Thursday, September 14, 2023

No condemnation?

A reason for this [that David's sacrificing as he moved the ark wasn't condemned] may be that the ark is part of Yahweh’s constellation and therefore technically not a different deity from Yahweh, as opposed to something like Baal or Chemos, who have their own distinct constellations. Incidentally, the calf altars at Dan and Bethel (and also the golden calf at Sinai) are probably also intended to be aspects of Yahweh. The difference in these cases is that Yahweh, and therefore orthodox Israel, does not recognize the legitimacy of these; that is, Yahweh does not declare them holy, as he does with the ark. Similarly, the command to make no graven image (of Yahweh; Ex 20:24) is given because images fragment the divine identity into separate aspects, which, while still representing the same deity, are distinct enough that they can even fight each other. If Arbela goes to war against Nineveh, then Istar will be fighting against Istar. Israelite orthodoxy will not allow Yahweh’s identity to be fragmented in this way; there can be no “Yahweh of Jerusalem” and “Yahweh of Samaria.” This is why there is only one sanctioned temple (in Jerusalem) and one sanctioned image (the ark), and no other image or cult center can be tolerated (see Deut 12).— The Lost World of the Israelite Conquest, 113 n. 28

<idle musing>
I've heard the idea about the golden calves being intended as representations of YHWH before (I think it's in John Bright's History of Israel). It's also claimed that the golden calf in Exodus was intended as a manifestation of YHWH. I'm not sure I buy it. But, I must admit it's an attractive idea—almost too attractive, which is probably why I am not convinced.
</idle musing>


James F. McGrath said...

The golden calf story at Sinai is explicit: after the golden calf is made they plan a feast for Yahweh the following day (Exodus 32:5). Jeroboam's calves were surely no different - indeed, the point of the story in Exodus is probably to say something about the northern kingdom's worship.

jps said...

That's true. Strange I had forgotten that; I was just reading it in Hebrew the other day to check a reference. But also, remember that that same passage says "these are the gods" (the pronoun is plural—which is why I was checking the reference in the first place).

So, I guess the question is, what does that say about the understanding of YHWH? Is he a multiple, like Ishtar of Arabela and Ishtar of Nineveh, to use Walton's example. Or does it mean YHWH and his consort?

That's why I say, it seems too easy to just equate them. It's far more complex than that. Maybe the Northern Kingdom did see the bulls as YHWH, or his throne or some such. But maybe, they didn't?


James F. McGrath said...

That's true in Exodus, which may be deliberately trying to depict the worship of the northern kingdom as not merely idolatrous but polytheistic. The slight difference but deliberate echo is striking:

Exodus 32:4
אֵלֶּה אֱלֹהֶיךָ יִשְׂרָאֵל, אֲשֶׁר הֶעֱלוּךָ מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם

1 Kings 12:28
הִנֵּה אֱלֹהֶיךָ יִשְׂרָאֵל, אֲשֶׁר הֶעֱלוּךָ מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם

jps said...

Interesting. Sometimes—ok, oftentimes—I wish I could crawl into the minds of the ancients! It's so different, yet so tantalizingly the same. Maybe that's why I went into the study of the ancient world : )

But, the more I learn, the less I know for certain. And the more I realize how little I know.