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SBL 2008 Day 3

November 25, 2008

My entire itinerary for Monday was thrown off by a variety of factors. As such, I didn’t attend any of the sessions that I had previously planned; but the papers I did attend were pretty good.

In the morning, I popped in on Sacrifice, Cult, and Atonement section and saw Jason Tatlock (Armstrong Atlantic State University) present “The Place of Human Sacrifice in the Israelite Cult.” Tatlock’s question examines differing traditions on human exhumation before gods in the Hebrew Bible (Davidic traditions, Mesha, Aggad). His paper covered familiar ground, however Tatlock’s insight that the ḥerem in Joshua is fulfilled לפני יי – a construction also used in 1 Sam 15 – has interesting implications that I hope more folks explore.

Unfortunately, the rest of the morning was a wash – other papers I wanted to see were in rooms that were too packed to get into. But, a largish group of bibliobloggers managed to go out for lunch, so my grumpiness about this situation was quickly assuaged.

In the afternoon, places were packed again, but I managed to squeeze in for a few papers on Assyria and the Bible. David A. Bernat (Hebrew College and Brandeis grad) presented on “The Foreskinned Heart Metaphor of Leviticus 26:41 in Light of Ancient Near Eastern Extispicy.” His paper compared the use of כנע in Priestly texts with the verb kanāšu in Akkadian extispicy. The latter can have the sense of bending or humiliating. A possibility Bernat would like to see in the biblical text as well.

The real reason I wanted to attend this section was the paper by Carly L. Crouch (University of Oxford) entitled “Pictorial Propaganda: The Assyrian Palace Reliefs and the Ethics of Warfare in the Ancient Near East.” Unfortunately, that’s not what she actually presented on. Instead, she compared Assyrian military practices with the royal ideology in Assyria. She then extended that to similar royal mythic ideology in biblical texts. Finally, Crouch looked at the rebuke of such practices in the oracles of the nations in Amos 1-2. She concludes that Amos would have come from a radically different social location than that of the royal ideology shared by the Assyrians and rulers in ancient Israel. Unfortunately, her paper didn’t address issues such as Amos’ vocation and how to reconcile this with Amos 1:1 calling him a נקד which appear to pretty wealthy if not royal (see 2 Kings 3:4 and Ugaritic evidence).

Elizabeth Bloch-Smith (Saint Joseph’s University) also changed her paper topic from “Assyrians Abet Israelite Cultic Reforms: Sennacherib and Centralization of the Israelite Cult” to “Assessing Collateral Damage.” The paper that Bloch-Smith gave, interestingly enough, actually dealt with the pictorial propaganda of the Assyrian palace reliefs. She compared the Assyrian iconographic and inscriptional portrayals of the total destruction of Israelite and Judean towns with actual destruction patterns from archaeological evidence. It appears that the Assyrians were much savvier than they were sadistic.

I would have liked to stay for David Lamb’s paper, but claustrophobia was definitely upon me. The rest of the afternoon was spent in the bookroom with my wonderful wife.

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