editorial nature of the passage was noted by I.  Knohl (The Sanctuary of Silence: The Priestly Torah and the Holiness School [Minneapolis: Fortress, 1995], 69 and n. 28), who ascribes the passage to the Holiness school. Though Knohl notices the repetitive structure in the passage, he does not attribute theological significance to the variant formulations. 124. J. Milgrom, Leviticus 1–16 (AB 3; New York: Doubleday, 1991), 688.

56

Chapter 1

of non-Priestly biblical passages, always with the significant implication that what was effected for Israel was not chiefly a release from bondage as much as the provision of a land of settlement. 125 It thus appears probable that the second passage, Lev 11:44b–45, was added by a late Priestly editor with theological intent. The first Priestly passage implied that the laws of purity are equally applicable in all locations. Israel’s concern to maintain its purity is necessary simply because the holy Lord is its God. The second passage was added to emphasize that it is through the divine act of bringing Israel up to a new land, away from the impurities of Egypt (cf. Lev 18:3), that God establishes his Lordship over Israel. It is specifically in the land that the Lord is Israel’s God and, by implication, that the laws of purity must be maintained. Failure to maintain purity would not only result in self-contamination, as emphasized in the first passage in v. 43 (‫)ונטמאתם בם‬, but in contamination of the land (cf. Num 35:34). This would implicitly contravene the very purpose of the exodus from the impure land of Egypt and at least theoretically negate the entire foundation of the relationship between God and Israel. There would be little point in observing the laws of purity in exilic lands such as Egypt or Babylon, when it was only with the removal of Israel from Egypt, which was full of impurities, and with the bestowal of a new land destined for purity that the Lord became Israel’s God. The new emphasis on the centrality of the land as the specific place where the laws of purity apply in what appears to be a secondary, Priestly passage provides another example of the same tendency referred to above—the tendency to restrict observance of the law to life in the land. It was in this spirit that the great medieval Jewish mystic, Naḥmanides, asserted that that all the commandments must be observed outside the land of Israel for mnemonic purposes only, so that the laws will not be forgotten when the land is resettled in the messianic age. 126 Widsom Literature Let us move now to another area in which the national-territorial dimension of religious life is secondarily incorporated. Wisdom is undoubtedly the literary genre in the Hebrew Bible that displays the least concern for issues of a national-territorial nature. The Wisdom reflected in Proverbs, Job, Ecclesiastes, and several of the Psalms reflects a strongly universalistic approach to the world and usually ignores all matters of a national-historic nature, such as the covenant with Israel, the exodus from Egypt, or the conquest and settlement of Canaan. 127 The foundations of Wisdom rest on 125. For the basic distinction between these formulas for the exodus, see J. N. M. Wijngaards, “‫ הוציא‬and ‫העלה‬: A Twofold Approach to the Exodus,” VT 15 (1965): 91–102. 126. See Naḥmanides’ commentary to Lev 18:26. 127. For a good, basic consideration of the problem of the relation of Wisdom to the nationalist orientation of the Old Testament, see J.  F. Priest, “Where Is Wisdom to

The Significance of the Land in Defining Israel

57

the instruction of the sage to the individual student rather than on the revelation of the will of God by the prophet to the nation. This is why several issues of a sapiential nature are treated outside the territorial context of the land of Israel. Thus, the story of Job takes place in the land of Uz, and Jonah protests the destruction of his gourd and the divine attribute of forgiveness just outside the city of Nineveh (see also Ezek 14:12–19). 128 The wise courtiers such as Joseph, Mordechai and Daniel display their superior wisdom on non-Israelite soil. The insignificance of territory for Wisdom is reflected nicely in the biblical discussion of Wisdom’s “location.” According to Prov 8, Wisdom calls out to man by the crossroads and at the gates (vv. 1–4). Though created before the creation of the world (vv. 22–29), Wisdom finds its way to earth and gives delight to mankind (v. 31). Job 28, on the other hand, insists that Wisdom is out of man’s reach and cannot be found in the land of the living (v. 13). God alone knows the way to it, because he discovered it at the time of creation (vv. 23–27). Whether in man’s reach or not, the location of Wisdom is clearly divorced in all of these texts from Israelite history or from the land of promise. This universalistic and supraterritorial theme is given a totally new interpretation, however, in Sir 24. Here, as in Prov 8, Wisdom is created before the creation of the world. Wisdom in Ben Sira, however, is said to have wandered the earth in search of a resting place until God ordered her to dwell in the inheritance of Israel, in Zion (Sir 24:1–12). The teachings of Wisdom, originally thoroughly universal in nature, are now identified with “the book of the covenant of God most high, the law that Moses commanded us as a heritage for the assembly of Jacob” (v. 23). The new territorial dimension is highlighted not only by the identification of the location of Wisdom in Zion but also by its identification in vv. 13–14 with the flora of the holy land. Wisdom here declares: I grew tall like a cedar in Lebanon, and like a cypress on the heights of Hermon. I grew tall like a palm tree in Ein Gedi and like rosebushes in Jericho. (Sir 24:13–14)

The late desire to locate Wisdom in Zion and to compare it to the flora of the land reflects the author’s need to reemphasize the centrality of the land and the unique national heritage with which it is associated within a universalistic context that threatens to marginalize it. After all, if Wisdom is truly universal and equally accessible to all people, and if it is the source of life and blessing, why bother with the observance of the law? And why maintain the primacy of the land of Israel when Wisdom is equally accessible in all locations? It is only if the national Torah is presented as the Be Placed?” in Studies in Ancient Israelite Wisdom (ed. J.  L. Crenshaw; New York: Ktav, 1976), 281–88. See also J. J. Collins, “The Biblical Precedent for Natural Theology,” JAAR 45 (1977): 35–67. 128. See Kaufmann, The History of Israelite Religion, 2.283, 440.

58

Chapter 1

apex of universal Wisdom that the supremacy of the law can continually be maintained. And it is only if the land provides special access to a divine Wisdom that is unattainable anywhere else that the supremacy of the land can continually be maintained. The rabbis indeed continued to express this idea when they asserted that “the air of the land makes one wise.” 129 While the particular synthesis of Sirah is postbiblical, it is the culmination of the identification of Wisdom with Torah and Zion that can already be found in the Hebrew Bible, particularly, though not exclusively in the book of Deuteronomy (see below). 130 To cite one famous example, the “Torah” that will come forth from Jerusalem according to Isa 2:1–4 will instruct all the nations in God’s ways. God’s “ways” are not for Israel alone, but for the whole of mankind The divine “paths” will not be imposed on the nations by force. Rather, the nations will go up to Jerusalem eagerly and of their own volition. (This coincides with the view expressed in Deut 4:6 that the laws of Moses are “your wisdom and discernment in the eyes of the nations, who will hear all these laws and say, ‘This great nation is surely a wise and discerning people.’”) It is the inherently wise and judicious character of the divine law that attracts the nations to seek out the Lord’s instruction in Jerusalem. God thus plays the role of a typical Wisdom teacher, with his school situated in Zion. In this, he is somewhat reminiscent of King Solomon, who teaches wisdom to multitudes of peoples who come to Jerusalem to hear his wisdom (1 Kgs 5:9–14). God at Zion will also play the role of the wise and discerning judge who, again, like Solomon, settles disputes, though of warring nations rather than individual litigants. The Torah instruction that will be promulgated at Zion is thus identified by Isaiah with the universal wisdom and judiciousness that is required to bring peaceful coexistence to the peoples of the world. True, this identification of the Torah of Zion with universal wisdom reflects a tendency to universalize the particularistic significance of the national tradition. 131 129. Cf. b. B.  Bat. 158b; b. Qidd. 49b. For a convenient anthology of rabbinic statements on the land in English, see H. N. Bialik and Y. H. Ravintzky, eds.,The Book of Legends: Legends from the Talmud and Midrash (trans. W.  G. Braude; New York: Schocken, 1992), 281–92. Much more comprehensive is Y. Zahavi, Midrashei Eretz Israel ( Jerusalem: Tehila, 1959) [Hebrew]. For a scholarly treatment of the centrality of the land in rabbinic literature, see G. D. Cohen, Studies in the Variety of Rabbinic Cultures (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1991) 19–38; I. M. Gafni, Land, Center and Diaspora: Jewish Constructs in Late Antiquity ( JSPSup 21; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1997). 130.  See M.  Weinfeld, Deuteronomy and the Deuteronomic School (Oxford: Clarendon, 1972; repr. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1992), 244–319; J. Blenkinsopp, Wisdom and Law in the Old Testament (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1983); G. T. Sheppard, Wisdom as a Hermeneutical Construct (BZAW 151; Berlin: de Gruyter, 1980). For a case study of Wisdom’s influence on the laws of the Holiness Code, see J. Kugel, “On Hidden Hatred and Open Reproach: Early Exegesis of Lev. 19:17,” HTR 80 (1987): 43–61. 131. Thus, in Ps 109:99–100, for example, the observance of the commandments is said to bestow the pious with wisdom that exceeds that of all elders and teachers.

The Significance of the Land in Defining Israel

59

At the same time, however, the opposite tendency is also implied by this prophecy. The universal character of the international Wisdom tradition is nationalized, since it is presented as being situated exclusively in Israelite territory and inaccessible to anyone who does not come up to Zion. There are many other examples of this tendency (see below). In sum, the synthesis that we find in the book of Ben Sirah may justly be seen as a culmination that is already anticipated in the biblical corpus. Indeed, the very incorporation of the Wisdom tradition within the nationally oriented biblical canon already fosters the understanding of universal Wisdom as being “situated” specifically in the land of Israel. It was only natural for the Amoraic sage of the land of Israel, R. Yohanan, to continue this tendency and identify the Wisdom figure of Job as the head of a house of Torah study in the Galilean city of Tiberias. 132 The Territorializing of Wisdom in Deuteronomy Two instances of Deuteronomy’s nationalizing and territorializing of Wisdom are worth mentioning as examples of the phenomenon of which we speak. Wisdom literature often contrasts the fate of the righteous individual, who will “possess the land,” with that of the wicked individual, who will be “cut off” from the same land (Prov 2:20–22). This same contrast is repeatedly made in Ps 37 (vv. 8, 11, 18, 22, 29, 34), a composition that displays all the characteristics of a Wisdom Psalm. 133 Some scholars have seen in this language a reference to the national tradition concerning the land of Canaan. 134 Others understand the idea that the righteous will “inherit the land” as referring to their family inheritances. 135 Neither of these interpretations appears to be satisfactory. The significance of the idea is clarified in the parallel statements of Ps 37 concerning the fate of the righteous. The righteous person will enjoy plenty during a time of famine (vv. 19, 25), will delight in his well-being (vv. 4, 11) and be preserved from the murderous schemes of the wicked (vv. 14–15; 32–33). Nowhere does the psalm use the term ‫ ארץ‬in the sense of the land of Israel, or even of private property. The righteous individual possesses not “his land” or “Israel’s land” but simply “the land.” We must thus take the phrase as a metaphor for long life and prosperity. The “land” probably refers to the “land of the living,” which often stands in contrast with descent to Sheol (cf. Isa 38:10–11; Jer 11:19; 132. Compare b. B. Bat. 15a; and see H. Mack, Job and the Book of Job in Rabbinic Literature (Ramat Gan: Bar-Ilan University Press, 2004), 168–70 [Hebrew]. For a general treatment of the question of the geographic location of Job’s land of Uz in postbiblical literature, see pp. 87–94. 133.  See A. Hurvitz, Wisdom Language in Biblical Psalmody ( Jerusalem: Magnes, 1991), 75–92 [Hebrew]. 134. W.  McKane, Proverbs: A New Approach (OTL; London: Student Christian Movement, 1970), 288. 135.  Weinfeld, Deuteronomy and the Deuteronomic School, 313–16.

60

Chapter 1

Ps 27:13; 52:7). 136 The idea that the righteous will inherit the land thus belongs completely within the realm of universal teaching. In the book of Deuteronomy, however, the motif is nationalized. Some of the material in Deuteronomy continues to speak of the longevity of individuals, but it is now specifically individual Israelites, and the place where the individual Israelite will enjoy his or her longevity will usually be specifically in the national homeland (cf. Deut 5:16, 33). Thus, while Deut 22:7 simply encourages the individual Israelite toward obedience, “so that it may go well with you and you live long,” Deut 5:16 promises, “so that you live long and that it may go well with you on the land that the Lord is giving you.” And in many passages, such as Deut 11:17, 21, we are told that the Israelites must observe the commandments if they wish to persevere as a nation in the land of Israel. This nationalistic usage of the Wisdom motif is also reflected in Deut 16:20, which charges, “Righteousness alone shall you diligently pursue so that you may live and keep hold of the land that the Lord your God gives you.” This formulation is reminiscent of the verse cited above from Ps 37, v. 29: “the righteous will possess the land and dwell upon it forever.” As in Ps 37:29, so also in Deut 16, possession of the land is related to righteousness. In Deut 16, however, it is not the righteous individuals who will live and inherit “the land” in a generalized sense but the entire people who will, in the national sense, “live” and “inherit” the land of Israel. Also, righteousness is not seen as something static and permanent. It can always be corrupted (Deut 16:19). The possession of the land is not, therefore, spoken of as everlasting and irreversible, the way it is spoken of in Ps 37:29. 137 136.  Cf. M. V. Fox, Proverbs 1–9: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary (AB 18A; New York: Doubleday, 2000), 123–25. 137.  It is worthwhile considering the way in which both of these texts are reflected in Isa 60:21. In this passage, the prophet addresses Jerusalem, saying: “Your people shall all be righteous; they will inherit the land forever.” This verse is strikingly similar to Ps 37:29. In both texts, the inheritance is forever, and in both texts, it is the possession of the righteous ones. On the other hand, since the entire prophecy speaks of the restoration of the exiles in Jerusalem, it is clear that the inheritance of the land in Isa 60 is national and concrete, as found in Deuteronomy (see also Isa 57:13, which clearly mentions “my holy mountain” but still speaks only of the righteous individual who will inherit). One more important development should be noted here. Deuteronomy 16:20 requires the judges to pursue justice. This very requirement reflects the realistic assumption, reflected also in Ps 37’s continuous references to “the wicked,” that corrupt individuals will always be found. The national possession of the land does not depend on the righteousness of each and every individual in Deut 16 but of the judicial system in general. In this matter, Isa 60:21 represents a partial return to the individualistic conception of Ps 37. True, it is the nation that takes possession of the land of Israel, but this nation is thought of as composed of an amalgam of individual Israelites. Each of these Israelites will take part in the national inheritance in virtue of his of her individual righteousness. The desire to apply the irreversibility of the inheritance of the land of Ps 37 to the national sphere (in contrast with Deut 16:20, where it is national but reversible) could only be accomplished by depicting the nation in utopian terms as firmly righteous down to the last individual. Righteousness

The Significance of the Land in Defining Israel

61

Another interesting example of Deuteronomy’s application of Wisdom lore in a national-territorial context is in Deut 19:14, which reads: “You shall not move your countryman’s landmarks, set up by previous generations, in the property that will be allotted to you in the land that the Lord your God is giving you as a possession.” This verse may be compared with Prov 22:28, “Do not move the ancient landmark that your ancestors set up.” As noted by M.  Weinfeld, the law in Deuteronomy most naturally represents a secondary application of earlier Wisdom lore, applied here specifically to the land of Israel. 138 In my view, the close parallel with Prov 22:28 makes it most likely that behind the present text of Deut 19:14 lies an earlier and simpler legal formulation: “You shall not move your countryman’s landmarks set up by previous generations.” Already in this early form, sapiential advice had been converted into law (see also Deut 27:17, “Cursed is the one who moves his countryman’s landmark. And all the people answered, ‘Amen.’”). The secondary nature of the clause “in the property that will be allotted to you in the land that the Lord your God is giving you as a possession” of v. 14b is indicated not only by the parallel with Proverbs but also by the awkwardness of the phrase “landmarks set up by previous generations” in the mouth of Moses before the conquest had even begun! More naturally, is again a permanent and static characteristic, but now there are no others who belong to the “sinners.” Isaiah 60:21 thus represents a late and unique blend of the individualistic and nationalistic conceptions of the land-inheritance motif. 138.  Weinfeld, Deuteronomy and the Deuteronomic School, 265–67. Weinfeld assumes that the original form of the aphorism taken up by Deuteronomy was ‫אל תסג גבול עולם‬ (Prov 23:10a) and that the author of Deuteronomy changed ‫ גבול עולם‬to ‫גבול רעיך אשר גבלו‬ ‫ראשונים‬, while at the same time adding “in the inheritance that you will hold in the land that the Lord your God gives you for an inheritance.” The deuteronomic author, accordingly, developed the ancient aphorism into a national law by supplying the term ‫ראשונים‬ to refer to the people who first settled the land, in accordance with the verse’s new ending. Weinfeld seems to think that the deuteronomic author was aware of the assumed expansion of Prov 23:10a in Prov 22:28 (‫ )אל תסג גבול עולם אשר עשו אבותיך‬and sought to formulate a similar but more extensive and nationalistic expansion. A very similar analysis is offered in A. Rofé, Deuteronomy: Issues and Interpretation (OTS; London: T. & T. Clark, 2002), 89–91. Rofé (p. 91) also sees Deut 19:14 as “the transformation into a statute of a familiar Wisdom proverb.” Again, this transformation is associated with the national-historical reinterpretation of the verse that grounds the authority of the boundary divisions in the division of the land carried out at the time when the land was first settled. In my view, we must distinguish between two stages in the development of the passage. Deuteronomy did not take up an ancient aphorism but an ancient law (Deut 19:14a) that was already based on an aphorism (Prov 22:28). Only with the last stage of development may we speak of a national-historical reinterpretation. Rofé also assumes that Prov 22:28 “gives a national tinge to the general moral statement characteristic of the common Wisdom of the Ancient Near East” (ibid., 91). He sees this same national orientation reflected in the fact that the law speaks specifically of the rēaʿ (ibid.). With regard to the first point, I insist that there is nothing specifically “national” about the protection of ancestral estates. As for the second point, note that the term rēaʿ should not be taken as a reflection of deuteronomic nationalism, since it appears frequently in Proverbs and Job, in clearly universal contexts.

62

Chapter 1

then, the original formulation of the law in Deut 19:14 reflects an early law within a literary setting in which there was no Mosaic pretense. The same is probably true of Deut 27:15–26. 139 It seems that the editor of Deuteronomy supplemented the old law with the final clause in Deut 19:14 (“in the property that will be allotted to you in the land that the Lord your God is giving you for a possession”) in order to fit the ancient law, written from the perspective of the inhabitants of the land, into the context of the preconquest period presented by the book. 140 Theoretically, the law in its earlier form could be taken as prohibiting the moving of the landmarks exclusively by those belonging to the covenant, since the term “countryman” is sometimes used in the Bible in this restrictive sense. 141 On the other hand, the curse on the clandestine murderer of the “countryman” in 27:24 most naturally refers to all potential victims, and this implies that the “countryman” of 27:17 also refers to any individual. 142 Furthermore, the term ‘countryman’ (rēaʿ) is extremely common in the Wisdom literature of Proverbs and Job, where it clearly has no nationalistic coloring. 143 All of this tends to indicate that the original prohibition in Deut 19:14a was also universal in character and did not apply only to estates of covenant members. Who were the “previous generations”? In its original context, these were obviously the dead ancestors of the estates in question, just as in the parallel in Proverbs. An alteration of the boundary line is not only theft but also an affront to the deceased ancestor whose “name” and eternity are bound up with his estate (cf. 1 Kgs 21:3; Deut 25:5–6; Ruth 4:5). 144 The ancestors apparently set up boundary stones in conjunction with sacral oaths and curses guaranteed by the family gods (cf. Gen 31:44–54). Thus, to move an ancient landmark is to desecrate the sacred foundations set up by the earlier ancestors. In its original form, there was no national-territorial character to the law. The reason one should not encroach upon one’s neighbor’s estate was because this would impinge on one’s neighbor’s private property and be an affront to the name of the dead ancestors. The fact that this private estate happened to be situated within the national territory that was given as a gift by the God of Israel to the people of Israel was of no relevance to this law, even if we assume that this idea was acknowledged. The identity of the “ancestors” was transformed, however, when this ancient law was placed in the mouth of Moses and when it was extended 139.  See, e.g., E. Nielsen, Shechem: A Traditio-Historical Investigation (Copenhagen: Gad, 1959), 86–141. 140. Many of the prefaces to laws in Deuteronomy that state “when you enter the land . . .” probably serve the same function. See, for example, Deut 17:14; 18:9, 12b; 19:1. 141.  The term sometimes implies any “fellow” and sometimes appears to be exclusive, referring only to covenant members. See D. Kellermann, “rēaʿ,” TDOT 13.526–30. 142.  Note also the concern with the cause of the stranger in Deut 27:19. 143.  Kellermann, “rēaʿ,” 527–29. 144.  Cf. H. C. Brichto, “Kin, Cult, Land and Afterlife: A Biblical Complex,” HUCA 46 (1975): 55–70.

The Significance of the Land in Defining Israel

63

with the sentence “in the property that will be allotted to you in the land that the Lord your God is giving you to possess.” The “ancestors” could now only be the future ancestors who would give out the family properties at the completion of the conquest. 145 The prohibition against moving landmarks thus changed from an admonition to respect the estate divisions of the dead ancestors (which could theoretically apply to any territory in any land) to a national-territorial exhortation to treat the divinely authorized division and allocation of inheritances of the land of Israel as sacrosanct. One must respect the ancient landmarks, not only out of reverence for the ancient ancestors or because one must not impinge on any individual’s private property, but out of respect for the God who has given and divided the national territory of the land of Israel as a special gift to the people of Israel. In this context, the law, the origins of which go back to the Wisdom tradition, has now become completely nationalized.

Synoptic Evaluation It is now time to attempt to evaluate the various pieces of evidence that we have assembled and presented up to this point. We have seen that in certain passages national life on the land appears to be an indispensable element of biblical religion and of the national-religious “identity” that the material in question reflects and promotes. In other passages, however, national life on the land seems to be thought of as, in varying degrees, something less than absolutely essential. In a few instances, it even appears that the land is thought of as only marginally significant at best. We have also found traces of secondary editorializing and reshaping, working in two opposing directions. Some textual traditions that emphasized or implied the indispensable character of national life on the land were subsequently modified to express a more qualified assessment of the place of the land. Other textual traditions expressing a more qualified estimation of the importance of life on the land were supplemented so as to reaffirm the importance, sometimes even indispensability, of life on the land for national identity and for the defining of “Israel.” How are we to account for these conflicting outlooks and tendencies? Theological Pluralism Undoubtedly, we must see in the alternative emphases and tendencies an expression of the theological and ideological pluralism that characterizes the variegated literature of the Hebrew Bible. The diversity of outlooks concerning life in the land clearly reflects the fact that the biblical corpus 145. See Naḥmanides, ad loc. Possibly the reference is to the division of the inheritances carried out under Joshua, Eleazar, and the tribal chieftains before the Lord (Num 26:52–56; 33:54; 34:17–29; Josh 14–21). This material, however, is largely Priestly in nature. The Deuteronomist, however, also spoke of the division of the land by Joshua (alone) to the tribes of Israel ( Josh 11:23; 23:4).

64

Chapter 1

constitutes a large, pluralistic anthology of materials. This anthology often incorporates the views of various groups that promoted conflicting beliefs and religious agendas. No thoroughgoing attempt was made to maintain a single, consistent approach to important theological issues such as the one we are discussing. Prophetic railings against the importance of cultic worship are found side by side with the Priestly material of the Pentateuch, where the cult is given primary importance. The book of Chronicles, which insists on a view of history in which God rewards the good and punishes the bad without delay and does not visit the sins of the fathers on the children is found side by side with the books of the Deuteronomistic History, where the old principles of delayed retribution are continuously expounded. 146 Antimonarchic ideology is given open expression within the same corpus that proclaims the divine sponsorship of the eternal Davidic kingdom (compare 1 Sam 12 and 2 Sam 7). Even in the realm of legal requirements, little attempt was made to harmonize and integrate the many divergent and contradictory injunctions. It is thus no surprise that one can find divergent and conflicting assessments of the centrality of the territorial dimension for Israelite religious life. At the same time, we cannot really think of the biblical corpus as a static anthology of ideas with absolutely no attempt toward integration, in which each outlook is allowed to come to expression without opposition. The evidence pointing to the work of editors who sought either to temper the land-centered outlook of earlier texts or to supplement the role of the land in places where it was not found or was underestimated testifies to the fact that serious efforts were indeed made to impose an integrated outlook on the written material. The reason that this integration was not achieved in a thoroughgoing way is not because biblical authors and editors did not work toward it but because, on the contrary, different groups with conflicting agendas did, in fact, attempt it. The Hebrew Bible thus may be thought of as a dynamic battleground of ideas, where various authors and editors sought to “conquer” opposing ideological positions. Oftentimes, each “war­ ring” side could point to its own limited conquests without either side, however, achieving a decisive and thoroughgoing victory. This assessment certainly seems to apply to the question of the centrality of the land. One could almost say that for each author or editor who sought to qualify the centrality of the land there was another author or editor who sought to reinstate its essential importance in either the same or some other text. At the same time, for each author or editor who sought to maintain the indispensable character of life on the land there was another author or editor who sought to qualify its importance.

146. See Japhet, The Ideology of the Book of Chronicles, 125–98.

The Significance of the Land in Defining Israel

65

The Limitations of Historical and Sociological Explanations It is natural to attempt to correlate the divergent tendencies concerning the centrality of the land with historical and sociological data. One could theoretically posit, for example, that the groups living inside the land, both before the exile and after it, would have tended to highlight its centrality, while those living outside the land would have been more likely to see it in more relative terms. 147 If we formulate this postulate in chronological terms, we might say that the desire to limit the importance of the land is a mostly later phenomenon, born of the necessity to survive and maintain continuity in light of the exile. The restoration community of the postexilic period, following this historical scheme, would have expressed a renewed interest in reasserting the centrality of the land, while individuals who chose not to return would have fostered other values. Though there is surely much value in this type of analysis, we should keep in mind that easy distinctions between preexilic, exilic, and postexilic theologies can often be misleading and generally tend to oversimplify matters. Few scholars would deny, for example, that much of the biblical material concerning Sinai, always situated in biblical narrative outside the land of Canaan, reflects very early Israelite tradition. The people who preserved traditions about the epiphanies of the Lord from Sinai, Seir, and Paran (Deut 33:2–3; Judg 5:4–5; etc.) and who apparently went on pilgrimages to these extra­ territorial regions (cf. 1 Kgs 19) must have promoted a conception of Yahwism that did not see the land of Canaan as vitally important. The early prophetic resistance to the erection of the temple reflected in the prophecy of Nathan in 2 Sam 7:5–7 is also relevant here. The early form of the material reflects the idea that Yhwh is a nomadic deity who moves freely from place to place in a tent sanctuary and does not seek the fixity of a permanent palace structure. Most important, he moves in this nomadic form among the Israelite people (v.  7). Israel’s nomadic past outside the land is not thought of as a past in which national-religious life, including its cultic aspect, was nonexistent or incomplete. Indeed, according to Exod 33:16, the characteristic mark of Israel’s national distinction among the nations is the fact that the Lord is said to wander with his people. Thus, 147. See, for example, K.  Whitelam (“Israel’s Traditions of Origin: Reclaiming the Land,” JSOT 44 [1989]: 19–42), who sees the biblical notion of Israel’s origins outside the land as reflecting the interests of the exilic community; and contrast this with P. Machinist (“Outsiders or Insiders: The Biblical View of Emergent Israel and Its Contexts,” in The Other in Jewish Thought and History [ed. L. J. Silberstein and R. L. Cohn; New York: New York University Press, 1994], 51–54 and esp. n. 55), who correctly speaks of the exile as only one of several possible contexts for the development of the conception of Israel as “outsiders.” For a recent treatment of this issue from a broad historical perspective, see N.  Wazana, “Natives or Immigrants: The Perception of the Origins of Israel and Other Peoples in the Bible,” in Shai le-Sara Japhet: Studies in the Bible, Its Exegesis and Its Language (ed. M. BarAsher et al.; Jerusalem: Bialik, 2007), 37–60 [Hebrew].

66

Chapter 1

the late Priestly presentation of Israel fully living out the cult of Yhwh in the desert, before the entrance into the land, should not be seen (at least not solely) as a product of exilic ideology that sought to qualify, at least in theory, the dependence of the cult on a fixed place in the land, after the land was lost to foreign rule. Rather, the extraterritorial and communitycentered dimensions of biblical religion are deeply rooted in ancient tradition. The late Priestly writers and editors simply drew upon and revived an early theological orientation. 148 Furthermore, a cogent argument can be made for relating much of the material in which we find the tendency to highlight the centrality of the land specifically to the exilic community, where there was danger of losing all contact with the land. In earlier times, when Israel lived on its land as a nation-state in relative security from surrounding enemies, there would have been little point in articulating the central importance of national life on the land for Israelite religion, since no alternative, landless type of Israelite religion would even have been fathomed. Yet, here too, it would be wrongheaded to assign the entirety of the tendency to highlight the centrality of the land to the period of the exile. The threat of exile and loss of land hovered over Israel’s existence long before the final devastation of Judah and even before the final fall of the Northern Kingdom. This threat would have been likely to promote concerted speculation concerning the centrality of the land for Israel’s national identity and theological constitution already in the preexilic period. Furthermore, it is possible, indeed likely, that the theological centrality of the national territory was fostered from early times not in opposition to exilic life but to tribal separatism. The ideal of a single, undifferentiated, national territory as reflected, for example, in the land promises of Genesis and most of Deuteronomy 149 would have helped promote a sense of common national identity long before the exile(s). The exile, surely, influenced both the tendency to limit the centrality of the land—by those who sought a more thoroughgoing readjustment to the new exilic reality, as well as the tendency by others to highlight its centrality, specifically because its place was now threatened. In the preexilic period as well, the opposing tendencies surely prevailed simultaneously and for a considerable length of time. Chronological and geographical distinctions, though undoubtedly helpful for a historical analysis do not, therefore, exhaust the issue or consistently offer comprehensive, unequivocal, and continuously applicable explanations. 148. For the understanding of P as reflecting ancient tradition, see T.  E. Fretheim, “Priestly Document: Anti-Temple?” VT 18 (1968): 313–29; Rofé, Introduction, 69–70. It is Deuteronomy that goes against ancient tradition by presenting the ancient cult outside the land as basically illegitimate (Deut 12:8). 149.  See, however, Deut 34:1–3. The emphasis on tribal divisions in the Priestly tradition once again harks back to early institutions and conceptions.

The Significance of the Land in Defining Israel

67

Nor is it sufficient to attribute the different approaches to the land to sociological groups or “schools,” such as the Priestly and Deuteronomic schools. These “schools” were never static or completely monolithic, and the literatures they produced clearly reflect a long history of lively literary activity. Much of the diversity that we find in the biblical corpus at large can be found, as well, within these “sources.” For example, parts of the Priestly material may well reflect a strongly land-centered orientation, as in the Priestly depiction of the land promised to Abraham in terms of an unconditional “eternal inheritance” (Gen 17:8) or in the theological assertion of Lev 25:38 discussed above. Other parts of the Priestly material, such as the elaborate depiction of a fully functioning cult in the desert period, may depict a much more tempered estimation of the place of the land in Israelite religion. 150 Similar signs of diversity with regard to the place of the land can also be found in the Deuteronomistic material that spans the books from Deuteronomy through Kings, and dominates the book of Jeremiah as well. Obviously, then, the factors that influenced biblical attitudes toward the place of the land within the national-religious entity known as “Israel” were complex and diverse. Though chronological, geographical, and sociological factors undoubtedly influenced the many different biblical writers, the positions of these writers on the place of the land for Israel’s self-definition often cross the lines of these categories. Ultimately, I argue, we are dealing here with a primary theological issue that transcends and cannot be fully “explained” in terms of historical or sociological or political circumstances and categories. 151 A Holistic Perspective Even if it is difficult, as we have shown, to depict a unified biblical outlook on the place of the land in Israel’s religion, we can at least try to determine the boundaries within which the disagreement is conducted. It is important to emphasize that nowhere in biblical literature do we find an outright rejection of the importance of the land for the theological 150.  It is telling that nowhere in the Priestly literature of Genesis is there any anticipation of the establishment of the tabernacle, in spite of the fact that this event is depicted as the culmination of God’s plans for Israel in Exod 29:43–46. Correspondingly, much of the Priestly material outside Genesis ignores Genesis Priestly tradition. This may indicate that the Priestly material in Genesis is largely distinct from that of the other books. See ch. 5 below on this. 151.  A revealing example of this is attested in the literature of the Qumran sect, which saw itself as having “departed from the land of Judah,” in spite of the fact that Qumran is located in Judea. See E. G. Chazon, “Gather the Dispersed of Judah: Seeking a Return to the Land as a Factor in Jewish Identity of Late Antiquity,” in Heavenly Tablets: Interpretation, Identity and Tradition in Ancient Judaism (ed. L. R. LiDonnici and A. Lieber; JSJSup 119; Leiden: Brill, 2007), 159–75. Note the important strictures she raises concerning the neat distinctions often drawn between diaspora identity as opposed to Palestinian identity on pp. 174–75.

68

Chapter 1

definition of “Israel.” It is true that the land is sometimes silently ignored, implicitly subordinated, or effectively supplanted through the heightening of other values, especially the law. We should also recognize that symbolic reminders of the land, such as prayer directed toward the land (Dan 6:11– 12) or burial in the land (Gen 47:29–31; 50:25) may actually have served to stabilize and legitimate exilic life by creating a token sign of continuity with the land, through which the necessity of actual national life in the land was effectively neutralized. 152 Similarly, prophetic pronouncements of a future national restoration in the land at the “end of days” may often have served to perpetuate Israelite life outside the land (or inside the land, but as a dependent province) by deferring actual reconstitution of national life on the land to the indefinite and always impending messianic era. In spite of all this, nowhere is Israel’s life in the land categorically rejected as theologically superfluous. This stands in contrast to other sacred Israelite institutions that, though generally promoted and valued in the biblical world view, were not completely insulated from significant critique. In various parts of biblical literature, we can find the principled rejection of human kingship, of cultic ritual, 153 or even of the very temple structure itself (cf. Isa 66:1–2). None of the literature preserved in the Hebrew Bible, however, openly rejects the principle of Israel’s national life on the land. This is so even in the radically universal prophecy of Isa 19:19–25, where altars of Yhwh are said to be destined to be built for worship of the Lord in Egypt, and where Egypt and Assyria will become God’s people. Even here, implies the prophecy, the Lord will be worshiped in Egypt by the Egyptians (vv. 21–22). The Israelites will continue to worship God in the land of Israel (v. 25). Implicit denials of the actual importance of Israelite life in the land for the indefinite present never included explicit denials of its theoretical im-

152. For a fascinating discussion of the attitudes toward burial in the holy land in Second Temple and rabbinic literature, see Gafni, Land, Center and Diaspora, 79–95; idem, “Reinterment in the Land of Israel: Notes on the Origin and Development of the Custom,” Jerusalem Cathedra 1 (1981): 96–104. 153. On human kingship, see the classic work of M.  Buber, Kingship of God (trans. R.  Scheimann; New Jersey: Harper & Row, 1967). The prophets generally did not reject cultic ritual as inherently negative. Some, however, seem to have challenged the Priestly conception of cultic worship as divinely commanded, seeing it, rather, as a human initiative (Amos 5:25; Mic 6:6–8; Jer 7:21–23; see Ehrlich, Mikra ki-Pheschuto, 3.411). It would thus have been seen as basically unessential for religious life, not negative. At the same time, the fact that cultic worship had the potentially dangerous effect of perpetuating sinful behavior through the atonement it offered apparently made it a fundamentally problematic institution in some prophetic eyes. For a somewhat different assessment, see Kaufmann, The History of Israelite Religion, 1.6–7, 71–81. For a recent defense of the position of nineteenth-century liberal Protestant scholarship on the issue, see J. Barton, “The Prophets and the Cult,” in Temple and Worship in Biblical Israel: Proceedings of the Oxford Old Testament Seminar (ed. J. Day; London: T. & T. Clark, 2005), 111–22.

The Significance of the Land in Defining Israel

69

portance as the ultimate ideal. 154 On the other hand, we should also note that explicit and categorical statements to the effect that Israel’s religious existence outside the land is completely impossible are rarely in evidence either. Most of the original statements to this effect have been tempered and altered by editorial additions that allow at least some semblance of meaningful Israelite continuity outside of the land. 155 And when we seek to 154.  Some scholars have argued that some of the Servant passages of Second Isaiah reflect a conception of Israel’s election in the exile in terms of a mission to bring monotheism to the nations. In its more extreme formulations, the conception of Israel as a “light unto the nations” is interpreted as reflecting despair of hope in the return of the exiles to the land and the discovery of a new, “higher” mission for Israel, one of witness and suffering on behalf of the nations ( J. Lindblom, The Servant Songs in Deutero-Isaiah: A New Attempt to Solve an Old Problem [Lund: CWK Gleerup, 1951], 52–54, 70–73). The thesis is often predicated on the isolation of the Servant passages from the author(s) and/or historical context of the bulk of the second half of the book of Isaiah, where there is a clear and recurring anticipation of Israel’s imminent restoration in the land and its exaltation over the nations. (For a complete rejection of the isolation of the Servant songs from Second Isaiah, see T. N. D. Mettinger, A Farewell to the Servant Song: A Critical Examination of an Exegetical Axiom [Lund: CWK Gleerup, 1983].) Yet even if some of the “Servant” passages indeed once reflected a forfeiting of hopes for restoration in the land and the formulation of a new and alternative understanding of Israel’s purpose, and this seems most dubious, the effect of the incorporation of these passages within the book of Isaiah as a whole has been to neutralize that understanding thoroughly. For trenchant criticism of the mission idea in prophetic literature and Second Isaiah in particular, see Kaufmann (The History of Israelite Religion 4.43–44, 113–16, 501–3), who attributes this approach to the influence of the teachings of “modern assimilationist Judaism” (p. 114; perhaps referring, among others, to Hermann Cohen?). In discussing forms of universalism, Kaufmann importantly distinguishes between general aspirations for universal recognition of the Lord, prophetic proclamations that this recognition is part of God’s purpose that he will ultimately bring to pass, and the idea that Israel as a whole is charged with the duty of bringing this recognition to pass by actively proselytizing among the nations and that its election and dispersion were oriented toward this task. While the first two ideas are well attested in the Hebrew Bible, the latter, according to Kaufmann, is not. Israel will serve as a source of “light” to the nations only in wake of the restoration, which will be brought about by God. In any event, even if one could isolate a conception according to which Israel as a whole is charged with an active missionary task in the exile, there is no reason to see this as standing in conflict with hopes for imminent restoration of Israel in the land. For some relevant discussions of the “mission” in the Servant songs and in Second Isaiah generally, see S. H. Blank, “Studies in Deutero-Isaiah” HUCA 15 (1940): 1–46; P. A. H. de Boer, Second-Isaiah’s Message (OtSt 11; Leiden: Brill, 1956), 80–121; J. Blenkinsopp, “Second Isaiah: Prophet of Universalism,” JSOT 41 (1988): 83–103; idem, “The Servant and the Servants in Isaiah and the Formation of the Book,” in Writing and Reading the Scroll of Isaiah (2 vols.; VTSup 70; ed. C. C. Broyles and C. A. Evans; Leiden: Brill, 1997), 1.155–75; A. Gelston, “Universalism in Second Isaiah,” JTS 43 (1992): 377–98. For the understanding of the exile in terms of a universal mission to the nations in postbiblical and rabbinic literature, see the discussion of Gafni, Land, Center and Diaspora, 35–40, and the references cited there. 155.  One classic example is the addition of Deut 30:1–10. In vv. 15–20, we find the presentation of two alternatives, blessing and curse, identified with life and death, respectively. Israel is offered the choice between blessing and curse, between life and death. Since death is final, it seems that, if the choice were made for the curse, there would be no possible future. This finality is rectified with the addition of 30:1–10, where the blessing and

70

Chapter 1

understand the theology presented by the biblical corpus as a whole, 156 the present form of the text must carry much more weight than the possible or probable original implications of reconstructed independent documents. The bulk of the tension within the Bible when taken as a whole centers, then, on the degree to which Israel can meaningfully and significantly maintain its relationship with God while living outside the land of promise and on the degree to which this relationship is enhanced by communal or national life on the ancestral homeland. 157 From a holistic perspective, we may say that the Hebrew Bible presents us with two modes of Israelite existence. National life on the land is generally understood as reflecting the normative, ideal mode of Israel’s religious existence. It is only in the land that Israel fully lives in covenant with its God. Yet Israel can also lose hold of the land and fall away from this normative mode of national existence without, at the same time, ceasing to be Israel. In exile, however exile is defined, Israel takes on a new mode of existence. Israel here exists in a penultimate state. The relationship with God is fractured and incomplete. It is not, however, completely terminated. The exact elements that would have to be restored in order for the ideal relationship between Israel and its God to be deemed fully reconstituted are variously conceived. 158 None of these conceptions, however, excludes a recurse are presented not as mutually exclusive alternatives but as elements that can come in succession. This then allows for the possibility that an era of blessing can again return after the period of curse has been atoned. 156.  For a recent presentation of the theological underpinnings of a holistic approach to a study of biblical thought within a Jewish context, see E. Schweid, The Philosophy of the Bible as Foundation of Jewish Culture: Philosophy of Biblical Narrative (trans. L. Levin; Boston: Academic Studies Press, 2008), 1–43. 157.  While earlier prophets and authors from the exilic period hardly fathomed the possibility of a meager return of exiles to the land and a rebuilding of the temple that would not constitute a full and glorious restoration of the God-Israel relationship, later prophets increasingly sensed that the actual achievements in the Persian period of return and rebuilding did not, in and of themselves, bring about the full restoration of the covenant relationship. See P. R. Ackroyd, Exile and Restoration: A Study of Hebrew Thought of the Sixth Century b.c. (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1975), 253–56; Gregory, “The Postexilic Exile in Third Isaiah,” 475–96; R. Mason, “The Prophets of the Restoration,” in Israel’s Prophetic Tradition: Essays in Honour of Peter R. Ackroyd (ed. R. Coggins, A. Phillips, and M. Knibb; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982), 137–54. 158.  Contra D. K. Stuart (“The Prophetic Ideal of Government in the Restoration Era,” in Israel’s Apostasy and Restoration: Essays in Honor of Roland K.  Harrison [ed. A.  Gileadi; Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1988], 283–92), who argues that the prophetic material presents a consistent outlook according to which all governmental authority is envisioned as deriving from the Davidic king. For an attempt to highlight the diversity of prophetic outlooks on the form of government envisioned for the restoration, see Blenkinsopp, A History of Prophecy in Israel, 244–45; R. Mason, “The Messiah in the Postexilic Old Testament Literature,” in King and Messiah in Israel and the Ancient Near East: Proceedings of the Oxford Old Testament Seminar (ed. J. Day; JSOTSup 270; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1998), 338–64. See also Wolff, “The Kerygma of the Deuteronomistic Historical Work,” who argues convincingly that the Deuteronomistic History (or, in my view more precisely:

The Significance of the Land in Defining Israel

71

turn of the people to the land of their ancestors. Communal life in the land of Israel is a necessary though insufficient component of Israel’s ideal mode of religious existence. Of course, the same thing can be said of obedience to the law. This too constitutes a necessary though insufficient component of Israel’s ideal mode of existence. The question how these two elements rank in significance in relation to one another is simply another way of stating the very question addressed by this chapter. 159 An Inner Tension in Biblical Faith It seems fairly accurate to say in light of all the above that biblical literature, when taken as a whole, exhibits a somewhat ambivalent and dialectical attitude toward the degree of significance accorded to Israel’s life on the land. One way of understanding this ambivalence is to see it as reflecting a tension between the understanding of “Israel” as a primarily territorial category and the understanding of “Israel” as a primarily communal or ethnic category. Or, to put this in more explicitly theological terms, the ambivalent attitude toward the land reflects a tension between the understanding of Israel’s Lord as a primarily territorial God and the understanding of Israel’s Lord primarily as a God of a covenant community. If Israel and its God are national-territorial concepts, then the most significant element in the God-Israel relationship is the presence of both inside the land. If Israel and its God are bound chiefly by covenant rather than territory, then the most significant element in the God-Israel relationship is the living out of the covenant through obedience to the law. Emphasis on Israel as a covenant community bound to the Lord through its fealty to his laws sustains an Israelite identity that is basically unbound by issues of territory. There is, however, another possible way of understanding the somewhat equivocal approach toward the land that is reflected in the Hebrew Bible. This approach may be seen as reflecting an inherent tension between the primal character of Israelite faith as a national religion with deep roots in a particular territory and the aspiration to construct Israelite faith on absolute foundations that ultimately transcend national categories, both territorial and ethnic. 160 It is for this reason, perhaps, that as soon as the text significant parts of the Deuteronomistic History) views the Davidic covenant as having come to an end, while at the same time holding out hope for some kind of national restoration in the land. 159.  This issue was discussed and debated in rabbinic times. See M. Guttmann, ‫מפתח‬ ‫( התלמוד‬3 vols.; Budapest: Kahan, 1906–30), 3.32–36; Gafni, Land, Center and Diaspora, 58–78. 160.  This ambiguity is already reflected in the relationship of the patriarchal history in Genesis 12ff. to the universal history depicted in the first 11 chapters of Genesis. Upon one reading, the progression implies that the very creation of Israel is something of a divine afterthought. His original intentions were focused on humanity in general. Only when the divine experiment with humanity continually proved to be a disaster did God decide to focus his concerns on a single nation as a vehicle for mankind as a whole. Variations

72

Chapter 1

highlights the national-territorial dimension of Israelite existence, a counterreaction to this is encountered in the diminution of the centrality of the land. True, this counterreaction is, to a great extent, a pragmatic survival tactic. If too much weight is placed on the land, Israelite faith will not be able to survive and endure outside the land. 161 Yet, as indicated above, the limitation of the centrality of the land in the Hebrew Bible is not born of the nationalist survival instinct alone. It does not merely reflect the need, in light of the exile, to speak of God as people-centered or covenant-centered rather than land-centered. It also appears to reflect the genuine evolution of the self-understanding of Israelite faith in terms of universal truth. It should be recalled that the heightened emphasis that is placed on the law is often coupled with a heightened understanding of the law in terms of a universal code of ethics. 162 The eclipse of the centrality of the land by the law may thus represent a kind of universalistic trend that co­incides with the understanding of Yhwh not only as the God of the covenant comof this reading are advocated by M. Buber (On the Bible: Eighteen Studies [ed. N. N. Glatzer; New York: Schocken, 1982], 27, 86–87), von Rad (Old Testament Theology, Volume One, 161– 65), and H. W. Wolff (“The Kerygma of the Yahwist,” Int 20 [1966]: 131–58). Though this understanding of the progression of the narrative is plausible, it is hardly unambiguous. If the election of Israel is a divine afterthought, it is nonetheless extremely long and tenacious in comparison with God’s supposed alternative, earlier plans. An alternative reading would see God’s purposes as focused particularly upon Israel from the very beginning of creation. Thus, though he sanctified the Sabbath already at creation, God refrained from revealing it until the formation of the covenant with Israel. Following this reading, Israel is not chosen primarily as a vehicle for bringing blessing to the nations, though this may be an additional positive byproduct of the election. Rather, God’s interests are directed primarily on Israel from the beginning as a principal end in itself. The universal background is depicted specifically for the purpose of highlighting the divine grace of the special election. There is no election without peoples from whom to elect. No explicit reason is given in Genesis for the election of Israel from all the nations. For a reading of the first chapters of Genesis as oriented toward Israel from the beginning, see Naḥmanides’ commentary to Gen 1:1; and cf. S. Gesundheit, “Der Anfang der Tora: Ansätze jüdischer Exegeten zur einer theologischen Interpretation der Urgeschichte,” ZAW 119 (2007): 600–610. For a nuanced reading of the issue, see D. J. A. Clines, The Theme of the Pentateuch ( JSOTSup 10; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1997), 83–86. See also the insightful discussion of S. Japhet (The Ideology of the Book of Chronicles, 116–24) concerning the outlook of the Chronicler within the context of apocryphal and rabbinic views. She cites various sources that explicitly express the understanding that Israel’s destiny was determined from the time of creation and that the nations were created on behalf of Israel. Chronicles, according to Japhet, implicitly reflects a similar outlook. For the divergent understandings of election in relation to creation in rabbinic literature, cf. E. E. Urbach, The Sages: Their Concepts and Beliefs (trans. I. Abrahams; Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1987), 525–54. 161. This would explain why, for example, the recollection of the conquest in Ps 109:6–8 is immediately followed by a reference to the eternity of the commandments. Similarly, the assertion of Deut 29:28 that the responsibility to fulfill the commandments “for all eternity” comes right after the prophecy of exile in v. 27. 162.  See n. 122 above. For the continuation of this trend in the Second Temple period, see G.  E. Sterling, “Universalizing the Particular: Natural Law in Second Temple Jewish Ethics,” Studia Philonica Annual 15 (2003): 64–80.

The Significance of the Land in Defining Israel

73

munity but also as the single God of mankind. The subordination of the conquest theme to the exodus theme also reflects more than the need to survive outside the land by presenting a basis for group identity that is not dependent on territorial categories. The theme of the conquest is thoroughly nationalistic and would naturally serve to legitimate ethnocentric legislation, were it adopted as the central founding element of the national covenant. The elevation of the exodus theme instead of the conquest theme allowed for the legitimating of the universal values of care for the very stranger whose well-being would be compromised by an accentuation of the conquest theme. The elevated usage of the exodus theme as a didactic tool in preaching concern for the stranger is not the product of the exile, for the non-Israelite stranger exists only in the land. The tendency to limit the centrality of the conquest theme and to highlight the exodus theme is surely rooted in preexilic teaching. The more biblical religion associated itself with the universal teachings of Wisdom about the proper path of life for man as man, the more difficult it became to justify the need to associate this teaching exclusively with one particular plot of land and one particular group of people. The exodus theme was highlighted because it was best suited to serve the ethical and universal tendencies latent in much of the national religion. 163 On the other hand, the total diminution of the national-territorial element of Israel’s religion was thoroughly inconceivable for the editors of the Bible. The conversion of the land into an abstract symbol of spiritual entities, as found in the New Testament 164 and in parts of postbiblical literature is not encountered in the Hebrew Bible. 165 On the contrary, the centrality of the national-territorial dimension was continually reasserted whenever there was a threatening sense that it might become lost or disappear from Israelite consciousness. 163.  On the latent universalism of the early Israelite outlook, see Kaufmann, The History of Israelite Religion, 2.438–47. On the transition to prophetic universalism, see 3.253– 56, 257–64. 164.  See Matt 5:5 and Rom 4:13. For a comprehensive discussion of the land in the New Testament, see W. D. Davies, The Gospel and the Land: Early Christianity and Jewish Territorial Doctrine (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1974), 161–376. For later Christian interpretations of the land in terms of “eternal life,” see R. L. Wilken, The Land Called Holy: Palestine in Christian History and Thought (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1992), 126–48 and elsewhere. 165.  Testament of Job 33:3–5. Odes Sol. 9:18, 21. Philo, QG 3.1–2; QE 2.13; Abr. 68. Mishnah Sanh. 10:1. See Weinfeld, The Promise of the Land, 213–18; B.  Halpern-Amaru, “Land Theology in Philo and Josephus,” in The Land of Israel: Jewish Perspectives (ed. L. A. Hoffman; Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1986), 65–96; Wilken, The Land Called Holy, 34–37. See, however, the important strictures of D. Mendels, The Land of Israel as a Political Concept in Hasmonean Literature (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1987), 4–8. On the metaphorical use of the land in later Jewish sources, see M. Idel, “The Land of Israel in Medieval Kabbalah,” in The Land of Israel: Jewish Perspectives (ed. L. A. Hoffman; Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1986), 170–87.

74

Chapter 1

Most instructive for an appreciation of this dialectical “to-and-fro” dynamic is the vision of Isaiah regarding the future Temple Mount. The prophet can envision multitudes of peoples following the ways of the Lord at the end of days but only when they stream into Jerusalem to receive his instruction and then peacefully return to their lands outside the territory of Jacob (Isa 2:1–4 and the parallel in Mic 4:1–4). It is specifically in this eschatological vision of the harmonious consolidation of all of mankind under the universal teachings of the God of Zion that the indispensable role of Israel’s territorial center is upheld and its national distinctiveness vouchsafed. This national-territorial integrity is not only implied in the return of the nations from their pilgrimage to “dwell each under his vine and fig tree” (Mic 4:4); it is made explicit in the probably secondary clarification of Mic 4:5, “For all the nations shall walk each in the name of his god, but we will walk in the name of the Lord our God for all eternity.” This passage is often understood as referring to the pre-eschatological present. According to this interpretation, the verse emphasizes Israel’s obligation to worship the Lord on its own until the dawning of the final universal era. 166 However, the verse continues to employ the same imperfect tense that is employed throughout the passage, and there is no indication of a shift to pre-eschatological times. More naturally, then, the addition refers to the end of days and insists that, even then, the nations’ acceptance of the sovereignty of the Lord will not signify an end of the worship of their gods. 167 Instead, when the nations return to their lands, they will continue to worship their national gods, which constitute their lot provided by the Lord (cf. Deut 4:19). Israel alone will continually and exclusively walk in the path of the Lord so that the distinction between the people of Israel and the nations of the world will never be dissolved. While Mic 4:5 adds a significant qualification to the original eschatological vision, this should not be seen as totally contravening the initial message. Israel’s territorial integrity and special closeness to the divine center is clearly upheld in the original text as well. In the continuation of Isa 2, we find another interesting progression of thought. In vv. 5–9, the prophet speaks of “his land,” the land of Israel, as filled with the symbols of pride: horses and chariots, endless treasures of gold and silver, idols and soothsayers. In the verses that follow, however, God “comes forth to overawe the earth” (vv. 19, 21). The idolatry that God sets out to remove is in every corner of the universe, and the arrogant 166.  Mays, Micah, 99. 167.  See the comments of A. B. Ehrlich on this passage in his Mikra kiPheschuto, ad loc. The LXX apparently seeks to minimize the effect of this verse by translating, “for all the people will walk each one in his own way. Let us therefore walk in the name of the Lord our God until that age and beyond it.” For an analysis of the relation of the texts in Isaiah and Micah along somewhat different lines, see M. A. Sweeny, Form and Intertextuality in Prophetic and Apocalyptic Literature (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck 2005), 210–21.

The Significance of the Land in Defining Israel

75

pride he goes out to humble is in no way limited to the land of vv. 5–9 or the people of Israel. It appears that contemplation about “the land” could merge almost imperceptibly into contemplation about “the earth.” 168 The same phenomenon is attested, for example, in Ps 10:16, 18. While the psalmist in v.  16 expresses his nationalistic confidence that “the nations will perish from his land,” he concludes in v. 18 with the universal affirmation that God will “terrify the haughty from the earth.” 169 The land can thus become a microcosm or a paradigm for the universe at large without, however, eliminating its national significance. It appears that the nationalterritorial aspect of biblical theology is here paradoxically both affirmed and superceded at the same time. The dialectical and conflicted approach to the place of the land for the definition of “Israel” continued to express itself in later Jewish literature, 170 especially when taken as a whole, throughout the various ages. 171 Indeed, 168. Cf. Gafni, Land, Center and Diaspora, 64 and n. 12 for this variation in rabbinic literature and in Acts. See also A. de Guglielmo, “The Fertility of the Land in the Messianic Prophecies,” CBQ 19 (1957): 306–11 and n. 8. 169.  The formulation of Ps 10:18 is not entirely clear. Many commentators connect the phrase ‫ לערץ אנוש מן הארץ‬with the preceding ‫ בל יוסיף עוד‬and translate: ‘that man from the earth no longer continue to terrorize’, or the like. This, however, leaves the verb ‫לערוץ‬ without an object and forces one to take the entire phrase ‫ אנוש מן הארץ‬as the subject, even though the psalm continually speaks of ‫ אנוש‬alone. It seems better to take ‫לערץ אנוש מן‬ ‫ הארץ‬as parallel to ‫ לשפוט יתום ודך‬and to take God as the subject. We may compare 9:20–21 (the partially preserved acrostic proves that chs. 9–10 are one continuous psalm), where God is called upon to place “terror” in the hearts of the nations, also referred to as ‫אנוש‬ (and see 9:6, where God “roars” at the nations). We should also compare the parallel we draw between ‫ אבדו גוים מארצו‬and ‫ לערץ אנוש מן הארץ‬in 10:16, 18 with the progression of thought in 9:4–10. The text first speaks of the retreat of the nations, the national enemies of the psalmist and the Lord, and continues to speak of the divine rule over the earth (‫)תבל‬, which includes particular aid to the downtrodden. The parallel clearly indicates that 10:18, which also mentions the salvation of the downtrodden, also identifies nationalterritorial independence with the removal of tyranny from the earth. The eschatological expectation of the banishment of sinners from the earth is expressed in Ps 104:35, ‫יתמו‬ ‫‘ חטאים מן הארץ ורשעים עוד אינם‬may sinners cease from the earth and the wicked be no more’. In light of this parallel, we suggest seeing the phrase ‫ בל יוסיף עוד‬of 10:18 as belonging at the end of the sentence and render: ‘to terrorize haughty man from the earth so that he continues [i.e., exists] no more’. 170.  See the important articles of A. Ravitsky, “Land of Desire and Terror: The Ambivalent Attitude to the Land of Israel in Jewish Sources,” in The Land of Israel in Modern Jewish Thought (ed. A. Ravitsky; Jerusalem: Yad Ben-Zvi, 1998) 1–41 [Hebrew]; and “Waymarks to Zion: The History of an Idea,” in The Land of Israel in Medieval Jewish Thought (ed. M. Hallamish and A. Ravitzky; Jerusalem: Magnes, 1991) 1–39 [Hebrew]. For aterritorial tendencies in rabbinic literature, see D. R. Schwartz, “From Alexandria to Rabbinic Literature to Zion: The Jews’ Departure from History and Who It Is Who Returns to It?” in Zionism and the Return to History: A Reappraisal (ed. S. N. Eisenstadt and M. Lissak; Jerusalem: Yad Ben-Zvi, 1999), 43–44 [Hebrew]. 171.  Highly instructive is the liturgy of the “Blessings after the Meal.” The first benediction is thoroughly universalistic in character, praising God as the one who “feeds the entire world.” The individual worshiper thus identifies him/herself with all living creatures

76

Chapter 1

the tensions first reflected in the Hebrew Bible concerning the place of the land for the definition of “Israel” continue to dominate contemporary Jewish discourse concerning the place of the State of Israel for Judaism and Jewish identity throughout the Jewish world. 172 Thus, the debate that began in biblical times continues to engage the minds of the “People of the Book,” and, indeed, to demarcate sharp divisions between various sectors within those people “until this very day.” on the face of the earth and understands his/her own experience of sustenance as deriving from God’s provision and concern for all earthly life. Obviously, this understanding of the experience of sustenance is totally unrelated to a nationalistic orientation. As soon as the universalistic aspect of the divinity is highlighted, however, the second, land-centered benediction is recited. The second benediction thanks God for giving the ancestors “a precious, fertile and expansive land,” and concludes with a prayer of thanks “for the land and for the food.” The food is understood here as the produce of the land of Israel and is therefore experienced as a special grace to Israel. In this context, the benediction quotes from Deuteronomy: “you shall eat and be sated and bless the Lord your God for the good land that he gave you” (8:10). Obviously, the benediction was not restricted to usage in the land of Israel and was indeed recited throughout the generations with reference to food that was produced, in actual fact, in other lands. The combination of the benedictions nicely reflects the dialectic we found in biblical literature. The universalistic trend is strongly affirmed but at the same time not allowed to sever the national connection to the land. Even in the depths of the exile, the consumption of food is experienced, at least on one level, as deriving from the bestowal of the land. At the same time, the nationalist element is also tempered. In the formulation of the second benediction over the land, we read: “For all these, Lord our God, we thank you and bless you; your name shall be blessed in the mouth of every creature forever and ever, as is written, ‘You shall eat and be sated and bless the Lord your God for the good land that he gave you’ (Deut 8:10).” What is striking about this formulation is not only the return to the universalistic theme (“your name shall be blessed by every creature”) within the very context of the second, nationalistic benediction but its juxtaposition with the proof-text from Deuteronomy concerning Israel’s blessing over the land. Apparently, the verse in Deuteronomy is understood here not only as a reference to the Israelites who are obligated (according to rabbinic interpretation) to gives thanks for the land of Israel (“thou shalt bless the Lord your God for the good land which he gave you”), but also as a messianic vision concerning the future destiny of all creatures of the universe who will eventually bless God for the gift of the earth (“you will all bless the Lord for the good earth which he gave you”). (For the tendency to interpret law as messianic promise already in the Hebrew Bible, see Gregory, “The Postexilic Exile in Third Isaiah,” 485–86.) No sooner is the nationalistic land-orientation restored to centrality in the second benediction than the universalistic trend qualifies it once again— or, perhaps better, paradoxically merges with it. 172.  The literature on the place of the State of Israel in contemporary Jewish thinking both within Israel itself and throughout the world is vast. For a concise overview, see A. M. Eisen, “Off the Center: The Concept of the Land of Israel in Modern Jewish Thought,” in The Land of Israel: Jewish Perspectives (ed. L.  A. Hoffman; Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1986), 263–96. See also the collection of articles in A. Ravitsky, ed., The Land of Israel in 20th Century Thought ( Jerusalem: Yad Ben-Zvi, 2004) [Hebrew].

Chapter 2

Sinai and Shechem: Two Covenants of Foundation At what point in the history of the tribes of Israel were those tribes thought of as being formally established as the “people of the Lord”? At what point were they expected to maintain strict and exclusive allegiance to “Yhwh the God of Israel”? To be more specific, were they thought of as the people of the Lord before the period of the conquest and settlement in the land, or after? Was the covenant relationship established on Israelite soil, or was it founded outside the land? This question that we are asking, we should immediately clarify, is not historical. The complex historical reality lying behind the emergence of Israel as Yhwh’s people is beyond our present purview. That which interests us here is not history but historiography; not the reality of the past but how the past was represented and remembered. The significance of the question with regard to the geographical setting of the formation of the covenant for the subject of this book and for an understanding of how Israel understood its own identity is plain enough to see. A territorial setting for the founding covenant implies that life in the land is a constitutive component of the covenant relationship and of Israelite identity. A setting for the foundation of Israel outside the land implies, in contrast, an understanding of “Israel” as a supraterritorial, theological category that is not essentially altered by geographical vicissitudes. In this chapter, we compare and contrast the Sinai covenant as presented in Exod 19–24 with the covenant at Shechem as related in Josh 24. Following the investigations of J.  Licht and M.  Weinfeld, 1 I understand both of these texts to be specimens of a literary genre found in various ancient civilizations, the “foundation tradition,” which depicts the decisive circumstances in which the nation (or tribe, settlement, city, etc.) was first founded. These two “foundation traditions,” I further contend, reflect opposing theological conceptions of the meaning of “Israel.” A great deal of scholarly attention has been devoted to a comparison of the Sinai covenant 1. J. Licht, “The Biblical Claim about the Foundation,” Shnaton 4 (1980): 98–128 [Hebrew]; M.  Weinfeld, “Temple Scroll or King’s Law,” Shnaton 3 (1978): 214–37 [Hebrew]; idem, The Promise of the Land: The Inheritance of the Land of Canaan by the Israelites (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993), 1–51; idem, From Joshua to Josiah: Turning Points in the History of Israel from the Conquest of the Land to the Fall of Judah ( Jerusalem: Magnes, 1992), 59–62, 134–39 [Hebrew].

77

78

Chapter 2

with the covenant with David at Zion. Scholars have analyzed the conceptual underpinnings of each of these covenants and have sought to elucidate the possible relationships between them through various historical and theological lenses. 2 Much less consideration has been given, particularly in the theological realm, to the ways in which the covenant at Sinai and the covenant at Shechem may be compared and related. 3 However, the covenant at Shechem is much more suited to a comparative analysis with the Sinai covenant than is the covenant at Zion. While the covenant at Zion is chiefly a covenant between the deity and a monarch concerning dynastic rule, the covenant at Shechem, like the Sinai covenant, relates to the people as a whole. Both of these covenants are mediated by a prophetic figure and have little place for an earthly king. Furthermore, while the covenant at Zion is of the promissory type, the covenant at Shechem, like the Sinai covenant, is of the obligatory type. 4 A comparison of the Sinai covenant with the covenant at Shechem may thus be at least as promising and potentially enlightening as the comparison with the Zion covenant.

The Deuteronomic Conception of the Founding of Israel Before we proceed to the main part of the chapter—a theological comparison of the Sinai covenant with the Shechem covenant as foundation traditions—we begin with a consideration of the conception of the founding of Israel in the book of Deuteronomy. A consideration of the question of the foundation of Israel as the people of the Lord in Deuteronomy is of fundamental importance. Deuteronomy presents us with the most explicit and emphatic claims concerning the precise time and place of Israel’s foundation. It thus provides us with a model with which to understand the significance of other biblical texts that appear to reflect alternative claims concerning Israel’s foundation, even if these other claims are expressed in somewhat less insistent or decisive terms. The analysis of Deuteronomy’s conception of Israel’s foundation allows us to appreciate the fact that the question of where and when Israel was founded as the people of the Lord was indeed answered in diverse ways in ancient Israel, since Deuteronomy itself clearly diverges from the standard 2.  For a good theologically oriented discussion, see J. D. Levenson, Sinai and Zion (Minneapolis: Winston, 1985). 3. A significant contribution in this realm was made by A.  Toeg, Lawgiving at Sinai ( Jerusalem: Magnes, 1977) 108–17 [Hebrew]. Early critics paid much attention to the story of Josh 24 in terms of what it might teach us about the historical emergence of Israel in the land in relation to the Canaanites. See, for example, M. Y. Bin-Gorion (Berdichevsky), Sinai and Gerizim (2 vols.; Tel Aviv: Moreshet Micah Yosef, 1962–63), 2.202 [Hebrew]; H. H. Rowley, From Joseph to Joshua: Biblical Traditions in the Light of Archaeology (London: Oxford University Press, 1950), 125–29. 4.  For the distinction between these covenant types, see Weinfeld, The Promise of the Land, 222–64.

Sinai and Shechem: Two Covenants of Foundation

79

conception of Israel’s foundation at Sinai. The shadow that the Sinai tradition casts on the present form of the Torah is so imposing that it has been difficult for students of the Bible to imagine that alternative claims for the foundation of Israel were ever raised. A study of the foundation claims of Deuteronomy makes it clear, I believe, that Sinai’s giant shadow was not always quite as all-pervasive as it eventually became. Deuteronomy’s Two-Tiered Covenant Structure The book of Deuteronomy is basically the story of the covenant made between God and the Israelites on the Plains of Moab. This covenant is presented as a continuation, of sorts, of the event that occurred 40 years earlier at Horeb, or Mt. Sinai (Deut 5). 5 In spite of the central place that the Sinai tradition holds in the Torah, for Deuteronomy, it is the event on the Plains of Moab that is continually referred to as the foundational event (Deut 26:16–19; 29:9–12). 6 Deuteronomy 27:9 reads, “Hear, O Israel: Today you have become the people of the Lord your God.” It is today, at the covenant of the Plains of Moab, that the Israelites become the Lord’s people. It is important to emphasize that the text does not depict a renewal of a foundation that was already forged at Sinai 40 years earlier. It is only now that the foundation is forged. There is a consistency to this unique stance of Deuteronomy. As noted by O.  Eissfeldt, 7 according to Deuteronomy, God had intended to relay all of his laws directly to the people at Sinai. The people, however, after having heard the Ten Commandments directly from God, asked Moses to 5. Deuteronomy consistently employs the name Horeb with reference to the traditions associated with Sinai. For the sake of convenience, we shall employ the terms interchangeably. 6. See A.  Rofé, Deuteronomy: Issues and Interpretation (London: T. & T.  Clark, 2002), 193–204, who believes that Deut 28:69 is not the postscript to that which precedes it but the heading of the material that follows. Since the verse states, “These [= the following] are the words of the covenant that the Lord commanded Moses to make with the children of Israel in the land of Moab aside from the covenant that he made with them at Horeb,” Rofé understands the covenant of Horeb to consist of all the material preceding this, beginning with Deut 4:44. This position, however, is untenable. Deut 4:44–49 clearly places the Mosaic teaching on the Plains of Moab. The continuous reference to the fact that the Israelites are crossing the Jordan and entering the land (9:1; 11:8, 31) clearly implies that the laws are being taught on the Plains of Moab and are not part of the covenant made at Horeb. As we note in the text, the covenant at Horeb is explicitly defined in Deuteronomy as consisting of the Decalogue. Even if one assumes that Moses is depicted as repeating on the Plains of Moab all the laws given at Horeb, it still remains clear that the “today” of Deut 26:16–19 and 27:9–10, when the Israelites are formed as the people of the Lord, is recited 40 years later on the Plains of Moab. The same must be true of the “today” of the blessings and curses of Deut 28. Thus, even if we accept the position that Deut 28:69 forms the heading to the material that follows, we cannot take this as an indication that what precedes it is thought of as the covenant of Horeb. 7. O.  Eissfeldt, The Old Testament: An Introduction (trans P.  R. Ackroyd; New York: Harper & Row, 1965), 220–23.

80

Chapter 2

receive the remainder of the divine law without them and affirmed that they would obey it when he related it to them (Deut 5:19–24). Though Moses indeed received the remaining laws from God at Sinai, there is no mention in Deuteronomy of Moses’ reciting these laws to the people at the foot of the mountain. In fact, according to Deut 5:27, Moses made sure that the people at the foot of the mountain dispersed and returned to their homes. This stands in direct contrast with the depiction in Exodus. In the book of Exodus, the Israelites wait at the foot of the mountain until Moses returns (20:18–21). Moses then recites the laws to the people, writes a “covenant book,” and carries out a covenantal ceremony (24:3–8). Deuteronomy’s insistence that the people were dispersed indicates that, in its conception, the “additional” Sinaitic laws (that is, the laws beyond the Decalogue) were first related by Moses to the people 40 years later, on the Plains of Moab—the “today” of Moses’ speech. 8 The transition of Deuteronomy’s narrative from Deut 5:28 (“But you remain here with me, and I will give you the whole Instruction—the laws and the rules—that you shall impart to them, for them to observe in the land that I am giving them to possess”) to Deut 6:1 (“Now this is the Instruction—the laws and the rules—that the Lord your God has commanded [me] to impart to you, to be observed in the land that you are about to cross into and occupy”) makes this intention fairly clear. In sum, only the Decalogue is presented in Deuteronomy as Moses’ repetition on the Plains of Moab of that which Israel heard at Sinai. The rest of the law received by Moses at Sinai is related to Israel on the Plains of Moab for the first time. 9 Deuteronomy’s restriction of the material that Israel learned at Sinai to the Decalogue alone coincides well with the unique status that the book bestows upon the covenant of the Plains of Moab. Since it was only on the Plains of Moab that the people heard and knowingly accepted the full extent of the Sinaitic law, only then and there did they “officially” become the people of God. 10 Before this, the relationship was, at best, incomplete, being founded upon a hearing of the Decalogue alone and a vague com8.  Deuteronomy 1:18 seems to reflect a different outlook, according to which Moses taught the people law sometime before they had left Sinai. Deuteronomy 12:21 may possibly refer back to this. 9.  The phrase ‫ משנה תורה‬in Deut 17:18 does not indicate that the entire deuteronomic law is a repetition. As noted by J. H. Tigay (Deuteronomy [JPS Torah Commentary; Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1996], 168), the text indicates only that the king is to make a “copy” of the law. Note that the Decalogue of Deuteronomy twice employs the phrase “as the Lord your God has commanded you” (Deut 5:12, 16) meaning, “as God told you at Sinai.” The other laws are referred to with the phrase ‫אשר אנכי מצוה אתכם היום‬, indicating that they have not been commanded until now. In the entire remainder of the Deuteronomic Law Code, the phrase ‫ אלהיך‬′‫ כאשר צוך ה‬is employed with reference to only one non-Decalogue law (Deut 20:17), and in this case it refers back to the deuteronomic law of 7:1–2, in a late attempt to harmonize the previously cited law of Deut 20:10–14 therewith. 10.  See also Tigay, ibid., 251.

Sinai and Shechem: Two Covenants of Foundation

81

mitment to obey further instructions. 11 Deuteronomy 5:24 (21) describes the Sinai revelation as the “day of the assembly” (cf. 9:10; 10:4) when Israel learned, upon hearing the Ten Commandments, that man can survive hearing God’s voice. After this, as we noted, the assembly was dispersed. There is no reference to the day of assembly as the time that Israel received the Book of the Covenant and became God’s people in a formal covenant ceremony. Deuteronomy’s restriction of the Sinai event to the divine declaration of the Decalogue allows for the disappearance of the Sinaitic “Book of the Covenant” (Exod 24:7) from Deuteronomy’s historical memory. Deuteronomy thus replaces the Sinaitic “book of covenant” with its own “book of Torah,” which is clearly some form of Deuteronomy itself (17:18; 29:20, 26; 31:9, 11, 26). Only the covenant of the Plains of Moab, it seems, is worthy of taking the form of a book. Even the single element that distinguishes the Sinai event, the giving of the Ten Commandments, is repeated to Israel on the Plains of Moab and thus incorporated, in essence, into this later covenant. The tension between Deuteronomy’s story of the founding of Israel and the story as told in the book of Exodus is further highlighted by the fact that the material in the Sinai pericope of Exod 19–24 gives no indication that an additional covenant other than the Sinai covenant is either required or anticipated. According to Exod 24:3–8, Moses related to Israel at Sinai “all the commands of the Lord,” and the people accepted there “all the things that the Lord commanded.” Since Moses delivered to the people at Sinai all the laws that he received there and immediately made a covenant based on them, there is little room in Exodus for any additional covenant based on the laws deriving from Sinai. Moses sprinkles on the people “the blood of the covenant that the Lord now makes with you.” 12 In Exod 19:5–6, the Lord’s offering of his covenant to Israel is connected to its establishment as his sacred nation and kingdom of priests. The fact that the story of the golden calf occurs immediately thereafter reflects the clear understanding that, before the Sinai covenant, this episode would not have constituted sin. 13 All the evidence from the book of Exodus clearly indicates that the 11. It must be emphasized that the covenant on the Plains of Moab is not the first covenant of which Deuteronomy speaks. Though there is no actual depiction of a covenant ceremony that took place at Sinai (as depicted in Exod 24:3–8), the giving of the Decalogue at Sinai is referred to as a “covenant” (4:13, 23; 5:2–3; 9:9; 28:69). This is indicated especially by Deut 4:13, “And he told you his covenant that he commanded you to do, the ten words, and he wrote it on two stone tablets.” However, at least in this verse, it is a covenant that is “commanded” rather than established. There are no divine promises or commitments in Deuteronomy’s Sinai “covenant.” 12.  The understanding that the one and only founding covenant is the one at Sinai is also implied in Exod 34:10–27. 13.  The Priestly literature seems to make a slight shift in this conception by moving the foundation of the God-Israel relationship to the establishment of the tabernacle (cf. Exod 29:44–46).

82

Chapter 2

covenant at Sinai and no other covenant constituted the foundation of the Israelites as the people of the Lord. The question of when and where Israel became the people of the Lord was thus answered in different ways in Exodus and Deuteronomy. Though Deuteronomy incorporates the Sinai tradition in its overall scheme of the formation of Israel, that tradition is now deprived of its independent and self-sufficient status, and a significant part of the weight is now situated on the Plains of Moab. 14 The deuteronomic conception of the founding of Israel as the people of the Lord on the Plains of Moab is explicit, emphatic, and unique. And it clearly stands in tension with the conception reflected in the book of Exodus, which implicitly locates the foundation of Israel at the site of Mt. Sinai. Interpretations of Deuteronomy’s Unique Presentation of the Founding of Israel The main question that now poses itself is this: Why did the author of Deuteronomy choose such an awkward presentation of the giving of the law and the founding of the people? Why did he choose to depict Moses as delaying the teaching of the additional divine law beyond the Decalogue for 40 years until Israel arrived on the Plains of Moab? Why did he not follow the Exodus story and have Moses teach the additional laws at the time that he received them, at Sinai? 15 The deuteronomic author in any event 14.  Though Deuteronomy crowns the Plains of Moab as the site of the founding of the people of the Lord after an initial covenant made at Sinai, the position of the book is actually even more complex than it appears already. The founding event on the Plains of Moab is actually depicted as part of a broad, three-tiered continuum, with its beginning in the past, at Sinai or Horeb, and its completion in the future, at Mt. Ebal, in the vicinity of Shechem (Deut 11:29–30; ch. 27; cf. Josh 8:30–35). The Sinai pericope in the book of Exodus, of course, makes no reference to this future event. According to the deuteronomic texts, stones were to be set up at Mt. Ebal that were to be inscribed with the words of the Torah taught by Moses on the Plains of Moab. These stones were to be constructed into an altar. The sacrifices to be offered there and the blessings and curses that were to be recited there are apparently thought of as the solemn conclusion to the covenant that is entered into on the Plains of Moab. They are surely not depicted as part of an independent covenant rite. According to the clearly Deuteronomistic section of Josh 8:30–35, Joshua read at this ceremony all the words of the Torah that Moses commanded. Similarly, Deut 27:3, 8 has Moses instruct the Israelites to write on the stones “all the words of this Torah,” clearly referring to the Torah of Deuteronomy. Though Deuteronomy thus depicts the ceremony at Mt. Ebal as the conclusion to the covenant of the Plains of Moab, there should be little doubt that, as with regard to Deuteronomy’s use of the Sinai covenant, here too, Deuteronomy incorporates an earlier “foundation tradition” that originally stood totally on its own. For further discussion, see n. 32 below (p. 89). 15. See the important and suggestive work of B.  M. Levinson, Deuteronomy and the Hermeneutics of Legal Innovation (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997). Levinson, however, fails to grapple with the difficulty we raise here. Levinson asserts (p. 153): “By circumscribing Sinai and silencing the Covenant Code, the redactors of Deuteronomy sought to clear a textual space for Moab as the authentic—and exclusive—supplement to the original revelation (Deut 28:69). It therefore represents a major irony of literary history that Second Temple editors incorporated both the Covenant Code and the legal corpus of

Sinai and Shechem: Two Covenants of Foundation

83

depicts Moses as repeating the Decalogue, communicated first at Sinai, on the Plains of Moab. Why, then, couldn’t Deuteronomy present Moses as having taught Israel the additional laws at Sinai, as related in Exodus, and as now repeating them, together with the repeated Decalogue on the Plains of Moab? Had Deuteronomy chosen this strategy for the presentation of his material, he could then have presented the covenant on the Plains of Moab as a mere ratification of the founding covenant made at Sinai. Indeed, he could then have depicted Moses as having mediated the founding covenant at Sinai rather than sending the Israelites back to their tents immediately after the proclamation of the Decalogue. Why present the event on the Plains of Moab as the major founding covenant that stands on its own, in which 40-year-old laws of vital importance are disclosed to the people only now for the first time? To put it in other terms, how are we to account for the strange deuteronomic depiction of the Sinai event as, on the one hand, the revelation of the Ten Commandments, 16 which is defined as “his covenant” (Deut 4:13), written on the “tablets of the covenant” and, on the other hand, as devoid of any formal covenant ceremony and penultimate to the true formation of Israel? One may be tempted to suggest that Deuteronomy sought to overshadow the Sinai covenant with a new covenant, that of the Plains of Moab, because the Sinai covenant was made with the Israelites who were destined to die out in the desert and not enter the promised land. The new generation thus needed a covenant of its own, and Deuteronomy provided for this by supplying the Plains of Moab covenant. However, Deut 5 does not adopt this perspective of the historical situation. According to the explicit insistence of Deut 5:3, the Israelites addressed by Moses on the Plains of Moab were identical with those who were present at Sinai. It was they who experienced the covenant at Sinai and not their fathers. 17 And yet it is specifically this chapter in Deuteronomy that delays Moses’ teaching of the Deuteronomy into the Pentateuch. In doing so, they preserved Deuteronomy alongside the very text that it sought to replace and subvert.” This formulation merely intensifies the question. If the purpose of Deuteronomy was to present itself as the sole supplement to the Horeb covenant, why did it not present itself as a repetition of that which was taught to the people at Sinai? Had this assertion been made, it would have been much more difficult for the Second Temple editors to incorporate both codes in a single Pentateuch! 16.  Another question may be raised: how can the Ten Commandments be defined simultaneously as “his covenant,” implying that it constitutes a preconceived definition of the essential terms of the relationship between God and Israel, and as the inadvertent result of the fact that the Israelites begged the Lord to cease addressing them after the tenth commandment? This question, however, should not really be directed at the presentation of the deuteronomic author, since the tension is already inherent in the presentation in Exodus. 17.  See Y. Hoffmann, “Exigencies of Genre in Deuteronomy,” Shnaton 5–6 (1981–82): 41–54 [Hebrew]; M. Haran, The Biblical Collection: Its Consolidation to the End of the Second Temple Times and Changes of Form to the End of the Middle Ages (3 vols.; Jerusalem: Bialik, 1996–2008), 2.164–70 [Hebrew].

84

Chapter 2

Sinai laws to the people until the arrival on the Plains of Moab and refrains from bestowing foundational status to the event at Sinai. M.  Weinfeld suggests that Deuteronomy highlighted the covenant at the Plains of Moab and diminished the Sinai covenant, because the latter was understood to have been nullified in the wake of the incident of the golden calf and the breaking of the tablets. 18 Yet few if any of Deuteronomy’s references to the covenant at Sinai imply that the covenant had been canceled (cf. Deut 5:2; 28:69). On the contrary, the great event of Sinai is dramatically related because it is believed to have had binding consequences even without the covenant at the Plains of Moab. Deuteronomy 10:1–5 relates that the second set of tablets at Horeb was inscribed by God with the same commandments that he inscribed on the first set. Deuteronomy thus clearly indicates that, whatever negative implications may have been implied by the breaking of the tablets, they were quickly reversed right at Sinai. In any event, it would have been just as effective to overcome the negative implications of the golden calf episode by presenting the teaching at the Plains of Moab as a reminder of the Sinai laws that the Israelites had learned and as a recommitment to the Sinai covenant ceremony that they had undergone. 19 Alternatively, if we insist that the deuteronomic authors indeed had to diminish the centrality of the Sinai covenant, for whatever reasons, could they not have depicted the laws of the Plains of Moab as totally independent from Sinai? Could not these laws have been presented as revealed by God to Moses at that time, on the Plains of Moab, rather than 40 years earlier at Sinai together with the Decalogue? O.  Eissfeldt sought to account for Deuteronomy’s failure to depict its own law as the one imparted to the people and published at Sinai. This fact was perplexing to Eissfeldt because he was convinced that the goal of the deuteronomic editors was to replace the Book of the Covenant of Exodus with the Deuteronomic Law Code. If this, indeed, was the goal, why was not the law of Deuteronomy introduced as the one presented to the people at Horeb? Eissfeldt asserts that the Exodus version “was already so rooted in the popular mind that such a transformation of it would not be possible.” 20 Or in other words, “this position was no longer available . . . for otherwise D would certainly have been placed there. So it was necessary to be content with the days shortly before Moses’ death and shortly before Israel’s crossing of the Jordan.” 21 This position is most perplexing. 18.  Weinfeld, “Temple Scroll or King’s Law,” 219; idem, “God versus Moses in the Temple Scroll,” RevQ 15 (1991): 178. 19.  Even if we explain the omission of the covenant ceremony at Sinai as a reflection of Deuteronomy’s centralization of the cult (which would then raise the question why the same synthesizer would nonetheless include the Mt. Ebal materials), we still would expect the depiction of a formal declaration of commitment on Israel’s part and a concomitant pronouncement by Moses that the people have now become the people of the Lord. 20.  Eissfeldt, The Old Testament: An Introduction, 222. 21.  Ibid., 223.

Sinai and Shechem: Two Covenants of Foundation

85

Eissfeldt insists that the law code of D pointedly contravenes the laws of the Book of the Covenant and effectively silences it, yet D could not take even as bold a step as to present itself as the laws taught to the people at Sinai. But if Deuteronomy can allow itself to openly contradict the explicit legal stipulations of the Book of the Covenant, why would the claim that it constitutes a repetition of the laws imparted at Sinai be out of the question? If the content of the Book of the Covenant given at Sinai was indeed so well known and accepted as Eissfeldt contends, how could Deuteronomy have sought to contravene it in such a radical way? Indeed, would not the popularity of the Book of the Covenant have required an even more emphatic assertion that it was the law code of Deuteronomy that was imparted to the people at Sinai? M. Haran offers his own attempt to account for Deuteronomy’s “strange” and “unusual” presentation of two national covenants that preceded the conquest. 22 He argues that the formative significance of the Sinai covenant was too entrenched for the authors of Deuteronomy to ignore and that this covenant was therefore employed “to represent the legal and cultic reality that preceded the reform of Josiah, the reality that they sought to adjust.” 23 At the same time, the reformatory tendency of D “forced the authors of this source to posit an additional covenant that God made with Israel after the Mt. Horeb event.” 24 The Horeb revelation was also preserved so as to authorize the new laws of the second covenant. This position, however, is extremely problematic. The suggestion that two covenants were needed so as to reflect the pre-Josianic and post-Josianic realities is hardly compelling. The Josianic covenant makers may have sought to implement radical reforms, but the last thing they would have wanted was to appear revolutionary. There is no clear reason, then, that the authors of Deuteronomy could not have presented their entire revolutionary covenant as the genuine Sinaitic covenant. Nor does it really make sense to posit the Sinai covenant as representing the pre-Josianic reality. For Deuteronomy, this reality was sinful and illegal and could hardly have been represented by the Horeb covenant. And if it was, how could the second covenant of the Plains of Moab overturn it? And how could the covenant that was needed to represent the rejected reality of pre-Josianic times at the same time serve as the authorization for the reforming tendencies of the new covenant? The Sinai Revelation as a Late Addition in D I challenge the assumption that the two-tiered covenant structure reflected in Deuteronomy is indeed the work of a single literary architect who sought to present an organic and coherent new conception of the formation of Israel. I suggest that Deuteronomy’s complex structure of the 22.  Haran, The Biblical Collection, 2.154–70. 23.  Ibid., 155. 24.  Ibid., 164. See also p. 169.

86

Chapter 2

formation of Israel as the “people of the Lord” in successive stages does not reflect the creative synthesis of the author of Deuteronomy. Rather, it is the final product of successive editorial expansions. Originally, Deuteronomy presented the covenant on the Plains of Moab as the first and only foundational covenant. 25 The original Deuteronomy did not know or refer to the Sinai covenant and did not ground its laws in a revelation that was given to Moses 40 years earlier. Haran’s assumption that the Sinai covenant was too entrenched to be ignored begs the question. Scholars have continuously pointed out that the Sinai covenant is hardly mentioned in all of prophetic literature, the Psalms, or the Deuteronomistic History. The covenant on the Plains of Moab is never referred to as a “renewal” or “ratification” of the Sinai/Horeb covenant, and the idea that Israel heard the “covenant” of the Ten Commandments yet was never established as the Lord’s people until 40 years passed is clearly strained. Nor is the idea that Moses received the laws at Horeb but kept them to himself until arriving on the Plains of Moab a natural idea. If the Sinaitic covenant were an original component of Deuteronomy’s Torah, it surely would have had a much more prominent role to play in the conception of the formation of the people. It thus seems best to assume that the original Torah of the Plains of Moab did not present itself as deriving from a divine revelation at Sinai or as the interrupted continuation of the Ten Commandments. More naturally, the Torah of the Plains of Moab was depicted as deriving strictly from the Plains of Moab, and the book of its covenant had no relation to the Ten Commandments of Sinai. Though the Torah of Deuteronomy is presented in Deut 4–6 as a continuation of the Decalogue of Sinai, in actuality, at least some of the laws of the Decalogue are repeated or paralleled in Deuteronomy’s law code (cf. 17:2–5; 19:11–13, 16–21; 22:22). The deuteronomic corpus indeed provides several indications that its depiction of the Plains of Moab covenant did not come in conjunction with the Sinai event. Deuteronomy 29, where the covenant on the Plains of Moab is depicted at length, gives every impression of a first-time event. We find reference here to the wonders wrought in Egypt, the guidance and care given in the wilderness wanderings, and the conquests and inheritances of the Trans­jordanian territory. No mention is made here of the Sinai/Horeb revelation. This coincides very poorly with Deut 4:9–10, which warns strenuously that the Horeb revelation must be taught diligently to the children so that it will never be forgotten! The plain implication of the entire chapter of Deut 29 is that the covenant on the Plains of Moab is the first founding covenant, before which there could have been no breach of cov25.  The future event of the setting up of stones at Mt. Ebal is clearly presented in its present context as a ratification and reaffirmation, rather than a foundation. See Tigay, Deuteronomy, 488.

Sinai and Shechem: Two Covenants of Foundation

87

enant. It continually refers to only one covenant (vv. 8, 11, 13, 20, 24) and not, as would be required by Deut 4:13; 5:2–3; 9:8–21, to two covenants. 26 In fact, since Deut 29 refers continuously to the covenant made “today” as the one made on the Plains of Moab, we must similarly interpret the words of v. 24, “They shall say, it is because they abandoned the covenant of the Lord, God of their ancestors, which he made with them when he took them out of Egypt,” as a reference to the covenant on the Plains of Moab. In the original conception of Deuteronomy, the covenant on the Plains of Moab is identical with the covenant made at the time of the exodus. This is further reflected in the fact that the covenanted Israelites in Deuteronomy are referred to as having witnessed the exodus event themselves (29:1–2, 15). The same conception of the covenant on the Plains of Moab as the one and only foundation covenant of the time of the exodus is also reflected in the introductory material in Deut 4:45–46: “These are the testimonies, rules, and laws that Moses spoke to the Israelites when they left Egypt, at the other side of the Jordan, in the valley, across Beth-peor, in the land of Sihon king of the Amorites, who dwelt in Heshbon, which Moses and the Israelites conquered when they left Egypt.” The law of the Plains of Moab is identified here with the time of the exodus, just as the conquest of the Transjordanian Amorites is said to have taken place at the time of the exodus. The commandments that Deuteronomy refers to as being given “today” are often referred to as “all his commandments” (Deut 11:8, 22, 32; 28:1), strongly implying that they were all given on the Plains of Moab for the first time and not that ten of the most essential commandments were given long before that. Mention of the dramatic events at Sinai that, according to Deut 4:9–10, must continually be recalled and spoken of to the next generation is conspicuously absent in the long reflection on the events of the desert period in Deut 8 and 11:1–7, even though both of these sections are markedly concerned with obedience to the law. The formulation of Deut 28:69 is also significant: “These are the words of the covenant that the Lord commanded Moses to make with the children of Israel in the land of Moab, in addition to the covenant that he made with them at Horeb.” While the last clause of this verse presents the covenant at the Plains of Moab as a second covenant, it is extremely likely that this clause is editorial. The clause begins with the term ‫מלבד‬, which has clearly been shown to introduce secondary, editorial clauses throughout the Torah. 27 It is worth pointing out that all of these ‫ מלבד‬clauses appear in late Priestly literature. 28 This can be 26.  Similarly, the book of the Josianic covenant is said to contain “the words of the covenant” (2 Kgs 23:3), and the clear implication is that it depicted one covenant only. 27. I. Knohl, The Sanctuary of Silence: The Priestly Torah and the Holiness School (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1995), 56–58. 28.  See previous note. The only text whose affinity to Priestly literature is not obvious is Gen 26:1. Note, however, that v. 5 seems to reflect Priestly language, and the addition in

88

Chapter 2

taken as another indication that the clause in this verse is not only of a late editorial nature but also one with Priestly affinities. It did not belong to the original structure of the book. In the continuation of Deut 29 in vv. 15–20, the Israelites are reminded of the idols they saw as they passed through the nations on their way to the land and are warned not to go after these gods. No mention is made here of the golden idol that they made or the severe punishment that ensued in retribution for this covenant breach, as reiterated in Deut 9:8–21. It is also striking that the historical review of the book of Deuteronomy begins with a most understated reference to Horeb. The text of Deut 1:6–8 reads: “The Lord our God spoke to us at Horeb saying, ‘You have stayed long enough at this mountain. Turn and begin your journey to the hill country of the Amorites and to all their neighbors. . . . Behold, I have set the land before you; go in and conquer the land.” As S. E. Loewenstamm noted, 29 the original continuation of this material is in vv. 19–46. These verses tell of the fulfillment of the divine command to set off from Horeb, the arrival at Kadesh Barnea at the threshold of the hill country of the Amorites (v. 9), the command of Moses to commence the attack in accordance with the divine command given at Horeb (vv.  20–21), and the negative developments that ensued at Kadesh with the sending of the spies (vv.  22–46). The intervening material, beginning with the editorial formula “at that time” (v. 9), 30 supplements the text with information about this time period gleaned from other sources. What is striking is that the book of Deuteronomy should begin with the divine speech to the people at Horeb that consisted of nothing more dramatic than the command to continue their journey and take up the conquest. Why is there no mention, not even in passing, of the much more dramatic divine revelation and covenant formation that occurred at this site? The command to continue the journey after a long stay is found again with reference to Mt. Seir. In Deut 2:1–2, we find the recollection, “And we circled Mt. Seir for many days. The Lord then said to me, ‘You have compassed this mountain long enough; turn to the north.’” The fact, then, that the Israelites were told at Horeb “you have stayed long enough at this mountain” is no indication that a momentous event occurred there beyond the simple act of dwelling there. Why does the deuteronomic author lead the narrative from Horeb to the site of Kadesh Barnea, where the great Israelite sin in the episode of the spies occurs, as if this were the first great national sin? Why does he not expound on the earlier sin of the golden calf at Horeb? And why does he not even hint at this previous sin (or at the v. 1 may thus belong to the same hand. 29. S. E. Loewenstamm, “The Formula Ba‘t Hahi’ in the Introductory Speeches in Deuteronomy,” in From Babylon to Canaan: Studies in the Bible and Its Oriental Background ( Jerusalem: Magnes, 1992), 42–50. 30. Ibid.

Sinai and Shechem: Two Covenants of Foundation

89

revelation and covenant) in the entire deuteronomic narration of the spies’ story (particularly in vv. 29–33)? In my opinion, this evidence further points to the earlier stage in the development of the book of Deuteronomy, when the only covenant was at the Plains of Moab. Though many scholars believe that the first introduction to the laws of Deuteronomy, Deut 1–3, was presented to expand the earlier introductory material in Deut 4:44–11:32, there is actually no reason why this scheme must be accepted. 31 Would it not have been more reasonable for a secondary supplementer to supply this material, which deals with the post-Horeb period, after the material in Deut 4–11 that elaborates on the events at Horeb rather than before it? It indeed seems much more likely that the materials in Deut 4, 5, 9, and 10 that speak of the Horeb theophany and the sin of the golden calf constitute the later addition and that much of the material in Deut 1–3 (and elsewhere) is earlier. Reasons for the Incorporation of the Sinai Revelation Why did the later editor ground the law of the Plains of Moab in the Sinai/Horeb revelation? There are two central concerns that come to mind— harmonization and authorization. The original Torah of the Plains of Moab was either unaware or otherwise independent of the tradition related to the Sinai covenant and the Decalogue. 32 It is striking, for example, that the 31.  See the discussion in Haran, The Biblical Collection, 2.51–58. 32.  As we have noted, Deuteronomy also refers to a ceremony that will take place in the future at Mt. Ebal. The exact relationship of the covenant on the Plains of Moab of the original Deuteronomy to the ceremony at Mt. Ebal is not essential to my argument here. Nevertheless, I question the assumption that the original Deuteronomy looked forward to this ceremony, just as I question the assumption that it looked back to the Sinai event. The hypothesis of Deuteronomy’s northern origins is often bolstered by the presence of these materials related to Mt. Ebal in the book. It is assumed that these materials belong to the ancient heritage of the book that could not be eradicated. The theory of the northern origins of Deuteronomy is not, however, dependent exclusively on these materials. The assumption that these materials were added into Deuteronomy at a late date, moreover, does not mean that they are not of ancient origins. On the contrary, if we assume that Deuteronomy was continuously developed over an extended period of time by circles that preserved their own traditions, we may consider the Mt. Ebal material to reflect an ancient northern tradition that was supplemented at a late date. The incorporation of these materials, in reality, makes little sense within the logic of Deuteronomy, which continually relates the covenant laws to the “place where the Lord will choose”; in other words, to a place as yet undefined. If the Israelites have just agreed to the covenant on the Plains of Moab, it is unclear why a ratification at Mt. Ebal is needed so soon thereafter. Blessings and curses are declared in Deut 28 on the Plains of Moab, so there appears to be little need for the blessings and curses of Deut 27. The secondary nature of the material relating to the blessings and curses at Mt. Ebal has already been noted by some scholars. The reference to this future ceremony in Deut 11:29–30 is clearly a secondary expansion triggered by the reference to the blessing inherent in the observance of the commandments and the curse inherent in disobedience in vv. 26–28. The references to this future ceremony in Deut 27 (particularly vv. 1–8, 11–13) also appear to be secondary. Verses 11–13 are disruptive, leaving vv. 9–10 truncated. Originally, vv. 14–26 present the ceremony of blessings and

90

Chapter 2

institution of the Sabbath is never mentioned in all of Deuteronomy outside the Decalogue. This may well indicate that the Sabbath did not have the covenantal status in the original D that it achieved in other biblical sources. 33 In any event, it is clear that at a certain point in Israel’s history the contents of the Decalogue, and its unique status as a concise definition of the terms of the covenant, could not be ignored in any book claiming to represent the covenant. This required that the Sinaitic Decalogue be absorbed into the Book of the Covenant of the Plains of Moab. We have similarly noted that, in the vast majority of biblical material outside the Pentateuch, the Sinai covenant is unmentioned and, apparently to a large curses on the Plains of Moab. With the insertion of vv. 11–13, one gets the impression that the ceremony is to take place in the future. The refrain of . . . ‫ ואמרו‬. . . ‫ וענו‬shows that the ceremony takes place in the present. This material is indeed of vital importance for the structure of the Deuteronomic covenant, for it is only here that we find the people publicly accepting “the terms of this Torah to keep it” (v. 26). The secondary nature of vv. 1–8 is less clear. We may note, however, that they also seem intrusive since 26:16–19 and 27:9–10, 14–26 all depict a ceremony in the present. The reference to the future in 27:1–8 thus breaks the flow of the material. The possible background to these additions need not detain us here (see my discussion of the views of N. Naʾaman on this matter in the following section of this chapter). It is sufficient to note that the building of an altar at Mt. Ebal and the offering of sacrifices there “before the Lord your God” (v. 7) coincide very poorly with Deuteronomy’s emphasis on the Lord’s future selection of the place where he will set his name as the only legitimate place for cultic activity. It is in Jerusalem that the cultic laws associated with “the place the Lord will choose” will finally come into effect, when the future selection is made. It would make little sense for the authors and editors of this conception to incorporate material that could be taken as an indication that the divine selection was already made at the time of Moses and that it named a totally different, indeed rival site! Nor would it make sense for the original Deuteronomy to have Moses command the Israelites to set up stones when its own law code defined steles as “that which the Lord your God detests” (Deut 16:21). Haran argues that the authors of Deuteronomy recorded this material, in spite of the fact that it contradicted their principles, because it allowed them to give expression to another central idea, the obligation to continuously recite and teach the laws of the covenant (The Biblical Collection, 2.183–84). This simply begs the question. The obligation to teach the laws continuously is often highlighted in Deuteronomy outside the context of the Mt. Ebal ceremonies, and there is no need to refer to them in order to inculcate the need to teach and recite the laws. Certainly there was no need to record the command to offer sacrifices on the altar of Mt. Ebal! We may also note that, according to Deut 31:9–13, Moses wrote “this Torah” and entrusted it to the Levite priests, commanding them to read it to the Israelites every seventh year during the Sukkoth Festival at the place that the Lord would choose. It is hard to believe that this written Torah, recited to all the Israelites in Jerusalem by the Levites, included references to a parallel written Torah of Moses on the stones near Shechem and to a parallel recitation ceremony. The effect of these references could only be self-defeating for the Jerusalemite custodians of the Torah (cf. Deut 17:18) for they imply that Moses’ Torah is visibly accessible to all at a rival cultic site! 33.  Note the similar appendage of the Sabbath to the calendar of holidays in Lev 23. Note also that Deuteronomy never enjoins the practice of circumcision, though it does speak of circumcision of the heart. This may coincide with Deuteronomy’s more secular approach to blood in general (for which, see M. Weinfeld, Deuteronomy 1–11 [AB 5; New York: Doubleday, 1991], 42).

Sinai and Shechem: Two Covenants of Foundation

91

extent, unknown. At a certain point in Israel’s history, however, the Sinai covenant became prominent. 34 We may assume that at this time a place had to be found for this covenant in Deuteronomy’s scheme of history. We may compare what seems to be a similar phenomenon in the Priestly source. The bulk of the Priestly material designates Sinai, whether on the mountain or in the tabernacle constructed at the base thereof, as the place where the law was given to Moses. In all likelihood, the earlier authors of this Priestly material assumed, following the non-Priestly precedent, that this was the one and only location of the giving of the law. These authors were either unaware of Deuteronomy’s conception of the lawgiving on the Plains of Moab, or under no constraint to follow it. At a certain point, however, the deuteronomic lawgiving on the Plains of Moab became incorporated into the structure of the Priestly work. Once Deuteronomy achieved prominence (at the time of its incorporation into the emerging Pentateuch?), it was no longer possible to posit Sinai as the sole locus of divine revelation. Nor was it now necessary to continue squeezing the massive accumulation of Priestly legal and cultic materials into the relatively brief one-year stay at Sinai (cf. Num 10:11). With the incorporation of Deuteronomy into the structure of the Pentateuch, Priestly authors could designate the Plains of Moab as a second locus of divine lawgiving. The fact that so little of the Priestly law is in fact attributed to the Plains of Moab (Num 26–36) probably indicates that this synthesis occurred at a relatively late stage of development. Though the issue of harmonization is important, it does not provide a sufficient explanation for the present form of Deuteronomy. It explains why the Decalogue was incorporated into the book but not why it was deemed necessary to ground all the additional laws given on the Plains of Moab in the Sinai event. Why didn’t the editor present Sinai as the place where the Decalogue was given and the Plains of Moab as the place of a totally independent lawgiving? This question is best addressed with reference to the issue of authority. The covenant at Sinai depicts a direct public revelation of the deity to the entire Israelite people. The terror-stricken Israelites hear the very speech of the divine legislator. The purpose of this aweinspiring theophany is not only to instill in Israel fear of Yhwh but, more specifically, to bolster the claim that the laws given by Moses were indeed the very words of the living God. Moses did nothing more than relay to Israel God’s personal legal formulations. The covenant of the Plains of Moab lacks this aspect of divine theophany. Though the Israelites stand in the presence of the Lord at the covenant on the Plains of Moab, no supernatural divine manifestation is mentioned. 34.  In the Temple Scroll, the deuteronomic laws are all attributed to Sinai. This should be seen as a further development of this same trend. See Weinfeld, “God versus Moses in the Temple Scroll,” 179.

92

Chapter 2

It is Moses who commands Israel to obey God’s laws in Deuteronomy (Deut 4:2, 44–45; 8:11; 11:8, 26–28; 13:19; 28:1). 35 Though Moses often speaks on behalf of the Lord (see esp. 26:16), the laws are not only relayed to the people by Moses but also formulated by him. The laws are communicated to the people in Moses’ own words and are never presented as a quotation of the words of God. It remains unclear when or where Moses received the laws of the Plains of Moab in the original Deuteronomy. The audience is apparently expected to simply accept by faith Moses’ claim that the laws he relays are of divine origin. The author appears to feel no great need to justify this claim or to persuade the audience of its veracity. Furthermore, since the laws are not presented in the form of a quotation of the deity, it is unclear how closely the present Mosaic formulation corresponds to the assumed divine original or, indeed, in precisely what sense they are meant to be understood as divine. 36 Sometimes it is not 35.  Moses often takes on the role of “teaching” (4:1, 5; 6:1). In this, Moses seems to fulfill the role of the Levite priest (Deut 33:10). In his role as “commander,” he seems to take on the role of the king. This conception of Moses’ office is apparently reflected in Deut 33:4–5, “Moses commanded us Instruction. . . . And in Jeshurun, there was a king.” Even if v. 4 was added secondarily (see I. L. Seeligmann, Studies in Biblical Literature [ed. A. Hurvitz, S. Japhet, and E. Tov; Jerusalem: Magnes, 1996], 192 and n. 3 [Hebrew]), it still reflects an important understanding of the role of Moses as kingly lawgiver. These verses are clearly associated somehow with v. 21, which mentions the role of the ‫מחקק‬, which may also refer to Moses (see M. Weinfeld, Social Justice in Ancient Israel and in the Ancient Near East [Jerusalem: Magnes, 1995], 184–86, who, however, understands the king as a reference to God). The role of the king in promulgating law in Israel is reflected in Lam 2:9, “[Zion’s] king and officers are among the nations; there is no Torah.” The idea that the divinity endorses the king to promulgate laws without the divinity himself formulating the laws was found already, apparently, in the Hammurapi Code. See the following formulation of V. A. Hurowitz, “Canon and Canonization in Mesopotamia: Assyriological Models or Ancient Realities?” in Proceedings of the Twelfth World Congress of Jewish Studies, Division A: The Period of the Bible ( Jerusalem: World Union of Jewish Studies, 1999): 11*, “The laws were not divinely authored, but since Hammurapi presents them as the means by which he carried out his divine commission to establish justice, they may be considered divinely sanctioned, and since Hammurabi portrays himself as being granted by the gods the ability to do justice, the laws which he attributes to himself are ipso facto divinely inspired.” The same idea is probably reflected in Ps 72:1, where we find a prayer that the Lord bestow upon the Israelite king the properties of justice and righteousness so that he might judge the people fairly. The late superscription of the psalm, “for Solomon,” probably reflects, among other things, the fact that Solomon indeed asks in 1 Kgs 2:9 for “a discerning heart to judge your people.” The legal decrees that become law are thus formulated by the king but derive ultimately from the divine wisdom with which the king is instilled. Significantly, though LXX Ps 72:1 reads ‘judgment’ in the singular, the MT has ‘judgments’, which may reflect a secondary attempt to attribute to the deity, not only the king’s sense of justice, but the individual laws as well. 36.  In Deut 12:28, for example, Moses calls on the Israelites to follow the laws that he commands, assuring them that doing what is good and right in the eyes of the Lord will bring them benefit. There is a significant gap between the claim that the law is right in the eyes of the Lord and the claim that it was stated explicitly by the Lord. Perhaps we may see a reflection of the tension between the law of Moses and the law of God in the present form of Deut 16:8–13 (which apparently continues originally after vv. 18–20). The

Sinai and Shechem: Two Covenants of Foundation

93

even clear that a claim is being made for the divine origin of Moses’ commandments altogether (cf. Deut 4:44–5:1; 11:31–12:1; 17:19; etc.). 37 When Moses explains the rationale behind a particular law and follows this with the phrase “this is why I command you this thing today” (Deut 15:15; and see v. 11; 19:7; 24:18, 22), the impression one receives is that he issues the law on his own authority. Significantly, in contrast to this, when Moses explains the rationale behind the Sabbath law of the Decalogue, which obviously derives from the later redactor, he is presented as saying, “this is why the Lord your God commanded you to observe the Sabbath day” (Deut 5:15). The original structure of the deuteronomic covenant dictated the basic form, according to which Moses commanded the laws to the people on the Plains of Moab, and the covenant formed there served to constitute the Israelites as the people of the Lord. What, however, could have been the authority for Moses’ lawgiving and covenant-making? Where do we find God actually delivering these laws to Moses? This, then, was the purpose of the secondary connection between the Mosaic law of the Plains of Moab and the public, divine lawgiving at Mt. Sinai. In a manner reminiscent of the rabbinic affirmation that “even that which an eminent disciple was destined to say to his rabbi was all given as law to Moses on Sinai,” 38 the laws of Deuteronomy at a certain point could not remain authoritative unless grounded in the revelation of Sinai and in the explicit, verbal speech of the Lord. The concern to ground the Mosaic law in the explicit word of God comes to clear expression in the transition between Deut 4:44–5:1 and 5:2– 4. Deuteronomy 4:44–5:1 gives no indication that the laws of Moses are grounded in divine revelation. The section reads: earlier strata of the law spoke of the judge as the legal arbiter, while the later strata emphasized the role of the Levite priest. See Rofé, Deuteronomy: Issues and Interpretation, 109–10. Presumably, only the Levite priest would have presented the law that he promulgates as divine. 37. It may be instructive to compare Deut 12:28 with 6:17. The first passage reads: “Observe and obey all the things that I command you today, so that it will go well with you and your children after you forever, when you do what is good and right in the eyes of God.” The second passage reads: “Take care to observe the commandment of the Lord your God and his testimonies and his statutes, which he has commanded you. You shall do what is right and good in the eyes of the Lord so that it will go well with you.” Just because the formulations are so similar, the difference between them is conspicuous. The first passage speaks of the matters that Moses commands, whereas the second passage speaks of God’s laws that God commands. Perhaps the idea that Moses commands God’s commandments (as in the parallel formulation in 4:40) represents an attempt to fuse and combine the two concepts. See also Deut 15:11, 15 (etc.), where Moses explains his reasons for his commandments. Note also Deut 4:6, 8, which sees in the law a sign of Israelite wisdom. Verse 5 attributes to the Lord the command to Moses to teach the people the laws. It is not clear from this, however, that the Lord is thought of as the formulator of the laws. 38.  Qoh. Rab. 5:8. For a typological discussion of the significance of this claim within the context of other rabbinic claims concerning Sinaitic authority, see Y. D. Silman, The Voice Heard at Sinai: Once or Ongoing? ( Jerusalem: Magnes, 1999).

94

Chapter 2 This is the law that Moses set before the children of Israel. These are the testimonies and the statutes and the ordinances that Moses spoke to the children of Israel when they went forth out of Egypt. . . . And Moses called all Israel and said to them: “Hear, O Israel, the statutes and the ordinances that I speak into your ears this day that you may learn them and observe to do them.”

It is just at this point, where the reader expects to hear Moses’ statutes, that the secondary editor adds the section on the covenant at Horeb, with its emphasis on the fact that the Lord spoke to Israel “face to face” (5:4). The elaborate narrative citation of the divine revelation of the Decalogue and Israel’s request that Moses instruct Israel instead of the Lord concludes with the following words: This is the commandment—the statutes and the ordinances—that the Lord your God commanded to teach you to do in the land . . . so that you may fear the Lord your God, to observe all his laws and commandments that I command you. (Deut 6:1–2)

This concluding section parallels the section at the end of Deut 4. The difference is that, while the initial section speaks of the statutes and ordinances of Moses, the concluding section clarifies that the commandments come from God and that Moses is little more than a teacher. The progression here is reminiscent of the development of Deut 4:44 in later Jewish liturgical usage. The worshipers cite this verse when the Torah scroll is lifted up and displayed for their viewing. It is not, however, cited in its original form. The words “This is the law that Moses set before the children of Israel” (4:44) are supplemented with the phrase “by the word of the Lord at the hand of Moses” from the extraneous context of Num 9:23. The purpose of the liturgical fusion of texts is clear. It is to clarify that the Torah of Moses is nothing less than the word of God. It is this development that is reflected in the present structure of Deuteronomy. 39 In the late incorporation of Deuteronomy into the Priestly work of the Tetrateuch, we see similar concerns to authorize the deuteronomic law. Here, however, a somewhat different strategy is used. Instead of rooting the deuteronomic law in the original and initially public revelation at Sinai, the 39.  The same progression is found in the law concerning the prophetic office in Deut 18:9–22. Verses 9–15 present Moses as the speaker who relates that future prophets like him must be obeyed. The following verses relate that the prophetic office is basically the result of Israel’s request at Horeb that the Lord cease communicating to them directly. It was at that time that God, in response to this request, decided to establish the office of the prophet. The Lord is now quoted as having said to Moses in first person what Moses relates in v. 15, with expansion. The result of this expansion is not only to ground the prophetic office in the revelation at Horeb but, apparently, even to ground the future prophetic commands in that revelation (v. 18). If Israel had not asked to stop hearing the word of the Lord at that theophany, they would have heard then and there the future instructions of post-Mosaic prophets!

Sinai and Shechem: Two Covenants of Foundation

95

Priestly material roots it in a new, private revelation to Moses, on the Plains of Moab itself, through the mediation of the tent of meeting. Scholars have noted that Deut 1:3 is written in the Priestly style. This verse, which supplies a new introduction to the entire book, states: “In the fortieth year, in the eleventh month, on the first of the month, Moses spoke to the Israelites in accordance with all that the Lord commanded him for them.” Obviously, the Priestly heading is concerned to emphasize that the contents of Deuteronomy, both the laws and the speeches, are the words of the Lord and not merely the words of Moses. Beyond this, however, it should be noted that the simple implication of the verse is probably not only that Moses spoke the words on the Plains of Moab but also that the Lord commanded Moses to speak them at this same time and place and not previously, at Sinai. The Priestly heading to Deuteronomy must be read in conjunction with the Priestly conclusion to the book of Numbers (36:13): “These are the commandments and laws that the Lord commanded through Moses to the children of Israel on the Plains of Moab at the Jordan near Jericho.” Under the influence of Deuteronomy, the late Priestly authors conceive of the Plains of Moab as a new center of divine legislation via the tent of meeting (cf. Num 26:63; 27:2). In all probability, this is how they understand the divine source of the book of Deuteronomy itself. In light of all this, we must revise our understanding of the position of the Sinai covenant in the final form of the book of Deuteronomy. At the beginning of this section, I expressed the view that Deuteronomy minimizes the position of Sinai, since the bulk of the laws were only communicated to the people on the Plains of Moab, and it was only there that they were constituted as the people of the Lord. It now becomes apparent that, in actuality, the opposite is the case. The central role filled by the Plains of Moab derives from the original form of Deuteronomy, which overlooks Sinai entirely. The fact that the bulk of the law is delivered to the people on the Plains of Moab is not a diminution of Sinai but a derivative of the covenant’s original form. At a secondary stage, this material was totally subordinated to the Sinai tradition through the assertion that it was all communicated by God to Moses at Sinai and that, had it not been for the fear of the Israelites, the Lord would have proclaimed it to them directly there and at that time. The words of Moses on the Plains of Moab were thus identified with the words of the Lord spoken to Moses at Sinai. The teaching of the law on the Plains of Moab becomes a sort of “accident” of sacred history, the result of Israel’s inordinate fear of hearing the divine voice, rather than a predestined event at an initially designated location. If anything, then, the centrality of the Plains of Moab is diminished. At the same time, it was not possible for the editor to present the law of the Plains of Moab as a mere recollection and repetition of the law that was already taught to the people at Sinai. The original material in Deuteronomy already spoke continuously of the law as commanded by Moses to

96

Chapter 2

the people “today”—implying: for the first time. Furthermore, the covenant of the Plains of Moab was already presented as the founding covenant in which the people were formed “today” as the people of the Lord. This material could hardly be eradicated from Deuteronomy. To present such a founding covenant as a mere repetition of that which was already taught and accepted by the people at the Sinai covenant would have been thoroughly to undermine the historical significance that Deuteronomy had attributed of the covenant at the Plains of Moab. By denying that Israel learned anything more than the Decalogue at Sinai, the editorial layer of Deuteronomy allowed the covenant at the Plains of Moab to retain its importance as a new, foundational event. Of course, a totally new divine theophany for the Plains of Moab covenant in order to provide the deuteronomic law with clear divine backing could hardly have been invented out of thin air. The only way that the Mosaic law of the Plains of Moab could be identified as the word of God was to ground it in the theophany of Sinai. The only way to justify the foundational significance of the covenant on the Plains of Moab was to uphold the assumption of the original material that the laws imparted there had never been taught to the people or accepted by them in a covenant until that point. The result was the construction of two different covenants. The covenant at Sinai related to the divine address in the Decalogue alone. The covenant on the Plains of Moab related to the Mosaic repetition of the Decalogue and Moses’ divulging and new teaching of the additional laws that he had received privately at Sinai. It is this historical progression, I submit, that best accounts for the awkward structure of Deuteronomy’s present form. 40

40. Contra Eissfeldt (The Old Testament: An Introduction, 222), the editor’s grounding of the laws of the covenant at Moab in the Sinai revelation occurred before the book of Deuteronomy was situated in the Pentateuch, wherein Exodus’s Book of the Covenant was depicted as being imparted to the people. The editor of Deuteronomy could hardly have depicted Moses as keeping the law to himself for 40 years if his goal was to build a bridge to the story in Exodus (that is, in its present form) that clearly related that Moses taught the laws beyond the Decalogue upon descending from the mountain. If this had been the deuteronomic editor’s goal, he would have had little choice but to present Moses on the Plains of Moab as repeating to Israel the laws that they had already been told at Sinai. The deuteronomic editor’s grounding of the laws of Moab in the Sinai revelation is thus prepentateuchal and reflects the editor’s awareness and partial incorporation of the tradition of Sinai. It promotes the contention that it was the Deuteronomic Code of the Plains of Moab rather than the Covenant Code of Exodus that constituted the true supplement to the Decalogue. The fact that this part of Deuteronomy quotes the Decalogue that Israel heard but at the same time diverges significantly from the version of the Decalogue as presented in the text of Exodus is a further indication that, even at this editorial stage in the development of Deuteronomy, the book still presents itself as the one and only report of the divine law. Even at this stage, Deuteronomy does not present itself as a literary extension or continuation of the Exodus text.

Sinai and Shechem: Two Covenants of Foundation

97

Scholarly Work on Joshua 24: A Critical Evaluation The results of our analysis of the foundation claims of Deuteronomy are instructive for an understanding of the story in Josh 24. Joshua 24 depicts a covenant made between the Lord and the Israelites upon completion of the conquest at the sanctuary in Shechem, through the mediation of Joshua. Many scholars have long noted that the tradition in Josh 24 makes no mention of the Sinai covenant and that it depicts a covenant rite of its own in which law is given to the community by Joshua. In light of our analysis of Deuteronomy, it seems most natural to understand Josh 24 as presenting yet another conception of the foundation of Israel as the people of the Lord. In spite of the unique aspects of the tradition in Josh 24, scholars have generally refrained from seeing it (as do I) as an essentially early, independent, alternative tradition to the Sinai tradition. In this section, we will review some of the representative scholarly treatments of Josh 24 and subject them to critical scrutiny. 41 In this way, I hope to establish the correctness of the approach that I am adopting. One of the most forceful defenders of the idea that Josh 24 presupposes the Sinai covenant and, indeed, continues it was Martin Buber. 42 Buber insisted that Josh 24 depicts not a foundation covenant but a covenantrenewal ceremony in which the people reaffirm the commitment that they made to the Lord first at Sinai. In support of this understanding, he compares Josh 24 with 1 Sam 7:3ff., where Samuel, like Joshua, calls on the house of Israel to remove the foreign gods from their midst and worship the Lord exclusively. Buber sees Josh 24 as a historical reflection of Joshua’s attempt to consolidate the Israelites further by having them remove the subsidiary “household deities” (cf. Gen 35:2–4) that were supplementing worship of the sole “national” deity, Yhwh. Why does the Lord in Josh 24 make no appearance from heaven and express no commitment to be Israel’s God, as in the Sinai narrative? The answer is simple. It is because this divine commitment was already made at Sinai and is now presupposed. The fact that the relationship between the Lord and Israel has already been established is indicated by the statement of the Israelites in v. 16, “Far be it from us to forsake Yhwh to serve other gods.” The Israelites thus assert that they have been worshiping the Lord exclusively since Sinai and emphatically deny that they have been worshiping other major gods. The demand of Joshua is not that they make an initial commitment to the Lord as 41.  A complete review of the research on Joshua 24 would require an entire monograph. A brief review of scholarly positions on Josh 24 before 1995 can be found in M. Anbar, Joshua and the Covenant at Shechem (Jos. 24:1–28) (Biblical Encyclopaedia Library 17; Jerusalem: Bia­lik, 1999), 1–14 [Hebrew]. 42. M. Buber, The Prophetic Faith (trans. C. Witton-Davies; New York: Harper & Row, 1960), 13–18.

98

Chapter 2

opposed to other major deities but only that they purify their devotion by removing petty, household objects. We cannot deny that the Israelites depict the Lord as their main object of worship even before the covenant at Shechem. This does not imply, however, that the relationship with the Lord was based on a covenantal commitment. If it had been, Joshua could hardly have freely offered the people the alternative of worshiping other deities (v. 15). This offer implies that, while the worship of the Lord was practiced by the Israelites, it was not yet founded on a legal commitment. This is why the historical review mentions only the divine graces but no Israelite sin such as the golden calf incident or the apostasy at Baal-peor. Since no binding commitment was made by Israel, no worship of other deities can be counted against it. The statement of v. 16, “Far be it from us to forsake Yhwh to serve other gods,” is not an indication that Israel had already committed itself to the Lord, emphatically denying that it had worshiped other major deities alongside the Lord, as Buber would have it. The statement instead reflects Israel’s recoiling at the suggestion by Joshua that it opt for exclusive worship of other gods and abandon the Lord completely. There is nothing in the text that can support the idea that the deities referred to as ‫ אלהי הנכר‬are anything less than full-fledged deities. They are referred to as the gods of their ancestors from Egypt and Mesopotamia (vv. 2, 14–15), not mere household objects. The situation described in the text is thus one of “syncretistic” worship of Yhwh together with alien gods. It is only natural that Yhwh tolerated a certain period of syncretistic worship during which he tried to win over the people’s affections by outstanding acts of salvation and grace. At a certain point, however, the moment arrived in which the Lord demanded that a decision be made between himself and any other deity. Once the period of grace was completed, the people needed to make a commitment to exclusivity. It is this commitment that was made in Shechem for the very first time. The Samuel text that Buber invokes is of a different type entirely. Samuel calls upon the Israelites to “return” to the Lord “with undivided allegiance” (1 Sam 7:3). He thus indicates that the Israelites have turned to the Lord several times in the past but that those earlier instances were not done in the absolute manner that is expected of them. The existence of the basic relationship of commitment between the two parties, then, is presupposed. Samuel does not suggest that they may legitimately choose to worship other gods and abandon the Lord entirely, as Joshua does. The fact highlighted by Buber that there is neither a depiction of the descent of the Lord from heaven nor a presentation of his commitment to take Israel for his people at the Shechem ceremony as there is at Sinai is surely of significance. We must not, however, require the Shechem covenant to contain all the elements of the Sinai covenant and to diverge solely with regard to the place of the ceremony. The fact that the covenant stories

Sinai and Shechem: Two Covenants of Foundation

99

take on divergent forms and are significantly different in various ways cannot override the essential similarities indicating that we are dealing with two versions of a common theme. At the other end of the continuum of the scholarly evaluation of Josh 24 are the scholars who consider Josh 24 to be a late work of the exilic period and deny that one can discern any traces of an earlier tradition in the material. The chief evidence for the late origin of the material is the predominance of Deuteronomistic language, on the one hand, and the fact that it seems to repeat the Deuteronomistic story of Joshua’s final address in Josh 23, on the other. The material in Josh 24 is thus seen as reflecting a development that postdates the Deuteronomistic History. A major impetus for this approach is the work of John Van Seters. 43 Van Seters is perhaps the most forceful critic of the idea that we can assume a history of oral transmission that lies behind the written biblical text. He considers the idea of an oral transmission of tradition simply to be unfounded and insists that we see biblical literature as the literary creation of its authors. His discovery of late elements within what is traditionally referred to as the Yahwist source leads him to the conclusion that the entire layer known as J is a post-Deuteronomistic creation that was intended to serve as a prologue to the Deuteronomistic History. 44 This outlook is reflected also in his treatment of Josh 24, 45 which he views as the postexilic Yahwist’s summary of his own history and his transition into the Deuteronomistic History. E.  W. Nicholson 46 follows Van Seters’s late dating of the text, seeing in the reference to the “gods beyond the river” (v.  3) a reference to the Mesopotamian setting of the exilic narrative. He also follows Van Seters in discerning the late influence of Ezek 20 and 23 in the unique idea of Josh 24:14 that the Israelites of Egypt were idolatrous. The exilic concern of the narrative, according to Nicholson, is to justify “the judgment which had deservedly befallen Israel because of its faithlessness to the covenant.” 47 The stone set up by Joshua serves as a witness to the exiles that they had been warned that the Lord of the covenant would do evil to them and destroy them if they reject him (vv. 19–22, 27). 43.  See J. Van Seters, Prologue to History: The Yahwist as Historian in Genesis (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1992); idem, The Life of Moses: The Yahwist as Historian in Exodus– Numbers (Kampen: Kok Pharos, 1994). 44.  For a review and evaluation of Van Seters’ approach, see E. W. Nicholson, The Pentateuch in the Twentieth Century: The Legacy of Julius Wellhausen (Oxford: Clarendon, 1998), 134–43; and my Murmuring Stories of the Priestly School: A Retrieval of Ancient Sacerdotal Lore (VTSup 89; Leiden: Brill, 2002), 57–61. 45. J. Van Seters, “Joshua 24 and the Problem of Tradition in the Old Testament,” in In the Shelter of Elyon: Essays on Ancient Palestinian Life and Literature in Honor of G. W. Ahlström (ed. W. B. Barrick and J. Spencer; JSOTSup 31; Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1984), 126–32. 46. E.  W. Nicholson, God and His People: Covenant and Theology in the Old Testament (Oxford: Clarendon, 1986), 151–63. 47.  Ibid., 161.

100

Chapter 2

Both Van Seters and Nicholson (as did Buber and many others) understand Josh 24 as a renewal of the covenant made at Sinai and differ from Buber only in that they consider the narrative to be a late, exilic invention. M. Anbar 48 and N. Naʾaman, 49 on the other hand, affirm that Josh 24, far from merely depicting a covenant renewal, reflects a unique and alternative conception of the emergence of Israel as the people of the Lord. The narrative of Josh 24 depicts Joshua as the leading figure in the founding of the national covenant at Shechem, and this stands in conflict with the conception of Moses as the founder of the national covenant at Sinai. They insist, however, that this divergent conception, far from reflecting an independent ancient tradition, was created at a late, post-Deuteronomistic stage, with the conscious intention of midrashically replacing Sinai with Shechem. Anbar surmises that the author of Josh 24 sought to replace the figure of Moses and the Torah of Sinai with the figure of Joshua and the Torah of Shechem in order to create a new model that would better address the concerns of the postexilic community with the issue of the renewal of the people’s settlement in the land. Perhaps the most interesting exposition of this general approach is the thesis of Naʾaman, who believes that Josh 24 is of one piece with the references to the ceremonies at Mt. Ebal in Deut 27 and Josh 8:30–35. Naʾaman raises an important question concerning these references to cultic activity in the vicinity of Shechem: what are they doing in the heart of Deuteronomy and the Deuteronomistic History, which conceive of Jerusalem as the sole chosen site for worship? These references, written in the style and language of Deuteronomy, must have been written and inserted into the books of Deuteronomy and Joshua after Jerusalem was destroyed, concludes Naʾaman. At this point, in the wake of the destruction of the Jerusalem temple, an attempt was made to reidentify Deuteronomy’s ‫מקום אשר‬ ‫ לשכן שמו שם‬′‫ יבחר ה‬as Shechem rather than Jerusalem. Presumably, this attempt to redefine the chosen site was created before Jerusalem regained its central position in Second Temple times. The assertions that the people of Israel became the people of the Lord at Shechem rather than at Sinai ( Josh 24) and that this foundation rite was designated as such already by Moses (Deut 27:9–10) were part of this late attempt to create a new national myth around the sacred sanctuary of Shechem. I believe that the idea, in its varying formulations, that Josh 24 is a postDeuteronomistic creation, must be rejected. Van Seters’s assumption that Josh 24 is the Yahwist’s summary of J does not explain why the text fails to mention not only J’s Sinai covenant but (following the LXX of v. 5) 50 his 48.  Anbar, Joshua and the Covenant at Shechem. 49. N. Naʾaman, “Shechem and Jerusalem in the Days of the Babylonian Exile and the Restoration,” Zion 58 (1993): 7–32 [Hebrew]. 50.  For the secondary nature of the reference to Moses and Aaron in v. 5, see Anbar, Joshua and the Covenant at Shechem, 23.

Sinai and Shechem: Two Covenants of Foundation

101

main hero figure—Moses! Nor is it clear why the narrator of the J story, who accepts the authority of the Deuteronomistic History, should create the idea of a Torah of the Shechem temple ex nihilo. The signs of exilic authorship are far from conclusive. The fact that Josh 24 in some ways duplicates Josh 23 cannot be denied. This does not mean, however, that Josh 24 is the later text. While Josh 24:1–28 may indeed have been secondarily inserted between Josh 23 and 24:29, 51 this has nothing to do with the time of the authorship of the secondary text. The fact that one text may supplement another at a late date does not preclude the possibility that it is ancient. The fact that Josh 23 refrains from mentioning Shechem and explicitly identifies the Torah that the Israelites must observe as The Book of the Torah of Moses (v. 6) indicates that Josh 23 reflects a later reworking of the tradition reflected in Josh 24. The idea that the worship of foreign gods in Egypt is reflected in Ezek 20 in no way indicates, as Van Seters claims, that Josh 24 is later than Ezek 20. Close examination shows that the two materials are really quite distinct. In Ezek 20:5–10, we find the unique idea that the Lord presented himself to the people of Israel in Egypt as their Lord and demanded that they put away their idols and worship him alone before the exodus event. At this point, Israel disobeyed the Lord and began its career of apostasy. In Josh 24, on the other hand, the fact that Israel worshiped alien gods in Mesopotamia and Egypt in no way constitutes apostasy. Since the divine demand of exclusive allegiance from Israel is not made until the covenant at Shechem, this worship is depicted as both natural and legitimate. The similarity between the two texts is no more than superficial. It is not very compelling to argue that Josh 24 transformed Ezekiel’s harsh condemnation of Israel as rebellious and sinful already in Egypt into a tolerant depiction of its early idolatry. Equally dubious is Nicholson’s discernment of an exilic justification of the exile in Josh 24. It seems quite odd that the exilic community in Mesopotamia should create a story of a distant and inaccessible stone in the temple of Shechem that serves as a convicting testimony against them. 51. Joshua 23 has no ending of its own, and the renewed gathering of Israelite elders and chiefs in Josh 24:1 (cf. 23:2) is uncalled for in this context. We should also note that the entire narrative of Josh 24:1–28 lacks the motif of Joshua’s old age that is stressed in 23:1, 2, and 14 and picked up in 24:29. The idea of Joshua’s imminent death does not seem to be assumed in Joshua’s statement in 24:15 that he and his household will continue to worship the Lord without the rest of the people. Finally, the statement in 24:28, “Joshua sent the people, each one to his inheritance,” parallels the conclusion to the story of Samuel’s coronation of Saul at Mitzpeh, “Samuel sent the people, each to his household” (1 Sam 10:25). As noted by Anbar ( Joshua and the Covenant at Shechem, 98), this story parallels the story of Josh 24 in various ways. The fact that the story does not follow the assumption that Samuel is about to die and simply ends with the dispersal of the assembly indicates that the same is true of the story in Josh 24 and that the original conclusion is in v. 28.

102

Chapter 2

One can cogently argue that the Lord’s threat to do evil and even destroy the people if they betray the covenant is more appropriate in preexilic times, when a severe threat can be made in the hopes of inducing obedience, than in exilic times, when a threat of this sort can induce little more than hopelessness. 52 The reason that the stone is set up, according to the text, is ‫( פן תכחשון באלהיכם‬v. 27). The fear reflected here is that the Israelites will deny that they committed themselves to the worship of the Lord (cf. Lev 5:21–22; Jer 5:12; Prov 30:9), not that they will accuse him of punishing them without fair warning. The purpose of the stone is to ensure that the covenant is upheld and does not reflect the assumption that the exile is inevitable. The function of the testimony is no more related to a justification of the exile than the tablets in the ark, which also testify to the covenant. 53 On the contrary, the concern with theodicy can be found specifically in the LXX version of v. 27, which reads: “and it will serve for you as a testimony in the end of days, when you deny the Lord your God.” Here, indeed, the catastrophe is seen in deterministic terms as a foregone eventuality already in the time of Joshua. Thus, the purpose of the stone is not to serve as a testimony and remind the Israelites of their commitment to the Lord in the present lest they rebel and suffer punishment but to justify this punishment at the end of days, when they rebel and suffer punishment. The wording of the MT, which we must surely see as the more original version of this verse, lacks the LXX’s sign of exilic theodicy. According to Anbar and Naʾaman, Josh 24 reflects its own unique version of early Israelite history, according to which the founding covenant was established at Shechem. It is not intended as a renewal of the Sinai covenant. With this I concur. What is difficult to accept is the assertion that this unique conception of Israel’s history reflected in Josh 24 is a late midrashic invention. We must recall that the position of Moses as the founding leader of Israel was central and prominent in the work of the Deuteronomistic History. The suggestion that someone would openly seek to challenge the recognized position of Moses and present Joshua as an alternative figure at such a late date is hardly credible. What is more, a controversial challenge of sacred history, at this late stage, would scarcely have been understood for what it was without explicit and emphatic assertions. Joshua 24, however, although it ignores Moses and his Torah, never openly opposes them. In the post-Deuteronomistic period, Josh 24 would most 52.  In any event, there is room for doubt about the originality of “and he will destroy you” in v.  20. The verse reads quite smoothly without it: “If you forsake the Lord and serve alien gods, he will turn and deal harshly with you after having been gracious to you.” Furthermore, the parallel sections of Judg 6:7–10; 10:10–16; 1 Sam 7:3–4; 10:17–27; and ch. 12 all follow the assumption that idolatry leads to punishment and suffering but not to destruction. Punishment, rather than destruction, is the more natural antithesis to v. 19’s “he will not forgive your transgressions and your sins.” 53.  There is thus no justification for comparing the “testimony” here with the testimony reflected in Deut 29:21–27; 31:21, 24–29.

Sinai and Shechem: Two Covenants of Foundation

103

naturally have been understood as it has been in most periods of interpretation—as little more than a reaffirmation of the Sinai covenant. This, most likely, was the understanding of the editor who supplemented it to the Deuteronomistic book of Joshua, which continually refers to the Torah of Moses. However, if the supplementer could incorporate this purportedly anti-Deuteronomistic text so easily within the flow of the Deuteronomistic History itself, how can we assume its anti-Deuteronomistic polemic? Nor is it at all clear why the post-Deuteronomistic author of Josh 24 would have sought to replace Moses with Joshua in the first place. The best Anbar can suggest as to why a late author would seek to replace the Sinaitic Torah of Moses with the Shechemite Torah of Joshua is that it spoke to the needs of resettlement. This hardly seems sufficient to explain such a radical rewriting of sacred history. Naʾaman goes much further in attempting to reconstruct the motivations of the purported postexilic author of Josh 24. As we have noted, he believes that the story with its unique version of early Israelite history was created by Israelites (after the destruction of Jerusalem) who sought to create a new Israelite myth centered around Joshua at Shechem. There is much that is paradoxical in Naʾaman’s approach. On the one hand, he accepts the thesis that Josh 24 posits the Torah of Joshua in place of the Torah of Moses and that this entails a conscious attempt to assert that Israel was founded as a people at Shechem and nowhere else. On the other hand, he also believes that Josh 24 was invented by the same authors who wrote and supplemented the sections concerning the altar and ceremony at Mt. Ebal in Deut 27 54 and Josh 8:30–35. These sections, like Josh 24, were created and supplemented to reidentify Deuteronomy’s “chosen site” as Shechem and to portray the arrival at this chosen site as the time of the foundation of the nation. However, the sections concerning Mt. Ebal are all rooted in the Mosaic tradition. It is Moses who legislates the setting up of the altar, and it is Moses’ Torah that is inscribed thereon. Clearly, this is not an attempt to replace Moses’ Torah at all. The story in Josh 24, on the other hand, never refers to the legislation of Moses or to the temple of Shechem as “the place chosen by the Lord to establish his name there.” However one evaluates the provenance and dating of the Deuteronomistic sections concerning Mt. Ebal, they cannot simply be assimilated to Josh 24. The assertion that Josh 24 is an original midrashic creation that seeks to replace Moses with Joshua and also seeks, together with the sections on Mt. Ebal, to identify Shechem as the site that Moses promised that God would choose is self-contradictory. 54.  Naʾaman (“Shechem and Jerusalem”) interprets the statement in Deut 27:9, “today you have become a people to the Lord your God,” as a reference to the future ceremony at Mt. Ebal, which the remainder of the chapter legislates. However, the verse contains the words of Moses addressed “this day” on the Plains of Moab and cannot refer to an event in the future. Nor is there any mention here of either Joshua or Shechem.

104

Chapter 2

Anbar highlights the many unique historical conceptions that are reflected in Josh 24. Of these, we may mention the reference to the ancestors up until the time of Joshua as idolatrous (v.  2 [the reference to Terah is, apparently, secondary]; vv. 14–15); the offensive battle initiated by Moab against Israel (v. 9, contra Judg 11:25); the attack of the princes of Jericho on Israel (v. 11, contra Josh 6); the subjugation of the twelve Amorite kings without resort to arms (v. 12, following the LXX, contra the entire book of Joshua); the establishment of Israel as the people of the Lord at the temple of Shechem; and Joshua’s establishment of law at Shechem and his writing of The Book of the Torah of God. I concur that these conceptions indeed stand in conflict or tension with the historical conceptions reflected in other parts of the Bible. For Anbar, all of these unique conceptions constitute late midrashic invention deriving from the original creativity of the postexilic author. Yet why would such a late author create these variant conceptions, some of which seem relatively inconsequential? It seems much more natural to assume that, though the present form of the text may be late, it derives from a relatively early period, before the standard conceptions found elsewhere in the Torah and Deuteronomistic History achieved canonical status. This is the position that I will now present.

Joshua 24 as an Early, Independent, Foundation Tradition Indications of Antiquity from the Text Itself As already indicated by Rofé 55 and Weinfeld, 56 it appears that for the tradition that is preserved in Josh 24, it was Joshua rather than Moses who established the founding covenant of the people of God, and it was at Shechem rather than at Sinai or the Plains of Moab that this founding event took place. Of course, when we read Josh 24 within the broad context of the biblical narrative, it appears as a sort of reaffirmation of the covenants of Sinai and the Plains of Moab, similar to the reaffirmation of the Mosaic Torah in the Deuteronomistic passage of Josh 8:30–35. However, this understanding of Josh 24 in broad canonical context does not seem to reflect the material’s original meaning as expressed strictly within the bounds of its own literary confines. Joshua 24 gives no indication that the covenant of Shechem is anything less than an independent rite of foundation. Just as the Sinai covenant in Exodus 19–24 does not anticipate the covenant on 55. A. Rofé, “The End of the Book of Joshua according to the Septuagint,” Henoch 4 (1982): 17–36; idem, “The Story of the Assembly at Shechem,” Proceedings of the Twelfth World Congress of Jewish Studies, Division A: The Bible and Its World ( Jerusalem: World Union of Jewish Studies, 1999), 17–26; idem, “Joshua, Son of Nun, in the History of Biblical Tradition,” Tarbiz 73 (2004): 333–64 [Hebrew]. 56.  Weinfeld, From Joshua to Josiah, 59–62.

Sinai and Shechem: Two Covenants of Foundation

105

the Plains of Moab, so it does not anticipate the covenant at Shechem. Conversely, the Shechem covenant in Josh 24 does not presuppose the previous establishment of any other covenant, whether at Sinai or on the Plains of Moab. It is today, for the first time, that the Israelites must choose between the gods of their ancestors and the Lord of the exodus event (vv. 14–15). It is only at Shechem that the Israelites take upon themselves the exclusive worship of the Lord (v. 22). No mention is even made of the encampments at Sinai or the Plains of Moab in the historical review of the Lord’s acts of grace to the people, much less of foundational covenants that were made at these sites. In fact, as we have noted, if we follow the LXX’s version of v. 5, as most likely we should, 57 no reference is to be found to the person of Moses at all. This corresponds to a striking statement found in the concluding section of the chapter that was pointed out by Rofé. 58 After the statement that Joshua was buried in the territory of his inheritance, the LXX adds: “there they placed with him, in the grave where they buried him, the flint knives with which he circumcised the Israelites when he brought them out of Egypt.” Since the verse speaks of Joshua as the one who took the Israelites out of Egypt, and it states this in a matter-of-fact, nonpolemical manner, it should probably be seen as reflecting an ancient tradition that became marginalized and eventually was suppressed. That an ancient tradition would attribute the exodus event to Joshua rather than Moses should not surprise us. After all, another tradition in 1 Sam 12:8 appears to have attributed the conquest to Moses! 59 While it is true that the present form of the chapter displays the influence of Deuteronomistic diction, 60 this can most naturally be attributed to later editorial stages in the development of the text. 61 The story depicts a covenant ceremony at the temple at Shechem in the presence of a sacred tree. It tells of the erection of a stone monument there. These elements point to the early, predeuteronomic origin of the tradition. The Deuteronomistic authors see in cultic monuments and sacred trees odious forms of apostasy (Deut 16:21–21; 1 Kgs 14:22–23) and do not legitimize temples other than the one that will explicitly be chosen by the Lord (Deut 12). Joshua 24 thus preserves an ancient alternative covenant tradition to the covenant tradition centering on Moses at Sinai or on the Plains of Moab. Obviously, this tradition derives from the Ephraimite cultic center at Shechem. The parallels between the covenants at Sinai and Shechem are striking, and bolster the understanding that they constitute alternative traditions. 57.  See n. 50 above (p. 100). 58. Rofé, “The End of Joshua.” 59.  See G. W. Ahlström, “Another Moses Tradition,” JNES 39 (1980): 65–69. 60.  Note, for example, the rather clear Deuteronomistic language in vv. 1b, 11b, 13. 61.  For an analysis of the editorial insertion of v. 10 in light of Deuteronomy, see my “Deuteronomic Portrayal of Balaam,” VT 46 (1996): 30–42.

106

Chapter 2

Just as Moses brings the Israelites to “stand” before Elohim at the foot of the mountain (Exod 19:17), so Joshua has the Israelites “stand before Elohim” ( Josh 24:1). Just as Moses gives the people laws, so does Joshua (v. 25); and just as Moses writes down the covenant stipulations in a book (Exod 24:4), so does Joshua ( Josh 24:26). Just as the people at Sinai proclaim, for the first time, “we will do and we will heed” (Exod 24:7), so also the Israelites at Shechem proclaim, for the first time, “It is the Lord we will serve, and his voice we will heed” (v. 24). We will return to these parallels later, when we will also highlight the significant differences between the texts. Indications from the Genesis Traditions of the Antiquity of the Joshua 24 Tradition Further support for the idea that Josh 24 reflects an early, independent foundation tradition can be derived from the place that Shechem occupies in the Genesis stories. It is hardly incidental that the site of the first revelation of the Lord to Abraham in the land of Canaan and the place where the first altar to the Lord is built is Shechem (Gen 12:6–7). Even more significant is the fact that the revelation at Shechem is directly concerned with the promise of the land: “to your seed I shall grant this land.” This may already be seen as a reflection or prefiguration of the idea that the relationship between the Lord and the Israelites will be established at Shechem, when the land settlement is completed and the promise to Abraham fulfilled. Similarly, Jacob’s first cultic act upon his return from Padan Aram to the land of Canaan is the establishment of a pillar at Shechem, 62 which he called, “El, the God of Israel” (Gen 33:18–19), again implying that it is at Shechem that El became Israel’s God. This sounds like a foundation tradition. We can hardly avoid the impression that these brief notices in some way correspond to the tradition in Josh 24. It appears that, in the present form of the Genesis stories, the Shechem traditions have been heavily supplanted by the traditions of Bethel. This is perhaps most evident in Gen 35:1–8. Jacob has his household remove the foreign gods at Shechem, just as Joshua has the Israelites do in Josh 24. However, this act of purification is not followed by any sacral activity there but only by the burial of these gods under the oak at Shechem and a pilgrimage to a different site, Bethel, where the altar is built instead. Y. Zakovitch 63 and N. Sarna 64 both see the burial of the gods under the oak at Shechem to be a polemical desanctification of this site. In any event, it seems clear that Shechem is being superseded here by Bethel. Zakovitch 62. The MT has ‫מזבח‬, but the verb employed is ‫ויצב‬, which would go well with the ‫מצבה‬. See BHS. 63. Y. Zakovitch, “The Purpose of the Story of the Burial of Idols at Shechem,” Beth Mikra 25 (1980): 30–37 [Hebrew]. 64. N.  M. Sarna, Genesis ( JPS Torah Commentary; Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1989), 240.

Sinai and Shechem: Two Covenants of Foundation

107

discerns further indications of the tendency of Bethel to supplant Shechem in the textual reverberations of the Shechem tradition of Gen 33:18–19. In Gen 33:18–19, Jacob comes “in peace” to Shechem and, “upon returning from Padan Aram,” establishes there the pillar called “El, the God of Israel.” Yet, according to Gen 28:19–22, it is to Bethel that Jacob promises to return and pay tribute if he returns to his father’s house “in peace.” In the Priestly tradition of Gen 35:9–15, it is indeed to Bethel that Jacob goes, “upon returning from Padan Aram,” to set up a pillar. And, returning to the non-Priestly tradition of Gen 35:1–8, which immediately precedes the Priestly tradition, one finds the continual emphasis of the fact that it was at Bethel that the Lord revealed himself to Jacob when the latter was fleeing from his brother and that it was there that he returned to pay tribute to the God who protected him. Zakovitch (in my view, most reasonably) concludes that the Shechem story of Gen 33:18–19 was known to and supplanted by the Bethel tradents. I would like to take this insight one step further. If the Bethel tradents indeed attempted to supplant the Shechem tradition, then some ancient elements of the Shechem tradition may perhaps still be discerned behind the Bethel materials. The fact that, according to the Priestly tradition in Gen 35:9–15, Jacob receives the name Israel at Bethel is highly suggestive. It is often assumed that this text reflects a late, demythologized revision of the tradition in Gen 32:23–33, where Jacob is named Israel after the struggle with the mysterious figure at Penuel. While familiarity with the Penuel tradition should certainly not be ruled out, this need not be the only tradition of the changing of Jacob’s name that the Priestly writer seeks to supplant. May we not discern in the transition in Gen 33:18–20 from the arrival of Jacob in peace at Shechem to his naming of the monument “El, God of Israel,” an indication that, according to this tradition, Jacob received the name Israel at Shechem? Is it not possible, indeed likely, that the Priestly tradition of Gen 35:9–15, which tells us that Jacob became Israel at Bethel, once again supplants an earlier Shechem tradition? Notice should be given to the fact that Penuel was Jereboam’s twin capital together with Shechem (1 Kgs 12:25), and it was Jeroboam, of course, who established the cult at Bethel. If it was claimed both at Penuel and Bethel that Jacob received the name Israel, is it not likely that the same claim was made concerning Shechem, the site where, according to a still discernible though hidden tradition Jacob himself was said to have been buried (Gen 50:5)? 65 The claim that Jacob received the name Israel at a particular site clearly reflects a claim of national foundation. The claim that Jacob became Israel at the same time that El became Israel’s Lord reflects the idea implied in all 65. S. E. Loewenstamm, “The Death of the Patriarchs in the Book of Genesis,” in From Babylon to Canaan: Studies in the Bible and Its Oriental Background ( Jerusalem: Magnes, 1992), 78–108.

108

Chapter 2

of the foundation traditions: it was in a joint commitment to the deity that the people became a nation. Genesis 33:18–20 relates that Jacob became Israel at Shechem when he returned home safely from Padan Aram, set up a monument, and accepted El as his God. This surely belongs, in general terms, to the same tradition reflected in Josh 24, according to which the Israelite nation was founded as the people of the Lord at the temple of Shechem, where the great stone was erected by Joshua. Jacob and Joshua, it seems, are parallel hero figures of this Ephraimite cultic center. 66 Further Evidence for an Ancient Shechem Foundation Tradition Deuteronomy 27:1–8 and Josh 8:30–35, though deriving in present form from the deuteronomic/Deuteronomistic schools, may also preserve ancient elements that are kindred to the Shechem tradition. According to these texts, the “words of this Torah” (Deut 27:3) were inscribed on the stones that were set up as an altar at Mt. Ebal, near Shechem. Though in the present context “this Torah” refers to the law code of Deuteronomy, it may originally have referred to an independent and more limited “Instruction.” We may compare the ceremonial recitation of laws recited in the form of imprecations in Deut 27:16–26, which ends in v. 26 with the words “Cursed be he who does not keep the words of this Torah.” Obviously, “this Torah” did not always signify the law of Deuteronomy. The ceremony at Mt. Ebal in Deut 27:1–8 may thus constitute a ceremonial lawgiving parallel to the one that was said to have taken place at Mt. Sinai. The unnumbered group of stones, like the single stone mentioned in Josh 24:26, parallels the twelve stone pillars set up by Moses at Mt. Sinai, when the laws of the covenant were read to the people (Exod 24:4). The stones may also parallel the two stone tablets that were similarly inscribed with covenantal laws. The sacrifices to be offered on the altar and the festive eating “before the Lord” at Mt. Ebal (Deut 27:6–7) are reminiscent of the altar made by Moses at the foot of Mt. Sinai, where “whole offerings and peace offerings” were made (Exod 24:4–5). Finally, as noted by Eissfeldt, 67 the present formulation of the ceremony of the stones at Mt. Ebal in Deut 27:1–8 clearly reworks an earlier Gilgal tradition, still preserved in vv. 1–3. The Gilgal tradition is also attested in Josh 3–5. After crossing the Jordan and arriving at Gilgal, we are here told, Joshua set up twelve stones, circumcised the people, and had the Israelites 66. For further traces of the tradition of the Shechem covenant in Judg 6:7–10, see below. 67. O. Eissfeldt, “Gilgal or Shechem?” in Proclamation and Presence: Old Testament Essays in Honour of Gwynne Henton Davies (ed. J. I. Durham and J. R. Porter; Richmond, VA: John Knox, 1970), 90–101.

Sinai and Shechem: Two Covenants of Foundation

109

partake of the Passover sacrifice, assumedly for the first time. 68 As noted by Weinfeld, 69 these ceremonies at Gilgal have all the markings of another foundation tradition. What is significant for us here is the fact that the stones in Josh 4 are explicitly said to have been twelve in number, in correspondence to the twelve tribes of Israel (vv.  1–5, 9). This increases the likelihood that the same was true of the stones in the Mt. Ebal ceremony, thus strengthening the parallel with the twelve stones of the Sinai event. We should also mention in this context the reference in 1 Kgs 18:31 to Elijah’s altar at Mt. Carmel, which is said to have been constructed of twelve stones, “according to the number of the tribes of Jacob, to whom the word of the Lord came, saying, ‘Your name shall be Israel.’” The establishment of an altar made of twelve stones is directly associated with the changing of the name of Jacob to the national eponym Israel. This is another indication that that the traditions of Gilgal and Mt. Ebal-Shechem implicitly express claims about the foundation of the nation. Let us now look at the story of the reprimanding angel at Bochim/Bethel in Judg 2:1–5. The story relates that the angel of the Lord came from Gilgal to Bochim/Bethel and castigated the Israelites for having made treaties with the inhabitants of the land instead of expelling them. 70 The speech of the angel alludes to a previous covenant that was made and tells us some of what was said there: I took you out of Egypt and brought you to the land that I promised to your fathers, and I said to you, “I will never break my covenant with you. Now you must not make a covenant with the inhabitants of this land. You are to smash their altars.” Yet you did not listen to me; what have you done? I also said, “I will not expel them from before you, and they shall be for you as snares, and their gods will become a stumbling block.”

It is unclear exactly where the covenant referred to is assumed to have taken place. However, the fact that the angel comes from Gilgal probably indicates that the Lord sent him from there, just as the angel of the Sinai pericope is sent from Sinai (Exod 23:20). If so, this section, like the material 68.  Contra Num 9:2. Since, at least according to Deut 29:5, the Israelites had no bread in the wilderness, they could hardly have eaten the Passover with matzot as required. The assertion of Josh 5:4–7 that the circumcision was not performed during the wilderness period because of the difficulties of travel is clearly apologetic. For the idea that the earlier form of the tradition depicted the first circumcision in Israel’s history, see Rofé, “Joshua, Son of Nun,” 350. 69.  Weinfeld, The Promise of the Land, 38–39. 70.  See the reference to Bethel in the LXX. This association is to be considered original. Note the relation of “weeping” to Bethel in Judg 20:26; 21:2. Note also the reference to “weeping” in the allusion to the story of the struggle between Jacob and the angel in Hos 12:5. The reference there to Bethel implies that for Hosea the struggle with the angel and the weeping took place at Bethel.

110

Chapter 2

in Josh 3–5, thinks of Gilgal as the site of the founding of the people of the Lord. 71 Now, in Judg 6:7–10, we find a text that in many ways forms a parallel to Judg 2:1–5. It reads as follows: When the Israelites cried to the Lord on account of Midian, the Lord sent a prophet to the Israelites who said to them, “Thus said the Lord, the God of Israel: I brought you up out of Egypt and freed you from the house of bondage. I rescued you from the Egyptians and from all your oppressors; I drove them out before you, and gave you their land. And I said to you, ‘I the Lord am your God. You must not worship the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell.’ But you did not obey me.”

As in the case of Judg 2:1–5, here too we find reference to a founding covenant that was made with Israel at some time in the past, subsequent to grounding acts of divine salvation. In both cases, the Israelites are now accused of violating that previously made covenant with the words ‫ולא שמעתם‬ ‫‘ בקלי‬you did not obey me’. At the same time, the texts do differ. While the first speaks of an angel as intermediary, the second speaks of a prophet. While the first identifies Israel’s breach of the covenant in terms of the formation of political alliances with the inhabitants, the second identifies the breach strictly as idolatry. Where was the founding covenant of the past made according to this text? Gilgal, in this instance, seems much less likely. In contrast to the text of Judg 2:1–5, here the divine acts of grace that precede the foundation of the covenant include not only the exodus event and the arrival in the land but also the conquest and expulsion of the inhabitants. Gilgal, however, marks the beginning of the conquest project rather than its end. In light of the fact that Gilgal traditions have elsewhere been taken over by Shechem tradents, it seems highly likely that in the case of Judg 6:7–10 as well Shechem tradents adapted and reworked the Gilgal tradition of Judg 2:1–5. The founding covenant of the past that is referred to in Judg 6:7–10 indeed nicely parallels the covenant of Shechem in Josh 24. In both texts, 71.  The section also betrays affinities to the covenant of Exod 34:10–27. Exodus 34 speaks of a covenant in accordance with a law code commanded “today,” the first clauses of which include the prohibition against making treaties with the inhabitants of the land, the command to destroy their altars and monuments, and the warning that the inhabitants will become a “stumbling block” (vv. 11–13). In the present literary context, Exod 34 depicts the renewal of the Sinai covenant after the sin of the golden calf. The verses in question, however, never speak of a covenant renewal and again seem to have originally referred to an initial covenant that preceded the conquest (note the reference in v. 10 to the unparalleled wonders that the Lord will perform in the future). The location of the covenant is, of course, undetermined, but the correspondence to Judg 2:1–5 together with the fact that the covenant focuses heavily on agricultural celebrations at the temple make Gilgal a distinct possibility. The command to visit the shrine three times a year is most naturally made by the deity at the shrine itself, and the promise to “expand” the borders (v. 24) perhaps implies a relatively early phase of Israel’s land occupation.

Sinai and Shechem: Two Covenants of Foundation

111

the divine provision of the land as an accomplished fact serves as the foundation for the covenant. This is why the prohibition of the covenant in these texts is idolatry and not, as in Judg 2:1–5, the formation of treaties with the inhabitants, which relates to the conquest project as an uncompleted task. The replacement of the angel of Judg 2:1–5 with the figure of the prophet in Judg 6:7–10 parallels the role of Joshua as prophet in Josh 24. 72 It also coincides with the fact that Josh 24 makes no reference to the role of an angel in the saving acts. Most important, the main elements of Judg 6:7–10, including the opening call, “Thus says Yhwh the God of Israel,” the recital of the saving acts of “salvation” from various oppressors, the “expulsion” of the inhabitants, and the final command not to “fear the gods of the Amorites in whose land you live” are all found and expressed in similar terminology in Josh 24. 73 The passage in Judg 6:7–10 may thus provide further evidence for the existence of an ancient tradition, according to which the foundation of Israel was formed at Shechem.

Shechem and Sinai as Alternative Foundation Traditions Having established that alternative foundation traditions circulated in ancient Israel and that the tradition of Josh 24 reflects one such tradition, we may now proceed to a typological comparison of Sinai and Shechem. This comparison is hardly a simple or straightforward matter. In all probability, both the Sinai tradition and the Shechem tradition underwent extended periods of growth and development, both on the oral and the literary levels. The continuous growth of the Sinai tradition is clearly evident in the fact that it extends well beyond the initial event reported in Exod 19–24 and is elaborated on in the later Priestly and deuteronomic materials. The development of the Shechem material is less obvious and less extensive but no less certain. And just as these traditions have undergone late literary embellishments, they appear to have derived from earlier oral versions, some of which may have presented these traditions in significantly divergent forms. We must therefore be careful to compare analogous materials. We cannot compare a late Priestly version of the Sinai event, for example, to an early layer of preliterary tradition related to Shechem 74 72.  Both employ the classic prophetic introductory phrase “Thus says the Lord.” The angel, on the other hand, does not employ this introductory phrase. Rather, the angel appears as a personification or hypostasis of the deity and speaks as the Lord, in the first person. 73.  See Josh 24:2, 8ff., 14 (“fear the Lord”), 15 (“the gods of the Amorites in whose land you live”). 74. Several early critics spoke of Josh 24 as reflecting an ancient tradition that portrayed Joshua and the Israelites as absorbing the Canaanite city of Shechem into the Israelite league via a covenant, although its conquest was never reported in the book of Joshua. This position was revived by Weinfeld (From Joshua to Josiah, 59–62). The reality of such a covenant seems to lie behind the story in Gen 34 concerning the pact that was made

112

Chapter 2

or a late Deuteronomistic addition to Josh 24 to an early, poetic tradition related to Sinai. On the whole, I will limit myself here to the literary materials and discuss preliterary allusions only to the extent that they may elucidate the literary form of the tradition. For the Sinai tradition, I will limit myself to the material in Exod 19–24, since it is here that the fundamental nonPriestly tradition is presented. 75 Even though the material here is extremely

via circumcision between the sons of Jacob and the Hivites of Shechem to become “one people” and dwell together in the land. It may also lie behind the story of Abimelech’s connections with the people of Shechem in Judg 9. The name of the deity in Shechem, El-berith, or Baal-berith ( Judg 8:33; 9:4, 46) is understood in this interpretation as reflecting precisely this covenant between the Shechemites and the Hebrews. Accordingly, the “Israelites” of Josh 24 who put away their foreign gods were originally Canaanites who were now accepting the “God of Israel” for the first time. The assertion of Joshua in v. 15 that, if the people do not agree to his terms, he and his “household” will alone serve the Lord is taken, on this reading, as a reference to the ancient Hebrews who already accepted worship of the Lord and would continue to do so without the Shechemites. Only at a later stage in the development of the story of Joshua’s covenant did it come to depict an all-Israel foundation covenant. I do not wish to question the likelihood that covenants between Shechemites (or other Canaanites) and Hebrews were contracted in the complex reality of early Israelite history or even the possibility that a tradition about a covenant of this sort was known to the author of the narrative in Josh 24. What I challenge is the suggestion that this tradition spoke of “Joshua and his household” as Hebrews, coming from the outside, to incorporate the Shechemites/Canaanites into the Israelite covenant. There is no basis for separating “Joshua and his household” from Shechem and its inhabitants. On the contrary, the people whom Joshua places under the covenant are gathered from outside the city. And it is Joshua and his household who gather them to the Temple of Yhwh at Shechem. The figure of Joshua was an Ephraimite hero, and the city of Shechem was an Ephraimite capital. At the conclusion of the covenant, Joshua sends the Israelite tribes back to their respective “inheritances,” which may also be referred to as “houses” (cf. 1 Sam 10:25). Joshua, the purist Yhwh worshiper, remains, however, in the territory of the Yhwh Temple of the covenant. Thus, “Joshua and his household” can only be a reference to the Ephraimites centered around Shechem (note the phrase ‫בית‬ ‫ )יוסף‬and could not have reflected the Hebrews outside Shechem. As I have stated, this does not mean that there was never a tradition of a covenant between Hebrews on the outside and non-Hebrew Shechemites. Such a tradition may well be hinted at in Gen 34 and may lie in the traditiohistorical background of our story. If so, however, this tradition probably had nothing to do with the figure of Joshua (unless we assume that Hoshea bin Nun was here the Canaanite leader of the Shechemites) and was radically altered by the author of the story of the Joshua covenant. Instead of the Shechemites representing the Canaanite population, they now became the sole center of purist Yhwh worship. Instead of the Shechemites joining the religion of the outside Israelites, it is now the outside Israelites who must purify themselves and adapt themselves to the exclusive demands of Shechemite religion, now identified as Yahwism. We may well assume that the nonIsraelite origin of the Shechemite population stood as an obstacle in the way of Shechem’s rise in Israel. The way that this obstacle was removed is striking. The Shechemites ( Joshua and his household) were depicted as the only Yhwh purists, and the outside Israelites were the ones who needed the covenant! 75.  On this point, see Toeg, Lawgiving at Sinai, 1–11, 95–108.

Sinai and Shechem: Two Covenants of Foundation

113

heterogeneous, 76 it still may be taken as a redactoral unit with its own coherent structure. 77 With regard to Josh 24, I will attempt to avoid passages that clearly reflect late editing and that seem to contravene the structure of the material as a whole. 78 I will also refrain from attempting to determine the historical relationship between the covenant traditions. Did the individuals who promoted the tradition of a covenant at Shechem consciously seek to reject the Sinai tradition, or were they simply unaware of it? Did the people who promoted the tradition of the Sinai covenant consciously seek to reject the Shechem tradition, or were they simply unaware of it? Was one tradition a derivative of the other, or were the two traditions completely independent of each other? These questions, which are certainly intriguing in themselves, are of less significance for my purposes in this chapter, which are mainly conceptual and typological. Instead of seeking to determine the historical relationship between the Sinai and Shechem covenants, I prefer here to explore the theological and ideological conceptions implied by each and to consider how these conceptions might be compared and contrasted with one another. More specifically, I will examine the way that these covenants reflect divergent understandings of the significance of “Israel” and the way that “Israel” relates to both law and land. The Place of the Conquest in the Structure of the Covenant One of the essential theological differences between the Sinai covenant and the Shechem covenant is the role played by the conquest event within the structure of the covenant. As is well known, the covenant form begins with a historical review of the divine acts of grace that create a sense of indebtedness and entitle the deity to demand the loyalty of his new, wouldbe subjects. What are the saving acts performed by the Lord that entitle him to Israel’s loyalty in the covenant of Shechem? They clearly consist of both the exodus and the conquest. These two events are seen as part of a single and inseparable whole. There is much coherence in this conception. What, indeed, would be the value of the exodus from Egypt without its culmination in the conquest? This would merely leave the Israelites stranded 76. For a recent attempt to reconstruct the various narrative strands, see W.  H. C. Propp, Exodus 19–40 (AB 2A; New York: Doubleday, 2006), 131–54. On the integration of narrative and legal material in this pericope, see Toeg, Lawgiving at Sinai, 13–45, 61–95. 77.  See T. B. Dozeman, God on the Mountain (SBLMS 37; Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1989). 78. For one attempt to reconstruct the “original” text of Josh 24, see Anbar, Joshua and the Covenant at Shechem, 37–57. In reality, it is extremely difficult to draw a clear line between an “original” text and later supplements since, in all likelihood, the material continuously evolved and developed. A certain amount of subjectivity in the decision to include or exclude textual material cannot be avoided. On the whole, I shall exclude from my analysis of Josh 24 only the passages that both reflect Deuteronomistic editing and allow for a relatively secure reconstruction of the pre-Deuteronomistic text.

114

Chapter 2

in the desert. 79 Since the conquest of the land, as undeserved grace, is a crucial component in the grounding of the covenant of Shechem, its supernatural character must be upheld and highlighted. We are thus told in the Shechem covenant that the conquest was accomplished by miraculous divine intervention, “not by your sword and not by your bow” ( Josh 24:12). This is not mere hyperbole. According to this verse, the Lord sent a plague of hornets that chased away the twelve Amorite kings of the land so that the Israelites did not even need to wage battle. 80 The equally personal involvement of God in the exodus, the wilderness wandering, and the conquest indicates the equal centrality of all of these components in the grounding of the covenant. Significantly different is the covenant of Sinai. At the very beginning of the Sinai narrative, God calls to Moses from the mountain and says, “Thus shall you say to the house of Jacob and tell the children of Israel: ‘You have seen that which I have done to the Egyptians, how I bore you on the wings of eagles and brought you to me. Now then, if you will obey me faithfully and keep my covenant . . .’” (Exod 19:3–5). The fact that the covenant is made in the desert before the entrance into the land obviously indicates that it is the exodus from Egypt that alone serves as the grounds of Israel’s indebtedness. This is also reflected in the introduction to the Decalogue, which states: “I am the Lord who brought you forth from the land of Egypt, from the house of slavery” (Exod 20:2). The exodus is an act of salvation in its own right that does not require land-settlement to render it beneficial. The giving of the land is not an act of divine grace upon which the covenant is based but follows after the covenantal pact, which goes into effect without it. 81 The unique status of the exodus event as opposed to the conquest and settlement is given expression in Exod 14:13–14. This text stands in marked contrast to the statement of Josh 24:12 cited above. The formulation of 79.  This most reasonable way of thinking is expressed in the charge of Dathan and Abiram against Moses in the wake of the belated stay in the wilderness: “You have not even brought us to a land flowing with milk and honey or given us an inheritance of field and vineyard” (Num 16:14). 80.  Following the LXX regarding the number 12. The MT harmonizes with the remainder of the book of Joshua by attempting to limit the Israelite passivity in the conquest to the 2 kings conquered in Transjordan. This resolution is impossible, however, because the conquest of the Transjordan has been depicted already in v.  8. The MT’s “two Amorite kings” is clearly a Deuteronomistic adaptation following texts such as Josh 2:10 and 9:10. Here we apparently have another independent tradition that is unattested elsewhere. 81.  It is thus inadequate, with some scholars, to emphasize the idea that, in contrast to the Davidic covenant of Zion, the covenant of Sinai posits the deity as the monarch and reflects a premonarchic conception of Israelite society. While it is true that the Sinai covenant has no place for a human monarch in its conception of Israel, this is no less true for the covenant of Shechem. The uniqueness of the Sinai covenant is not only that it is premonarchic but also that it is presettlement. Israel is constituted as a people not only without a human king but without a land of inhabitance.

Sinai and Shechem: Two Covenants of Foundation

115

v. 13 in Exod 14 is difficult and requires, I suggest, slight emendation. In its present form, it reads: “Moses said to the people, ‘Fear not. Stand firm and witness the deliverance of the Lord which he will perform for you today; for that which you see, the Egyptians, today—you will never see them again unto eternity.’” The sentence is syntactically awkward. Some scholars follow several textual witnesses that read ‫ כאשר ראיתם‬instead of ‫אשר ראיתם‬ and understand the verse as saying that the Israelites would never again see the Egyptians the way that they see them today. However, this reading does not remove the awkwardness. Would it not have been simpler to state: “You will never again see the Egyptians” without the cumbersome and superfluous preface “the way you see the Egyptians today” leading to “you will not see them again”? It seems to me that the verse has been glossed with the words “the Egyptians” and with the final mem of ‫לראותם‬. 82 The verses must be rendered as follows: Moses said to the people, “Fear not. Stand firm and witness the deliverance of the Lord which he will perform for you today; for that which you will see today, you will never see again unto eternity. The Lord will do battle for you while you stand silent.”

What the Israelites will witness for the first and last time is not the standing Egyptian army. It is, rather, the single-handed battling of the Lord, allowing the Israelites to stand passively and watch. The idea expressed in these verses is, once again, more than mere dramatic hyperbole. It reflects the unique status of the exodus event in terms of the Heilsgeschichte. In no future battle, including the conquest battles, will the Israelites be able to watch passively as God does battle on their behalf. 83 Since the divine role in the battle against the Egyptians is of a different order from his role in any possible future battle, it is specifically the exodus from Egypt that can serve as the ultimate ground for the covenant. The uniquely direct involvement of the deity in the exodus is highlighted in the Sinai pericope as well. In Exod 19:4, we read: “You have seen what I did to Egypt; I lifted you up on wings of eagles and brought you to me.” Joshua 24:12 stands in stark contrast to this conception. Since the covenant of Shechem grounds the covenant in the provision of the land, it depicts God’s personal involvement in battle in relation to the conquest. Here, too, we find Israel passively watching, without sword or bow, as God drives out the twelve Amorite kings of the land single-handedly. 84 82.  We may assume that the glossator was uncertain about what it was that the Israelites would never see again. Since v. 28 states that the waters covered the entire Egyptian army so that not a single individual was left, he concluded that Moses was hinting at the imminent destruction of the Egyptian army. 83. In Jer 16:14–15, the prophet looks forward to the time when the exodus from Egypt will be overshadowed by the even more dramatic return from the exile. This must be seen as a reversal of the message reflected in our passage. 84.  See n. 80 above.

116

Chapter 2

The distinction between the degree of divine involvement in the exodus and in the conquest is reflected, in the Sinai tradition, in the role assigned to the angel of the Lord. The Sinai pericope emphasizes that it was the Lord himself who took the Israelites out of Egypt, brought them to Sinai (Exod 19:4), and spoke to them there from out of the heavens (20:22). After the exodus and the giving of the law, however, an angel was appointed to guard Israel in the desert and to bring it into the land of promise (23:20–23). Why the sudden distancing of the divine presence? In Exod 32–34, we find indications of a conception according to which the decision to bring in the divine angel was made in response to the sin of the golden calf and was not a part of God’s original plan for Israel (cf. 32:34; 33:2–5; 34:9). The text there further implies that Moses succeeded in overturning this divine decree of punishment (33:14–16). In the original pericope of the Sinai covenant in Exod 19–24, however, there is no indication of such an understanding. Rather, the angel’s role is determined from the start and is never revoked. Why, then, does the angel come at this point (23:20–23) in the Sinai covenant of Exod 19–24? Apparently, the angel takes over precisely at the stage when God’s direct intervention is no longer necessary. Since the grounding of the covenant is established through the exodus event alone, the subsequent events of the wilderness trek and the conquest of the land can be administered by the deity through an angelic intermediary. This, again, stands in contrast to the covenant in Shechem, where the divine angel is never introduced. The lack of differentiation between the exodus, the wilderness wandering, and the conquest is clearly evidenced in Israel’s affirmation of faith in Josh 24:16–18: God forbid that we should forsake the Lord to worship other gods, for it was the Lord our God who brought us and our fathers up from Egypt, the land of slavery; it was he who displayed those great signs before our eyes and guarded us on all our wanderings and among the many peoples through whose land we passed. It was the Lord who drove out from before us all the peoples and Amorites who lived in the land.

Since the conquest is just as foundational as the exodus event, no distinction can be made between these events. All of them were depicted as the personal acts of God. This distinction between the covenant at Sinai and the covenant at Shechem parallels the two formulations found throughout the Hebrew Bible with reference to the exodus. While the majority of texts employ the ‫הוציא‬ formula, a significant minority of texts employ the term ‫ העלה‬to describe God’s saving act. As noted by Wijngaards, 85 the ‫ הוציא‬formula focuses on the exodus alone, while the ‫ העלה‬formula includes within it the inheritance 85.  J. N. M. Wijngaards, “‫ הוציא‬and ‫העלה‬: A Twofold Approach to the Exodus,” VT 15 (1965): 91–102.

Sinai and Shechem: Two Covenants of Foundation

117

of the land. It is important to note that the ‫ הוציא‬formula corresponds conceptually to the covenant at Sinai, where it is this formula that is indeed employed (Exod 20:1–2). The ‫ העלה‬formula corresponds to the Shechem covenant, where it too is employed in the text ( Josh 24:17). Another text, which also employs the ‫ העלה‬formula and also expresses the idea that the foundation of the God-Israel relationship was first established on the land following the conquest, is Judg 6:8–10: These are the words of the Lord, the God of Israel: “I brought you up [‫ ]העליתי‬from Egypt and took you out of the house of slavery and saved you from the hand of Egypt and from the hand of all your oppressors. I drove them out from before you and I gave you their lands. Then I said to you, ‘I am the Lord your God; do not fear the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell.’”

The divine statement to Israel in v. 10, “I am the Lord your God,” and the prohibition of alien deities clearly reflect the initiation of the covenant and parallel the same statements made at Sinai in the Decalogue (Exod 20:2–5). The difference, of course, is that the covenant in Judg 6, which I have already identified above with the Shechem tradition, considers the divine declaration of Lordship and accompanying prohibition of disloyalty to have been made only upon completion of the conquest. Here too, the Lord’s personal and undifferentiated involvement in both the exodus event and the conquest is expressed. What role is played by the giving of the land in the Sinai covenant? The logic of the Sinai covenant dictates that we view the giving of the land not as an act of divine grace but as a conditional divine obligation. The Sinai covenant, by its very nature, is two-sided and speaks of mutual responsibilities (Exod 19:5–6). At Sinai, Israel obligated itself to worship the Lord and to keep his commandments (Exod 24:3, 7). The Lord, for his part, obligated himself to care for Israel’s welfare and to give it his blessings. Exodus 23:20–33—which relates God’s promise to send an angel who will guard Israel on the way and bring Israel into the land, and his promise to expel the inhabitants, to bless Israel’s bread and water, to provide longevity and fertility in the land, and to remove sickness and barrenness—constitutes God’s side of the agreement. This is why the covenant ceremony is found in the immediately following section, 24:3–8. The covenant based on “all these words” (24:8) must refer to all that was mentioned above—that is, both the laws imposed upon the people of Israel and the provision of the angel, land, and blessing promised by God. The giving of the land is thus part of God’s overall obligation to care for his people. This, of course, is made conditional upon Israel’s observance of the commandments. It is important to note how the original meaning of the warning to obey the words of the angel in Exod 23:20–22 is amplified and transformed in light of the broader context. In light of the initial injunction of Exod 19:5,

118

Chapter 2

“Now, If you listen to my voice and heed my covenant . . . ,” the voice of the angel in Exod 23:20–22 (identified with the speech of the Lord) in the promise “If you listen to his voice and do all that I say, then I will destroy your enemies” can only refer to the words of the covenant. These are the “words of the Lord” that Moses writes in the Book of the Covenant. Originally, however, the voice of the angel refers not to the commandments of the covenant but to the one-time, ad hoc battle orders of the angelic military general who represents the deity in the campaign of the conquest (compare the reference to the “officer of the host of the Lord” in Josh 5:14). This is the natural meaning of the injunction “Beware of him and heed his voice; do not rebel against him, for he will not bear your iniquity, for my name is in him.” We may profitably compare the statement of the Israelites to Joshua, the human leader of the conquest, “Anyone who disobeys your voice and does not heed your words about anything that you command us will be put to death” ( Josh 1:18). The issue in Exod 23:20–22 is thus, originally, “iniquity” in the sense of “treason” against the military authority of the angel (see, for example, 2 Kgs 1:1). In the broader context, however, it is clear that the success of the conquest is dependent not merely on army discipline but on religious discipline. This is clarified in the immediately subsequent verses. The blessings of the land will come about when Israel refrains from foreign worship, destroys the gods and monuments of the inhabitants, and worships the Lord (vv. 24–25). 86 At the same time, the concrete military significance of the commands of the angel is not expunged. Unlike the exodus event, which is carried out by the Lord alone, the conquest requires human participation. The Israelites are required to expel the inhabitants and to refrain from making treaties with them (vv. 31–33). The successful outcome of the conquest is dependent on both military and religious discipline. God will assist in the conquest through the agency of his angel. It is Israel’s obligation, however, to do its share. The conquest is thus a joint divine-human project. It is Israel’s obligation to take to arms, and it is the Lord’s obligation to see that it succeeds if it obeys his (and his angel’s) commands. The covenant at Shechem is structured differently. All future obligation in this covenant falls upon the people alone. God’s acts on behalf of the people, including the conquest of the land, all belong to the realm of past history. They serve as the basis of Israel’s indebtedness and motivate Israel to take on its covenant obligations, which alone extend into the future. While the Lord’s good graces may be expected (barring Israelite sin) to continue on into the future, they remain in the future as they were in the past: 86.  It is not completely clear who is responsible for the conquest in Exod 23:20–33. According to the MT of v. 31, Israel is commanded to expel the inhabitants, whereas according to the LXX, and according to vv. 27–28, God (or his “terror” or “angel”) promises to expel them. In v. 23, God promises to destroy the inhabitants rather than expel them, and in v. 24, the Israelites are expected to destroy their cultic objects.

Sinai and Shechem: Two Covenants of Foundation

119

free-flowing graces, not obligations. This difference in structure is reflected in the signs of the covenant. In the Sinai covenant, the blood of the covenant is divided in half. Half of the blood is poured out on the altar, and the other half is sprinkled in the direction of the people. This apparently reflects the fact that mutual obligations have been taken on. 87 In the Shechem covenant, in marked contrast, no such ritual of mutual obligation is depicted. Instead, a stone is set up under the oak in the temple area, which serves as a testimony against Israel alone ( Josh 24:27). The deity, in the Shechem covenant, never takes on any obligations and is ultimately free, even after the covenant, to act as he pleases. The Patriarchal Period The central position of the bestowal of the land in the Shechem covenant is reflected, not only in the fact that the historical review of divine graces extends beyond the exodus event into the conquest, but also in the fact that the review begins before the exodus by referring back to the patriarchal period. This coincides with the role that Shechem plays in the patriarchal narratives of Genesis in general and with the fact that both Jacob (Gen 50:5; cf. 43:19) 88 and Joseph ( Josh 24:32) were said to have been buried there. It must be emphasized that there is no mention here of a divine “oath” or “covenant” with the patriarchs. There is only one covenant in the conception of Josh 24: the covenant at Shechem. The God of Shechem made no oaths to the patriarchs and was therefore under no constraint or obligation to act on behalf of Israel. Nonetheless, the Heilsgeschichte begins not with the exodus from Egypt but with the exodus from the Euphrates to the land of Canaan. The land is graciously bestowed already at this stage, prior to the Egyptian exodus, when the Lord “led him [Abraham] through the length and breadth of the land of Canaan” (v. 3), symbolically signifying acquisition of ownership (cf. Gen 13:17). By beginning the historical review with the patriarchs, the Shechem covenant emphasizes that, in spite of the fact that the Israelites entered the land from Egypt, their ancient ancestors lived and prospered in the land of Canaan. Israel thus has ancient roots in the land. The divine conquest of the land for Israel was nothing other than the completion of a process that had begun before. The ancient gift was now renewed. We may compare the scope of the historical survey in Josh 24 with the scope of the historical summary in Deut 26:5–9. Here too the survey extends forward beyond the exodus event to include the bestowal of the land, and begins with the early patriarchs (‫)ארמי אבד אבי‬. Here too the inclusion of 87. The altar is often given a theophoric name in the Bible, indicating that it may serve as a symbol of the divine presence. See Gen 33:20; Exod 17:15; and also compare Exod 23:24, which commands the destruction of gods and monuments, with Exod 34:13, which commands the destruction of altars and monuments. 88.  See n. 65 above (p. 107).

120

Chapter 2

patriarchal history does not entail any reference to a patriarchal covenant. In terms of scope, then, the summaries are alike. At the same time, the two historical surveys are divergent. In the Shechem covenant, the patriarchal history takes on a much more significant role than it does in Deut 26. In Deut 26, the patriarch merely passes through the land of Canaan in his migrations from Aram to Egypt. The deity plays no clear role at this period, which serves merely as background to the salvation from Egypt. In Josh 24, in contrast, Abraham is taken out of his ancient homeland by an act of God. The intended destination of the divinely led migration is specifically designated as the land of Canaan, where Abraham stays and traverses. It is only the descent to Egypt that is attributed to human initiative: “Jacob and his sons went down to Egypt” (24:4). Further, while in Deut 26 the Israelites are said to have come to Egypt in small numbers and to have become a populous nation in Egypt (25:5, ‫ ;ויגר שם במתי מעט ויהי שם לגוי גדול עצום ורב‬see Deut 10:22), in Josh 24:3, God is already multiplying the seed of Abraham in the land of Canaan. Corresponding to this, Josh 24 makes no reference to the theme of the proliferation of the Israelites in Egypt. In this, the Shechem tradition appears to follow the original import of the patriarchal tradition, which thought of the Israelites as multiplying within the land. 89 It appears, then, that while for Deut 26 the patriarchal history serves as mere background for the Heilsgeschichte that basically begins with the exodus event, for the historical summary in Josh 24 the excursion into Egypt is almost a disruptive interlude in the history of the formation of the nation. Whereas for Deut 26 the Israelites proliferate and become a ‫גוי‬, a nation (at least from the demographic perspective) first in Egypt, for Josh 24 they proliferate and become a nation before the descent to Egypt, in their land. The presentation of the conquest period is also handled differently in the two texts. In Deut 26, there is no clear reference to a military conquest. The tributes to God’s power all center on the exodus event alone. The Lord is said to have brought Israel out of Egypt “with a strong hand and an outstretched arm, with great terror, signs, and wonders” (v. 8). After this display of divine power, the deity is said to have brought the Israelites into the land of milk and honey and given it to them (v. 9). No mention is made here of signs and wonders or of a strong hand. The bestowal of the land, though clearly of significance, in this text takes on a diminished status in relation to the exodus. In Josh 24, in contrast, the battle against the Egyptians is merely the first in a series of battles of divine salvation (the 89.  The promise of many children and the land promise are intricately connected in the Genesis stories (Gen 12:1–2; 13:14–17; 17:6–8; 22:17; 26:3–5; etc.), and one scarcely finds an indication that the promise of becoming a populous nation will be fulfilled outside the land. While still in his foreign homeland, Abraham is told to leave for a new land with the promise that he will become a great nation (Gen 12:1–2). The most straightforward meaning is that Abraham will multiply and become a great nation in the land. Similarly, in Gen 28:13–14, God promises the land to Jacob and his seed together with the assurance that this seed will multiply and spread out west, east, north, and south.

Sinai and Shechem: Two Covenants of Foundation

121

Amorites of the Transjordan, the Moabites, the lords of Jericho, the twelve Amorite kings of the land). The centrality of the conquest is thus highlighted. All of this corresponds to the central role played by the patriarchal period here. Let us now return to the Sinai tradition. In contrast to the central role played by the patriarchal tradition in the historical survey of Josh 24, the Sinai pericope in Exod 19–24 never even mentions this tradition. This is not a mere coincidence. 90 Rather, it reflects the conception that the history of the Lord’s involvement with the Israelites first began with the exodus event. This conception is found elsewhere. In Ezek 20:5, for example, it is the people of the exodus generation that God “chooses,” and it is to them that he makes the oath and the promise, without any reference to the patriarchs. According to Hos 11:1 and 13:4 (cf. also 2:17), the Lord chose Israel only at the time of the exodus, and no previous selection or involvement with the patriarchs is mentioned. 91 Following this conception, Israel before this choosing was idolatrous and did not know the Lord in any way (contra Deut 26:7). The fact that the Sinai pericope in Exod 19–24 makes no mention of the patriarchal covenant or even mentions the patriarchs as ancestors probably indicates that the Sinai tradition belongs within the orbit of this same general outlook. It is at Sinai that the Israelites become the people of the Lord, and it is on the basis of the free grace of the exodus as an initiating act that this new relationship is founded. 92 Perhaps we hear a late echo of this understanding of the Sinai covenant in Deut 5:3, which states: “Not with our ancestors did the Lord make this covenant, but with us, we, these, here, today, all of us alive.” 93 Early 90. Note that Exod 23:20 refers to the land simply as “the place that I prepared.” Just as the Sinai tradition in Exod 19–24 makes no mention of the patriarchal tradition, so the patriarchal tradition of Genesis fails to anticipate (on the whole) the future Sinai covenant. On the independence of the two traditions, see R. Rendtorff, The Problem of the Process of Transmission in the Pentateuch (trans. J. J. Scullion; JSOTSup 89; Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1990), 91–92, 194–95. 91.  At a later stage, we find the attempt to synthesize the conception of the exodus as the foundational act with the patriarchal history through the conception of the patriarchal covenant that preceded the Sinai covenant. In the original Sinai conception, God chose to redeem the Israelites at the time of their enslavement in Egypt based on grace and not as the inevitable result of a previous commitment made to earlier ancestors. The idea that the exodus was the fulfillment of the oath to the patriarchs reflects the view that the people of Israel were destined to become the people of the Lord even before the descent to Egypt. Concomitant with this view, Abraham could be depicted as observing the commandments (Gen 26:5), and the story of the rape of Dinah in Gen 34 could make the comment that “an outrage was committed in Israel,” as if “Israel” already existed as a national entity with its own distinctive cultural norms, rather than as a single man’s family. The idea that the exodus was motivated by God’s prior oath to the patriarchs is amply attested in the book of Exodus (2:24; 6:4–5), and it corresponds to the idea that the people God sought to redeem from Egypt were already “his” (3:7; 4:22–23; 5:1, 3). 92.  That the love for Israel began in the desert is implied in Jer 31:2–3. 93. This would coincide with Deuteronomy’s depiction of all the altars and pillars in the land as Canaanite (Deut 12:1–3, etc.). Implicit here is a denial of the idea that the Israelite patriarchs set up altars and pillars to the Lord, as related in Genesis.

122

Chapter 2

patriarchal history is of no significance to the Sinai covenant and may be totally ignored. In fact, reference to a relationship of any kind between the Lord and the early patriarchs who lived in the land would only detract from the grace of the exodus. If the Lord came to Israel’s aid for the first time in Egypt, then the redemption from Egypt must indeed elicit Israelite gratitude and indebtedness. If, on the other hand, the Lord already settled the patriarchs within the land but failed to provide for their sustenance and growth therein, thus forcing them to take on the harsh conditions of a life in exile, then the redemption of the exodus must elicit far less indebtedness and obligation. After all, since it was the Lord who was responsible for the descent into Egypt, it is his responsibility to reverse this situation. 94 Corresponding to the fact that the Sinai pericope fails to mention the patriarchs is the fact that the patriarchal tradition in Genesis makes no reference to Sinai. None of the patriarchs travel to Sinai, though Abraham and Jacob do descend to Egypt, 95 and no theophany is depicted there. Almost all of the theophanies to the patriarchs occur within the land, 96 and it is in Israelite territory alone that they set up altars and monuments and offer sacrifices. 97 Nor is the future covenant at Sinai foretold or anticipated in any of the theophanies that the patriarchs experience in the land. That which is promised to the patriarchs in these theophanies is progeny, territory, kings, and a great name, not righteous laws or a “kingdom of priests.” The lack of all reference to the patriarchs in the Sinai covenant thus reflects the original independence of the two traditions. The patriarchal tradition is land centered and highlights Israel’s ancient roots in the land. The Sinai tradition, in contrast, emphasizes Israel’s separation from the land. Israel proliferated in the land of Egypt and became God’s people in the midst of the desert. The patriarchal tradition highlights the centrality of human monarchy and promises territorial and political success. 98 The Sinai tradition highlights God’s kingdom and speaks of Israel in terms of his holy people.

94.  See Judg 6:13, where the fact that the Lord brought up Israel from Egypt obligates him to continue aiding and protecting them. 95.  According to the midrash, God showed Jacob the revelation at Mount Sinai in the dream at Bethel. See L. Ginzberg, Legends of the Jews (trans. H. Szold; 7 vols.; Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1947), 1.351; 5.291 n. 136. 96.  The only exceptions to this are Gen 12:1–4, which, however, clearly disrupts the flow of the text, and Gen 21:11–13, where Jacob’s ancestral God calls upon him to return to his homeland. In both of these theophanies, the issue is centered on the ascent to the land, and there is no establishment of an altar or monument and no cultic activity. 97.  Gen 12:6–8; 13:18; 21:33; 22:2, 14; 26:23–25; 28:10–22; 31:45–54; 33:18–20; 35:6– 7, 9–15; 46:1–4. 98. See M.  Weinfeld, “The Davidic Empire: Realization of the Promise to the Patriarchs,” ErIsr 24 (Malamat Volume; 1994): 87–92 [Hebrew].

Sinai and Shechem: Two Covenants of Foundation

123

The Character of the Law in Relation to the Land The place of the bestowal of the land within the covenant structure corresponds to the place the land holds in relation to the covenant stipulations—the commandments. In the Sinai covenant, the obligation to observe the commandments takes effect immediately, in the desert. The laws of the Decalogue are not dependent on life in the land. The prohibition against idolatry takes effect at Sinai, and for this reason the golden calf incident in the desert serves as the paradigm of covenant violation. The same must be true regarding the Sabbath and all the other injunctions mentioned in the Decalogue. None of these laws is inherently land bound. The command to make an altar of earth or stone in any place (Exod 20:24–25) 99 must be understood as referring not only to any place within the land but to the areas of the desert wanderings as well. 100 It is in accordance with this that Moses concludes the Sinai covenant with the building of an altar at the mountain (Exod 24:4). A similar conception is found in Exod 18. In this chapter, which again depicts sacrificial worship outside the land (v.  12), Jethro advises Moses to “enjoin upon them the laws and the teachings and make known to them the way they are to go and the practices they are to follow” (v. 20). These laws are in no way thought of as being restricted to the land. It is already in the desert that the laws take effect, and it is already here that long lines of Israelites form outside Moses’ tent so that Moses may “inform them of the laws of God and his teachings” (v. 16). Of course, the Sinai covenant looks forward to the settlement in the land and is ultimately meant to be implemented as the law of the land. Many of the laws of the Book of the Covenant clearly do not comply with life in the desert. Nonetheless, the covenant begins outside the land, and the laws that are not inherently “land bound” are immediate obligations. The same conception is reflected in P.  The Priestly material surrounding the Sinai event asserts not only that the building of the tabernacle was commanded on the mountain but that this command was carried out immediately. The cultic functions of the tabernacle, including the festival sacrifices, were commanded and implemented in the Sinai wilderness (cf. Lev 7:37–38; ch. 23; Num 9:4–5). The same is true of the Sabbath (Exod 31:12–17) and the purity laws (Lev 15:31). On the whole, only the Priestly laws that are blatantly agricultural in nature are prefaced with the words “when you come into the land” (Lev 23:10; 25:2; Num 15:2, 17). 101 The

  99.  Since the previous verse prohibits the making of gold and silver “gods,” and altars are often given theophoric names in the Bible, it is possible that we have here a prohibition against the application of precious metals to the altar. This practice, of course, is widely reflected in later Israelite custom and enjoined by the Priestly Code. 100.  Note the pointed rejection of this position in Deut 12:8–12. 101.  Note that the first two references belong to the Holiness Code, and the third one also belongs to H. See Knohl, Sanctuary of Silence, 53.

124

Chapter 2

absence of this phrase in other contexts of Priestly law indicates that the law, as a whole, is not dependent on the land. Somewhat comparable to this may be the brief account of the lawgiving at Marah (Exod 15:22–27). Here, too, we have a story of lawgiving in the desert, and it is clear that these laws are in no way “land bound.” It is worth considering the possibility that behind this material lies another foundation tradition similar in character to that of Sinai. It is surely no coincidence that this lawgiving occurs immediately after the dramatic crossing of the Sea, the most vivid sign of the exodus from Egypt. In fact, the event at Marah occurs precisely after the first three-day journey in the desert, recalling the originally stated destination of the exodus for the worship of the Lord (Exod 5:3; see 3:12 with reference to Sinai). The miracle at the Sea in Exod 14 may even have been understood in symbolic terms as a slashing to pieces of a mythological monster. 102 The subsequent passing through these pieces by the Israelites and the divine representative (cf. Exod 13:21–22; 14:19–20, 24) could naturally have been seen as reflecting a covenant ceremony (cf. Gen 15). This would then be culminated in the giving of the law at the waters of Marah. It is also noteworthy that at Elim, the very next station in the wilderness, the Israelites find 70 palm trees and 12 wells (Exod 15:27). These surely symbolize the elders and tribes of Israel, recalling the role of the 70 elders at the Sinai covenant ceremony (Exod 24:9–11) and the 12 monuments set up there (Exod 24:4). One is also reminded of the 12 stones set up at Gilgal following the crossing of the waters of the Jordan. We should note that the divine provision of palm trees and wells at Elim (Exod 15:27) comes immediately after the call in v.  26 to obey the laws given at Marah and the concomitant promise that this obedience will be rewarded with divine protection and removal of sickness (“If you heed the Lord your God diligently, doing what is upright in his sight, giving ear to his commandments, and keeping all his laws, then I will not bring upon you any of the diseases that I brought upon the Egyptians, for I the Lord am your healer”). The implication of this seems to be that the miraculous provision of palm trees and wells in the desert came in the wake of Israel’s obedient observance of the Marah laws. If so, the laws of Marah are presented as fully detached from life in the land. Indeed, the landless character of the laws of Marah appears even more pronounced that that of the Sinai law. The Sinai covenant, though it establishes the kingdom of priests in the desert, still looks forward to the territorial blessings of bread and water and the removal of disease and miscarriage in the land. Thus we read in Exod 23:25–26, “When you serve the Lord your God, he will bless your bread and your water. I will take away disease from your midst. None shall be barren or miscarry in your land.” In contrast to all this, God provides Israel with food and water at Marah and Elim in the desert. It is in the desert that he 102.  For the mythological background in the Song of the Sea, see F. M. Cross, Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1973), 112–44.

Sinai and Shechem: Two Covenants of Foundation

125

“heals” the bitter water and promises the removal of the diseases of Egypt as reward for obedience to the commandments (Exod 15:26). The immediately subsequent desert provision of bread from heaven (Exod 16:4), making the need for fertile land nearly superfluous, further highlights the total independence of the laws of Marah from life in the land. Obviously, the covenant at Shechem once again differs. Since Joshua gives the laws on the basis of the conquest and settlement, it is clear that these laws are designated specifically and exclusively for implementation in the land. The demand to remove foreign deities could not be imposed on the people, in this conception, before they were given a share in the land of inheritance. Similarly, all the other covenantal laws given at Shechem would also be inconceivable in isolation from the land. 103 Just as the exodus event cannot be fathomed apart from the giving of the land, so the commandments could not be fathomed as applying in isolation from the land. 104 The law in the Shechem covenant, which is both given in the land and oriented toward regulating life in the land, though surely important, is not the most fundamental element defining the character of the divine-human relationship. After all, every political-territorial body requires laws and regulations upon which to live. What distinguishes one territorial people from another is more the place in which they live and the deity that they worship than the specific laws by which they abide. This is the reason that the Shechem laws are not themselves recorded or enumerated. Joshua simply institutes the laws. The reader need not learn specifically what they were. A territory-based faith does not need to emphasize the uniqueness of its laws. Indeed, the Israelites of the Shechem covenant themselves do not even make any proclamations regarding the law. Though they declare in Josh 24:24 “we will worship the Lord our God and obey his voice,” they make 103.  While in Exod 20 the prohibition of worship refers generally to “other gods,” in Judg 6 it refers specifically to “the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell” (v. 10). 104.  An interesting echo of this connection between law and land may be heard in the story of the Samarian colonists of 2 Kgs 17:24–41. We will have opportunity elsewhere to discuss this text at length and to show its complex evolution and original affiliations with the tradition in Josh 24. For the present, we may simply note that 2 Kgs 17, like our own story of the Shechem tradition, tells of a lawgiving in a temple city, where the inhabitants are urged to “fear the Lord” (v. 28; cf. Josh 24:14). 2 Kings speaks of the foreign colonists of the cities of Samaria who were brought there by the Assyrian emperor after the defeat of the Northern Kingdom. Lions struck these foreigners, and they immediately sensed that this occurred because they did not observe “the law of the God of the land” (vv. 26–27). In response to this situation, the Assyrian emperor sent an exiled priest to Bethel to teach the colonists how to fear the Lord. What is to be noted is that the intricate connection between law and land is not seen as a foreign understanding of the workings of the Lord but as both accurate and obvious. The fact that the biblical narrator speaks of this connection in “objective” narration and even implies that the lions indeed stopped their attacks as soon as the priest fulfilled his commission clearly indicates that the law is thought of as intricately bound up with the God of the land and applies equally to all who might live there.

126

Chapter 2

this declaration before the actual giving of the law. Joshua writes a “book of the teaching of God” (v. 26), but he never reads this book in the hearing of the people. The landless nature of the Sinai covenant, in contrast, situates territory in a subordinate position. Since Israel is defined here as the people of the Lord, regardless of territory, the specific character of the law becomes a significant defining element of group identity. The law, here, does not merely serve an instrumental role of regulating life in the land. It constitutes the heart of the connection between Israel and the Lord. It is the landless law that defines the people as God’s kingdom of priests. As such, it must be recorded and explicated in full detail. This is why the Sinai narrative emphasizes that the people proclaimed their commitment to the covenant after all the laws were related to them by Moses, both from oral memory and through recitation of the Book of the Covenant (Exod 24:3, 7–8). The Divine Character of the Law The presentation of the law in the Sinai covenant as the bond uniting Israel and the Lord independent of the land implies an understanding of the law as much more central and definitive for the theological meaning of “Israel.” This heightened significance that the law takes on in the Sinai narrative is further reflected in the presentation of the divine origin of the law at Sinai. As we have noted, the original form of Deuteronomy spoke of the divine character of the law in rather equivocal terms. It is Moses who is often referred to as the one “commanding” the Israelites to obey the law, and the laws are not presented as divine speech. A similarly ambiguous situation obtains with regard to the covenant laws of Shechem in Josh 24. Though Joshua speaks in the name of the God of Israel (v. 2), gives laws, writes words in a “book of the teaching of the Lord” (vv. 25–26), and refers to the covenant as “the words of the Lord that he spoke to us” (v. 27), the Lord himself, as in the original tradition of the covenant on the Plains of Moab, never appears in a dramatic theophany. There is never a clear verification of the divine authorship of what the human leader relays. Indeed, the promulgation of law is attributed in v. 25 to Joshua alone. The “words of the Lord” in v. 27 may refer to the general exhortations concerning commitment to the covenant and not to the specific formulations of law. It is the general exhortation alone that is presented by Joshua in the form of prophetic divine speech. Even if the book of the “Torah of Elohim” (v.  26) was assumed to have included the laws, this does not necessarily imply that the laws were assumed to have been formulated by the deity. One may well surmise that the laws were thought of as devised and promulgated by Joshua, who as the religious and national leader would have been authorized to formulate on behalf of the deity the legal stipulations that would be included in the founding covenant. A similar understanding of the laws of Josh 24:25 was suggested by Naḥmanides, who saw in this

Sinai and Shechem: Two Covenants of Foundation

127

verse a foundation for the authority of Jewish leaders to impose civil norms for the administration of the medieval Jewish community. 105 It is instructive to compare Josh 24:25–26 and 28 with 1 Sam 10:25. The first text reads: “And Joshua made a covenant for the people on that day and established law and regulation in Shechem. And Joshua wrote these things in a book of the teaching of God, and he took a large stone and set it up under the oak by the Temple of the Lord. . . . And Joshua sent off the people, each to his inheritance.” The second text reads: “And Samuel recited to the people the regulation of kingship. He wrote it in a book and placed it before the Lord. And Samuel sent off all the people, each one to his home.” In both instances, we have a prophetic leader who establishes new regulations. This is most clear in the case of Samuel, since the regulations relate to the new institution of the monarchy that did not exist until this point. It is no less true, however, with regard to Joshua’s law, as I have argued above. In both cases, the regulations are written in a book and placed in a sanctuary. Both reports end with the return of the people to their homes. Finally, both instances speak of the establishment of a new, foundational institution. The Joshua narrative deals with the foundation of the relationship between the Lord and Israel, while the Samuel narrative deals with the foundation of the kingship and the divine selection of Saul. The two texts, then, are clearly akin. What I would like to highlight here is the fact that the “regulation of kingship” is, like Joshua’s regulation, of unclear authorship. The text, in its present form at least, never tells us where Samuel got this regulation. We are only told that he recited it, wrote it, and placed it before the Lord. The regulations could most conceivably be thought of as formulated by Samuel as the deity’s agent. The covenant at Sinai, in clear contrast, is much less ambiguous. The Israelites not only witnessed the descent of the Lord upon the mountain but actually heard the very voice of the Lord speaking the words of the Decalogue. The law, as we noted, is the very word of God. The initial public address of the Lord to the people from the top of the mountain ensures that the subsequent commandments related by Moses from Sinai derive from the same divine source. 106 The explicit presentation of the law at Sinai as the word of God clearly reflects its heightened status as the central defining element of Israelite peoplehood. The purpose of the law of Sinai is not only to regulate life in civil matters in the future land of promise. The law is here understood chiefly as the means by which the people of the Lord fulfill their Priestly task of divine service. It is therefore crucial that the laws be presented as the explicit word of God. 105.  See his commentary to Exod 15:25. Naḥmanides cites as examples of this type of legislation the conditions set by Joshua for the people according to b. B. Qam. 80b–81a. 106. See Toeg, Lawgiving at Sinai, 51–59. This argument was developed extensively in medieval Jewish literature.

128

Chapter 2

Perhaps we may also suggest a sociological explanation for the different senses in which the two laws are grounded in divine authority. A law that is given inside inhabited land and is presented to regulate life in this land need not present itself as the absolute word of the deity in order to elicit public compliance. The people living within the territory of a deity naturally recognize the need to follow the laws of the land and will generally be willing to comply on the basis of a basic affirmation from a recognized authority that the laws taught are divinely endorsed. A law, however, that comes from a landless and distant wilderness deity and whose purpose is to create a kingdom of priests and a sacerdotal nation in any location must present itself in no uncertain terms as the very word of God. A remote and far-off deity who seeks obedience to a sacred order must present his demands much more unequivocally and absolutely as his. Without this claim, compliance will falter. Israel: Chosen or Replaceable? The centrality of the land in the covenant of Shechem goes together with the lack of emphasis on the people as a vital category in this covenant. In contrast with Sinai, the Shechem covenant never speaks of a “holy nation” chosen by God. God alone is referred to as holy ( Josh 24:19). In place of the doctrine of the “chosen people,” we find the doctrine of the “chosen God” in Josh 24: “You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen the Lord to serve him” (v. 22). It is the Israelite people who choose the Lord of the temple at Shechem. The Lord never promises, as he does at Sinai, that Israel will be his only treasured people out of all the nations of the earth. This implies, at least theoretically, the possibility of nonIsraelites choosing the covenant as well. 107 The territorial base of the Lord of the Shechem temple serves as the foundational and irreplaceable given, and the covenant consists of the voluntary commitment of the Israelites to this base. The voluntary nature of the Shechem covenant indicates that the people are essentially replaceable. The contrast with the Sinai covenant is best underscored in the words of Exod 19:5–6, “If you obey me faithfully and keep my covenant, you will be my treasured possession among all the peoples. Indeed, all the earth is mine, but you will be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” The Sinai covenant emphasizes that the God of Sinai is the Lord of all the earth. The God of Israel is not based in the land, and his relation to the land is not as intimately tied to his identity as in the covenant of Shechem. The people alone, independent of the land, become bound to God through the “landless” law. The law independently embodies the relationship with God 107.  This outlook is reflected in the portrayal of the “blessing and curse” ceremony at Mt. Ebal near Shechem in the Deuteronomistic passage of Josh 8:30–35. Not only did the Israelites participate in this ceremony, but also “the sojourner who accompanied them” (vv. 33, 35).

Sinai and Shechem: Two Covenants of Foundation

129

and defines the people as a nation of priests. Indeed, the Priestly caste is a landless group with nomadic qualities (cf., e.g., Deut 10:9; 18:1–8; Judg 17:7–13). Thus, the depiction of all of Israel as a Priestly kingdom through commitment to the law already in the desert serves to highlight the supraterritorial aspect of “Israel” as understood by the Sinai tradition. Membership in a priestly caste is determined by ancestry and is structured as a closed, exclusive, impermeable group. An outsider cannot join a priestly caste the way he or she can enter a territorially based group. Correspondingly, all Canaanites must be expelled from the land (Exod 23:31–33) according to the Sinai covenant. They must not be allowed to wield influence on Israel’s sacred calling. 108 Since the land is subordinated to the irreplaceable chosen people observing the sacred law, there is no place here for Canaanites or foreigners. The irreplaceable nature of Israel as the covenant partner is echoed in the words of Exod 19:4, “You have seen what I did in Egypt, how I lifted you on the wings of eagles and brought you to me.” The exodus of Israel from Egypt is specifically directed toward the formation of the covenant in the desert. Unlike the Shechem covenant, where the divine act of the exodus as a selfless act of absolute grace culminates in the gracious bestowal of the land and only subsequently is capped off with the offering of an optional, voluntary covenant, in the Sinai narrative the goal and purpose of the divine act of liberating the Israelites from Egypt was, from the first, to bring them to the desert in order to form a covenant with them. No other people, it seems, could suffice. Also related to this is the distinction regarding the manner in which the drama of the covenant event is depicted. In the Sinai narrative, God brings the Israelites to a barren wilderness with the explicit goal of entering into a covenantal relationship with them. He promises the people, now trapped in a vast wilderness, to bring them into a fertile homeland, if, in return, they commit themselves to his exclusive sovereignty. Obviously, the options of the Israelites under these circumstances are rather limited. Furthermore, God comes down on the mountain in thunder and lightning, intentionally terrifying the people with the sense of his terror and power (Exod 19:16; 20:20b). Moses, we are told, had to prod the people to approach the mountain before God spoke. And after the people heard the terrifying voice of God proclaim the Ten Commandments, Moses immediately had to take their place and hear God’s law without them (19:17; 20:21). Is it any wonder that the Israelites, after the dramatic display of lightning and fire and the sounding of God’s fiery voice, agreed to obey the words of the Lord? 109 108.  Similarly, Exod 18:27 insists that Jethro the Midianite was sent home by Moses right before the making of the covenant at Sinai. There is no place for non-Israelite participation in the people-centered covenant ceremony of Sinai. 109.  The famous rabbinic tradition that the Lord uprooted the mountain and held it over the heads of the Israelites warning that they would be buried alive on the spot if they

130

Chapter 2

How different is the atmosphere of the covenant of Shechem! In this case, the covenant is offered after the land has been fully conquered and settled, so that the people are under no immediate constraint to accept it. Nor do we find earthquakes or thunderstorms sent to induce the people to commit themselves. The God of Shechem makes no personal appearance in this narrative and utters no sounds or words through his own terrifying voice. It is Joshua alone who speaks in the name of God ( Josh 24:2–13, 27), or on his behalf (vv.  14–15, 19–20). Joshua, rather than frightening the people into accepting the covenant, actually attempts to frighten Israel out of entering into it. He openly and repeatedly offers them the perfectly acceptable option of remaining loyal to their ancestral gods. This divergence between the two covenant narratives corresponds to others. The Sinai covenant promises future blessings, including the acquisition of the land, fertility, longevity, etc., in return for obedience to the covenant (Exod 23:22, 25–26). It does not elaborate on what will happen if the Israelites disobey the covenant and only hints, in a reserved manner, that worship of other gods will serve as a “stumbling block” (v. 33). Nowhere is it openly stated that the covenant can be nullified. The Shechem covenant, in contrast, makes no promises at all of any future rewards or blessings. It only warns of the fearful prospect of punishment and destruction if there is a failure to comply with the covenant once it is accepted (v. 20). Apparently, the God of Sinai, who is willing to enter into a self-obligating covenant, understands his obligation to the people in terms of permanence. Punishment is only hinted at and is certainly not developed to the point of no return. 110 The God of Shechem, by contrast, does not obligate himself at all and can openly speak of the future in terms of possible punishment and destruction. It appears the Shechem narrative reflects the view that the covenant relationship is of inherent value for Israel and of relatively minor consequence for the deity. In the Sinai narrative, the covenant appears to be of extreme importance to the deity but, in addition, perhaps less inherently attractive on its own merits. 111 The Lord of Sinai thus appears much less refused to accept the covenant ( J.  N. Epstein and E.  Z. Melamed, eds., Mekhilta d’Rabbi Šimʿon b. Jochai [Jerusalem: Mekize Nirdamim, 1955], 143) should be seen as the development of an aspect that is already present in the narrative. 110.  Note that Judg 2:1–5 depicts the covenant as eternal. The angel recalls the divine promise “I will never break my covenant with you” (v. 1). Israel’s covenant violations elicit punishment but not more (v. 3). The same approach is implied in the Sinai material. It is only the material in Exod 32–34 concerning the golden calf episode and the subsequent covenant renewal that raises the possibility of an end to the covenant. Even this covenant can be renewed, however. This material, in any event, does not appear to have been an organic part of the earlier Sinai narrative. See Propp, Exodus 19–40, 150–52, 580. 111.  This difference may, at least in part be a function of the point in Israel’s history at which each covenant is based. The inherent attractiveness of the Shechem covenant for Israel is a function of the long history of divine protection and salvation (from the patri-

Sinai and Shechem: Two Covenants of Foundation

131

“self-confident” than the relatively “cool and collected” Lord of Shechem. The God of Sinai, in contrast to the God of Shechem, makes a personal and fearsome appearance, takes on commitments that obligate him in the future, and is careful to offer his covenant before bestowing his most coveted gift—the land. The God of Sinai, who pursues Israel vigorously and is willing to obligate himself to act on its behalf in the future, is an eagerly involved God whose relationship to the people is of paramount importance to him. The land almost appears to function as the bait with which to draw the Israelites into commitment. The land constitutes his future reward to the people for obedience to his landless law. He himself remains behind in his solitary desert abode, in his primordial state of landlessness. In the Shechem covenant, by contrast, the deity is the God of the fixed temple structure in the heart of the land that he already shares with the Israelite people. Since the deity of Shechem is rooted in the land, his relationship to one specific people is of secondary importance. Perhaps we may say that the God of Shechem, as a territorial deity fixed to his land, does not need to irrevocably obligate himself to one specific people. Other inhabitants who will agree to serve him can, with reasonable probability, be found in the near future. The God of Sinai, on the other hand, is a remote wilderness deity. He has few natural, potential alternatives to the people he has succeeded in bringing out to his presence in the wilderness and must therefore be much more persistent in eliciting this people’s commitment. The Proximity of the Divine Presence in Relation to the People All of the distinctions that we have mentioned between the two covenants correspond to the basic distinction with regard to the type of deity who lies at the root of the two traditions. Implicit in the Shechem covenant narrative is the idea that the Lord’s presence or habitation is to be found in the cultic facility of the site, within the land of Israel. The Lord is thus the deity of the land, who lives amidst the people. His own attachment to the land dictates the land’s centrality in the covenant with the people. According to the Sinai covenant narrative, the home of the Lord is not in the land of Israel but at Sinai itself. Thus we read in Exod 19:4, “You have seen what I have done to Egypt, how I lifted you on the wings of eagles and brought you to me.” The cultic nature of the Sinai location is reflected in the sanctification of the people before the theophany (Exod 19:10–11) and the demarcation of the mountain behind borders (Exod 19:12–13, 23). References to Sinai as sacred land (Exod 3:5) or as the “mountain of the Lord” (Exod 3:1; 18:5; Num 10:33) where sacral activity takes place (Exod 3:12;

archs to the conquest and settlement) upon which it is founded. The less inherently attractive nature of the Sinai covenant may be a function of its much more limited grounding in the exodus event alone.

132

Chapter 2

5:3; 18:12) further point to Sinai’s character as the Lord’s abode. 112 This also coincides with the sending of the angel from Sinai to lead the people into the land (Exod 23:20). The Lord does not leave his home at Sinai to enter into the land of Israel. After bringing the Israelites to his presence at Sinai, he sends them off to their designated land with the guidance of his angelemissary. The Lord himself remains outside the land in his distant wilderness abode. The Lord’s own personal detachment from the land contributes to the more marginal role that the land plays in the Sinai covenant.

112.  The conception of the Sinai tradition that the Lord’s sacred home is outside the land obviously stands in tension with the land-centered perspective reflected not only in the Shechem tradition but in vast portions of the biblical tradition as well. We may thus discern some interesting traces of the attempt to remove the sanctity of Sinai and transfer it into the parameters of the land. We see this most clearly in the language of Ps 50:2–3, which depicts a divine theophany from Zion in terms reminiscent of ancient theophanies from Sinai (cf. Levenson, Sinai and Zion, 187–88). This intention, I suggest, is reflected in the narrative of Joshua’s meeting with the officer of the Lord at Jericho. In an obvious mimic of the words of the Lord’s angel to Moses at Sinai in Exod 3:5, the angelic officer orders Joshua, “Remove your shoes from your feet, for the place on which you stand is holy [ground].” The point of this story is not only to depict Joshua as a Moses-like figure, but also to insist that the sanctity of Sinai is located in the very land that the Israelites have just entered. The statement in Exod 19:13, “when the horn blasts, they shall go up the mountain,” may also reflect uneasiness with the sanctity of Sinai. The statement is striking and unusual, since nowhere in the continuation of the text is there mention of this horn blast or of the subsequent ascent of the people. Assuming that this horn blast signifies the end of the theophany, it has been understood as an indication of the permissibility of crossing the barriers set up at the bottom of the mountain at this point. Yet the phrase “they shall go up the mountain” sounds like a reference to a complete ascent, not just a crossing of the border. S. E. Loewenstamm (“Review of A. Toeg, Lawgiving at Sinai,” in From Babylon to Canaan: Studies in the Bible and Its Oriental Background [Jerusalem: Magnes, 1992], 432– 33) postulates that this verse preserves an ancient fragment of the unconventional idea that all the people were called upon to go up the mountain together with Moses during the theophany and were not restricted to the bottom of the mountain, as in the dominant conception of the Sinai narrative. What would be the point of having the Israelites go all the way up the mountain after the drama came to an end? Indeed, we may add, the story of the conquest of Jericho presents the horn blast as the signal for Israel to go up against Jericho. The horn blast does not signify the end of the drama, but, on the contrary, it signals the initiation of the climactic military confrontation that has been anticipated for seven days. Be this as it may, it is important to note the significance of the verse in its present context. In this context, the verse can only indicate one thing: the sanctity of Sinai is but temporary. It preserves no special cultic sanctity beyond the limits of the theophany. With the sounding of the horn, Sinai reverts to profane territory. We should also note the statement of Exod 3:12, “This is the sign that I have sent you: when you take the people out of Egypt, you will worship the Lord on this mountain.” The fact that the Israelites will worship the Lord on the mountain of God surely reflects the conception of the mountain as a cultic holy site. However, in the present context, the cultic sanctity of the mountain is subordinated to the function of serving as a prophetic sign. The worship will confirm not the sanctity of the mountain but the claim that the prophet Moses was sent by the Lord to bring the Israelites into the land. Once again, the sanctity of the mountain is deprived of its centrality and permanence and serves no more than a passing instrumental function.

Sinai and Shechem: Two Covenants of Foundation

133

Perhaps we may also compare the Sinai material to the conception of the non-Priestly tent of meeting that was stationed outside the camp, at a considerable distance from the people (Exod 33:7–11). There, too, God comes down in a cloud and offers instruction to the people. At the same time, the deity remains distant, and one must leave the camp if one wants to meet him. The Shechem material, on the other hand, recalls the Priestly conception of the tent of meeting. Here the ‫ אוהל מועד‬is more like a real, Shechem-like temple and is not just a simple desert tent. The Priestly tent of meeting, furthermore, is situated in the midst of the people, and God is depicted as dwelling among them. 113 The two covenants, in sum, reflect two theological paradigms for the relationship among God, law, land, and Israel. The Shechem covenant sees the land as an inherent part both of the deity’s identity and of what it means to be “Israel.” The miraculous and gracious bestowal of the land by God served as the foundation of the covenant pact and the basis of the lawgiving. It was the defining moment in the formation of the people. The covenant and its laws thus presuppose and are dependent upon life in the land. The Sinai covenant replaces the giving of the land with the salvation of the exodus event. Accordingly, the giving of the land does not constitute the defining element of Israel’s peoplehood. Israel became united under the worship of the Lord before the giving of the land and began fulfilling his law during its wanderings in the desert. The law defines Israel’s peoplehood independently of the land. True, the land was given by God. However, this provision constituted God’s fulfillment of his obligation as part of the covenant stipulations. It was not, like the exodus event, the basis of the covenant itself. In the Sinai covenant, Israel “earned” the land by keeping its part of the covenant agreement: the law. In the Shechem covenant, the provision of the land was pure grace. Through God’s provision of the land, the Lord “earned” Israel’s commitment to his exclusive worship.

The Enduring Significance of the Sinai Tradition for Israel In light of all this, we may now venture an explanation for the predominance of the Sinai covenant in the Bible on the one hand, and the near extinction of the Shechem covenant on the other. While various political factors, most notably the northern provenance of the Shechem tradition, surely played a role in this turn of events, an additional factor of prime importance was no doubt theological. 114 I have already hinted at this subject in my introduction to this study, where I underscored the impact of the 113.  For the comparison of the Priestly and non-Priestly conceptions of the tent of meeting, see M.  Haran, Temples and Temple-Service in Ancient Israel (Oxford: Clarendon, 1978; repr. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1985), 260–75. 114.  Admittedly, it is often difficult to isolate the “political” from the “theological” since they are so intimately intertwined.

134

Chapter 2

exiles of Israel and Judah on the religion of Israel. The catastrophic events associated with the exiles of Israel and Judah posed a tremendous challenge to the Israelite faith. The surviving community had to find theological justification for these events without, at the same time, declaring an end to the covenant. The Shechem model could indeed provide the explanation for the destruction and the exile. The God who gave the land in total freedom was totally free to take it away. Israel had knowingly entered into the covenant without any constraint, and the threat of destruction was clarified from the start. However, the Shechem model could hardly provide a basis for continuity beyond the destruction. If the national covenant was based on the divine act of the bestowal of the land, the exile could only point to the end of its existence. Since the divine act of grace that formed the initial motivation and basis for Israel’s act of self-obligation in a covenant no longer prevailed, this obligation could now only appear null and void. Since the laws of the covenant were inherently connected to life in the land, there could be no rationale for observing them on foreign soil. Nor was there any reason to assume that a renewed, voluntary acceptance of the laws of the covenant would have any effect in bringing about a divine obligation to restore Israel to its national homeland. Since God’s giving of the land was never based on anything more than grace, no effort on Israel’s part could turn back the wheels of history. The God of Shechem never obligated himself to the people in any way and only warned that Israel’s disobedience would signal the complete and final end of the relationship: “He will turn and do evil to you and destroy you” (v. 20). Only the Sinai model could provide a rationale for continued loyalty to the covenant and a source for hope in an eventual restoration. Since Israel’s obligation to the covenant was rooted in the salvation from Egypt but not the bestowal of the land, the covenantal alliance could still be seen as not having expired. Indeed, in the Sinai event, the Lord himself entered into a reciprocal covenantal relationship. The loss of the land could not in itself reflect the end of the covenant, for the giving of the land was “earned” through obedience to the commandments. The loss of the land was the natural outcome of Israel’s disobedience. This disobedience released God from his side of the covenant obligations but not necessarily from his commitment to the covenant itself. The covenant was based on the salvation from Egypt alone, and this event was never reversed. The laws of the covenant, which were imposed and observed before the entrance into the land, could continue to obligate Israel outside the land. Consequently, if Israel would return to fulfill its obligations under the covenant, God could, on his side, again become obligated to his promises of land provision and blessing. God himself is depicted not as a deity of the land but as a deity that transcends national-territorial boundaries. Though he is situated in the desert, he declares, “All the earth is mine” (Exod 19:5).

Sinai and Shechem: Two Covenants of Foundation

135

The depiction of the covenant relationship forged at Sinai as a significant divine need or interest could offer reassurance that the God of the exodus would not be too quick to abandon his people. The people of Israel had not chosen a stand offish, land-based deity, as in the Shechem story. Rather, the remote wilderness deity of Sinai chose and vigorously pursued them. This implied that they were inherently irreplaceable. Thus, the preeminence of the Sinai tradition and the relative marginality of the Shechem tradition within the larger scheme of biblical religion reflects not only the need to allow for the continuity of the covenant outside the land but also a vision of hope for the future restoration of the people in the land. This national restoration could be seen as being within the people’s power to effect. Fidelity to the commandments could force God’s hand. Finally, the presentation of the law as the divine word in the most literal sense coincided well with the needs of Israel after the destruction. This presentation of the law’s authority provided Israel with a bolstered sense of weight and power that was not found in either the Shechem covenant or the original covenant of the Plains of Moab. An intensified sense of divine authority was indeed appropriate to the needs of a community that had undergone the loss of land and political-territorial hegemony. The law now needed to fill a much more central role in Israel’s identity than it had filled in the period of the preexilic kingdoms, when land, king, cult, and political power all contributed to national identity. Rather than serving the function of regulating civil life in the land, the law of the postdestruction period had to begin playing a much more centrally “spiritual” role. The law had to provide the new means by which Israelites worshiped the Israelite God, whether in place of cultic worship during exile, or beside the cult in the community of the restoration. No foundation tradition was more suited to usher in this new era than the tradition of Sinai. Its depiction of the law as the edicts of the landless king of all the earth for his cherished “kingdom of priests” was most suitable for a community that had lost its human king, its land, and its sacrificial cult. The partial restoration during the Second Temple period hardly reversed this situation to any great extent. All of this does not necessarily mean that the Sinai pericope in the book of Exodus (in its “non-Priestly” form) is of exilic origin, 115 though I hesitate to rule out entirely the possibility of a relatively late emergence of the final form of the text, especially in light of my contention that the original Deuteronomy made no mention of Sinai whatsoever. Many of the building blocks that make up the pericope of Exod 19–24 are of unquestionably 115.  This is the position of J. Van Seters. See his recent book, A Law Book for the Diaspora: Revision in the Study of the Covenant Code (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003). I find Van Seters’s understanding of the entirety of the material as a new literary creation of the diaspora extremely unlikely. See B. M. Levinson, “Is the Covenant Code an Exilic Composition? A Response to John Van Seters,” in In Search of Pre-exilic Israel (ed. J. Day; JSOTSup 406; London: T. & T. Clark, 2004), 272–325.

136

Chapter 2

ancient origin. Though this does not necessarily indicate that the same is true for the completed construction in its final literary form, there does not appear to be any compelling reason to deny this as well. Be all this as it may, what is important to underscore here is that the Sinai tradition could serve well the needs of later Judaism in a way that the land-centered Shechem tradition could not. The emphasis on the centrality of the exodus rather than the conquest and on the community as an exterritorial religious order rather than a territorially based polity was most suited to the exilic and postexilic realities. Indeed, it was chiefly the Sinai tradition, we may well affirm, that allowed Israel to thrive and develop as God’s “holy nation” and thus to endure and overcome the trials and challenges of political and territorial decline.

Chapter 3

Worship of the Lord on Foreign Soil Worship of the Lord on Foreign Soil: Preliminary Considerations Can the Lord of Israel be accessed through cultic ritual outside the boundaries of the land? Does he expect his subjects to erect altars for the praise of his name when they are situated beyond the Israelite border? Or, to paraphrase the psalmist, may cultic “songs of the Lord” be sung on foreign soil (cf. Ps 137:4)? The assertion that cultic worship of Yhwh is possible exclusively inside the bounds of the land is only rarely stated explicitly. We may assume, however, that it was more often than not taken as axiomatic and, in any case, was hardly a practical issue before the Israelite and Judean exiles. The Territorial Confines of the Worship of the Lord: A Theological Axiom The idea that the Lord can be worshiped exclusively in the land, though not stated as such, is strongly implied in the stories of the patriarchs. Though Abraham spends many years in Haran before arriving in the land, he never sets up an altar or monument to the Lord until he arrives at Shechem (Gen 12:6–7). Nor does he “call upon the name of the Lord” while traveling in the land of Egypt (Gen 12:10–20). Isaac never leaves the holy land. Jacob sets up a monument at Bethel on his way to Padan Aram, promising to make a temple at the site when he returns safely (Gen 28:20–22). Though he remains in Padan Aram for 20 years (Gen 31:41), he never performs any cultic rite until he returns to the land. Jacob again offers sacrifices at Beer Sheba on his way from Canaan to Egypt (Gen 46:1). He lives out the remainder of his life in Egypt, again devoid of cultic activity. The sites where Jacob does participate in cultic activity all belong within the parameters of later Israelite territory (Mizpah Gal-ed, Gen 31:47–54; Shechem, 33:20; Bethel, 35:7, 14). 1 Various parts of the Bible refer to the land of Israel as the “inheritance of the Lord” (cf. Exod 15:17; 2 Sam 21:3; Jer 2:7; Zech 2:16). It was von Rad who brought the importance and significance of this concept to the 1.  See the discussion of B. Mazar, “The Historical Background of the Book of Genesis,” JNES 28 (1969): 73–83.

137

138

Chapter 3

attention of students of the Bible. 2 In its most basic import, the phrase indicates that the Lord inhabits specifically one particular plot of land. When the Philistines captured the ark of the Lord, the Lord responded, we are told, by striking them with plagues. In the end, they were forced to send him back to “his territory” (1 Sam 6:9). The Lord owns this plot as his own private “inheritance,” or “estate” (cf. Lev 25:23). The Israelites serve the Lord as servants would a fief. The master hosts them and provides for them, and they, his servants, must offer service for these benefits. In fact, since an estate includes both land and all that is contained therein—workers, livestock, and produce—the concept of the “inheritance” of the Lord must, in the broadest sense, include all of these. 3 This is why both the land and the people, including slaves and livestock, must observe a “Sabbath unto the Lord” every seventh day and year. The land of Israel cannot be sold permanently because it belongs to the Lord (Lev 25:23), and the Israelites cannot be sold permanently because they too are the Lord’s (v. 55). Obviously, there is no basis for worship of the Lord outside his fiefdom. In the Song at the Sea, the Lord brings the people into the land and “plants” them in the “mountain of his inheritance” for the purpose of worship at the Temple of the Lord (Exod 15:17). The “mountain of inheritance” is not a narrow reference to the Temple Mount alone, for all the Israelites obviously cannot be “planted” in this limited area. Rather, it refers both to the Temple Mount and to the entire land of settlement surrounding it. 4 The entire land of Israel’s settlement is apparently thought of as an extension of the Temple Mount, constituting the Lord’s sacred estate. Again, the implication of the juxtaposition of “Temple of the Lord” and “his inheritance” is that cultic worship of the Lord outside his inheritance would be unthinkable. The inconceivability of worship outside the land is given striking expression in the prophecy of Hos 9:3–5: They shall not be able to remain in the land of the Lord. But Ephraim shall return to Egypt and shall eat in impurity 5 in Assyria. They will offer no libations of wine to the Lord, and no sacrifices of theirs will be pleasing 6 to him. Their food shall be for them as the food of mourners; all who 2. G. von Rad, “The Promised Land and Yahweh’s Land in the Hexateuch,” in The Problem of the Hexateuch and Other Essays (Edinburgh: Oliver & Boyd, 1966), 79–93. 3. M. Weinfeld, Social Justice in Ancient Israel and in the Ancient Near East ( Jerusalem: Magnes, 1995), ch. 11. See Ezek 36:20, “These are the people of Yhwh, and they have gone out from his land.” 4.  For the various interpretations, see W. H. C. Propp, Exodus 1–18 (AB 2; New York: Doubleday, 1999), 563–68. We follow here the analysis of S. E. Loewenstamm, From Babylon to Canaan: Studies in the Bible and Its Oriental Background ( Jerusalem: Magnes, 1992), 331–36. 5.  See our discussion below. 6.  Many scholars emend to ‫ ולא יערכו‬and render ‘they shall not bring their sacrifices to him’. Cf. A. B. Ehrlich, Mikra Ki-pheschuto (3 vols.; New York: Ktav, 1969), 3.378 [Hebrew].

Worship of the Lord on Foreign Soil

139

partake of which are defiled. Their food will be only for their hunger; it 7 shall not come into the House of the Lord. What will you do about feast days, about the festivals of the Lord?

The foretold exile of the Israelites from the “land of the Lord” is identified as an end to cultic worship. Since no cult of the Lord could take place outside “his land,” the blood of slaughtered animals could not be brought to the altar, and, consequently, the flesh eaten there would be impure and contaminating (cf. 1 Sam 14:31–35). 8 If the land of Israel alone is the Lord’s inheritance, what, then, is his relation to the other lands? Several texts make it clear that the other estates are considered, at the most basic level, inheritances of other deities, either “owned” by them or, at least, allocated to them and under their direct jurisdiction. This idea is expressed in the Song of Moses, where Israel is said to have been fixed as the inheritance of the Lord from the time of the first division of lands and peoples (Deut 32:8–9). As many scholars have noted, 9 the original reading of these verses is reflected in the LXX and at Qumran: However, we never find the phrase ‫ ערך זבח‬in the Hebrew Bible, whereas the concept of a “pleasing” sacrifice is common. Perhaps the passage already hints at the possibility that attempts will indeed be made to offer sacrifices outside the land and asserts that they will be odious to the Lord. Alternatively, the meaning is that no sacrifices will be pleasing to the Lord, since they will not be made to him. 7.  F. I. Andersen and D. N. Freedman (Hosea [AB 24; Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1980], 528) note that the words ′‫ יבוא בית ה‬naturally refer to persons rather than objects such as food. They thus take the phrase as a reference to Ephraim. Perhaps it would be simpler and more natural to read: “They shall not enter the House of the Lord.” The meaning would be that the people would not enter the temple with their sacrifices since they are in exile where there is no temple. This then follows directly into the following verse, which emphasizes that the Israelites will be unable to observe the festival of the Lord. 8.  See Y. Kaufmann, The History of Israelite Religion (4 vols.; Tel Aviv: Bialik and Dvir, 1937–56), 3.606 [Hebrew]. J. L. Mays (Hosea: A Commentary [OTL; London: SCM, 1969], 127), following others, considers Hos 9:4b a secondary addition by a late, Deuteronomistic editor who asserts that exiles are not to be allowed into the Jerusalem temple lest they profane it. Yet the verse reads poorly as a prohibition and naturally as a description of the future state of things. The phrase “they shall not enter the House of the Lord” parallels v. 3a’s “they shall not dwell in the land of the Lord” and provides the background for the cessation of the festivals in v. 5 as well as the reason that the food will be impure. The claim of A. A. Macintosh (A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on Hosea [ICC; Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1997], 345–46) that the phrase “the House of the Lord” must refer to the Jerusalem temple and would not have been used by Hosea in the present context, since he knows a multiplicity of open-air sanctuaries is, in my view, not compelling. The verse may be stating that they will not enter a temple instead of the temple. Even though Hosea knows of a multiplicity of open-air sanctuaries, the context of vv. 4b–5 is that of the ‫חג‬ on which a visit to a ’‫ בית ה‬would be expected. For the distinction between open-air sacred places and temples and the relationship between the pilgrim festival and the temple, see M. Haran, Temples and Temple-Service in Ancient Israel (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1985), 13–25. 9.  For a convenient presentation of the issue, see J. H. Tigay, Deuteronomy (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1996), 514–15, and the bibliographial references cited there.

140

Chapter 3

“When Elyon gave nations as inheritances, when he divided the sons of man, he fixed the territories of the nations according to the number of the sons of El(ohim). Indeed, the portion of the Lord was his people; Jacob was the lot of his inheritance.” The MT reading “sons of Israel” is a scribal attempt to remove the mythological implications of the text. Accordingly, the other national territories were given to other deities, while “Jacob” alone became the “portion” of the Lord. A very similar outlook is reflected in Ps 82. The Lord is depicted as sentencing the gods of the nations to death for their failure to maintain law and order in their lands. Possibly, though this is not stated explicitly, 10 the ‫ אלהים‬that comprise the ‫ עדת אל‬were given jurisdiction over the nations by the Lord himself, who is now determined to rule the world personally. At the same time, the psalmist acknowledges that the Lord has not yet carried out his death sentence and, consequently, has not yet “inherited” the lands and peoples from these gods. This is why the psalmist calls on the Lord to finish the job that he initiated: “Arise, O Lord, reign over the earth, for you shall inherit all the nations” (v. 8). Several other texts (Deut 4:19–20 is a notable example) reflect this same understanding of the other lands and nations as being given over to the jurisdiction of the minor deities (“hosts of heaven”), whom they must worship. Since national territories outside Israel are under the jurisdiction of other gods, cultic worship in these areas must per force be identified with worship of foreign deities. This conception is most clearly expressed in the oft-cited words of David to Saul at their encounter in the wilderness of Ziph (1 Sam 26:19), “If the Lord has instigated you against me, let him be appeased by an offering; and if people, cursed are they before the Lord, for they have expelled me today from abiding in the inheritance of the Lord, saying, ‘Go worship other gods.’” 11 Another significant text that should be referred to within this context is Jer 16:13. The text according to the MT reads, “I will cast you out of this land to a land that you do not know, you or your ancestors, and you will serve other gods there day and night; for I 10.  The issue seems to hinge on how one is to interpret Ps 82:6–7. If we take the phrase ‫ אני אמרתי‬as ‘I determined’, the psalm would imply that the Lord gave the deities their divine status and perhaps even created them. Since the Lord made them gods to begin with, now he can simply sentence them to death. It is likely, however, that the phrase should be taken as ‘I thought’ (compare the same structure of . . . ‫ אכן‬. . . ‫ אני אמרתי‬in Isa 49:4, where the clear meaning is ‘I thought’). In this case, the proclamation of the death sentence on the deities in v. 7 may not automatically lead to their deaths. Rather, it may be somewhat of a boastful pledge that still needs to be backed up by action. Indeed, the final verse of the psalm indicates that the divine boast is still awaiting fulfillment. For a different reading of the psalm, see my article “El as the Speaking Voice in Psalm 82:6–8,” Journal of Hebrew Scriptures 10 (2010). 11.  This should not be taken as an indication that whenever worship of the Lord outside the land is considered apostasy it reflects a view that recognizes the reality of other local deities. Even when the other deities are denied reality, we may still find allusions to the idea that worship on foreign territory is by definition idolatry (Deut 4:27–28; 28:64).

Worship of the Lord on Foreign Soil

141

will show you no mercy.” Here too we find the idea that outside the land of Israel one cannot worship the Lord but is forced to worship other gods. A closer look at the verse indicates that it has been emended out of theological considerations. The flow of the second part of the verse is markedly awkward in the Hebrew: ‫ועבדתם־שם את־אלהים אחרים יומם ולילה אשר לא־אתן לכם‬ ‫חנינה‬. Manifestly superior is the reading of the LXX, which indicates that the original Hebrew text was ‫אשר לא יתן לכם חנינה‬. The verse should thus be rendered ‘and you will serve there day and night other gods who will show you no mercy’. The formulation was altered, of course, to eliminate the attribution of real life and activity to foreign deities. 12 Questioning the Axiom: Theological and Pragmatic Issues As we have stated, it can be assumed that the idea that it would be impossible to worship the Lord outside his land was prevalent in preexilic times. 13 However, when the exile became not just a prophecy of doom but a concrete reality, the issue of cultic worship outside the land became acute and no longer theoretical. In Ezek 20:39–44, we have evidence of the fact that not all of the exiles were willing to accept the resignation and despair reflected in the words of the psalmist, “How can we sing the song of the Lord on foreign soil?” Instead of accepting the decree of Jeremiah cited above (see also Deut 4:28; 28:36, 64) that condemned the exiles to the worship of other gods, these exiles insisted on establishing actual cultic worship of the Lord in the Babylonian Exile. 14 The prophecy reads: As for you, O House of Israel, thus says the Lord God: Go, every one of you, and worship his fetishes and continue, if you will not obey Me; 12.  See W. L. Holladay, Jeremiah: A Commentary on the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah (Hermeneia; Philadelphia: Fortress, 1986), 474; contra J. R. Lundbom, Jeremiah 1–20 (AB 21; New York: Doubleday, 1999), 764. 13.  This is not to say that the idea that the land was the “inheritance of the Lord” is the earliest. On the contrary, the earliest conceptions of Yhwh were apparently related to the desert outside the land. 14. For other possible indications of cultic worship in the Babylonian Exile, see M. Smith, Palestinian Parties and Politics That Shaped the Old Testament (New York: Columbia University Press, 1971), 62–74. Contrast with E. J. Bickerman, “The Babylonian Captivity,” in The Cambridge History of Judaism, Volume One: Introduction: The Persian Period (ed. W. D. Davies and L. Finkelstein; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984), 352–54; B. Oded, “Yet I Have Been to Them ‫ למקדש מעט‬in the Countries Where They Have Gone (Ezekiel 11:16),” in Sefer Moshe: The Moshe Weinfeld Jubilee Volume (ed. C. Cohen, A. Hurvitz, and S. M. Paul; Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2004), 103–14. For the cultic situation in the Egyptian diaspora, see B. Porten, “The Jews in Egypt,” in The Cambridge History of Judaism, Volume One: Introduction: The Persian Period (ed. W. D. Davies and L. Finkelstein; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984), 385–93; D. R. Schwartz, “The Jews of Egypt between the Temple of Onias, the Temple of Jerusalem, and Heaven,” in Center and Diaspora: The Land of Israel and the Diaspora in the Second Temple, Mishna and Talmud Periods (ed. I. M. Gafni; Jerusalem: Zalman Shazar, 2004), 37–56 [Hebrew].

142

Chapter 3

but do not profane My holy name any more with your idolatrous gifts. For only on My holy mountain, on the lofty mount of Israel—declares the Lord God—there, in the land, the entire House of Israel, all of it, must worship Me. There I will accept them, and there I will take note of your contributions and the choicest offerings of all your sacred things. When I bring you out from the peoples and gather you from the lands in which you are scattered, I will accept you as a pleasing odor; and I will be sanctified through you in the sight of the nations. Then, when I have brought you to the land of Israel, to the country that I swore to give to your fathers, you shall know that I am the Lord. There you will recall your ways and all the acts by which you defiled yourselves; and you will loathe yourselves for all the evils that you committed. (Ezek 20:39–43, njpsv)

The prophet’s insistence that offerings to the Lord can be pleasing and acceptable to the Lord only after the return to the land clearly indicates, as some scholars have noted, that cultic worship to the Lord of Israel was indeed taking place (or at least being planned) in the Babylonian Exile of Ezekiel’s time. 15 The prophet saw this cultic activity as idolatrous, in consonance with the conception that worship outside the land cannot be directed to the God of Israel. One can hardly doubt, however, that the individuals who carried out this worship did so out of a genuine conviction that this was the acceptable, indeed, pious thing to do and that it was the God of Israel whom they were worshiping. The exile clearly brought the question of the centrality of the land for the worship of the Lord to the forefront of debate. If we may judge from the tone of Ezekiel’s words, the debate was heated. Let us consider some of the theological as well as pragmatic tensions that this question apparently raised within the context of ancient Israelite religion. We can well imagine why certain prophets of the Lord would have objected to those who maintained that the Lord can be worshiped outside the land. It is difficult to know for certain whether those who established cultic centers for the worship of the Lord in exile saw them as temporary or permanent installations. It seems likely that many of them did not give up all hope of returning to the land and that the cultic worship that they practiced reflected an attempt to affirm and maintain loyalty to the Lord in face of the exile. Indeed, without some form of continued worship of the Lord of Israel, religious assimilation to the dominant culture of the exile would have been all but inevitable. At the same time, the establishment of 15. Y. Elizur, “Political-Ideological Tendencies in the Days of the Exile of Jehoiachin Reflected in the Prophecies of Ezekiel and Jeremiah,” in Studies in the Book of Ezekiel (ed. Y.  Avishur; Jerusalem: Kiryat Sefer, 1982), 179–90 [Hebrew]; M.  Greenberg, Ezekiel 1–20 (AB 22; Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1983), 387; B. A. Levine, “The Next Phase in Jewish Religion: The Land of Israel as Sacred Space,” in Tehillah le-Moshe: Biblical and Judaic Studies in Honor of Moshe Greenberg (ed. M. Cogan, B. L. Eichler, and J. H. Tigay [Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1997], 252–56.

Worship of the Lord on Foreign Soil

143

cultic worship of the Lord in exile clearly had the potential effect of neutralizing any concrete religious need to return to the land. What is more, for prophets such as Hosea, the deprivation of cultic worship of the Lord was a necessary divine punishment and chastisement. Only through this deprivation would Israel be led to true remorse, repentance, and seeking out the Lord (Hos 3:3–4; see also Ezek 6:1–10). 16 Following this prophetic outlook, the continuation of the worship of the Lord during the exile could only appear as a brazen refusal to accept the divine chastisement that was a necessary prerequisite for reconciliation with God and return to the land. Thus, from a sociological as well as a theological perspective, the establishment of cultic worship in exile threatened to perpetuate the exile, turning it into a permanent reality that would ultimately undermine the entire national-territorial dimension of Israelite religion. The rejection of cultic worship of the Lord outside the land was not without its difficulties. As we have already noted, this rejection probably left most simple Yhwh worshipers with relatively few concrete means of positively expressing their continued allegiance to the God of the covenant and the people of the covenant. Though the exilic community eventually developed new markers of religious identity that could and would operate independently of the temple 17 or elaborated older markers in new ways, 18 16.  For an exegesis of the Hosea passage, see H. W. Wolff, Hosea: A Commentary (trans. G. Stansell; Hermeneia; Philadelphia: Fortress, 1974), 62–63. See also Hos 2:13, 16–17 (the desert apparently symbolizes for the prophet a state of life without cult; see Amos 5:25); 5:15; 10:2–3. A similar idea is reflected in Deuteronomy, where part of the punishment of exile consists of the worship of idols (Deut 28:36, 64). We should not overlook the fact that, in the Ezekiel passage cited above, Ezek 20:39–44, the prophet (or tradent) actually insists that the Israelites will not recognize the corruption of their ways or express remorse and repentance until after the return to the land. In this, the author contradicts Ezek 6:9, the passage in Hosea, and Deut 30:1–3 (see also 4:29–30; Lev 26:39–41), all of which express the idea that the Israelites will express remorse and recognize their sinfulness before the restoration. Often the book of Ezekiel is seen here as reflecting an outlook of total human depravity. No human effort can lead toward redemption, which can only be achieved through divine grace (cf., e.g., D. I. Block, The Book of Ezekiel [2 vols.; NICOT; Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1997–98], 657–59). Yet the passage at hand does envision human remorse. It simply situates it after the redemption. It is the anticipation of heartfelt and sincere remorse that motivates God to initiate this redemption. And while in Ezek 31:26–31 we find the idea that God will have to change Israel’s very constitution before it will repent, there is no hint of this conception in our passage, Ezek 20. 17.  The classic example of this is the development of prayer and the synagogue. See the discussion of M. Weinfeld, Deuteronomy 1–11 (AB 5; New York: Doubleday, 1991), 78– 81; J. D. Levenson, “From Temple to Synagogue: 1 Kings 8,” in Traditions in Transformation: Turning Points in Biblical Faith (ed. B. Halpern and J. D. Levenson; Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1981), 142–66. See also J. Milgrom, Leviticus 23–27 (AB 3A; New York: Doubleday, 2001), 2036–37 for the exilic development of the Feast of Tabernacles. 18.  For example, the preexilic Sabbath was significantly elaborated in the wake of the exile. See R. de Vaux, Ancient Israel: Its Life and Institutions (trans. J.  McHugh; London: Darton, Longham & Todd, 1965), 482.

144

Chapter 3

these developments would only take firm root with the passage of time. 19 Initially, the loss of the sacrificial cult left a significant void in the realm of religious expression, and the negation of the possibility of continuing the cult of Yhwh in exile hardly helped this situation. The opposition to cultic worship in exile may also have entailed more abstract theological difficulties. The assumption that the Lord could only be worshiped in the “land of Yhwh” could remain thoroughly consistent as long as the idea of the real presence of other gods in foreign territories was at least in some sense accepted. However, the more the exilic community, under the influence of prophets, deemed the other gods to be nonexistent entities, the more problematic the delegitimation of cultic worship of Yhwh outside the land would become. If the Lord of Israel was indeed the Lord of all the earth, why should his service be restricted to one particular land? 20 Why could he not be worshiped equally in any land? If the deities of the nations are indeed non-entities, why should Israelite cultic worship conducted in the lands of the nations be deemed idolatrous? The delegitimation of cultic worship outside the land may have been further rendered problematic in light of the promotion of eschatological hopes for worldwide recognition of the supremacy of the Israelites’ deity. Does the Lord not seek the recognition and even the worship of the entire world? Would this not require the establishment of cultic centers for his worship in all corners of the earth? In short, the universality of Yhwh as the sole ruler of the cosmos who seeks universal recognition and worship was bound to come into a certain amount of tension with the particularity of the land as the sole locus of the divine presence and of cultic devotion. As we shall see below, theological adjustments would have to be developed that would mediate this tension in new and creative ways.

19.  A good example of the role of the loss of political sovereignty in the development of markers of religious identity is provided by the development of the attitude toward intermarriage in biblical and postbiblical literature. For an important analysis of this, see S. D. Cohen, The Beginnings of Jewishness: Boundaries, Varieties, Uncertainties (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999), 241–62. 20.  We must concede, with Kaufmann (The History of Israelite Religion, 1.612–23), that within the framework of a monotheistic outlook a distinction could be made between the idea of the absolute and exclusive reign of the one God and the limited extension of his grace. This does not mean, however, that this distinction was made from the very beginning, as Kaufmann claims. It may be granted, for example, that the author of Deuteronomy limits cultic worship of the Lord to one location and negates the legitimacy of all other sanctuaries, while at the same time highlighting his absolute sovereignty. The rejection of other sanctuaries is not based on the claim that they are located within the territory of other gods but that they were not chosen by God and that he demands to be worshiped only in the place of his choosing. Deuteronomy, however, is clearly revolutionary and revisionist in outlook. Against all ancient tradition (as reflected in Genesis), it denies that Yhwh ever sanctified the local shrines, and it considers them all to be Canaanite (Deut 12:2–3).

Worship of the Lord on Foreign Soil

145

Worship of the Lord: Universalism, Particularism, and Territory Often, the scholarly discussion of the theological tension in the Hebrew Bible between “particularism” and “universalism” focuses either exclusively or primarily on the issue of the “chosen people.” This tension, brought into particular prominence of course by the New Testament corpus, centers on the question why the God of creation, who is presumably concerned with all of His creation, would establish a unique and exclusive relationship with a single, isolated ethnic group. 21 Many biblical passages seem to imply that the God of Israel has little or no interest in being worshiped by anyone other than Israel (cf. Deut 4:19–20). However, the tension between particularism and universalism within the context of the Hebrew Bible is actually much more complex and cannot be limited to the issue of the chosen people. The discussion must be informed by the additional issue of the “chosen land,” which as we shall see below, when brought into the equation, discloses the greater complexity and subtlety of the mediations of the tension. Two “Particulars”: Chosen People and Chosen Land The land is referred to as having been “sought out” by God, and it was chosen because it is “the most desirable of all lands” (Ezek 20:6). It is referred to as God’s “resting place” (Ps 95:11), perhaps as an extension of Zion, of which God declares, “This is my resting-place for all time; here I will dwell, for I desire it” (Ps 132:14). It is specifically in this land that he wants to be worshiped, and it is specifically of this land that the Lord declares, “for the land is mine” (Lev 26:23). Other lands, as we have noted, are not “his” in the same way and cannot serve as the setting for his worship. This last Priestly passage must be seen as standing in tension with the declaration made at Sinai, “for all the earth is mine, but you shall be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exod 19:5–6). According to the Sinai declaration (which is made outside the land), that which uniquely 21.  See most recently, J. S. Kaminsky, Yet I Loved Jacob: Reclaiming the Biblical Concept of Election (Nashville: Abingdon, 2007). See also D. Patrick, “The Moral Logic of Election,” Encounter 37 (1976), 198–210; H. H. Rowley, The Biblical Doctrine of Election (London: Lut­ ter­worth, 1950). It is important to emphasize that the universalism of the prophets did not reject nationalistic symbols but placed them within a broader universal context. See on this M. Weinfeld, “Literary Creativity,” in The World History of the Jewish People, vol. 4/2 (ed. A.  Malamat; Tel Aviv: Masada, 1979), 56–58; H.  M. Orlinsky, Essays in Biblical Culture and Bible Translation (New York: KTAV, 1974), 78–116. For a good discussion of the theological issues, see J. D. Levenson, “The Universal Horizon of Biblical Particularism,” in Ethnicity and the Bible (ed. M. G. Brett, Leiden: Brill, 1996), 143–70. His assertion on p. 149, however, that “the universal availability of God and his law remained alive and was never displaced in ancient Israel by more particularistic theologies” is greatly overstated. See, for example, Ps 147:19–20.

146

Chapter 3

belongs to the Lord is the people. As far as the land is concerned, contrary to Lev 26:23, it all belongs equally to the Lord. The polemical insistence that “all the earth is mine” indicates that both “particulars”—not only the particular of the chosen people but that of the chosen land as well—had become problematic. Both came to be seen as standing in tension with the idea of the Lord as sole creator, ruler, and caretaker of the entire cosmos. The polemical insistence of the Sinai passage that all the earth is equally the Lord’s and that the Lord’s special possession consists specifically of the people of Israel indicates something more. It indicates that these two “particulars,” the chosen people and the chosen land, may stand in tension not only with the idea of a universal God but also with each other. Let us elaborate on this point. One might have expected that these two particulars would usually have been championed together. In other words, we might have expected that a biblical author or school of thought that emphasizes the exclusivity of the covenant with the Israelite people would also emphasize the exclusivity of the land as the locus of divine worship. We similarly might have expected that a biblical author or school of thought that expresses the Lord’s accessibility to other peoples in general would also express the idea of his cultic accessibility outside the land. We would then have a straightforward dichotomy between an “exclusivist” understanding of the deity as a national-territorial god and a “universalist” conception of the deity, whose concern extends equally to all peoples and lands. The nationalist conception would recognize the reality and legitimacy (for the nations) of other national gods and thus isolate worship of the Lord to his own land and people. The universalist conception would reflect a distilled form of monotheism that rejects not only the reality of the gods of the nations but also the acceptability of their cults and would concomitantly envision all of humanity united in the worship of the Lord in every land. Correlations such as these can indeed be found in the Hebrew Bible. The strong emphasis in Deuteronomy on the centrality of the land 22 is paralleled by Deuteronomy’s equally strong affirmation of the exclusive holiness of the Israelite people. 23 The God of Israel is to be worshiped almost exclusively by the people of Israel in the land of Israel. An example of the other extreme, the universal worship of the Lord in terms of both peoples and territories can be found, for example, in the prophetic passage of Isa 19:19–24. This prophetic vision of an altar and pillar of Yhwh being established for cultic use in Egypt also foresees the Egyptians and Assyrians as forming, together with the Israelites, a common religious community. Both territorial as well as national-ethnic boundaries are significantly blurred here. This may be correlated with the biblical wish that the divine ‫ כבוד‬that 22.  Weinfeld, Deuteronomy 1–11, 57–60. 23.  Ibid., 60–62.

Worship of the Lord on Foreign Soil

147

fills the temple (1 Kgs 8:11) will eventually be spread to fill the entire world (Num 14:21; Ps 72:19). The implication of this seems to be that, when this occurs, the entire world would be a divine temple and be fit as the setting for his cultic worship. Also significant in this connection is Ps 103. Verse 19 asserts that the Lord established his throne in heaven and rules over the entire world from there. This assertion is followed in v. 22 with a call to all of God’s creatures to bless him in all the places of his dominion. Since God’s throne is in heaven alone and not on earth, all beings at all locations are called upon to worship him. 24 It may also be worth noting that the classical Jewish liturgical piece known as Aleinu looks forward to a future time when the God of creation, presently the “portion” of Israel alone, will reign over all mankind, and all humanity will accept the yoke of heaven. 25 Here, too, God’s habitation is said to be in the heights of heaven. Nowhere in this text is there any sense that God’s reign, whether over Israel in the present or over the world in the future, is related to a particular territory. On the contrary, the territorial terms “portion” and “lot” are spiritualized and are used with reference to God alone. 26 There is no request for an ingathering of the exiles and no mention of Zion as the place where God’s kingship will be established and where the nations will prostrate themselves. 27 Israel Alone in Any Territory Must Worship the Lord In spite of the fact that, as we have just seen, one can find biblical materials that demonstrate that the issue of particularism and universalism was sometimes viewed in conjunction with territory in terms of an absolute, 24.  For the late, postexilic dating of this psalm, see H.-J. Kraus, Psalms 60–150 (trans. H. C. Oswald; Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 1993), 290; E. S. Gerstenberger, Psalms, Part 2, and Lamentations (FOTL; Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2001), 217–18. 25.  See P. Birnbaum, Daily Prayer Book (New York: Hebrew Publication, 1969), 167–68. On the origins of the prayer, see J. Heinemann, Prayer in the Period of the Tannaʾim and the Amoraʾim: Its Nature and Its Patterns (2nd ed.; Jerusalem: Magnes, 1966), 172–75 [Hebrew]; I.  Elbogen, Jewish Liturgy: A Comprehensive History (trans. R.  P. Scheindlin; ed. J.  Heinemann et al.; Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1993), 119–20. 26. For this spiritualization of Israel’s territorial “lot” as God see already Jer 10:16; Ps 16:5. For a brief discussion and additional references see W. L. Holladay, Jeremiah 1: A Commentary on the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah Chapters 1–25 (Hermeneia; Philadelphia: Fortress, 1986), 336. 27.  This stands in strong contrast to most of Jewish liturgy, which continually emphasizes Zion as the site of the future kingdom of the Lord over the world. See, for example, the Kedushah of the Sabbath morning service (Birnbaum, Daily Prayer Book, 395–96): “From thy abode, our King, appear and reign over us, for we await thee. O when wilt thou reign in Zion?” The biblical passage that is cited here, as elsewhere in the liturgy with reference to the future Kingdom of God, is Ps 146:10, “The Lord shall reign forever, your God, O Zion, for all generations. Praise the Lord!” The Aleinu prayer, on the other hand, cites two verses that do not mention Zion: “For the kingdom is thine, and to all eternity thou wilt reign in glory, as it is written in thy Torah: ‘The Lord shall be King forever and ever’” (Exod 15:18). And it is said: “The Lord shall be king over all the earth; on that day the Lord shall be One and his name One” (Zech 14:9).

148

Chapter 3

either/or dichotomy, the issue in most instances came to expression in far more nuanced ways. The Sinai passage cited above already shows up the simple dichotomy, since it upholds a strong sense of the election of the people (one must be born into an association of “priests” and can never join it from the outside) against the background of an assertion of the supraterritorial character of the deity. Consistent with the supraterritorial character of the Sinai deity is the fact that at the end of the Sinai theophany Moses sets up an altar and orchestrates the offering of sacrifices at the foot of Mt. Sinai. This location is clearly thought of as being outside the land of Israel. Thus, sacrifices offered outside the land initiate the exclusive covenant with the nation of priests (cf. Exod 3:12; 24:4–8). The sacrificial worship at Sinai is consistent with the divine command and promise made there (Exod 20:24): “Altars 28 of earth shall you make for me, and you shall sacrifice thereon your burnt offerings and your peace offerings, your sheep and your oxen; wherever you 29 call my name, I will come to you and bless you.” The promise that the Lord will come and bless the people of Israel wherever they build an altar and call upon his name is usually understood as reflecting the predeuteronomic conception that allowed for multiple cultic centers within the land. We should not ignore, however, the fact that this promise is made at Sinai, where an altar is indeed set up and where the Lord indeed comes to meet Israel. In this context, “wherever” cannot be limited to the land and must be taken in the broadest sense possible. It stands in contrast not only with Deuteronomy’s centralization of worship but also with any spatial limitation for the worship of Yhwh. This is also consistent with the fact that the altar built by Aaron before the golden calf is never destroyed or considered illicit (Exod 32:5). It is only the calf itself that is considered illicit and is therefore destroyed. The fact that the Lord was depicted as wandering in a tent is another indication of the idea that the worship of the Lord cannot be permanently limited to any single spot (cf. 2 Sam 7:6–7). Here too the emphasis is on the exclusivity of the relationship with the people and not with the land. This conception is highlighted in the Priestly material of the Pentateuch. In contrast to the position expressed in Deut 12:8–12, according to which any cultic worship that may have occurred during the period of desert wanderings was no more than excusable (‫)איש כל הישר בעיניו‬, in the Priestly material it was carried out in the portable desert tabernacle, upon divine command. In sum, one may have a conception of the deity as an exclusively “national” God without his having any strict “territorial” dimension. The “territorial” requirement in the Priestly material is that the altar be located 28.  Though the singular is used here, it is clear from the context that many altars are thought of. 29.  For this emendation, see Y. Zakovitch, An Introduction to Inner-Biblical Interpretation (Even Yehuda: Reches, 1992), 95–96 [Hebrew].

Worship of the Lord on Foreign Soil

149

before the tabernacle and not elsewhere (Lev 17:1–7), but the tabernacle itself could be projected into the wilderness of the exodus period, outside the land. What must be emphasized, therefore, is that the depiction of the Israelite deity as being open to cultic worship outside the land may at times have nothing to do with an alleged concern with, or openness to, all peoples of the earth. It may simply reflect the principle that it behooves Israel alone, in any territory, to worship the Lord. The Lord’s primary relationship, in this conception, is with the people of Israel, and his relationship with the land is secondary, or less central. All Peoples in the Land of Israel Must Worship the Lord It is also fully conceivable for a biblical author to insist on the idea that the land is the exclusive locus for worship of the Lord, while at the same time rejecting the idea that this worship must or even can be limited to the Israelite people. The relationship of the Lord to his land may be seen as prior to and more essential than his relationship to Israel as a people. When Jeremiah represents the Lord as complaining that the Israelites entered and contaminated his inheritance (2:7), he reflects the understanding that the Lord’s primary relationship is with the land. The land alone constitutes the original “inheritance” of the Lord, and the people enter it at a secondary stage. Several biblical passages reflect the idea that the obligation to worship the Lord stems from geography rather than history. This, we believe, is the essential significance of the concept of “Yahweh’s land,” highlighted by von Rad. Von Rad’s seminal essay on this theme focused on the contrast between the “historical” conception of the land as reflected in the “promise to the patriarchs,” and the “cultic” conception of the land as belonging to Yhwh. 30 Whereas the “historical” outlook sees the land as formerly belonging to the nations and subsequently being promised to the patriarchs and finally given over to Israel in the time of Joshua, the “cultic” conception sees the land as the perpetual property of the Lord. The land, following this conception, is never given over to absolute Israelite ownership. Rather, the Israelites together with non-Israelite residents in the land are seen as living under the Lord’s fiefdom. The inhabitants are allowed to cultivate and live off the Lord’s land, and in exchange they must supply him with firstlings, tithes, sacral fallow, and so on, through which they affirm their recognition that he is the real owner of the land. The historical outlook of the land is expressed and reflected in the narrative saga of the Hexateuch. The cultic outlook is implicitly reflected in its legislative material. 31 30.  See von Rad, “The Promised Land.” 31.  The subject of the combination of the two outlooks, the historical and the cultic, was elaborated on in von Rad’s famous earlier essay “The Form-Critical Problem of the Hexateuch.” There he rooted the cultic outlook of the legislative material in the

150

Chapter 3

One of the clearest expressions of the territorial conception of the deity and his law is found in 2 Kgs 17:24–41, which describes the non-Israelites who were sent from various lands into exile in the land of Israel. The Lord sent lions to attack them because they did not know the “demands of the God of the land” (v. 26). 32 It is clear that this story sees all who dwell in the Hexateuch not primarily within the sphere of “Yhwh’s land” but in an early form of the Sinai covenant that was made regarding the law and existed independent of the exodusconquest theme. See G. von Rad, “The Form-Critical Problem of the Hexateuch,” in The Problem of the Hexateuch and Other Essays (Edinburgh: Oliver & Boyd, 1966), particularly p. 53, where he formulates his conception of the early Sinai tradition as originally reflecting a “cult-legend of the ancient Yawhistic ceremony of the renewal of the covenant at the Feast of Booths.” In the early Sinai legend, God comes to the assembly, proclaims the law, and a covenant is sealed. Thus, in the early Sinai covenant of the law, the obligation to the law was not grounded in divine acts in history. It was only the later Yahwistic author of the Sinai narrative who brought about the convergence of “gospel” and “law.” It is in the Yahwists’ development of the Sinai theme that the originally separate themes of the “historical credo” are combined with the nonhistorical, “cultic” conception of the giving of the law at Sinai. We cannot enter here into a detailed discussion of the many difficulties, ambiguities, or even inconsistencies involved in von Rad’s overall thesis (see E. W. Nicholson, Exodus and Sinai in History and Tradition [Oxford: Blackwell, 1973], and the works cited there), or his attempt to reconstruct an original cultic form for the Sinai theme (for a critical treatment of the understanding of the Sinai tradition as a cult-legend, see R. W. L. Moberly, At the Mountain of God [JSOTSup 22; Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1983], 116–40). It may, however, be pertinent simply to ask from where the Israelites were assumed to have arrived at Sinai and on what the covenantal obligation to the law was grounded in von Rad’s original, nonhistorical, Sinai “cult legend.” The land-based source of obligation to the law could hardly have been represented by the Sinai tradition, since the deity of Sinai is clearly an exterritorial deity. Particularly puzzling is von Rad’s contention that the Sinai story served as a cult legend for the covenant festival that supposedly took place at Shechem ( Josh 24). Why, one must ask, would covenanters at Shechem recount the story of Moses at Sinai when they had their own local legend concerning Joshua at Shechem? It is far from clear that Josh 24 reflects an annual covenant renewal ceremony altogether, and if it does, the story of Josh 24 itself would surely have been more appropriate as its cult legend than the Sinai covenant. And in any event, both the exodus and the conquest are highlighted in the covenant of Josh 24. Von Rad seeks to reconstruct the original context of the Sinai theme with the aid of Pss 50 and 81. Yet at least in Ps 81, the exodus theme is highlighted. Von Rad cites Deut 33:2, 4 as an indication that, “the constitutive element of the Sinai tradition is the coming of God, not the wandering of the people” (p. 20). However, as most scholars have recognized, in this theophany as in the others cited there by von Rad, the Lord comes from Sinai rather than to Sinai. Furthermore, the reference to the lawgiving in v. 4 is almost certainly secondary (see I. L. Seeligmann, Studies in Biblical Literature [ed. A. Hurvitz, S. Japhet, and E. Tov; Jerusalem: Magnes, 1996], 192 [Hebrew]). Nor is there any reference to a covenant regarding the law. Thus, the text cannot be used to reconstruct a cult legend in which God comes to the people at Sinai to give them the law in a covenant. Finally, Ps 50 makes absolutely no reference to Sinai and, instead, refers to Zion. It is thus preferable to see the tradition of covenant at Sinai as inextricably linked to the exodus event. In our view, there indeed was a conception of law that was independent of the exodus-conquest theme. In all likelihood, it was equally independent, however, from the Sinai tradition and was rooted, rather, in the Lord’s status as deity of the land. 32.  In Deut 18:3, the dues owed to the priests are referred to as ‫משפט הכהנים מאת העם‬. Following this analogy, the 2 Kgs 17 passage may refer to the cultic dues owed by the

Worship of the Lord on Foreign Soil

151

land as obligated to worship the Lord of the land. This obligation, again, exists independent of covenant commitments. The lions were not sent because these foreigners had violated covenant obligations. Their obligation to the Lord did not stem from any gracious acts that he performed for them in the past. The Lord did not even bring these people into the land to begin with. They were brought there by the Assyrian king and their presence in the land was an exile for them (v. 24). What is more, they could not even be seen as a unified group of people, since they all stemmed from different national territories. Their obligation to fear the Lord stemmed simply from the fact that they were living on his land, not from a shared history with him prior to their life in the land. 33 It is also important to emphasize that the story in its original form (see the analysis below) apparently takes for granted that the priest from Bethel who teaches the peoples the “law of the God of the land” promulgates to them the same commands that were seen to have obligated the exiled Israelites when they lived in the land. The demands of the deity, following this conception, are one and the same regardless of the people concerned, the law having no inherently “ethnic” or “national-historical” character. It is significant that the manner in which the colonists learn the commands of the deity of the land is through the oral “instruction” given by the priest of Bethel (2 Kgs 17:26–28). One of the classical functions of the Israelite priest attested throughout biblical literature is the instruction of Torah to the people at the temple precinct (Deut 33:10; Hag 2:10–14). 34 This instruction is sometimes presented as a judicial function in civil as well as cultic matters (Exod 21:6–8; Deut 17:8–13; Ezek 44:23–24). The fact that the Priestly “teaching” was promulgated to the people in the temple probably indicates that it was originally conceived as being divinely revealed to the priesthood at the sanctuary (see also the Priestly ‫ חשן המשפט‬of Exod 28:29–30) 35 and in an accumulating fashion. It is within this context, I suggest, that we should see Jethro’s advice to Moses in Exod 18:19–20, “Now listen to me; I will give you counsel. Let people to the deity. It probably should not, however, be limited strictly to offerings but, more broadly, to the full range of divine demands from the inhabitants. This would include the full range of Priestly law. 33.  The basic obligation to follow the laws was inherent to life in the land and was not dependent on a covenant commitment. This does not mean, however, that a covenant grounded in God’s Lordship over the land and its inhabitants could not be made with regard to the law. This, we will argue below, is reflected in 2 Kgs 17:35, 39. See also M. Weinfeld, “‫ברית‬,” TDOT 2 (1983): 265–69, 273–75. For noncovenantal views of law in the Bible, see J. D. Levenson, “The Theologies of Commandment in Biblical Israel,” HTR 77 (1980): 17–33. 34. P. D. Miller, The Religion of Ancient Israel (London: SPCK, 2000), 168–70; P. J. Budd, “Priestly Instruction in Pre-Exilic Israel,” VT 23 (1973): 1–14. 35.  Note that the Urim and Thumim of the ‫ חשן המשפט‬are mentioned in relation to the priestly teaching of law (‫ )משפטיך‬in Deut 33:8–10.

152

Chapter 3

the Lord be with you. Serve the role of the people before God, and bring the disputes before God. Enjoin upon them the laws and the teachings and make known to them the way they are to go and the practices they are to follow.” Moses here acts as a priest who brings legal disputes in a case-bycase manner to the deity, informs the people of the divine decision, and imparts the accumulated “laws and teachings” to the people. 36 This narrative, as commentators have long noted, betrays no awareness of the great narrative of the Sinai lawgiving (cf. 1:8–11), which it indeed precedes, even though in its present form it appears to take place at the Mountain of God (v. 5). 37 Medieval commentators sought to account for the anomalies of the chapter and its relation to the Sinai narrative in a variety of ways. From my point of view, the simplest approach is to see the chapter as reflecting an alternative, “cultic” account of lawgiving. In this account, the law was not bestowed in a public, all-Israelite theophany and accepted in unison in a national covenant-ceremony that was grounded in the exodus event. Rather, individual cases were brought to Moses, who brought them to God. God would render his verdict, and Moses would subsequently relate it to the parties involved. The contrast between this account and the Sinai narrative with its emphasis on the exodus covenant is significant. The “teaching” of the law by the priests, as somewhat dimly reflected in this narrative, 38 originally reflected the absolute demands of the deity. The God of this Priestly outlook did not have to perform wonders in order to earn his claim to Israel’s alle-

36. We surmise that, in an earlier form of the tradition, the suggestion of Moses’ father-in-law was to bring the cases to God and that, before this suggestion, Moses was judging by himself, without divine assistance. This is not the place for a detailed analysis of the text. See, however, the insightful discussion of M. Lefebvre, Collections, Codes and Torah: The Re-characterization of Israel’s Written Law (LHBOTS 451; New York: T. & T. Clark, 2006), 40–47. 37.  Actually, the location in the tradition of Exod 18:13–27 is unclear. It is only the tradition of vv. 1–12 that is clearly located at the divine mountain. However, this tradition is clearly separate. The tradition concerning the legal administration is artificially connected to what precedes by the editorial “and on the next day” (v. 13). Note that, in vv. 13–37, the name “Jethro” is never mentioned. Also probably of secondary origin is the insistence in v. 27 that Moses sent his father-in-law back to his native land. The ancient traditions spoke of Moses’ father–in-law as accepting territory and settling in the land (Num 10:19– 32; Judg 1:16; 1 Sam 15:6). I do not rule out the possibility that, in the original form of the tradition, the entire incident occurred in the land. For the idea that Moses entered the land, see 1 Sam 12:8. The situation reflected in the narrative of the people bringing their legal disputes to a priest-judge reflects the reality of a settled society more naturally than a nomadic band of desert wanderers. 38.  Though the tradition of Exod 18:13–27 is not Priestly in the sense of belonging to P, it clearly reflects Moses as holding the Priestly office. For Moses as priest in the ancient tradition, see Ps 99:6–7 and F. M. Cross, Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1973), 195–215.

Worship of the Lord on Foreign Soil

153

giance. 39 The laws of the priests were commonly thought of as the demands of the “God of the land,” as von Rad pointed out, and as is manifest in the story of the Samarian colonists. As such, the laws were not accepted because of previous acts of divine grace in history outside the land and were not subject to the considered approval of an autonomous people. The colonists, we must recall, are never offered a choice. They must simply comply with the demands of the God of the land if they do not want to be devoured by lions. Their suffering does not come in the wake of preliminary warnings that they will be duly punished if they fail to comply with the obligations that they have taken upon themselves; the colonists never took upon themselves any obligations before they were attacked by lions and had no way of even knowing what was expected of them. 40 The priests were concerned to maintain and preserve the Lord’s presence and blessing in the land (Lev 26). Since the land had to be fit for his dwelling, the observance of his law could not be left as a matter of choice, nor could it apply to only one specific nationality within the land. The typical Priestly insistence that the ‫ גר‬takes on the obligations of the Israelite (Num 15:14–16, 26–31) surely reflects this ancient outlook. 41 Indeed, the Israelites themselves are ultimately landless tenants, ‫גרים‬, since the only true landowner is the Lord (Lev 25:23). The Priestly idea that the earth itself will spew forth the Israelites for their sins just as it did the previous tenants, the Canaanites (Lev 18:28), also reflects this outlook. The Canaanites are not spewed out of the land because they have broken covenant commitments to the Lord based on his acts on their behalf in the national-political realm. Rather, the Canaanite practices were inherently intolerable within the parameters of the land of the Lord. The fact that the same fate awaits the Israelites indicates that they too are obligated because of their presence in his land and not because of a national covenant that

39.  We may compare the Priestly conception reflected in Ezek 20:5–8, which, though thoroughly historical, insists that God demanded obedience from Israel before the exodus event. Here too, God does not have to earn the right to claim Israel’s obedience by accomplished acts of salvation. 40.  In my analysis below, I will argue that the earliest form of the story about the colonists did, in fact, depict the formation of a covenant with them. This covenant, however, comes after the violation against the deity and the ensuing punishment. It thus cannot be seen as providing the basis for the people’s obligation. Rather, the covenant here merely supplements the inherent obligation that derives from presence in the land with an incentive for obedience. The incentive comes in the form of a new and explicit commitment on the part of the deity to protect the people if they promise to comply with his demands. 41. See M.  Weinfeld, Deuteronomy and the Deuteronomic School (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns,1992), 228–32. Note Ezekiel’s utopian Priestly vision for future restoration, in which the strangers in the land receive land inheritances within the tribes wherein they live (Ezek 47:22–23). At the same time, foreigners who are not rooted in the land are excluded from participation in the cult (Ezek 44:9).

154

Chapter 3

was grounded in the exodus from Egypt and the bestowal of the land as a gift of conquest. 42 This idea is also hinted at in the story of Ruth. When Naomi asks of Ruth to follow the lead of her sister-in-law and return to the land of Moab, she says (Ruth 1:15), “See, your sister-in-law has returned to her people and her gods; follow after your sister-in-law.” It is thus geography that determines theology. This is why Ruth, a non-Israelite, automatically takes on the God of Israel when she returns with Naomi to her land and people. Ruth’s acceptance of Israel’s God is not, as is often presumed, the result of some new theological recognition on her part. Ruth never denies the reality of her ancestral gods, just as Naomi herself never denies them, and just as Ruth never denies the reality of the Israelite God. The issue, obviously, is not one of abstract belief but of location. Ruth asserts that she will return with Naomi to her people and that, because “your people will be my people,” perforce “your God will be my God” (Ruth 1:16). This geographical conception underlies Boaz’s assertion about Ruth that she has “come to take refuge under the wings of” the God of Israel (Ruth 2:12). Once Ruth moves into the Lord’s jurisdiction, the obligation toward him, as in the story of the colonists, follows automatically. If she were to move back to Moab, she would no longer be obligated to the Lord as, we must assume, Naomi and her family were not throughout the duration of their stay in Moab. We should also note that the book of Ruth never mentions God’s historical acts on behalf of his people, such as the exodus, or the giving of the land. If the obligation to worship the Lord were understood as based most essentially on God’s acts in history for his covenant people, it would hardly have been possible to depict Ruth’s entrance under the wings of the Lord in such a simple, indeed automatic, manner. The conception of law as grounded in the land is perhaps reflected in Ps 50, in which the “historical” exodus theme is conspicuously missing and which depicts lawgiving and covenant in connection with Zion. This geographical orientation may also be reflected in Ps 87, which celebrates Zion as the “holy mountain” (v. 1) and “city of God” (v. 2) and goes on to speak of various foreigners from Philistia, Tyre, Cush, and so on as being “born” in the city (v. 5). 43 Note should be given to the stories in 2 Sam 21:1–14 and 24. Both stories conclude with a similar formula: ‫( ויעתר אלהים לארץ אחרי כן‬21:15) and ‫ לארץ ותעצר‬′‫ויעתר ה‬ ‫( המגפה מעל ישראל‬24:25). Both stories depict a violation that brings devastation to the land in the form of a severe drought or pestilence. The first story explicitly refers to the land as ′‫‘ נחלת ה‬the inheritance of the Lord’. In 42.  Of course, the present form of the Priestly strand in the Pentateuch combines and synthesizes both conceptions into an organic whole. 43. Contra Seeligmann (Studies in Biblical Literature, 399–400), who understands the foreigners as Jewish exiles who came to Jerusalem on pilgrimage. The universal interpretation seems to me to be more likely. See Kraus (Psalms 60–150, 189), who acknowledges this possibility, though he does not favor it.

Worship of the Lord on Foreign Soil

155

both stories, cultic sacrifice, whether of Saul’s offspring at Givat Shaul or of animals at the newly established altar at the threshing floor of Aravna the Jebusite brings relief to the land. The cult here functions chiefly within the realm of the land and for the well-being of all its inhabitants. In sum, the conception of the law as being grounded in divine acts on behalf of the nation outside the land tends to place emphasis on the people as an independent entity. In this conception, the law is binding only for those who experienced the early divine acts outside the land—that is, the Israelite covenanters of old and their descendants (cf. Deut 29:13–14). Residents of the land who do not share this ancient history and are not descendants of the original covenant members have no essential obligation to the law. 44 At the same time, individuals who do belong to this community may still be seen as being obligated, even outside the land. The cultic conception of the “divine estate,” on the other hand, tends to focus more on the people in the land, regardless of who they may be or what early history outside the land they may or may not share. The cultic conception reflects an attitude of exclusiveness with regard to the worship of the Lord in terms of territory as well as an open attitude toward the identity of the worshipers. Again, the fact that the Lord of the land does not distinguish between Israelites and other inhabitants in the land does not necessarily indicate that he is more open and universal. On the contrary, in this conception, the Lord could be just as disinterested in Israelites outside the land as he is with Gentiles! Indeed, in the story of the Samarian colonists, the Lord shows an intense interest in the colonists, whereas the exiled Israelites are totally forgotten! All Nations Must Worship the Lord in the Chosen Land In another distinct category altogether belong all the prophetic visions that foresee the nations of the world as participating in the worship of the Lord in Jerusalem (e.g., Isa 56:1–8; 66:18–21, 23; Zech 2:15; 8:20–23; 14:16–19; cf. also Ps 96:7–8; 102:16, 23). These prophetic passages and others like them 45 should be distinguished from the passages that we have just mentioned, insofar as the prophetic texts highlight the Lord’s 44.  The deuteronomic author implicitly attempts to include the non-Israelite residents in the land of his day within the covenantal obligations by awkwardly claiming that their ancestors participated in the initial covenant in the desert of the Plains of Moab, where they served as woodchoppers and waterdrawers (Deut 29:10)! 45.  See C. Begg, “The Peoples and the Worship of Yahweh in the Book of Isaiah,” in Worship and the Hebrew Bible: Essays in Honour of John T. Willis (ed. M. P. Graham, R. R. Marrs, and S. L. McKenzie; JSOTSup 284; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1999), 35–55. We should actually distinguish between the passages that require the nations to worship the Lord in Jerusalem (Isa 66:23; Zech 14:16–19) and those that merely encourage nonIsraelite worship there and see this as a positive development (Isa 56:1–8; Zech 8:20–23; see also the notice in 2 Chr 32:23 that, in the wake of the salvation of Jerusalem in the days of Hezekiah, many brought offerings to Yhwh from among the nations).

156

Chapter 3

accessibility not merely to non-Israelites who are already in the land but also to those who have not yet arrived. In other words, unlike the previous passages, which probably reflect a conception of relative indifference on the part of the deity to people outside the land, in the prophetic passages listed here, God seeks out the non-Israelites outside the land and is determined to bring about a time when they will worship the Lord alone, together with the Israelites. Undoubtedly, there is a strong, indeed uncompromising, universalistic tenor to these passages. Here too, however, the territorial dimension is central. The worship of the nations is fervently anticipated, but it can only take place inside the land of Israel. The monotheistic tone in these passages is strong, and it is clear that the territorial exclusion of any area outside the land in no way indicates recognition of other territorial deities. The Lord cannot be worshiped outside the land even if these territories are not connected to any real deities. He will not accept the nations’ worship of him outside the land, even though his concern and interest extends to all lands and peoples. Foreign Nations Will Worship the Lord outside the Land; Israel Will Worship the Lord inside the Land The prophet of Zech 14:8–9 anticipates a day when the Lord will establish his reign over the entire world: It shall come to pass in that day that living waters will go out from Jerusalem: half of them toward the eastern sea and half of them toward the western sea; in summer and in winter it will be. And the Lord will be king over all the earth; in that day will the Lord be one, and his name one.

It is clear here that the center of the Lord’s future reign over the world is Jerusalem. Accordingly, the nations will be required to come on pilgrimage and worship there on a yearly basis. It shall come to pass that everyone who is left of all the nations that came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the king, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles. And it shall be that any of the families of the earth who do not go up to Jerusalem to worship the king, the Lord of hosts, upon them there shall be no rain. However, if the family of Egypt does not go up to be present, it will have no overflow; there will be the plague wherewith the Lord will smite the nations that do not go up to keep the Feast of Tabernacles. This shall be the punishment of Egypt and the punishment of all the nations that do not go up to keep the Feast of Tabernacles. (Zech 14:16–19)

Any nation, particularly Egypt, that does not go up to worship the Lord in Jerusalem will be smitten by a plague and deprived of rain or overflow.

Worship of the Lord on Foreign Soil

157

It is particularly against the background of this prophecy that we can appreciate the striking message of Isa 19:19–25. This prophetic passage also looks forward to the reign of the Lord over the world, and it also refers specifically to the worship of Egypt and the plagues that it may suffer. Let us briefly look at this passage. In that day there will be an altar to the Lord in the midst of the land of Egypt and a pillar to the Lord at its border. They will serve as a sign and a witness to the Lord of hosts in the land of Egypt; for they shall cry to the Lord because of the oppressors, and he will send them a savior and a defender who will deliver them. And the Lord will make himself known to Egypt, and the Egyptians will know the Lord in that day; they will worship with sacrifice and offering and will make vows to the Lord and fulfill them. And the Lord will afflict Egypt, first afflict and then heal; and they shall return unto the Lord, and he will respond to their entreaties and will heal them. In that day, there will be a highway out of Egypt to Assyria, and the Assyrians will come into Egypt and the Egyptians into Assyria; and the Egyptians will worship with the Assyrians. In that day, Israel will be the third partner with Egypt and with Assyria as a blessing on the earth; for the Lord of hosts will bless them, saying: “Blessed be Egypt, my people, and Assyria, the work of my hands, and Israel, my inheritance.”

Egypt will suffer from a plague and from oppressors, as intimated in Zech 14. But it will be healed and delivered when it turns to the Lord and entreats him. The Egyptian worship of the Lord will not take place in the temple of Jerusalem. Rather, the Egyptians will experience the Lord’s salvation through a redeemer, and they will establish their own altar to the Lord in the land of Egypt and worship him with sacrifices there! Here we have a pointed negation of the idea that the nations must worship the Lord on Israelite soil. It indeed seems that there was prophetic disagreement on this issue. While some prophets insisted that in the eschatological era the nations of the world would worship the Lord in Jerusalem, others, such as the prophet of Isa 19, envisioned a day when the nations would worship the Lord on their own soil. Of course, even in Isa 19, the implicit assumption is that the Israelites will worship the Lord in the land of Israel. Verse 24 speaks of Israel as a blessing on earth, together with Egypt and Assyria. Just as Egypt and Assyria will worship the Lord in their own territories, so Israel will worship the Lord in its land. This same distinction is expressed in Malachi. The prophet scolds the priests of Jerusalem for offering defective sacrifices that degrade his great honor. In this context, he points to the worldwide renown of the Lord (Mal 1:11): From the rising of the sun to its setting, my name is great among the nations, and in every place offerings are presented to my name and pure oblations; for my name is great among the nations, says the Lord of hosts.

158

Chapter 3

Cultic worship of the Lord outside the land of Israel is clearly understood as legitimate and praiseworthy, even if not mandatory, for the nations of the world. 46 There is very little basis for the understanding that the passage refers to the cultic worship 47 or spiritualized synagogue worship 48 of diaspora Jews. The passage clearly contrasts the Israelite cult in Jerusalem with the worship of the nations, and it clearly refers to concrete and not spiritual offerings. In contrast to the blemished sacrifices offered in Jerusalem, those of the nations are depicted as “pure.” This, by the way, stands in contrast to the assertion that foreign territory is inherently impure and thus unfit for any cultic worship of the Lord ( Josh 22:19). In any event, the question of the historical accuracy of the prophetic assertion should not be allowed to distort the plain meaning of the words. The prophet does not claim that the Lord alone is worshiped throughout the world but only that he is of great acclaim and receives pure offerings in every “place.” 49 The prophet may well be employing hyperbole, depicting reality as he wishes to see it and as a rhetorical device that serves his goals. The lack of realism would not be dissimilar to the presentation in Dan 6:26–28 of Darius sending letters to all the nations of his kingdom, ordering them to fear the God of Daniel. Comparable also is the depiction of Naaman, the Aramean general, offering sacrifices to the Lord in his own Aramean territory (2 Kgs 5:17), or of Job and his friends, all non-Israelites, offering sacrifices to the Lord in the land of Uz ( Job 1:5; 42:8–9). And the psalmist (Ps 113:3) enthusiastically proclaims in words that echo Malachi’s, “From the rising of the sun to its setting, the name of the Lord is praised.” The contrast in Malachi, however, between Jerusalem and the nations indicates that the prophet clearly distinguishes between the two. The nations may 46.  See M. Smith, Palestinian Parties, 70. 47.  J. M. P. Smith, “A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Book of Malachi,” in A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi and Jonah (ICC; Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1912), 30–32. Note also Smith’s appropriate rejection of earlier critics who saw in the verse a reflection of the view that pagan worship of the gods is in reality divergent forms of worship of the one God. Radak similarly comments in his commentary on the verse, ‫ דעתם לשמי‬,‫‘ אף על פי שהם מקטירים ומגישים לעבודת כוכבים‬even though they sacrifice to idolatry, their intention is to my name’. This position continues to find proponents. See, for example, R. Mason, “The Prophets of the Restoration,” in Israel’s Prophetic Tradition: Essays in Honour of Peter R. Ackroyd (ed. R. Coggins, A. Phillips, and M. Knibb; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982), 150: “Indeed, wherever men express their gratitude to God as Creator and Preserver (1:11) their worship, even if offered in ignorance of Yahweh’s name, is more acceptable to Him than the blood sacrifices of such evil priests.” The problem with this interpretation is that Yhwh’s name is said to be great among the nations, and the offerings are offered to his name. This can hardly reflect ignorance of Yhwh’s name! Also unacceptable is the interpretation that sees the verse as referring to the worship that will be offered by the nations in the future era. This would make for a very poor contrast with the sacrifices offered in Jerusalem in the present. 48.  See J. Swetnam, “Malachi 1,11: An Interpretation,” CBQ 31 (1969): 200–209 and the early sources cited there. 49.  We should note that “place” sometimes refers specifically to a temple or cultic site. See Jer 7:3, 12, 14, and Levine, “The Next Phase in Jewish Religion,” 248.

Worship of the Lord on Foreign Soil

159

worship the Lord with their offerings in all their lands. For Israel, there is only one legitimate place of worship: the temple of Jerusalem, where the prophet preaches. We may similarly see a pointed contrast between the assertions of Ps 102 and Ps 103. In Ps 102:16–17, we read that “the nations will fear the name of the Lord and all the kings of the earth your glory, for the Lord has built Zion, appeared in his glory.” The nations will fear the Lord when Zion is rebuilt. This fear will come to expression in concrete cultic terms when God’s glory is told in Jerusalem, “when nations gather together, and kingdoms, to worship the Lord” (vv. 22–23). Clearly, worship of the Lord is carried out exclusively in Jerusalem by both Israel and the nations. However, in the very next psalm we read that the Lord has established his throne in heaven, and his dominion reigns over all (v. 19). There is no mention at all of the temple of Zion. In accordance with this, the psalmist ends with the call: “Bless the Lord, all His works, in all places of his reign” (v. 22). Worship, at least in the form of blessing the Lord, is imagined here as taking place “in all places,” 50 and there is no sense that the nations must gather together in Jerusalem. A similar position to this may appear in Zeph 2:11, which states, “The Lord will show himself terrible against them [the nations]; for he will cause all the gods on earth to shrivel; then all the coastlands of the nations shall bow down to Him—each one from its place.” The emphasis on the nations’ bowing to God from their places may again stand in opposition to the common prophetic motif of the nations’ coming to Jerusalem and joining there in the worship of the Lord. 51 Summary The position that a biblical author takes on the question whether or not the Lord can be worshiped outside the land cannot simply and automatically be translated into a statement of his or her theological conception of the Lord of Israel as either “nationalist” or “universalist,” “exclusivist” or “inclusive.” The position may sometimes be better taken as reflecting a theological conception of the deity as either primarily “territorial” or primarily “ethnic” or “national.” Neither of these positions is thoroughly universalist or inclusive. In many instances, the issue is simply too complex to be reduced to simplistic, either/or categories. We should also keep in mind that additional factors other than abstract theological factors must be part of the equation. For example, people living inside the land may be more prone to emphasize the centrality of the land for the worship of Yhwh, at 50.  See n. 49 above. 51.  Cf. J.  Vlaardingerbroek, Zephaniah (trans. J.  Vriend; Leuven: Peeters, 1999), 150. It is possible, however, that what is expected of the nations is recognition of Yhwh’s sole lordship of the world as expressed through prostration alone, without sacrifice. Other passages that envision the nations worshiping or recognizing the Lord and do not refer to their pilgrimage to the temple in Jerusalem include 1 Kgs 8:43; Isa 45:22–23; Pss 22:28–29; 107; 145; Dan 6:26–28.

160

Chapter 3

least for Israelites, even if they have a more inclusive conception of his interest in humanity at large. They may tend to be more accepting of nonIsraelites inside the land who seek access to the worship of the Lord and less accepting of Israelites living outside the land. Those living outside the land may be more prone to highlight the exclusivity of the covenant with the people so as to maintain their distinctive identity in contrast to the non-Israelite population. For individuals inside the land, this emphasis on the covenant with the people would be less vital, because their distinctive identity as Yhwh worshipers could derive from the very fact that they live and serve the Lord on his land. People outside the land, though perhaps more prone to emphasize the exclusivity of the covenant with the people of Israel would obviously be less prone to emphasize the exclusivity of the land as the locus for worship of the Lord. 52

Theological Accommodations for Worship of the Lord on Foreign Soil: Israelites versus Foreigners We have seen that the emphasis on the exclusivity of the land for cultic worship of the Lord raised serious difficulties, both theological and practical. How, then, were these difficulties addressed? How were the competing demands of a land-centered religion within a monotheistic framework mediated? How and to what extent was worship of the Lord on foreign soil legitimized? As we have seen in the previous section, some prophetic texts speak of the accessibility of God to foreigners. Some of these texts require the foreigners, whether individuals or nations, to worship the Lord at the temple in Jerusalem in order to reap the benefits of his providence and care while others indicate that the nations will worship the Lord in their own territories. In the present section, we will pursue these issues further, through sustained consideration of several pertinent nonoracular texts. In particular, we will find that divergent standards for Israelites and non-Israelites are often maintained with regard to the question of worship of the Lord on foreign soil, and we will attempt to account for this divergence. The Aramean General’s Worship of the Lord An interesting and original attempt to mediate between the demands of a land-centered religion within a monotheistic framework may be found 52. For a very good, brief discussion of this issue, see D.  R. Schwartz, Studies in the Jewish Background of Christianity (WUNT 60; Tübingen: Mohr, 1992), 5–10. Of course, the question whether the author lives inside the land or outside is only one potential factor influencing his or her attitude toward Yhwh worship outside the land. It is neither the sole determinant, nor need it always correspond to the scheme I have suggested here. One may live inside the land and still believe that the Lord can be worshiped outside it, even by Israelites; or live outside it and believe that he cannot be worshiped outside the land, even by non-Israelites.

Worship of the Lord on Foreign Soil

161

in the text of 2 Kgs 5. The story tells how the Aramean general Naaman, who was a leper, came to be healed by the prophet Elisha, who had him dip himself in the Jordan River seven times. At first, the general was outraged at the suggestion that he simply immerse himself in the Jordan, asking, “Are not the Amanah and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? May I not wash in them and be clean?” Only after his servants convinced him to give the suggestion a try did he follow the prophet’s instructions and thereby become healed. The miraculous healing brought the general to the recognition that “there is no God in all the earth except in Israel” (v. 15). He then went on to make a unique request (v. 17). Naaman asked for a load of soil to be carried back to Aram by two mules. He explained, “for your servant will no longer offer burnt offerings or sacrifices to other gods, but only to the Lord.” Naaman then asked that the Lord would forgive him when he accompanied the king to the Temple of Rimmon and bowed down there in the presence of the king. The prophet, apparently, granted the general his requests and sent him off in peace. The continuation of the narrative need not concern us here. What is crucial is to understand why Naaman asked for such a large load of soil to be brought to Aram. Clearly, the purpose was to make an altar, in accordance with the law of Exod 20:24, “An altar of earth you shall make me and offer on it your burnt offerings and peace offerings.” However, we may still ask, to paraphrase the words of Naaman, is not the soil of Damascus better than all the soil of the land of Israel? The answer, it seems, is negative. Just as the great rivers of Damascus cannot purify leprosy the way the modest but sacred waters of the Jordan can, so also with the soil of Damascus. The Lord can only be worshiped on the sacred soil of Israel. Thus, the only way he can be accessible to worshipers outside the land is if soil from the land of Israel is transported there. This stands in contrast to other biblical passages, such as Mal 1:11, where foreign nations are depicted worshiping the Lord in sacrifice in their lands—presumably without the special use of imported Israelite soil—without any hint that this might be problematic. We should note that our story does not recognize the reality of other deities outside the land. Naaman even asks for forgiveness for the fact that, as servant to the Aramean king, he will at times be forced to bow to the national deity. Clearly, the only real deity is the God of Israel, and worship of any other deity is a sin for which all humanity is held culpable. At the same time, however, this single God is closely bound to the land of Israel. This is why Naaman proclaims, “There is no God in all the earth except in Israel” (v. 15). It is in the land of Israel that the one and only Lord resides, apparently imbuing its soil and rivers with a divine potency found nowhere else. 53 All other areas are simply godless. 53.  Note the potency of the corpse of Elisha to revive the dead (2 Kgs 3:20–21). For a good, brief discussion, see M. Cogan and H. Tadmor, II Kings (AB 11; New York: Doubleday, 1988), 66–68. I am hesitant, however, to date the narrative definitively with Cogan and

162

Chapter 3

The story thus expresses a most unique theological outlook. On the one hand, the Lord is the only living deity in all the earth. Theoretically, all humanity should worship him alone. This does not mean, however, that “the entire earth is full of his glory,” as the angels of Isaiah’s vision would have it (Isa 6:3). Rather, his presence is limited exclusively to the land of Israel. This is why he cannot be worshiped in any other land. On the other hand, an attempt is made, at least in theory, or in fantasy, to break out beyond the bounds of the land theology so as to accommodate the eschatological urge to witness non-Israelites living outside the land worshiping the Lord of Israel. This utopian vision can be realized, suggests the narrator, with the deployment of Israelite soil outside the land of the Lord’s presence. With the deployment of the soil of Israel outside the bounds of the sacred land, the Lord could be accessible to all creatures of the earth. Of course, this accommodation applied strictly to the non-Israelite Naaman. There is no hint of a similar accommodation for Israelites living outside the land. Nor is there any indication that Naaman would be welcome at a temple in Israel. Worship of the Lord in the Prayer of Solomon Another interesting attempt to mediate between the land-centered character of the Israelite faith and the theological and practical need to extend worship of the Lord beyond the territorial limits of the land can be found in the prayer of Solomon at the dedication of the temple (1 Kgs 8). Let us note some of the unique characteristics of this text. Many scholars have pointed out the striking fact that nowhere in this strongly Deuteronomistic passage concerning the function and significance of the temple is there any mention of cultic sacrifice. 54 The text repeatedly refers only to the role of prayer at the temple, in spite of the fact that Deuteronomy itself continuously demands that Israelite offerings are to be brought to the divinely chosen sanctuary. 55 There is also no mention here of the role of the priests. The monotheistic and universalistic tones of the section are strong, as witnessed in the assertion that “there is no other god in heaven above or on the earth below” (v. 23) and in the hope that all nations will come to know Tadmor to the period before classical prophecy on the basis of the fact that it does not reflect the more active, prophetic universalism of the likes of Deutero-Isaiah. Not every late biblical author was necessarily influenced by the classical prophets, and late texts can often reflect much “earlier” outlooks that did not die out. 54.  This should not be taken as reflecting a conception according to which the temple is for prayer and not for sacrificial worship. The existence of animal sacrifice and priestly service at the temple are taken for granted as obvious facts. Note that in Isa 56:7 the temple, where sacrifices of foreigners will be accepted by God, is referred to as ‫בית תפילתי‬. Nevertheless, the consistent failure to mention sacrifices in the prayer of Solomon probably indicates that they are seen as ultimately less than essential. For a discussion of the chapter, see Levenson, “From Temple to Synagogue: 1 Kings 8,” 142–66. 55.  Weinfeld, Deuteronomy and the Deuteronomic School, 37.

Worship of the Lord on Foreign Soil

163

“that the Lord is God; there is no other” (v. 60). We also find an explicit denial of the idea that the temple, or any earthly site, can serve as the real locus of the divine dwelling: “Can the Lord dwell on earth? Behold the heavens and the heavens of heavens cannot contain you, much less this house that I built” (1 Kgs 8:27; cf. Isa 66:1). In contrast with the story of Naaman, which emphasizes that God is to be found specifically on the earth and, even more specifically and exclusively, in “Israel,” our text removes God from the earthly realm entirely. Even though his being is said to overflow the heavens, it is clearly from the distances of the heavens that he receives the prayers that are offered on earth (vv. 30, 32, 34, etc.). Looking at all these elements highlighted in the prayer of Solomon—the denial of the existence of all other gods, the denial that the sole Lord of the universe resides anywhere on earth, the exclusive emphasis on prayer, and the resounding silence regarding the importance of priests and sacrifices for the worship of the Lord—it almost appears that the author(s) seek(s) to deny entirely that genuine worship of the Lord can be restricted to a specific location. Sacrificial worship is usually subject to the restrictions and requirements of sacred space. Prayer, theoretically at least, is not bound by these strictures. At the same time, the text relates the story of the dedication of the temple and obviously seeks to promote and highlight its centrality. Where, then, lies the importance of the temple, if not in serving as God’s dwelling on earth? Let us cite the words of Solomon in vv. 29–30: May your eyes be open day and night toward this house, toward the place of which you have said, “My name shall abide there”; may you heed the prayers that your servant will offer toward this place. And when you hear the supplications that your servant and your people Israel offer toward this place, give heed in your heavenly abode—give heed and pardon.

The temple, following the language coined in Deuteronomy, is the place where God’s “name” is to abide. This clearly indicates some kind of abstraction that stands in contrast to the deity’s actual being. 56 Even though the Lord himself always remains in heaven, it is expected that he will direct his eyes from heaven toward the temple in order to receive prayers from there. This is the reason that it is essential to pray specifically at the temple, even though God’s being overflows all the heavens, and no other deity other than him even exists. The temple was built as the place for the Lord to focus his attention and as the symbolic sign of his Lordship. It is the house upon which his name is invoked (1 Kgs 8:43). In any other location where the divine attention is not necessarily directed, the individual supplicant might not be noticed, and his or her prayer of supplication might 56.  This was first highlighted by G. von Rad, Studies in Deuteronomy (trans. D. Stalker; London: SCM, 1961), 37–44.

164

Chapter 3

not be heard. Even if a prayer that was disconnected from the temple were heard, the Lord might be less inclined to grant the request, since only the granted requests that were originally submitted at the temple would reflect back positively on his “name.” Since the name of the Lord is associated with the temple, the efficacy of prayer offered at the temple proves God’s supremacy in a way that the efficacy of prayer offered elsewhere cannot. What we seem to have here is an attempt to assert the centrality of the “sacred space” of the temple, together with a denial of its most central tenets: the idea that the temple is God’s home on earth and the idea that animal sacrifice is of paramount importance. Or, to put it another way, the text presents us with a desacralized interpretation of sacred space. The denial that God is in any real way present in the land, city, or temple or that animal sacrifice at the altar is vitally important allows for the theoretical possibility of his accessibility anywhere and highlights his stature as a cosmic deity of universal proportions. The fact that the Lord is located strictly in the heavens tends to imply that he can even be reached in any location by any individual who addresses prayer directly upward, toward heaven. As we have stated, tendencies toward this understanding of the divine correspond to both theological and practical developments in the later history of Israel’s religion. The Lord of Israel is not merely a national-territorial deity, one among many, whose central interests are narrowly focused on his own “lot.” He is the sole universal deity who controls all of human history and is ultimately concerned with all of his creatures. On the other hand, however, complete divine accessibility, regardless of all national-territorial issues, would undermine and render obsolete some of the most fundamental categories of Israelite religion. If the Lord is not a national-territorial deity, why should an Israelite attach any significance or importance to the categories of land, city, or temple at all? The text, of course, seeks to alleviate this problem. It insists that, in spite of the fact that the Lord’s transcendent presence is located in heaven, his “attention” from a distance is indeed directed to a specific place. Though the space is not sacred in the sense of being imbued with a divine quality, it is still uniquely “divine” in the desacralized sense of being the place where God chooses to focus his attention. In fact, the divine attention is depicted in terms of a gradation of three levels. It is most intensely focused on the temple itself, a bit less intensely on the entire chosen city, and even less directly or clearly on the entire land in general (v. 48). The city and land are apparently thought of as standing within the peripheral vision of the deity, with the focus being directed at the temple itself. The book of Deuteronomy offers a similar depiction of the entire land, concerning which we are told that “the eyes of the Lord are on it from the beginning of the year to the end of the year” (Deut 11:12). Though Deuteronomy does not adopt the three-tiered gradation of temple, city, land, it does, at least in many passages, implicitly reject the idea that

Worship of the Lord on Foreign Soil

165

the land is the “Lord’s estate,” wherein he dwells, 57 and it also replaces this idea with the notion of the land as the place on earth whereon the Lord focuses his sights from heaven (cf. Deut 26:15). This new rationale, which is followed in the prayer of Solomon, explains why it is important to pray to the Lord from within the land of Israel—more specifically, at the site of the temple. From there, the supplications will be seen, heard, and then accepted in heaven. In spite of this rationalizing justification of the importance of the land and temple for the worship of the Lord, it is nonetheless conceded (at least in some parts of Solomon’s prayer) that the physical presence of the worshiper is not always actually required. Practical accommodation must be made for certain realities. When the Israelites go off to war against foreign enemies, for example, they will obviously not always be able to return to the sole legitimate temple in Jerusalem between battles to offer their prayers (1 Kgs 8:44–45). Similarly, in future times, when the Israelites sin and go into captivity in a foreign land, they will again be unable to pray at the temple (vv. 46–53). This will not mean, however, that the temple will be inoperative. Just as the temple can be connected to the deity, even though he himself is always found at a distance from it, so also can the temple be connected to the people, even when they are found at a distance from it. The manner in which the temple will operate without anyone actually visiting it is similar to the way it operates in relation to God in heaven. Just as God directs his sights toward the temple from the distance of heaven, so also can the people direct their prayers to the temple from the distance of the exile. In this situation, they may direct their prayers apparently by pointing their faces in worship (cf. Dan 6:11) toward the chosen city and the sacred temple (1 Kgs 8:44–45). 58 They will be able “to pray to you in the direction of their land which you gave to their fathers, the city that you have chosen, and the house that I have built to your name” (v. 48). The Lord in heaven will then receive their prayers, apparently from the temple area toward which they were directed (vv. 46–49). The temple thus becomes a sort of conduit, or spiritual “antenna” that can “pick up” prayers that are directed at it and transmit them upward to heaven. We appear to have something of a spiritualization of the more concrete, Priestly conception, which sees the altar and sanctuary as a kind of magnet that attracts and absorbs sins and impurities and must therefore be purged 57.  Note that Deuteronomy never employs the phrase ’‫ נחלת ה‬with reference to the land. Only the people are referred to as the divine inheritance (Deut 4:20; 9:26, 29). 58.  It seems strange that the passage concerning the function of the temple for the exiles continues to refer to the temple as if it were standing and totally avoids all reference to its destruction. Theoretically, one might argue that this indicates that the passage belongs to the period just before the destruction of the temple. I suggest another possibility, which is to place the composition of the passage in Second Temple times. The passage, perhaps, sought to maintain the fiction that the temple was never destroyed so as to authorize the Second Temple as none other than the temple of Solomon itself.

166

Chapter 3

through ritual manipulation. 59 In our Deuteronomistic passage, the temple becomes a magnet for prayer rather than for impurity, and this is what allows for the possibility of “accessing” the temple from a considerable distance. What is more, the temple as a whole takes on the role of conduit that originally belonged to altar and priest. If, in earlier times, the Lord could only be accessed through sacrifice offered via the priest at the altar, here the Lord can only be accessed through prayer offered by the individual via the temple site. Though optimally speaking, one should offer one’s prayers personally at the temple itself, one can still “access” God by directing prayers there from a distance, even from outside the land entirely. Again, though the Lord is universal and resides in heaven, his attention continues to be focused on the land and the temple even during Israel’s exile. The exile is presented as a distancing of the people alone from the categories of sacred space. The deity himself was always at a distance, so the exile changes nothing with regard to the deity’s relation to the land and temple. The land and temple continue, as always, to represent the focal point of God’s attention. Thus, even for the exilic period, land, city, and temple are indispensable religious categories. It is important to note the special status of the non-Israelite from a faraway land in vv. 41–43. This passage highlights and elaborates the potentially universalistic implications of the idea that the sole Lord of the universe does not actually dwell in any earthly location. If the Lord of Israel is the sole Lord of the universe who is not really limited to Israelite territory, he should also be accessible to the foreigner. The foreigner, however, is not given the same option of simply directing his prayers to the temple site, as are the Israelites away at war (vv. 44–45) or in exile (vv. 46–53). Israelites may worship the Lord by directing their prayers to him from outside of the land. Non-Israelites cannot. 60 Even though the issue is primarily worship 59. See the classic piece by J.  Milgrom, “Israel’s Sanctuary: The Priestly Picture of Dorian Gray,” RB 83 (1976): 390–99. 60.  Contra M. Z. Brettler, “Interpretation and Prayer: Notes on the Composition of 1 Kings 8.15–53,” in Minhah le-Nahum: Biblical and Other Studies Presented to Nahum M. Sarna in Honour of His 70th Birthday (ed. M. Brettler and M. Fishbane; JSOTSup 154; Sheffield: JSOT, 1993), 28–29. Brettler believes that the phrase “he will come and pray toward this house” conflates the idea of coming and praying at the temple from vv. 31 and 33, with the idea of praying toward it in vv. 35 and 38. However, the phrase “pray to this house,” does not in any way imply praying toward the temple from a distance. This is only meant when the text speaks of praying ‫‘ דרך‬in the direction of’ the land, city, or temple (vv. 44, 48). There is no reason why the Israelites should not be thought of as coming to the temple in vv. 35 and 38, where they are thought of as living in the land. The term ‫אל‬ is obviously used with the meaning ‘at’ in vv. 29–30, where God hears the prayers “at the place of your dwelling, in heaven.” The phrase ‫ אל המקום הזה‬in vv. 35 and 38 must also refer to prayer at the Temple. This sense of ‫ אל‬is acknowledged by Cogan in his commentary to v. 30 (M. Cogan, 1 Kings [AB 10; New York: Doubleday, 2001], 284). It is therefore most surprising that Cogan glosses “who shall come and pray toward this House” in v. 42 with the comment, “Presence in the Temple was not required of the Israelite or of the foreigner”

Worship of the Lord on Foreign Soil

167

through prayer, since sacrificial worship is not explicitly mentioned, 61 the foreigners are still expected to make the long, arduous trip from the faraway land to the temple precinct. Only then is it asserted that their prayers will be answered. In this matter, our passage again stands in contrast to the story of Naaman in 2 Kgs 5. In that story, the foreigner who heard of the Lord’s prophet and came from outside the land to be healed was given soil from the land of Israel so that he could offer sacrifices to the Lord on foreign territory. In our passage, in contrast, the foreigner who seeks the Lord is expected to make the journey to the temple and offer his worship in the sacred site. Why are the Israelites allowed to worship the Lord from a considerable distance while foreigners are not? 62 Why may the Israelites pray toward the temple from other lands but not foreigners? I suggest a twofold explanation for the distinction. The first reason for the expectation that the foreigner will come to the temple, and not simply pray in its direction, relates to the reasons God wants to respond positively to his or her prayer. The text offers two reasons for the Lord’s positive future response to these foreigners (v. 43). One reason is that these positive responses will promote awareness of the sanctity of the Jerusalem temple, making it known that the name of the Lord is “called by” or intimately related to this structure. The other reason is that the Lord’s positive responses to prayers brought by foreigners to the temple will ensure that “all the peoples of the earth will know your name and revere you, as does your people Israel.” 63 Both reasons help explain why the foreigner is not given the option of simply directing his prayers toward the temple, as the warring or exiled Israelites are. If the foreigner stayed in his homeland, he and presumably those around him as well would be more apt to attribute the source of the (p. 286). The fact that the foreigner comes from a far-off land surely indicates that he prays at the Temple, not toward it! 61.  We should note, however, that the formulation of v. 43, “so that all peoples of the earth will know your name and revere you, as does your people Israel” may imply participation in the Yhwh cult. For “revering the Lord” as cultic worship cf. Josh 22:25; 2 Kgs 17:28. It is not completely clear where this future universal reverence toward the Lord would be expressed. 62.  Though we cannot enter here into the issue of the history of composition of the prayer of Solomon, I do believe that it is more likely to be complex rather than unitary. Even if the author of vv.  41–43 is not the same as the author of vv.  44–45, 46–53, this should not prevent us from attempting to understand the coherency of the final form of the text. The passages were not authored in isolation but in relation and response one to another. Thus, if we assume that vv. 41–43 were added in the final stages, the author would have been aware of the option of praying from a distance as reflected in vv. 44–45, 46–53. If, on the other hand, we assume that vv. 44–45, 46–53 were added after vv. 41–43, the authors who provided for prayer from a distance would have known of the more stringent demands made of the foreigner, rejecting them for the Israelite warriors and exiles. 63.  Compare the similar role of foreigners at the Jerusalem temple as emissaries to the nations in Isa 66:18–19.

168

Chapter 3

positive response to his prayer to the local deities of the pagan world. Both the goal of promoting universal fear of the Lord and the goal of promoting the idea that the Lord’s name is “invoked in this temple” would hardly be achieved if the Lord responded positively to the prayers of foreigners who did not make a striking outward display of the fact that their prayers were indeed directed to the Israelite deity of the Jerusalem temple. The exiled Israelites, being already associated with the Lord, could display their allegiance to the deity of their ancestors by simply directing their prayers to the Jerusalem temple. Only foreigners would have to make the connection of their prayers to the Israelite deity and temple clearly visible to accomplish the goal of magnifying the name of the Lord. I also suggest that the above-noted distinction between Israelites and foreigners with regard to participation in the worship of the Lord represents an inner balance that is often worked out between the conflicting poles of inclusiveness and exclusiveness in Israelite religion. As I have indicated, Israelite religion as reflected in the Hebrew Bible exhibits a tendency toward highlighting the centrality of the land as well as a tendency toward highlighting the centrality of the people. These tendencies, when combined together, lead to a heightened sense of religious exclusiveness. At the same time, various parts of the Hebrew Bible exhibit clear tendencies toward greater inclusiveness. These two tendencies in Israelite religion, exclusiveness and inclusiveness, essentially pull in opposite directions and balance each other in various ways. Where exclusiveness in terms of peoplehood is compromised, one often finds compensation for the loss of exclusiveness in a heightened emphasis on the centrality of the land. And where exclusiveness in terms of the land is compromised, one often finds compensation for the loss of exclusiveness in the form of a heightened emphasis on the centrality of peoplehood. 64 These dynamics are nicely demonstrated in the prayer of Solomon. Verses 41–43 speak of individual foreigners whose personal prayers will be answered by the God of Israel. The acceptance of individual foreigners within the sphere of individuals who will be answered by God may already be seen as compromising the exclusivist category of the chosen people. Within this context, no concessions can be made with regard to the centrality of the land. If individual foreigners from distant lands are to be accepted among those who may turn to the Lord, they will have to do what regular Israelites in the distant lands will not need to do. They will have to come to the land and temple personally. The element of exclusiveness is thus reasserted through the reaffirmation of the indispensability the 64.  These same dynamics can be equally formulated in terms of the need to preserve a sense of inclusiveness. If the centrality of the people is greatly accented, compensation for the loss of inclusiveness will often be made in the form of a diminution of the centrality of the land. If, on the other hand, the centrality of the land is emphasized, the loss of inclusiveness will often find compensation in the form of a diminution of the centrality of the people.

Worship of the Lord on Foreign Soil

169

land. Of course, an even greater compromise of the exclusive category of the chosen people is reflected in the distant but ultimate goal: “so that the nations of the earth may know your name, to fear you as do your people Israel.” The eschatological goal of bringing all the nations of the earth to fear the Lord “just like the Israelites” threatens to undermine completely the unique status of Israel as the people of the Lord. It is specifically within the context of a utopian future blurring of distinctions between Israelites and the nations that the centrality of the land must be reaffirmed, at least in the present. On the other hand, vv. 46–53 dealing with the exiled Israelites reflects a significant compromise of the centrality of the land. The exiled Israelites can worship the Lord outside the land by directing their prayers to the land, city, and temple. They need not return to the land. What is more, the Lord is not even expected to bring them back to the land. Rather, his function will be to forgive them for their sins and ensure that they are dealt with mercifully by their captors (v. 50; contra v. 34). The entire passage thus seems to reflect the concern to accommodate for religious life in the exile at the expense of territorial exclusivism. A symbolic token of allegiance to the land and temple is required in the form of prayer in that direction—but little more. This concession toward inclusiveness in the realm of territory is compensated for by highlighting exclusiveness in the realm of Israelite peoplehood. In vv. 51–53, Solomon urges the Lord to forgive the exiles who pray in the direction of the land, city, and temple by reminding him: “they are your people and your inheritance, whom you brought out from Egypt . . . for you have set them apart for yourself as an inheritance out of all the peoples of the earth.” This emphasis on the separation of Israel from all the peoples of the earth counterbalances the concessions with regard to the centrality of the land. Of course, the emphasis in v. 53 on the distinctiveness of the Israelite people and their separation from all nations of the earth also reflects a strong antithesis and counterbalance to the eschatological universalism of vv. 41–43. Worship of the Lord in the Book of Jonah It is instructive to compare and contrast the nuanced position reflected in the prayer of Solomon according to which foreigners wishing to worship the Lord must come to the temple, while exiled Israelites at least temporarily need not, with the equally nuanced position reflected in the book of Jonah. Let us consider Jonah’s prayer from the belly of the fish. Here we have an Israelite who is far away from land and temple who has sinned against the Lord and who is now suffering in distress. In his distress, Jonah longs to see the Temple, which is identified as the place where God’s eyes are focused ( Jonah 2:5). His prayer from the depths is said to arrive at the sacred temple, where it is received by God and answered positively (vv.  9, 11). These elements are at least partially reminiscent of various elements found in Solomon’s prayer. The temple is there designated as the place where any

170

Chapter 3

individual with any type of malady can offer his supplications (1 Kgs 8:38). These maladies are also continually referred to there as the direct result of sin (vv. 33, 35, 46). Distance from the temple can be overcome by pointing prayers in its direction, implying that the prayers can reach thither from great distances (vv. 44, 48). And the temple is the place where the Lord’s eyes are directed (v. 29). In spite of these similarities, the prayer of Jonah has one important element that, as we have noted, is never mentioned in the prayer of Solomon: the element of sacrifice. Jonah not only prays for salvation from the belly of the fish; he promises to pay his vow and offer sacrifice—clearly at the temple that he longs to see. Another similarity between the book of Jonah and the prayer of Solomon is found in the common interest exhibited in the worship of foreigners (cf. 1 Kgs 8:41–43). The sailors pray to the Lord for forgiveness when they throw Jonah overboard ( Jonah 1:14), and the people of Nineveh call to the deity in repentance for their sins (3:8). The sailors, whose prayers are immediately accepted as they throw Jonah overboard, are said to have “feared Yhwh with a great fear” (1:15), just as Solomon prays that the prayers of foreigners will be heeded “so that all the peoples of the earth will know your name and revere you, as does your people Israel” (1 Kgs 8:43). Again, in the book of Jonah, worship of the Lord includes sacrifice, and this applies also to foreigners. Just as Jonah promises to fulfill his vow and offer sacrifice when saved from the fish and restored to his land, so also the sailors “offer sacrifices to the Lord and make vows” when the tempest on the sea comes to an end (1:16). It is important to note, however, that there is a significant difference between the sacrifices offered by the sailors and the sacrifice of Jonah. While Jonah’s sacrifice is understood to be fulfilled at the Temple of the Lord from whom he fled, the sacrifices of the sailors are in no way related to the temple. It appears from the wording of v. 16 that the sacrifices of the sailors were offered right then and there on the ship! 65 The subsequent making of vows on the ship implies that additional sacrifices to the Lord would be offered upon safe arrival at Tarshish. 66 The book of Jonah, at least in the form in which we now have it, 67 thus distinguishes between Israelites and non-Israelites with regard to cultic worship of the Lord. Non-Israelites can 65. See the discussion of J.  M. Sasson, Jonah (AB 24B; New York: Doubleday, 1990), 138–40. 66.  Vows are usually paid at a temple (cf. 2 Sam 15:7–9). If, following Mal 1:11, worship of the Lord could take place in temples throughout the world, there is no reason that the sailors of Jonah could not be thought of as fulfilling their vows at a temple in Tarshish. (Note the mention of Tarshish in the eschatological passage of Isa 66:19.) For the plurality of cults in the Temples of antiquity, see M. Smith, Palestinian Parties and Politics, 19–21. 67.  For the issue of the originality of the psalm in Jonah 2, see J. Day, “Problems in the Interpretation of the Book of Jonah,” in In Quest of the Past: Studies on Israelite Religion, Literature, and Prophetism (OtSt 26; Leiden: Brill, 1990), 40–42.

Worship of the Lord on Foreign Soil

171

worship the Lord with sacrifices in any location whatsoever, whereas Israelites are expected to offer sacrifices at the temple. The contrast with the prayer of Solomon is striking. Whereas in the prayer of Solomon, foreigners are required to worship at the temple and only Israelites are allowed to worship from a distance, in the book of Jonah the Israelites are the ones who must worship at the temple, at least when sacrificial worship is involved, while foreigners may worship the Lord, whether with prayers of petition and penitence or with sacrifices of thanksgiving, without any reference to land or temple. It is possible that this contrast in Jonah between Israelite sacrifice to the Lord at the temple and non-Israelite sacrifice to the Lord outside land and temple reflects a leniency toward foreigners, who are not expected to meet the requirements demanded of Israelites. They are, after all, non-Israelites. Why should their worship of the Lord be restricted to Israel’s territory? Another possible understanding, however, should also be considered, and this is that the non-Israelites are depicted offering sacrifice to the Lord outside the land because their worship of the Lord, though eagerly anticipated, is not considered acceptable at the temple of Israel. 68 Many scholarly treatments of the book of Jonah have often depicted the book as a paradigm of prophetic universalism, 69 since it depicts divine concern for the welfare of non-Israelites, and it has often been contrasted with and even seen as a polemic against the exclusivism reflected in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, where people who are identified as foreign are distanced from participation in the cult of Jerusalem. In truth, however, these two books, Jonah and Ezra–Nehemiah, are at least theoretically perfectly compatible with each other. The fact that the 68. A similar position may be reflected in Lev 22:25, which might depict Israelites bringing sacrifices on behalf of foreigners who seek the favor of the Lord. As noted by M. Greenberg (On the Bible and Judaism: A Collection of Writings [Tel Aviv: Am Oved, 1985], 332–34), this sort of practice may be alluded to in Exod 10:25, where Moses tells Pharaoh, “You will even give us sacrifices and whole offerings for us to make for the Lord our God.” Compare also Pharaoh’s request in Exod 12:32, “Bless me as well.” It should be noted that the foreigners do not participate personally in the cult but only, if at all, by Israelite proxy. This may again indicate that their personal presence is not wanted, even if there is openness to the possibility of sacrificing on their behalf. Lamentations 1:10 appears to reflect a prohibition against foreigners entering the temple. For an understanding of Lev 22:25 as referring only to animals purchased from abroad but intended exclusively for sacrifice on behalf of Israelites, see J. Milgrom, Leviticus 17–22 (AB 3A; New York: Doubleday, 2000), 1881. For rabbinic positions on the question of Gentile participation in the Israelite cult, see E. J. Bickerman, “The Altars of Gentiles: A Note on the Jewish ‘Ius Sacrum,’” in Studies in Jewish and Christian History, vol. 2 (ed. A. Tropper; Leiden: Brill, 2007), 596–617. 69. H. H. Rowley, The Missionary Message of the Old Testament (London: Carey, 1945), 69; O. Eissfeldt, The Old Testament: An Introduction (Oxford: Harper & Row, 1965), 547. For a critique of this approach, see R. E. Clements, “The Purpose of the Book of Jonah,” in Congress Volume: Edinburgh 1974 (VTSup 28; Leiden: Brill, 1975), 16–28; Day, “Problems in the Interpretation of the Book of Jonah,” 44–45.

172

Chapter 3

books of Ezra and Nehemiah exclude what are considered non-Israelite elements from participation in the cult of Jerusalem 70 in no way indicates that they reflect the idea that the Lord of Israel is disinterested in the welfare of other peoples outside Jerusalem. On the contrary, Ezra 4:9–10 presents Darius’s edict that the temple be supplied from state funds with all the livestock necessary so that the Jews “may offer pleasing sacrifices to the God of heaven and pray for the life of the king and his sons.” Similarly, the fact that the book of Jonah includes non-Israelite elements in the divine economy and even in some form of cultic worship of the Lord in no way indicates that it reflects the idea that the Lord of Israel seeks their personal participation in Israel’s national cult. Kaufmann astutely noted that Jonah, in fact, seems to reflect a rather patronizing attitude toward the nations. 71 The city of Nineveh, which God seeks to preserve, is referred to as a place with a great many people “who do not know their right hand from their left hand” and a great mass of cattle ( Jonah 4:11). The reference to the people and animals in one breath, the emphasis on their limited intellectual abilities, and the emphasis on the fact that there are so many of them all indicate a condescending mind-set. One may perceive a satiric exemplification of this dullness of intelligence of the Ninevites in the command from the king and his “great ones” that all men and animals must fast and wear sackcloth (3:7–8). 72 In any event, Kaufmann is certainly correct in insisting that the book evidences no sign of the prophetic demand that the nations abandon idolatry and join Israel in the exclusive worship of the Lord. The people of Nineveh like those of Sodom are called to task for their moral failings alone (3:8, 10), and, though they believe in the deity of Jonah’s prophecy (3:5), they never abandon the worship of their native deities. 73 Thus, the presentation of the sailors offering sacrifices to the Lord outside the land may well reflect a stance of exclusion toward those who cannot distinguish between their right and left hands. God certainly does not want to destroy non-Israelites and prefers to send them prophets (who can only be Israelite!) to warn them of their sins so that they may repent and be spared. He is also more than happy to receive their reverent recognition and will gladly receive their freely offered sacrifices outside his land. All of this in no way implies, however, that they are welcome at the temple (compare the exclusion of 70.  Note, however, that Ezra 6:21–22 includes non-Israelites who seek the God of Israel and separate from the impurities of the “nations of the land” among people who eat the paschal sacrifice and celebrate the Festival of Mazzot. Similarly, Neh 10:29 includes those who separate from the “peoples of the lands to the teaching of God” among those who take part in the curse and the oath. 71.  Kaufmann, The History of Israelite Religion, 2.281. 72.  For a satiric reading of the book, see J. C. Holbert, “Deliverance Belongs to Yahweh: Satire in the Book of Jonah,” JSOT 21 (1981): 59–81. Surprisingly, Holbert fails to enlist the motif of the repentant animals in his argumentation. 73.  So also Day, “Problems in the Interpretation of the Book of Jonah,” 45.

Worship of the Lord on Foreign Soil

173

foreigners from the Temple in Ezek 44:9) or that the Lord is interested in their worship to the same extent that he is interested in Israel’s worship. The positive depiction in Jonah of foreign sacrifice outside the land may thus come as a sort of compensation for the exclusion of foreigners from the temple. In contrast with the absolute demands of some of the prophets that all nations worship the Lord alone in the city of Jerusalem, the nations in Jonah need not worship the Lord at his Temple. If they so wish, they can offer him sacrifices in their own locations, just as the non-Israelite Job, for example, could offer sacrifices to God in the land of Uz ( Job 1:5; cf. also 42:8–9), or the pre-Israelite Noah could build a Yhwh altar and offer sacrifices in an area that is presumably outside the (future) land of Israel (Gen 8:20). 74 They need not, however, or perhaps must not worship God in the temple of Jerusalem. Worship of the Lord in Psalm 107 It is useful to compare the book of Jonah and the prayer of Solomon with Ps 107. The similarity between the psalm and the book of Jonah is most apparent in vv. 23–32, a passage that almost sounds like a summary of the incident of Jonah at the sea: They who go down to the sea in ships, doing their trade in the mighty  waters; They see the works of the Lord and his wonders in the deep. By his word he raises a stormy wind that makes the waves surge. Mounting up to heaven, plunging down to the depths, Their soul is melted because of trouble. They reel to and fro, And stagger like a drunken man and are at their wits’ end. They cry to the Lord in their adversity, and he saves them from their  troubles. He reduces the storm to a whisper, and the waves thereof are stilled. They rejoice for they are quiet, and he leads them to their desired  port. Let them praise the Lord for his kindness, his wonders for mankind, Exalting him in the congregation of people, Acclaiming him in the assembly of elders.

Though the similarity between this passage and the Jonah story is striking, there is no reason to assume that the psalmist refers specifically to that story. The psalmist speaks here in general of a typical situation in which 74.  The verse belongs to the non-Priestly story that does not precisely define where the ark landed. Presumably, had the narrator had a problem with Noah’s offering sacrifices on a Yhwh altar outside the land, he would have insisted that the ark landed in the area of Canaan. The Priestly version of the flood story places the ark in the mountains of Ararat (Gen 8:4), which is clearly not in future Israelite territory. The Priestly narrator, however, makes no mention of the sacrifices of Noah, and he may have excluded this element from his account specifically because of the belief that cultic sacrifice to Yhwh must be limited to Yhwh’s land.

174

Chapter 3

God saves sailors in distress. This section is no different from the other sections of the psalm, which speak of people lost in the desert (vv. 4–9), incarcerated (vv. 10–16), or deathly ill (vv. 17–22). The storm here is not brought on because of a runaway prophet, and it is the prayer of the sailors alone, not the throwing overboard of the prophet, that silences the sea. Nevertheless, the affinity of the two pieces is strong, and it is highlighted by the fact that the psalm predominantly speaks in universal, non-Israelite terms. The wonders that the Lord performs in this psalm are “for mankind” in general (vv. 8, 15, 21, 31) and not specifically for Israel or Israelites. The psalmist speaks of the Lord as turning “a fruitful land into a salt marsh, because of the wickedness of its inhabitants” (v. 34), just as Ezekiel speaks of him as punishing sinful lands, wherever they may be, with sword, hunger, or plague (Ezek 14:12–20). The psalmists’ depiction of the Lord punishing wicked lands by turning them into salt marshes also evokes the “overturning” of Sodom through sulphur and salt (Gen 19:24–26; Deut 29:21–22), and this points to another affinity with the book of Jonah, which similarly threatens the people of Nineveh with the “overturning” of their city ( Jonah 3:4). God leads hungry desert wanderers to settled cities in order to save them (v.  7) and guides sailors safely to their various destinations (v. 30). It should be clear from all this that the sailors of the psalm are not specifically Israelite, 75 just as the desert wanderers, prisoners, or ailing people of the psalm are of no specific nationality either. All the same, when they cry out to the Lord in their distress, their cries are answered. The enumeration in the psalm of the various typical situations of distress in which prayer serves as a remedy also recalls Solomon’s prayer, where the Lord is asked to respond positively to prayers offered at the temple in the wake of drought, hunger, pestilence, and other typical maladies. And just like the sufferers in the psalm, the sufferers in the prayer of Solomon are also repeatedly depicted as suffering in punishment for their sins (vv. 11, 17, 34; cf. 1 Kgs 8:33, 35, 39, 46, 50). The prayer of Solomon, however, focuses chiefly on national, Israelite troubles, though it too, as we have seen, includes a section on the prayer of foreigners. Most significant to our concerns here, the various groups of individuals who are saved by the Lord in this psalm not only praise the Lord for his salvation but also, like the sailors in Jonah, offer sacrifice. Explicit reference to sacrificial offering is found only once, in v. 22, in the case of the ailing and dying individuals who are healed. But there is no reason to assume that the sacrifices mentioned here apply to this situation alone. Since sacrificial offerings of thanksgiving are no less appropriate in any of the other situations of distress and deliverance, we should probably understand the 75.  See also the depiction of sailors singing a new song to the Lord in Isa 42:10–12. The parallel with “Islands and their inhabitants” make it clear that the sailors are foreigners.

Worship of the Lord on Foreign Soil

175

psalmist as promoting them in all the situations. Offerings of thanksgiving are probably hinted at in the recurring refrain, “Let them praise the Lord for his kindness, his wonders for mankind” (vv. 8, 15, 21, 31), which is mentioned in connection with sacrifices in vv. 21–22. The central questions that must be asked are these: Where does this psalm envision the offering of sacrifice and cultic praise to the Lord? Where are the sailors supposed to “exalt him in the congregation of people”? Where are the desert wanderers imagined to acclaim his name? A widely accepted opinion is that the psalm depicts an actual priestly invitation at the Jerusalem temple, in which the various groups of sufferers are called upon to offer thanksgiving to the Lord. 76 I consider this cultic Sitz im Leben highly unlikely. The psalm displays clear connections with the wisdom tradition (vv. 27, 43), and this tends to indicate that the psalm deals with typical, recurring, and observable situations that one can learn from, rather than actual, specific situations. It seems improbable that reallife sailors, desert wanderers, and prisoners actually gathered together at the temple in Jerusalem for a joint thanksgiving ceremony. The psalm, rather, is abstract and didactic in nature. It teaches how God redeems the needy throughout the world when they turn to him in their times of distress. 77 The flow of the verses implies that the sailors praise the Lord in the “congregation of people” and in the “assembly of elders” of the city where their ship lands, when the sailors arrive at their “desired port of destination” (v. 30). This, as we have argued, is what is depicted in Jonah as well. Similarly, the desert wanderers would acclaim his name upon arrival at the “inhabited city” (v. 7), wherever that city would be. In other words, both prayers of distress and sacrifices of thanksgiving are presented in this psalm in universal terms, without any limiting reference to the people of Israel, Israel’s land, or the temple. As with the sailors of Jonah, the non-Israelite setting accounts for the lack of specification with regard to the place of worship. Israelites must worship Yhwh at the temple in Jerusalem. Foreigners worship him in their own lands. Here, again, the contrast to the passage concerning the foreigner in the prayer of Solomon is instructive. On the one hand, the final goal of promoting the fear of the Lord throughout the world is common both to Solomon’s prayer and to our psalm. Solomon asks the Lord to heed the prayers of individual foreigners so that the nations of the earth will come to fear his name (1 Kgs 8:43), and the redeemed ones of Ps 107 sing of the Lord’s wonders done on their behalf in a nongeneric “congregation of people” 76. For a convenient summary of scholarship on the psalm, see L.  C. Allen, Psalms 101–150 (WBC 21; Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2002), 84–88. 77.  The sapiential character of the psalm coincides perfectly with the individual rather than national character of the acts of salvation depicted in the psalm. It is thus unnecessary to attribute it to the secondary expansion of the psalm as some scholars do (ibid., 86–87).

176

Chapter 3

located anywhere. However, while the prayer of Solomon requires that the foreigner make a pilgrimage to the Jerusalem temple and offer his personal prayers there and does not provide a clear cultic setting outside the land in which he can offer thanksgiving sacrifices to the Lord and publicize his name among the nations, Ps 107 speaks both of prayers of petition and sacrifices of thanksgiving in any earthly location. The goal of promoting the knowledge of the Lord throughout the world is best accomplished, insists the psalmist, by a deity who answers the prayers of all individuals no matter where they are and who can then be offered thanksgiving sacrifices in the lands where they live. Several scholars have cogently suggested that v. 3 (and perhaps v. 2 as well), which speaks of the ingathering of the exiles from the four corners of the earth, belongs to a later, postexilic expansion. 78 It is important to note the exegetical character of this introductory passage. With vv. 2–3 at the head of the psalm, the entire composition becomes a psalm of national thanksgiving for the redemption of the Israelites from the Babylonian Exile. 79 The various groups of sufferers are now identified with the Israelites of the period of the return, and the typical types of divine salvation that continually recur throughout the world are now identified as actual, one-time events in Israel’s recent, historical past. 80 Mention of those who are lost and wandering aimlessly in the desert in hunger and thirst and are guided to an inhabited city now evokes passages from Second Isaiah concerning the return to the land through a straight path in the wilderness (Isa 40:3–4), and the “inhabited city” is now implicitly identified as Jerusalem. Similarly, the prisoners who suffer for their sins and the sickly in need of healing become identified with the sin-ridden exiles. The historical reinterpretation of the storm-trapped sailors is least natural but would probably be understood in light of v. 3 as referring to people who are returning from the diaspora to Jerusalem via the sea. 81 Perhaps most predisposed to the historical reinterpretation are vv. 35–38: He turns deserts into pools of water, arid lands into springs. There he settles the hungry, and they establish a city in which to live. They sow fields and plant vineyards and receive a fruitful harvest. He blesses them

78. See Kraus, Psalms 60–150, 326–28. 79.  See also Allen, Psalms 101–50, 86–87. 80. This exegetical transformation has affected the transmission of the text. Many scholars correctly read ‫ תעי‬for MT’s ‫ תעו‬at the beginning of v. 4 (cf. BHS). The MT, however, has been formed under the influence of the historical interpretation of the psalm introduced by the addition of vv. 2–3. In all likelihood, the same can be said for the strange reference to ‫ ים‬in verse 3. Again, the original form of the text, as many have suggested, must have been ‫מימין‬, which is the only appropriate antonym for ‫( צפון‬cf. Ps 89:13). The MT, however, has been influenced by the understanding that the sailors of vv. 23–32 are returning to Jerusalem from their exile. 81.  See n. 80.

Worship of the Lord on Foreign Soil

177

so they grow very numerous, and he does not let their cattle diminish. (Ps 107:35–38)

The general depiction of God who turns wastelands into fertile territories, who leads the hungry to these places, so that they can build cities wherein they will be fertile and prosperous lends itself most naturally to the reading that sees in all this a reference to the resettlement of the exiles in Jerusalem and a renewal of the covenantal blessings of prosperity and fertility. The “gracious acts of the Lord” that the wise man is urged to ponder (v. 43) are no longer God’s acts of salvation on behalf of humankind, acts that can be observed continually throughout the world, but his acts of salvation for the people of Israel in their most recent, national history. Most important for our concern in this chapter, the sacrificial worship that the worshipers of the Lord offer no longer takes place in any location in the world but strictly in Jerusalem. In the case of Ps 107, then, worship of the Lord that was originally depicted in supranational and supraterritorial terms has been reinterpreted so as to reflect Israelite worship in the national homeland. Summary We have seen in this section how various nonprophetic texts struggle with the tension between the basic sense that the worship of the Lord must somehow be grounded in the land of Israel and the temple in Jerusalem and the aspiration both to maintain the religious affiliation of Israelites outside the land and to spread the worship of the Lord to all nations throughout the world. It is important to note that not one of the nonoracular texts discussed in this section expresses the prophetic expectation that the nations of the world will worship the Lord in the land of Israel. The universalism reflected in the texts of this section thus represents a more pluralistic universalism. Worldwide recognition of the Lord of Israel is indeed anticipated. We even find an expectation that the nations of the world will offer cultic worship to the Lord of Israel. At the same time, most of the texts discussed in this section recognize that foreign nations live in their own places, and that it is both unrealistic and unnecessary to require that they worship the Lord in the land of Israel. The land of Israel is the territorial setting for the worship of the Lord of the people of Israel. Other lands can provide the territorial setting for the worship of the Lord for other peoples.

The Accommodation for Israelite Cultic Worship on Foreign Soil in Joshua 22 Important evidence of deliberation over the issue of cultic worship for Israelites on foreign soil is provided by the Priestly story of Josh 22. 82 82. For a recent comprehensive study of this chapter, see R.  Goldstein, “Joshua 22:9–34: A Priestly Narrative from the Second Temple Period,” Shnaton 13 (2002): 43–82 [Hebrew].

178

Chapter 3

The story relates that the Transjordanian tribes Reuben, Gad, and half of Manasseh built an altar on the banks of the Jordan upon their return from the battles of conquest in the Cisjordan. When the Israelites heard about the altar, they gathered at the sanctuary of Shilo in preparation for war. First, however, they sent Phinehas the priest together with ten tribal chieftains to the “land of Gilead” to speak with the suspected secessionists. The Transjordanian tribes insisted that the altar they had built was not designated for actual animal sacrifice. Being made in the unique form of a Yhwh altar, it was to serve as a sign against possible future claims that the Tranjordanian tribes had no portion in the Lord of Israel and that they must therefore be disqualified from bringing sacrifices to him and participating in his worship in the land. The explanation was accepted, and the threat of civil war was circumvented. Three Central Questions It might appear, on a first reading of the story, that its purpose is to stipulate that altars may be built outside the land only on condition that they are used exclusively as symbols of unity with the people inside the land and not for actual sacrifice. Altars outside the land that are made for sacrificial service may not be allowed and are considered rebellion against God. In spite of the fact that the story seems straightforward, careful consideration brings to light several difficulties. In order to understand the story properly, we must focus our attention on three main questions. First, on which side of the Jordan was the altar built? The most natural assumption would be that it was built on the eastern side of the Jordan, in the land of Gilead. After all, the story speaks of the Transjordanian tribes. Would it not be most natural for them to set up an altar in their own territory rather than in the territory they leave behind? 83 According to v. 10, however, the Transjordanian tribes built the altar when they came to the “gelilot of the Jordan, which is in the land of Canaan.” This clearly implies that the altar was built on the western side of the Jordan. In v. 11, we read that the altar was built ‫ אל עבר בני ישראל‬,‫ אל גלילות הירדן‬,‫אל מול ארץ כנען‬. This formulation has been variously interpreted as referring to either the side opposite the land of Canaan 84 or the side belonging to the land of Canaan. 85 To add to the confusion, the altar is named in v. 34, but the name has been lost or removed from the text. Since, in the final analysis, the altar is given

83. Y.  Kaufmann, The Book of Joshua ( Jerusalem: Kiryat Sefer, 1963), 240 [Hebrew]; J. Bright, “The Book of Joshua,” IB 2.658. So also Josephus, Ant. 5.1, 26. 84. So Kaufmann, The Book of Joshua, 240–41. While the rsv translates ‘on the side that belongs to the people of Israel’, the neb translates ‘opposite the Israelite side’. 85.  See G. A. Cooke, The Book of Joshua (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1918), 203. The LXX version of the story is of little help. In v. 10, gelilot of the Jordan is identified with Gilgal. In v. 11, on the other hand, the same location is identified with Gilead.

Worship of the Lord on Foreign Soil

179

at least some measure of legitimacy, this question is most central: is the story legitimizing an altar within the land or an altar outside the land? The second question, the answer to which is affected by the answer to the first, concerns the nature of the suspected mutiny against the Lord. Wherein rests the presumed offense? Why was the building of the altar immediately perceived by the Israelites as another instance of the “sin of Peor”? Theoretically, two issues could stand behind Israel’s immediate sense that the altar signified a rebellion against the Lord. The first possible issue concerns the cultic inaccessibility of the Lord outside his land. As we have seen, cultic worship outside the land of Yhwh is often inherently identified as worship of the deities of the territories in question. The second possible issue concerns the inadmissibility of setting up any altar other than the sole legitimate altar at the central sanctuary. This understanding is indeed hinted at in vv. 19 and 29, where mention is made of the single legitimate altar at the tabernacle of Shiloh. 86 Obviously, if the altar was set up on the eastern side of the Jordan, both objections could be raised against the altar, whereas, if the altar was set up on the western side, only the second issue would be applicable. 87 The third question concerns the reason for the final approval of the altar. Why is this altar finally deemed unobjectionable? In the present form of the narrative, the Transjordanian tribes repeatedly deny that the altar was designated for actual sacrifice. Thus, it was the strictly symbolic character of this altar that grounded its legitimacy. Yet the very idea of an altar that serves merely as a sign and never as a medium for actual sacrifice seems extremely contrived and highly suspicious. Would any group of people spend so much time and effort in the construction of a large cultic altar without any intention of using it? It is not only that the modern reader is helplessly suspicious of the claim that this was the sole intent of the construction of the altar, but one has the sense that ancient hearers of the story would have been equally suspicious with regard to many of the details of the story. Why was the explanation of the Transjordanian tribes concerning the altar accepted so willingly and uncritically by an entire federation of tribes that had just gathered for 86. For an extensive discussion of the issue of centralization of worship in Priestly literature, see Milgrom, Leviticus 17–22, 1503–14. Milgrom, who denies Priestly espousal of centralization of worship struggles on pp. 1508–9 with the implications of Josh 22:19, 23. He identifies the imputed sin of the Transjordanian tribes with the building of an altar on impure land, outside the land of Canaan. The reason that they are told that they may only offer sacrifices at the tabernacle of Shiloh is because they have no land-holding on the Cisjordan side. Thus, it is they alone who are prohibited from setting up additional altars in the land of Canaan. I consider this exegesis to be extremely forced. 87.  It should be noted, however, that, while both objections could be raised against an altar on the east of the Jordan, the two issues do not really go together very well. The sin of setting up an altar on unclean land implies, at its most basic level, the legitimacy of multiple altars in the sacred territory.

180

Chapter 3

war? What made them so confident that the altar would not be used at some time in the future for actual sacrifice? Furthermore, if the altar of the Lord was never meant for purposes of worship, what would have demonstrated to later generations its relationship with the Transjordanian tribes, especially if the altar was not even set up in their territory of settlement? How could an abandoned and unused Yhwh altar on the banks of the Jordan prove to these later generations that the people on the other side of the border had maintained allegiance to their ancestral God and had not taken on worship of the local deities? Would not an altar made clearly in the form of a Yhwh altar yet totally unattended indicate, in fact, an abandonment of the Lord? Is not the most natural way for an altar to serve as testimony to the allegiance of a community to a deity by the community’s active and continuous participation in its cult? This, indeed, is the meaning of the prophecy concerning the altar of the Lord that will be set up inside the land of Egypt as a “sign and testimony for the Lord of hosts in the land of Egypt” (Isa 19:20). The way that the altar will serve as a testimony is through its use: “They will offer sacrifices and offerings and make vows to the Lord and pay them (v. 21).” The credibility of the central claim of the narrative seems particularly strained. Nor is it sufficient to assert that the story requires of the reader a “suspension of disbelief” or that the story must be accepted on its own terms. 88 The narrative is clearly responding to a concrete situation in real life in which certain communities deriving from outside the land seek participation in the cult of the Lord inside the land and are threatened with exclusion therefrom. The story points to a real, named altar as a sign of this community’s loyalty to Yhwh and relates that the Israelites of old legitimized this altar and recognized its authority as testimony to the fact that the Transjordanian tribes belonged to the “people of Yhwh.” The story cannot be understood independently of the social reality in which it seeks to play its role, and this role can hardly be played without an actual altar. Thus, the narrative concerning the unused altar requires not only of the general reader that he suspend disbelief and accept the storyline. It also requires of the historian that he accept its implied Sitz im Leben. In other words, the story, if taken at face value, forces the historian to accept the fact 88. See Goldstein (“Joshua 22:9–34,” 66–67 and nn. 111–12), who attempts to account for the “strange” claim that the altar was not meant for sacrificial worship based on the assumption that the author has created a “literary tactic.” Goldstein argues that the author creates a literary reversal of a common genre: the legend of rival sanctuaries. If illegitimate rival sanctuaries were known to have arisen when people set up sacrificial altars, unity may have been promoted via altars that were not used for sacrifice. The admittedly unrealistic logic of the sign of the altar derives from the literary reversal of a common genre. I find this contention unconvincing. How could the very real Transjordanians who wrote this story have pointed to an altar that does not really exist anywhere outside their literary creation to forward the claim that they should be accepted in the central sanctuary in the land of Canaan?

Worship of the Lord on Foreign Soil

181

that an actual, unused altar was indeed at some time pointed to through the telling of the story, to bolster the contested rights of a community seeking inclusion in the cult of the Lord. It is this historical reality that is particularly difficult to accept. Could an unused altar really have been used in this way? Would any community actually point to an unused altar as a sign that they should be included in another cultic center? Would anyone who actually contested the rights of an excluded community truly have been placated by the explanation that the altar of this community was never more than a mere monument? Would the ancient “centralists” have been at all likely to give credence to the idea that Phinehas and the tribes at the time of the conquest readily legitimated the alternative altar of the contesting community on the basis of the assurance that it was not meant for sacrificial service and never would be so used? Could any ancient storyteller have reasonably hoped to convince and gain acceptance for his outcast community through the claims of this story? The three issues raised above and others, such as the inconsistency of the inclusion of the half-tribe of Manasseh (unmentioned in vv. 25, 32–34) indicate that the text has undergone various stages of development. Several scholars have pointed to the likelihood that the text expands on an earlier tradition. 89 The suggestions, however, have been restricted to the realm of tradition history and have not adequately come to terms with the complexities of the text or with the possibility that remnants of the earlier tradition may still be retrieved from the text in its present form. The “Witness” of the Altar Let us begin with the last issue. The problems we have raised with regard to the narrative’s assertion that the altar was not meant for sacrifice suggest that this narrative element did not belong to the original form of the story and is not rooted in the sociohistorical reality that the original story sought to address. Rather, it reflects a later apologetic concern to deny that the contested altar, approved of by all the Israelites, was indeed legitimized as a true sacrificial altar. If it was approved, asserted the later revisionist, this was only as an empty symbol and not as a living symbol. Actual sacrificial worship outside the single legitimate altar in front of the tabernacle could never have been condoned. 90 In the earlier form of the story, however, the altar that was legitimated and pointed to as a witness was, most naturally, a regular sacrificial altar. The defense against those who took the altar as a sign of rebellion against the Lord was a profuse denial that the altar was idolatrous, together with an 89. J. S. Kloppenborg, “Joshua 22: The Priestly Editing of an Ancient Tradition,” Bib 62 (1981): 347–71; J.  A. Soggin, Joshua (trans. R.  A. Wilson; OTL; London: SCM, 1972), 214–15. 90.  Kloppenborg, “Joshua 22,” 366–68.

182

Chapter 3

explanation for the fact that a second altar was indeed necessary. The altar, in fact, was dedicated to the Lord and was required so that there would be testimony in the future to the fact that the Israelites living outside the land “have a share in the Lord.” This defense in no way implied, however, that the altar would not be used. On the contrary, it was through its use that the altar served as a witness. A close analysis of vv. 26–27 (italicized) is crucial for the isolation of the secondary editorial material that sought to hide the earlier polemic. Let us read these verses within the broader context of vv. 24–27: (24) In truth, it was out of fear of a dispute 91 that we did this, thinking, in time to come your children will say to our children, “What have you to do with the Lord, the God of Israel? (25) For the Lord has made Jordan a border between us and between you, O children of Reuben and children of Gad; you have no portion in the Lord.” Thus your children will make our children cease to fear the Lord. (26) Therefore, we said [to ourselves], “Let us now prepare to build us an altar[. Not for burnt offering or for sacrifice (did we build it), (27) for it is a witness between us and you and between our generations after us,] to do the service of the Lord before him with our burnt offerings and with our sacrifices and with our peace offerings,” so that your children will not say to our children in the time to come, “You have no portion in the Lord.”

In the present context, the words “to do the service of the Lord before him” (v. 27) refer to the role of the altar as a witness to the future permissibility of worshiping the Lord at the tabernacle in the land. This, however, results in a repetitive structure. The final phrase, “so that your children will not say . . . ,” following this reading, again speaks of the reason for the setting up of the altar in terms of its role in the future. This not only creates a repetitive sentence but also results in the severing of the final “so that” clause from the clause immediately preceding it: “to do the service of the Lord before him.” Preferably, however, the phrase “to do the service of the Lord before him with our burnt offerings and with our sacrifices and with our peace offerings” refers not to the role of the altar as testimony to the permissibility of future worship in the land but to the purpose of the building of the altar of the Transjordanians in the present. The new altar was built for the purpose of doing the service of the Lord with “our sacrifices,” and it is this service on this altar that will be performed from the present time onward. This statement provides the direct antecedent to the following clause, “so that your children will not say to our children in the time to come, ‘You have no portion in the Lord.’” The service serves as a witness, not just the altar. There is thus no repetitive structure here and no awkward “so that” clause. 91. See Goldstein, “Joshua 22:9–34,” 60 n. 86.

Worship of the Lord on Foreign Soil

183

We may compare the structure of Num 8:19, “I have given the Levites as a gift to Aaron and his sons from among the children of Israel, to do the service of the Israelites in the tabernacle of the congregation and to make an atonement for the children of Israel so that there will be no plague among the children of Israel when the children of Israel come near the sanctuary.” The Levites were to perform the service of the Israelites at the tabernacle in the present (‫ )לעבד את עבדת בני ישראל‬so as to prevent possible Israelite deaths in the future. Thus, in our verse the clause ‘to do the service of the Lord’ (′‫ )לעבד את עבדת ה‬similarly refers to actual service in the present. The phrase is to be directly connected to the clause at the beginning of Josh 22:26, “Therefore, we said [to ourselves], ‘Let us now prepare to build us an altar.’” The clause “not for burnt offering or for sacrifice [did we build it], for it is [merely] a witness between us and you and between our generations after us” is a secondary interpolation that is presented precisely to reverse the clear statement of the original verse. The clause “to do the service of the Lord” indeed follows the clause “for it is a witness between us and you and between our generations after us” poorly. An object can serve as a testimony “that” something is true or “for” an individual but never “to do” something. The act of setting up an altar, on the other hand, is for the purpose of doing something, which is precisely to perform sacrificial worship. The assertion that the altar was built for worshiping the Lord—‫לבנות‬ ‫ לפניו‬′‫—את המזבח לעבוד את עבודת ה‬thus stands diametrically opposite the accusation that it was built ‘for turning away from the Lord’ ( Josh 22:23, ′‫)לבנות לנו מזבח לשוב מאחרי ה‬. Let us now proceed from this passage to the verses that immediately follow it, 22:28–29. These verses read as follows: So we said [to ourselves], it will be like this: when they speak thus to us or to our generations in the future, we will say, “See the pattern of the altar of the Lord that our fathers made. Not for burnt offerings or for sacrifice [was it made]; for it is [merely] a witness between us and you.” God forbid that we should rebel against the Lord or turn away this day from following the Lord to build an altar for burnt offering, for meal offering, or for sacrifice besides the altar of the Lord our God that is before his tabernacle.

The verses seem to repeat the previous material almost verbatim. The section begins with the same word ‫ ונאמר‬that is found in v. 26, the phrase ‫כי‬ ‫ יאמרו אלינו ואל דרתינו מחר‬is very close to ‫ מחר יאמרו בניכם לבנינו‬in v. 24, and 28b’s ‫ לא לעולה ולא לזבח כי עד הוא בינינו וביניכם‬is a precise repetition of vv. 26b– 27a. Verse 29 is again a recapitulation of this same denial that the altar was built for sacrifice. On the other hand, unlike in vv. 26–27, here we can find no disjunction in the text. The question we must raise with regard to these verses is: why are they needed? It seems that these verses are the work of the later editor. The expansive repetition of phraseology found in the previous verses serves not only to

184

Chapter 3

make the response of the Transjordanian tribes more adamant but also to clarify how we are to understand the logic of that response. The assertion that the altar was to serve merely as a testimony raises this difficulty: in what way can an unused altar prove that the Transjordanian tribes have a share in the Lord? In the original form of the story, it was the actual worship of the Lord by the Transjordanians on the altar that would prove that they had a share in the Lord. Once this sense was covered over, a replacement was required. This replacement was provided in v. 28, in the claim that the altar was built according to the “pattern of the altar of Yhwh.” It is this distinctive pattern that allowed the altar to serve as a monument to the Lord. The fact that this crucial piece of information about the structure of the altar is not mentioned until this late juncture in the narrative is a strong indication that it is not an original element. In the original story, the only distinction of the altar worthy of mention was that it was large. 92 The other clarification that is provided in this section is found in v. 29. Here the Tranjordanian tribes express the idea that the only legitimate altar for actual sacrifice is “the altar of the Lord our God that is before his tabernacle.” This clarifies the nature of the imputed sin in the editor’s version of the story—that of having set up an altar other than the altar in front of the tabernacle. Let us now examine the beginning of the Transjordanian defense found in vv. 22–23. The text, I contend, has been both corrupted and expanded. I will first translate the text as it appears in the MT. El, God, Lord; El, God, Lord; he knows, and Israel he shall know; if it is in rebellion or in trespass against the Lord, save us not this day; to build for us an altar to turn away from the Lord, or if to offer on it burnt offering or meal offering, or if to offer on it peace offerings, may the Lord himself take vengeance.

The first difficulty we must address in this text is the strange and disruptive phrase of v. 22, ‫‘ אל תושיענו היום הזה‬save us not this day’. The phrase is disruptive because it is a direct address to the Lord in the midst of an address to the Israelites. Some of the textual witnesses render the phrase in the third person, 93 ‘Let him not save us this day’, but this still leaves us with a 92.  Most early sources do not mention any specific “pattern” that distinguishes a Yhwh altar from others. The patriarchs in Genesis simply build altars and call on the name of the Lord. There is no distinct “pattern” in the law of the altar of Exod 20:24–26. Indeed, there could hardly be a particular pattern since the altar could not be hewn. In 2 Kgs 16:10–12, we find Ahaz building an altar according to the form of the altar in Damascus. The idea that the cultic vessels followed a distinct Yahwistic model that distinguished them from other cults is implicit in the Priestly depiction of the tabernacle being built by Moses following the model shown to him on Mt. Sinai (Exod 25:9, 40; 26:30; 27:8; Num 8:4). It is also implied in the Chronicler’s account of the format of the temple and its vessels shown to David (1 Chr 28:11–19). This material is obviously late. 93.  LXX, Vulgate, Syriac.

Worship of the Lord on Foreign Soil

185

disruptive phrase, since it does not lead naturally into the following words of v. 23, “to build for us an altar.” These initial words of v. 23, “to build for us an altar,” obviously do not begin a new sentence. The attempt to remedy the situation by prefixing the word “if” is of little help. 94 We also must address the fact that the syntactical structure of vv. 22–23 is very unclear, having the appearance of a long run-on sentence. The phrase ‫אל תושיענו היום‬ ‫ הזה‬also seems to create a premature parallel to ‫ הוא יבקש‬′‫( ה‬end of v. 23), which properly ends the conditional clauses. All these difficulties indicate that the phrase ‫ אל תושיענו היום הזה‬is textually corrupt. The clauses that surround it are: “if it is in rebellion or in trespass against the Lord” and “to build for us an altar.” The context seems to require something such as “that we have acted” between these clauses. I thus suggest seeing behind the word ‫ תושיענו‬a corruption of ‫עשינו‬. This corresponds to the continuation of the argument in v. 24, where the Transjordanian tribes insist, ‫‘ ואם־לא מדאגה מדבר עשינו את־זאת‬for fear of dispute we acted’. The emendation is further supported by the fact that the identical phrase ‘to build for us an altar’ that begins v. 23 is found in v. 26, where it is preceded by the words ‫נעשה נא לנו‬. Finally, the emendation allows the concluding statement of v. 23, “may the Lord himself take vengeance,” to stand as the one and only conclusion to the conditional clauses of vv. 22–23. 95 In light of what we have found in our earlier discussion, it is also clear that v. 23 has been expanded by the secondary clause “or if to offer on it burnt offering or meal offering, or if to offer on it peace offerings.” The sentence structure now becomes quite clear. In the original form of the story, the verses thus read something like the following: El, God, Lord; El, God, Lord; he knows, and Israel he shall know. If it is in rebellion or in trespass against the Lord God that we have acted this day to build for us an altar for turning away from the Lord, may the Lord himself take vengeance.

The Location of the Altar and the Nature of the Sin Let us now return to the first two questions that we raised, the location of the altar and the nature of the sin. Of course, we must distinguish between the earlier form of the story and the story presented by the final editors. We begin with the earlier story. Theoretically, one could posit that the earlier story told about the Transjordanians’ setting up an altar for sacrificial worship inside the land of Canaan. In fact, in spite of interpretations to the contrary, the simple meaning of vv. 10–11 indeed indicates that the altar was built on the western side of the Jordan. In v. 10, we read that the 94. See Kaufmann (The Book of Joshua, 242), who resorts to the forced explanation that the incoherence reflects the extreme emotional state of the Transjordanian speakers. 95.  We are still left with the ‫ אל‬that precedes ‫תושעינו‬, for which I cannot account.

186

Chapter 3

Transjordanian tribes came to ‫ גלילות הירדן אשר בארץ כנען‬and built the altar there. In v. 11, the Israelites heard that the Transjordanians built an altar ‫ אל מול ארץ כנען‬and ‫אל עבר בני ישראל‬. These two phrases must be understood as being parallel: ‘on the side of the land of Canaan’ is clarified to mean ‘on the side of the Israelites’. The phrase ‫ אל מול‬does not mean ‘opposite’ but ‘on the side of’, as in the Priestly law in Num 8:2 concerning the candelabra, the candles of which must burn ‫‘ אל מול פני המנורה‬on the front side of the candelabra’, which parallels the requirement in Exod 25:37 that they burn ‫על עבר פניה‬. Presumably, the possibility of setting up an altar for sacrifice outside the land of Canaan would never have been fathomed, even in the earlier version of the story. Following this assumption, we would have to hypothesize that the original narrative presented the setting up of the altar as an apparent rebellion against the God of Israel because it violated the exclusivity of the Shiloh tabernacle. While this reconstruction for the original story is theoretically possible, it is, in fact, extremely unlikely. The retort of the Transjordanian tribes as we have reconstructed it in vv. 26a, 27b—that the sacrificial worship that would be performed at this altar would be directed toward the Lord of Israel—would correspond to it very poorly. There is no reason for the Israelites to have suspected that the cult of an altar inside the land of Canaan would have been dedicated to any deity other than the Lord. This building of an altar inside the land of Canaan may indeed be interpreted as a violation of the centrality of the Shilo altar but not as an expression of worship of foreign deities. Indeed, it is the fact that other cults within the land seek to worship specifically the Lord of Israel that poses a threat to the central sanctuary’s claim to exclusive Yahwistic legitimacy. Cults to other deities pose no such threat. Thus, if the altar was built in the land of Canaan, the affirmation that it was intended for sacrifice to the Lord would in no way mitigate its objectionable character. Again, how could the Israelite tribes of the Cisjordan who seek to maintain a single, central sanctuary tolerate the presence of such a cult in their land? Even if it was meant only for the Transjordanians, who ostensibly had a unique need to worship the Lord on an altar of their own within the land, what would prevent this altar from also attracting the local Israelites in the altar’s vicinity? What guarantee was there that the Transjordanians alone would use it? Furthermore, if the Transjordanian tribes could make the pilgrimage and enter the land of Canaan, why could they not go a slight distance farther and sacrifice at Shilo? Thus, we must follow the remaining alternative and assume that the altar was built, in the original story, on the eastern side of the Jordan, outside the land of Canaan. The passage we cited above from Isa 19 is once again instructive. The altar of the Lord that will be set up as a witness will be ‫בתוך‬ ‫‘ ארץ מצרים‬inside the land of Egypt’, not opposite it. Indeed, the best way to counter the claim that the Jordan constitutes a border between people who

Worship of the Lord on Foreign Soil

187

have a portion in the Lord and people who do not is by setting up a cult for the Lord on the eastern side of the border rather than on the western side. Apparently, the entire “land of Yhwh” is thought of as an extended temple of sorts, housing and embodying the divine presence. 96 The altar that is placed in front of this land is thus depicted as an altar in front of a temple. The situating of the altar just in front of the land of Yhwh is pointed to as a demonstration of the fact that it is meant specifically for Yhwh worship. If the Transjordanians had been interested in worshiping other deities, so their argument implies, they would actually have built the altar in their settlements. Some scholars assume that the altar of the original tradition was on the western side of the Jordan, at Gilgal, and point to LXX v. 10, which reads ‫ גלגל‬for ‫גלילות הירדן‬. 97 However, the idea that an ancient Gilgal tradition would have attributed the foundation of its altar to the distant Transjordanian tribes instead of the local tribe of the area (Benjamin) is extremely forced. In fact, if we do wish to rely on the Septuagint, the reference to Gilead in its rendition of v. 11 is a much more likely candidate for the name of the altar, since it contains the component ‫‘ עד‬testimony’. It seems to me that v. 34 may indeed preserve the earliest kernel of the tradition. The verse reads, “The children of Reuben and the children of Gad called the altar . . . for [they said], ‘It is a witness between us that the Lord is God.’” In the broad context of the story, we must understand the altar as a witness between the Transjordanians and the Israelites. It should be noted, however, that there is no mention of the Israelites in the verse. The Israelite delegation returned to Shiloh already in v. 32 and consequently could not have participated in the naming of the altar at this point. It therefore seems likely that v. 34 referred originally to a covenant between the Reubenites and the Gadites. These two Transjordanian tribes set up this altar as a sign between them that they were united under the kingship of the Lord. What would be a more appropriate name for such an altar than Gilead? It indeed seems highly suggestive that the stone altar set up as a “testimony” between Jacob and Laban in Gen 31:44–54 is called Gilead. This altar clearly represents a boundary marker. 98 Perhaps the earliest form of the tradition as reflected in v. 34 also referred to a boundary, not on the banks of the Jordan, but deep within Transjordanian territory. Even if Gilead was not the original name of the altar, it still appears extremely unlikely for Reuben and Gad to have set up an altar inside the land of Canaan. We may

96.  See similarly Exod 15:17. 97. N. H. Snaith, “The Altar at Gilgal: Joshua 22:23–29,” VT 28 (1978): 330–35; Soggin, Joshua, 212. 98.  For the function of shrines as boundary demarcations, see Y. Aharoni, “An Altar for the Lord in Egypt and a Monument by Its Border,” in Studies in the Book of Isaiah (ed. B. Z. Luria; 2 vols.; Jerusalem: Kiryat Sefer, 1980), 2.153 [Hebrew].

188

Chapter 3

thus safely conclude that, in the earlier form(s) of the story, the altar was outside the land of Canaan. 99 The allegation that cultic worship at this altar would be a repetition of the sin of Peor and the retort that the altar was dedicated to the worship of the Lord are instructive. Taken together, they indicate that the problem, in the mind of the Israelites, with the new altar was not that it posed a challenge to Shiloh as the exclusive site of the worship of Yhwh within the bounds of his commonly acknowledged territorial jurisdiction. A challenge to the exclusivity of Shiloh would imply an admission that the Transjordanians recognized the Lord as the object of worship and attempted only to legitimate a new center for this worship. The sin of Peor, however, was one of outright worship of another deity. The accusation that the Transjordanians are repeating the sin of Peor thus indicates that the altar was interpreted by the Israelites as an intentional break with Yhwh himself. They immediately assumed that the altar was not dedicated to the Lord because it was not situated inside his land. The defense of the Transjordanians came in the form of an oath and self-imprecation. The altar, albeit outside the realm of the Lord’s estate, was in fact situated directly in front of his territory. The altar was placed at this site so as to indicate that it was directed toward the Lord. At the same time, it was crucial that the altar be situated on the eastern side of the Jordan so as to indicate that people who participated in its cult, though living outside of the land of Yhwh (v. 25), would still be considered worshipers of the Lord and would have a future share in the cult of the Lord inside the land. This situation is seen as strange and anomalous but verified by strong imprecations. Only after the Israelites were convinced that the Transjordanian tribes were not attempting to secede from the Yhwh confederacy and worship other gods did they rescind their decision to embark on a military offensive. We have already seen in our analysis above that v. 29, which presented the apparent sin of the Cisjordanian tribes in terms of a challenge to the single altar in front of the Shiloh tabernacle, derived from the editor’s hand. It is thus reasonable to conclude that it was the final editor who sought to interpret the problem with the altar in terms of an apparent threat to the exclusive status of Shiloh in the worship of the Lord. Since this threat was really only applicable inside the land of Canaan, I conclude that the same editor was responsible for the present formulation of vv. 10 and 11, placing the altar inside the land of Canaan instead of outside it.

99.  It should be noted that v. 12 begins with the same words, ‫וישמעו בני ישראל‬, as v. 11 and may naturally continue v. 10. If so, v. 10 may have originally referred to the ‫גלילות‬ ‫ הירדן‬as the site of the altar, without the further clarification ‫אשר בארץ כנען‬, which would then derive from the editor who supplied v. 11. Thus, the earlier form of the story thought of the altar as situated on the eastern side of the Jordan.

Worship of the Lord on Foreign Soil

189

The idea of setting up an altar outside the land would have been totally unthinkable, insisted this editor. No such altar could ever have won the approval of Israel! The immediate sense of the Israelites that the altar was treasonous was not due to its location outside the land but strictly due to the fact that it appeared to violate the exclusivity of the Shiloh cult. Once the altar was placed inside the land and the character of the suspected sin was converted into a challenge within the inner realm of Yhwh worship, a new justification for the altar had to be supplied to go with it. This was provided in the new assertion that the altar was not meant for sacrifices at all. In light of this analysis, we must also assign vv.  19–20 (italicized below) to the secondary, editorial layer. We cite here the larger passage of vv. 16–20: Thus says the entire congregation of the Lord, “What is this trespass that you have committed against the God of Israel, turning away today from the Lord by building yourselves an altar, rebelling today against the Lord? Is the iniquity of Peor, from which we have not cleansed ourselves to this day and for which there was a plague against the congregation of Israel, insufficient for us? Now if you turn away today from the Lord / if you rebel today against the Lord / 100 tomorrow he will cast his fury on all the congregation of Israel. Howbeit, if the land of your possession is unclean, pass over into the land of the possession of the Lord, where the Lord’s tabernacle dwells and take possession among us; but do not rebel against the Lord or rebel against us in building for yourselves an altar other than the altar of the Lord our God. Did not Achan, the son of Zerah, commit a trespass against the ban, and wrath went forth against the entire congregation of Israel? He was not the only one who died for his sin!

Though vv.  19–20 continue the previous verses without any major snag, the fact remains that the statement in vv. 16–18 stands perfectly well on its own. In this section, the alleged sin is the building of an altar to turn away from the Lord. There is no mention here of the idea that the problem is that it poses a challenge to the altar in front of the tabernacle. The section comes to a fitting conclusion with the appeal to the sin of Peor that brought about a plague. This conclusion is indeed fitting for several reasons. First, the sin of Peor consists of the worship of a deity other than the Lord, and this is precisely what is alleged here. Second, Phinehas, the priest, was the main protagonist in the war against the cult of Peor (Num 25:6–15), and he is the main speaker of this speech. Third, the cult of Peor was practiced by the Israelites when in Shittim, on the eastern side of the Jordan, in correspondence with the location of the newly built altar. The secondary nature of vv. 19–20, where the issue becomes the violation of the exclusivity of the tabernacle altar, is indicated by the fact that 100.  We seem to have here a doublet that derives from the textual transmission of the narrative and has no relation to the earlier editorial stages of development.

190

Chapter 3

it begins with the word ‫‘ אך‬howbeit’, which often serves as the beginning of a secondary addition in the Bible. 101 We should also note the parallel between v. 20 and vv. 17–18. Both passages refer to a previous trespass that aroused the divine wrath of the Israelite God and brought about the loss of many Israelite lives. The two passages thus constitute a doublet, which is another indication that we are dealing with different authors. Why did the editor cite the example of Achan and not remain content with the example of the sin of Peor? First, Achan’s sin was committed on the western side of the Jordan, when he took booty from the banned city of Jericho. It thus corresponds well with the sin of the altar, which according to the conception of the editor, was in the same vicinity. Second, Achan did not worship another deity, as in the sin of Peor, but violated a divine fiat, similar to the violation of the exclusivity of the tabernacle altar. What, however, are we to make of the statement at the beginning of v.  19, “if the land of your possession is unclean, pass over into the land of the possession of the Lord, where the Lord’s tabernacle dwells”? Does this statement not imply that, for this verse, which we have attributed to the editorial layer, the altar was established on the unclean land east of the Jordan? Many, indeed, interpret the verse in this way. Kaufmann, for ex­ample, understands the Israelite assumption to have been that the Transjordanians built their altar on the east of the Jordan because they did not want to live in an unclean land. 102 The altar, they hoped, would purify the land. If the problem was living in an unclean land, the Israelites respond, the best way to rectify this situation is not to build an altar but to live in the land purified by the altar that stands before the tabernacle at Shiloh. It should be noted that, according to this interpretation of the verse, the fact that the Transjordan is unclean is not the reason for the altar’s illegitimacy. It is, rather, the reason for the need for an altar. The sole reason for its illegitimacy is the fact that it violates the exclusivity of Shiloh. This understanding of v. 19, however, cannot be maintained. Nowhere in Priestly literature do we find the idea that an altar (or any sacred object) can purify what is unclean. On the contrary, anything that is unclean contaminates the altar (cf., e.g., Num 19:13, 20; 2 Kgs 23:16). Only ritual can purify that which is unclean, including an unclean altar (Lev 16:18–19). We therefore must interpret the statement of v. 19, with Greenberg, 103 as the Israelite explanation for the reason that the Transjordanian tribes built their altar inside the land of Canaan. This they did, assumed the Israelites, because the impossibility of setting up an altar on unclean land was axiomatic, 101.  A good example of ‫ אך‬introducing a secondary passage is Lev 23:39. For the secondary nature of the passage, see Milgrom, Leviticus 23–27, 2036. On Num 18:3b as secondary, see my Murmuring Stories of the Priestly School: A Retrieval of Ancient Sacerdotal Lore (VTSup 89; Leiden: Brill, 2002), 259. 102.  Kaufmann, The Book of Joshua, 241–42. 103.  Greenberg, On the Bible and Judaism, 115–16.

Worship of the Lord on Foreign Soil

191

even for them. If it was not, reasoned the Israelites, the Transjordanians would surely have set up their altar on their own side of the Jordan, farther inland, less out of reach of their cities and settlements. The western edge of the Jordan was the nearest spot possible. To this, the Transjordanians responded by relating the real reason for the establishment of their altar on the western edge of the Jordan, and not, as one would expect, much closer to their own cities. The reason was that the altar was not meant for sacrifice at all. It was meant only as a sign that they belonged to the people of the Lord. Since it was situated in the land of the Lord and was built on the pattern of the altar of the Lord, it could serve as a testimony to the allegiance of the Transjordanian tribes to the Lord of Israel. A Deuteronomistic Insertion We have thus identified two layers of material in Josh 22:9–34. The general outlook of this material is Priestly, and the location of the sanctuary in Shiloh together with the Priestly language broadly associate the narrative with the Priestly block of material in Josh 13–22. Unlike this block, however, there is no mention in our chapter of the leading role of the figure of Joshua. Furthermore, the role of the priest is played by Phinehas rather than Eleazer, who is the priestly figure throughout the book of Joshua. In light of these anomalies, it seems best to associate our chapter more closely with the Priestly material at the end of Judges (19–21). 104 That material similarly depicts the tribal league acting as a unified body without a single leader, depicts trespasses against the bonds of the tribal league that lead to military action ( Judg 20:12–48; 21:8–11), mentions Phinehas as the priest (20:28), includes the population of the land of Gilead within the community of the people of the Lord (20:1–2; 21:8–10), and mentions “the camp of Shiloh that is in the land of Canaan” (21:12). Joshua 22:1–8, on the other hand, does mention Joshua, and indeed him alone, as Israel’s leader. We thus are led to posit a division in the chapter. The Priestly material in Josh 22:9–34 is much closer to the Priestly material in Judges than to the Priestly material in the book of Joshua. Joshua 22:1–8, on the other hand, is Deuteronomistic, as indicated by the language (cf. esp. vv. 2, 5). 105 Many scholars seem to believe that these Deuteronomistic verses formed an original editorial conclusion of its own (continuing Josh 21:43–45) and that vv. 9–34 constitute a later, Priestly expansion. 106 I, on 104.  For the Priestly character of these chapters, see J. Wellhausen, Prolegomena to the History of Ancient Israel (New York: Meridian, 1957), 231–33. The attempt of Y. Kaufmann (The Book of Judges [Jerusalem: Kiryat Sefer, 1978], 218–20 [Hebrew]) to reject the signs of Priestly redaction are forced. He correctly points to the differences between the Priestly material in Judges and in the Pentateuch but thereby merely demonstrates that the Priestly material is not all of one cloth. 105.  Cooke, The Book of Joshua, 201. 106.  Ibid., 200. See also R. D. Nelson, Joshua: A Commentary (OTL; Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1997), 247.

192

Chapter 3

the other hand, consider the Deuteronomistic verses of Josh 22:1–8 to be a later, post-Priestly insertion. 107 Originally, the Priestly narrative of Josh 22:9–34 was composed as a continuation of Josh 21:43–45. This last section, though often attributed to the Deuteronomistic editor, is, as indicated by the phrase ‫ בית ישראל‬in v. 45, of Priestly origin and apparently was inserted to conclude the Priestly block of Josh 13–21. 108 Possibly, then, Josh 22:9–34 is an appendix that introduces the issue of the Transjordanians. The late Deuteronomistic insertion of Josh 22:1–8 introduces the narrative of Josh 22:9–34 with a speech of Joshua concerning the obligations that the Transjordanian tribes took upon themselves before Moses and urging them to continue observing the commandments. This speech prepares the way for the issue of the suspected trespass in the section that follows. The insertion also rectifies the oddity of the Priestly story’s failure to mention Joshua by reintroducing him into the story. 109 Joshua 22:1–8 forms a clear connecting link to Josh 1:12–15, where Joshua makes his initial appeal to the Transjordanian tribes to keep their commitment to participate in the wars of conquest. There also, the Deuteronomistic verses about the Transjordanians, I contend, constitute a secondary addition. In the present context, it is the Transjordanian tribes just charged with the task of joining their brothers in the conquest of Canaan who respond to Joshua in vv. 16–18, “They answered Joshua, saying, ‘All that you have commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go. . . . Anyone who rebels against your orders and does not listen to your words in all that you command him will be put to death; just be strong and courageous.’” However, the promise to execute rebels and the general proclamation of loyalty and encouragement hardly come from the mouths of the Tranjordanian tribes alone. It is much more natural to see the entire speech of vv. 16–18 as the response of the officers of the people who in vv. 10–11 were commanded to prepare the entire camp to cross the Jordan for battle. The late insertion of vv. 12–15 serves to transfer the proclamation of complete loyalty from the officers to the Transjordanians, thereby demonstrating at the very beginning of the book of Joshua that the suspicions raised against them concerning their altar at the end of the book were unfounded. The Polemical Context of the Original Narrative There is no need to attempt further to delineate the exact contours of the earlier form of the story as opposed to the editorial retouching. The most important elements are already apparent. To recapitulate, the earlier 107. Compare ‫ אז יקרא יהושע‬of v. 1 with ‫ אז יבנה יהושע‬of Josh 8:30, which is a clear Deuteronomistic addition. 108.  For the Priestly character of this phrase, see Exod 16:31; Lev 10:6; and my Murmuring Stories of the Priestly School, 74. 109.  The same concern is found in the LXX, which inserts Joshua into v. 34, making him the person who names the altar.

Worship of the Lord on Foreign Soil

193

form of the text told the story of a controversial altar and its cult outside the land of Canaan, set up by the Transjordanian tribes at the time of the initial conquest. Though the altar and cult were initially suspected of indicating apostasy, the Yahwistic character of the cult was finally recognized. What is more, this Yahwistic cult was acknowledged as a testimony to the religious allegiance of its devotees. The story was presented not only to legitimate the contested altar but also to legitimate (through it) the “outsiders” who participated in its cult. Since the altar was dedicated to the Lord, the members of its cult were legitimate members of the community of the Lord. An attempt would be made in the distant future, as already foreseen by the Transjordanians at the time of the initial conquest, to exclude their descendants from “fearing the Lord”—that is, from participating in the cult of the Lord in the land—since they lived outside the land of the Lord, on the other side of the Jordan. The cult of the Transjordanians would then serve to counter all claims that they did not belong to the community of the Lord or could not participate in his cult. The authority of this “testimony” rests in the fact that it was accepted both by Phinehas the priest and the entire community at the time of the conquest. Thus, the original story, far from rejecting the possibility of cultic worship to the Lord outside the land as axiomatic, accepted it as a sign of devotion to the Lord and of full membership in the cultic community of people inside the land. Since the altar was outside the land, the centrality of Shiloh was never perceived as being challenged or threatened in this story. Though an additional altar may have been deemed illegal if it were inside the land, since this one was outside the land and devoted to the Lord its cult could be accepted as a sign of the unity of the two communities. It is apparent that, even in this “early” form, the narrative was authored in a relatively late period by the outsiders whose cultic status was challenged and who sought to respond to those challenges by anchoring their legitimacy in the early age of the conquest. The attempt to exclude various outsiders from the centralized cult in the land is well attested in the post­exilic period, 110 and it seems likely that it is in this historical setting that our story should broadly be placed. The attempt to exclude the 110.  In Isa 66:21, the Lord promises to take priests from the people who are gathered back to the land. Since in the previous verses the nations are depicted bringing back the dispersed Israelites as gifts to the Lord, it is unclear if the priests in v. 21 are to come from the Israelites or from the nations. I tend toward the understanding that the reference is to the returning Israelite exiles, since it is they who are brought as gifts to the temple. Accordingly, the prophet here promotes the idea that returning Israelites will not only have a share in worship in the temple, some of them, presumably those with the proper lineage, will even be allowed to officiate as cultic personnel. The passage may be seen as a broadening extension of the regulation in Deut 18:6–8. In the passage in Deuteronomy, cultic personnel from the Israelite cities are allowed to come to Jerusalem and serve together with the priests of Jerusalem. Here the prophet extends the invitation to cultic personnel from outside the land.

194

Chapter 3

Trans­jordanians finds a close analogue in the report in Ezra 4:1–3 about the request of the “adversaries of Judah and Benjamin” to join in the building of the temple. These people, like the Transjordanians of our story, argue on the basis of their sacrificial worship of the Lord that they belong to his community. Also analogous is the fact that these peoples place their origins on the other side of the Jordan. Of course, the report in Ezra considers the outsiders Gentiles by their own admission, whereas our story presents the outsiders as genuine Israelites. This does not necessarily mean, however, that we are dealing with totally different groups. The report in Ezra is completely unsympathetic to the claims of the outsiders and thus promotes their non-Israelite identity. Our story, which promotes the inclusive interests of people who are being ostracized, naturally prefers to identify them as Israelites. Goldstein further relates our narrative to the expulsion by Nehemiah of Tobiah “the Ammonite” from the temple office that was given to him by Eliashib the priest and the removal of the “vessels of the house of Tobiah” after purification of the area (Neh 13:4–9). 111 The fact that Tobiah was supported by the priest indicates that he and his “house” had Priestly support. Goldstein shows that the house of Tobiah of the later, Hellenistic period, whose settlement was on the east of the Jordan, also played a central role in the Jewish leadership in Jerusalem and was in no way thought of as “Ammonite.” He thus suggests that the individuals presented in Josh 22 as Transjordanians are none other than the people of the house of Tobiah who were ostracized as “Ammonite.” Indeed, in Neh 2:20, Tobiah the Ammorite, Sanballat the Horite, and Geshem the Arab are told, “You have no share or claim or traditional right in Jerusalem,” which is quite reminiscent of Josh 22:25, “You have no share in the Lord.” Solomon’s Prayer on Behalf of the Exiled I would like to add one more passage that may also belong more broadly within this general polemical context. In the prayer of Solomon to which we referred above, we find the following interesting if somewhat perplexing passage (1 Kgs 8:33–34). Should your people Israel be routed by an enemy because they have sinned against you and then turn back to you and acknowledge your name, and they offer prayer and supplication to you in this house, oh, hear in heaven and pardon the sin of your people Israel, and restore them to the land that you gave to their fathers.

The difficulty with this passage is that the Israelites cannot be in two places at the same time. If the Israelites have been routed by an enemy and are praying that they be returned to the land of their ancestors, how are they supposed to offer this prayer at the temple? Cogan suggests that the end of 111.  Goldstein, “Joshua 22:9–34,” 72–81.

Worship of the Lord on Foreign Soil

195

v. 33 should be slightly emended so as to state that the captives will pray “to this House.” 112 Even in this emended form, however, the implication would remain that the worshipers are present at the temple, as in the similar phrases in vv. 29, 30, 35, 38, 42. In all these verses, the worshipers who pray “to” the temple are also present “at” the temple. Only in vv. 44 and 48 do we find that the worshipers direct their prayers from afar. In these verses, however, the worshipers are explicitly spoken of as praying to God in the direction of the temple. Since this formulation is lacking in v. 33, Cogan’s emendation offers little assistance. Others posit that vv. 33–34 depict the Israelites in the land during the preexilic period praying at the temple for various exiled captives. 113 I would indeed follow the understanding that the passage refers to the preexilic situation in Jerusalem, since the exilic situation is first depicted in v. 46. This does not necessarily mean, however, that the individuals who are praying at the temple are the surviving Israelites who have not been exiled. On the contrary, the worshipers at the temple and the exiles from the land seem to be thought of as one and the same entity. I suggest that the passage is analogous to the text further on concerning the foreigner who comes on pilgrimage to pray at the temple site (vv. 41– 43). The concern in this passage, as in the passages about drought or plague, is not only to determine the situations in which God will respond to prayer but, more importantly, to determine whose presence will be accepted at the temple. The implicit point of vv. 41–43 is that foreigners, contrary to assertions such as in Ezek 44:9, are welcome visitors at the temple in Jerusalem. Similarly, vv. 33–34 may be insisting that the (northern?) Israelites who have been exiled are, nonetheless, part of “your people Israel” and are, like the foreigners, welcome visitors at the temple in Jerusalem. Their prayers, offered at the temple for their own permanent return and for the return of all their brothers from exile, will be accepted on high by the Lord of heaven. This understanding of the passage brings to mind Ezek 11:14, 15, where the Jerusalemites in the period just before the final exile call upon their exiled brothers to “stay away from the Lord.” Though the direct issue in this passage apparently concerns ownership rights of inheritance in the land, the issue of cultic worship is clearly involved as well. The charge to stay away from the Lord implies that some of the early exiles attempted to return to the land and were quickly rebuffed by the people who remained. 114 112.  Cogan, 1 Kings, 285. 113. J. Gray, I and II Kings (OTL; London: SCM, 1970), 223–24. 114.  For a recent treatment of this passage within the broad context of the struggles between returnees and locals, see D.  Rom-Shiloni, “Exiles and Those Who Remained: Strategies of Exclusivity in the Early Sixth Century bce,” in Shai le-Sara Japhet: Studies in the Bible, Its Exegesis and Its Language (ed. M. Bar-Asher et al.; Jerusalem: Bialik, 2007), 119–38 [Hebrew].

196

Chapter 3

Our passage in 1 Kgs 8:33–34 may thus constitute a rejection of the idea that exiles are unwelcome at the temple and that the restoration of their brothers and sisters to the land is unwanted. At the same time, our passage probably also implies a rejection of any form of worship of the Lord outside the land. Even though the form of worship referred to is prayer alone, the repentant exiles must pray for forgiveness “in this House” if the Lord is indeed to forgive them and bring them back to the land. The implication may be not only that the exiles are welcome to come to the temple to pray for restoration but also that a return to the land will not occur without the mediation of the temple. If so, the passage may be contrasted with the idea expressed, for example, in Deut 30:1–5 that the exiles can offer true penitence from outside the land and be restored to the land thereafter. Even within the context of the expected restoration to the land, there is no reference to a return to “the place where God chose to make his name rest” or the worship that takes place there. The exiles return to the land alone and worship the Lord through the commandments. The expectation in 1 Kgs 8:33–34 that the prayers for a return to the land will be offered by the exiles at the temple should also be contrasted with the later passage, vv. 46–53, where the exiles, now apparently those from Judah and Jerusalem, are allowed simply to face the temple from their location in exile. The more flexible position of this passage in relation to vv. 33–34 may well indicate that it belongs to a later author, who is more conciliatory toward the pragmatic realities of the exiles from Jerusalem than was the earlier author with regard to the realities of earlier, perhaps non-Judean exiles. If we are right in including 1 Kgs 8:33–34 in the context of passages that respond to attempts to distance Israelite “outsiders” from the Jerusalem temple and in seeing early standing behind the individuals who are represented as praying there, we may be justified in presuming that the background behind the tension reflected in the story of Josh 22 is quite broad. Even if the actual groups who stand behind the Transjordanian tribes of the final form of the story can be identified with groups associated with the house of Tobiah in the Persian period, as Goldstein astutely suggests, there is no need to be overly restrictive. The identification of two layers of material within the text indicates that we are dealing with a story that had an extensive history of transmission before it reached its final form. This extensive period may well have had its earliest origins not in the Persian period but in preexilic times. As indicated also by the passage in Ezek 11:14–15, the desire to distance exiles from the temple and land was not a new issue that sprang up from nowhere in Second Temple times. Rather, it had roots that went back to the preexilic period. The controversial character of the stance of the original narrative of Josh 22 that justified cultic worship of the Lord outside the land and legitimized its practitioners as genuine Yahwists and Israelites is evidenced by the fact

Worship of the Lord on Foreign Soil

197

that it was covered up in such a thoroughgoing manner. The altar, the later editor insisted, was not outside the land but inside it. The Transjordanians would never have dreamed of building an altar on “unclean land.” What is more, the altar was strictly symbolic in nature. It won the approval of the congregation of Israel only when the assumption that it was constructed for actual sacrificial worship proved to be false. The main purpose of the editorial supplements was clearly to contravene the far-reaching implications of the earlier version and to delegitimize all that the original story legitimized. One of the important ways in which this was done was through the introduction of the concept that all land outside the land of Canaan is intrinsically impure. The Impurity of Foreign Territory The idea that all territory outside the land of Israel is inherently unclean is often thought to belong to the stock of very ancient conceptions in biblical Israel. 115 Kaufmann even argued that this early biblical idea, unparalleled in the ancient literature of surrounding cultures, testifies to the rudimentary monotheistic outlook of ancient Israel. 116 Certainly, as we have noted, the cultic worship of the Lord on foreign territory was often assumed impossible. But was all foreign territory thought to be contaminated before the work of the late Priestly editor in Josh 22? The evidence for this, I argue, is equivocal at best. The idea is never expressed in the original story of Josh 22, just as it is never expressed in the initial story of the settlement of the two and a half tribes in the Transjordan in Num 32. The idea is said to be in evidence in Amos 7:17. Amos here tells the priest of Bethel: “Your wife will become a harlot in the city, your sons and daughters will fall by the sword, your land will be portioned out by the measuring line. You will die on unclean land, and Israel will surely go into exile away from its land.” The general assumption is that Amos is telling Amaziah that he will die in exile together with the Israelites and that the exile is defined here as unclean land. It is not totally clear, however, that the unclean land where Amaziah will die is identical to the exile into which the Israelites will be led. After all, the prophecy focuses mostly on the personal fate of the priest, and this issue may be independent of the fate of the nation, which is only mentioned subsequently. If Amaziah’s personal Priestly plot of land will be confiscated and appropriated by others, perhaps he will then live and die in an impure location outside of his uncontaminated, Priestly inheritance (cf. Num 35:1–8; Josh 22) but still within the boundaries of the land of Israel. The land of Israel is not a uniformly “pure” area. Rather, it contains many areas that, for various reasons, would be impure.

115. W. R. Harper, Amos and Hosea (ICC; Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1994), 173; Soggin, Joshua, 213. 116.  Kaufmann, The History of Israelite Religion, 1.606–8, 612–23.

198

Chapter 3

We may compare this story with Jeremiah’s prophecy to Jehoiakim that his carcass will be thrown outside the gates of Jerusalem and will receive the honorary burial of a donkey ( Jer 22:18–19). It should be noted that the priest’s wife, according to Amos, will play the harlot “in the city.” This may imply that catastrophes that are to inflict the priest and his household will precede the final, complete exile of the Israelites from the land, and this would include his own death on impure soil. With regard to Israel’s national exile, there is no mention of the fact that the land they enter will be impure. Even if we assume that Amaziah’s death on impure land is anticipated to take place in exile, this need not indicate that the source of the impurity lies in the fact that it is outside the land of Israel. Different areas can be either pure or impure both inside the land of Israel and outside it. Thus, Amaziah’s fate may be that he will live out the remainder of his life and finally die in a base, contaminated site in exile. In sum, it is far from clear from the passage in question that Amos treats all foreign territory as essentially impure by virtue of the fact that it is not the land of the Lord. The other text that is often cited as an indication that Israel saw all other lands as impure is Hos 9:3–5 (see our brief discussion above). The text states: They shall not be able to remain in the land of the Lord. But Ephraim shall return to Egypt and shall eat in impurity in Assyria. They will offer no libations of wine to the Lord, and no sacrifices of theirs will be pleasing to Him. Their food will be to them as the food of mourners, all who partake of which are defiled. Their food will be only for their hunger; it will not come into the house of the Lord. What will you do about feast days, about the festivals of the Lord?

It is often assumed that this passage reflects the contaminating effects of the territories outside the land of Israel. Since all land outside the land of Israel is impure, the food eaten there must also be impure. 117 However, is it really the impurity of the territory that contaminates food and people in this passage? The phrase ‫ובאשור טמא יאכלו‬, which translations and commentaries all take to mean that the Israelites will eat “unclean food,” does not, in fact, mention food at all. The word ‫ טמא‬refers most naturally not to the food eaten but to the state of the Israelites, who will consume their food in impurity (cf. Deut 22:15: ‫)הטמא והטהור יאכלנו כצבי וכאיל‬. Most likely, the Israelites in Assyria will be in a state of impurity for the same reasons they would be in the land of Israel: bodily discharges, contact with corpses, childbirth, and so on. There is no reason to assume that the entirety of the land is inherently impure and that all forms of ritual purification would be inherently impossible on this land because of its pervasive impurity. Rather, since there would be no Temple of the Lord in which to bring the food as an offer117.  Wolff, Hosea, 155; Greenberg, Ezekiel 1–20, 107.

Worship of the Lord on Foreign Soil

199

ing, there would be no need for the impure to undergo purification before eating (cf. Num 11:18; Deut 12:15; of course, it would not be possible to perform those forms of ritual purification that require the use of animal sacrifices, but this would also be true only because of the inaccessibility of the temple). What is more, even people who were initially in a state of purity would become unclean from the food that had not been brought to the altar (Lev 11:39; 17:1–7, 15–16; 1 Sam 14:31–35; Ezek 4:14). The same thing can be said for Ezek 4:12–13. Ezekiel is told to eat a barley cake with pellets of human excrement in front of the people in order to symbolize that the Israelites will “eat their bread unclean among the nations.” There is no indication here that it is specifically the land, allegedly impure, that will render the Israelites or their food unclean. Only the land of Israel is spoken of by Ezekiel as being contaminated by sin (Ezek 36:16– 18). The source of the impurities that the Israelites will experience outside the land is not the land per se. Rather, the regular sources of impurity inside the land will continue to contaminate outside the land as well. Impurity is the result rather than the cause of the inability to worship the Lord on foreign soil. Indeed, it is because the land is not inherently impure that the earlier form of the story in Josh 22 can fathom cultic worship of the Lord outside Israel. The late editor of Josh 22 in this hypothesis is not highlighting an ancient Israelite conception. Instead, he is the first to create it. This, of course, would blunt the force of Kaufmann’s argument. The idea that all land outside the land of Israel is inherently impure may indeed reflect a monotheistic outlook, as Kaufmann maintains. It seems, however, that the idea was supplied so as to provide a new rationale for the rejection of cultic worship outside the land. In earlier times, as we have noted, the reason that cultic worship outside the land of Yhwh was illegitimate was specifically because this worship was taken to be worship of the deities of the other lands. In other words, the exclusivity of worship of the Lord in the land of Israel reflected not an early form of monotheistic belief but a significant recognition of the reality of the other gods. With the development of the monotheistic outlook, the exclusion of other lands as legitimate places for the worship of the Lord became problematic. Why cannot the Lord be worshiped with sacrificial offerings in any location? The prayer of Solomon addressed this difficulty by referring to the land and temple as the location where the one God of the world focuses his sights. The late Priestly editor addresses the issue in a more sacerdotal fashion. For him, too, there is only one God in the world, and no other gods have any reality. The problem with other lands is not that they are under the jurisdiction of other gods but that they are inherently impure. Originally, foreign practices, including the worship of foreign deities, were considered illegitimate for Israelites alone. 118 The observance of these 118.  This point was highlighted by Kaufmann, The History of Israelite Religion, 3.257– 64; 462–65.

200

Chapter 3

practices could thus render only Israel’s land impure. It is only the universalizing monotheism of the late prophets (for example, Second and Third Isaiah) that delegitimizes non-Israelite worship and practice for all peoples. The conception of all lands in which other deities are worshiped as being impure reflects the same late universalizing monotheism in Priestly garb. 119 The practical implications of the Priestly editor’s reworking in Josh 22 are clear. Who are the “outsiders” who, as the story teaches us, must be accepted as having a share in the God of Israel and allowed to worship the Lord at the central shrine? Only the outsiders who never dared set up an active cult outside the land. The contemporaries who point to their Yhwh cults outside the land can in no way claim legitimacy. The legitimate altar of the Transjordanians was no more than a monument inside the sacred land. Thus, any contemporary group of cultic worshipers of Yhwh from outside the land who seek access to the central shrine and claim to be descendants of the ancient Transjordanians must not be accepted. Either they are not truly the descendants of the ancient Transjordanians, or, if they are, they have strayed from the faithful path of their ancient ancestors and hence have forfeited their share in the cult of the Lord.

A Critical Analysis of 2 Kings 17:24–41 As we have stated, the corollary to the idea that the Lord can only be worshiped inside his land is the idea that even non-Israelites must worship him when inside the land. The most interesting expression of this idea is found in 2 Kgs 17:24–41. According to this story, after the downfall and exile of the Northern Kingdom, the king of Assyria sent foreigners from various vanquished lands to inhabit the cities of Samaria. The Lord then sent lions to kill these foreigners. The reason for the attacks of the lions was immediately apparent—the inhabitants did not fear the Lord and did not know “the law of the deity of the land.” Consequently, the Assyrian king sent one of the exiled Samarian priests to the sanctuary of Bethel. This priest taught the inhabitants how to worship the Lord. The non-Israelite inhabitants, however, did not worship the Lord exclusively. Along with the worship of the God of the land, the foreigners continued to make idols and worship their ancestral deities (vv. 29–33). The later descendants of these foreigners continue to worship in this manner “until this day” (v. 41). The Problem of Verses 34–40 Though the narrative as a whole is fairly clear, it makes for very difficult reading, particularly vv.  34–40. Verse 34 states that until this very 119. We should not overlook the fact that Ezra 9:11 depicts the land of Israel specifically as being unclean. The clear implication is that the impurity of the land of Israel stands in contrast to all other lands that are not impure. The Ezra passage should thus be seen as standing in a polemic relationship with the late Priestly conception of the impurity of all lands other than the land of Yhwh.

Worship of the Lord on Foreign Soil

201

day “they” continue the same practice—that is, “they do not fear the Lord” nor do they follow the laws that were given to the Israelites. Verse 34 thus stands in opposition to all that was stated about the foreign inhabitants until this point. In all the verses preceding v. 34, particularly vv. 32–33, we are told that the inhabitants were fearers of the Lord, even if not exclusively. This idea is repeated at the very end of the narrative, in v. 41. The reader of the text as a whole is thus unsure if the inhabitants may be referred to as fearers of the Lord or not. This major difficulty has led most scholars to separate vv.  34–40 from the surrounding material. Scholars have seen this material as either a late addition about the colonists that basically has the purpose of rejecting the ideas expressed in the immediately preceding material or as original Deuteronomistic material which, however, does not relate to the immediately preceding verses concerning the colonists but to the exiled Israelites of vv. 7–23. Following either theory, the original text regarding the colonists, interrupted after v. 33 or 34a, resumes with v. 41, which again affirms that the sinners served their idols while revering the Lord at the same time. 120 While the removal of vv.  34–40 from the flow of the chapter indeed makes for a readable text, it does not resolve all the problems. The structure of the assumed interpolation remains extremely awkward, as we shall see. The reason for introducing this awkwardness into the originally comprehensible text reconstructed by the hypothesis is very hard to fathom. In light of this, I will suggest a new analysis of the material. As I have noted, two divergent interpretations of vv. 34–40 as a separate unit have been offered. The more common approach sees in these verses a secondary addition by a later editor with the purpose of further disparaging the Samarian colonists, denying them even a semblance of merit. The problem with this approach, as I have hinted, is that it does not address the confusion within these verses. Verses 35–39 speak of a covenant that was made at some undefined time and place, in which “they” were urged to turn away from sacrificing to other gods and to worship the Lord alone. The Lord, in turn, promised to save them from all their enemies. Verse 40 asserts that the covenant went unheeded. Who is the “they” addressed in this covenant? For scholars who see vv.  34–40 as a secondary addition presented to disparage the colonists further, the reference is to the newcomers. In v. 36, however, the Lord who is addressing the sinners refers to himself as the one who “took you up out of the land of Egypt,” and vv.  36–38 refer to earlier covenantal laws that he wrote for them. This seems to imply that the 120.  For a clear and comprehensive review of scholarly work on the composition of the material, see G. N. Knoppers, “Cutheans or Children of Jacob? The Issue of Samaritan Origins in 2 Kings 17,” in Reflection and Refraction: Studies in Biblical Historiography in Honour of A. Graeme Auld (ed. R. Rezetko, T. H. Lim, and W. B. Aucker; VTSup 113; Leiden: Brill, 2007), 223–32.

202

Chapter 3

Israelite people are being addressed and not the colonists. This difficulty has led to a rather awkward rendition of v. 35 as a subordinate clause in relation to that which precedes: 121 (34) To this very day, they [the colonists] follow their earlier practice; they do not revere the Lord, and they do not follow their statutes and practices or follow the teaching and the commandment that the Lord commanded the sons of Jacob, whose name he changed to Israel, (35) with whom the Lord made a covenant and commanded them, “Do not revere other gods.”

This understanding of v. 35 indeed appears to be dictated by the demands of the narrative flow. The problem with it is that it does not reflect normal Hebrew usage. Verse 35 does not state ‫ ואשר כרת אתם ברית‬or the like. Rather, it begins a new statement: ‫ אתם ברית ויצום לאמר‬′‫ויכרת ה‬. This structure much more naturally refers to a new action within the time framework of the narrative. Even if this translation of v. 35 is accepted, other difficulties arise. Why does the narrator, in speaking of the continuous apostasy of the colonists, digress into such a long, discursive, parenthetical account of God’s previous covenant with Israel and his past appeals that they comply with it? How does this contribute to the issue under discussion—the sinfulness of the colonists? Nor is it clear where the narrative would return to the issue at hand. Who, specifically, are the ones who did not heed but continued their former practices in v. 40? On the one hand, the fact that the overall context speaks of the colonists and the fact that the words ‫כמשפטם הראשון הם עשים‬ echo the words of v. 34, ‫עד היום הזה הם עשים כמשפטים הראשנים‬, indicate that v. 40 returns to speaking of the colonists. On the other hand, v. 40 begins by stating that “they” refused to listen, continuing their old ways. Obviously then, “they” have been addressed. The only address found in the text is the immediately preceding (vv. 35–39). However, as we have stated, this seems to reflect an address to the Israelites who were taken out of Egypt, not to the colonists. It thus appears that v. 40 still refers to the Israelites, and only in v. 41 do we return to the issue of the colonists. This, however, returns us to the question of the purpose of this entire “addition” (vv.  34–40) which, based upon the assertion of v.  34 that the colonists do not fear the Lord at all and do not keep the laws, was said to be further disparagement of the colonists beyond the milder disparagement in vv. 24–33. If this was the purpose of this section, why mitigate the guilt of the colonists by digressing into such a protracted reminder of the fact that the Israelites themselves also refused to abide by the commandments? In sum, the difficulties encountered by this approach are significant enough to render it unsatisfactory. The difficulties have served as an impe121.  See the njps.

Worship of the Lord on Foreign Soil

203

tus for the development of a second approach, which was first suggested by M. Cogan. 122 Cogan believes that vv. 34–40 indeed refer throughout to the Israelites rather than to the foreign colonists, and he considers v. 34’s “until this day” a Wiederaufnahme with reference to the same phrase at the end of v.  23, where the exile of the Israelite population is justified by the Deuteronomistic Historian as divine punishment for Israel’s apostasy. The section on the repopulation of the Samarian cities in vv. 24–33 is thus seen by Cogan as an almost parenthetical anecdote, with vv. 34–40 returning the reader to the main theme of the chapter, the condemnation of the now-exiled Israelites for continuing in Assyria their “earlier practice” of idolatry on the land (cf. vv.  7–23). Verses 34–40 are thus a continuation of the Deuteronomistic oration about the Israelite exile at the beginning of the chapter. It was with the exiled northern Israelites that the Lord made a covenant, promising them salvation from their enemies if they obeyed his teachings. Only in v. 41 is there a return to consider the secondary issue of the colonists in the Samarian cities. There is therefore no contradiction, argues Cogan, between the assertion of vv. 32–33 and 41 that “they” feared the Lord but also worshiped other gods and the assertion of v. 34 that they did not fear the Lord. The foreign colonists are the ones who feared the Lord while at the same time worshiping other gods, and they continue to do so “until this day” (v. 41). The Israelites in the Assyrian Exile, on the other hand, are the ones who do not fear the Lord at all, worship only foreign deities, and also continue to do so “until this day” (v. 34). This analysis, in spite of its ingenuity, cannot be accepted either. 123 The mere employment of the phrase “until this day” at the beginning of v. 34 is hardly sufficient to indicate to the reader that the undefined “they” of the text is suddenly the Israelites in exile rather than the colonists in Samaria. Nor is there any clear indication that v. 41, which refers to “these nations,” is discontinuous with the verses that immediately precede it. Nor do we have an explanation for the confusing juxtaposition of sections that purportedly deal with different topics. M. Z. Brettler, who follows Cogan, suggests that the text about the exiled Israelites was placed after the material about the Samarian colonists in order to condemn the northern population further by insisting that their religion does not even contain a modicum of worship of the Lord as does the syncretistic religion of the colonists (v. 34). 124 Yet why would a comparison of this sort have been necessary? Finally, if we assume that v.  34 continues and refers back to v.  23, and 122. M. Cogan, “Israel in Exile: The View of a Josianic Historian,” JBL 97 (1978): 40– 44. The approach is followed, among others, by M. Z. Brettler, The Creation of History in Ancient Israel (London: Routledge, 1995), 128. 123. See Knoppers, “Cutheans or Children of Jacob?” 229–32 for a convincing critique of this position. 124.  Brettler, The Creation of History, 122–24, 132.

204

Chapter 3

addresses the Israelites in exile, we must assume that the Israelites in exile were called upon to offer sacrifices to the Lord in exile. The renewed appeal of the Lord to the people addressed is not only that they should obey the commandments but also “to him shall you bow down, and to him shall you offer sacrifice” (v. 36). Such a call to the exiles, however, is extremely unlikely to have come from the pen of the Deuteronomistic Historian. A New Approach: The Covenant of the Lord with the Samarian Colonists In light of these difficulties, I suggest a different approach. The extreme awkwardness of vv. 34–40 in their present position can be best explained following the assumption that the verses are not all “made of the same cloth.” The original core of this material continued to speak of the foreign inhabitants, as the literary context indeed requires. The apparent reference to the Israelite population is due to a theologically motivated addition by a scribe who could not countenance the assertion of the original text that the Lord had made a covenant with the newly arrived colonists. In order to facilitate the analysis, I cite vv. 34–41 in English translation. (34) To this very day, they follow their earlier practice; they do not revere the Lord, and they do not follow their statutes and practices or follow the teaching and the commandment that the Lord commanded the sons of Jacob, whose name he changed to Israel. (35) The Lord then made a covenant with them, and he commanded them, “Do not revere other gods. Do not bow down to them, do not serve them, and do not sacrifice to them. [(36) The Lord alone, who brought you up from the land of Egypt with great power and an outstretched arm, him shall you revere; to him you shall bow down, and to him you shall sacrifice. (37) Carefully observe forever the statutes and the rules and the teachings and the commandments that he wrote down for you, and do not revere other gods. (38) Do not forget the covenant that I made with you, and do not revere other gods.] (39) The Lord your God alone shall you revere, and he will deliver you from all your enemies.” (40) But they did not listen; rather, they continue to follow their earlier ways. (41) These nations became fearers of the Lord and would worship their idols; the same is true of their sons and grandsons. They do as their fathers did, to this very day.

The text in its present form is highly repetitious. The addressees are told to revere the Lord alone and refrain from revering other gods in vv. 35, 36–37, 38, and 39. Why all this verbiage? It is my contention that the text has undergone several layers of editing. The latest and most significant supplement within the text is found in vv. 34, 36–38. Let us begin with vv. 36–38. In these three verses, the Israelite identity of the people being addressed is clear. The people are addressed as those who were taken out of Egypt and given the laws and commandments that were written down for them and given to them in covenant.

Worship of the Lord on Foreign Soil

205

Verse 35, on the other hand, originally referred to a covenant made with “them,” which, within the general context of the chapter, must refer to the colonists. Where may we identify the continuation of v. 35? The formulation of the beginning of v. 39 is extremely close to the formulation of the beginning of v. 36. Verse 39 reads ‫ אלהיכם תיראו‬′‫כי אם את ה‬, whereas v. 36 reads ‫ אשר העלה אתכם מארץ מצרים בכח גדול ובזרוע נטויה אותו תיראו‬′‫כי אם את ה‬. It should be clear, therefore, that the original continuation of v. 35 is to be found in v. 39. The demands of the covenant with the colonists in v. 39 were simply to fear the Lord so that he might save them from their enemies, not to observe the commandments of the Torah. Verses 36–38 were added so as to convert the reference to the covenant made in the present with the Samarian colonists into a typical hortatory address to the Israelites before the exile, urging them, though to no avail, to follow the commandments and to remember the covenant made at the time of the exodus. This follows the pattern found in vv. 13–14, where the Lord is said to have warned the Israelites through his prophets that they must repent and follow the commandments given to their ancestors. There, too, we read that the call to repentance went unheeded. The same general purpose of converting the report about the covenant with the colonists into a reference back to the call to the Israelites to heed the exodus covenant is reflected in v. 34. The secondary nature of v. 34 has been recognized by many and is betrayed by the fact that, in contradiction to vv. 32–33 and 41, the colonists are said to have failed to fear the Lord. Clearly, this reflects a late attempt to negate the minimal merit attributed to the colonists in the earlier material. Not only did they continue to fear their ancestral gods while fearing the Lord, they did not even really fear the Lord at all. Once we remove v. 34, it becomes clear that the covenant of v. 35 made with “them” can only refer to the colonists. With the insertion of v. 34, however, this original significance was altered. Verse 34 serves to create a new transition from the subject of the previous section, the colonists, to the new subject, the Israelites. It does this by stating that “they do not follow the statutes, practices, 125 teaching, and commandment that the Lord commanded the sons of Jacob, whose name he changed to Israel.” The emphasis on the fact that “they” do not follow the commandments given to “the sons of Jacob, whose name was changed to Israel,” can only be understood following the assumption that the people referred to are not the Israelites but the colonists. At the same time, however, by the end of v. 34, the focus of the discussion has been diverted from the colonists to the Israelites. Thus, with v. 34 in place, the “them” with whom God made 125.  The Hebrew is awkward here. Some understand the clause as affirming that the colonists, as syncretists, do not follow their ancestral laws as well as the laws of the Israelite covenant. Yet, why would this be important to note? I prefer seeing an original ‫כחקים‬ ‫ וכמשפטים‬or the like behind ‫כחקתם וכמשפטם‬.

206

Chapter 3

the covenant in v. 35 becomes Israel. The direct statement of v. 35, “Then the Lord made a covenant with them . . . ,” is thereby converted into the subordinate clause “with whom the Lord had made a covenant. . . .” We can readily understand why a late supplementer would seek to re­ interpret the original material in this way. The idea that the Lord would make a covenant with the foreign colonists of Samaria and ask them for exclusive allegiance to “the Lord your God” (v. 39) poses a significant challenge to the idea that the Israelites alone were designated as the Lord’s chosen people. The implication that foreigners who learned the “law of the God of the land” (v. 26) could potentially have replaced the exiled Israelites in the land had they but heeded the call of the Lord challenges the most basic sense of exclusivity and destiny that informed so much of biblical faith. The idea also contains the potential threat of condoning the formation of political and religious bonds between the Israelites and the obviously unwanted alien groups of foreigners in the land, if they only renewed their commitment to their own ancient covenant with Yhwh. Finally, the original material implied that the major demands of the deity relate to worshiping him in the land as taught by the priest rather than to the laws and commandments written down in the book of the Torah. It was for these reasons that vv. 34, 36–38 were interpolated into the text. With these verses in place, the call to exclusive allegiance to the Lord could be understood as a call directed toward the Israelites before the exile. 126 The inhabitants of the cities of Samaria, on the other hand, have no unique status in the eyes of God, even if they do inhabit the land of the Lord. Even if they would observe exclusive cultic loyalty to the God of Israel as taught by the priest of Bethel, this would not make them acceptable members of the covenant people. They still do not obey the laws and commandments that God gave exclusively to the children of Israel and wrote for them as a distinct code for life. 127 No covenant with the God of Israel was ever offered to them. The gap separating the colonists and the descendants of Israel can thus never be closed. With the removal of vv. 34, 36–38, we arrive at the following coherent, continuous text: (35) The Lord then made a covenant with them, and he commanded them, “Do not revere other gods. Do not bow down to them, do not serve them, and do not sacrifice to them. (39) The Lord your God alone shall you revere, and he will deliver you from all your enemies.” (40) But they did not listen; rather, they continue to follow their earlier ways. (41) These nations became fearers of the Lord and would worship their idols; the same is true of their sons and grandsons. They do as their fathers did, to this very day. 126.  The fact that they are urged to sacrifice to the Lord (v. 36) is a clear indication that the Israelites referred to here are the ones before the exile rather than after, in Assyria. 127.  It is interesting to note that, according to v. 37, it was God himself who wrote the commandments. See also Exod 24:12.

Worship of the Lord on Foreign Soil

207

The story relates that, when the settlers first colonized the cities of Samaria, taking the place of the Israelites, they did not fear the Lord. The Lord thus sent lions to kill them. In response to this situation, an exiled Israelite priest was sent to Bethel, who taught them how to worship the Lord, assumedly at Bethel. Apparently, though this is not said explicitly, this sufficed to put an end to the attacks of the lions. However, the worship of the settlers was not exclusive. They made images of their ancestral deities and placed them in the “houses of the high places” throughout the cities of Samaria that were left over from the Israelites and appointed priests from their own ranks who officiated at these temples. They thus worshiped the Lord (at Bethel?), while at the same time worshiping their ancestral deities at the high places. In response to this situation, the Lord made a covenant with them, again, assumedly at Bethel, promising them salvation from all their enemies if they worshiped the Lord alone with their sacrifices and refrained from worshiping other deities. The settlers, however, did not heed the call of the Lord. They continued to worship both the Lord and the ancestral deities, and they continue to do so to this very day. Obviously, the purpose of this story is to disparage the cultic worship of the Lord as practiced by the inhabitants of the cities of Samaria. First of all, these inhabitants were all foreigners, who took the place of the Israelites when they were exiled. The story concedes that these inhabitants, though non-Israelites, learned to worship the Lord of Israel and continue to do so until this day. On the other hand, they never abandoned their idols. They continued to worship these idols at their high places, in spite of the fact that the Lord made a covenant with them and demanded that they worship him exclusively. Since these foreigners rejected the Lord’s demands of exclusivity and continue to do so today, their service to the Lord cannot be considered acceptable or worthy of merit. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this story is the reference to the covenant made with the Samarian colonists. Since the priest who teaches how to serve the Lord is situated at Bethel, it is logical to assume that this is the location of the covenant as well. This was probably understood by the later supplementers as well. The reference in v. 34 to the fact that the colonists did not observe the commandments of the sons of Jacob, “whose name was changed to Israel,” is a clear reference to the story of the namechanging of Jacob at Bethel in Gen 35:10. One also recalls, of course, the fact that it was at Bethel that Jacob committed himself to building a temple and taking on the Lord as his God (28:21). These traditions apparently hint at the fact that Bethel was seen by its supporters as the site where “Israel” was formed as a people and where the national commitment to worship the Lord as the God of Israel was first initiated. 128 The notion that a new covenant was made with the new settlers at the Bethel sanctuary may well 128. M. Weinfeld, From Joshua to Josiah: Turning Points in the History of Israel from the Conquest of the Land to the Fall of Judah ( Jerusalem: Magnes, 1992), 23 [Hebrew].

208

Chapter 3

reflect a natural continuation of the lore of this site. From the perspective of the colonists, who may have claimed a Bethel covenant (see below), the location would have been chosen in order to bestow on the new covenanters a sense of continuity with the older Israelites. From the perspective of the Deuteronomistic editor, however, Bethel was the site of the great apostasy of Israel. It was here that Jeroboam set up his illicit altar, made a golden calf, and appointed priests who were not legitimate Levite priests (cf. 1 Kgs 12:28–33; 13:33). The priest who returned from exile to teach the colonists how to fear the Lord, from this perspective, was actually an illicit priest, and the sanctuary where he officiated was an ancient site of Israelite idolatry. After the priest taught the colonists how to fear the Lord, they appointed their own priests as well and began to worship the Lord on the one hand and their ancestral deities on the other. In spite of this, the Lord did not give up on them. Just as the Lord sent a prophet from Judah to castigate Jeroboam for his apostasy at Bethel (1 Kgs 13), so he initiated a covenant with the colonists, urging them to fear and sacrifice to the Lord alone. The divine effort, however, was fruitless. The colonists continued in their apostasy and failed to heed the call of the Lord (v. 40), just as Jeroboam continued his apostasy at Bethel and failed to heed the call of the prophet (1 Kgs 13:33). The significance of this is clear. The colonists have no excuse for their abominable behavior. The Lord made a covenant with them and sought to win them over, yet they were persistent in their evil. They cannot claim that they were never warned. The Historical Context of the Polemic against the Colonists When was this story written? Obviously, since it refers to the contemporary inhabitants of the cities of Samaria as the late descendants of the first colonists at the early time of the Israelite exile, it must have been written significantly after the time of the exile of the Northern Kingdom. When after that exile? As noted by many, 129 a major clue to the background of the tradition in 2 Kgs 17 is afforded us in Ezra 4:1–5. When the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin heard that the children of the captivity were building the temple to the Lord God of Israel, they came to Zerubbabel and to the chief of the fathers and said to them, “Let us build with you, for we seek your God as you do; and we have sacrificed to him since the days of Esarhaddon, king of Assyria, who brought us up here.” But Zerubbabel, Jeshua, and the rest of the chief of the fathers of Israel said to them, “It is not for you and us to build a temple for our God; but we alone will build to the Lord, the God of Israel, as King Cyrus, the 129.  See S. Talmon, “Polemics and Apology in Biblical Historiography: 2 Kings 17:24– 41,” in The Creation of Sacred Literature: Composition and Redaction of the Biblical Text (ed. R. E. Friedman; Berkeley: University of California Press, 1981), 57–68.

Worship of the Lord on Foreign Soil

209

king of Persia, has commanded us. Then the people of the land weakened the hands of the people of Judah and troubled them in building and hired counselors against them to frustrate their purpose all the days of Cyrus, king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius, king of Persia.

The argument of the “adversaries of Judah and Benjamin” clearly coincides with the tradition found in our passage that asserts that the inhabitants of the cities of Samaria are the descendants of colonists brought into the land by the king of Assyria, who came to worship the Lord of the land. This makes it likely that the two texts reflect the same general time and background. Of course, the “adversaries of Judah and Benjamin” make no mention of the syncretistic worship that our story highlights. Neither, however, does Zerubbabel or Jeshua. It appears, then, that as far as the Ezra tradition is concerned, the simple fact that the colonists were not genuine Israelites was sufficient for disqualifying them. For the polemic in 2 Kgs 17, this fact did not provide enough grounds for their disqualification. On the contrary, had the colonists truly worshiped the Lord alone and heeded the covenant offered to them, they would have been warmly welcomed into the community of the Lord. It was their syncretistic form of worship, not their genetic makeup that accounted for their rejection from the cult of Jerusalem. Only for the late supplementer of v. 34 was the non-Israelite origin of the colonists an inherently insurmountable obstacle. Cogan takes a contrary position and claims that the two texts reflect different time periods. 130 While the text from Ezra deals with the first decades of the restoration period, the text in Kings derives from the earlier, Deuteronomistic editors of Kings and deals with the colonists of a much earlier period. Cogan notes that neither side of the controversy in Ezra makes the claim that is made in the Kings text that the people of Samaria worship other gods. This is taken by Cogan as an indication that the two texts are totally unrelated. Since 2 Kings asserts that the cult of the colonists was syncretistic, it must refer to a different historical reality than Ezra 4. Cogan hypothesizes that 2 Kings authentically reflects the early reality of the colonists at the time of the Deuteronomistic editor. Initially, the colonists indeed worshiped the Lord of Israel together with their native gods. By the time of the restoration period, however, this syncretism had vanished, and the Samarian population became totally assimilated to Israelite cultic norms. This is why the syncretistic argument is not raised in Ezra 4. Furthermore, 2 Kgs 17 prepares the way for Josiah’s attack on the Bethel sanctuary and the high places of the cities of Samaria and their priests (2 Kgs 23:15–20). It thus forms an integral part of the Deuteronomistic History and cannot belong to a post-Deuteronomistic addition.

130.  Cogan, “Israel in Exile: The View of a Josianic Historian”; idem, “For We like You Worship Your God: Three Biblical Portrayals of Samaritan Origins,” VT 38 (1988): 286–92.

210

Chapter 3

Let us attempt to respond to these arguments. The fact that the text in Ezra does not mention the idea that the inhabitants of the land worshiped idols may indeed indicate that it was not aware of the text in Kings. It does not show, however, that the two texts are not responding to the same reality. The claim that the northern inhabitants were idolatrous obviously belongs to a strong polemic against these inhabitants, and it cannot simply be trusted as reflecting actual fact. On the contrary, it may well distort reality to a significant extent. The fact that the Ezra passage makes no mention of the allegation may be another indication of this. Though the text in Ezra may not have been aware of the present form of the text in Kings, the two texts clearly refer to the same tradition concerning the origins of the inhabitants. They both express hostility to the northern population, and Kings provides us with a clear reason for the disqualification of the northerners that Ezra does not provide. It thus seems better to assume that Kings assumes the same late reality as the Ezra text and responds to it in its own way than to assume that it reflects the totally different reality of a much earlier period. Indeed, the insistence of 2 Kgs 18:41 that the descendants of the first colonists continue in the ways of their ancestors “until this day” indicates that the real concern of the passage is with the syncretistic worship of the inhabitants in the later period. What about the evidence to the effect that 2 Kgs 17 is an integral part of the Deuteronomistic History? I believe that a careful examination of the evidence indicates that, while the story was shaped so as to fit into the flow of the Deuteronomistic History, it is not an original component thereof. True, in 2 Kgs 18:15–20 we are told about Josiah’s destruction and contamination of Bethel, the high places of the cities of Samaria, and the slaughtering of the priests of the high places. Yet it is striking that there is no reference to the foreign colonists who, according to 2 Kgs 17, were the ones actively worshiping at these sites at the time. Josiah destroys and contaminates the altar of Bethel made by Jeroboam (v. 15), and the high places of Samaria made by the kings of Israel (v.  19). Nor is there any mention of the idols placed at these sites. Josiah destroys altars and Asherahs, but he is never said to have destroyed the idols of the national gods that the colonists placed at these sites as objects for their worship. The report about the slaughtering of the priests of the high places in v. 20 (foretold in the prophecy of 1 Kgs 13:2, 32) again fails to make reference to the story of the colonists. Nowhere are the slaughtered priests said to have been foreigners (2 Kgs 17:32). We must take note of the fact that it is only 2 Kgs 17:24–41 that implies that all the Israelites were exiled and that any inhabitants found in the land are foreigners brought there by the Assyrians. There is no reason to assume that the rest of the Deuteronomistic History would have adopted

Worship of the Lord on Foreign Soil

211

this position in such absolute terms. 131 Thus the priests of the high places whom Josiah slaughtered would most naturally refer to the non-Levite priests appointed by Jeroboam to officiate at the high places (1 Kgs 12:31; 13:33) and not to foreigners of non-Israelite origin who worshiped other gods entirely. Indeed, the situation can hardly be otherwise. Let us recall that the prophecy given to Jeroboam and addressed to the altar of Bethel predicts Josiah’s future slaughtering of “the priests of the high places that burn incense upon you [= the altar at Bethel].” Clearly, the priests referred to by the prophet from Judah are the descendants of the Israelite priests presently appointed by Jeroboam and officiating at the ceremony where the prophet gives his address (cf. 1 Kgs 12:32). We must therefore conclude that 2 Kgs 17:24–41 was written as a late supplement to the Deuteronomistic History. With the supplement in place, Josiah’s destruction and contamination of Bethel and the high places of the cities of Samaria become an act that expresses a rejection of the cult of the Samarian population of the time of the supplementer rather than the Israelite remnants of Josiah’s time. The assertion that the foreigners appointed priests “from their midst” to officiate at the high places (v. 32) is calculated to put them in the place of the priests of the high places appointed by Jeroboam “from the midst of the people” (1 Kgs 12:31; 13:33). In this way, Josiah’s slaughtering of the “priests of the high places” is made to refer to the purported ancestors of the priests who officiated at Bethel and the high places of the cities of Samaria at the time of the restoration period. Perhaps we should also see in this an attempt to depict Josiah’s slaughter of the priests in a less objectionable light. These were not fellow-Israelites whom the great king slaughtered but foreigners and practitioners of child sacrifice, who were defiling the land. The same attempt to depict Israelites as foreigners may perhaps be reflected in Deuteronomy’s laws calling for the annihilation of the “Canaanites” who worshiped at the various cultic sites in the land (Deut 20:15–18). From the perspective of those preaching this command in the period just before the Judean exile, the reference could have been to native Israelites whom they were seeking to depict as late descendants of the ancient Canaanites. 131.  2 Kings 17:5–6 and 18:9–11 speak of the capture of the city of Samaria and the exile of Israel. There is no reference to “the cities of Samaria” as in 17:24. That which was exiled according to LXX 2 Kgs 18:11 was not even “Israel” but only the captured population of the city of Samaria. Note that 2 Chr 30:1–11 depicts cities of remnant Israelites in the lands of Ephraim, Manasseh, Asher, and Zebulun at the time of Hezekiah, after the fall of Samaria. According to Jer 41:4, Samaria, Shechem, and Shiloh apparently still had Israelite inhabitants following the destruction of the Jerusalem temple. For an assessment of the archaeological evidence, see A. Zertal, “The Province of Samaria (Assyrian Samerina) in the Late Iron Age (Iron Age III),” in Judah and the Judeans in the Neo-Babylonian Period (ed. O. Lipschits and J. Blenkinsopp; Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2003), 377–412.

212

Chapter 3

An Early Polemic in Defense of the Colonists At this point, I will go one step further in the analysis of the text in 2 Kgs 17. I believe that behind the negative polemic lies an early kernel that presented the Samarian colonists in a positive light as individuals who, though of admittedly non-Israelite stock, entered into a covenant with the Lord and thus belong to the special category of those who are ′‫יראים את ה‬ ‘fearers of the Lord’. The phenomenon of “God-fearers” in late antiquity is attested in the New Testament and various inscriptions and may well reach back to a positive layer in our text. 132 The insistence that these fearers of the Lord were, in fact, idolaters who even practiced child sacrifice belongs to a later layer of material that sought to deny these individuals legitimacy and acceptance into the community of the Lord. The evidence for this is somewhat subtle, but significant and suggestive nonetheless. The assertion that the Samarian colonists were “fearers of the Lord” who had learned and accepted “the rules of the God of the land” to such an extent that they thwarted lion attacks but at the same time worshiped idols and practiced child sacrifice on the land seems intrinsically contradictory; for one of the basic “rules of the God of the land,” which applied to anyone who lived on the land, was that the land should not be defiled by idolatrous and impure practices (cf. Lev 18–20). The “rule of the God of the land” cannot be limited to mere sacrifice to the Lord. The phrase must also include the basic requirements for preserving the land’s purity so that the Lord’s presence may remain there. It is thus self-contradictory to refer to a community living on the land that practices idolatry and child sacrifice as “fearers of the Lord.” Indeed, it is this contradiction that prompted the supplementer of v. 34 to insist that “they do not fear the Lord.” 2 Kings 17:25 states that, “when they first settled there, they did not fear the Lord, so the Lord sent lions against them that killed some of them.” The clear implication of the verse is that this initial problem, which existed when they first settled there and did not yet fear the Lord, was eventually rectified when they finally did come to fear the Lord. It also seems somewhat strange that a text that was written as a polemic against such perverse idolaters should grant them a covenant with the Lord. Even if it is true that the text insists that the Samarian colonists were disobedient to the covenant, the very relating of the fact that a covenant was made in the first place seems to constitute an inordinately large concession toward the group that the story is clearly seeking, in its present form, to exclude and ostracize. Nor is there any explicit reference in the terms of the covenant in vv. 35 and 39 to the colonists’ previous worship of their ancestral gods on the land of the Lord or any request that they remove the obviously illegitimate priests whom they had appointed to officiate at the high places 132.  For a recent reappraisal of the evidence, see T. M. Finn, “The God-Fearers Reconsidered,” CBQ 47 (1985): 75–84. For non-Israelite God-fearers in the Hebrew Bible, see Pss 115:11; 118:2–4; 135:19–20; and Kraus, Psalms 60–150, 381.

Worship of the Lord on Foreign Soil

213

(v. 31). There is only a general command not to fear or worship other gods but to worship the Lord alone. This in no way presupposes that the Samarian settlers formed and worshiped the idols in the high places, performed child sacrifice, and appointed illegitimate priests. Thus, the covenant terms may have been addressed to the Samarian colonists at the same time that they were instructed in the worship the Lord, in the wake of the attack of the lions (vv. 24–28). This, indeed, would be a much more natural context for the establishment of the covenant. Why would God establish a covenant with the colonists after the offenses depicted in vv. 29–34? Would it not have been more natural to establish the covenant and demand exclusive loyalty at the time when they were first taught how to fear the Lord? In fact, vv. 24–28 in no way anticipate the story of the fashioning and worshiping of idols beginning in v.  29. After all, why would the colonists have waited to fashion their gods until after the incident of the lions and not immediately, upon arrival in the land? Verses 29–33 have the clear appearance of a later qualification of what is stated in vv. 24–28, which is perfectly positive in nature. This, of course, fully coincides with the tradition in Ezra 4, which is also unaware of the idea that the colonists worship idols and sacrifice children while simultaneously worshiping the God of Israel. If I am correct in seeing in the section on the idols made and worshiped at the high places (vv. 29–33) a secondary addition that separates the initial conversion of the Samarians to the worship of the Lord (vv. 24–28) and the covenant that was made with them (vv. 35, 39), then the continuation of the original story could not have been vv. 40–41 as they now stand. These verses state: (40) But they did not listen. Instead, they continued to follow their original practice. (41) So these nations became fearers of the Lord, and they worshiped their idols—their sons and their grandsons as well. To this very day, they do as their ancestors did.

Verse 40 could not have been the original continuation of v. 39, since v. 40 refers to the continuation of “their original practice,” which is a clear reference to vv. 29–33. It thus belongs to the same editorial hand. Verse 41 also states, “and they worshiped their idols,” again referring to vv. 29–33. If I am correct in seeing an original continuity between vv. 24–28 and vv. 35 and 39, this latter phrase of v. 41, “and they worshiped their idols,” must also be secondary, since no mention was made until this point of “their idols.” With the removal of this phrase in v. 41, we arrive at what appears to me to have been the original conclusion to the story of the fearers of the Lord: “So these nations became fearers of the Lord—their sons and their grandsons as well. To this very day, they do as their ancestors did.” We should note that, in its present form and context, v. 41 is somewhat redundant. Why is it necessary once again to affirm that these nations “became” fearers of the Lord who at the same time worshiped their idols?

214

Chapter 3

In fact, they “became” worshipers of the Lord while worshiping their idols, even before the covenant. At this point, according to the final form of the text, they merely continued this status. Following my reconstruction, however, the statement is perfectly in place. Since the covenant was made at the time that the priest of Bethel taught the rules of the God of the land and since, with the removal of vv.  29–33, the fact that the Samarian colonists became fearers of the Lord has not yet been stated, it is now stated for the first time at the conclusion to the covenant. Verse 41 indeed provides the perfect conclusion to the story of the Samarian colonists who learned to fear the Lord. The Lord made a covenant with these people and promised to save them from all their enemies in return for their allegiance to him. Thus—that is, through this covenant—these nations came to be “fearers of the Lord.” Their descendants to this very day continue to follow in the footsteps of their ancestors. The following represents my reconstruction of the earliest layer of material in 2 Kgs 17 on the colonists: (24) The king of Assyria brought [people] from Babylon, Cuthah, Avva, Hamath, and Sepharvaim, and he settled them in the towns of Samaria in place of the Israelites; they took possession of Samaria and dwelt in its towns. (25) When they first settled there, they did not worship the Lord; so the Lord sent lions against them which killed some of them. (26) They said to the king of Assyria: “The nations which you deported and resettled in the towns of Samaria do not know the rules of the God of the land; therefore, he has let lions loose against them which are killing them—for they do not know the rules of the God of the land.” (27) The king of Assyria gave an order: “Send there one of the priests whom you have deported; let him go and dwell there, and let him teach them the practices of the God of the land.” (28) So one of the priests whom they had exiled from Samaria came and settled in Bethel; he taught them how to worship the Lord. (35) The Lord then made a covenant with them, and he commanded them, “Do not revere other gods. Do not bow down to them, do not serve them, and do not sacrifice to them. (39) The Lord your God alone shall you revere, and he will deliver you from all your enemies.” (41) So these nations became fearers of the Lord—their sons and their grandsons as well. To this very day, they do as their ancestors did.

The polemical implications of this original story now become clear. Since the present-day inhabitants of the cities of Samaria continue to follow the covenant of their ancestors, they must be accepted among the worshipers of the Lord, even if it is true that their ancestors were foreign colonists and not Israelites. Military action against this population would be foolhardy since the Lord obligated himself to protect them from their enemies. Rather than being a polemic against the inhabitants of Samaria, the original story was a polemic presented to support them. This is somewhat reminiscent of the tradition of the divine oath made to Caleb, in which the Lord bequeathed the city of Hebron to the Kenizzites (cf. Josh 14:6–15). In both

Worship of the Lord on Foreign Soil

215

instances, the Lord of Israel is presented as making an oath or covenant with foreign people within the land that serves to protect their position. 133 The narrator of the original story in 2 Kgs 17 provides us with an etiological account of the origins of the contemporary inhabitants of the cities of Samaria similar to the etiology provided for the Kenezzite inhabitance of Hebron. The origins of the inhabitants of the cities of Samaria go back to the time of the Israelite exile, when their ancestors of foreign origin were themselves exiled to the Israelite cities. The narrator relates that these ancient foreign colonists came to be “fearers of the Lord” through a covenant in order to ensure that their descendants, the author’s contemporaries, might also be recognized as fearers of the Lord whose rights as such must be upheld. Indeed, only a positive polemic would be so bold as to relate that the Lord, presumably via the agency of the Bethel priest, 134 made a covenant with foreign colonists. He can immediately present himself to the colonists as their Lord (though he has done nothing for them yet to earn this title, v. 39), because they have settled in his land. Of course, in its original form, the story had no relation to the Deuteronomistic History. The original story viewed the sanctuary of Bethel in a positive light and did not have the priest settle there and teach the people how to worship the Lord in anticipation of the story of Josiah’s purge of that site. 135 On the contrary, the contention that the priest of the new covenant was an Israelite returnee served to bestow upon the covenant authenticity, legitimacy, and continuity with the Israelite past. The story of Josiah’s destruction and contamination of that site and the slaughtering of 133.  For the development of the tradition concerning Caleb and Hebron, see Weinfeld, From Joshua to Josiah, 70. For the function of the covenant tradition in defending the land rights of non-Israelites, see D. J. McCarthy, “Three Covenants in Genesis,” CBQ 26 (1964): 179–89. 134. It seems most likely if not unequivocally demonstrable that the “wicked one” of Ps 50:16–22 who relates the laws and pronounces the covenant on his lips but hates rebuke is none other than the priest who officiates at the covenant ceremony. The opposition between the prophet and the priest is classic (cf. Amos 7:10–16; Hos 4:6–8; Mal 2; Isa 66:3–4; etc.), and many have seen a prophetic speaker behind the words of the psalm. Note in particular the accusation of falsely maligning one’s maternal brother (vv. 19–20), which is reminiscent of the story of Num 12 and of the many inner polemics that plagued the competing Priestly houses (most famously reflected in the Korah story in Num 16). We may also compare Mal 2:6, which presents the ideal priest of the past as one whose lips would speak only truth and not wrongdoing. Similarly, Mal 2:10 speaks of the priests as betraying “each one his brother.” The reference to the rehearsing of the law in Ps 50:16 may find its parallel in Exod 18:20, where Moses rehearses the laws to the people while “warning” them. Moses is depicted as a priest along with Aaron and Samuel and in connection with the reception of divine law in Ps 99:6–7. 135.  The Bethel sanctuary continued to play a role in Israel’s history in spite of the fall of the Northern Kingdom and in spite of the story of Josiah’s desecration of the site. See on this J. Blenkinsopp, “Bethel in the Neo-Babylonian Period,” in Judah and the Judeans in the Neo-Babylonian Period (ed. O. Lipschits and J. Blenkinsopp; Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2003), 93–108.

216

Chapter 3

its priesthood (1 Kgs 13:2) 136 was totally outside the purview of this narrator. The narrator emphasized that the inhabitants continue to this day to follow the initial practices of the original colonists. How could this have been asserted, however, if Bethel was soon to be destroyed and burned and its priests slaughtered on its altar? Thus, it was only when this story was turned into a negative polemic against the inhabitants of the cities of Samaria that it was incorporated into the Deuteronomistic History. In sum, we have seen how an ancient story that intended to affirm the status of the Samarians as foreigners covenanted to the Lord was incorporated into the Deuteronomistic History by a supplementer who distorted its original significance with polemical additions. At the first stage, vv. 29–33, 40, and the phrase “and they worshiped their idols” in v. 41 were added. At this stage, it was conceded that the first Samarian colonists feared the Lord, following the teachings of an authentic Israelite priest at Bethel, but they were now said to have simultaneously made and worshiped idols in the high places, where they appointed non-Israelite priests from among themselves to officiate, and they sometimes practiced child sacrifice. It was conceded that a covenant was made with them, yet this covenant was totally ignored by the colonists, so it has no significance for the treatment of their descendants. On the contrary, the descendants of these original colonists continue to reject the option of exclusive worship of the Lord. At the second stage, vv. 34, 36–38 were added. These verses were added so as to deny that any covenant was ever made or ever could be made with these people in the first place. The only covenant that the Lord ever made was with the Israelites, whom he took out of Egypt. The foreigners, who did not come up from the land of Egypt, can have no share in the covenant of the Lord of Israel. Nor can they in any real way be said to be fearers of the Lord. True fearers of the Lord are the people who comply with the commandments, and these were given to the Israelites alone. 137 136. Though the slaughtering of priests on the altar of Bethel is foreseen in 1 Kgs 13:2, it is not in fact mentioned in 2 Kgs 23:15–18, where reference is made only to the contamination of the altar by the burning of the bones of dead individuals and not the slaughtering of live priests. Only in v. 20 is there reference to the slaughtering of priests on the altars. These, however, are the altars of the high places and not the altar of Bethel. Since v. 19, however, states that Josiah did at the high places just as he did at Bethel, we may learn that according to these verses priests were slaughtered at Bethel as well. The fact that this is not stated, however, in the actual report of the deeds of Josiah at Bethel (vv. 15–18) raises suspicions. 137.  It is helpful to compare the original story in 2 Kgs 17, which we have read in conjunction with Ezra 4:1–5, with the original story in Josh 22. Several similarities immediately come to mind and tend to indicate that they all reflect a similar historical context. Both the story in Kings and the one in Joshua deal with populations that are said to have originated outside the land of Israel. Both groups are depicted worshiping the Lord at a cultic site other than the central shrine of the Israelites. Both groups insist that they “fear the Lord” in spite of their admitted separateness, and both point to their cultic worship of the Lord as a sign that they are at one with the Israelites. Another partial similarity is also

Worship of the Lord on Foreign Soil

217

The multiple layers that make up the story of the colonists in 2 Kgs 17 attest to the ongoing deliberations and disagreements concerning the relative importance of the categories of people and land. Might the Lord make a covenant with foreigners who inhabit the land? Is the Lord chiefly concerned with the people of Israel? Are all inhabitants of the land potential covenant partners with the Lord? In the earlier sections of this chapter, we traced many of the deliberations and disagreements about the possibility of Israelite (and foreign) worship of the Lord outside the land. These issues constitute two sides of the same coin. The deliberations about Israelite worship outside the land and non-Israelite worship inside the land reflect the ongoing struggle in biblical Israel to define properly the unique place of the people of Israel and the land of Israel within an overall perspective of the divine economy. worth noting. The original positive polemic in 2 Kgs 17 obviously derives from Bethel. The original story in Josh 22 also has associations with Bethel. Phinehas is the high priest in this Priestly story, and he is depicted as the priest of Bethel in Judg 20:27–28, a Priestly story that bears several affinities with Josh 22. We may thus assume that the Bethel priesthood promoted a greater openness to foreigners or outsiders than the likes of Ezra and Nehemiah. Perhaps the most significant parallel between the two traditions is their similar fate within the biblical corpus. In both cases, a tradition promoting acceptance of outsiders is transformed into a tradition of exclusion and rejection. In the case of the Samarian colonists, the rejection is open. In the case of the worshipers from Transjordan, the rejection is accomplished by legitimating only those who did not worship at the altar. The effect of this was to delegitimize all those who were claiming legitimacy on the basis of their cultic worship of the Lord. Apparently, some of the latest editors of the Bible belonged to the rejectionist or isolationist camp.

Chapter 4

Leaving the Land: Emigration in the Book of Genesis The Unique Relationship between Isaac and the Land Twice we are told in the book of Genesis that Isaac was prevented from leaving the land. In Gen 24, when Abraham sends his servant to bring a wife for his son from his homeland, Abraham warns his servant (vv. 6–8): On no account must you take my son back there! The Lord, the God of heaven, who took me from my father’s house and from my native land, who promised me on oath, saying, “I will assign this land to your offspring,” he will send his angel before you, and you will get a wife for my son from there. And if the woman does not consent to follow you, you shall then be clear of this oath to me; but do not take my son back there.

Similarly, in the story of Isaac’s stay in Gerar, when a famine had struck the land, the Lord appeared and warned the patriarch (Gen 26:2–3): Do not go down to Egypt. . . . Reside in this land, and I will be with you and bless you; I will assign all these lands to you and to your offspring, fulfilling the oath that I swore to your father, Abraham.

In both of these instances, the insistence that the patriarch must remain in the land is followed by a reference to the land oath made to Abraham. 1 What is implied in this construction? Why does the call to remain in the land come hand in hand with the mention of the oath to Abraham? It seems that the land oath to Abraham is understood in these two texts not only as obligating the Lord to bestow the land but also as obligating the beneficiaries of this oath to live in the land. Leaving the land for whatever reason is apparently understood as an expression of distrust in the divine promises and a thankless rejection of his gracious blessings. (This may be analogous to the prohibition to return to Egypt in Deut 17:16, which may also be based on the understanding that return implies a thankless reversal 1.  The words cited in 24:7, ‫לזרעך אתן את הארץ הזאת‬, refer back to 12:7 and, with slight alteration and further expansion, 15:18. The first reference is not referred to as an oath, however, but merely as a declaration. The second reference presents a covenant.

218

Leaving the Land: Emigration in the Book of Genesis

219

of divine grace.) 2 It even seems that Gen 24:3 presents living on the land as a prerequisite for the fulfillment of the oath to Abraham. Isaac is told to live in this land in order that the Lord may be with him and fulfill the oath to Abraham. Though the word ‫ למען‬is not explicitly employed here, the juxtaposition of the two clauses makes it clear that the divine fulfillment of the second is dependent on the human fulfillment of the first. In light of the emphatic note sounded in both of these stories against Isaac’s leaving the land, one would theoretically expect to find similar sentiments expressed with regard to the other patriarchs’ emigration from the land. This sentiment, however, is basically wanting. The first instance of emigration from the land in Genesis occurs in Gen 12:10, where Abraham leaves the land for Egypt because of a famine. For the medieval commentator Moses Naḥmanides, an ardent lover of the land 3 who immigrated to Israel from Christian Spain, Abraham’s descent was inexcusable. [Abraham’s] descent from the land, concerning which he had been commanded from the beginning, on account of the famine, was also a sin that he committed, for in famine God redeems from death. 4

However, the text itself offers little warrant for this negative evaluation of Abraham’s behavior. True, Abraham left the land no sooner than he had (at God’s command) made the arduous trek from his homeland and arrived there. True, he left (without even consulting God) right after God had promised: “to your seed I will give this land” (Gen 12:7). Nor does Abraham even contemplate the possibility of avoiding emigration by going instead to Gerar, as Isaac does in the story cited above. We cannot even be sure how soon Abraham would have returned to the land of promise had the Egyptians not forcefully evicted him. And yet, despite all this and despite the fact that Abraham knew that the new land he was going to was also life threatening (cf. v. 12), the Lord never censured Abraham for the descent. 5 On the contrary, the Egyptians are the ones who suffer at the hands of the Lord, while Abraham and his wife are allowed to return to the land with the riches of Egypt in their hands. Clearly, the conception of a prohibition against leaving the land and living outside it, as expressed in the Isaac stories, is missing here. The rabbis attempted to account for the unique relationship between Isaac and the land in comparison with the other patriarchs. In Gen. Rab. 64:3, we find the following homily: 2.  See J. H. Tigay, Deuteronomy ( JPS Torah Commentary; Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1996), 167. 3. For Naḥmanides’ attitude toward the land of Israel, see M. Z. Nehorai, “The Land of Israel in Maimonides and Naḥmanides,” in The Land of Israel in Medieval Jewish Thought (ed. M. Hallamish and A. Ravitzky; Jerusalem: Yad Ben-Zvi, 1991), 123–37 [Hebrew]. 4.  See his commentary on Gen 12:10. The allusion is to Job 5:20. 5.  Note that the land promise of Gen 12:7 that precedes Abraham’s descent to Egypt is precisely the promise quoted in 24:7 as the basis of Isaac’s restriction to the land.

220

Chapter 4

R.  Hoshaya said: [God said to Isaac]: “You are a burnt offering without blemish; as a burnt offering becomes unfit if it passes out beyond the temple enclosures, so you will become unfit if you go out of this country.”

Similarly, we read in Tanhuma: 6 [The text states (Gen 26:1)]: “Isaac went to Abimelech”—He sought to go down to Egypt. Immediately, the holy one blessed be he revealed himself to him and said to him, “Do not go down to Egypt” (v. 2). Abraham went down, but Isaac did not go down. And why did the Lord only tell Isaac and not Abraham that he must not go down to Egypt? Said Rabbi Hoshaya, The holy one blessed be he said to him: Isaac! Your father who came from outside the land may go down to Egypt, but you who were born in the land of Israel, and you who are a pure whole offering—should you go down to Egypt?! Therefore, “Do not go down to Egypt!”

These explanations, however, are forced. There is no warrant in the biblical text for the assumption that Isaac was somehow on a higher spiritual plane than Abraham and therefore was held to a higher standard with regard to emigration. On the contrary, Gen 26:5 clearly states that Isaac received the blessings of land and fertility, not because of his own merit, but because of the divine oath to Abraham, who was a paradigm of loyalty and obedience. The rabbinic explanations merely highlight the enigmatic character of Isaac’s unique relationship with the land. The story of Abraham’s descent to Egypt in Gen 12 may not be the only instance in which the patriarch leaves the land. The possibility exists that the narrator of the story of Abraham’s stay in Gerar and subsequent covenant with Abimelech (Gen 20; 21:22–34) thought of this incident as yet another instance of Abraham’s leaving the land. Though the territory in question is clearly considered to be within the domain of the land of promise in the Isaac story of Gen 26, cited above (vv. 2–5), the matter is much less clear in Gen 20–21, particularly in the account of the covenant. Gerar is never clearly identified, as in Gen 26:2–5, as part of the land of promise. What is more, while the initial episode of Abraham’s stay refers only to “Gerar” and to Abimelech as “king of Gerar” (20:1–2), the story of the covenant refers more broadly to the “land of the Philistines” (21:32, 34; and compare v. 23 and 20:15)—a phrase that seems to connote recognition of its independent national and territorial integrity. The “land of the Philistines” stands in contrast with Beer Sheba (21:32), which alone is recognized via the covenant at the well as belonging to Abraham (v. 30). The fact that Abraham takes an oath for all future generations to be gracious with “the land in which he sojourned” (cf. v.  23) again indicates that this land is recognized as independent Philistine territory over which Abraham has no 6.  Parashah 6, Toledoth. For a slightly alternative translation, see J. T. Townsend, Midrash Tanhuma: Translated into English with Introduction, Indices, and Brief Notes (S.  Buber Recension), vol. 1: Genesis (Hoboken, NJ: KTAV, 1989), 150–51.

Leaving the Land: Emigration in the Book of Genesis

221

claim. It is only in Beer Sheba that Abraham plants a sacred tree and calls upon the name of the Lord. He does not do so in the land of the Philistines (v. 33), probably because it would be inappropriate to call upon the name of the Lord, or set up cultic sites for him in foreign territory. 7 It is instructive to compare this story with the story in 2 Kgs 8:1–6. In that story, Elisha instructs the Shunammite woman to leave the land to live where she might, since the Lord decreed a seven-year famine. The woman proceeds to live in the land of the Philistines for the full sevenyear period, only to find, upon her return, that her house and field have been taken over. The story relates that, when the king realizes that the dispossessed woman is the one whose son was revived by Elisha, he orders that her house and field be restored, including all the produce of the field, “from the day she left the land until now” (v. 6). Two points are noteworthy. First, in contrast with the Isaac story of Gen 26, it is perfectly acceptable in this story to leave the land in times of famine. Elisha himself instructs the woman to do so. Second, the “land of the Philistines” is an independent territory outside the land. The same may thus be true for the story of Gen 20 and 21:22–34. If so, this would be another example of the patriarch’s leaving the land. Again, there is not a hint of criticism concerning this act. In the case of Jacob’s excursions outside the land, there is even less evidence that leaving the land is prohibited or sinful. In Gen 45:9–11, we read that Joseph arranges for his entire family to descend to Egypt and live under his care because of the famine that will continue for another 5 years (see also 47:4). 8 Nowhere is there a hint that this move is objectionable, even though Joseph could theoretically have continued to send foodstuffs to his family in Canaan without requiring them to emigrate. 9 According to Gen 47:11, 27, Joseph even gives his father and brothers an ‫‘ אחזה‬a permanent estate’ in the land of Egypt. 10 The term ‫ אחזה‬is often used with reference 7.  See ch. 3. 8.  The idea that the descent to Egypt was due to the initiative of Joseph (45:9–13) appears to be contradicted in Gen 45:16–20, where it seems to be due to the initiative and command of Pharaoh. In the instructions to Jacob sent by Joseph, Jacob is told to bring all his livestock and all that is his (v. 10). In the instructions of Pharaoh, Jacob is told to take his beasts (v. 17) but to leave his belongings behind, for the fat of the land of Egypt is his (v. 20). Gen 46:31–47:6, according to which Joseph presents his brothers to Pharaoh upon their arrival so that the king might grant them stay in the land seems totally unaware of Gen 45:16–20. 9. See Naḥmanides on Gen 45:11. He argues that, if Joseph had sent foodstuffs from the royal storehouse, the Egyptians would have suspected him of selling it to the Canaanites in order to build up a fortune with which to return to the land of Canaan. 10.  For a discussion of this material, see n. 82 below (p. 261). In the account of the request for settlement in the land of Goshen, the brothers state, “We have come to sojourn in the land, for there is no pasture for your servants’ flocks, for the famine is harsh in the land of Canaan” (Gen 47:4). In the account of the settlement of the Israelites at the command of Pharaoh, we find that Joseph gives them a “possession.” The difference in terminology is highly significant. People who sojourn do not have titles to land, but those with

222

Chapter 4

to Israel’s future possession of the land of Canaan (17:8; 48:4). Jacob and his sons do not express any reservations about receiving this permanent estate in the choicest section of Egypt, even though this could easily be interpreted as a sign that they are foregoing plans for an imminent return to Canaan. 11 Indeed, Jacob lives out the remaining 17 years of his life in Egypt (Gen 47:28) and never seeks to bring Joseph or his other sons and descendants back to the land, despite the fact that they could have easily returned after the 5 remaining years of famine (as Joseph perhaps expected; see Gen 45:9–11). Only after Jacob dies does the family return to the land of Canaan to carry out his wish to be buried there. Even then, the entire household of Jacob returns to Egypt and does not stay in Canaan (50:14), although it was Joseph alone who had to return to Egypt to fulfill his administrative duties (50:5–6). There is no indication in the text that Jacob’s protracted stay in Egypt beyond the years of the famine or the protracted stay of his entire household beyond the time of his own death is considered reprehensible or is even a matter that requires comment or explanation. 12 Again, though the Israelites will suffer hardships in Egypt, there is never an indication that these hardships come as a punishment for their stay there. The Israelites are depicted groaning and crying out because of the hard work, and these cries reach the ear of the Lord (Exod 2:23–24). The Israelites do not, however, express any remorse for sin. The attitude reflected here toward emigration and living outside the land by choice is not unlike the attitude reflected in the book of Ruth. There is no negativity associated with the emigration of Elimelech’s household to the Plains of Moab dura possession do. It seems that here we have two conceptions of Israel’s status in Egypt. The verses that attribute the initiative of bringing Joseph’s family to Egypt to Joseph reflect the widespread biblical idea that the Israelites were sojourners in Egypt (Gen 15:13; Exod 22:20, 23:9; Lev 19:34; Deut 10:19, 23:8; etc). The verses that speak of Pharaoh as bringing Joseph’s family on his own initiative seem to reflect the unique idea that the Israelites were landowners there. One wonders what motivated the emergence of this tradition. Is it possible that this tradition reflects the concerns of the exilic community in Egypt seeking to validate its permanent status as landowners by attributing its territory as granted to it by the Pharaoh in the ancient days of Joseph? 11.  It is worth noting that later Jewish exegetes removed this difficulty by incorporating the land of Goshen into the future land of Israel on the basis of Josh 11:16; 15:51. The following interpretation is cited in M.  M. Kasher, Torah Shelemah: A Talmudic-Midrashic Encyclopedia of the Five Books of Moses, vols. 4–7 ( Jerusalem: Torah Shelemah Institute, 1992), 1653 n. 49, on Gen 45:9–10: “If Jacob should say, the only sin I ever committed was that I abandoned the land and went to Aram Naharaim. And now, how can I leave the land of Israel and go down to Egypt, a land soiled with the filth of idols? This is why Joseph had to say, ‘and you shall dwell in the land of Goshen,’ which is part of the land of Israel, as is written in the book of Joshua.” Radak, in his commentary to Josh 11:16 cites this interpretation as “derash.” 12.  According to Jub. 46:9–10, all of the sons of Jacob (except Joseph) were buried by the Israelites in the cave of Machpelah before the Israelite enslavement. What is more, several of these Israelites, including Moses’ father, Amram, did not return to Egypt but stayed in the land to live in Hebron.

Leaving the Land: Emigration in the Book of Genesis

223

ing the famine of those days. While it is true that Elimelech and his sons died in Moab, there is no indication that this is in any way related to the emigration from the land. 13 The sons of Elimelech died only 10 years later. Furthermore, it is only when word arrives that the famine has ended in Judah that Naomi decides to return to her home. Clearly, the narrator deems Naomi’s stay in the Plains of Moab, at least until the passing of the famine, perfectly legitimate. It is possible to argue, of course, that Jacob’s excursion to Egypt was necessitated by the exodus theme and that Jacob, consequently, could not be held to the restriction of remaining in the land that was imposed on Isaac. This argument fails to account, however, for the fact that the Genesis narrative never bothers to offer any kind of explanation for the prolonged stay in Egypt before the enslavement. It also fails to account for Jacob’s journey to and long stay in Padan Aram, both of which are also deemed perfectly legitimate. Isaac has no difficulty in sending Jacob off to find a wife in the very place that Abraham prevented him from visiting for the very same purpose (28:1–2)! As we shall see below, the themes of the stealing of the blessing from Esau and Esau’s subsequent desire to kill Jacob are excised in the Priestly version of Jacob’s journey to Padan Aram. The sole motivation for Jacob’s going off to Padan Aram in the Priestly account is for marital purposes. Isaac sends Jacob off without ever considering that he could or should send a servant to fetch a wife for his son, as his father did for him. What is more, the Isaac of the Priestly account gives no indication that Jacob is to return quickly. Indeed, the Priestly narrator reports unapologetically that all of Jacob’s 12 sons (including Benjamin!) were born during the long stay in Padan Aram (35:23–26, contra 35:16–20). Even according to the non-Priestly account, in which Jacob is forced to flee because of the threat from Esau, the protracted stay in Padan Aram for 20 years does not seem to be related to this threat. After paying off his debt to Laban for the wives he provided, Jacob continues to work for his father-in-law for another 6 years, now for strictly financial purposes (Gen 31:41). Jacob’s financial successes outside the land of blessing are attributed to God (31:6–16), and it is only after Jacob completes amassing his wealth that the issue of return to the land is raised (31:3, 13). Jacob’s decision to return to the land is precipitated by Laban’s sons’ sudden change of sentiment toward him. It is striking that the narrator does not depict Jacob as deliberating about returning to the much more serious threat from Esau! Had the narrator been interested in justifying Jacob’s long stay in Padan Aram, he surely would have raised this issue at this point in the narrative. It would seem, then, that Jacob’s protracted stay outside the land for both marital and monetary purposes was deemed entirely legitimate. How are we to account for this contradictory evidence concerning the legitimacy of leaving the land to live outside it? Obviously, the Hebrew 13. See b. B. Bat. 91a.

224

Chapter 4

Bible as a whole and the book of Genesis in particular preserve divergent positions on this issue. The references to Abraham or Jacob’s leaving the land in Genesis clearly assume, like the stories of Ruth and the Shunammite woman, that emigration from the land is basically legitimate, at least under certain circumstances. In contrast, the strong polemical tone in the two texts relating to Isaac, particularly in the speech of Abraham to his servant warning against taking Isaac out of the land (Gen 24:5–8), apparently reflects a different cultural environment, in which emigration is sinful and is a sacrilege. A. Rofé has argued that the narrative of Gen 24 was written in the post­ exilic period. 14 He considers the admonition against allowing Isaac to leave the land as reflecting an attempt to stem the tide of emigration that presumably rose due to the harsh conditions that prevailed in the land during the restoration period. It does seem reasonable that emigration would only be opposed on dogmatic grounds when there was a sense that it posed a significant national or communal threat. Until that point, the emigration of a negligible number of private individuals could be tolerated as an inevitable and insignificant part of social reality. 15 Whether or not the opposition to emigration developed first in postexilic times need not concern us at this juncture. What I would like to emphasize here is the fact that the Isaac texts indeed polemicize against emigration and that this polemic is basically unique within the overall context of the book of Genesis. For most of the Genesis narratives, it seems, emigration is not perceived as a significant threat and is therefore depicted openly and in relatively unapologetic terms.

Three Approaches to Emigration in Genesis I believe that a close analysis of the relevant texts in Genesis shows the presence of at least three broad groups of material, each of which reflects a relatively distinct attitude or approach to the issue of emigration. The first group of texts appears rather oblivious to the fact that leaving the land, particularly for the patriarchs of the nation, might be construed as unseemly or problematic. The patriarchs are thought of as nomadic wanderers who naturally move from one territory to the next. There does not 14. A. Rofé, “An Enquiry into the Betrothal of Rebekah,” in Die Hebräische Bibel und ihre zweifache Nachgeschichte: Fs. für R. Rendtorff (ed. E. Blum, C. Macholz, and E. W. Stegemann; Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener Verlag, 1990), 27–39. 15.  Even if the idea prevailed that leaving the land perforce entailed worship of other gods (1 Sam 26:19), this worship on the part of individuals would not have posed a religious problem. While worship of foreign deities by individuals in the land would be an affront to the deity of the land and also threaten to influence others in the land to join in the apostasy, those who left and worshiped the gods of the new land would neither show disrespect to the Lord of the land of Israel nor threaten to undermine his authority in the land. It is important to emphasize that even when Genesis does express ideological opposition to emigration the issue of foreign worship is not brought up.

Leaving the Land: Emigration in the Book of Genesis

225

seem to be any expectation that their settlement should be limited to the confines of the land. This relatively carefree attitude is reflected in the proclamation about the first fruits: “My father was a wandering Aramean who went down to Egypt and sojourned there” (Deut 26:5). The patriarch goes down to sojourn in Egypt as part of his wanderings. This migration is not even depicted as being motivated by a famine. According to traditional Jewish exegesis, the reference to the fact that the patriarch “sojourned” there was included in order to emphasize that there was no intention of settling down permanently. 16 Exegetes detect this same apologetic concern in Gen 12:10; 47:4; and Ruth 1:1 as well. 17 All of these texts depict the biblical characters as leaving the land “to sojourn” in another land. The apologetic concern, however, belongs more to the exegetes than to the biblical authors. The statement that the character went to sojourn in a foreign land refers not to his or her supposedly limited intentions but simply to the act that was carried out. As a foreigner entering alien territory, the status this individual would take on would necessarily be that of a landless sojourner. In fact, the patriarchs are depicted as “sojourners” in the land of Canaan just as much as they are depicted as “sojourners” with regard to Egypt (Gen 17:8; 23:4; 34:10; 37:1; etc.)! In Gen 12:10; 47:4; and Ruth 1:1 we find, in addition to the notice that the excursion out of the land was “to sojourn,” the further clarification, not mentioned in Deut 26:5, that they left in response to a famine. Exegetes have again found these notices to be a justification for the excursion from the land. 18 Here, too, however, we should probably see little more than an explanation rather than a justification. One need not consider it taboo to leave a particular land in order to stay there. It would have been only natural for Abraham, Jacob, or Naomi and Elimelech to have remained within the general vicinity of the land of Canaan. If these individuals were said to have taken long journeys to places outside the confines of the land, some explanation would have to have been provided to account for the effort. The statement that there was a famine in the land and that this caused the character to leave for a foreign territory may thus be taken as a simple explanation of the character’s motivation and not an indication that leaving the land was considered sacrilege. The second approach, the diametric opposite of the first, is reflected in the Isaac texts cited above. Here we find an emphatic, dogmatic approach that rejects any excursion from the land as being thoroughly illegitimate. 16.  See the midrash cited in the Haggada for Passover on this passage. For a discussion of the midrash and its parallels, see E. D. Goldschmidt, The Passover Haggadah: Its Sources and History ( Jerusalem: Bialik, 1960), 30–47 [Hebrew]. 17.  Radak and Seforno on Gen 12:10; Hizkuni on Gen 47:4. 18. U.  Cassuto, A Commentary on the Book of Genesis, vol. 2: From Noah to Abraham (trans. I. Abrahams; Jerusalem: Magnes, 1964), 346.

226

Chapter 4

The divine promise to bestow on Abraham the land of Canaan is understood as entailing an absolute prohibition against leaving the land or living outside it. A major portion of this chapter will be devoted to an analysis of this second, dogmatic approach. A third group of literary materials in Genesis reflects an approach that stands somewhere between the other two extremes. These texts exhibit a marked degree of uneasiness with the fact that the patriarchs leave the land without, however, depicting the excursions as illegitimate. Various comments are made in these texts, the general aim of which is to justify the excursions from the land as temporary, necessary, and divinely sanctioned. Several concerns may be at work in the texts that belong to this mediating category. One concern may be the problematic precedent that the patriarchs who leave the land seem to set. If Abraham and Jacob could leave the land because of a famine or to marry or amass capital for personal gain, why shouldn’t their descendants do the same? This precedent is likely to have been particularly disturbing to the Israelites of a later period who sought to strengthen Israel’s presence in the land or, possibly, to individuals in the diaspora who sought to temper Israelite alienation from the homeland. Another concern lying behind these texts may have been more legalistic, abstract, theological, or dogmatic. What seems to be at stake in some of these texts is not so much the precedent for later Israelite behavior but the judicial-theological issue of Israel’s national right to the land. A major theme in Genesis is the land promise to Abraham. One of its most important aims is to establish Israel’s national claims to legal ownership of the land in terms of a divine charter. 19 Yet how could the divine grant to Abraham establish Israel’s claim to the land if the historical record related that Abraham himself abandoned the land right after it was promised to him? The same problem applies to Jacob and his family, who may be said to have deserted the land to settle in Egypt. How can Israel’s claim to the land be founded on a divine grant that was continuously dishonored by its human recipients? Abandoning one’s land for an extended period of time without leaving anyone behind to protect that claim naturally implies forfeiture of it. 20 It was thus important that the patriarchal excursions from the land 19. D. Daube, Studies in Biblical Law (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1947), 26–39; C.  Westermann, The Promises to the Fathers: Studies on the Patriarchal Narratives (trans. D. E. Green; Philadelphia: Fortress, 1980), 146–47. For the legal background of the land promise in the context of ancient Near Eastern law, see M.  Weinfeld, The Promise of the Land: The Inheritance of the Land of Canaan by the Israelites (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993), 258–61. 20. See m. B. Bat. 3:1–2. The law is summarized thus in “‫חזקת קרקעות‬,” Talmudic Encyclopedia (ed. S. J. Zevin; Jerusalem: Talmudic Encyclopedia Institute, 1973), 14.175 [Hebrew]: “Whoever holds onto land that was known by witnesses to belong to another and claims that he purchased it from him and brings witnesses to the effect that he held onto it properly for three years—that is, he ate the fruits of the land and enjoyed all of it in the

Leaving the Land: Emigration in the Book of Genesis

227

be justified and be depicted as being divinely sanctioned. If the excursions were part of the divine scheme from the beginning, they could not undermine the validity of the land promise. 21 Finally, a third concern may be reflected in these texts. The explicit justification of the emigration of the patriarch in terms of an eventual return to the land may reflect later concerns of Israelites to justify life in the diaspora within the context of an overall commitment to the ultimate goal of settlement in the land. It is tempting to seek to present these three approaches in some sort of chronological evolutionary scheme. One could, for example, contend that the first, more liberal approach reflects the earliest stages of the patriarchal traditions, before these traditions were consolidated into a continuous national history and before the motif of the “land promise” was introduced or highly developed. 22 Indeed, the materials belonging to the second and third approaches often appear in the form of literary supplements and editorial links that amplify the earlier traditions (see below). It is probably not by accident that there is no hint of the theme of patriarchal promises in the formulaic prayer of thanksgiving in Deut 26:5–10, “My father was a wandering Aramean who went down to Egypt.” The assumption of the text is that the patriarch wandered from Aram down to Egypt. This obviously indicates that he wandered through the land of Canaan before arriving in Egypt. It is striking that there is no mention whatsoever of God’s directing the patriarch to the land of Canaan. The land of Canaan is not even mentioned as a way station, even though this is assumed. It thus seems that here the text preserves an ancient formula 23 that does not know of the land as having been given to the patriarch who was led there or promised as an inheritance to his descendants. The texts that seem indifferent to patriarchal emigration from the land of Canaan may well correspond to a relatively early approach, deriving from the time when the theme of the patriarchal land promise, if at all existent, was at least not prominent. The second and third groups of material would then reflect the later stages, manner that people enjoy land—his ownership of it is sustained.” For a comparison with the parallel conception in Roman law, see M. Elon, “Hazaka,” Enc. Jud. 7:1516–17. For the biblical period, see 2 Kgs 8:1–6. We may perhaps assume that the assertion in Lev 26:33–35 to the effect that the land will lie fallow and unsettled during the exile so as to make up for the lost Sabbaths served the additional function of claiming that the land would not be settled by others, who would then be entitled to it. 21.  For the importance of setting the historical record straight on issues of national territorial claims, see Judg 11:12–28. 22. On the secondary nature of the patriarchal promises of a national character in relation to the stories in which they are embedded, see Z. Weisman, “National Consciousness in the Patriarchal Promises,” JSOT 31 (1985): 55–73; J. A. Emerton, “The Origin of the Promises to the Patriarchs in the Older Sources of the Book of Genesis,” VT 32 (1982): 14–32. 23. See A.  Rofé, Introduction to the Literature of the Hebrew Bible ( Jerusalem: Carmel, 2007), 90 [Hebrew].

228

Chapter 4

when the traditions were edited into the “patriarchal history” through the unifying motif of the patriarchal promises. Once the motif of the promises to Abraham, particularly the land promise, became pronounced, the issue of the emigrations of the patriarchs from the land became awkward and problematic. In our discussion below, we will indeed employ this evolutionary scheme intermittently to account for the divergences in approaches. At the same time, however, we should realize that the developmental paradigm is only partly accurate. We must be wary of forcing every text into a straitjacket of historical development. The question of how stringent or lenient one should be with regard to emigration is in many senses timeless and need not be determined by chronological boundary lines. It is quite possible for a late text to exhibit a strong tendency toward leniency on emigration and an earlier text to be more stringent on the matter. 24 And secondary editorializing can work in contrary directions. What is more, as we shall see, the issue of geographical provenance must also be considered, and this issue may well render the chronological schematization of rather limited significance. A late text that was authored outside the land may express a much more lenient attitude toward emigration than an earlier text deriving from within the land. Finally, though the texts belonging to this “first” approach often appear oblivious to the fact that emigration might be construed in negative terms, this appearance may not always reflect reality. One of the most common ways to attempt to legitimate controversial activity is by proceeding as if nothing questionable were involved. Explicit polemics and justifications may often be deemed counterproductive or imprudent. By depicting the performance of a problematic activity as a casual, everyday, un-noteworthy event, one may promote its legitimacy more effectively than by argumentation. We should, therefore, not exclude the possibility that some of the texts belonging to the first approach are well aware of the fact that emigration is deemed by many to be problematic. The narrative depiction of the emigration in casual terms may then reflect not an early obliviousness to the issue of leaving the land but a calculated attempt to depict emigration as though it were self-evidently legitimate. 25 In sum, it seems best to consider the historical paradigm suggested above as a general framework for understanding the three approaches. It should in no way be considered fixed or absolute. 24.  Thus, the story of Jacob’s descent to Egypt from the land of Canaan in Gen 45:27– 46:6 (see below) is not necessarily early. What does seem most likely to be early is the tradition of Jacob’s theologically unproblematic descent to Egypt. The indifference to emigration from the land in the Joseph story itself may well reflect a relatively late and reflective concern to depict emigration as thoroughly natural and legitimate. This would be quite different from the more unreflective depictions of emigration. 25.  See pp. 247–256 below.

Leaving the Land: Emigration in the Book of Genesis

229

The First Approach and Its Qualification The story of Jacob’s descent to Egypt at the end of his life exemplifies nicely the distinction between the open attitude toward emigration in the “first” approach, and the more qualified attitude toward emigration in the “third” approach. One can clearly detect uneasiness with the fact that Jacob leaves the land in the present form of the text. This tempered uneasiness with regard to leaving the land mediates between the extremes of the other two approaches. As I noted in the first chapter of this book, 26 this uneasiness toward emigration is the work of an editor who has supplemented the text. The text that concerns us here, Gen 45:27–46:6, reads as follows: But when they recounted all that Joseph had said to them, and when he saw the wagons that Joseph had sent to transport him, the spirit of their father, Jacob, revived. And Israel said, “Enough, my son Joseph lives. I will go and see him before I die.” [So Israel set out with all that was his, and he came to Beer Sheba, and he offered sacrifices to the God of his father, Isaac. God said to Israel in a vision by night, “Jacob, Jacob.” And he answered, “Here I am.” And he said, “I am the deity, the God of your father. Fear not to go down to Egypt, for I will make you a great nation there. I will go down with you to Egypt, and I will surely bring you up as well; and Joseph’s hand will close your eyes.” So Jacob set out from Beer Sheba.] The sons of Israel put their father, Jacob, and their children and their wives in the wagons that Pharaoh had sent to transport him; and they took along their livestock and the wealth that they had amassed in the land of Canaan, and they came to Egypt.

As I have indicated by the brackets, it seems that the entire stop at Beer Sheba including the night vision that occurred there (46:1–5a) is a late expansion of the text. 27 The words of 46:5b–6, “The sons of Israel put their father, Jacob, and their children and their wives in the wagons that Pharaoh had sent to transport him; and they took along their livestock and the wealth that they had amassed in the land of Canaan, and they came to Egypt,” depicts the initial departure of Jacob from his home in Canaan rather than his continuing journey from Beer Sheba. The sentence refers back to the wagons mentioned in 45:19 and 27 and does not presuppose that Jacob has already ridden in them. 26. See “A Renewed Emphasis on the Centrality of the Land: Narrative Traditions,” pp. 44–45 above. 27.  See C. Westermann, Genesis 37–50: A Commentary (trans. J. J. Scullion; Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1986), 23, 154. Westermann recognizes that these verses must be isolated from the surrounding material. He, however, attributes the verses to the Jacob story, which he distinguishes from the Joseph story. He does not consider the material, as I do, to be a supplement that was created specifically to reinterpret the surrounding material. See also D. B. Redford (A Study of the Biblical Story of Joseph [Genesis 37–50] [VTSup 20; Leiden: Brill, 1970], 18–21), who deliberates about whether the material was written by the editor or was more ancient.

230

Chapter 4

What purpose was this addition meant to fulfill? Jacob’s response to the message that Joseph is alive is unambiguous in the original form of the text. He does not consider calling Joseph to come to him. Instead, he is eager to make the descent down to Egypt to visit him. Clearly, emigration from the land of Israel is presented as a non-issue in this form of the text. This, as we have indicated, establishes a dangerous paradigm for later generations. If Jacob left the land so eagerly, why must later-day Israelites remain in the land? The addition of 46:1–5a intended, among other things, to rectify this disturbing paradigm of indifference toward the land. Jacob stops in Beer Sheba so that he may offer sacrifices while still in the land. From the words of God to Jacob in the theophany, we learn that Jacob was not indifferent to the fact that he was leaving the land. On the contrary, he was greatly distressed about the issue. This is why he stopped in Beer Sheba—he was hesitant about leaving the land and going to Egypt. After all, his father was explicitly prohibited from going to Egypt (Gen 26:2). The offerings should probably be seen as an attempt on the part of Jacob to elicit a divine communication to instruct him regarding his deliberation. 28 The Lord then appeared to him and reassured him that his descent to Egypt was indeed legitimate. The Lord would be with him outside the land, and he would be sure to bring Jacob back to the land of his fathers. 29 28.  On the incubation dream that is induced by offering sacrifices at a sacred site, see M. Ottoson, “‫ חלם‬chālam; ‫ חלום‬chalôm,” TDOT 4:427–29. 29. R. Albertz (Israel in Exile: The History and Literature of the Sixth Century b.c.e. [trans. D. Green; Leiden: Brill, 2004], 252–54, 267–68) assigns our passage to his second layer of the Patriarchal History (= RPH2). While the first layer of the Patriarchal History (= RPH1), written at the end of the exilic period, “focused totally on the theme of return to Palestine” (p. 264), RPH2, written in the golah after the initial enthusiasm of the restoration died down, “had important and entirely positive experiences in the Diaspora suffuse his edition of the exilic Patriarchal History” (p. 265). In his view, RPH2 incorporated the Joseph story to reflect his positive stance toward life in the diaspora and augmented it with our passage so as to depict God as expressly encouraging the move to Egypt. “God personally makes it clear that the relationship between God and Israel is by no means tied to the land; it could be as intense in the Diaspora as in Judah.” Again, God’s “lovingkindness toward Jacob was not at all dependent on the cult and the cultic purity of the land but was independent of both” (p. 265 n. 360). Here I do not take into consideration the overall attempt to reduce the entirety of the Patriarchal History to two consecutive editions, an attempt that appears to me to be too neat and simplistic for such a complex mass of materials. Regarding the text at hand, it hardly seems accurate to see in it an expression of the sentiments that Albertz attributes to it. On the contrary, God is by all means attached to the land and its cult. Though he will be with Jacob in Egypt and have him proliferate there, he will be sure to bring him back to the land. It is only in Beer Sheba, in the land, that Jacob offers sacrifices and that God personally communicates his verbal response in a vision. Had the editor sought to impart that the cult of the land was of no great importance and that God’s relationship with Israel is equally intense regardless of location, he would have depicted God as appearing to Jacob and communicating to him in Egypt. The presentation in the verses implies that the relationship with God is indeed less intense outside the land than inside it. The supplement, far from giving expression to the idea that God is not tied to the land, affirms that he is. The text justifies Jacob’s descent by depict-

Leaving the Land: Emigration in the Book of Genesis

231

This concern to readjust the original depiction of Jacob as eagerly exiting the land of promise is highlighted in the retelling of this section in Jub. 46:2–3: When Jacob remembered the dream that he had seen in Bethel, he was afraid to go down to Egypt. But as he was thinking about sending word to Joseph that he should come to him and that he would not go down, he remained there for seven days on the chance that he would see a vision about whether he should remain or go down.

The author of Jubilees is acutely sensitive to the problem of leaving the land implicitly addressed in the supplemental verses and fleshes out the theme in more explicit language. 30 In the original form of the text, however, Jacob’s eager descent to Egypt is depicted unapologetically. 31 It appears that the supplementer was not concerned only with depicting Jacob in more piously land-conscious terms. We should recall that the land was widely considered to be the Lord’s “inheritance” and the only place where he could be worshiped. Outside this territory, one could not worship the Lord and was forced to worship other gods. Following this conception, leaving the land would be equivalent to leaving the Lord (cf. 1 Sam 26:19; Ezek 11:14–16). The affirmation of the divine message to Jacob that the Lord would “go down with” Jacob to Egypt (Gen 46:4) is highly significant in this context. It implies that God is not completely restricted to the land of promise. Rather, God leaves the land together with Jacob and is present with him in the land of Egypt. In the final analysis, God is more attached to Jacob and, by implication, to the people of Israel—who will become a nation in Egypt—than he is to the land. Thus, the concern of the supplementer to depict Jacob as being hesitant about leaving the land does not imply promotion of the view that national-religious life is only possible in the land of promise. On the contrary, the heightened sensitivity to the importance of life on the land is balanced by the assertion that national life can continue outside the land and that God’s presence can follow Israel into exile. The dogmatic rejection of any excursion from the land as reflected in the “second” approach is thoroughly rejected here. It is this ing it, in opposition to the original form of the text, as no more than temporary. It clearly intends to temper the original form of the text, where the distinction between life in the land and life in Egypt is totally ignored. 30. For the attitude of the author of Jubilees toward the centrality of the land, see D.  Mendels, The Land of Israel as a Political Concept in Hasmonean Literature (Tubingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1987), 57–88. 31.  The midrash continues this tendency to depict Jacob as hesitant to leave the land of Israel. Why did Jacob leave for Haran from Beer Sheba (Gen 28:10), when according to Gen 35:27 his family lived in Hebron? He went to Beer Sheba, according to some of the sources, in order to seek out the Lord’s approval for leaving the land in the place where his father was told not to leave the land. See Kasher, Torah Shelemah, 2.1119, §30; 1121, §35, and notes. See also the discussion of E. E. Hallewy, “Biblical Midrash and Homeric Exegesis (End),” Tarbiz 31 (1962): 267 [Hebrew].

232

Chapter 4

qualified stance to land centeredness that characterizes the mediating position of the “third” approach and that distinguishes it from the dogmatic position of the Isaac texts. The qualification of the open approach to emigration may also reflect the concern to bolster the validity of the land promises. What is Jacob told in the night vision? He is told, “Fear not to go down to Egypt, for I will make you a great nation there.” The divine reassurance refers back to the initial divine promise to Abraham in Gen 12:2, “I will make you a great nation.” By adding the word “there,” referring to Egypt, the supplementer insists that the divine promise to Abraham that he will become a great nation can be realized outside the land. It would only be natural for Jacob to fear that descent from the land would negate this and other Abrahamic promises. The promise of becoming a “great nation” in Gen 12:2 is made in conjunction with the charge to Abraham to go to the land. The original implication of the conjunction of these two elements was surely that they are interconnected. Abraham was to go to the land of promise to become a great nation in that land. The idea that Israel would proliferate and become a “great nation” in the land probably lies behind most of the promises to Abraham concerning land inheritance and proliferation of seed (13:15– 16; 15:1–11, 17–21; 22:17). 32 Jacob is thus reassured before his descent to Egypt that the promises of land and nation will not be nullified. Rather, the promise of a “great nation” will take place in Egypt, and the return to the land will follow in its wake. Once again, we see here the mediating character of this “third” approach. It legitimates the descent to Egypt and the possibility of national existence there, without negating the ultimate goal and centrality of life in the land. By reinterpreting the land promise to Abraham and incorporating in it the descent to Egypt as a temporary and predetermined detour, the editor validates the ultimate significance of the promise of the land theologically. Elsewhere in Genesis, too, we find that it is specifically at the time that the patriarch leaves the land that an affirmation is made of the continuing 32.  Genesis 15:12–16 appears to be a late supplement; see Westermann, Genesis 12–36, 226–28. The juxtaposition in 22:17 of the two elements within a single promise reflects the assumption that they will be fulfilled together. This assumption, as we have noted, is made rather explicitly in Gen 26:2–6. What is more, this is also the assumption that lies behind the promise made to Jacob himself at the time of his flight to Haran (28:13–15). The Lord identifies himself to Jacob as the God of Abraham and Isaac, promises Jacob the land, promises that his descendants will multiply and spread out in all four directions, and then guarantees Jacob that he will bring him back to the land and remain with him until all the promises are fulfilled (“and I will bring you back to this land—for I will not leave you until I fulfill that which I have promised”). The Lord promises Jacob that he will have the land and multiply in it. He also guarantees that Jacob will return to the land so that these promises may be fulfilled. It therefore seems that this promise is unaware of the descent to Egypt. The expectation is that the blessings will be fulfilled upon his return from Mesopotamia.

Leaving the Land: Emigration in the Book of Genesis

233

validity of the patriarchal promises. In the Priestly account of Jacob’s excursion to Padan Aram, Isaac blesses Jacob with the blessing of Abraham— the blessing of land inheritance—just as he sends him away from the land (28:4). It is particularly the excursion from the land that elicits the recitation of the blessings. In the non-Priestly version as well, Jacob experiences a theophany in which he is assured of God’s continued presence and protection and is told that he will inherit the land promises of Abraham and Isaac, just as he is on his way out of the land (28:13–15). In the latter case, many scholars have recognized that the original form of the theophany was visual, that it focused on the angels and ladder alone, and that only a secondary layer introduced the verbal communication of the Lord, affirming the land promise. 33 In the original story, then, Jacob’s departure for Padan Aram was not particularly problematic and was not accompanied by a theophany reiterating the patriarchal promises.

The Final Parting of Ways of Jacob and Esau The desire of authors and/or editors to bolster the validity of the land promise in spite of patriarchal emigration is also reflected in another passage in Genesis. Let us examine an often-overlooked Priestly passage in Gen 36:6–8. Esau took his wives, his sons and daughters, and all the members of his household, his cattle and all his livestock, and all the property that he had acquired in the land of Canaan, and went to the land [of Seir?] because of his brother, Jacob. For their possessions were too many for them to dwell together, and the land where they sojourned could not support them because of their livestock. So Esau settled in the hill country of Seir—Esau is Edom.

This Priestly passage diverges significantly from what we know about Jacob and Esau in the non-Priestly stories of Genesis. First of all, Esau is presented here as a herdsman, like Jacob, rather than as a hunter (Gen 25:27). This already signals the distance between this Priestly text and the earlier narrative traditions. Most important, however, the manner in which Esau and Jacob are said to have separated from one another in this text does not coincide with what we know from the non-Priestly narrative. In the non-Priestly narrative, by the time Jacob began his journey back from Haran, after having fled from his brother and the land of Canaan 20 years earlier, Esau had already moved to Seir (Gen 32–33). Their reunion and final parting of ways occurred during Jacob’s return journey to his homeland, at the Transjordanian site of Mahanaim. From here, Jacob continued 33.  See the discussion and analysis of Z.  Weisman, From Jacob to Israel: The Cycle of Jacob’s Stories and Its Incorporation within the History of the Patriarchs ( Jerusalem: Magnes, 1986), 57–67 [Hebrew].

234

Chapter 4

to Shechem, and Esau returned to Seir (33:16–20). According to the Priestly text in Gen 36:6–8, however, the brothers’ apparently final parting of ways occurred in the land of Canaan. Esau left the land of promise for Seir, leaving Jacob behind in Canaan! Naḥmanides attempts to resolve the contradiction by asserting that Esau’s presence in Seir at the time of Jacob’s return journey to Canaan was only temporary, and that he later returned from Seir to Canaan, only to return again to Seir. 34 Naḥmanides assumes that Esau’s first journey to Seir was taken alone and that only on his second journey did he bring his family and possessions (36:6) and settle down in Seir permanently. The forced nature of this harmonization is apparent. Clearly, the Priestly and non-Priestly versions of the happenings between Jacob and Esau reflect divergent conceptions. The unique Priestly account of Gen 36:6–8 on the final parting of ways between Jacob and Esau is best understood in conjunction with the Priestly material in Gen 26:34–35 and 27:46–28:1–9 concerning Jacob’s initial flight from Esau. These texts reflect the Priestly author’s attempt to replace the unflattering depiction of Jacob’s initial flight from Esau with a more presentable depiction of the first parting of ways of the two figures. When the above-cited Priestly texts are read in sequence, without the intervening non-Priestly material of Gen 27:1–45, the new presentation emerges clearly. 35 Rebekah turns to Isaac in 27:46 and complains about Esau’s Hittite wives in direct response to the Priestly narrator’s reference to these wives and to the aggravation they caused Isaac and Rebekah, in 26:34–35. Isaac responds to Rebekah’s concern that Jacob might also take Hittite wives for himself by sending Jacob off to Padan Aram to find a wife in Rebekah’s family. At this time, Isaac bestows on Jacob the “blessing of Abraham,” so that he may inherit the land given to Abraham. According to the Priestly account, then, Jacob never duped his father into bestowing on him the blessings due to his older brother. Nor were these blessings given unknowingly to the wrong child. Rather, Isaac bestowed the blessings on Jacob in full consciousness and of a free will. Jacob did not flee from Esau and end up marrying Laban’s daughters by chance. Instead, he went at the bidding of his father (and mother—see v.  7) for the deliberate purpose of marrying inside the family. Esau’s response to this was to take a daughter of Ishmael for his wife (vv. 8–9). There is no indication that Esau harbored any ill will toward Jacob. Seeing that this is the case, there is no place in the Priestly account for a tense confrontation between Jacob and Esau at the time of Jacob’s return to Canaan. There is also no account in the Priestly material of the flight from Laban. Jacob returns to the land of Canaan in an orderly and tension-free fashion, as when he left (35:9–15, 23b–29). Upon Jacob’s return, the Lord confirms 34.  Commentary to Gen 36:6. 35.  See J. Skinner, Genesis (ICC; Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1994), 374–75.

Leaving the Land: Emigration in the Book of Genesis

235

Isaac’s bestowal of the blessing on Jacob and changes his name to Israel at Bethel (35:9–15). When Isaac passes away in Hebron, Esau and Jacob bury him together (v. 29). The clear implication of this is that Esau remained in Hebron while Jacob was in Padan Aram. The material in Gen 36 depicting Esau’s departure to Seir follows perfectly after this material. Esau does not leave for Seir during Jacob’s stay with Laban, as in the non-Priestly account. In the Priestly version, it is only after Jacob returns to Canaan that Esau leaves for Seir. The Priestly rewriting of the tradition dramatically improves the image of Jacob and removes the many questions that arise concerning the legitimacy of Jacob’s status as bearer of the blessings. If the blessings were bestowed consciously on Jacob and not stolen through a ruse, and if Esau proved himself unworthy through his marriage to Canaanite women, and if the Lord himself affirmed Isaac’s choice, there can be little question as to the validity of Jacob’s privileged position. In my view, the issue of Jacob’s departure from the land is also a concern of the Priestly writer, and his treatment of this issue must be seen within the broad context of his concern to legitimize Jacob’s position as inheritor of the blessings. The depiction of Jacob fleeing from the land and leaving his brother behind in the non-Priestly story is not merely unflattering, it also puts Jacob’s right to the land in serious doubt (see above). If, however, he did not flee from his brother but left in accordance with the instructions of his parents for a specific and limited purpose, he could not be depicted as having abandoned the land, relinquishing his rights to it to his older brother. This concern is also reflected in the Priestly writer’s reconstruction of the final parting of the brothers. The question of who leaves and who remains behind in the land is of crucial significance. In another Priestly passage, Gen 25:6, we are told that Abraham made sure before he died to send off the children of his concubines, with gifts, to the land of the east “away from his son Isaac.” The fact that these children left the land, leaving Isaac in the land, indicates that they lost their claim to the land in favor of Isaac. This is also the significance of the story of Lot’s departure from Abraham for Sodom in Gen 13 (see below). Now, in the non-Priestly account of the Jacob story, Esau, it is true, leaves for the land of Seir of his own volition. Nonetheless, when he does so, Jacob is not left behind, since Jacob at the time is in Padan Aram. Esau’s move could not, therefore, be taken to signify a cognizant deferral of territorial rights to Jacob. The Priestly author therefore readjusted the episode and asserted that Esau did not leave the land until Jacob returned. By portraying Esau as leaving the land voluntarily, and knowingly leaving it in the hands of Jacob, the Priestly writer affirmed that Esau had forfeited his claims to the land and recognized Jacob’s sole rights to it. Esau was made to follow in the footsteps of Lot, who also forfeited his land rights to Abraham of his own free will (13:5–12).

236

Chapter 4

In sum, the Priestly author of the Jacob story does not deny that the patriarch left the land. He does, however, change the circumstances surrounding it so as to bolster Israel’s claim to the land and negate doubts concerning the validity of the promises. This sensitivity to the problem of emigration is typical of texts belonging to the “third,” mediating approach to emigration.

The Delegitimation of Emigration in Genesis 24:5–8 Let us now return to the “second” approach reflected in the story of the wooing of Rebekah in Gen 24. This restrictive approach, as we noted, regards as illegitimate any excursion from the land, even for the limited purpose of marrying non-Canaanite women and returning forthwith to the land. Several considerations indicate that the entire passage that brings up the question whether or not Isaac might leave the land (vv. 5–8) belongs to a secondary expansion of the text. 36 First, we should note that v. 9 follows perfectly and naturally after vv.  1–4. In the opening verses of the story, Abraham tells his servant: Place your hand under my thigh, and I will adjure you by the God of heaven and of earth not to take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites among whom I dwell, but to go to my land and birthplace and take a wife for my son Isaac.

The most natural continuation to this is clearly v. 9: “So the servant placed his hand under the thigh of Abraham, his master, and swore to him concerning this thing.” The intervening material disrupts the natural and simple connection between vv. 4 and 9. The extraneous nature of vv. 5–8 is also indicated by the cross-references to texts outside the present narrative (v. 7 refers to both Gen 12:1 and 7 and, perhaps, to other texts). This form of textual quotation is a clear sign that we are dealing with late material of a secondary nature. Other considerations support this conclusion concerning these verses. The major concern of the story of the betrothal of Rebekah is the problem of finding a wife for Isaac. The action of the story progresses to the extent that this problem moves toward resolution. The entire question about the course of action to take in the (theoretical) event that the girl will not want 36.  At first glance, it appears that one can hardly remove this material, because the question whether or not the woman will be willing to follow the servant and Abraham’s response to this question are repeated in the servant’s report to Rebekah’s family in vv. 38– 41. I hope to show elsewhere, however, that the servant’s recapitulation of events at the well also belongs to a late stage in the story’s development. Thus, the reference in this material back to vv. 5–9 is no indication that those verses were part of the earliest form of the story.

Leaving the Land: Emigration in the Book of Genesis

237

to leave for the land, the response to this question emphasizing the centrality of living in the land, and the stipulation of the conditions under which the oath would no longer be binding—all these delay the progression of the narrative with extraneous issues that never actually come up in the ensuing narrative. 37 The servant never locates an appropriate potential bride who stipulates that Isaac must leave his land and marry her where she lives. In fact, the entire question whether or not Isaac should be brought back to Abraham’s homeland if the woman refuses to leave makes little sense in the context of the narrative. The task with which the servant was commissioned was to bring back a wife from the homeland (not, specifically, from the family) 38 for Isaac. Obviously, if the woman he finds refuses to go with the servant, he has not found an appropriate candidate and must continue to look. Why, then, is the option of bringing Isaac back to Abraham’s homeland even mentioned? Nor is it at all likely that every potential bride from the homeland would refuse to follow the servant back. The extensive wealth with which the servant will be going should be sufficient to make the task of bringing back a suitable woman quite achievable. There is every reason for the servant to anticipate the success of his mission. The question whether the servant should bring Isaac out of the land in the theoretical event that no appropriate woman would be found who would follow him seems entirely unnecessary. Furthermore, the action of the narrative hardly elicits a need to explicate the precise theoretical circumstances under which the servant would be freed from the terms of the oath (vv. 5–8). We do not find Joseph, for example, raising the objection to Jacob, “What if the Pharaoh refuses to allow me to bring your remains to the land of Canaan”? Instead, Joseph makes a direct and unconditional oath to bury his father in his ancestral grave, without asking questions (Gen 47:29–31). Even though the concern about getting permission from the Pharaoh would theoretically have been a reasonable one (cf. Gen 50:4–6), it is not brought up at the time of the oath for the obvious reason that the potential obstacle never actualizes in the ensuing narrative. The same would have been the case, we should assume, in the story of the betrothal of Rebekah. Since the potential obstacle of a woman’s refusing to follow the servant never eventuates, there is little dramatic justification for raising the issue. Originally, then, the oath that the servant took “concerning this thing” (v.  9) referred directly to the task of finding a wife for Isaac from Abraham’s birthplace rather than from the Canaanites. With vv. 5–8 in place, “this thing” became excessively legalistic, referring not only to the task at 37.  On this point, see K. T. Aitken, “The Wooing of Rebekah,” JSOT 30 (1984): 7–10. 38.  It is only in the retelling of the story in vv. 37–41 that Abraham is presented as instructing the servant to go directly to his family. Some interpreters have seen this change as reflecting the servant’s shrewd attempt to win over the family of Rebekah by depicting the family as specifically sought out by Abraham from the beginning.

238

Chapter 4

hand but also to the stipulations about the theoretical circumstances under which the oath would cease to be binding. 39 The main concern of the addition in our story is surely reflected in the content of the oath stipulations. This content refers, first and foremost, to the question of emigration. In the original form of the story, that which is to be avoided is simply marriage with Canaanites. The issue of emigration is hardly contemplated. The story of the sending of the servant to bring a wife for Isaac has thus been exploited by a later author to raise the issue of leaving the land. The supplementer capitalized on the fact that a servant was sent rather than Isaac himself. Originally, the sending of a servant rather than the beloved son on the long, arduous, and potentially dangerous journey would have only been natural for a man of Abraham’s means. It was conveniently interpreted, however, as reflecting Abraham’s national39.  The secondary nature of the material specifying the circumstances under which the oath would not be binding is supported by a somewhat analogous textual development that can be discerned in Josh 2, in the story of Rahab and the spies of Jericho. In this story, Rahab requests that the spies take an oath to save her father’s house from death when the city is sacked. In v. 14, we are told that the spies indeed swore to act graciously toward her if she would not inform on them. In the following two verses, we are told that she let the spies down a rope through the window and told them: “Make for the hills, so that the pursuers may not come upon you. Stay there in hiding three days, until the pursuers return; then go on your way” (vv. 15–16). The natural continuation to this is found in v. 22, where we read: “So they went to the mountains and stayed there three days, until the pursuers turned back.” In the intervening verses, we again find a legalistic oration on the circumstances under which the oath would be binding, and those under which it would not be binding. The presentation of the spies, who must run and hide for their lives, tarrying at the bottom of the window to deliver a long, perforce audible, legalistic discourse is extremely awkward in the present narrative context. The speech totally ignores the dramatic tension of the situation and has correctly been identified as secondary (see Y. Zakovitch [“Rationalization of Miracle Motifs in Biblical Narrative,” Proceedings of the Ninth World Congress of Jewish Studies, Division A: The Period of the Bible ( Jerusalem, 1986), 28–29] [Hebrew], who develops the analysis in a different direction). In the original form of the story, the oath was not qualified by the requirement that the woman gather her family members into the house, that those who venture outside the house would not be protected, or that a crimson cord must be tied to the window of the house. Indeed, the crimson cord is never mentioned in the story of the capture of Jericho in Josh 6. Nor do we hear of members of Rahab’s family who ventured out of her house and were therefore killed with impunity. The precise mechanics of how the woman’s family would be saved and under which circumstances the spies would be freed from their oath did not concern the original narrator. These issues did, however, concern later readers for whom the dramatic movement of the story was of less importance. For these later readers, it was obviously important not only to work out the mechanics of how the family was to be saved but also to incorporate these details as stipulations of the oath. Apparently, the presentation of the spies’ taking oaths that are not duly thought out and well stipulated was problematic and had to be rectified. The analogy with vv. 5–8 in our story is clear. The formulation of v. 8, ‫ ונקית משבעתי זאת‬. . . ‫ ואם‬is quite reminiscent of the words of the spies, ‫ואם תגידי את דברנו‬ ‫( זה והיינו נקיים משבעתך [הזה] אשר השבעתנו‬v. 20; the word in brackets is missing in the MT but attested in v. 17 and several textual witnesses; cf. BHS). We may assume, at least to a certain extent, that a kindred legalistic spirit informs both additions.

Leaving the Land: Emigration in the Book of Genesis

239

religious ideology rather than his protective paternal instincts. The less than probable circumstance that the woman would not follow the servant, together with the question, which in no way begs to be asked, “shall I return your son there,” are clearly introduced solely in order to elicit the sought after expression of disapproval concerning emigration. The concern of vv. 5–8 is thus to depict emigration as a grave sin that contradicts the divine promises to Abraham. This is not, however, the entire message of the “second-approach” supplementer. It appears that vv. 5–8 also are presented to qualify the originally absolute rejection of Canaanite women as potential wives, as expressed in vv.  1–4 and 9. The original oath imposed on the servant comprises two parts. It prohibits the taking of Canaanite women, and it requires the wife for Isaac to be taken from Abraham’s ancestral land. Some commentators have understood vv. 5–8 as releasing the servant only from “this oath”— that is, the second oath—which imposes on the servant the requirement to bring a wife for Isaac from the homeland. 40 The servant would accordingly still be prohibited from taking a Canaanite woman for Isaac to marry. He would then either be required to find a non-Canaanite woman of other origins for Isaac or be released from all active responsibility in the matter. In any event, the restriction against Canaanite women, following this interpretation, would remain in effect under all circumstances. This interpretation, however, is excessively subtle and unnatural. The understanding that the servant is still bound to part of the oath is hardly implied in the simple and unequivocal words “you will be free from this oath.” It is much more natural to understand the text as indicating that, if the servant fails to find a wife who will return to the land, he will either be released from all responsibility in the matter or will be expected to obtain a wife for Isaac from the women of the land. In either event, the question as to whom Isaac would marry would still need to be addressed. Because Isaac is explicitly restricted from leaving the land and the servant had failed in his efforts abroad, the only alternative for him would be to marry one of “the daughters of the Canaanites among whom I dwell.” Rashi, indeed, understands the text as indicating that the servant himself would have to find a Canaanite wife for Isaac. 41 Whether or not the responsibility would fall on the servant, it seems clear that the text expresses the idea that it is better to marry a woman of the land than to leave it in order to marry a family member. The effect, then, of vv. 5–8 is to qualify the absolute prohibition against marriage with 40. Cf. Naḥmanides’ commentary on v. 8. 41.  Rashi on vv. 8 and 37. Rashi refers specifically to the daughters of Aner, Eshkol, and Mamreh (cf. Gen 14:13, 24). The consideration of these Canaanite women as wives for Isaac is raised in Gen. Rab. 57:3 (“they are righteous women who care about pedigree”). Rashi is strongly attacked by Naḥmanides, who considers this possibility sacrilege. See also b. Qidd. 61b and the tosephot, ad loc.

240

Chapter 4

Canaanite women significantly. Verses 5–8 present the concern to avoid marriage with Canaanite women as standing in dialectic balance with another concern—avoiding emigration. Though both issues are important, the concern to avoid emigration is presented as the more important. The oath against marrying Canaanites is thus presented as a qualified and conditional oath. In certain circumstances, it is better to marry women of the land if the alternative is leaving the land. This concern is clearly not integral to the immediate interests of the narrative about Rebekah. It reflects the interests of later generations of readers. I have noted that vv. 5–8 contain scriptural quotations and that this is another indication of its late character. This also means that the supplementer is aware of much of Genesis in its written form and can be expected to have responded to it. It does seem that the addition in Gen 24 not only expands the story at hand but also reacts to and polemicizes against other material in Genesis. Specifically, vv. 5–8 present a conception of the “blessing of Abraham” that opposes the understanding reflected in the Priestly material on Jacob. As I have noted, in the Priestly account of Jacob’s journey to Padan Aram, Isaac prohibits Jacob from marrying women of the land and enjoins him to emigrate to Padan Aram to obtain a wife from Laban’s family (Gen 28:1–4). Isaac then blesses Jacob so that he may be fruitful and multiply and become a community of peoples. Isaac follows this with the assurance that the will bestow on Jacob and his seed the “blessing of Abraham” concerning the inheritance of the land. Implicit in all this is an inherent connection between avoiding intermarriage with the Canaanites and inheritance of the land promised to Abraham. It is only after Esau proves himself unworthy by marrying Canaanite women that Isaac bestows the blessing of Abraham on Jacob (21:34–35; 27:46). Until this moment, the Priestly narrator implies, the blessing could have gone to either son. 42 And for Jacob to receive the blessing of Abraham, he himself must be careful to marry a non-Canaanite woman. Only then will he inherit the blessing of Abraham and inherit the land. Purity of pedigree is clearly a central concern in this Priestly perspective. Significantly, the way that Jacob is to avoid marrying Canaanite women is by leaving the land and by being fruitful and multiplying, at least initially, outside the land. The intentional excursion from the land, not even for life-threatening reasons but simply to find a wife, in no way jeopardizes the fulfillment of the blessing of Abraham. On the contrary, it ensures it. The addition of Gen 24:5–8 stands in stark contrast to this Priestly stance. Here, too, Canaanite women must be avoided. However, even the need to avoid marriage with the local population cannot justify leaving the land. The “promise to Abraham” implies an obligation to remain on 42.  This stands in contrast to the oracle of Gen 25:22–23, which presents the selection of Jacob as being predetermined.

Leaving the Land: Emigration in the Book of Genesis

241

the land at all times. It cannot be fulfilled if one leaves the land, even temporarily. Even more important, the obligation to remain in the land at all times takes precedence over the prohibition against marrying women of the land. Isaac surely does not represent himself alone in the supplement of vv. 5–8. He serves as a paradigm for all of his descendants who will claim to be heirs to the promise of Abraham. The new, explicit “prohibition” against emigration on the basis of the promise to Abraham and the elevation of this prohibition above avoiding intermarriage with the Canaanites may thus be seen as a specifically anti–“Priestly school” polemic that seeks to bolster the centrality of land settlement and to reject any compromise on the matter. To leave the land even for marital purposes, according to this new conception, is to display faithlessness with regard to the promises to Abraham, which can be fulfilled only when the people live on the land. 43 I further suggest that the material in Gen 24:5–8 prohibiting Isaac from leaving the land for marital purposes may also constitute a polemic against another Priestly tradition, concerning Isaac himself. In a Priestly passage, Gen 25:19–20, we read: This is the story of Isaac, son of Abraham. Abraham begot Isaac. Isaac was forty years old when he took Rebekah, daughter of Bethuel the Aramean from Padan Aram, sister of Laban the Aramean, for his wife.

This text is usually read in conjunction with the story that Abraham sent his servant to bring Isaac a wife while Isaac himself remained in the land. Consequently, the words “from Padan Aram” in v.  20 are understood as referring to Bethuel. However, it is also possible to understand “from Padan Aram” as referring to the place from which Isaac took Rebekah. It would indeed be rather superfluous for the verse to refer to Rebekah’s father as “Bethuel the Aramean from Padan Aram.” Much more naturally, Isaac took Rebekah for his wife from Padan Aram. 44 Though it would not be impossible to harmonize this statement with the story in Gen 24 by interpreting it as referring elliptically to the fact 43.  This is not to say that the land promise to Abraham did not imply, from the start, a direct correlation between land settlement and national identity. It is to say, rather, that the land promise to Abraham probably did not develop into an explicit prohibition against individual emigration, even of a temporary nature, until after the time of the consolidation of the Priestly material preserved in Genesis. A subtle polemic against the possibility of returning to the land of origins may already be heard in the emphatic command to Abraham to leave his land, birthplace, and father’s house in Gen 12:1. It is not insignificant that this command is embedded within surrounding Priestly material depicting Abraham’s arrival in the land as a fulfillment of the aspirations of his father (11:27–32; 12:5). While the Priestly scheme emphasizes continuity between Abraham and his father’s house, the non-Priestly material (12:1–4a) depicts a complete and deliberate break between the two. See more on this below. 44.  The words “sister of Laban the Aramean” should probably be situated before the words “from Padan Aram.” For another reference to the father and brother of the bride in P, see Gen 28:9.

242

Chapter 4

that Isaac took Rebekah from Padan Aram through the agency of Abraham’s servant, it must be admitted that one would never arrive at this understanding of the Priestly verse were it not for the non-Priestly story of Gen 24. There is, in fact, no need to assume that the Priestly material of Gen 25 (vv. 1–20) presupposes all non-Priestly material recorded in Genesis. Much of the Priestly literature proves to be independent and self-sufficient. The Priestly notice concerning Isaac’s marriage to Rebekah may simply follow the Priestly material in Gen 22:20–24, which relates that Abraham was informed of his brother’s offspring, which included Rebekah. The assumption may well be that, upon hearing this news, Abraham sent Isaac to bring Rebekah back as his wife. This would then parallel precisely the Priestly verses in Gen 28, where Isaac sends his son Jacob to the same family to take a wife, again from Padan Aram (vv. 2, 5–7). Alternatively, our passage may imply that at the age of 40 Isaac went to take Rebekah for a wife from Padan Aram on his own initiative. Strictly speaking, the verse does not assign a role to either the servant of Abraham or to Abraham himself in the arrangement of the marriage. One may compare the Priestly notices about Esau, who took his first wives, also at the age of 40 (26:34–35), and later, his additional wives (28:6–9), on his own initiative. 45 45.  It should further be noted that the Priestly material in Gen 25 apparently diverges from the non-Priestly material of Genesis in another detail—the fate of Ishmael. According to Gen 21:1–21, Ishmael was banished with his mother from Abraham’s house when he was a young lad. He had to be completely separated from Abraham’s house in order to thwart future claims to Abraham’s inheritance (v. 10). He resided in the Paran desert and grew up there, permanently banished, the text implies, from his father’s house. In Gen 25, in contrast, Isaac and Ishmael together bury Abraham when Abraham passes away. Though Abraham sent away the sons of his concubines before he died (v. 6)—hence, they could not participate in his burial—Ishmael does participate in the burial. The natural assumption of the text seems to be that Ishmael was a member of Abraham’s household and was not sent away as were the sons of the concubines. Indeed, according to the Priestly passage in Gen 16:3 Hagar was given to Abraham “for a wife,” and it is Abraham who gives the name Ishmael to “his son” (v. 15 = P). And in the Priestly story of the covenant of circumcision, Ishmael, the son of Abraham, stands in a category separate from those who are part of his broader household (cf. vv. 23–27). The participation of Ishmael in the burial of Abraham parallels the participation of Esau together with Jacob in the burial of Isaac in a later Priestly passage (35:29). Just as Esau was never banished and was one of Isaac’s two “sons,” so too Ishmael was one of Abraham’s two “sons,” in the Priestly conception, and never banished. Only after the death of Abraham are we told that Ishmael settled near Egypt (25:18), just as we are told that Esau left for Seir only after the report of Isaac’s death (36:6 after 35:29; cf. below). It is only after the death and burial of the father that the sons separate from the clan to form their own independent settlement. This also seems to be the Priestly conception of the journey of Abraham from Haran to Canaan (12:5), assuming that the journey is the original continuation of Gen 11:32, which mentions the death of Terah. This point tends to add support to my interpretation of v. 20 in this same Priestly chapter as diverging from non-Priestly tradition and indicating that Isaac himself went to Padan Aram to take Rebekah for his wife. Again, the Priestly account of Isaac’s sending Jacob off to the same family for the same purpose would then make perfect sense.

Leaving the Land: Emigration in the Book of Genesis

243

As I have stated, the Priestly material need not coincide with non-Priestly traditions in Genesis, and the assumption that it must is really harmonistic. Verse 20 should accordingly not be seen as an elliptical summary of what we were told in Gen 24 but as P’s first and only notice of Isaac’s marriage. In any event, it seems clear, at least from the Priestly material on Jacob, that the idea of leaving the land for marital purposes was acceptable for P and highly preferred over the alternative, reflected in the case of Esau, of remaining in the land and marrying Canaanite women. The position of P on this matter, though clearly reflecting a conscious agenda is put forward in a relatively casual manner. The material in Gen 24:5–8, by contrast, argues vigorously against the possibility of leaving the land for marital purposes (‫—השמר לך פן תשיב את בני שמה‬v. 6). It should therefore be seen as a late polemic against the Priestly paradigm.

The Historical Context: Insiders and Outsiders in the Aftermath of the Exile It is worth pausing to speculate about the historical context of this Priestly paradigm and the addition of Gen 24:5–8, which clearly polemicizes against it. The Priestly paradigm concerning Jacob’s excursion to Padan Aram can best be understood, I suggest, against the backdrop of the Esau paradigm, with which it stands in contrast. As we have noted, according to the Priestly account, Esau married women of the land, who sorely vexed Isaac and Rebekah. This was followed by the bestowal of the blessing of Abraham on Jacob rather than Esau. Even when Esau realized that these women were extremely displeasing to his parents, he did not proceed to divorce them. Nor did he seek to go to Padan Aram to find a wife from his mother’s family, as Jacob did. Instead, he attempted to rectify the situation by staying in the area and adding an Ishmaelite woman to the wives that he had (28:8–9). This solution was clearly not deemed sufficient to reverse Esau’s fall from grace, in spite of the fact that he remained in the land all the years that Jacob was absent. Jacob alone receives the blessing of Abraham to inherit the land. There is another significant contrast between Jacob and Esau that we find in the Priestly material. This concerns the children of the two brothers. As we have noted, the Priestly narrator unapologetically reports that all of Jacob’s children were born in Padan Aram (35:26). Esau’s sons, in contrast, were all born in the land of Canaan (36:5). In spite of this, the blessing of Abraham is fulfilled through the children born outside the land. The children of Esau, though native to the land, are of Canaanite stock and are destined to leave. It seems reasonable to consider these contrasts between the Jacob paradigm and the Esau paradigm as echoing tensions between the Babylonian exiles, and those who returned from there, as against those who presumably

244

Chapter 4

remained in the land, over the question of who would ultimately inherit the land. This correlation would fit well with the general consensus that the bulk of Priestly material in the Pentateuch belongs to the exilic and postexilic periods. Following this supposition, the Priestly account would be affirming through the “Jacob paradigm” that the “blessing of Abraham” would be fulfilled through those who maintain absolute isolation from the women of the land, go into exile, and marry and multiply outside the land. The descendants who are born outside the land will return to the land. Those who remain in the land but do not preserve their ethnic purity ultimately lose their claim to the blessing of Abraham. Their children, though born inside the land are deemed “children of Esau,” “Edomites,” descendants of mixed breeding. The fact that they were born in the land is of no consequence. On the contrary, it stands against them. In order to appreciate the broader context behind this issue, we must first recall the position taken in the book of Jeremiah with regard to the Babylonian exiles. The prophet calls on them to build houses, take wives, have children, and multiply in exile ( Jer 29:4–7). Only later will they return to the land (29:11–14). Individuals who remain in the land, in contrast, will ultimately be rejected (29:16–19; cf. Jer 24). 46 Another important passage is Ezek 33:24: Those who live in these ruins in the land of Israel argue: Abraham was one man when he possessed the land. We are many; the land has been given to us as an inheritance.

The Judahites who remain on the land after the devastation wrought by the Babylonians say that the land is theirs as an inheritance. In support of this assertion, they point to Abraham’s possession of the land as a single individual and to the fact that they are “many” (see also Ezek 11:14–15). The implicit assumption of the people whom Ezekiel quotes is that they are the “many” descendants who were promised to Abraham together with the promise of land (cf. Gen 12:2; 13:16; etc.) and that, as such, they still constitute the “true Israel,” in spite of the devastation. 47

46.  I do not attempt to distinguish here between the book of Jeremiah in its present form and the actual position of the prophet. For a treatment of this issue, see D. RomShiloni, “Exiles and Those Who Remained: Strategies of Exclusiveness in the Early Sixth Century bce,” in Shai le-Sara Japhet: Studies in the Bible, Its Exegesis and Its Language (ed. M. Bar-Asher et al.; Jerusalem: Bialik, 2007), 119–38 [Hebrew]. 47.  For this understanding of the passage, see S. Japhet, From the Rivers of Babylon to the Highlands of Judah: Collected Studies on the Restoration Period (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2006), 101–3. A similar connection between Abraham, who was only one individual, and the many, who are his descendants, is found in Isa 50:2, “I called him as one, and I blessed him and multiplied him.” For a recent comprehensive treatment of the issues discussed here, see D. Rom-Shiloni, “Ezekiel as the Voice of the Exiles,” HUCA 76 (2005): 1–45 and the references cited there.

Leaving the Land: Emigration in the Book of Genesis

245

Probably also implicit is the assumption that Abraham lived on the land and multiplied there and that they, as a multitude of inhabitants of the land are his direct descendants who embody the fulfillment of the land promise to Abraham. The assumption that Abraham multiplied on the land is clearly implied in Josh 24:3: “I took your father Abraham from across the river, and I made him walk through the entire land of Canaan, and I multiplied his seed.” The idea that the land inheritance would go to Abraham’s many descendants, who would multiply on the land is indeed implicit in the original promises to Abraham. The initial command to Abraham, “Go forth from your native land and from your father’s house to the land that I will show you, and I will make you a great nation and bless you” (Gen 12:1–2), obviously assumes that it is in the new land that Abraham will proliferate, amass wealth, and become a great nation. The same assumption lies behind the other promises to Abraham. Abraham is promised both that he will inherit the land and that he will become a great multitude (13:15–16). The juxtaposition of these two elements within a single promise implies that they will occur together. The land is given simultaneously to both Abraham and his seed, so that his seed is basically seen as the direct inheritor of the land (13:15; 17:8). It is in this light that we must understand the position of the people quoted by Ezekiel. Ezekiel, of course, rejects this reliance on the precedent of Abraham. In his mind, the inhabitants of the land are sinners, who will ultimately be punished. Like the author of Jer 24, Ezekiel believes that only those who go into exile will ultimately come to inherit the land. The Priestly assertion that the “blessing of Abraham” passes specifically to Jacob, who leaves the land and proliferates and amasses wealth in Padan Aram, may stand in pointed contrast to the position of the inhabitants of the land against whom Ezekiel prophesied. In later postexilic times, we find similar conflicts and tensions between people associated with the land and people associated with the exile. In Ezra 4, we encounter conflicts between the “children of the exile,” who are seen as the legitimate embodiment of Israel, and the “adversaries of Judah and Benjamin,” who are rejected from participation in the cultic and social life of the community. 48 Many scholars have suggested that some of these “adversaries,” or “people(s) of the land(s),” may have been descendants of the local Israelite and Judean population who simply never went into exile. 49 From the perspective of most of Ezra and Nehemiah, however, all the inhabitants of the land who did not return from the exile are non-Israelites, or foreigners. Similarly, all the people who are deemed Israelite are returnees who went back to the land at the time of Cyrus’s proclamation or later. 48. It is perhaps significant that one of the “peoples of the land” with whom the “community of the exile” intermarried was the Edomites. See Ezra 9:1, following various manuscripts. 49. See Japhet, From the Rivers of Babylon, 109–16.

246

Chapter 4

Strikingly, and despite all of this, in Neh 1:2–3 the Jewish community in the land before the arrival of Nehemiah is not referred to as those who “went up from the captivity of the exile” (Neh 7:6) but as ‫הנשארים‬/‫הפליטה‬ ‫‘ אשר נשארו מן השבי‬the remnant who had stayed behind during the captivity’. 50 Thus, even within the corpus of Ezra–Nehemiah, we find a conflict of views over the identity of the inhabitants of the land in relation to the exiles. The strong stance taken in Ezra 9–10 and Neh 13 against intermarriage between the men of the “children of the exile” and women of the “people(s) of the land(s)” again reflects tensions between returnees and natives. It seems likely that many of the ‫ חרדים‬who mourned together with Ezra over the “trespass of the golah” in Ezra 9:4 were the new immigrants whom he brought with him to the land. The men accused of intermarriage are the men who had been living in the land since the initial immigration sponsored by Cyrus and obviously not the men who had now returned to the land with Ezra (Ezra 7:7; 8). In relation to the newest immigrants, who preserved their racial purity, those who have not are “natives” of a sort. It again seems reasonable to consider the possibility that the Priestly negation of the Esau paradigm and approval of the Jacob paradigm may broadly fit within these tensions. Accordingly, through the rejection of the Esau paradigm, the Priestly writers and editors expressed a contemporary message: the “natives” who marry women of the land commit a trespass, follow in the footsteps of Esau, and lose their claim to the blessing of Abraham. Those who come from outside the land but are scrupulous about pedigree follow in the footsteps of Jacob and win for themselves the blessing of Abraham. 51 Following this analysis a bit further, we may surmise that the antiPriestly position of Gen 24:5–8 reflects a position more in consonance with the attitudes of the inhabitants of the land. The message expressed here is that only people who remain in the land can claim to inherit the blessing of Abraham. People who turn their backs on the land forfeit their claim to the blessing of Abraham. The emphasis on the blessing of Abraham in conjunction with the imperative of living in the land recalls the ideology 50. See ibid., 438–43. See also J.  Blenkinsopp, Ezra–Nehemia (OTL; London: SCM, 1988), 207. 51.  We must be cautious and reserved, however, with regard to the attempt to attribute a contemporary agenda to every biblical passage. Much of what is reported must be attributed to ancient tradition that was not simply invented to suit contemporary needs. We do well to heed the words of Westermann, Genesis 12–36, 33: Besides the intention of giving their contemporaries some appropriate advice, exhortations, and admonitions by means of the old stories, there is another intention of equal importance. They intend to pass on to their contemporaries what they themselves have received, something that has no concern with the contemporary situation but which is to be heard and passed on yet again so that it may have a voice in a quite different situation known neither to the listeners nor the bearers of the tradition.

Leaving the Land: Emigration in the Book of Genesis

247

of the “inhabitants of the ruins” quoted by Ezekiel. It appears, based on the fact that Gen 24:5–8 raises and rejects a “hypothetical” return to the birthplace of Abraham, that emigration from the land was a significant and disturbing phenomenon in the time of this author. Presumably, emigration by choice derived mainly from economic considerations. However, it may have been justified ideologically as well. Possibly, it was justified at the time of our author by the need to find appropriate wives and by the fact that it was, after all, the birthplace of Abraham and the birthplace of the sons of Jacob. 52 The author of Gen 24:5–8 fervently rejects the legitimacy of this sort of emigration. It is perhaps significant that Nehemiah, who struggled to separate the community in Jerusalem from its foreign wives, came to the land for limited periods and then, presumably, returned (Neh 1:6; 13:6). 53 The subordination of the prohibition against marriage to Canaanites in Gen 24:5–8 to the greater prohibition against leaving the land may well reflect the sentiments of the individuals who lived in the land and resisted the uncompromising position against intermarriage that was taught by “outsiders” such as Ezra and Nehemiah. The position of Gen 24:5–8 qualifying the prohibition of intermarriage may thus belong together with the various biblical passages that point to a strong opposition to the ideology of Ezra and Nehemiah by those living in the land at the time of the return. 54

The Story of Abraham’s Descent to Egypt: Suppression and Incorporation There is one important question about the polemic of Gen 24:5–8 that remains to be considered. How could the author of these verses have presented Abraham as prohibiting Isaac from leaving the land, when Abraham himself was said to have left the land just a few chapters earlier? One can readily imagine that the author of these verses implicitly sought to criticize Jacob, who would soon leave the land of Canaan. One can also readily understand the insistence that Isaac did not leave the land, in spite of the Priestly passage of Gen 25:20, since the significance of this passage was 52.  For rabbinic analogues, note the following passage in t. B.  Qam. 7.3: “Why was Israel exiled to [there] Babylonia rather than to any other country? Because the house of Abraham our patriarch is from there.” Note also the rabbinic law allowing one to leave the land of Israel for the purpose of finding a wife (b. ʿAbod. Zar. 13a). 53.  It is not clear from the text that Nehemiah returned to the king a second time, but it seems logical to assume that he would have had to do so. 54.  There is a vast amount of secondary literature on the tensions between the various groups of the restoration period over the question of the inclusion of foreigners in Israel and how they are to be defined. For one recent assessment of these tensions and their reflection in the relevant texts from a sociological perspective, see D. L. Smith-Christopher, “Between Ezra and Isaiah: Exclusion, Transformation, and Inclusion of the ‘Foreigner’ in Post-Exilic Biblical Theology,” in Ethnicity and the Bible (ed. M. G. Brett; Leiden: Brill, 1996), 117–42.

248

Chapter 4

sufficiently vague and understated. However, how could the author have ignored the story of Abraham’s own journey to Egypt? How could he depict Abraham as prohibiting Isaac from leaving the land so soon after the story of his own departure from the land? Let us note again the wording of Abraham’s admonition to his servant: On no account must you take my son back there! The Lord, the God of heaven, who took me from my father’s house and from my native land, who promised me on oath, saying, “I will assign this land to your offspring,” he will send his angel before you, and you will get a wife for my son from there.

According to Gen 12, as noted, Abraham himself left the land precisely after the God of heaven took him there from his native land and promised him the land! Is Abraham to be understood in these verses as being remorseful over his own journey away from the land? Why, then, is there no expression of this sentiment in his words? In Ps 105, the psalmist mentions the land promise to the patriarchs and then describes the patriarchs as “few in number, a mere handful, sojourning there [that is, in the land], wandering from nation to nation, from one kingdom to another” (vv. 12–13). The author of the psalm, it appears, limits the kingdoms in which the patriarchs sojourned to those within the bounds of the land of promise. Similarly, in Neh 9:7–8 the author highlights the fact that God took Abraham into the land, found his heart faithful, and formed the covenant to give him and his seed the land. Again, there is no hint of the fact that Abraham left the land right after he arrived. These references, of course, are found in distant and independent texts. The authors may well have chosen conveniently to ignore the story of Abraham’s departure to Egypt in Gen 12, even if they were well aware of it. The desire to depict Abraham as though he never left the land would have been natural for any author seeking to highlight the importance of the land promise. However, how, could the author of Gen 24:5–8, writing within the context of the book of Genesis (as noted earlier), ignore the story of Abraham’s descent to Egypt? The same question may be asked about the author of Gen 26:2–5. The Lord appears to Isaac and tells him not to go down to Egypt but to remain in the land in spite of the famine, and he promises to fulfill the promises to Abraham through him. As we have noted, the implication of this text is that Isaac must remain in the land in order that the promise to Abraham may be fulfilled. How could this author stipulate that Isaac must not leave for Egypt when Abraham himself was said to have done so? Some commentators have indeed found in this text a subtle criticism of Abraham’s own descent to Egypt. 55 The famine at the time of Abraham is indeed mentioned in the first verse of this story. It is extremely difficult, 55. Y. Zakovitch, And You Shall Tell Your Son ( Jerusalem: Magnes, 1991), 20–21.

Leaving the Land: Emigration in the Book of Genesis

249

however, to see the story as expressing a criticism of Abraham. On the contrary, the text idealizes Abraham more than usual: Isaac will inherit the land and proliferate therein, not because of any merit of his own, but “because Abraham obeyed me and kept my charge, my commandments, my laws, and my teachings” (v. 5). Thus, I must reiterate my question: how could the verses that depict Isaac as being prohibited from leaving the land on the basis of the promise to Abraham have ignored the story of Abraham’s own departure from the land of promise? According to Albertz, the story of Abraham’s descent to Egypt was incorporated “to show the Egyptian golah that Abraham—unlike them—had learned his lesson: Egypt was not a place where Judeans could live without danger and compromise. They belonged back in Palestine!” 56 For Albertz, then, the story reflects the same antiexilic concerns as do the texts that prevent Isaac from leaving the land. The reason that the same editor tolerated Abraham’s descent to Egypt and did not tolerate Isaac’s is explained on the basis of the removal of 12:7, where God appears to Abraham at Shechem and grants “this land” to Abraham’s seed. In the original edition, according to Albertz, God identifies the land that “he would show him” (12:1) only after Abraham’s return from Egypt in 13:14–15. 57 Following this, Albertz claims: “The point he was making to his audience was this: since Abraham did not yet know just what land was meant, Yahweh had put up with his detour to Egypt. There he had to learn his lesson.” 58 I consider this exegesis quite dubious. The story of Abraham’s journey to Egypt hardly seems to promote the idea that Albertz assigns it. If the point of the story was to show that Abraham learned his lesson about the dangers of Egypt, it would have presented him as leaving there of his own volition. In fact, however, he is expelled. What is more, Abraham succeeded in averting the famine by going to Egypt and, indeed, returned to the land with great riches! There is thus little sense that Abraham is humiliated and has learned his lesson. On the contrary, at least with regard to the final form of the Genesis text, Abraham repeats the ploy again and again in various locations (20:13)! Nor does the story present Egypt as a dangerous place for Judeans. It seems highly unlikely that the majority of Judeans living in Egypt would have understood from this story that they were living in a particularly dangerous place. First of all, Sarah was not abducted. Rather, both Abraham and Sarah claimed that they were siblings. Thus, one can hardly blame the Egyptians for what happened to Sarah. Furthermore, Sarah is clearly depicted as a woman of exceptional and unusual beauty, and this alone is the reason that Abraham felt that he was endangered. His 56.  Albertz, Israel in Exile, 259. The story depicts a humiliated and chastised patriarch: “Only at the cost of his wife’s disgrace had the patriarch been able to save his life in Egypt by a devious ploy.” 57.  Ibid., 251 n. 337. 58.  Ibid., 261.

250

Chapter 4

Judean origin is totally irrelevant. Most Judeans would not share the sense that their stunningly beautiful wives placed them in mortal danger and that they should return immediately to their ancestral land. At most, they would learn not to pretend that their wives were their sisters! Again, Albertz’s assumption that God did not relate to Abraham that he had arrived at the land of promise until after he had left it and returned seems awkward and unnatural. Finally, even if we assumed that Gen 12:7 was indeed incorporated at a late stage, we would still need to explain the present form of the text, which presents Abraham as leaving the land after the land of promise was clearly identified. I suggest that, instead of seeing the identification of the land in Gen 12:7 as the land of promise as secondary, we should see the entire story of Abraham’s stay in Egypt in Gen 12:10–20 as a very late insertion into the book of Genesis. 59 The story did not belong to the version of the Genesis narrative with which the authors/supplementers of Gen 24:5–8 and 26:2–5 were working. It is indeed surprising that Abraham left the land as soon as he arrived, immediately after the explicit divine promise that he would inherit this land. It is significant to note that there is no hint of Abraham’s descent to Egypt in any of the later biblical references to him (e.g., Josh 24:3; Ezek 38:24; Isa 51:2; Ps 105:12–13; Neh 9:7–8). Though the story is referred to briefly in Gen 26:1 (“aside from the first famine that occurred in the time of Abraham”), several scholars have recognized this clause as a late editorial addition. 60 There is clear textual evidence for the secondary incorporation of Gen 12:10–20 into Genesis. As many of the early critics noted, 61 the story does not fit well within its narrative context. The verses immediately preceding the narrative speak of Lot as a fellow traveler with Abraham and his family (Gen 11:31; 12:4–5). Lot becomes the main character in the narrative of Gen 13, where we are told of their parting of ways. Yet Lot is totally absent in Gen 12:10–20. Where was Lot in the midst of the entire episode in Egypt? Obviously, the story of Gen 12:10–20 was originally told independently of the narrative of Abraham and Lot. Indeed, the story itself stands well on its own. It begins with the words, “Now there was a famine in the land.” This beginning is so general that it could basically be situated 59.  The sense that the story reflects an ancient folk narrative (see Westermann, Genesis 12–36, 161) may well have contributed to the general assumption that it must belong to an early stage in the development of the Pentateuch. Even if the story is ancient, however, this says nothing about the time of its incorporation into the Pentateuch. See on this below. 60. Cf. Skinner, Genesis, 361–62. The secondary nature of the clause is indicated by the fact that it begins with the word ‫מלבד‬, which is a clear sign of editorial work. On the secondary character of ‫ מלבד‬clauses, see I. Knohl, The Sanctuary of Silence: The Priestly Torah and the Holiness School (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1995), 56–58. 61.  See, for example, the discussion of O. Eissfeldt, The Old Testament: An Introduction (trans. P. R. Ackroyd; New York: Harper & Row, 1965), 187–88.

Leaving the Land: Emigration in the Book of Genesis

251

at almost any stage in the lives of Abraham and Sarah before the birth of their child. It is significant to note that, while Lot is ignored in 12:20, “and they sent him [Abraham] and his wife away and all that was theirs,” he is referred to immediately after this in 13:1, “So Abraham went up from Egypt, he and his wife and all that was his, and Lot with him, to the Negev.” 62 The editor thus felt the need to reintroduce Lot into the narrative, indicating that, though Lot was not mentioned in the episode in Egypt, he surely was with Abraham and Sarah there, for he did not separate from them until later. This, however, is no more than an editorial link, which supplements the figure of Lot into the story of Abraham and Sarah in Egypt in order to facilitate the incorporation of the alien story into its new context. In fact, in my opinion, 13:1 and 3–4 must be seen together as a single editorial link. 63 Before the insertion of the story of Abraham and Sarah in Egypt, 13:2 and 5 followed directly after 12:9. The beginning of ch. 13 tells us that Abraham went back to the Negev together with Lot (v. 1; cf. 12:9). Abraham was heavy with cattle, silver, and gold (v. 2). From the context, we must take this as a reference to the riches acquired in Egypt, even though the story of Abraham in Egypt makes no reference to the acquisition of silver and gold (12:16 refers only to servants and animals). In v. 3, we are told that Abraham journeyed back from the Negev to the altar that he had built between Ai and Bethel at the time of his initial departure (12:8) and again called on the name of the Lord. Abraham thus retraced his steps. At this point, the story of the separation of Abraham and Lot begins. We are told that Lot, who was traveling with Abraham, also had cattle and tents and that the land could not bear their joint settlement (vv. 5–6). In the present context, the parting of Abraham and Lot is understood to have taken place after the episode in Egypt, in which Lot participated, and because of the cattle amassed in Egypt. However, the idea that Lot amassed wealth in Egypt is never indicated. Nor, as we have noted, is there a hint of Abraham receiving silver and gold in Egypt. It is much more natural to understand the entire return of Abraham with Lot from Egypt to the area of Ai and Bethel as a secondary link, bringing the reader back to the final verses before the insertion of the episode in Egypt. Originally, the abundance of cattle that made joint settlement difficult was not amassed in Egypt but in Haran. Genesis 12:5 explicitly 62. Lot is also added in the LXX version of 12:20. The addition is clearly late and harmonistic. 63.  I thus take issue with those who see in 13:1 the original conclusion of the story of Abraham’s descent to Egypt (Skinner, Genesis, 243, citing earlier authorities; G. von Rad, Genesis [trans. J. H. Marks; OTL; Philadelphia: Westminster, 1972], 167–68). This assumption requires the removal of the reference to Lot as a gloss. The verse is also too repetitive of 12:20 to be original. It seems much more natural to view Gen 13:1 as redactional, together with vv. 3–4.

252

Chapter 4

states that Abraham took with him, together with Lot, all the substance that “they” had acquired in Haran. The source of both Abraham and Lot’s substance was Haran, not Egypt. We should also note that 13:2 and 5 follow 12:9 very nicely. 64 The natural continuity of these verses is most evident in the Hebrew: ‫ וגם ללוט ההלך את‬.‫ ואברם כבד מאד במקנה בכסף ובזהב‬.‫ויסע אברם הלוך ונסוע הנגבה‬ . ‫ ולא נשא אתם הארץ לשבת יחדו כי היה רכושם רב‬. ‫אברם היה צאן ובקר ואהלים‬

We should note that the reference in 13:5 to Lot as ‫ ההלך את אברם‬picks up the wording of 12:9, ‫הלוך ונסוע הנגבה‬. 65 The reference in v. 6 to their abundant possessions, ‫רכושם רב‬, picks up the reference in 12:5 to the possessions that Abraham and Lot acquired in Haran (‫)ואת כל רכושם אשר רכשו‬. As I have indicated, many of the early critics recognized the artificial connection between the story of Gen 12:10–20 and its surrounding context. However, since the story parallels Gen 20, which was assigned to E, it was assumed that Gen 12:10–20 must somehow derive from the early J document. Since the story did not fit in its present context, which was also presumed to be predominantly J, it was assumed that the story of Abraham in Egypt must have been dislocated 66 or was incorporated by the J redactor from a parallel J document (“JB” as opposed to the surrounding “JA”) 67 or inserted from J into the present narrative flow, which derives from some other non-Priestly document. 68 Today, there remains little of the early consensus about the composition history of the non-Priestly materials in the Pentateuch. 69 There is thus no longer any compelling reason to insist that the story of Abraham’s descent to Egypt must have been incorporated into Genesis at an early date. This does not necessarily mean that the story of Abraham and Sarah in Egypt is late in itself. The fact that the text does not fit smoothly within its narrative surroundings indicates that it was not created as a supplement to the text of Genesis but that it existed on its own. The characters in the story appear in an unfavorable light. We find Abraham lying about his wife, giving her to another man, and accepting money for her under the false pretense of 64.  I diverge slightly from scholars who consider Gen 12:9 to be part of the redactional link along with 13:3–4 (see the authorities cited by Skinner, Genesis, 243). As I have indicated, it seems more likely that 13:1 is part of this link. Gen 12:9, on the other hand, fits perfectly well with the verses that precede it and leads nicely into 13:2, 5. 65.  Following this reconstruction, the parting of Abraham and Lot occurred, not between Bethel and Ai, but farther south. 66. A. Dillmann, Die Genesis (KHAT; Leipzig: Hirzel, 1892), 226. 67.  See H. Gunkel, Genesis (trans. M. E. Biddle; Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1997), 168. Gunkel is followed by Skinner, Genesis, 242–43, 251. 68.  Eissfeldt (Introduction, 187–88) attributed the surrounding material on Abraham and Lot to his L source. 69.  See the collection of essays in T. B. Dozeman and K. Schmid, eds., A Farewell to the Yahwist? The Composition of the Pentateuch in Recent European Interpretation (SBLSymS 34; Leiden: Brill, 2006).

Leaving the Land: Emigration in the Book of Genesis

253

being her brother. Sarah participates in the scheme and, as implied by the fact that the king is punished (see Gen 26:10), is apparently compromised sexually by the Egyptian king. In spite of this, Abraham has no problem reuniting with his wife at the end of the episode. These “problematic” elements make the late authorship of the episode appear rather unlikely. 70 This says nothing, however, about the question of when it was incorporated into the book of Genesis. Many scholars have noted that the parallel story of the “ancestress in danger” in Gen 20 seems to provide a more palatable alternative to the episode in Gen 12. 71 To recall just part of the evidence, this story insists that Abraham did not really lie about his wife being his sister (v. 12), and it insists that no actual sexual contact occurred between the king and Sarah (vv. 4, 6). Surely, however, the creation of an alternative indicates that there was an attempt to replace the original and not merely to supplement it. In itself, Gen 20 does not solve all the problematic issues raised in Gen 12, if that story is preserved as an earlier episode in the lives of Abraham and Sarah. It is noteworthy that one of the changes introduced in Gen 20 is the location of the narrative. The setting of the story is Gerar, not Egypt. There is also no reference to any famine in the land. Surely these changes are not accidental. Gerar, as I noted above, can be interpreted as being situated within the bounds of the land of promise, and Abraham’s journey there would not constitute an abandonment of the land. The removal of the reference to the famine as the reason for Abraham’s wandering also improves the presentation, because the land of promise is no longer depicted in problematic terms. These “improvements” upon the tradition of “the ancestress in danger” can only be of significance, however, if the “original” was actually supplanted. If Gen 20 was simply added as a second episode, the effect would have been counterproductive, for now it appears that Abraham did not learn his lesson from the first incident. Even worse, it appears that he learned that the ruse was both effective and lucrative and was worth a second round! 70.  We should also note the relatively unapologetic manner in which the story relates that Abraham left for Egypt. According to Gen 46:1–5a, as we have seen, Jacob agreed to go down to Egypt only after turning to God in sacrifice and receiving explicit approval for the journey along with a clear guarantee that he would return to the land. Similarly, when Jacob leaves for Haran, he is assured that the promises to Abraham will be fulfilled (28:13–15). Abraham, in contrast, neither turns to the Lord for approval nor receives divine assurances about his return or about the national promises. The unapologetic nature of the report of Abraham’s leaving places it within the texts that belong to the first approach to emigration, many of which appear to be relatively early. 71. J.  Van Seters, Abraham in History and Tradition (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1975), 167–91. A. Shinan and Y. Zakovitch, Abram and Sarai in Egypt: Gen 12:10–20 in the Bible, the Old Versions and the Ancient Jewish Literature ( Jerusalem: The Hebrew University, 1983), 133–39 [Hebrew].

254

Chapter 4

The appearance of Gen 20 in the book of Genesis may thus provide further evidence of an earlier stage in the compilation of the book. At this stage, the episode of Abraham and Sarah in Egypt was not incorporated. 72 Though the tradition reflected in the story of Abraham’s descent to Egypt was clearly known, the story itself was vigorously opposed and suppressed. This conscious suppression of the tradition is probably also reflected in the insistence of Gen 26:5 that Abraham obeyed all of God’s “commandments, laws, and teachings.” The implication of the story of Abraham’s sojourn in Egypt that Abraham’s wife was sexually compromised (Gen 12:17) was in itself extremely problematic. This problem was compounded by the fact that Abraham was said to have taken his wife back after being sexually compromised, in clear opposition to biblical law (Deut 24:1–4). In this context, the insistence that Abraham obeyed all of God’s “commandments, laws, and teachings” appears as an emphatic denial of Abraham’s alleged sin and may well reflect the same conscious suppression of Gen 12:10–20 as does the improved version in Gen 20. This, however, leads to another question. If the story of Abraham and Sarah in Egypt was not part of the original form of Genesis, and if indeed it was actively suppressed, why was it finally inserted in the book? This question is particularly pressing, given the objectionable elements found in the story. What motivated a late editor to insert the story, in spite of its many difficulties? And why insert it specifically at this juncture in the narrative, when Abraham has just arrived and been given the promise of inheritance of the land? I suggest that this tradition was inserted specifically at this juncture in Genesis in order to negate and reject the idea that the land promise to Abraham implies an obligation to remain in the land. The idea that Abraham was obliged to live in the land is probably implied in the initial command to go to the land to become a great nation (12:1–4a = non-Priestly material). Indeed, the command to Abraham to break away from his father’s house (which most naturally implies that this occurred during the father’s lifetime) may in itself articulate a rejection of the idea that one could or should return to the homeland in order to maintain marital ties with the family of origins. Living in the new land of the new Lord and receiving his divine blessings require an absolute and radical severance from the old homeland. Abraham is addressed in terminology reminiscent of the psalm72. Another indication that the story of Abraham in Egypt is secondary is the fact that, as first noted by Naḥmanides (and see Cassuto, A Commentary on the Book of Genesis, 2.334–36; Shinan and Zakovitch, Abram and Sarai in Egypt, 139–40), it seems to prefigure the exodus theme. Abraham, like Israel, goes to Egypt in the wake of a famine and is expelled from there with great riches, while Pharaoh is afflicted by God with a plague. The exodus theme is basically alien to the book of Genesis, being referred to again only in Gen 15:13–16 and at the very end of the book. See Dozeman and Schmid, A Farewell to the Yahwist?

Leaving the Land: Emigration in the Book of Genesis

255

ist’s address to the Tyrian princess who comes marry the king: “Forget your people and your father’s house, and let the king be aroused by your beauty; since he is your lord, bow to him” (Ps 45:12). The non-Priestly command of Gen 12:1–4a may thus constitute a subtle polemic against emigration to Mesopotamia. It is surely significant that in the Priestly version of Abraham’s initial journey to the land no command is given at all (Gen 11:27–32; 12:4b– 5). 73 Abraham is not forced to break away from his father’s house to follow the divine call to the land of promise. Rather, he continues in his father’s footsteps and goes of his own accord to the land that his father initially set out for, after his father passed away. If Abraham arrives in the land of his own accord (Gen 11:27–32; 12:5), he does not reverse a divine command when he leaves it. 74 If he was never required to break away from his father’s house, there can be nothing wrong with returning to it and maintaining ties with it. This Priestly openness toward emigration fits well with what we have seen of the Priestly material in Genesis elsewhere in this chapter. The contrary idea that the divine land grant entailed an implicit obligation to remain in the land is practically made explicit in both Gen 24:6–8 and 26:2–5, and it is strongly implied in the ideology of the inhabitants of the land referred to in Ezek 11:14–15 and 23:24. Ezekiel, we recall, rejects the reliance of the inhabitants of the land on the precedent of Abraham and insists that the remnant in the land will not succeed in possessing it. Instead they will die, and the land will become desolate. Now, one can hardly imagine that the inhabitants of the land who relied on the precedent of Abraham for their own hopes for prosperity in the land would have propagated the tradition about a heavy famine that drove Abraham himself out of the land no sooner than he had arrived! However, a tradition of this sort would certainly further the interests of individuals who sought to legitimate or even to favor the exiles, and perhaps particularly the Egyptian exile. This concern would cohere well with the depiction of the Egyptians as completely innocent of any evil intention with regard to Abraham and Sarah. Even after the Egyptians suffer divine affliction because of the ruse of the couple, the Egyptian king does not seek to harm them or even to take back from Abraham the riches he had bestowed on him as brother of the queen. He simply has the couple escorted to the border. This is depicted as being perfectly understandable. It is instructive in this connection to recall the prophecy of Jer 42 against the people who sought to leave for Egypt after the murder of Gedaliah ben 73. For an analysis of this material, see ch. 1, pp.  46–49: A Renewed Emphasis on the Centrality of the Land: The Exodus of Abraham from His Home. 74. The “debate” here between the Priestly and non-Priestly material is somewhat analogous to the much later medieval debate between Maimonides and Naḥmanides on the question whether or not there is a biblical injunction to live in the land of Israel. On this debate, see Nehorai, “The Land of Israel in Maimonides and Naḥmanides.”

256

Chapter 4

Ahikam. Jeremiah promises the remnants that they will prosper and be rebuilt only if they remain in the land. 75 The people, however, seek to move to Egypt, “to sojourn there” (v.  15), particularly because of “the famine that they are worried about” (v. 16). Their ultimate hope is to “return to this place” (v. 18). Jeremiah warns them that, if they leave for Egypt, they will never come back. Instead, they will die by sword, plague, and hunger (v. 17). The story of Abraham’s stay in Egypt may well have served the interests of these and similar groups of people. Abraham himself, after all, left the land of Israel for Egypt “to sojourn there, since the famine was severe in the land” (Gen 12:10), and this was not deemed a sinful rejection of the divine promise but, rather, a necessary pragmatic strategy. In spite of the potential dangers involved in life outside the land, the Lord protected Abraham’s interests, restored his wife to him, and allowed Abraham and Sarah to return to the land unscathed—and with the riches of Pharaoh in their hands! God was clearly with Abraham in exile. The divine prohibition against Isaac’s going to Egypt (Gen 26:2–5; see below) must therefore have been directed, implies the supplementer, toward Isaac alone. Later day Israelites could leave the land for Egypt just as Abraham did, without jeopardizing their share in the promises to Abraham of divine protection and blessing. The fact that the story of Abraham’s descent to Egypt was situated by the supplementer just at the moment when he was depicted as arriving in the land and receiving the land promise is surely significant. This editorial strategy indicates a negation of the idea expressed in Gen 24:5–8 and 26:2–5 that the land promise to Abraham implies a prohibition against emigration. True, Isaac became rich, gaining more and more flocks and herds because he remained in the land and received the blessing of Abraham (Gen 26:2–5, 12–14). Yet Abraham himself was the recipient of this very same blessing, acquiring “sheep, oxen, he-asses, menservants, maidservants, she-asses, and camels” (Gen 12:16) specifically when he went to Egypt. The divine blessings thus followed Abraham wherever he went. The same situation can be expected to pertain to Abraham’s descendants. Egypt is potentially a land of opportunity.

The Prohibition of Emigration to Egypt in Genesis 26:1–6 Let us now analyze the second text belonging to the “second” approach, Gen 26:1–6. Here also Isaac is prohibited from leaving the land. This time, however, the prohibition comes not from the mouth of Abraham but from the mouth of the Lord. 75.  For an analysis of this text and its relation to Jer 24, see Rom-Shiloni, “Exiles and Those Who Remained,” 127–28. She contends that Jeremiah’s own position was land oriented and that Jer 24 reflects the exilic view of the editors.

Leaving the Land: Emigration in the Book of Genesis

257

There was a famine in the land—aside from the previous famine that had occurred in the days of Abraham—and Isaac went to Abimelech, king of the Philistines, to Gerar. The Lord appeared to him and said, “Do not go down to Egypt; live in the land that I will indicate to you. Reside in this land, and I will be with you and bless you; I will give all these lands to you and to your offspring, fulfilling the oath that I swore to your father Abraham. I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars of heaven, and give to your descendants all these lands, so that all the nations of the earth shall bless themselves by your offspring—inasmuch as Abraham obeyed me and followed my mandate, my commandments, my laws, and my teachings.” So Isaac lived in Gerar.

As I have repeatedly noted, it has been rather widely recognized that many of the passages containing the oath to the patriarchs must be seen as secondary additions. There are several indications, highlighted nicely by Gunkel in particular, 76 that this is true of the patriarchal oath in our chapter. The secondary character of the oath material is seen most clearly in the emphasis on the merit of Abraham, the cross-reference to Gen 22:15–18 (the binding of Isaac story), and the late-sounding language of v. 5b’s expansion (in comparison with Gen 22:18b), ‫וישמר משמרתי מצותי חקתי‬ ‫ותרתי‬, which anachronistically depicts Abraham as an ideal observer of the law. 77 The bulk of the chapter implies that the Lord blessed Isaac because of his own merit (vv. 12, 28) and not because of any previous oath to a law-observant Abraham. It can indeed be convincingly demonstrated that all the other references to Abraham in this chapter (vv. 1, 15, 18, 24) are secondary and editorial. 78 Though many scholars generally accept the secondary nature of the oath material in this chapter, the precise contours of the addition remain unclear, and some people attempt to reconstruct an original core theophany that is integral to the narrative. 79 In my opinion, it is best to consider 76.  Gunkel, Genesis, 294–96. 77.  The depiction of Abraham as observant of the law and as therefore meriting the divine blessings should be compared with Gen 18:19. There it is the virtue of following the way of the Lord in doing what is just in general terms that characterizes Abraham and is the source of his merit. 78.  Gunkel, Genesis, 294–96; M. Noth, A History of Pentateuchal Traditions: Translated with an introduction by Bernhard W. Anderson (Engelwood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1972), 104 n. 302. 79. The most common critical solution to the difficult structure of the verses is to excise v. 2b as an E fragment (or a gloss) that was incorporated into the surrounding J narrative and to preserve v. 3a for the original J narrative (S. R. Driver, The Book of Genesis [WC; London: Methuen, 1906], 250). Consequently, vv. 3b–5 are attributed to the late supplementer, and the original story is found in vv. 2a, 3a, and 6. The original text, before the addition of the supplement, thus read: “There was a famine in the land—aside from the previous famine that had occurred in the days of Abraham—and Isaac went to Abimelech, king of the Philistines, to Gerar. The Lord appeared to him and said, ‘Do not go down to Egypt. Reside in this land, and I will be with you and bless you.’ So Isaac lived in

258

Chapter 4

the entire theophany of vv. 2–5 as late. 80 In the original form of the narrative, Isaac simply left for the territory of the Philistines in response to the famine (v. 1) and settled in Gerar (v. 6). The sequence of “going” (v. 1) and then “settling” (v. 6) is indeed found in v. 17 of the same chapter. It is also found in Gen 22:19: ‫ וישב אברהם בבאר שבע‬,‫וילכו יחדיו אל באר שבע‬. The subsequent narrative shows no signs of a theophany in which the Lord appeared to Isaac and offered him reassurances of protection. If Isaac had known of the promise that the Lord would be with him, he would not have needed to present his wife as his sister. In the original form of the narrative, Isaac’s journey to the land of the Philistines was not intended as a mere stopping point on the way to Egypt (v. 2). It was, rather, Isaac’s intended destination, just as it was Abraham’s in Gen 20. It was only the author of the supplemented theophany speech who sought to interpret the journey to the land of the Philistines as a stopping point on the way to Egypt. Gerar.” This analysis cannot be accepted on several grounds. There is no tension between v. 2a (“The Lord appeared to him and said, ‘Do not go down to Egypt’”) and v. 2b (“live in the land that I will indicate to you”) that justifies their separation, and no particular sign that v. 2b belongs to E. Nor is the designation of v. 2b as a gloss (Skinner, Genesis, 364) very helpful. What might have been the purpose of adding this supposed gloss or E fragment, “live in the land that I will indicate to you,” between vv. 2a and 3a? It only adds confusion and inconsistency. Nor is there any justification for the separation of vv. 3a (“Reside in this land, and I will be with you and bless you”) and 3b (“I will give all these lands to you and to your offspring, fulfilling the oath that I swore to your father Abraham”). On the contrary, the promise of v. 3a ‫ ואהיה עמך ואברכך‬stands alone poorly without that which follows. We may compare this material with v. 24, where the Lord again promises Isaac ‫כי אתך אנכי‬ ‫וברכתיך והרביתי את זרעך בעבור אברהם עבדי‬. Even if we were to remove v. 2b from the narrative, the reading of vv. 2a and 3a following v. 1 would remain difficult. This reconstruction of the original text requires the assumption that the revelation of v. 2a warning Isaac against going to Egypt was given after Isaac had gone to Gerar as related in v. 1 and as implied in the words of v. 3a, “sojourn in this land” (note the implied reference to ‫ גרר‬in the verb ‫—גור‬cf. 20:1, 21:23). This, however, does not fit well with the formulation of v. 1. There is no indication in v. 1 that Isaac’s journey to Gerar was intended as a mere way station. On the contrary, the text states that Isaac’s response to the famine was that he “went to Abimelech, the king of the Philistines, to Gerar.” The natural implication is that Gerar was Isaac’s intended destination, not that it was a mere way station. Had the text intended to state that Isaac was on his way to Egypt and merely arrived at Gerar, it would have said so. This, for example, is what is stated about Terah in Gen 11:31. It clearly states in this passage that Terah took his family from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to the land of Canaan and arrived at Haran and lived there. If, according to our verse, Isaac went to Abimelech in response to the famine, this must have been his intended destination. Why then would it be necessary for God to tell Isaac not to go to Egypt in response to the hunger, if he had already chosen to go to Gerar? Finally, this reconstruction of the original story does not tally well with the findings of this study. According to this reconstruction, the insistence that Isaac reside in the land and the opposition to the possibility that he might leave for Egypt belong to the original, early form of the story. We have seen, on the other hand, that most opposition to leaving the land, or divine justification thereof, belongs to the editorial stages of narrative composition (= approaches two and three). 80.  Westermann (Genesis, 12–36, 424) first suggests this analysis but then goes on to consider the possibility that vv. 2a and 3a belong to the original story.

Leaving the Land: Emigration in the Book of Genesis

259

Why present Isaac as originally seeking to go to Egypt when v. 1 gives absolutely no indication that this was the case? Obviously, the idea that Isaac had hoped to go to Egypt was introduced by the supplementer so that the option of emigration to Egypt could be presented as illegitimate. Isaac’s stay in Gerar could then be expounded as an expression of the imperative to remain in the land, even during the harsh conditions of famine. Had he left for Egypt, Isaac would have forfeited his right to inherit the land. Abraham was given the promise of land and progeny because he heeded the various commandments of the Lord, one of which was to go to the land—a command that at least implicitly required remaining there. Isaac must do the same and heed the command to live in the land so that the oath to Abraham may be fulfilled through him. According to this reconstruction, the development of the text in Gen 26 corresponds well with what we have seen in other texts. It is predominantly in later editorial sections that we find a marked concern with the issue of leaving the land. As I have noted, some scholars consider the divine prohibition to Isaac, “do not go down to Egypt,” to reflect an implicit criticism of Abraham’s departure to Egypt, as reported in Gen 12 and mentioned in the supplement to v. 1 (“aside from the previous famine that had occurred in the time of Abraham”). This position, I further noted, is difficult since the supplemental material of vv.  2–5 depicts Abraham in the most idealistic terms possible. It therefore seems that we must distinguish between the supplement in vv. 2–5 and the supplement in v. 1. The supplement in vv. 2–5 prohibits Isaac from leaving for Egypt, on the basis of the oath to the ideal figure of Abraham. This supplement, far from offering a criticism of Abraham for leaving for Egypt, is either ignorant of this tradition or polemically denies it. (This, I argued, is the implicit position of Gen 24:5–8 as well.) The supplement to v. 1 was apparently added later, at the time when the story of Abraham’s departure for Egypt was inserted into the Genesis narrative. If the paradigm of going down to Egypt in response to famine, which our supplement raises and rejects, was not thought of as being represented by Abraham, by whom was it thought to be represented? It seems clear that the criticism implied in the warning “do not go down to Egypt” is directed at Jacob, for it was Jacob who went down to Egypt in response to the famine. As we have seen, in the original form of the text in Gen 45–46, Jacob leaves the land for Egypt without any divine approval and without any qualms or reservations. It is therefore reasonable to assume that it was this “Jacob paradigm” that the supplementer sought to reject. Jacob’s descent to Egypt in response to the famine is implicitly depicted here as sinful. This might even have provided an explanation for the terrible suffering of the Israelites in Egypt. 81 The slavery and suffering of the Israelites in Egypt, 81. The idea that servitude in Egypt was divinely ordained as a punishment is not explicitly found in the Bible. We may surmise, however, that an intimation of this idea

260

Chapter 4

intimated the supplementer, were the outcome and punishment of the sinful and illegitimate departure from the land. The same situation is reflected in Gen 24:5–8. There, too, we found that the paradigm that is rejected—that of going to Padan Aram in order to marry within the family—is represented by Jacob. The two supplements relating to Isaac thus stand together as a rejection of the Jacob paradigm, and both rejections are carried out in the name of the symbolic life of Abraham. The two excursions of Jacob, the first to Mesopotamia and the second to Egypt, are together presented in the Isaac texts as standing in conflict with the command to Abraham to go to the land and with the promise that was bound with this command. Again, this stance implies much more than a personal criticism of Jacob as an individual. Jacob’s behavior is paradigmatic of future Israelite behavior. If Jacob can leave for Mesopotamia for marital purposes or to escape local danger, surely his descendants can do so as well. The same is true with regard to Jacob’s journey to Egypt in response to famine in the land of Israel. It could easily be cited by later-day Israelites seeking to legitimize a similar descent to Egypt. I have already suggested in the case of Gen 24:5–8 that the rejection of the permissibility of leaving the land for marital purposes reflects an inner­ biblical polemic against the “Jacob paradigm,” specifically as presented in the Priestly narrative, which presents Isaac as sending Jacob off to Padan Aram to marry within the family. I suggested that this “anti-Priestly” polemic may be broadly placed in the exilic and/or postexilic times. The same may be said of the polemic of Gen 26:2–5 against going down to Egypt. The Lord bestowed his blessings on the ideal figure of Abraham, the supplementer of these verses asserted, and promised to transfer these blessings to his descendants. His only demand of these descendants of Abraham, personified here in the figure of Isaac, is that they remain in the land and not go to Egypt. Again, it is specifically the Priestly passages of the Joseph narrative that present Joseph as giving Jacob and his family a permanent inheritance in the land of Egypt (Gen 47:11, 27). Here too, then, the land-

was implied or understood to be implied in the depiction of Israel’s stay in Egypt in terms of “the iron furnace” (Deut 4:20; 1 Kgs 8:51; Jer 11:4). The image is clearly employed in terms of punishment and refinement in Ezek 22:17–22. In Isa 48:10, the prophet describes the Babylonian Exile in terms of a refining “furnace of suffering.” In light of the fact that this prophet thinks of the redemption from the Babylonian exile as a second exodus (on this, see B. W. Anderson, “Exodus Typology in Second Isaiah,” in Israel’s Prophetic Heritage [ed. B.  W. Anderson and W.  Harrelson; London: SCM, 1962], 177–95), it seems reasonable to assume that he thought of Israel’s period in “the iron furnace” as a similar time of retribution and chastisement. Other intimations of the idea that slavery in Egypt was a punishment for earlier sins are suggested by Zakovitch, And You Shall Tell Your Son, 15–45. I do not find these suggestions compelling, however.

Leaving the Land: Emigration in the Book of Genesis

261

centered polemic against departure for Egypt appears to be directed, at least in part, at the exilic-oriented Priestly material. 82

82.  Several scholars have correctly identified Gen 47:11, 27 as belonging to P (Gunkel, Genesis, 458; Westermann, Genesis 37–50, 171–72). It may be significant that P similarly allows the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and half of Menasseh an ‫ אחזה‬in territory that belongs outside the land of Canaan (Num 32:32). The Joseph narrative displays a lack of unity on the issue of the move by the brothers to Egypt. The idea that the move to Egypt, specifically to the land of Goshen, was due to the initiative of Joseph (Gen 45:9–13) is contradicted in Gen 45:16–20, where the initiative and command to live off the “fat of the land” come from Pharaoh. This latter passage betrays signs of the Priestly style (compare . . . ‫זאת עשו‬ ‫ קחו‬. . . in vv. 17–19 with Num 16:6–7; ‫ בעירכם‬in v. 17 with Num 20:4; note also that the material leads into 46:6–27, which is universally recognized as Priestly). Gen 46:31–47:4, according to which Joseph presents five of his brothers who have come to the land of Goshen to Pharaoh so that they might request that the king grant them a stay in that land, seems totally unaware of Gen 45:16–20, according to which the stay in the land was already bestowed as a free gesture by the king. Indeed, the presentation of the brothers to Pharaoh has all the appearances of a first introduction. In Gen 46:31 and 47:1, Joseph informs Pharaoh of the arrival of his brothers, even though Pharaoh has already heard this on his own in 45:16. The brothers tell Pharaoh in Gen 47:4 that they have come to sojourn in Egypt because of the famine, not that they have come in compliance with his instructions. Pharaoh seems totally unaware of the fact that they were already in Egypt before and that they are back again at his own bidding. In 47:11, we are told that Joseph settled his father and brothers in the land of Egypt “as Pharaoh commanded.” It is unclear, however, if this verse presupposes the request to settle in Goshen or if it refers to the king’s grant of the “best of the land of Egypt” that was given to them by his own initiative in 45:16–20. The fact that Joseph settles them “in the best of the land, in the land of Ramses” seems to indicate that the verse does not presuppose the request to live in the land of Goshen. There is no mention here of the land of Goshen, just as it is not mentioned in the initial grant of Pharaoh. The land of Ramses most naturally refers to a different location. The verses that speak of the land of Goshen depict it as a distinct territory outside the heart of Egypt. The Israelites, as breeders of livestock, cannot live together with the Egyptians, who abhor shepherds, and this is why they settle in the isolated district of the land of Goshen. Pharaoh’s grant gives no hint of any such isolation. It seems, then, that 47:5–6 must be separated from the material that precedes it (v. 6b appears to be a secondary conflation, also evident in the mention of Goshen in v. 27). Now, in the account of the request for settlement in the land of Goshen, the brothers state, “We have come to sojourn in the land, for there is no pasture for your servants’ flocks, for the famine is harsh in the land of Canaan” (47:4). However, in the account of the settlement of the Israelites at the command of Pharaoh, we find that Joseph gives them a “possession.” The difference in terminology is highly significant. People who sojourn do not have title to the land, but people with a possession do. It seems that we have here two conceptions with regard to Israel’s status in Egypt. The verses that attribute to Joseph the initiative of bringing his family to Egypt reflect the widespread biblical idea that the Israelites were sojourners in Egypt (Gen 15:13; Exod 22:20, 23:9; Lev 19:34; Deut 10:19, 23:8; etc). The Priestly verses that speak of Pharaoh as bringing Joseph’s family on his own initiative seem to reflect the unique idea that the Israelites were landowners there. One wonders what motivated the emergence of this Priestly tradition. Is it possible that this tradition reflects the concerns of the exilic community in Egypt to validate its permanent status as landowners by attributing its territory as being granted by the Pharaoh in the ancient days of Joseph?

262

Chapter 4

It is also significant that the rejected basket of “bad figs” in Jer 24 was made up, not only of people who would remain in the land after the exile of Jehoiachin, but also of people who “dwell in the land of Egypt” ( Jer 24:8). Later, after the final destruction and the murder of Gedaliah ben Ahikam, Jeremiah rejected the hopes of those who sought to divert the hardships of war and famine in the land by leaving for Egypt. The community that left “to sojourn in Egypt” would die there, proclaimed Jeremiah, and would never succeed in fulfilling its hopes of returning to the land ( Jer 42–44). 83 Indeed, Jeremiah here insisted that only if the remnant of Judah would remain in the land and not go down to Egypt would they be sustained and restored ( Jer 42:7–17). 84 The ideology of Gen 26:2–5 is perfectly consistent with this. The insistence that Isaac not go to Egypt may also be associated with the somewhat enigmatic references in Deut 17:16 and 28:68 to a divine prohibition against returning there. 85 Numbers 13–14 may also belong somewhere within this general context. 86 Those who cast aspersions on the fertility of the land (13:32) and seek to go back to Egypt (14:3–4) are condemned to death and excluded from those who will inherit the land. Egypt and Mesopotamia were indeed the two major centers of Israelite communal life that developed after the exile. It is striking that the two texts that prevent Isaac from leaving the land, Gen 24:5–8 and Gen 26:2– 5, reject the options of leaving for Mesopotamia and Egypt, respectively. The rejection of the option of leaving for either of these locations in the texts associated with Isaac may indicate that they both belong within the same general provenance—that of the land of Israel in the exilic/postexilic periods.

Genesis 26:2–5 and the Conception of the Completeness of the Land of Promise The concern of Gen 26:2–5 should not be limited to the delegitimation of emigration to Egypt. There seems to be a concern in our passage to depict Philistia as an integral part of the land of promise, not merely so as to 83.  In Jer 44:28, a few refugees are granted return to the land of Judah. In v. 27, however, the text speaks of utter destruction. Similarly, in v. 14 we find that, while the beginning of the sentence declares that there will be no refugee or remnant, the end of the sentence states that “they will not return—except some refugees.” It seems that the prophecy was updated at a later date to allow for a small number of returnees from Egypt. Originally, total destruction of the Egyptian exile was foreseen. 84.  See n. 75 above (p. 256). 85.  The exilic setting of Deut 28:68 is patent. The roots of the opposition toward going to Egypt may, however, be much earlier. 86.  For an analysis of the intricate process of the development of this text, see my Murmuring Stories of the Priestly School: A Retrieval of Ancient Sacerdotal Lore (VTSup 89; Leiden: Brill, 2002), 119–201.

Leaving the Land: Emigration in the Book of Genesis

263

deny that Isaac left the land, but also so as to promote the completeness of the land as an important conception in its own right. The distinction between the land of promise and the land of the Philistines has already been discussed above. In the parallel story of Abraham’s covenant with Abimelech, the independent status of the “land of the Philistines” (Gen 21:32, 34) is pronounced. The covenant is made not only with the Philistines as a people but also with “the land in which you sojourned” (21:23). The independent status of this territory is also implicit in Gen 26. In the original form of the story, Isaac goes to Gerar in response to the famine that was “in the land” (v. 1). Could not this formulation be understood as implying that Gerar is not part of “the land”? If so, does not the fact that Isaac abandoned the land imply that he forfeited his rights to it? After Isaac prospers in the new land, he is expelled from there (vv. 16, 27). He continually retreats when ownership of the wells that he digs is contested (vv. 17–22). This retreat again most naturally implies forfeiture of territorial claims in the future. Even when Isaac finally digs a well that is not contested, the one he calls ‫( רחבות‬v. 22), he thanks the Lord for “making space” for him so that he may be “fruitful in the land.” The implication of “making space” is that Isaac achieves limited settlement beside the Philistine settlers but certainly not hegemony over them. And though Isaac becomes “fruitful in the land,” there is no indication that this has anything to do with national promises of grand, national-territorial proportions. Rather, the Lord blesses Isaac by granting him success and fertility in alien territory, much the way that he blesses Jacob in Padan Aram (Gen 32:11) or Joseph in Egypt (Gen 39:2–5; 41:52). Alien territory even appears here to be much more fertile than the famine-stricken land of promise. God can bless Isaac in the land of the Philistines. He does not, however, provide the means for Isaac to live and prosper in the land of promise. When Isaac arrives in Beer Sheba, Abimelech comes there with his general in order to make a treaty of mutual nonbelligerence with him, in lieu of the hospitality that was offered to Isaac. Isaac makes a feast, the two “kinsmen,” as they are now called, make mutual oaths, and Abimelech is sent off in peace. The implication of the treaty is clear. The people and land of the Philistines are to be off-limits to the descendants of Isaac. Philistine territory must be recognized as a legitimate and autonomous entity. When Isaac suffered from drought in the land, the Philistine king provided hospitality in his land and offered Isaac and his wife regal protection from all would-be attackers. Isaac acknowledged the general hospitality of Abimelech through his oath at Beer Sheba, and this oath had clear ramifications for times to come. The covenant made in recognition of Philistine hospitality, particularly the account of Isaac’s submissive (some might even say cowardly) retreat from the wells that were rightfully his, fit well within the context of the “first”-approach texts, in which land settlement is depicted in nondogmatic and, I may add, nontotalistic terms.

264

Chapter 4

The addition of vv. 2–5, I contend, intends to reverse many of the “problematic” implications of the original story. First, these verses assert that “all these lands” (that is, both the land Isaac leaves and the one he enters) fall under the oath to Abraham. Thus, Isaac did not leave the land during a time of drought and did not forfeit his rights to the land of Abraham. Isaac did nothing more than move from one part of the “promised land” to another. Following the addition of vv. 2–5, we are made to understand that the blessing that Isaac experienced in the land of the Philistines (vv. 12, 22, 29) was not because he found grace in the eyes of the Lord within a foreign territory (like Jacob or Joseph) but because he inherited the blessings of Abraham related to the land of Canaan (cf. also v. 24). If, in the original narrative, the land of the Philistines is unabashedly a more sustaining land than the land of Canaan, with the addition of vv. 2–5, the entire distinction between the lands is made irrelevant. Isaac’s prosperity in the land of Gerar, far from “showing up” the fertility of the “land of milk and honey,” merely demonstrates it. The Lord may have allowed for a famine to occur in part of the land, but he did not thus abandon Isaac or force him to emigrate from the land of promise. Rather, he provided for Isaac and explicitly directed him to another district in the land promised to Abraham that would be capable of sustaining him. With the addition of vv.  2–5, Isaac can retreat from the wells he dug and make a pact of nonbelligerence with Abimelech without bearing the stain of cowardly capitulation to aggression. Isaac’s forfeiture of the wells could hardly revoke the divine oath to Abraham for future generations. Indeed, Isaac’s continual retreat and relinquishing of wells now appears to be a prudent avoidance of unnecessary confrontation. The entire Philistine territory would eventually belong to Israel regardless of the question who originally dug the wells. Ownership of the land was based on divine promises, not on mundane matters such as the digging of wells. A temporary concession to the belligerence of the Philistines could not impinge on the eternal promises of the Lord of Abraham. At the end of the day, the entirety of the land of Israel would be in Israelite hands. Elsewhere in Genesis, we also find this concern to deny patriarchal emigration by affirming a totalistic approach to the entirety of the land as being thoroughly “Israelite.” We may compare the concern reflected here with the divine promise to Abraham in Gen 13:14–17. This divine promise concerning the land, made at the time of the parting of Abraham and Lot, has been recognized as secondary since the days of Wellhausen. 87 The verse interrupts the notices about the movements of Lot and Abraham (vv. 12– 13, 18), which most naturally belong together. Why was the land promise

87. J. Wellhausen, Die Composition des Hexateuchs und die historischen Bucher des Alten Testaments (Berlin: Reimer, 1885), 23–24.

Leaving the Land: Emigration in the Book of Genesis

265

added specifically at this juncture in the text? According to Gunkel, 88 the purpose of the insertion is to provide a better motivation for the possession of Canaan. According to the old account, Canaan belongs to Abraham because Lot freely relinquished it. The pious glossator did not consider this secular motivation sufficient and therefore added that later, Yahweh explicitly promised the land to Abraham. Gunkel’s explanation of the general motivation behind the addition is well taken. I must add, however, that the old story not only depicted Lot as freely relinquishing the land of Canaan, it also depicted Abraham as freely relinquishing “the whole plain of the Jordan” (v. 11). This could be taken as an implicit recognition of the rights of the Ammonites and Moabites, the descendants of Lot, to this territory. This is especially true since, according to v. 12, when Lot dwelled in the cities of the plain, Abraham dwelled in the land of Canaan. This implies that the cities of the plain stand outside of the territory of Canaan promised to Abraham. Even if it is true that the area chosen by Lot because of its great fertility turned into a great wasteland when the Lord overturned it with sulfur and fire, it nonetheless seems likely that later adherents to a totalistic view of the land would find the relinquishing of this area theologically objectionable. 89 It is for this reason, I believe, that the supplementer or editor, just at this juncture depicted the Lord as calling on Abraham to lift his eyes and look out as far as he could see in all directions. This language recalls the statement in the old narrative, in v. 10, “Now Lot lifted his eyes and saw the entire plain of the Jordan.” If God now gives Abraham all the land that can be seen from this spot when one lifts one’s eyes and looks around, then the plain of the Jordan, seen and chosen by Lot and ostensibly forfeited by Abraham, is now affirmed as nevertheless belonging to Abraham. This is also the import of the final words of the supplement, “Get up and walk about the land, through its length and its breadth, for I give it to you” (v. 17). Here also, the entire land, including all its extremities, is affirmed as belonging to the seed of Abraham. The implication is that both the plain of the Jordan on the east and the land of the Philistines on the west constitute inherent parts of the land of promise. Another Genesis text, Gen 10:19, also seems to reflect a similar totalistic conception of the land of Israel. This passage emphasizes that “the territory 88.  Gunkel, Genesis, 175. 89.  I do not fully concur with the interpretation of L. R. Heyler (“The Separation of Abraham and Lot: Its Significance in the Patriarchal Narratives,” JSOT 26 [1983]: 77–88), who sees the promise as an affirmation that Abraham will indeed have an heir who will inherit the land, in spite of the fact that the only potential heir, Lot, has just now departed from the land of Canaan. Though it may be granted that Lot’s departure raises the issue of the heir, it is obvious from the perspective of the supplementary verses that Lot does not leave the land of promise. The land forfeited to Lot will eventually belong to Abraham’s seed.

266

Chapter 4

of the Canaanites extended from Sidon until you come to Gerar, as far as Gaza, and until you come to Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboiim, as far as Lasha.” It seems clear, as noted by Cassuto, 90 that the description of the territory of the Canaanites within the context of the history of the sons of Noah is not for the purposes of ancient historical geography. The issue of the settlement of the ancient Canaanites had direct relevance to the later land claims of the Israelites. If the Israelites considered themselves the rightful heirs of the land of the Canaanites, it was important to determine where the original Canaanites settled. The assertion that the ancient Canaanites lived in the area of Gerar and in the area of the plain of the Jordan amounts to an assertion that all that territory is now Israelite. In the case of Gerar, it probably intends to affirm that the Philistines were latecomers to the area and that the territory that they occupied was Canaanite. This territory therefore belonged to the Israelites (cf. Josh 13:3). 91 This assertion of Gen 10:19 has significant exegetical ramifications for the subsequent patriarchal narratives. The patriarchs who would sojourn in Gerar could no longer be seen as having left Israelite territory. And any covenants that the patriarchs may have made with the Philistines could not contravene the fact that the territory was promised to the Israelites. In the case of the plain of the Jordan, it should be noted that, in spite of the infamous fate of the cities of Sodom, the general area was said to have been well populated at the time of the conquest (cf. Num 13:29). And in eschatological times, it was destined to become exceedingly fertile and to be the site of a great fishing industry (Ezek 47:1–12). It was thus important to insist that this territory also was Canaanite and ultimately belonged, therefore, to Israel. The statement of Gen 10:19 that the land of Canaan included the cities of Sodom is a pointed rejection of Gen 13:12. As we noted above, that verse contrasts the cities of the plain, where Lot settled, with the land of Canaan, where Abraham lived. By insisting that the cities of Sodom were included in the land of Canaan, Gen 10:19 “restored” this territory to Israelite claims. 92 It is this territorial restoration that is accomplished by the addition of vv. 2–5 in Gen 26. 90.  Cassuto, A Commentary on the Book of Genesis, 2.212–16. 91.  We should also compare Deut 2:23, which asserts that the Caphtorim—that is, the Philistines—conquered and settled in the territory of the Avvim. Within the context of Deut 2, however, the implication of the fact that the Philistines conquered the southern coastland from the original inhabitants seems to be that it does not rightfully belong to the Israelites. After all, the successful conquests of the sons of Esau and the sons of Lot were taken as evidence of divine intervention in providing them with inheritances that the Israelites could not take (vv. 5, 9–12, 19). A similar position is apparently taken by the prophet Amos (9:7), who asserts the divine providence behind the settlement of the Philistines and puts it on equal terms with the providence reflected in the Israelite settlement. 92.  It may be instructive to refer here to the Chronicler’s rewriting of the story of Solomon’s deliverance of 20 cities in the Galilee to Hiram, king of Tyre, in exchange for the wood and gold that the latter provided for Solomon’s construction plans (1 Kgs 11:10–13).

Leaving the Land: Emigration in the Book of Genesis

267

Summary I have attempted to show that various layers of material in the patriarchal tradition reflect variant conceptions regarding the legitimacy of emigrating from the land. Often these conceptions are expressed in the form of polemical allusions to other biblical traditions. The issue of emigration reflects much more than the narrow, technical question whether and under what conditions one may legitimately leave the land. Ultimately, the issue is a reflection of the broad question about the centrality of life in the land for Israel’s national and religious identity and destiny. The fact that the book of Genesis preserves so many voices on this issue is a tribute to the vigor with which the debate concerning Israel’s destiny was pursued. In the Chronicler’s version, the exchange simply did not occur. On the contrary, it was Hiram who gave cities to Solomon. Solomon not only built up these cities but settled them with Israelites (2 Chr 8:1–2). Apparently, the Chronicler found the original story, according to which Solomon gave away cities of the land of Israel to the king of Tyre, ideologically objectionable. How could the building of the palace of the king, and of the very Temple of the Lord, be founded on the bartering away of sacred territory of the land of Israel? The original text in the book of Kings does not seem to find this state of affairs particularly troubling. On the contrary, the story reports that the territory that Solomon gave Hiram was of low quality and that Hiram, when he investigated the area, felt cheated. It indeed seems that the story sought to portray Solomon as a wise and cunning negotiator who succeeded in outwitting his partner. For the Chronicler, however, the forfeiting of 20 cities, regardless of their quality, would be theologically objectionable. The Chronicler thus replaced the original story with a story more in consonance with his idealistic portrayal of Solomon. Solomon, far from forfeiting cities in the land of Israel, expanded the territory of the land of Israel and made sure to settle the new territory with Israelite inhabitants, so that it would never return to foreign control. The ideological gap between the story in Kings and the story in Chronicles is comparable to the gap between the early material in Genesis belonging to the first approach, and the second and third approaches. In both instances, we witness a transition toward a more dogmatic approach to the entirety of the land as the sacred territory of the people of Israel. The negative attitude toward territorial concessions is apparently reflected in the story of the military confrontations between Ahab and Ben-hadad of Aram in 1 Kgs 20. Though Ahab is explicitly censured only for having allowing Ben-hadad to escape punishment (v. 42), one can hardly doubt that the presentation of Ahab’s restoration of the cities to Aram in v. 34 belongs to the author’s negative depiction of the king. It must be emphasized, however, that the purport of the addition in Gen 13:17 is to emphasize that Abraham’s apparent concession of land to Lot did not alter the fact that this land in principle belonged to Abraham and his seed. This is not the same as a rejection of the legitimacy of territorial concessions as a tactical maneuver. Isaac is never censured for retreating from the wells that he dug in Gen 26. The point that the land promise in ch. 26 emphasizes is that these wells and territories are nonetheless ultimately Israelite.

Chapter 5

The Religions of Canaan: Coexistence and Exclusiveness in the Book of Genesis The book of Genesis tells the story of the lives of the patriarchs in and around the land of Canaan, the land that is destined to serve as the homeland of the future Israelite people. The divine promise of the land in Genesis is usually formulated in rather general terms (for example, “I shall give your offspring this land”), and few specifics are provided about what lies in store for the local inhabitants. Is it assumed that the inhabitants will be expelled or annihilated? Might the assumption be that they will somehow be incorporated into the future Israelite state as a subjugated and oppressed population? Or might there be a vision of greater coexistence or assimilation between Israel and the local inhabitants? And what is thought to lie in store for the religious culture of the inhabitants, the cultic sites, and personnel? Is this also thought of as destined for destruction, or might it also be thought of as being destined for some form of incorporation in the broad framework of Israel’s religious culture? These questions may be asked not only with regard to the land promises in Genesis but with regard to all the narratives that depict the dealings of the patriarchs with the inhabitants of the land. Do these stories reflect a vision of exclusivism that ultimately denies non-Israelite inhabitants and culture a legitimate place in the land, or do they reflect a more tolerant vision of coexistence? In the present chapter, I shall argue that much of the material in the book of Genesis indeed reflects an outlook of religious and social tolerance toward the inhabitants of the land. This stance distinguishes these Genesis materials from the other books of the Pentateuch and points to the likelihood that much of it was developed, transmitted, and edited in its own distinct setting.

The Inhabitants of Canaan in the Pentateuchal Conquest Laws In order to appreciate the unique attitude of much of the Genesis materials toward the inhabitants of the land of Canaan, we need to review that which is stated concerning these inhabitants in the law codes of Exodus

268

Coexistence and Exclusiveness in the Book of Genesis

269

through Deuteronomy. 1 All of the pentateuchal law codes include instructions on how to deal with the inhabitants of the land at the time of the conquest. The various statements in the legal sections of the Pentateuch, traditionally assigned to J, E, P, and D, diverge in several details. They all coincide, however, in prohibiting the Israelites from maintaining any form of coexistence with the inhabitants of the land. The inhabitants must either be destroyed or banished. The reason for this demand is consistently presented in terms of the potentially dangerous religious influence that the local population would exert. Coexistence with the inhabitants in any form would inevitably lead to Israelite apostasy. Let us briefly review these texts. The Conquest Law in Exodus 23 The first law to deal with the treatment of the inhabitants at the time of the conquest is found in Exod 23:31b–33. Here we read: I shall deliver the inhabitants of the land into your hands, and you shall drive them out from before you. Do not form a covenant with them and with their gods. They must not dwell in your land, lest they make you sin against me, for you will worship their gods, for it 2 will be a stumbling block for you.

According to this text, the inhabitants must be driven out of the land, and no covenant may be formed with them. It should be noted that the formation of a covenant with the inhabitants of the land is explicitly defined as entailing a covenant with their gods as well (cf. Gen 31:53). This would probably entail a joint sacrificial meal (31:54) and oaths in which the gods of the parties would be invoked. 3 This could be seen as constituting a violation of the prohibition “Do not mention the name of other gods; it shall not be heard in your mouth” (Exod 23:13). 4 It does not seem from the wording of the law (vv. 31b–33), however, that the covenant ceremony, in and of itself, is deemed religious apostasy. Possibly, the initial covenant meal with the inhabitants would not entail actual worship of the foreign gods and would not therefore be reprehensible. Each side could theoretically invoke its own deity alone when the oaths were taken. The real problem, it seems, is not the covenant ceremony but that which would result from it in the future. The continued presence of communities of worshipers of other gods within the land would tempt the Israelites eventually to adopt these gods as objects of their own worship in future cultic 1. For a fundamental presentation of the issue, see M.  Weinfeld, The Promise of the Land: The Inheritance of the Land of Canaan by the Israelites (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993), 76–98; B. J. Schwartz, “Reexamining the Fate of the ‘Canaanites’ in the Torah Traditions,” in Sefer Moshe: The Moshe Weinfeld Jubilee Volume (ed. C. Cohen, A. Hurvitz, and S. M. Paul; Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2004), 151–70. 2.  LXX, Sam, and other witnesses read: “they.” 3.  See D. J. McCarthy, “Three Covenants in Genesis,” CBQ 26 (1964): 179–89. 4.  The verse prohibits the mentioning of other gods in oath. See also Josh 23:7.

270

Chapter 5

celebrations, whether joint or private. The way that this is to be prevented, according to Exod 23:31–33, is by driving the inhabitants out of the land. This, however, is not the only preventative measure that must be taken. Several verses earlier (23:23–24), we find another warning: When my angel goes before you and brings you to the Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Canaanites, Hivites, and Jebusites, and I annihilate them, you must not bow down to their gods in worship or follow their practices; 5 demolish them, and break down their monuments.

In spite of the fact that there is a certain distance between these two sections and that they may originally derive from distinct and independent origins, 6 the two laws have been brought together because they share a common concern. As we have noted in reference to v.  32, the covenant with the inhabitants was also a covenant with their gods. Since the basic threat posed by the inhabitants is religious in nature and not military, it is not enough to expel the inhabitants from the land. All remnants of the cult of the inhabitants must be destroyed (cf. also Judg 2:2). 7 The Conquest Law of Exodus 34:12–16 A similar, though in some ways more expansive law is found in Exod 34:12–16. The text reads as follows: Take care lest you form a covenant with the inhabitants of the land that you are entering, lest they be a stumbling block in your midst. You must smash their altars 8 and shatter their monuments, and cut down their 5. This last phrase interrupts the flow of the sentence and should be removed as a secondary assimilation from Lev 18:3. The call to “demolish them” obviously refers to the gods alluded to in the phrase “do not worship them” and not to the inhabitants. This solution seems to me preferable to the (hesitant) suggestion of I. L. Seeligmann (Studies in Biblical Literature [ed. A. Hurvitz, S. Japhet, and E. Tov; Jerusalem: Magnes, 1996], 119 n. 41 [Hebrew]) that the original text should read ‫הרס תהרס מזבחותיהם‬. 6.  According to vv. 23–24, the angel will lead the people to the land, and the Lord will annihilate them. What is left for the people is to destroy the gods and monuments. Verses 31–33, on the other hand, speak of Israel’s obligation to expel the inhabitants. 7.  The law struggles against a phenomenon that was probably widespread—the preservation and incorporation of non-Israelite cult sites into the Israelite religion. The phenomenon is probably illustrated in the history of the great “high place” at Gibeon, which was probably of non-Israelite origin and was converted into a Yahwistic site after the pact of Josh 9. See on this R. de Vaux, Ancient Israel: Its Life and Institutions (trans. J. McHugh; London: Darton, Longman & Todd, 1965), 305–6. A non-Israelite prehistory may be assumed for many of the Israelite sanctuaries. 8.  It is curious to note that there is no mention here or in Judg 2 of the command to destroy the gods themselves, as in 23:24. This is included in the list of objects to be destroyed in Deut 7:5 and Num 33:52. From there, it appears to have been reintroduced here in the LXX version. Nor is there mention here of the gods as participants in the covenant, as found in Exod 23:32. It seems that the altar, monument, and Asherah here play the role of the gods. This is indicated by the fact that the command to destroy these objects is followed by the explanatory statement, “for you shall not bow down to another

Coexistence and Exclusiveness in the Book of Genesis

271

Asheras; for you must not bow down to another god, for the Lord’s name is Jealous; he is a jealous God. Lest you form a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and they stray after their gods and sacrifice to their gods and invite you so that you eat from their sacrifices, and take from their daughters for your sons, and their daughters stray after their gods and make your sons stray after their gods.

It should be noted that in this passage, elements of the two sections of which we spoke above are combined into a single statement. The prohibition against forming a covenant with the inhabitants found in Exod 23:32 is united here with the command to destroy the cultic objects, expressed separately in Exod 23:24. Interestingly, this new combination fails to mention the command “you shall expel them from before you . . . they shall not inhabit your land” that is found in Exod 23:31–33. The prohibition against forming a covenant with the inhabitants is juxtaposed strictly with the positive command to destroy their cultic objects. This lacuna may well be significant. One can refrain from forming a covenant with inhabitants without actually destroying them all or expelling them all from the entire land. According to v. 24, the Lord will “broaden” Israel’s territory so that the Israelites will not need to fear attacks during pilgrimages. It is the Lord who promises to broaden Israel’s territory at a certain future point after the initial settlement. 9 Until that future expansion is accomplished by divine agency, Israel is required to distance itself from the inhabitant population and refrain from social, political, and religious interaction. It must also destroy the cultic sites within its orbit of control. It is not, however, required to expel all the inhabitants of the land immediately. We may thus say that, in comparison with the previous law, this one reflects a greater accommodation to the reality of a non-Israelite presence in the land without, however, compromising on what is still considered the ideal—the removal of all non-Israelites from the land. By placing the god” (v. 14). Interestingly, the LXX does not reflect the “for” at the beginning of v. 14. For the phenomenon of temples’ taking on divine identity, see P. K. McCarter Jr., “Aspects of the Religion of the Israelite Monarchy: Biblical and Epigraphic Data,” in Ancient Israelite Religion: Essays in Honor of Frank Moore Cross (ed. P. D. Miller Jr., P. D. Hanson, and S. D. McBride; Philadelphia: Fortress, 1987), 147. 9.  Seeligmann considers the words of v.  11, “Behold I will drive out before you the Amorites, Canaanites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites,” a late addition (Studies in Biblical Literature, 119). I tend to agree. Verse 11 presents the Lord as promising to expel the Canaanite inhabitants immediately. This seems to stand in tension with the following prohibition against making covenants with the inhabitants. If the verse is original, it must be interpreted as indicating the Lord’s preparedness to expel the inhabitants, assuming that Israel persists in going out to battle and refrains from forming covenants. However, the verse still stands in tension with v. 24, which clearly implies that the conquest will develop progressively. I would add that, if the statement of v. 11, “Behold I will drive out before you the Amorites, Canaanites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites” were original, the following verse would simply state, “Beware of making a covenant with them” rather than the present “with the inhabitants of the land against which you are advancing.”

272

Chapter 5

completion of the conquest in the utopian future and in the hands of God, the stringent requirement that all inhabitants must be removed by immediate military means can be loosened. Most interesting is the explanation given about how the feared foreign worship would take hold in Israel. The Israelites would be invited to participate in the sacrifices of the inhabitants and would take wives for their sons. These women would then cause their young husbands to worship the foreign gods. 10 This attribution of the source of Israelite idolatry to the influence of the daughters of the inhabitants on the Israelite sons is not found in the earlier passage of Exod 23. There, the people who would be influenced toward idolatry are the Israelites in general—not the sons of the Israelites. Similarly, the individuals exerting this influence are the inhabitants in general—not specifically the daughters. Another unique element should be noted. In most of biblical literature, the worship of deities other than the Lord is considered legitimate, indeed expected, for non-Israelites. The idea that the worship of these deities is sinful for non-Israelites and the expectation that the non-Israelites will come to abandon their deities are first found in late prophetic literature. 11 It is therefore surprising that Exod 34:12–16 describes the inhabitants’ worshiping of their gods in terms of “straying.” This term is usually used to describe Israel’s decision to worship other gods. 12 Only for Israelites would the worship of the gods be considered straying. For the nations of the land, it should be seen as natural. The unusual formulation may be an indication of lateness. 13 In any event, the passage, in its present form, brings to mind 10. R.  S. Hendel (Remembering Abraham: Culture, Memory and History in the Hebrew Bible [Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005], 27) refers to “the condemnation of the old shrines as foreign and corrupting, inevitably leading to sex with foreigners.” The description, however, is only superficially correct and must basically be reversed. It is sex with non-Israelite women of the land that will lead to religious corruption and not the other way around. Distance from foreign women is the means rather than the goal. It becomes an end in itself only in parts of Ezra–Nehemiah. 11.  For this distinction, see Y. Kaufmann, The History of Israelite Religion (4 vols.; Tel Aviv: Mossad Bialik and Dvir, 1937–56), 2.279–81; 3.253–64. 12.  The LXX attempts to resolve this difficulty in v. 16 by first adding that the Israelites will give their daughters to the sons of the inhabitants and then adding that it is these Israelite daughters who will “stray” after the foreign gods, presumably under the influence of their non-Israelite husbands. This “resolution” is forced and, in any event, does nothing to resolve the situation in v. 15. 13. The sentiment seems to reflect the idea found in Deut 18:9–12 and 20:18 that Canaanite worship is inherently evil, even for the Canaanites (see below). Some scholars have discerned here several signs of editorial expansion in the style of Deuteronomy. The material is hardly of one piece. Seeligmann (Studies in Biblical Literature, 119) has identified v. 11b as a later expansion that stands in tension with v. 12. If the Lord promises to banish the inhabitants, how could the Israelites make a covenant with them? M. Noth (Exodus [trans. J.  S. Bowden; OTL; Philadelphia: Westminster, 1962], 262) identifies vv.  11b–13, 14b–16 as Deuteronomistic additions. I prefer limiting the addition to vv.  15–16. Verse 15a repeats v. 12a almost verbatim, and it is unclear why the warning against forming a

Coexistence and Exclusiveness in the Book of Genesis

273

the non-Priestly story of Baal-peor, as related in Num 25. There we are told that, while stationed at Shittim, the Israelites “strayed after the Moabite women.” 14 These women invited the Israelites to the sacrificial meals of Baal-peor, and the Israelites, after feasting at these meals, worshiped their gods (vv. 1–3). The attribution of the source of Israel’s fall into idolatry to the influence of foreign wives is found in several biblical passages (1 Kgs 11:2–4; 15 16:31–33; 21:25–26). 16 The Priestly Conquest Law of Numbers 33:50–56 The Priestly version of the conquest law, presented as communicated at the Plains of Moab, is found in Num 33:50–56: When you cross over the Jordan into the land of Canaan, drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you and destroy all their prostration stones; all their molten images you shall destroy, and all their high places you shall demolish. You shall possess the land and you shall settle in it. . . . If you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you, those of them whom you leave shall be pins in your eyes and thorns in your sides, and they will harass you in the land in which you will live. I will do to you what I planned to do to them.

In contrast to the passage in Exod 34, this passage explicitly mentions the command to drive out the inhabitants in its combination of the originally distinct passages from Exod 23 mentioned above. 17 From the warning at covenant with the inhabitants needs to be repeated. The removal of the verses leaves a perfectly coherent text, which basically parallels the passage in Exod 23. There is nothing in vv. 12–14 that is specifically Deuteronomistic. On the contrary, it is only in the LXX version of v. 13 that the command to burn idols is incorporated from Deut 7:5. The destruction of the cultic sites is in no way related to the issue of the centralization of worship as it is in Deuteronomy and Deuteronomistic literature. 14.  The verb ‫ לזנות‬in Num 25:1 is the same verb used in v. 15 of our passage. A major distinction, however, separates the two passages. In the story of Baal-peor, the Israelites “stray” or “whore” after the women. There is no “whoring,” whether Israelite or nonIsraelite, after the gods. Thus, while the story of Baal-peor locates the source of Israelite apostasy in foreign women, it does not depict the worship of Baal-peor as being sinful for Moabites. 15.  Note, however, that Solomon’s wives bent his heart after other gods in his old age. In our passage, by contrast, it is specifically the youth that are susceptible to the negative influences of their wives. 16.  For a good treatment of the topic, see G. N. Knoppers, “Sex, Religion, and Politics: The Deuteronomist on Intermarriage,” HAR 14 (1994): 121–41. The passages are not consistent on the issue whether the temptation to idolatry derives specifically from Canaanites or from other foreigners as well and whether it derives specifically from wives or from non-Israelite husbands as well. 17.  Weinfeld (The Promise of the Land, 82–83) argues that the meaning of ‫ הורשה‬here is ‘expulsion’ rather than ‘destruction’. The distinction, however, is artificial and reflects Weinfeld’s concern to depict P as earlier than D. In general, destruction, and expulsion are not mutually exclusive concepts but, rather, complementary ones (cf. Kaufmann, The History of Israelite Religion, 1.645 n. 20). For a good reading of the Priestly material here as later

274

Chapter 5

the end of the passage that any inhabitants left inside the land will harass the Israelites, it appears that what is feared is not the religion of the inhabitants but the military threat that they might pose. In fact, however, the military issue appears to be subsidiary. It serves as a motivating factor that serves to convince the Israelites that the command of total conquest, in spite of the considerable effort that it demands, is in the end in their own pragmatic interest. The ultimate concern of the legislator in the call to drive out the inhabitants remains religious, as indicated by the concomitant command to destroy their religious sites and cultic objects. 18 The severity of the demand for total removal of the inhabitants is highlighted by the final sentence, in which God promises to punish the Israelites with the fate that was intended for the inhabitants. This threatened punishment clearly goes beyond the warning of the previous verse that the inhabitants will serve as thorns in their sides. We are dealing here with destruction rather than mere harassment. If we follow the general consensus on the late provenance of the Priestly source, we may assume that the final verse alludes to the advent of the exile and presents it as divine punishment for the sin of failing to complete the commanded conquest. 19 The Conquest Law of Deuteronomy In Deuteronomy, we find that the command is not simply to drive out the inhabitants but to annihilate them entirely. The text in Deut 7:2–5 reads: than the parallel D material, see G. N. Knoppers, “Establishing the Rule of Law? The composition of Num 33,50–56 and the Relationships among the Pentateuch, the Hexateuch, and the Deuteronomistic History,” in Das Deuteronomium zwischen Pentateuch und Deute­ ronomistischem Geschichtswerk (ed. E. Otto and R. Achenbach; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2004), 135–54. We should concede, however, that here the Priestly text does not follow the unusual demand of Deuteronomy for total destruction to the exclusion of expulsion. This is indicated, first of all, by the fact that the absolute demand, “do not keep alive any soul,” is missing and, second, by the divine promise in v. 56 to do to the Israelites what he intended to do to the inhabitants. The reference is not to absolute annihilation but to inflicting destruction and defeat in a more general sense. 18.  It should be noted that, in contrast with the earlier formulations that juxtapose the command to destroy the cultic paraphernalia with the emphatic insistence that the Lord is a jealous God who must be worshiped exclusively (cf. Exod 23:24–25; 24:13–14), no such element is found here. This can be accounted for in theological terms. The earlier formulations imply that the gods of the inhabitants are real divine entities that participate in covenants and therefore pose a genuine threat to the jealous God of Israel. The Priestly text does not wish to accord any reality to the gods of the inhabitants. It therefore refrains from referring to the gods as rivals to God who arouse his jealousy. They are nothing more than cultic objects that must be destroyed. 19.  So G. B. Gray, Numbers (ICC; Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1903), 452. The text implies that the final destruction would be accomplished by the unconquered inhabitants. This is also implied in Josh 23:13. Clearly, however, the exile was not accomplished by the remaining inhabitants. This might indicate a preexilic provenance for the material, before it was known that the destruction would come from the outside, as implied in Lev 26:41 and made explicit in Deut 28:49.

Coexistence and Exclusiveness in the Book of Genesis

275

You must doom them to destruction: grant them no terms and give them no quarter. You shall not intermarry with them: do not give your daughters to their sons or take their daughters for your sons. For they will turn your children away from me to worship other gods, and the Lord’s anger will blaze forth against you, and he will promptly wipe you out. Instead, this is what you shall do to them: you shall tear down their altars, smash their pillars, cut down their sacred posts, and consign their images to the fire.

Once again, we find that the command to remove the inhabitants is joined with the command to destroy their gods and cultic objects (7:5, 25–26; 12:3). Unique to Deuteronomy is the prohibition against individuals’ bringing the cultic objects into their private homes (7:26). We also find here (7:3) the warning against intermarriage with local women mentioned in Exod 34:16, except that it is expanded here to include the giving of Israelite daughters to local men as well (cf. Josh 23:12; Judg 3:5–6; 20 1 Kgs 11:2; and cf. Neh 13:26–27). The reason for the command to remove the inhabitants thus appears to be the same—the fear that they will lead the Israelites to worship their gods (Deut 7:4). 21 In some deuteronomic passages, however, the fear is not that the foreign gods will be appropriated by the Israelites but that their religious practices will be incorporated into the worship of the Israelite deity (12:29–13:1; 20.  See also the LXX of Exod 24:16, which has apparently been expanded in light of this passage. 21.  Interestingly, in Deut 29:15–19, there is no mention of the temptation of the gods the Israelites will encounter in the land but only of the gods that they have already encountered in Egypt and the gods of the nations through which they passed in the desert. The Exodus story of the slavery in Egypt, however, barely makes reference to these gods. Similarly, the stories of the wilderness wanderings hardly ever refer to encounters with the gods of the nations that they passed on the way. It seems that the new emphasis in Deut 29:15–19 is significant. On the whole in Exodus through Numbers, for most of the conquest laws, and the surrounding narrative material, the major temptation to apostasy would come from the ancient fertility gods of the land. These native gods constitute a major source of competition to Yhwh, who originates from outside the land. This may be why there is indifference to the gods of Egypt and the gods of the other surrounding nations in these materials and no prohibition against forming covenants with them. (The only exception is the story of Baal-peor in Num 25. Even here, however, the temptation comes not from the Moabite god, Chemosh, but from one of the Baals worshiped in the area of Shittim, which was considered part of the land.) The gods of these nations, rooted in the neighboring territories, are even less rooted in the land than Yhwh and thus pose little threat to his supremacy. Even in Deut 23:4–7, the prohibitions against allowing an Ammonite or Moabite to enter the congregation of Yhwh is grounded in national-historical, not religious terms. In vv. 8–9, there is again no mention of the dangers of the religion of the Edomites or Egyptians. Similarly, Amalek is not said to pose a religious temptation but is to be destroyed because of its behavior in the military-political sphere (Deut 25:17–19). However, from the later perspective of the passage in Deut 29, and perhaps in light of the cosmopolitan influences rooted in the rise of the Assyrian and then Babylonian empires, various national deities from the outside fall more clearly within the purview of Israel’s cultural sights and therefore pose a threat to Yhwh worship.

276

Chapter 5

18:9–12; 20:15–18). The cultic practices of the inhabitants, particularly child sacrifice, are depicted as being not only sinful for Israelites but inherently evil, an “abomination.” This new idea that the inhabitants’ cultic forms of worship are inherently evil from the standpoint of universal morality is repeated in several Deuteronomistic passages in Kings (1 Kgs 14:22–24; 21:26; 2 Kgs 16:3; 17:8, 11; 21:2, 9, 11; cf. Ps 106:35–39). We also find the idea that the “practices” of the Canaanites (and Egyptians) are defiling abominations in the Priestly laws ascribed to the Holiness Code (Lev 18:3, 24–30; 20:23) and in the prayer of Ezra (Ezra 9:10–15). Many modern scholars, under the influence of passages such as these, have (apparently mistakenly) depicted ancient Canaanite religion in terms of rampant child sacrifice and promiscuous cultic prostitution. 22 Summary In sum, all of the pentateuchal “conquest laws” reject the establishment of covenantal alliances with the local inhabitants. They all depict a nonIsraelite presence in the land in terms of being a luring and dangerous religious temptation. The constraints of maintaining religious purity preclude the possibility of political and social coexistence. By one means or another, the inhabitants must be removed from the land. Hand in hand with the demand to remove the inhabitants comes the demand, found in each of the law codes, to destroy all the religious sites and objects of these inhabitants. All of the texts thus present an ideal vision of life in the land in exclusivist terms. The land is to be free of both its indigenous inhabitants and their cult. None of these laws reflects the sense of religious and cultural self-confidence that one might expect from a majority population in relation to a subjugated minority and its religious culture. On the contrary, the perilous likelihood that the Israelites will embrace the gods of the inhabitants is perceived or at least presented 23 as profound and imminent. The precise historical context in which this perception or projection is best placed need not occupy us here. Indeed, since we are dealing with a 22.  See the important essay of E. L. Greenstein, “The God of Israel and the Gods of Canaan: How Different Were They?” in Proceedings of the Twelfth World Congress of Jewish Studies: Division A ( Jerusalem: World Union of Jewish Studies, 1999), 47–58, and the references cited there. For the issue of cultic prostitution, see J.  H. Tigay, Deuteronomy ( JPS Torah Commentary; Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1996), 480–81. See, however, the comments of J. Day (“The Religion of Israel,” in Text in Context: Essays by Members of the Society for Old Testament Studies [ed. A. D. H. Mayes; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000], 432) in favor of the historical credibility of sacred prostitution in Canaanite religion. 23. The difference between these two possibilities is significant. The destruction of the inhabitants and their cult may be genuinely motivated by religious concerns. On the other hand, the use of the religious element may sometimes serve as a convenient tool to arouse military enthusiasm for political goals that would otherwise engender only limited motivation.

Coexistence and Exclusiveness in the Book of Genesis

277

variety of texts deriving from different sources, it seems inadequate to attempt to account for the exclusivist conception of life in the land solely in terms of special historical circumstances. The spirit of exclusivism reflects human tendencies that ultimately transcend the particular political constellations within which they come to expression.

The Inhabitants of Canaan in the Book of Genesis How does the material in Genesis compare with all this? The point I will highlight in the following paragraphs is that the traditions in Genesis, to a very large extent, do not share this perception with regard to the inhabitants and their “religion.” 24 A review of the Genesis traditions shows that many of them reflect a much more relaxed posture both toward the religious culture of the inhabitants of the land and toward the possibility of living in close relations with them. The inhabitants are in no way depicted in religiously threatening terms. What is more, the patriarchs and tribal ancestors are often depicted as living in various modes of social and political coexistence with these inhabitants. This depiction goes hand in hand with the fact that, most often, there is no religious issue dividing the patriarchs from their cultural surroundings. At times, they even appear to share a common religious commitment. Sometimes, to be sure, the depiction of religious and social tolerance may simply reflect that which was unself-consciously normative in the eyes of the tradents or authors. At the same time, we must bear in mind that the actions and behavioral standards of the patriarchs often serve a paradigmatic and exemplary function in relation to the realities of later Israelite society. 25 In light of this, at least some of the accounts in the Genesis materials should be seen as reflecting not merely an accurate picture of what was thought to be natural and normative by their authors but a conscious attempt to promote or justify the picture painted. The picture that emerges from much of Genesis is religious and social coexistence, in one form or another, with non-Israelite inhabitants of the land. It stands in stark contrast with the exclusivist conception of life in the land prominently reflected in the conquest laws.

24.  I use the term religion rather loosely. For a discussion, see J. Z. Smith, “Religion, Religions, Religious,” in Critical Terms for Religious Studies (ed. M. C. Taylor; Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988), 269–84. 25. See the discussion of A.  Rofé (The Prophetical Stories [trans. D.  Levy; Jerusalem: Magnes, 1988], 140), who defines an exemplum as “a story in which a historical character or event is described in such a way as to edify and inspire.” The character “would teach proper opinions or conduct by positive example.” He cites the story in Gen 24 as an example of the genre (n. 1).

278

Chapter 5

Preliminary Considerations: Exclusiveness despite Religious Tolerance I want to emphasize here an important point to keep in mind. An open or unthreatened attitude toward the religion or cultic worship of the inhabitants does not necessarily translate into social and political cooperation and coexistence in the land. Isolation from the “people of the lands” in Ezra–Nehemiah is not consistently grounded in the perception that their religious practices are objectionable or threatening (Ezra 9; Neh 13:26–27). Thus, in Ezra 4:1–5, Zerubbabel rebuffs the request of the “adversaries of Judah and Benjamin” to join in the building of the temple without in any way challenging their claim to be worshipers of the God of Israel. According to Neh 13:1–3, all the people of mixed descent were separated from Israel when the book of Moses was read to the people, and they found that no Ammonite or Moabite should enter the assembly of God. The Ammonites and Moabites, however, were not spurned because of any religious odium or threat but “because they did not meet the Israelites [of the exodus] with food and water.” In earlier material, Solomon, for example, could be depicted as both sinfully tolerant of non-Yahwistic (including Canaanite) cults (1 Kgs 11:1–8; 2 Kgs 23:13–14) and as harshly subjugating the Canaanite population in the land (1 Kgs 9:20–21, 23). Saul’s campaign against the Gibeonites is motivated by a “zeal for Israel and Judah” (2 Sam 21:2) and is not portrayed as zeal for the Lord. Instructive also is the attitude toward the Canaanite population in the book of Joshua. Here, as in Genesis and, again, in contrast to the conquest laws, the general attitude toward the religion of the inhabitants is tolerant or indifferent. This religious tolerance does not carry over into the political realm, however. It is striking to note that nowhere in Joshua do we find destruction of the gods and cultic sites of the inhabitants—not even in the Deuteronomistic sections! The closest thing to a parallel is in Josh 11:6, 9, where we find the unusual command to neuter the horses and burn the chariots. This, of course, is in no way motivated by religious concerns. It is the coveting and taking, not of the gods of Jericho, who are never mentioned, but of a fine Shinar mantle, 26 a wedge of gold, and 200 pieces of silver that constituted Achan’s violation of the Lord’s covenant. It seems that nearly the entire corpus of Joshua is unaware of the conception that the inhabitants must be destroyed because of the religious threat that they pose. The “foreign gods” that the Israelites are said to have removed from their midst in Josh 24 are their own ancestral gods from Egypt and Mesopotamia, not the gods of the land (v. 14). 27 The destruction of the inhabitants, 26.  The text should actually read ‫‘ אדרת שער‬a mantle of hair’. See Y. Zakovitch, “InnerBiblical Allusions and Textual Criticism,” in Shai le-Sara Japhet: Studies in the Bible, Its Exegesis and Its Language (ed. M. Bar-Asher et al.; Jerusalem: Bialik, 2007), 328 [Hebrew]. 27.  There is mention in v. 15 of the “gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell” but only as an option for worship in the future and not as something they have already adopted.

Coexistence and Exclusiveness in the Book of Genesis

279

it seems, is understood as strictly a military issue. This is reflected clearly in the story of the Gibeonites, who are taken as workers in the cult. It would hardly make sense to bring the source of the supposedly most-dangerous religious influence into the very precincts of the sanctuary! Only in Josh 23:7–13 do we find the inhabitants depicted as posing a religious threat. Even here, however, there is no mention of the obligation to destroy altars and monuments. On the whole then, the material in Joshua, like the material in Genesis and in contrast to the conquest laws, exhibits indifference and equanimity with regard to the religion of the Canaanites. Thus, not all instances of religious tolerance or indifference in Genesis necessarily belong to an effort to promote or justify social and political cooperation with the inhabitants. At the same time, a certain level of religious tolerance is surely a necessary prerequisite for coexistence. And when an atmosphere of religious tolerance or even commonality is coupled with a report of the formation of actual alliances through sacred covenants, as we sometimes find in the patriarchal narratives, we may reasonably discern a concerted effort to promote a model for coexistent life in the land in later Israel. Preliminary Considerations: The Conquest Law of Deuteronomy 20:10–18 and the Model of Coexistence in the Genesis Narratives I will linger here on one more preliminary point before investigating the Genesis narratives. The less stringent view that tolerates or promotes coexistence with the inhabitants and does not exhibit a sense of fear concerning their religious influence is hardly limited to the narrative material in Genesis. It can be found in various places throughout the Hebrew Bible. 28 Of particular significance is the fact that it can be found even at the base of the most severe of the conquest laws discussed above. Several scholars have noted that one can find embedded within the law of Deut 20:10–18, which demands the total destruction of all the inhabitants of the land, an earlier version of the law that was much more tolerant. 29

28.  See S. Abramsky, The Kingdom of Saul and the Kingdom of David ( Jerusalem: Shekmona, 1977), 62–63 [Hebrew]; idem, “The Attitude toward the Amorites and Jebusites in the Book of Samuel,” Zion 50 (1985): 27–58 [Hebrew]. Abramsky argues that the book of Samuel exhibits a positive attitude toward the inhabitants. See also M. Cogan, She Shall Not Dwell Alone: Israel and Her Neighbors in First Temple Times ( Jerusalem: Maalot, 2001), 157–59 [Hebrew]. For the understanding of some of the biblical laws promoting the welfare of the “stranger” as relating to the indigenous population, see Seeligmann, Studies in Biblical Literature, 279–300 n. 33; idem, “‫גר‬,” Encyclopedia Miqrait 2:547–48; R. Rendtorff, “The Ger in the Priestly Laws of the Pentateuch,” in Ethnicity and the Bible (ed. M. G. Brett; Leiden: Brill, 1996), 77–87. Rendtorff contrasts the Priestly approach to the “stranger” with the exclusivist approach in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah. 29. See Seeligmann, Studies in Biblical Literature, 121–22. For further discussion, see the epilogue in this book, pp. 382–400.

280

Chapter 5

The law, in its present form, distinguishes between cities that are far away from the land and cities belonging to the nations that are designated for Israel to inherit. The cities within the land are to be totally destroyed, whereas those far away are to be offered the option of submitting to corvée servitude. In the event that the inhabitants of the distant city reject this offer, the Israelites are to destroy all the males and take the women, children, and possessions for booty. This distinction between cities in the land and cities far away is made, however, only in v.  15, after the entire law about the terms to be offered to the attacked city has been recited. The law of vv.  10–14, which stipulates that the attacked city must be offered terms of peaceful submission, gives no indication that the city referred to is far away. On the contrary, the natural implication of the opening verse, “When you approach a city to fight against it,” is that the city belongs to the land of conquest. This is the clear implication of the similar headings to the laws of battle in vv. 19 and 21:10. The formulation of 20:15–18 betrays the secondary character of the section. The assertion “Thus shall you do to all the cities that are very far away from you, which are not from the cities of these nations here; however, from the cities of these nations that the Lord your God gives you as an inheritance . . .” sounds very much like a later attempt to redefine the circumstances behind the original law. 30 Relatively speaking, the original law in vv.  10–14 proves to reflect a much more accommodating attitude toward the inhabitants of the land. In contrast with the laws that insist that no covenant can be made with the inhabitants and that they must not be allowed to live in the land, this law not only allows the inhabitants to remain in the land but, in effect, demands that they be offered terms of a covenant. Under these terms of “peace,” the inhabitants must submit to servitude, but they also receive the promise of military protection and assistance (cf. Josh 9:11, 27; 10:6; etc.). In the event that the inhabitants refuse the terms of the covenant, the adult males alone are to be killed. The women are to be taken as booty and, according to Deut 21:10–14, even as full-fledged wives. 31 Since there 30.  The story of the battle of vengeance against Midian (Num 31) reacts against the reality reflected in the early form of the law. In this story, Moses protests that the officers allowed the warriors to take the women and children for themselves, when the Midianite women were the ones responsible for the apostasy against the Lord (vv. 14–16). In addition to the male children whom Moses insists that they kill, he insists on killing all nonvirgin women (vv. 14–18). This is in direct opposition to the stipulation of Deut 20:14 that the women and children be taken alive in war. It thus seems that Num 31 represents a reaction against the ancient law under the influence of the idea that non-Israelite women constitute a temptation to apostasy. 31.  It appears that Deut 21:10–14 reflects a harsher standard, according to which married females must be killed, as insisted on in Num 31. The captive woman must be allowed to mourn both her father and mother. This implies that both were killed in battle. The fact that she does not mourn her husband implies that she is unmarried. This is why she is taken captive and not killed. Deuteronomy 20:10–14, which allows all women to be taken as booty, is thus, again, less stringent.

Coexistence and Exclusiveness in the Book of Genesis

281

is no proscription against it, we must also assume that Deut 20:10–14 does not look disparagingly upon marriages to the inhabitants of the city in the event that a covenant is formed. There is no indication that the women of the city might influence the Israelites to worship their gods, as stated in Exod 24:15–16 or Deut 7:3–4. In fact, the entire law is devoid of any concern with the religious worship of the inhabitants. There is no hint here of the idea that a non-Israelite presence would pose a religious (or military) threat to the Israelites. There is no demand made for the Israelites to destroy the gods, altars, and other cultic objects of the inhabitants, whether within the framework of a formation of a covenant or within the context of a bloody military confrontation. It seems, then, that in contrast to laws demanding the destruction of all non-Israelite cultic sites, it was here deemed possible somehow to absorb and incorporate the local cults within the broad context of Israelite hegemony. It is this atmosphere of religious tolerance that allows for the possibility of various modes of political coexistence in the land and that is reflected, I shall argue, in so much of Genesis. It is inadequate, I believe, to view the early form of the law in Deut 20 as simply reflecting an early, tolerant attitude that only later was replaced with more exclusivist, uncompromising views. 32 The fact that it was deemed necessary to anchor the offering of terms of peace to the inhabitants of the land in divine legislation indicates that the formulators of the law were aware of harsher realities. In other words, the early form of the law in Deut 20 must be seen as reflecting a concerted effort to restrain more-exclusivist and intolerant tendencies that apparently were real and prevalent at the time. Saul’s attempt to annihilate the Gibeonites out of nationalist zeal for Israel is a case in point (2 Sam 21:2). The early form of the law may even be seen as a polemic against the kind of legislation found in the other pentateuchal conquest laws, which emphatically reject the more accommodating option. The late form of the law in Deut 20 should thus be seen, not only as a late reinterpretation of the early form of the law, but also as a restoration of the exclusivist spirit that the early law sought to restrain. The history of the development of the law in Deut 20 thus reflects ongoing ideological debate and disagreement over the proper posture to be taken toward non-Israelite inhabitants, not a simple transition from tolerance to exclusiveness. This may be suggestive of what we might expect to find in non-legal contexts as well: ongoing deliberations about relations with the inhabitants. I will now show that the relatively open (or indifferent) attitude toward the religious culture of the inhabitants of the land and toward the possibility and legitimacy of political coexistence within the bounds of the land, 32.  For an example of this approach, see J. Pedersen, Israel, Its Life and Culture, vols. 1–2 (London: Oxford University Press, 1973), 317–19.

282

Chapter 5

as reflected in the early form of the law in Deut 20 is indeed reflected in various parts of the book of Genesis. A review of the Genesis materials will show that the gods of the inhabitants are nowhere depicted as a dangerous and threatening temptation. 33 On the contrary, the cult of the inhabitants is usually ignored and appears, on the whole, to be an irrelevant issue. To be sure, there are instances in Genesis where the Canaanites are viewed negatively. Even in these instances, however, the problem lies in their moral behavior or simply their ethnicity, never the seductive lure of their religion or cult. The Inhabitants of Canaan in the Abraham Stories The patriarchal period begins with the figure of Abraham. A most convenient way to gain an appreciation for the biblical conception of Abraham’s relationship with his religious or cultural environment is to contrast it with the later, rabbinic conception. 34 According to the midrash, Ur, the city of Abraham’s origin, was steeped in idolatry, and Terah, Abraham’s father, owned an idol shop there. Abraham came to realize that the idols of his father were empty statues and that there was only one God, who created the universe. He then proceeded to smash his father’s idols and to preach the idea of the one, true God. Abraham is here presented as “carrying out” the pentateuchal conquest laws that call for the destruction of alien gods on his own initiative and in his own homeland. Abraham’s subversive activity brought him into conflict with the Chaldean society. 35 The king attempted to kill Abraham by throwing him into a fiery furnace. Miraculously, Abraham was saved. He could not remain in the land of his father, however, and he went off to the land of Canaan. Abraham acquired many converts to his new faith in the land of Haran, 36 and he brought these converts with him to the land of promise, where he continued his missionary work. 37 The midrashic accounts of Abraham’s beginnings diverge from one another in many details that need not detain us here. What is significant is the fact that all these accounts depict the new religion of Abraham as a radical rejection of the religion of his father and a total antithesis to the pagan religion of ancient society. There is little in the Hebrew Bible con33.  This point was made in a forceful way by both B. Gemser, “God in Genesis,” in Studies on the Book of Genesis (OtSt 12; Leiden: Brill, 1958), 1–21; and Y. Kaufmann (The History of Israelite Religion, 1.207–10, 732–36; 2.23). My own presentation of the issue builds on and develops some of their seminal insights. 34.  For a discussion of Abraham in Second Temple literature, see J. L. Kugel, Traditions of the Bible: A Guide to the Bible as It Was at the Start of the Common Era (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1998), 244–326. 35.  The story is somewhat reminiscent of the story of Gideon, who destroys his father’s pagan altar and is nearly killed by the people of the city ( Judg 6:25–32). 36.  This idea is derived from the verse “Abraham took Sarai his wife . . . and the people he acquired in Haran . . . and they came to the land of Canaan” (Gen 12:5). 37.  This is based on Gen 21:23.

Coexistence and Exclusiveness in the Book of Genesis

283

cerning Abraham that corresponds to all this. 38 What can we learn from the Genesis narrative about the relationship between the call of Abraham and the religion of his homeland? Significantly, the Genesis narrative makes no reference to the deity or deities worshiped by either Terah or the other inhabitants of Abraham’s homeland. The Lord does not even introduce himself to Abraham in his first revelation to him, as he does, for example, to Jacob (28:13; 31:13; 46:3) and Moses (Exod 3:6). Instead, he speaks to Abraham as if he were a well-known, familiar figure. There is no hint of the idea that Abraham came to recognize the falsity of his ancestral cult or that he contested its value or validity in any way. Nor is he ever called on by the Lord to eschew the deity or deities of his father’s house or his homeland or to avoid contact with them. 39 Though we may assume that the deity of Abraham is understood as being different from the deity of Terah, even this most basic distinction is never explicitly stated. 40 In Gen 24, Abraham sends his servant back to his “land and place of birth” to bring back a wife for Isaac, even though he has no reason to believe that the bride-tobe will somehow be a worshiper of his presumably new deity. 41 Abraham is depicted as being concerned that his son’s wife should come from his ancestral home. Thus, in spite of the fact that Abraham left his home, presumably to worship a new deity in a new land, his ties with his ancestral home are not broken. The fact that the members of this home continue to worship other gods is immaterial and not even worth mentioning. This same household will again provide wives for Jacob. Clearly, the religious worship of Abraham’s kin is neither odious nor threatening. One might have surmised that the lack of religious conflict in Abraham’s homeland reflects a tolerance that was restricted to the domain outside

38.  There may be a subtle implication of this conception in the divine command to Abraham to leave his father’s house behind him (Gen 12:1). A clearer reflection of this conception is found not in Genesis but in Josh 24, in the covenant made by Joshua at the temple of Shechem. There Joshua declares, “Your descendants of old dwelled beyond the river, Terah, the father of Abraham and the father of Nahor, and they worshiped other gods. Then I took your father Abraham from beyond the river and I made him walk through the entire land of Canaan.” In this passage, Terah is depicted as a worshiper of other gods, and Abraham is separated from him and, by implication, from his gods as well. 39.  We may compare the story of Ruth. The heroine takes on the God of Israel but never rejects her ancestral religion as being false or objectionable in any way. 40.  It is only implied in the fact that the deity appears to both Isaac and Jacob as the god of their father (26:24; 48:15; et al.) but never by this epithet to Abraham. Of course, it is also implied by the many references in later texts to the Lord as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob but never of Terah. 41.  The rabbis were somewhat surprised at Abraham’s decision to take a wife for Isaac from the idolatrous house of Laban and interpreted Laban’s statement to Abraham’s servant, “I have emptied the house” (v. 31), as an assurance that the house has been emptied of all idols (see Rashi on the verse). In the text itself, however, the issue of religious worship is, once again, never raised.

284

Chapter 5

the land of Canaan/Israel. 42 In fact, the same tolerant atmosphere is reflected in the stories of Abraham inside the land. The religion of the inhabitants is not considered threatening or alluring for either Abraham or his household, and this is in spite of the fact that they are presumably a much smaller and more vulnerable minority in the land than the Israelite nation purportedly addressed in the pentateuchal conquest laws. We never find any warnings by the Lord to Abraham or by Abraham to his children that they must be careful to distance themselves from the lure of the religion of the inhabitants. Instructive again is a comparison with postbiblical material. Jubilees pre­ sents Abraham as warning Jacob: Observe the commandments of Abraham your father. Separate yourself from the nations and do not eat with them. Do not work like them or become their associate, for their works are unclean, and all their ways are pollution, abomination, and uncleanness. They offer their sacrifices to the dead, they worship evil spirits, they eat on graves, and all their works are vanity and nothingness. . . . Beware, my son Jacob, of taking a wife from any offspring of the daughters of Canaan; for all his seed is to be rooted out of the earth. (Jub. 22:16–17, 20)

In contrast to Jubilees, the Abraham of Genesis is never told and never tells anyone else to separate from the nations of the land. And just as he is never told and never tells others to eschew the gods of his father’s house, he is never told and never tells others to beware the gods of Canaan. Though Abraham is expected to keep “the way of Yhwh,” this is defined merely in terms of “executing justice and righteousness,” not in terms of cultic worship (18:17–19). Of course, Abraham is never depicted as invoking a deity that is considered utterly distinct from the Lord. However, this exclusiveness on the part of Abraham seems to be voluntary and is taken for granted. It is never commanded or strenuously enjoined. 43 As far as Abraham’s attitude toward the women of the land is concerned, it should be remembered that Abraham is depicted as taking an additional wife after the demise of Sarah, and he is also said to have had many concubines (25:1, 6). Since there is no indication that these women were taken from outside the land, the natural assumption of the text must be that they were all or mostly local women. 44 This again stands in contrast to the warn42.  According to the esoteric position of Ibn Ezra as evidenced in a newly published manuscript, Jacob’s wives were idolatrous. Only when they arrived in the land did he take away their idols and bury them. His standard commentaries negate this position. See on this A. Mondschein, “It Contains a Secret and the Wise Man Will Keep It: The Enigmatic Style of Abraham Ibn Ezra as a Key to His Personality,” Shnaton 14 (2004): 274–79 [Hebrew]. 43.  The closest thing to a prohibition against worshiping other gods is the Priestly passage of 17:1, “I am El Shaddai; walk before me and be whole.” 44. See Naḥmanides on Gen 25:6; he insists that Keturah was a Canaanite woman. Radak (on v. 1), on the other hand, insists that she could not have been.

Coexistence and Exclusiveness in the Book of Genesis

285

ings against the negative religious influences of the women of the land expressed in Exod 34:15–16, and Deut 7:3–4. The stories of Abraham seem oblivious to the dangers of these influences. The apparent exception to this is the story of the betrothal of Rebekah, where Abraham adjures his servant not to take a bride for Isaac from the local Canaanites (24:3, 37). Even here, however, there is no indication that the problem with the Canaanite women lies in the lure of their gods. The issue is presented exclusively in terms of ethnicity, not cultic practice. Abraham insists that his son marry a woman from his own homeland (v. 4) but in no way indicates that these women alone are acceptable because of their unique orientation in sacred matters. Furthermore, Abraham stipulates that the oath of his servant will be void if the bride-to-be does not want to return to the land. In this case, the story implies, Isaac would be free to marry a Canaanite (vv. 5–8). The isolationist atmosphere that pervades the story is thus of a different sort than the attitude found in the conquest laws. Though Abraham builds new altars and invokes the name of the Lord, he never comes into conflict with the cultic life of the local inhabitants. He does not destroy their gods, altars, and monuments, actions required of the Israelites in the conquest passages from Exodus through Deuteronomy. In fact, there is hardly any mention of Canaanite cultic sites at all in Genesis; almost all the cultic sites mentioned there are said to have been set up by the patriarchs. The conflicts that Abraham does become involved in are all devoid of any religious or cultic character. His conflict with Lot, which leads to their separation, concerns grazing territory, not religion. On the contrary, since Lot is brought up in Abraham’s household, one must assume that he is thought of as having adopted Abraham’s deity. This, however, is not even raised as a consideration for keeping the parties together. Again, Abraham is said to have lived in the land of the Philistines for many years (20:15; 21:34) without so much as a hint of a religious issue dividing them. His conflicts with Abimelech regard the taking of his wife (ch. 20) and the ownership of wells (21:25–31). According to the medieval Jewish commentator Rashbam, the covenant formed with Abimelech was a sinful display of lack of trust in the divine land promise, and Abraham was promptly punished by being subjected to the painful test of the binding of Isaac (Gen 22). 45 Yet there is nothing in the story of Gen 22 to support the contention that it is understood as a punishment for the covenant in the previous chapter, and this interpretation is best understood as being grounded in medieval theological concerns. 46 According to a rabbinic interpretation, Sarah demanded the expulsion of Ishmael because he was influencing Isaac with idolatry (21:9). As far as the 45.  Commentary on Gen 22:1. 46.  See S. Japhet, “Rashbam’s Commentary on Genesis 22: Peshat or Derash?” in The Bible in the Light of Its Interpreters: Sarah Kamin Memorial Volume (ed. S. Japhet; Jerusalem: Magnes, 1994), 349–66 [Hebrew].

286

Chapter 5

simple sense of the text is concerned, this interpretation is groundless. The text depicts Abraham as living at “the terebinths of Mamre,” presumably among the Amorite clan of Mamre, and he even builds an altar to Yhwh at this Amorite site (13:18; 14:13; 18:1). He also lives in harmony among the Hittites of Hebron (23; 25:27). These Hittites, who like the Amorites are explicitly destined for destruction in the conquest laws (Exod 23:23; 24:11; and Deut 7:1), respectfully acknowledge Abraham’s status as a ‫נשיא‬ ‫( אלהים‬23:6) 47 in their midst and provide him with a burial plot for his wife. Though he is unwilling to bury his dead in a plot that is owned by one of the Hittites, the plot that he purchases is situated “in the midst of” the Hittites (28:9). Cordial coexistence in life will continue in death. The fact that the author depicts Abraham as purchasing the burial plot in public view of the Hittites in order to guarantee his claim to it against future Hittite claims (or Israelite claims that the site is foreign?) probably shows that, in contrast to the conquest laws, he considers the continuous presence of the Hittites in the land to be both obvious and normative. The same thing may be said with regard to the depiction of Abraham as “purchasing” proof that he is the owner of the well of Beer Sheba by giving Abimelech seven ewes (21:28–31). The portrayal of the king of the Philistines as openly forfeiting claim to the well again assumes the continued presence of his people in the area to be normative. Abraham’s lifestyle of peaceful coexistence with the inhabitants and their religious cult is not simply a reflection of the pragmatic considerations that the patriarchs, as leaders of small, nomadic clans, would have had to employ in order to survive (however, see 34:30, contra 48:22). It is not, in other words, a mere reflection of the concerns of the narrators to depict patriarchal life in realistic and credible terms. There is little realism in the depiction of Abraham with a small army of 318 warriors fighting off the 4 invading kings in Gen 14. 48 Yet it is specifically against outside invaders that Abraham comes into military (again, not religious) conflict and never with the local inhabitants. 49 Coexistence with the local inhabitants is not 47.  The phrase is usually translated ‘prince of God’. The LXX renders the phrase ‘king from God’. M. H. Goshen-Gottstein (“‫[ נשיא אלהים‬Gen 23:6],” VT 3 [1953]: 298–99) notes that ‫ נשיא‬is usually followed by a tribal name. His suggestion that it be translated ‘one brought along by God’, referring to the fact that God brought Abraham to the land and promised it to him, seems forced. N. M. Sarna (Genesis [Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1989], 158 and n. 8 on p. 362) understands ‫ אלהים‬as a superlative with no religious connotation. It seems to me more natural to understand Elohim here as the divine name. If so, the phrase could be construed as indicating that Abraham and the Hittites shared the same deity. 48.  For the depiction of the patriarchs as military figures, see Y. Muffs, Love and Joy: Law, Language and Religion in Ancient Israel (New York: Jewish Theological Seminary, 1992), 67–95. 49.  The only military initiative against the “Amorites” is reflected in 48:22 with regard to Jacob. Here too, however, there is no hint that the offense was motivated by religious concerns.

Coexistence and Exclusiveness in the Book of Genesis

287

only acceptable, it is the norm. This is reflected most clearly in the fact that Abraham is depicted as living in covenant with the local “Amorites” Aner, Eshkol, and Mamre (14:13, 24). Abraham relies on the military assistance of these covenant partners when his kinsman Lot is taken captive. Abraham is thus portrayed as living in “violation” of the repeated prohibition in the pentateuchal conquest passages against forming covenants with the local inhabitants. What is more, Abraham not only rescues his kinsman Lot from captiv­ ity, he heroically vanquishes the 4 foreign kings and thus restores the political independence of the local cities. He then selflessly forfeits all personal profit from the campaign and restores the recovered booty to the original inhabitants. Abraham is thus depicted as the heroic and gracious champion of the local inhabitants against outside occupying forces. If the paradigmatic patriarch can be depicted in such an intimate and mutually beneficial relationship with the locals, this sort of relationship must surely be considered to reflect the ideal for later times as well. His concern for the well being of the inhabitants is again displayed in his later intervention with the Lord to save Sodom from destruction (Gen 18:23–33), in spite of the fact that, according to the promises, the territory is destined to be his. That Sodom and its sister cities are considered part of Canaanite territory is made clear by the editorial comment in Gen 10:19. 50 Perhaps the most significant indication that the cultic worship of the local inhabitants is not seen as a temptation to sin that precludes social relations is the fact that Abraham is depicted as offering a tithe to Melchizedek, king of Salem and priest of “El Elyon” (14:18–20), after having received blessings from him in the name of this deity. 51 And in v.  22, Abraham invokes the name of this deity in his oath to the king of Sodom, implying that this deity of Salem was recognized (and worshiped?) not only in pre-Israelite Jerusalem but in the “sister city” of Sodom as well (cf. Ezek 16:44–56). As noted by many, the prefacing of “Yhwh” to “El Elyon” in the MT of this verse is lacking in the LXX and other textual witnesses 52 and is probably late. 53 Concerning the entire passage, von Rad writes: Such a positive, tolerant evaluation of a Canaanite cult outside Israel is unparalleled in the Old Testament. Above all, Abraham’s homage to a

50.  From the contrast between the land of Canaan and Sodom in 13:12, however, it is implied that Sodom is not part of the land of Canaan. We have here, apparently, two contradictory views. 51.  For a discussion of the meaning of this divine name, see R. Rendtorff, “The Background of the Title El Elyon in Gen 14,” in Proceedings of the Fourth World Congress of Jewish Studies, division A ( Jerusalem: World Union of Jewish Studies, 1967), 167–70. 52.  See BHS. 53.  See, for example, F. M. Cross, Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1973), 46 n. 12.

288

Chapter 5

heathen servant of the cult is quite unusual from the standpoint of the Old Testament faith in Yahweh. 54

Indeed, according to the demands of the conquest laws, the cultic center in Salem together with all its indigenous inhabitants must be utterly destroyed. Why, then, did Abraham honor the cultic site by offering tithe there? And how could the later Israelites be expected to destroy the site that was sanctified by Abraham’s offering or to destroy the worshipers of that cult? The rabbis, in fact, could hardly reconcile themselves to the apparent implications of the story. In their reading, Melchizedek was not a Canaanite but was Shem, the son of Noah, 55 the ancestor of Abraham going back nine generations, who worshiped Yahweh, as did his father, and who was bestowed lordship over the Canaanites (Gen 9:25–26; 10:21; 11:10–26). The priest of “Salem” was thus a foreigner in Canaan, who entered the land from outside it and imposed his cult on the inhabitants of the city. Since he was born circumcised (understanding Salem as Shalem ‘complete’), he could legitimately officiate in the cult. Furthermore, he sinned in blessing Abraham before blessing the Lord and, consequently, the priesthood was taken from him and transferred to the line of Abraham. 56 Obviously, this very forced exegesis simply highlights the fact that the plain implications of the text are highly problematic. A more modern attempt to deal with the difficulty is the interpretation of Cassuto, who based his interpretation on the explicit mention of Yhwh in the MT’s version of the oath of Abraham in v. 22. It appears from the oath of Abram [where he invokes Yhwh El Elyon according to the MT] that the Israelites saw in El Elyon of the Canaanites their own unique God. Since this deity was the highest of deities and creator of heaven and earth—that is, a universal deity—this identification was capable of appearing justified. 57

Even though I do not follow Cassuto in assuming the originality of “Yhwh El Elyon” in v. 22, I do not doubt that, as far as the editors of Genesis were concerned, “El Elyon, creator of heaven and earth” was not a different deity from the deity of Abraham. The point to be stressed, however, is that this identification of deities would not have been tolerable to the authors of the conquest laws. For them, all the inhabitants worship foreign gods, 54. G. von Rad, Genesis (trans. J.  H. Marks; OTL; Philadelphia: Westminster, 1972), 180. Von Rad suggests two possible understandings of the purpose of the story. The first sees the story as legitimating an actual covenantal relationship between Israel and the Canaanite city. Von Rad considers this understanding to be unlikely and prefers to see in Melchizedek a symbolic prototype of the Davidic Dynasty (Ps 110). If Abraham recognized his duty toward Jerusalem and its king, so should Abraham’s descendants. See ibid., 180–81. 55.  ʾAbot R. Nat. (A) 2. See Kugel, Traditions of the Bible, 284–85 and 289–91. 56.  B. Ned. 32b. 57. U. Cassuto, “‫אל עליון‬,” Encyclopedia Miqrait 1:288 [Hebrew].

Coexistence and Exclusiveness in the Book of Genesis

289

who cannot be assimilated into Yahwism, and both the inhabitants and their gods must be destroyed or distanced. It is also important to note that the implicit identification of El Elyon with Abraham’s deity does not disguise the fact that we are dealing with at least partially distinct divine names. It is surely by design that the author does not place the name of Yhwh on the lips of Melchizedek and that nowhere else do we find Abraham invoking the name El Elyon. At least implicitly, then, the distinct and unique character of Melchizedek’s deity is allowed to come to the foreground and is given full legitimacy. The attribution of the form “Yhwh El Elyon” to Abraham alone in the MT only serves further to highlight the non-Yahwistic identity of El Elyon in the eyes of Melchizedek and his constituents. The formal covenant that Abraham forms with the “Amorites” in Gen 14 is paralleled by the covenant he forms with the Philistines (21:27, 32). Here we are also told that both parties took oaths (v. 31; in vv. 22–24, it seems that only Abraham was to take an oath by Elohim). 58 This material again stands in tension with the conquest laws. Even though the Philistines are generally not mentioned in the lists of the peoples in the conquest laws, they do inhabit the land and are not usually thought of as worshipers of Israel’s deity any more than are any of the other inhabitants of the land. What is more, in the conquest law of Exod 23 (v. 31) the Lord promises to deliver the “inhabitants of the land” into the hand of the Israelites, and the territory extends to “the land of the Philistines.” They are also included in the territory of the Canaanites in Gen 10:19. 59 In light of this, one assumes that forming a covenant with the Philistines would constitute a dangerous concession toward a population that would threaten the faith with alluring alien gods. Yet Abraham does not hesitate to form a covenant with them that will last for generations (21:23). 60 Not only do we find no hint of the alluring attraction of the foreign deities, we find not even a hint of their presence. From the fact that the king acknowledges “Elohim is with you in all you do” and addresses Abraham’s “Elohim” in his dream (in the singular) as “my Lord” (20:3), it seems that the parties share a common deity. The land of the Philistines is depicted as 58.  See J.  S. Burnett, A Reassessment of Biblical Elohim (SBLDS 183; Atlanta: Scholars Press, 2001). According to Burnett, Elohim is not really a divine name but a title used as a surrogate for a divine name. He takes it to mean “the deity in question,” which in the patriarchal narratives is the patron deity of the patriarchs. We might compare the title Pharaoh, which basically functions as a personal name in the book of Exodus. 59.  On Gerar and the land of the Philistines as Canaanite, see the discussion in ch. 4, pp. 220–221, 263–264. 60.  The simple implication is that the treaty will continue for all generations (Sarna, Genesis, 149). Note, however, that Gen. Rab. 54 limits the validity of the covenant specifically to the ‫ נין‬and ‫ נכד‬but no further. It is apparent that the midrash seeks to justify the treaty, which seems to stand in conflict with the conquest of all of the land of Canaan by depicting it as temporary. For another attempt to resolve the difficulty, see b. Ḥul. 60b.

290

Chapter 5

a place where the “fear of Elohim” indeed reigns (20:4–11). Does this mean that the Philistines recognize Abraham’s Elohim as the single, universal god of the cosmos? 61 Is Elohim the commonly recognized supreme deity of the land? In any event, the conception of the inhabitants as worshipers of other gods who threaten loyalty to the Lord is clearly alien to this text. The implication of the covenant, once again, is that, in contrast to the implication of Exod 23:31, the Philistine population will live side by side with the descendants of Abraham in the same land. The emphasis on the binding nature of the covenant for future generations indicates that coexistence is not merely encouraged but is imposed on Israel as a sacred and binding obligation. 62 The Inhabitants of Canaan in the Isaac and Jacob Narratives When we examine the stories of the other patriarchs, we find that the situation is much the same. Isaac, like his father, forms a covenant with Abimelech, and both parties take oaths (26:28–31). The only deity mentioned by both parties is Yhwh, which seems to imply that the oaths were commonly taken in his name alone and perhaps even that he was the single, commonly recognized deity of the region. 63 Again, the covenantal oaths serve to impose peaceful coexistence on later Israelites, in spite of the fact that Gerar is defined as Canaanite (10:19). The conflicts that arise, 61. See Gemser, “God in Genesis,” 1–21. It is probably significant, however, that in v. 13 Abraham refers to Elohim with a plural verb. On the other hand, this may reflect the work of editors. See the discussion of the presentation of the religious outlook of the nonIsraelites below, pp. 326–327. 62.  In spite of the many keen observations, I share only partial agreement with the analysis of R. L. Cohn, “Before Israel: The Canaanites as Other in Biblical Tradition,” in The Other in Jewish Thought and History: Constructions of Jewish Culture and Identity (ed. L. J. Silberstein and R. L. Cohn; New York: New York University Press, 1994), 74–90. Cohn argues that the Canaanites in Genesis are depicted as people who threaten to swallow up Israel through economic ties and ties of kinship. Israel is understood not as a political order but as a unique family that must preserve its separateness regardless of the religious, cultic, or moral impunity of the Canaanites. Cohn is correct in pointing to the ethic of familial separation in parts of the Genesis narrative. However, he overstates the case in claiming, “The ancestors forge no lasting bonds of kinship or alliance with the Canaanites despite their apparent moral and religious decency” (p. 86). Though kinship with Canaanites is sometimes depicted negatively, particularly in the Priestly stratum, alliance with the Canaanites is clearly emphasized. Nor is it accurate to understand Israel in Genesis in terms of kinship alone, to the exclusion of the understanding of Israel as a political order. On the contrary, much of Genesis imagines Israel as the dominant political order of the future and affirms political alliances with the earlier inhabitants as a part of the divine blessing. Thus, the failure of Genesis to depict the Canaanites as religiously dangerous cannot be rooted in its supposed conception of Israel in nonpolitical terms. 63.  Yhwh is never depicted in the story as specifically the deity of Isaac. Abimelech takes note of the fact that Yhwh is with Isaac, as if Yhwh’s supremacy were a commonly recognized fact.

Coexistence and Exclusiveness in the Book of Genesis

291

again, are over ownership of wells (26:19–22) and have no religious or cultic character. Of particular significance is Isaac’s response to the local shepherds, who continually contest Isaac’s ownership of the wells that he digs. Rather than argue and defend what is rightfully his, Isaac repeatedly retreats. When he finally digs a well that is not contested, he calls it Rehoboth, saying, “The Lord has made room for us, and we will multiply in the land” (26:22). What is depicted in this story is a situation in which the Lord provides living space within the land for Isaac side by side with the local inhabitants. This state of coexistence is not depicted as a necessary evil but as a fulfillment of the Lord’s blessings of fruitfulness in the land. In other words, fruitfulness in the land for Isaac and his descendants is not seen as standing in opposition to the living space of the local inhabitants. 64 The major theme of the Jacob cycle is the struggle between the brothers for dominance. As with all other conflicts and struggles in Genesis, this one also has no religious coloring. 65 Never is a distinction made between the religion or worship of Jacob and the religion or worship of Esau. Esau loses the struggle for the blessing of his father, but the reason for this is never religious. Isaac sends Jacob to the ancestral homeland for a wife (28:1–4). Again, there is no indication here that Laban’s daughters are to be preferred to the local women because they are worshipers of the Lord 66 or because they eschew the worship of the local deities. Nor does Jacob demand this of them. Rachel, indeed, steals the “gods” of her father on her journey back with Jacob (31:19, 30). What offends Jacob is the accusation that he or someone in his party had stolen Laban’s gods (31:32), not that they would have had recourse to them. Jacob establishes a covenant with Laban in which the gods of both parties are invoked at a joint sacrificial meal (31:44–54). Again, even though the story speaks of a covenant with an outsider and

64.  The addition of the land promise does not reverse the motif of coexistence. Rather, it simply “clarifies” that Israel will be the ultimate sovereign power in the land. 65.  For a discussion of the story of Jacob’s struggle with the mysterious “man” who attacks him at the Jabok ford, see U. Cassuto, The “Quaestio” of the Book of Genesis (trans. M.  E. Artom; Jerusalem: Magnes, 1990), 243–51. Cassuto sees in the struggle with the “man” who attacks Jacob a symbolic prefiguration of Israel’s future military struggle with the Canaanites and their gods, and the wound inflicted on Jacob as representing the “snares in the sides” of the Israelites that would be caused by the acceptance of the Canaanite gods (cf. Num 33:55; Josh 22:13). The extraction of the blessing is a premonition of the blessing extracted by Balaam. The same interpretation, though less fully developed, is found in J. Pedersen, Israel, Its Life and Culture, vols. 3–4 (London: Oxford University Press, 1973), 503–5. In spite of the ingenuity of the interpretation, it nonetheless seems to me to be rather farfetched. 66.  In Gen 30, the matriarchs use the name ‫ אלהים‬with reference to the deity (except in v. 23b), whereas in Gen 29:31–35, the name of the Lord is used. The names of the children have no Yahwistic element.

292

Chapter 5

not an inhabitant of the land, the fact remains that foreign deities are not seen as anathema. Of particular significance is the fact that the story of the covenant between Jacob and Laban indicates that Jacob is thought of as having kinsmen, together with whom he will live in the land. The story refers to the “kinsmen” of Laban and the “kinsmen” of Jacob, who together are to determine whether or not Jacob stole Laban’s gods (vv. 32, 37). Who are these “kinsmen” of Jacob? In v. 23, we are told that Laban took his kinsmen with him in his pursuit of Jacob. Elohim then appears to Laban in a dream and warns him against taking hostile action against Jacob (vv. 24, 29). From the context, it appears that Laban’s kinsmen, like Abraham’s Mamre, who was “a kinsman of Eshkol and a kinsman of Aner” (Gen 14:13), were military allies. This would then imply that Jacob’s kinsmen were also military allies. These allies are depicted as part of Jacob’s entourage that will settle in the land. And in v. 54, Jacob invites “his kinsmen” to join in a sacrificial meal and to “eat bread” together. This is clear covenant language. 67 Even if the “kinsmen” here refer to Laban’s group, there is no reason to assume that the term does not include Jacob’s allies as well. The implication of all this is that Jacob has military allies with non-Israelite groups that will inhabit the land, and that alliances of this sort are normative. 68 They can all share a covenant meal without religious borderlines standing between them. We may perhaps learn more about Jacob’s relationships with various kinsmen from Isaac’s blessing to Jacob, which speaks of the subjugation and servitude of “all his brothers,” the “sons of his mother” (27:29, 37). Though in the present narrative context the reference is to Esau-Edom alone, the only other son of Rebekah, the verse clearly refers to various peoples, and there is no justification for excluding the inhabitants of the land from these “brothers” and “sons of his mother.” On the contrary, those inhabiting the land are the nearest candidates for servitude. The “servitude” referred to in the blessing belongs, as we have noted, to the covenant form. The parallel between Isaac’s blessing of Jacob and Noah’s curse of Ham, “Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be to his brothers,” would further support the understanding that the original referent of “sons of his mother” in the blessing on Jacob is to inhabitants in the land. That Canaanites could be described as sons of Israel’s mother is testified by Ezek 16:3, “Your father was an Amorite and your mother a Hittite.” Sodom is depicted here as Jerusalem’s sister (vv. 48–49). The sense of religious commonality between Jacob and Esau comes to expression in the story of their brief reunion at the time of Jacob’s return 67.  See Exod 18:12, and see M. Weinfeld, “The Tribal League at Sinai,” in Ancient Israelite Religion: Essays in Honor of Frank Moore Cross (ed. P. D. Miller Jr., P. D. Hanson, and S. D. McBride; Philadephia: Fortress, 1987), 309. 68. Perhaps these allies were thought to have assisted Jacob in his military offense against Shechem, which is hinted at in 48:22.

Coexistence and Exclusiveness in the Book of Genesis

293

from Haran in Gen 32:4–33:16. As suggested by Pederson, 69 the story depicts Jacob as bestowing on Esau covenantal gifts of appeasement (32:15– 16) that entail the self-subjugation of Jacob as Esau’s “servant” (32:19, 21; 33:5, 8). This is also the import of the multiple prostrations of Jacob and his family (33:3, 6–7). Esau’s acceptance of the gifts signifies his acceptance of his new lordly status and hence his expectation that Jacob will follow him to Seir. The fact that Jacob cunningly deceives Esau into going on ahead without leaving any of his men to escort him in order to steal away to Succoth does not mean that the obligation to go to Seir was not accepted. Rather, Jacob outwitted his opponent and succeeded in breaking the terms implied in his words and actions. What needs to be noted here is the use of Elohim as the common name of the deity in the exchanges between Jacob and Esau (33:5, 11). The clear impression is that Jacob and Esau recognize the same deity. Special attention must be given here to the story of Dinah and the destruction of Shechem. No matter how one interprets the import of the story, it should be noted that the role played by the rite of circumcision is totally distinct from the role played in Gen 17. Circumcision is here depicted as an ethnic rite that must be carried out by members of the group. There is no connection between this rite and a particular deity who alone must be worshiped. Nowhere is there mention of the covenant with Abraham. Nowhere is there mention of the cultic worship of the members of Shechem, of the threat that this cult presents, or of the possibility that it might lead the sons of Israel astray. The request that the people of Shechem undergo circumcision is not joined by a request that they abandon their deities or even that they take on the worship of an additional, new deity. The state of being uncircumcised is defined as a “disgrace.” This recalls the statement of Joshua when he circumcised the Israelites at Gilgal: “Today I remove the disgrace of Egypt from upon you” ( Josh 5:9). It also recalls the frequent pejorative reference to Philistines as “uncircumcised” ( Judg 14:3; 15:18, etc.). The “disgrace” is ethnic rather than religious. Significantly, outside this chapter we are never told that Jacob and Esau were circumcised at the time of their births. Nor is there mention of circumcision in the reports of the births of Jacob’s sons (Gen 29:31–30:23). Jacob himself, who was not aware that the entire arrangement presented by his sons to the Shechemites was merely a ruse (34:13), obviously expected the covenant to be carried out and did not see anything illegitimate in it. We should also note that even the final self-justification of Simeon and Levi to their father of their action centers exclusively on the fact that their sister was molested and not on the legitimacy or illegitimacy of forming covenants with pagans. Finally, the children of Jacob end up taking the women and children of Shechem as booty (v. 29). This act in itself is never 69.  Pedersen, Israel, vols. 1–2, 299–301.

294

Chapter 5

depicted in terms of a religious sin, and there is no implication in the story that the women of Shechem would pose a dangerous religious threat in the form of temptation to idolatry. 70 The isolationism that may be reflected in this story is not, therefore, of a religious nature and is not of a piece with the conquest laws of Exodus through Deuteronomy. We may even go one step further. Many scholars have demonstrated that the story of Dinah has several inner tensions. 71 On the one hand, one finds several strong expressions of sympathy for Jacob’s sons and justification for the sack of Shechem. Among these are the references to the “contamination” of Dinah (vv. 5, 13b, 27; in this last verse, the act of contamination is attributed to the entire city), the “disgrace” that was perpetrated in Israel (v. 7), and the narrative’s concluding words presenting Simeon and Levi’s rebuke of the timid and unprincipled Jacob (v.  31), “Shall our sister be treated as a whore?” On the other hand, the narrative seems to go out of its way to depict the people of Shechem as being wronged innocents. Even if Shechem took Dinah by force, a point that is not beyond all doubt, 72 this does not implicate the entire city in the crime or make them all worthy of being slaughtered. 73 The sons of Jacob are depicted as duping not only the Shechemites but also their father, who heard the terms of the agreement and apparently expected them to be upheld. Even if we presume that Dinah was held captive in the city and that the feigned offer of a covenant via circumcision was needed as a ploy to extract her from the city, this still would not explain why the entire defenseless and incapacitated male population needed to be slaughtered and the city pillaged. Nor is it clear why the narrator should depict Hamor, Shechem, and the people of the city in such innocent and magnanimous terms as offering to share their land and daughters (vv.  9–10), as being willing to pay the highest dowry for the marriage (v.  11), as being convinced that the Israelites are “honest” with them (v. 21), as being fully compliant with all the Israelite demands (v. 24), and, finally, as slain when they were still hurting from the circumcision and under the illusion of being in a state of 70. I will argue below, however, that the redactor placed the story of the burial of foreign gods at this juncture in order to imply that the Shechemite women were the ones who had to remove the foreign gods. On this reading, the local women indeed posed a religious threat, but it is a threat that could easily be remedied by simply having them remove their gods. And there is still no indication that the city had to be destroyed because of the gods of the city. 71.  My understanding of the development of the narrative is strongly influenced by the analysis of Y. Zakovitch, “Assimilation of Biblical Narratives,” in Empirical Models for Biblical Criticism (ed. J.  H. Tigay; Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1985), 185–92. 72.  Cf. L.  M. Bechtel, “What If Dinah Is Not Raped? (Genesis 34),” JSOT 62 (1994): 19–36. 73. This argument was made by Maimonides, however, in his Code (Laws of Kings, 9:14).

Coexistence and Exclusiveness in the Book of Genesis

295

security (v. 25). One clearly senses that the massacre is depicted in unheroic and unflattering terms. 74 The looting of the city and the abduction of the women and children (vv. 28–29) further serve to depict the children of Jacob as being motivated at least as much by greed as by a concern for the purity of their sister. One also senses another inner tension in the story. On the one hand, Dinah is depicted in v. 26 as being a captive in the house of Shechem. However, most of the narrative, particularly the protracted negotiations over the marriage of Dinah and Shechem, seem to assume that Dinah is still within the jurisdiction of her father and brothers and living in their house. Why else would Shechem and Hamor come to the latter with the request that they “give” her to Shechem for a wife (vv. 8, 12, 14)? Indeed, the quick, full compliance by Shechem with the terms of the agreement is explained by the fact that he “sought to have the daughter of Jacob” (v. 19). All of these tensions have led several scholars to hypothesize that an original story depicting the sack of Shechem in negative terms was supplemented at a later date with the intention of justifying the harsh massacre. 75 It is not my intention here to enter into the scholarly debate over the fine details of the reconstruction of the original story. Suffice it to acknowledge the basic plausibility of the suggestion and the general identification of comments about the “contamination” of Dinah (vv.  5, 7, 13b, 27), the extraction of Dinah (v.  26b), and the condemnation of Jacob’s timidity (vv.  30–31) as being secondary. What I want to emphasize is the general significance of the story without these additions. One cannot doubt that the many negative aspects highlighted in the depiction of the sack of Shechem form the essence of the story. The children of Jacob are depicted as manipulators who used deceitful, dishonorable tactics in their pursuit of wealth and conquest. That there were no religious 74.  This should be contrasted with the depiction of Jacob’s conquest of Shechem in 48:22. The words “which I took from the Amorites with my sword and bow” give the impression that the city was captured in a heroic military confrontation rather than through a deception. Another comparison may also be worth pondering: some early critics (see Gunkel, Genesis, 349) suggested that, in an earlier form of the story of Jacob’s struggle with the “man” at Penuel, it was the man’s thigh that was injured rather than Jacob’s and that this was reversed at a later stage. It is indeed striking to note that the identity of the injured party is left ambiguous and is only identified in vv. 26b and 33b. Furthermore, the idea that Jacob was wounded fits poorly with his hold on the man in v. 27. Now, in 1 Kgs 12:25, we learn that Penuel and Shechem were twin capitals of Jeroboam. In light of all this, I raise the possibility that the original story of Jacob’s striking the “thigh” of the man of Penuel may vaguely reflect a similar tradition of conquest through dishonorable tactics. 75.  See S. Sandmel, The Hebrew Scriptures (New York: Knopf, 1963), 365–66; and n. 68 above. For other recent analyses following the general assumption that an earlier text has undergone supplementation, see J. Van Seters, “The Silence of Dinah,” in Jacob: Commentaire à plusieurs voix de Gen 25–36 (ed. J. D. Macchi and T. Römer; Geneva: Labor & Fides, 2001), 239–47; A.  Rofé, “Defilement of Virgins in Biblical Law and the Case of Dinah (Genesis 34),” Bib 86 (2005): 369–75.

296

Chapter 5

factors behind the destruction in the original story is shown by the fact that the religious issue is never brought up and by the fact that the women, children, livestock, and riches were all plundered. The magnanimous offer of the people of Shechem to share the land, intermarry, and become a single family (v. 16) is clearly depicted as a legit