Your Mother was a Hittite and Your Father an Amorite: Ethnicity, Judaism, and Palestine’s Cultural Heritage

It is important to stress once again that no effort was made by the Romans to exterminate either Judaism or Jews in Palestine. There was no deportation of Jews from Palestine at this time. The reason for an apparent shift of the population away from Judaism was that Jews formed a majority of the messianic sect which came to be identified only gradually as Christian and (therefore) not Jewish. This change in identity affected most of Palestine, apart from the Galilee where rabbinic Judaism thrived and was the dominant intellectual and religious group until well into the Islamic period. Under Byzantine domination, the majority of Jewish and Samaritan Palestinians became Christian: most through conversion, however willingly. When the Islamic army took Jerusalem after a negotiated peace in 637 CE, Jews and Christians continued to live in the city and in Palestine in relative safety and peace. During the Umayyad period—a period of growing prosperity—the majority in turn became Muslim through conversion. The religious tradition of Samaritans, Jews, Christians, and Muslims is a singular, historically continuous tradition and a common heritage in Palestine, deeply rooted in ancient Near Eastern religion since before the Bronze Age.

See Also:

On the Problem of Critical Scholarship: A Memoire

Creating Biblical Figures

A View from Copenhagen: Israel and the History of Palestine

By Thomas L. Thompson
Professor Emeritus
University of Copenhagen
February 2012

In Memory of Rev. Professor Michael Pryor, CM

The Origins of Judaism as a Historical Problem

More than a dozen years ago, in discussing the use of the words “Jew” and “Judaism,” I pointed out that the Assyrian form, Judáa, was a toponym referring to Palestine’s southern highlands and did not refer to any ethnic entity, much as the Persian period Yehud, was a political reference: the name of the Persian province. Neither Judáa nor Yehud were ethnic terms nor did they refer to a “people.” The wide geographic spread of yehudim during the Hellenistic period was so extensive that I think it would be rash to assume that this word simply referred to either the people of the province of Yehud or implied the place of origin of those called yehudim.3 This problem is not new. At the close of my lecture for the 7th Jerusalem Day Symposium in 1996, I argued that after Jerusalem and the Jewish temple had been destroyed by Titus in 70 CE and after Jews had been banned from the city reconstructed by the Romans, Aelia Capitolina, and after the Romans had put down Bar Kochba’s revolt in 135 CE, Jews were neither deported from Palestine nor was there a mass exodus from the land, but rather they continued in the land. The vast majority of this population converted to Christianity during the Byzantine Period and to Islam during the Omayyad period.4 In a meeting of the European Seminar for Historical Method in Lausanne the following year, I identified the biblical themes of “exile” and “return,” which are central and defining motifs of the “new Israel,” as both ideological and utopian literary and allegorical concepts, rather than historical facts, defining ethnicity.5 I have returned to these same problems on several occasions, but have always, in one way or another, returned to the central focus of my twenty-year-old monograph on the ethnogenesis implied by the figure of “Israel” in the Bible: The Early History of the Israelite People from the Written and Archaeological Sources.6 My understanding has been that the themes of “exile” and “return” not only have defined the literary strategy and point of departure for biblical narrative but also that such literary narratives have defined the religious self-understanding of both Judaism and Christianity as an Israel of the New Covenant.7 The recent book by Shlomo Sand, The Invention of the Jewish People, surveying the spread of Judaism outside Palestine, has carried this argument into modern times.8 Agreeing that the “definition of Jews as a ‘race’ or a ‘people’ of unique extraction was a legend devoid of historical foundation,”9 Sand’s work encourages me to attempt to gather together the main arguments related to the issue of ethnicity in pre-Roman Palestine and to explore briefly the development of radical sectarian commitments within monotheism.

The Haram at the Heart of al-Quds

However fictive its assertion, ethnicity is the coherence and continuity implicit in the identity of a people: an identity which is given to them by themselves or by others; an identity which, since Herodotus, has traditionally been attributed to the population of a given region with a distinctive political history, culture, language or religion.10 As issues of religion and, indeed, the role of Jerusalem in the religion of the region, are central to Jewish identity in antiquity, I would like to begin with a discussion of ancient Jerusalem as al-Quds: the holy city. Our earliest written reference to the city of Jerusalem appears in the Egyptian Execration Texts from between 1810-1770 BCE, which list a number of the towns of Palestine by name.11 The name of Jerusalem occurs in the form Rushalimum, “The Heights of (the divine) Salim” or “Salim’s high place.” This in all likelihood refers to the Middle Bronze II walled town on the Ophel, just south of the Old City, which Kathleen Kenyon excavated in the 1960s. The name of the town—with its reference to the cult site of the divine Salim—also occurs in the cuneiform of six of the late-eighteenth dynasty Amarna tablets as Urushalimu. Although some Late Bronze pottery has been found at the site, no significant settlement has been uncovered from this period.12 There is, however, evidence for an Egyptian style temple on the grounds of the École Biblique, which could be dated either to the late 18th dynasty, the Amarna period, or perhaps a bit later.13 Few remains of occupation exist before the ninth century BCE, other than that of a large “stepped stone structure” and the ruins of what may have been a large building.14 A true town begins to develop first in the second half of the ninth century, and by the first part of the eighth century, Jerusalem begins to expand and eventually develops a city of some 50 hectares, covering both the southeastern and western hills: an area which was enclosed by a fortification wall built sometime around the end of the 8th century BCE. In Margrete Steiner’s estimation, the city was eventually to grow to house some 6-10,000 people,15 before its destruction in 597 BCE. In describing this destruction by Nabuchadnezzar, Babylonian inscriptions also refer to the city as Urushalimmu. The role of Jerusalem as a holy city, which the use of the name reflects only implicitly, is directly evoked in the late biblical story about Melchizedek, the priest-king of Salem, who blesses Abraham with the blessing of El Elyon, the most high and creator of heaven and earth, with whom Yahweh has often been identified in the Bible (Gen 14:19-20; cf. Ps. 76:3, but also Num 24:6; Ps 46:4). The god El (typically in the form Elohim, “the divine,” in biblical literature) was the head of the pantheon in Late Bronze Ugaritic literature as well as Palestine and Syria generally through the Iron Age. Influenced by the monotheistic understanding of Ba’al Shamem in Syrian texts of the 5th century, many late biblical texts use the self-consciously monotheistic name Elohei Shamayim. In contrast, the Yahweh (Yah or Yahu in inscriptions) is often used as the “name of god” in song and narratives -- Immanuel: god as Israel knew him (Ex 3:12), or even, as in Deuteronomy 32:8 where Yahweh figures as the son of El elyon.

The Babylonian destruction of both Jerusalem and Judah in 597 BCE had been devastating. After having raided the Arabs in the steppe regions of Hatti (that is, Palestine) in his sixth year, Nebuchadnezzar laid siege to and captured “the city of Judah.” He appointed a new king and took heavy booty.16 In the course of the ensuing decade, both Jerusalem and nearly all of the settlements of Judea were devastated by the Babylonian army and the majority of the surviving population deported. The destruction and dismantling of the region included Lachish, Ramat Rachel, and Arad, as well as most of the towns of the Judean highlands and the Beersheba and Arad basins, together with the fortresses in the southern highlands and the northern Naqab. Although the region south of Jerusalem was thoroughly plundered, the destruction in the area of Benjamin, immediately north of Jerusalem, was not as thorough. Three important sites, Betin, Tall aj-Jib, and Tall al-Ful, survived undamaged. The excavations at Tall an-Nasbeh, show that the town, though damaged, had survived and was rebuilt.17 Indications of a continuity of settlement and significant changes in the town plan and fortifications have suggested to many that Tall an-Nasbeh became the administrative center for the region during the whole of the Neo-Babylonian period.18 Jerusalem, however, and the area of the province of Yehud immediately surrounding it, does not seem to have recovered at any time during the entire course of the Persian period until the beginning of the 2nd century BCE. For nearly four centuries, Jerusalem lay unreconstructed, with a small surviving population that is estimated at between 400 and 1000 people at most.19 Quite emphatically, During the Persian period, there is no sign of a return of those who had been exiled and not a single stone of Nehemiah’s legendary twelve-gated defense wall has been found.20 I would suggest that this very limited occupation of Jerusalem though these four centuries were largely limited to the maintenance of Jerusalem’s continued role as a holy city. That it continued to have this role, we know from a letter written in 410 BCE, which was addressed from Elephantine in Egypt to the high priest of Jerushlem (the Aramaic transcription of the cuneiform Urushalimmu), giving us clear evidence that Jerusalem—in spite of its destruction—did nevertheless continue as a holy place and possibly supported a temple as well, given the likelihood that the role of high priest would have been linked to the temple cult. I would argue that it was primarily because of Jerusalem’s long traditional role as a holy city, which, as we will see, supported the development of a radical religious extremism in their struggle for the control of Jerusalem throughout the Seleucid period and continued to provide fuel to such radicalism for more than three centuries. The conflict over Jerusalem’s role as a holy city continued to define its destiny even after Pompey had put an end to Hasmonean independence. Only Herod came close to finding a solution to this conflict. In rebuilding Jerusalem as a Hellenized city, the Roman-appointed Herod began the construction of an agora by extending the plateau above Ophel to approximate the present size of the Haram. He rebuilt and enlarged the temple, as tradition has it, at its center ](Josephus, Ant. 15.11.1). John Strange has argued (in the book of collected essays, whose Arabic version Salma Jayyusi and I published in 2004)21 that the wall, known today as the “wailing wall,” was not a remnant of the temple, but the western wall of the great market place above the city, which Herod had built to integrate the life of the city with its holiness by uniting the center of Jewish public religion and sacrifice with the center of the city’s society, Hellenistic thinking and culture, much in the manner of the agora in Athens. It was clearly Herod’s intention to present Judaism—both in religion and culture—as fully equal to other Hellenistic religions. His great project, however, took generations to complete: until 64 CE, just three years before a revolt centered in anti-Hellenist, Jewish extremism sealed the city’s fate.22

Ethnogenesis in Pre-Hellenistic Palestine

Efforts to define Jewish ethnogenesis have dominated biblical and archaeological research for nearly a century. Albrecht Alt’s sketch of Israel’s origins in the form of an intertribal unity or “amphictyony” of shepherds who collectively migrated into the hill country of Palestine23 had the central goal of placing Israel’s unity from the very beginning of its existence as a “people.” The American William Albright, similarly, saw the biblical stories about Abraham’s journey from Mesopotamian Ur and Harran to Cana’an as a form of saga, reflecting a historical movement of “semi-nomadic” Amorites who entered Palestine during the EB IV/ MB I period, reflecting an original unity as a “people” from its origins.24 It is also such an aboriginal unity which was sought by George Mendenhall and Norman Gottwald when they argued for a historical “Moses group” who brought a revolutionary message which transformed an uprising of Palestinian peasants into a “new people” already in the Late Bronze Age.25 Such remarkable historical fantasies were nevertheless convincing because they echoed the religious unity within which the Bible’s origin stories function through their elaborate allegory of exile and return, offered as tropes of promise and utopian visions of a new world, a new covenant or a new Israel: the central themes with which the writers of the Books of the prophets addressed their Hellenistic audiences. A religion was evoked with the commanding identity as a “people of God.”

Twentieth-century biblical historians and archaeologists were not very good readers of literature. It is interesting that the very first reference to the name “Israel,” representing a people, is the late 13th-century-BCE Egyptian stele, which presents a hymn, celebrating Merenptah’s victory over the Libyans. In the closing stanza of the hymn, “Israel” is used as a figure of allegory. Celebrating the decisive victory over Libya, the inscription closes on the theme of peace throughout the world. Not only Libyans, but all foreigners lay prostrate, crying “Shalom!”26 None of the nine bows raises its head (against Egypt). First “Libya is pacified;” this is the occasion for the celebration, but this victory evokes an imperial peace. “Hatti (the Hittites of Anatolia) is pacified and Cana’an has been plundered.” Then, a three-fold allegory of Egyptian control over Palestine’s lowland towns is offered, marking these towns as fallen warriors: “Asqalan is taken prisoner, Gezer is captured, and Yenoam is made non-existent.” Their parents, representing the land and its fertility, mark the poem’s final figures: the land’s former husband “(Israel) is laid waste; his seed is no more” and the land itself, Hurru (an Egyptian name for Palestine), has become a widow because of Egypt.” The name Israel is marked with the hieroglyphic sign of a “people.” Not only does this allegorical figure of Israel play the same kind of role that it does in the stories of Genesis as the bearer of Hurru/ Palestine’s fertility, but the “sons” are not towns in the central hills, where biblical archaeologists will place a biblical Israel, but in the lowlands of Cana’an and Philistia!27

Turning from literary trope to historical understanding, the progress made in the analysis of settlement patterns in the late 1960s to the early 1990s seems to have brought considerable resolution to the discussion of the Late Bronze/ Iron Age transition.28 The dominant pattern of Late Bronze Age settlements reflected gaps in the occupation of the central highlands, with a noticeable lack of continuity with the Middle Bronze period apart from a very few, fertile and well watered basins or valleys, such as that of Tall Balata near Nablus. The southern highlands also show a marked reduction in settlement during the Late Bronze period which seems to have been caused by a shift in the border of aridity northwards, a shift that was intensified by the “great Mycenaean drought.”29 Such gaps in the settlement of the highlands contrasts strikingly to the numerous, large and mostly unfortified Late Bronze settlements that have been found on the gentler slopes of the Shephelah, in lowland valleys, and along the coastal plain. By the beginning of the Iron Age, a large number of new settlements are found in previously unsettled regions. Most frequently discussed are those which have been found in the central hills between Ramallah and the Jezreel Valley,30 where some 300 sites have been mapped from Iron I. This concentration on the developments of the central hills involves, however, a serious error in method. To the extent that the developmental patterns of the central hills dominates our historical construct, the more a traditional biblically oriented structure of our history is drawn at the expense of an archaeologically based understanding of Palestine’s other regions. Finkelstein’s Israel-centered, historical presentation of Palestine’s Iron Age settlement history has seriously distorted the distinct—and at times diverging—lines of historical development elsewhere.31 It has undermined a clear understanding of the regional histories of Palestine, which developed out of a complex, interactive network of competition, linking Palestine’s emerging regional patronages throughout the course of the Iron II period. Geographically determined differences of settlement patterns and pottery are so marked throughout Palestine that it needs to be argued today even more clearly than it was in the early 1990s32 that the overemphasis and priority given to the central hills have functioned to encourage a serious distortion of the history of settlement elsewhere in Palestine and the Transjordan.33

The Upper Galilee and the Carmel, for example, had been nearly devoid of settlement in the Late Bronze Period, apart from the slopes of the Great Rift Valley. Moreover, the forms of early Iron I pottery from this region (including Tall al-Qida, Bronze Age Hasura) is substantially different from those found in the central hills. Indeed, the Bronze Age and especially the Middle Bronze settlement on Tall al-Qida is clearly Syrian in character and maintained significant ties with Mari.34 The form of the Galilean pithoi—a direct descendent of LB forms at Tall al-Qida—for example, and not the collared-rim store jar one finds in the central hills, dominates Iron I pottery throughout the Upper Galilee.35 The specifically Galilean character of the finds, indeed, points to the indigenous character of the new settlements in this region and marks a historically distinctive material culture from that which dominated the central highlands. Moreover, finds of Tyrian pithoi suggest coastal associations, comparable to what the area’s few Late Bronze sites had. Cultural links with Lebanon rather than to the central hills continue to mark the Galilee through the Hellenistic and Roman periods, especially through the Ituraeans, who are found from Beisan to the anti-Lebanon. In the lower Galilee, continuous occupation from the Late Bronze Age is clear at several Iron I sites, which demonstrates the continued presence of the region’s indigenous population: a continuity which is also obvious in Iron I settlements of the Beisan and Jezreel Valleys. Although Finkelstein’s early claim of “tribal” or nomadic origins of the settlers in the central highlands of Palestine was biblically oriented and hardly compelling,36 today he accepts the conclusion that the settlers of both the central and the southern highlands—where Iron Age Israel and Judah were formed, were direct heirs of the Bronze Age cultures of their regions.

If one turns to the northern coast, to Akka, Tall Keisan, Tall Abu Hawam and, south of Carmel, al-Tantura,37 there is clear evidence of cultural continuity between the Iron I remains and the Late Bronze Age and evidence of close ties with sites in Lebanon. It is hardly surprising that in the Iron II period, the Assyrians gave the patronage of this region to Tyre. Further south, from the reign of Ramses III, settlements in the coastal plain from the Carmel to Gaza show a peaceful and rapid integration of the indigenous population with newcomers from Cilicia or the Aegean.38 These are the Peleset (from which the name Palestine derives), the Sherden, the Dananu, the Tjekker, and others. The excavations at al-Tantura and Akka clearly indicate that the immigrants were quickly integrated. This is also indicated by the pottery, especially the so-called Philistine ware, which is based on a synthesis of a transplanted Mycenaean ceramic tradition and indigenous pottery.39 Philistines were never a historical people. Much like the fictive Cana’anites,40 they are a literary allegory for Israel’s enemy in the land. In the course of the Iron Age, the patronage cities which had been created along the coast from Ugarit to Gaza already from the Middle Bronze period developed a series of distinct, often independent client towns under Egyptian and then Assyrian patronage. Their independence was such that some were identified with specific dialects of Cana’anite, such as Ashdodi, which were parallel to other regional dialects, such as Phoenician, Israelite, Judean, Edomite, and Moabite.

Perhaps the most distinctive pattern of early Iron Age settlement of any region has been identified by the surveys of the southern Judean highlands, which had been nearly totally abandoned in the Late Bronze. Very few Iron I sites have been found in the region. Settlement begins first in the mid to late Iron II period, i.e., in the late 9th and 8th centuries BCE. New settlement, once begun, expanded so rapidly that one must consider immigration to the region from the outside.41 The regional ecology and its economy, with cash crops based in herding and horticulture, especially olives, which are deeply dependent on trade, reflects a development that is similar to what we also find in southern Jordan, establishing an administrative center at Tall Buseira (ancient Bosra). Both of these semi-steppe regions owed their political development—in the form of small patronage kingdoms, active clients in Assyria’s development of mining and its expansion of the Arab trade networks.42 The first clear reference to Jerusalem’s hegemony over Judah is in a list of kings who paid tribute to Tiglath Pileser III in 734-732 BCE.43 In both Edom and Judáa, the population increased dramatically during the 7th century. In Edom, expansion was reflected in the development of Bosra as a regional capital. In turn, Jerusalem expands over the city’s western hill, perhaps one of the effects of the Assyrian’s forced settling of steppe-dwellers from the ‘Araba, southern Transjordan, and the Naqab to increase olive production and exploit the ‘Araba’s copper production and expand the trade network. Judáa and Edom developed a socio-economic continuum which integrated the economy and the populations of this large steppe region, linking the Sinai with Arabia. The closely parallel economies created fluid borders, a common language and closely related religious traditions centered in the worship of Yahweh.

Not itself indigenous to Palestine, the cult of Yahweh seems first to have developed among 13th-century Sh3sw steppe dwellers in the regions of Seir and Midian.44 The 9th-century Mesha stele refers to Yahw worship at Nebo and a near contemporary inscription from Kuntillat Ajrud associates “Yahw” with cult centers in both Samaria and Tawilan (ancient Teman).45 Yahwism’s Midian origins may be echoed in the biblical story of Moses, whose father-in-law was a Midianite priest, meeting Yahweh in the burning bush on the “mountain of God” (Ex 3). Elsewhere, the Bible variously speaks of Yahweh as having come from the Edomite steppe and the desert fringe (from Seir, Paran, Teman, and Midian). So too the Samaritan figure of Yahweh, the god of love, guardian of the stranger in the land and of one in need (Gen 4:1-16; Leviticus 19:18,34) is very similar to the divine figure of a Nabataean cult reflected in two inscriptions from the caravanserai of Qaryat al-Faw in the Hijaz, which refer to a nameless deity, the divine wd, the “beloved,” who is represented by the crescent and star and protects the traveler and the stranger, the poor, and the needy.46

Destruction and Reconstruction: Palestine under the Assyrian, Babylonian, and Persian Empires

Let us return to the central hills where a rapid expansion of settlement in early Iron II had led to a gradual process of centralization and the establishment of a regional patronage monarchy in Samaria. In 9th- and 8th-century inscriptions, this kingdom is known both by the name of “Bit Humri,” as on the Black Obelisk, and “Israel,” as on the bytdwd and Mesha inscriptions. Along with Tyre, Hamat, Damascus, and Moab, this regional kingdom was among the major contestants for the patronage of the Galilee, the Jezreel, and the northern Transjordan. More than a century later, at about the time that the twin kingdoms of Edom and Judah began to integrate most of the southern highlands and steppe of greater Palestine under Assyrian patronage, Tiglath Pileser III in 738 and again in 733 BCE decisively moved to bring first Damascus and then Samaria under imperial administration. In 732, he sacked Damascus,47 executed its king Rezin, and annexed Aram—including the large, non-coastal areas of northern Palestine to the southern rim of the Jezreel. Ten years later, his successor, Shalmanezer V, lay siege to Samaria. After three years, it fell in the first year of Sargon II. The elite of the city were deported to Assyria, while the majority of the indigenous population in the central hills was placed under Assyrian provincial administration. Samaria was rebuilt as the new province’s administrative center. Although Israel ceased to exist as an independent kingdom, the population continued the lives they had led. Archaeological records reflect a considerable continuity of culture and settlement throughout the central highlands. Assyrian sources report that some Arabs were used to help resettle Samaria. These Axel Knauf has identified with Midianites, who, because of their common ground in religion were easy to integrate with the indigenous highland farmers.48 The population of the central hill country continued to play their dominant role in central Palestine. Western scholarship has been deeply influenced by the anti-Samaritan biases of biblical tradition, not least the legend of the 10 lost tribes of Israel that reflected Jewish/anti-Samaritan biases as we find in 2 Kings 17, Nehemiah, 1 Esdras, and Josephus.49 The central hills and Samaria were not much affected by the Babylonian takeover at the end of the 7th century BCE and excavations on top of Gerizim have shown that from the 5th to the late 2nd century BCE, the Samaritans had a thriving temple, which, in the Hellenistic period supported a town of some 10,000, after the Samaritans, following their revolt against the Greeks over the appointment of a non-Samaritan governor, were banned from Samaria itself.50 Rather than lost tribes, the some 750 persons who live as Samaritans today have a singularly strong claim for the indigenous quality of both their society and culture since the early Iron Age.51

Far more damaging to the survival of elements of the indigenous population in the Palestinian highlands were the attacks on Judáa by Sennacherib in 701 BCE with its brutal siege of Lachish and decimating deportations of the populations of both Lachish and Judáa. These are well attested by Assyrian monuments, records, and archaeological remains,52 not least the famous Assyrian wall reliefs at the British Museum. Sennacherib attacked Judah for a breach in loyalty over a dispute with the king of Ekron.53 Although the town of Lachish was rebuilt and much of the Shephelah began to recover by the mid-7th century, much of Judáa, and especially the highlands, is not resettled even as Jerusalem expands with refugees to reach its greatest size in pre-Hellenistic times. After the fall of Nineveh, in the year 597, the Babylonian, Nebuchadnezzar II, “captured the city of Judáa,” appointed a new client king, and took heavy tribute.54 After a decade of anarchy followed, Jerusalem and most of what remained of Judáa were turned into a wasteland by the Babylonian army and its population was deported to Babylon. However, in a small enclave north of Jerusalem, destruction was not as complete as in the south. Three sites survived undamaged: Beitin, aj-Jib, and Tall al-Ful. In addition, the excavations at Tall an-Nasbeh show that the town, though damaged, had survived and was rebuilt. In fact, and in striking contrast with Judáa, the town seems even to have prospered during the Neo-Babylonian period. This has led several scholars to suggest that Tall an-Nasbeh served as administrative center of Judáa during the Neo-Babylonian period.55 The destruction extended as far south as Tall al-Khuleifah and Feinan, sites which were abandoned in the 6th century and remained unoccupied during the Neo-Babylonian period.56 Incursions of Idumeans into the southern highlands and western areas of Judah follow.57 After the final collapse of mining and trade and the destruction of Bozrah by Nabonidus, the geographic and cultural continuum which stretched between the southern Transjordan, the ‘Araba and the Naqab to Feinan shifted its center to Lachish and southern Judah and reached as far as Ashdod on the coastal plain. In the Persian period, the population of Edom and the survivors of Judáa became one.58 Lachish recovers its earlier prosperity and becomes—by the middle of the 5th century BCE—the political capital of Idumea59 and the dominant power in southern Palestine, a position which it holds until late into the 2nd century BCE. In contrast to the prosperity which followed the integration of the south, Jerusalem and the surrounding area hardly expand beyond the drastically decimated population on the Ophel which had survived destruction by the Babylonians. Few architectural finds attest to any kind of town in the Persian or Ptolemaic periods. The administration for the Persian province of Yehud was apparently centered in a rebuilt Ramat Rachel.60

The Hellenistic Period and “Jewish” Dominance over Palestine

Because of the close symbiosis which existed between the surviving population of former Judáa and the Edomites during the Neo-Babylonian and Persian periods, integration brought about shifts in both language and identity. The early, regional dialects, from the Iron Age to the 5th century, “Judean” and “Edomite,”61 ceased to be the mother tongues of this region and a decided shift towards Aramaic transformed the linguistic landscape.62 The self-identity of the population as Yehudim, however, survived primarily, I suggest, because of the ideological importance of the holy city of Jerusalem. By the time that the Seleucids took control of the region from the Ptolemees at the end of the third century BCE and Antiochus III began to carry out his plans of turning Jerusalem into a Hellenistic polis, centered in a politically and religiously syncretistic holy city, his plans aroused a reactionary opposition that strengthened an exclusive anti-foreign (and not least anti-Idumean and anti-Samaritan) religious ideology among Jerusalem’s most conservative priests, as reflected in such relatively late biblical books as Malachi, Obadiah, and I Esdras.63 A radically militant, religious ideology also affected the symbolic value and understanding of their identity as Yehudim as centered in their religion, so that they came to reflect not one of the peoples of Palestine, but an exclusively religious self-understanding.

Of course, such radical ideological transformations are centered in intense conflict and debate. Just as radically exclusive, reactionary, and isolationist as one may understand a text like Obadiah to be, so inclusive, progressive, and syncretistic is the rhetoric of a text like Genesis. Nor was Judaism alone in this Kulturkampf. Shifts in identity also influenced the symbolic and ideological value of Samaritan self-understanding as their identity as Shomronim is increasingly understood in religious terms. Their roles as “keepers” (of the Torah) came to reflect their commitment to a very specific religious cult and piety rather than simply a regional and politically oriented self-understanding. Shlomo Sand’s treatment of the closely related development of Jewish proselytism, as a substantial understanding of the great expansion of the so-called Jewish “Diaspora” (that is, extra-Palestinian Judaism) from a very early period, is certainly correct. Both Samaritanism and Judaism became profoundly committed to converting the world to Yahweh. From at least the early Persian period, the deeply eclectic and syncretistic 5th century Jewish settlements at Nippur reflected in the Murashu tablets,64 and the similarly syncretistic Jewish (and Samaritan) colony at Elephantine, reflected in the Elephantine papyri,65 like the Judean-Idumean provincial center in Lachish, clearly indicate an ecumenically expansive acceptance of religious integration with foreigners and an equally substantial religious commitment to other societies and values. Palestine as “the land of Israel” and Jerusalem as an exclusive center of Judaism: Deuteronomy’s singularly exclusive place of worship, “which Yahweh will show them”—whether in reference to Gerizim or Jerusalem—was hardly every Jew’s or every Samaritan’s commitment. In addition to the Persian period temples of Samaria and Jerusalem, there was also a Persian period temple at Elephantine and known Hellenistic temples to Yahweh in Leontopolis and ‘Araq al- Amir. Yahweh’s name was brought to many places in the empire. Hellenism opened areas surrounding Palestine and the whole of the eastern Mediterranean to Jewish and Samaritan missionaries. Communities of considerable size were developed in both Antioch and Damascus, in Alexandria (the new capital of Jewish and Samaritan learning), in Lybia, the Phoenician colonies, Asia Minor, Athens and the Aegean, Cyprus, Sicily and Rome. According to Sand, Judaism and Samaritanism came to make up some 7-8% of the population of the Roman Empire.66 Although the Iron Age patronage kingdom of Judáa had been devastated and uprooted by Sennacherib and Nebuchadnezzar, the identity and ideology of Judaism nevertheless came to dominate most of Palestine at the end of the second century BCE. This identity transformation was carried out by military means.

It is an irony of history that the Seleucid ruler, Antiochus IV, was the ruler who finally brought about the recovery of Jerusalem by appointing Jason as high priest to reconstruct the ruined city as a Hellenistic polis. It was, indeed, the reactionary protest to Antiochus’ patronage of the temple and its cult as anti-Judaic and “foreign” intrusion in the cult which led to armed revolt as a response to Antiochus’ integrating reforms of the cult. The successful revolt enabled the priest Mattathias, whose son Judas captured the city in 165 BCE, to found a religious dynasty of high priests, which, in the following century, came to rule most of Palestine. After the death of Antiochus, the rebels were able to continue their control of Jerusalem under imperial patronage. Nevertheless, religious radicalism eliminated the influence of Hellenistic Judaism and supported an anti-foreign and anti-Hellenistic regime. In 142 BCE, Simon, the last of the sons of Mattathias, took up just such a policy of radical and militant expansion. Having thrown the Seleucid garrison out of Jerusalem, he took the port city of Joppa and the fortress of Gezer. By 140 BCE, the Roman senate became interested in the deteriorating control the Seleucids held over Palestine and voted to recognize an anti-Seleucid, Hasmonean kingdom in Jerusalem. Simon was quick to break his allegiance to Antioch and, after his assassination in 134 BCE, his son, John Hyrcanus (134-104 BCE), took account of his great distance from his Roman patrons and began systematically to expand Jerusalem’s control over in Palestine. He took Lachish and the entire province of Idumea. He forced the Edomites to introduce circumcision and swear allegiance to the temple in Jerusalem. In the Naqab, with the conquest of the fortresses of Adora and Marissa, the entire steppe region to Eilat, fell under his control. The Idumeans here too were forced to be circumcised and give allegiance to the Jerusalem temple. Hyrcanus crossed the Jordan and besieged and destroyed Madeba. In about 111 or 110 BCE, he moved his army north of Jerusalem and lay siege to Samaria. He burned the city and enslaved its population. He also destroyed the town of Shechem and both the town and temple on Gerizim. Here too he forced the population to accept Jewish religious practices and give allegiance to Jerusalem’s temple. Continuing this Judaizing policy throughout Palestine, Hyrcanus and, after him, his sons Aristobolus (104-103 BCE) and Alexander Jannaeus (103-76) brought Judaism to the whole of Ituraea from Beisan to the Lebanon as well as to the rest of the Upper and Lower Galilee up to Akka and the Phoenician coast. South of Akka, he took the entire coastal plain except Asqalan and laid siege to Gaza. When Gaza fell in 96 BCE, Judaism gained control over the major Mediterranean outlet for the Nabataean trade network. Jannaeus also took the region of the Be’erseba and Arad basins and, north of the Judean Shephelah, he took control of the western slopes of the Nablus hills. He crossed the Jordan and took the whole of Peraea, which stretched along the east bank of the river from the Wadi Mujib. Moving further north, he asserted his control over the whole of the east bank up to and including the Jaulan, ever demanding Jewish conversion. Although we know nothing of those who might have been excepted from or were able to avoid submission to such policies, or about groups or peoples within Palestine who could have mounted political or economic resistance to the Hasmonean politic, this military-driven expansion of Judaism in its sectarian form of a supersessionist and exclusive monotheism67 was eventually stopped when Alexander Jannaeus met defeat at the hands of the Nabataean Aretas of Damascus in 88 BCE, a defeat which placed the northeastern border of a Roman-recognized, reborn Judaea on the Jaulan. As with the conquests of Hyrcanus, Jannaeus’ victories also employed forced conversion to Judaism and allegiance to Jerusalem’s temple. Palestine became a Jewish land. Judaism was no longer an identity based in geography nor indeed had it anything to do with ethnicity. The people of the conquered territories of Palestine were made subjects of a religiously defined state and the terms “Jew” and “Judaism,” both within Hasmonean controlled Palestine and in the Diaspora, came to reflect the region’s religious preoccupation.

The Bible and Palestine’s Literary Heritage

Here, before closing, we need to pause and consider how it could have happened that within a very short time after Jerusalem was first rebuilt as a liberal polis, this holy city of some 1500 years, long committed to a religious tradition of peace, with deep roots in a religion, centered in such themes as the love and care of the stranger, which marked the Yahwism of both Samaria and Teman, with roots that went back to at least the 8th century BCE, was reorganized into a militant, religious force of conquest, used to suppress all that was perceived as foreign. The question is difficult as it deals with the effects of an ideology that inspired radical historical change. I think that if we are going to be able to come closer to an answer to how this happened, we need also to understand the relationship between the collection of literary works in the Bible’s and related developments in radical, sectarian Judaism which marked the lives of two or three generations of Palestinians, following the Maccabean revolt. As I see this problem, I hold the relationship of Judaism to the Bible in focus. The Bible was not composed as Jewish literature, but, rather, it was Judaism which was created by this literature. Moreover, Jerusalem—not as a great city, but in its role as al-Quds, was the cradle of Judaism.68 We must remember that on the basis of biblical laws of holiness and purity, the presence of the divine makes the city unfit for the normal lives of men. This is a key to understanding the radical sectarian and fundamentalist demand for an ethnic cleansing of the city that the Books of Ezra and Nehemiah expose. Twenty years ago,69 I argued that it was the literary trope of “return from exile” which was the first premise of Jewish self-understanding and ethnogenesis. Today, the well-recognized gaps in Jerusalem’s history make it very difficult to assume that there ever was a historical return from exile. In contrast to Samaritanism, Judaism was a religious development which came about from an effort to create an ideal new society based on the utopias of its traditions.70

Considerably before the Seleucids rebuilt Jerusalem, communities in and from Palestine had already formed an enduring self-identity through the production of religious and philosophical traditions. By the Persian period, the deportees from Palestine, Samaritans, Jews, Edomites, and others, established communities in such Mesopotamian cities as Harran, Nippur, and Babylon. These communities eventually reflected not only a number of transcendent, utopian projections, such as we find in the prophetic works of Isaiah and perhaps Lamentations, but they also projected utopian allegories in the stories related to the figure of Abraham in his epitomizing role as the “stranger in the land” (Gen 12:3). These utopian tropes seem likely to have been integrated in the Samaritan’s earliest form of the Torah in the temple community of Gerizim, perhaps already in the Persian period.71 Literary works and other contributions to the production of Palestine’s cultural identity seems also to have come from the Persian province of Idumea, from Lachish, with its steppe and Midianite-Arab origin traditions of Yahweh, reflected in inscriptions from Sinai which link the cult centers of Samaria and Teman.72 We have seen that the metaphors for the divine at the cultic shrine in a Nabataean caravanserai in the Hejaz are similar to central Samaritan themes of love of the stranger and understanding Yahweh as mankind’s guardian (shomer).73

While Jerusalem has some clear traditions of its own such as the critical narrative in the Books of Kings of Samaria and Judah’s election and fall from grace, the interests of the Hasmonean period are rather reflected in the revision of biblical chronology, centering it thematically in the rededication of the temple in 164 BCE celebrating the revolt of the Maccabbees.74 Chauvinistic rhetoric and the demonization of the foreigner in the land seem to drive a revision of Deuteronomy’s reiteration of the wilderness stories, presenting an exclusive monotheism, reflected in the holy war traditions of Yahweh Saba’ot and the isolationist ideologies of later Greek biblical books like 1 Esdras and 1-2 Maccabbees.75

Roman Judaea and a Multi-ethnic Palestine

In spite of great interest today among right wing, Israeli identity-creators, militant patriotism and anti-foreigner ideology hardly defines Judaism. The heirs of the Hasmonean period were those who had been subjected to the military power of religious radicals. Sand is correct that no Judaism ever existed which had “the character of a community of common origin.”76 When the Romans decided to take direct control over Palestine’s administration from their Hasmonean clients and Pompey entered Jerusalem in 63 BCE, they were faced with a political problem of Jewish identity and self-understanding. It was now the Romans who were the foreigners in a land dominated by an anti-foreign, radical ideology. The Romans, however, did not repeat Alexander’s mistake and “Judgment Day” was delayed. When they introduced home-rule in 42 BCE, the patronage over Samaria and Jerusalem were given to Herod, a Jew. Under his influence and commitment to a Hellenized Palestine, both cities were rebuilt on a grand scale and Herod and his family held the region relatively stable for a full century before the first Jewish revolt, which Titus put down by destroying the city and, with it, Herod’s temple and agora in 70 CE. Although immensely impoverished and in ruins, the city’s—and Palestine’s—ethnicity was unchanged. No deportations followed. Sixty-five years later, when the messianic Bar Kochba rebellion was brought under control after four years of “salvation,” Hadrian moved against central symbols of Judaism, banning Jews from Jerusalem and rebuilding Aelia Capitolina in honor to the god Jupiter, purposefully maintaining the heritage of the city as holy. It is noteworthy that, our source, Eusebius’ anti-Jewish polemical account of the rebellion and Hadrian’s ban of Jews from a newly rebuilt Jerusalem echoes the account he gives to the punishment Alexander subjected the Samaritans to after their rebellion against the Hellenization of Samaria in 323 BCE.77 Literary trope and history hide each other.

It is important to stress once again that no effort was made by the Romans to exterminate either Judaism or Jews in Palestine. There was no deportation of Jews from Palestine at this time. The reason for an apparent shift of the population away from Judaism was that Jews formed a majority of the messianic sect which came to be identified only gradually as Christian and (therefore) not Jewish. This change in identity affected most of Palestine, apart from the Galilee where rabbinic Judaism thrived and was the dominant intellectual and religious group until well into the Islamic period. Under Byzantine domination, the majority of Jewish and Samaritan Palestinians became Christian: most through conversion, however willingly. When the Islamic army took Jerusalem after a negotiated peace in 637 CE, Jews and Christians continued to live in the city and in Palestine in relative safety and peace. During the Umayyad period—a period of growing prosperity—the majority in turn became Muslim through conversion. The religious tradition of Samaritans, Jews, Christians, and Muslims is a singular, historically continuous tradition and a common heritage in Palestine, deeply rooted in ancient Near Eastern religion since before the Bronze Age.


1 Ezek 16:3.

2 This paper was first presented at a seminar dedicated to the Palestinian Heritage of Jerusalem, sponsored by the Jordanian Ministry of Culture on January 28, 2012. I would like to thank the Ministry of Culture and Dr. Ahmed Rashed and Dr. Subhi Gosheh of the Jerusalem Day Committee for their hospitality in giving me the opportunity to present these reflections.

3 T. L. Thompson, The Bible in History: How Writers Create a Past (London: Jonathan Cape, 1999), 257; idem, “Lester Grabbe and Historiography: An apologia,” SJOT 14 (2000), 155-157.

4 T. L. Thompson, “Hidden Histories and the Problem of Ethnicity in Palestine,” in M. Pryor (ed.), Western Scholarship and the History of Palestine (London: Melisende, 1998), 23-39.

5 T. L. Thompson, “The Exile in History and Myth: A Response to Hans Barstad,” in L. L. Grabbe, Leading Captivity Captive: The Exile as History and Ideology (Sheffield: SAP, 1998), 101-119; idem, “Etnicitet og Bibel: Flere Jødedomme og det nye Israel” in N. P. Lemche and H. Tronier (eds), Etnicitet i Bibelen (København: Museum Tusculanum, 1998), 23-42.

6 The Early History of the Israelite People from the Written and Archaeological Sources (Leiden: Brill, 1992). This book is apparently unknown to the more recent work of Avraham Faust, which deals with the same issues from a very different perspective: A. Faust, Israel’s Ethnogenesis: Settlement, Interaction, Expansion and Resistance (London: Equinox, 2006); see also E. Pfoh, “Review Article: On Israel’s Ethnogenesis and Historical Method,” Holy Land Studies 7 (2008), 213-219; idem, The Emergence of Israel in Ancient Palestine: Historical and Anthropological Perspectives (London: Equinox, 2009).

7 Jer 31.

8 S. Sand, The Invention of the Jewish People (London: Verso, 2009); idem, On the Nation and the Jewish People (London: Verso, 2010).

9 Sand, On the Nation, 30.

10 The theoretical discussion is vast. A very useful reader is that of W. Sollors (ed.), Theories of Ethnicity: A Classical Reader (London: Macmillan, 1996); for a discussion related to Palestine, see the recent discussion in E. Pfoh, The Emergence of Israel in Ancient Palestine: Historical and Anthropological Perspectives, CIS (London: Equinox, 2009); for a very different and explicitly Israeli perspective, see A. Faust, Israel’s Ethnogenesis: Settlement, Interaction, Expansion and Resistance (London: Equinox, 2006).

11 K. Sethe, Die Ächtung feindlicher Fürsten: Völker und Dinge auf altägyptischer Tongefässscherben des mittleren Reiches APAW, 1926; G. Posener, Princes et Pays d’Asie et de Nubie (Paris: Garibalda, 1940); idem “Les Textes d’envoutement de Mirgissa,” Syria 43 (1966), 277-287; for the relative and absolute dating of these texts, see T. L. Thompson, The Historicity of the Patriarchal Narratives: The Quest for the Historical Abraham, BZAW 133 (Berlin: de Gruyter, 1974), 106-113.

12 M. Steiner, Excavations by Kathleen M. Kenyon in Jerusalem 1961-1967, Volume III: The Settlement in the Bronze and Iron Ages, CIS (London: SAP/ Continuum, 2001.

13 G. Barkay, “A Late Bronze Age Egyptian Temple in Jerusalem?” IEJ 46(1996), 23-34.

14 Steiner, Excavations, 52.

15 Steiner, Excavations, 109.

16 J. B. Pritchard, ANET, 563-564; Ahlström, History, 785-796; Stern, Archaeology, 325.

17 Stern, Archaeology, 321-322; see, also, P. R. Davies, Memories of Ancient Israel: An Introduction to Biblical History, Ancient and Modern (Louisville/ London: Westminster/ John Knox, 2008); idem, “Biblical History and Cultural Memory,” The Bible and Interpretationhttp://www.bibleinterp.
 (April 14, 2009), 1-5. For a well considered reconstruction of the region, see esp. O. Lipschitz, “Demographic Changes in Judah between the Seventh and Fifth Centuries BCE,” in O. Lipschitz and J. Blenkinsopp (eds.), Judah and the Judeans in the Neo-Babylonian Period Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 2003), 323-376.

18 Lipschitz, “Demographic Changes,” 346-347; also: idem, “The History of the Benjaminite Region under Babylonian Rule,” Tel Aviv 26/2 (1999), 155-190; J. R. Zorn, “Tell en-Nasbeh: A Re-evaluation of the Architecture and Stratigraphy of the Early Bronze Age and Later Periods,” PhD dissertation: University of California, Berkeley (1993); idem, “Tell en-Nasbeh and the Problem of the Material Culture of the Sixth Century,” in Lipschitz and Blenkinsopp (eds.), Judah and the Judeans, 413-447.

19 O. Lipschits, “Achaemenid Imperial Policy, Settlement Processes in Palestine, and the Status of Jerusalem in the Fifth Century BCE,” in O. Lipschits and M. Oeming (eds.), Judah and the Judeans in the Persian Period (Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 2006), 19-53; idem, “Persian Period Finds from Jerusalem: Facts and Interpretations,” The Journal of Hebrew Scriptures 9/ 20 (2009), 1-30: I. Finkelstein, “Jerusalem in the Persian (and Early Hellenistic) Period and the Wall of Nehemiah,” Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 32/4 (2008), 501-520.

20 T. L. Thompson, “What We Do and Do Not Know about Pre-Hellenistic al-Quds,” in E. Pfoh and K. W. Whitelam, The Politics of Israel's Past: Biblical Archaeology and Nation-Building (Sheffield: Phoenix Press, forthcoming).

21 J. Strange, “Herod and Jerusalem: The Hellenization of an Oriental City,” in T. L. Thompson and S. Jayyusi, Jerusalem in ancient History and Tradition….

22 Strange, “Herod and Jerusalem.”

23 Thompson, Early History, 27-76.

24 Thompson, Early History, 1-26.

25 T. L. Thompson, “The Joseph and Moses Narratives,” in J. H. Hayes and J. M. Miller, Israelite and Judean History (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1977), 149-180; 210-212.

26 J. K. Hoffmeier, “The (Israel) Stela of Merneptah,” in W. W. Hallo (ed.), The Context of Scripture II: Monumental Inscriptions (Leiden: Brill, 2003), 40-41.

27 I. Hjelm and T. L. Thompson, “The Victory Song of Merenptah: Israel and the People of Palestine,” JSOTS 27 (2002), 3-18; also K. W. Whitelam, “Israel is Laid Waste: His Seed is no more: What if Merneptah’s Scribes Were Telling the Truth?” in J. C. Exum (ed.), Virtual History and the Bible (Leiden: Brill, 1999), 8-22. A new reading of a yet earlier, topographic name, appearing together with the names ’askelan and pe’ kana’an (Gaza) appears in the form of Ischra-el, dating from about 1500 was published by Manfred Görg in 2001 and is just recently come under consideration. Cf. P. van der Veen, C. Theis and M. Görg, “Israel in Canaan (Long) Before Pharaoh Merneptah? A Fresh Look at Berlin Statue Pedestal Relief 21687,” Journal of Ancient Egyptian Interconnections 2/4 (2010), 15-25.

28 Y. Aharoni, The Settlement of the Israelite Tribes in the Upper Galilee (Jerusalem: Hebrew University dissertation, 1957); M. Kochavi Judea, Samaria and the Golan: Archaeological Survey 1967-1968 (Jerusalem: IES, 1972); I. Finkelstein, The Archaeology of the Israelite Settlement (Jerusalem: IES, 1988); T. L. Thompson, The Settlement of Sinai and the Negev in the Bronze Age, BTAVO 8 (Wiesbaden: Dr. Reichert Verlag, 1975); idem, The Settlement of Palestine in the Bronze Age, BTAVO 34 (Wiesbaden: Dr. Reichert Verlag, 1979); idem, Early Hist,215-300.

29 See my discussion on this in Early History, 215-221.

30 A. Zertal, Arrubath, Hepher and the Third Solomonic District (University of Tel Aviv dissertation, 1986); Finkelstein, Archaeology.

31 Finkelstein, Archaeology, passim; cf., however, Thompson, Early History, 221-310.

32 Thompson, Early History: 217-300.

33 A related argument was put forward by K. W. Whitelam some time ago in his study: The Invention of Ancient Israel (London: Rutledge, 1996).

34 S. Zuckerman, The Last Days of a Canaanite Kingdom (2009).

35 Thompson, Early History: 239-250.

36 A. Alt, Die Landnahme der Israeliten in Palästina, Reformationsprogramm der Universität Leipzig (Leipzig, 1925); Finkelstein, Settlement, 89-91; cf. Thompson, Early History, 223-239; T. L. Thompson, “Palestinian Pastoralism and Israel’s Origins,” SJOT 6/1 (1992), 1-13.

37 Mentioned in the story of Wen-Amon: ANET, 25-29.

38 Biblical tradition refers to Caphtor for the origins of the “Philistines” (Jer 47:4).

39 T. Dothan, The Philistines and Their Material Culture (Jerusalem, 1982).

40 N. P. Lemche, The Canaanites and Their Land (Sheffield: SAP, 1991).

41 On this and what follows, see T. L. Thompson, “Memories of Esau and Narrative Reiteration: Themes of Conflict and Reconciliation,” in SJOT (forthcoming, 2012).

42 G. Ahlström, The History of Ancient Palestine from the Palaeolithic Period to Alexander’s Conquest (Sheffield: SAP, 1993), 639-664 [656.661].

43 E.g., D. D. Luckenbill, ARAB II, par. 801; ANET, 282; See further, B. Becking, The Fall of Samaria: An Historical and Archaeological Study, SHANE 2 (Leiden: Brill, 1992) 40-56; Ahlström, The History of Ancient Palestine, 665-701; W. Mayer, “Sennacherib’s Campaign of 701 BCE: The Assyrian View,” in L. L. Grabbe (ed.), Like a Bird in A Cage: The Invasion of Sennacherib in 701 BCE, JSHM 4 (New York: T&T Clark, 2003), 168-200.

44 R. Giveon, Les Bedouins Shosou des documentes égyptiens (Leiden: Brill, 1971), #6 and #16 (pages 26-28, 74-77); M. Weippert, “Semitischen Nomaden des zweiten Jahrtausends,” Biblica 55 (1974), 265-280. 427-433; K. van der Toorn, “Yahweh,” in K. van der Toorn, B. Becking and P. W. van der Horst (eds.), Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible (Leiden: Brill, 1995), cols.1711-1729.

45 Weippert, “Semitische Nomaden”; E. A. Knauf, “Yahwe,” Vetus Testamentum 34 (1984), 467-472; idem, “Eine nabatäische Parallele zum hebräischen Gottesnamen,” BN 23 (1984), 21-28; idem, Midian (Wiesbaden: Horassowitz, 1988), 43-48; L. E. Axelsson, The Lord Rose Up from Seir (Lund: CB, 1987).

46 Courtesy of the museum of the Imam Muhammed Ibn Saud Islamic University in Riyadh; see T. L. Thompson, The Messiah Myth: The Near Eastern Roots of Jesus and David (New York: Basic Books, 2005), 370n25.

47 ANET, 283.

48 See on this I. Hjelm, “Changing Paradigms: Judean and Samaritan Histories in Light of Recent Research,” in M. Müller and T. L. Thompson, Historie og Konstruktion: Festskrift til Niels Peter Lemche i anledning til 60 års fødslesdagen, den 6. December, 2005 (København: Museum Tusculanum, 2005), 161-179; E. A. Knauf, Midian: Untersuchungenzur Geschichte Palästinas und Nordarabien om Ende des 2. Jahrtausends v. Chr. (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1988); for a discussion of 2 Kings 17, see I. Hjelm, Jerusalem’s Rise to Sovereignty: Zion and Gerizim in Competition (Sheffield: SAP, 2004).

49 See especially I. Hjelm, The Samaritans and Early Judaism: A Literary Analysis (Sheffield: SAP, 2000); also idem, Jerusalem’s Rise to Sovereignty, 210-214.

50 Y. Magen, Mount Gerizim Excavations II: A Temple City (Jerusalem: IAA, 2008); idem, “The Dating of the First Phase of the Samaritan Temple on Mount Gerizim in the Light of the Archaeological Evidence,” in O. Lipshitz, G. Knoppers and R. Albertz, Judea and Judeans in the Fourth Century BCE (Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 2007), 157-211.

51 E. Nodet; I. Hjelm; G. Knoppers; B. Becking, “Do the Earliest Samaritan Inscriptions Already Indicate a Parting of the Ways?” in Lipschitz, Knoppers and Albertz, Judea and Judeans, 213-222.

52 D. Ussishkin, The Conquest of Lachish by Sennacherib (Tel Aviv: Institute of Archaeology, 1982).

53 See Lipschitz, “Demographic Changes in Judah between the Seventh and Fifth Centuries BCE,” in O. Lipschitz and J. Blenkinsopp (eds.), Judah and the Judeans in the Neo-Babylonian Period (Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 2003), 323-376.

54 ANET, 563-564; Ahlström, History, 785-796; Stern, Archaeology, 325.

55 Stern, Archaeology, 321-322; see, also, P. R. Davies, Memories of Ancient Israel: An Introduction to Biblical History, Ancient and Modern (Louisville/ London: Westminster/ John Knox, 2008); idem, “Biblical History and Cultural Memory,” The Bible and Interpretationhttp://www.bibleinterp.
 (April 14, 2009), 1-5. For a well considered reconstruction of the region, see esp. O. Lipschitz, “Demographic Changes in Judah.”

56 Stern, Archaeology, 330.

57 Stern, Archaeology, 328; B. MacDonald, “The Wadi al-Hasa Survey 1979 and Previous Archaeological Research in southern Jordan,” BASOR 254 (1982), 39-40; see also C. M. Bennett, Levant 9 (1977), 3-9.

58 Thompson, “Memories of Esau.” For a different perspective on the presence of Jews and other ethnic groups in “Idumea,” see now E. A. Knauf, “Biblical References to Judean Settlement in Eretz Israel (and Beyond) in the Late Persian and Early Hellenistic Periods,” in Davies and Edelman (eds.), The Historian and the Bible, 175-193 [187-191].

59 Lipschitz, “Demographic Changes,” 341-345.

60 Lipschitz, “Demographic Changes,” 330-332; see also N. Na’aman, “An Assyrian Residence at Ramat Rahel.” Tel Aviv 28 (2001), 260-280.

61 See E. A. Knauf, Midian: Untersuchungen zur Geschichte Palästinas am Ende des zweiten Jahrtausends, ADPV (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1988).

62 I. Kottsieper, “’And They did not Care to Speak Yehudite’: On Linguistic Change in Judah during the Late Persian Era,” in Lipshitz, Knoppers and Albertz, Judah and the Judeans, 95-124.

63 Thompson, “Memories of Esau,” (forthcoming).

64 J. A. Montgomery, Aramaic Incantation Texts From Nippur (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1911); M. D. Coogan, “Jews at Nippur in the Fifth Century BCE,” BA 37 (1974), 6ff.

65 A. van Hoonacker, Une Communité Judéo-Araméenne à Éléphantine, en Egypte, aux vi et v siècles avant J.-C (London, 1915); B. Porten, The Elephantine Papyri in English: Three Millennia of Cross-Cultural Community and Change (Leiden: Brill, 1996).

66 Sand, The Invention of the Jewish People, 166-167.

67 For a discussion of “exclusive monotheism,” see T. L. Thompson, “The Intellectual Matrix of Early Biblical Narrative: Inclusive Monotheism in Persian Period Palestine,” in D. Edelman (ed.), The Triumph of Elohim: From Yahwisms to Judaisms (Kampen: Kok Pharos, 1995), 107-126.

68 F. Sawah, “The Faithful Remnant.” T. L. Thompson, “What we Do and Do Not Know about Pre-Hellenistic al-Quds,” in E. Pfoh and K. Whitelam (eds.), The Politics of Israel's Past: Biblical Archaeology and Nation-Building (Sheffield: Phoenix Press, forthcoming 2012). On the dating of these texts to the Middle Bronze Age, see T. L. Thompson, The Historicity of the Patriarchal Narratives: The Quest for the Historical Abraham (Berlin: de Gruyter, 1974), 106-112.

69 Thompson, Early History, 412-423; also idem, Holy War at the Center of Biblical Theology.

70 As intimated already in Thompson, “The Intellectual Matrix of Early Biblical Narrative: Inclusive Monotheism in Persian Period Palestine.” In D. Edelman (ed.), The Triumph of Elohim: From Yahwisms to Judaisms (Kampen: Kok Pharos, 1995), 107-126; also and even more directly to the point, see N. P. Lemche, “How Does One Date an Expression of Mental History? The Old Testament and Hellenism,” in L. L. Grabbe, Did Moses Speak Attic? Jewish Historiography and Scripture in the Hellenistic Period, ESHM 3 (London: Sheffield Academic Press, 2001), 200-224.

71 E. Nodet, A Search for the Origins of Judaism: From Joshua to the Mishna, JSOTS 248 (Sheffield: SAP, 1997); idem, “Josephus and the Pentateuch,” JSJ 28 (1997), 154-194; idem, La Crise Macabéenne (Paris: Gabalda, 2005); idem, “Israelites, Samaritans, Temples, Jews,” in József Zsengellér (ed.), Samaria, Samarians, Samaritans: Studies on Bible, History and Linguistics, Studia Samaritana 6 (Berlin: de Gruyter, 2011), 121-171; I. Hjelm, The Samaritans and Early Judaism: A Literary Analysis, JSOTS 303/ CIS 7 (Sheffield: SAP, 2000); idem, “Brothers Fighting Brothers: Jewish and Samaritan Ethnocentrism in Tradition and History,” in T. L. Thompson, Jerusalem in Ancient History and Tradition, CIS 13 (London: T&T Clark, 2003)197-222; idem, “What Do Samaritans and Jews Have in Common: Recent Trends in Samaritan Studirs,” CBR 3/1 (2004), 9-59; idem, “Samaritans. History and Tradition in Relationship to Jews, Christians and Muslims: Problems in Writing a Monograph,” in Zsengellér, Samaria, 173-184.

72 T. L. Thompson, “’House of David’: An Eponymic Referent to Yahweh as Godfather,” SJOT 9 (1995), 59-74.

73 T. L. Thompson, “Genesis 4 and the Pentateuch’s reiterative discourse: Some Samaritan Themes,” in Zsengellér, Samaria, 9-22.

74 The Masoretic text’s revision of the chronology is discussed already in T. L. Thompson, Historicity, 9-16.

75 On Maccabbees’ revisionary reiterations of 1-2 Kings, see Hjelm, Jerusalem’s Rise to Sovereignty, 258-293.

76 S. Sand, On the Nation, 27.

77 For Eusebius’ account of Hadrian’s ban, see Hist. 4.6. For a discussion of his account of the Samaritan rebellion (Chron II. 114), see M. Mor, “I. Samaritan History: The Persian, Hellenistic and Hasmonean Period,” in A. D. Crown (ed.), The Samaritans (Tübingen: J. C. B. Mohr, 1989), 9-10.

Comments (5)

Dear Dr. Thompson, Hi!!! Thank you for your very fine article. I was wondering if you are aware of the recently found cuneiform tablets from Babylonia called the "Al-Yahuda" tablets. These tablets show that the Judaeans living in exile were thought of as a people and lived in a city called New Jerusalem. I, of course, agree with you that there is a strong religious tradition for the people living in the land of Palestine to "love their neighbors as themselves." I hope and pray that this can happen there again. With Much Gratitude and Admiration, Michael

#1 - Michael Welch - 02/26/2012 - 15:43

Dear Michael,
I have not seen the inscriptions, which are only now being prepared for publications. I am very patient. Some reports state that they were not found in situ, but on the antiquities' market, which make clear interpretations particularly difficult. Neither "al-Yehuda" nor "New Jerusalem" read like transcriptions of cuneiform to me, but rather Arabic and English respectively, I will wait until I see the texts before commenting on your interpretation.

Thomas L. Thompson
Professor emeritus, University of Copenhagen

#2 - Thomas L. Thompson - 02/27/2012 - 00:16

Race and ethnicity and limpieza de sangre and all that stuff are not in any circumstances real, of course. There is no scientific test that can be performed to show whether President Obama is black or white or to prove that I am British. There are no genes determining that some people are Hittites or Aztecs. There's only one human species and we're all in it together and always have been.
If there was a New Jerusalem in Babylonia we would have some questions about the religious and political views of the people involved but we would not have information about their ethnicity. Makes Babylon sound like a rather tolerant place, though.

#3 - Martin - 02/28/2012 - 11:00

Dear Martin, Hi!!! On the television show: "Who Do You Think You Are?", they had Mr. Blair Underwood do a DNA swab of the inside of his mouth, and they were able to find his cousin living in Cameroon. Concerning Judaeans living in Babylonia, Dr. Bob Becking, in his article "The Exile From a Bird's Eye View" posted on The Bible and Interpretation in May of 2010, stated from the inscriptions from the recently found cuneiform tablets we learn: "1. The exiled Judaeans remained a separate ethnic group in Babylonia; at least for the majority of them;...." With Much Gratitude, Michael

#4 - Michael Welch - 02/29/2012 - 01:30

Dear Martin and Michael Welch,
I am sorry for the delay in answering, but I had to have surgery this past week. I had been unaware of Bob Becking's article which discusses the inscriptions, but have had a chance to read it since.
The personal names Abda Yahu, Ba-rak-ka-ja-ma, Neri-Yahu and Achiqam are certainly West Semitic, but whether they are so specifically "Judean", rather than Israelite, Moabite, Edomite or the like, is, I think, more than we know and based on the name of the city al-ya-hu-du-ú, "Yehud", which, in fact, is not quite "New Jerusalem" as Becking has suggested. As for the origins of the people of Babylonian Yehud, I certainly think Judea is the place of choice, though one should also consider the possibilities of especially ancient Edom, which had been destroyed by Nabonidus, late in the Neo-Babylonian period. I see no reason to assume either that most of the population was from Judea and not from other places like Busera, nor that this association had developed so early an ethnic understanding, though one should consider the possibility of ethnicity developing out of such a cultural memory as is implied by this re-use of a Palestinian geographical name.

Thomas L. Thompson
Professor emeritus, University of Copenhagen

#5 - Thomas L. Thompson - 03/04/2012 - 13:05

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