Greek and Hebrew Devotional in BibleWorks 8

I recently installed BibleWorks 8 into my computer. Whenever I open the program an annoying pop-up windows shows up. I hate pop-up windows. But I have learned that it is a new tool in BibleWorks 8 callled “Greek and Hebrew Devotional.” I found it is a very helpful tool (not just a pop-up windows) for keeping my reading of Greek and Hebrew everyday. Here is what the BibleWorks Classroom Resources comments on Greek and Hebrew Devotional:

A new tool in BibleWorks 8 is the Daily Light devotional. This new tool can not only provide daily inspiration from the Bible, but can also be used to refresh and enhance knowledge of Greek and Hebrew.

Click Tip 2.2: Greek and Hebrew Devotional for details.

The Stories of Daniel: Are They Midrashim?

Some scholars have characterized the genre of Daniel 1-6 as a kind of midrash because the stories in Daniel are very similar to that of the story of Joseph in the book of Genesis. Hartman and DiLella, for example, say that the “wise courtier” is a “specific type of midrash” (Hartman and DiLella, 55). If so, we need to ask the question: What does midrash mean? The wikipedia defines Midrash as follows:

The term midrash can also refer to a compilation of homiletic teachings (commentaries) on the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible), in the form of legal and ritual (Halakha) and legendary, moralizing, folkloristic, and anecdotal (Aggadah) parts.”

This definition indicates that midrash can be understood as an interpretation of older scripture. The book of Jubilees would be regarded as an exegetical midrash. John J. Collins states that the reference of the Seventy Weeks (Dan 9:24-27) can be only considered as a midrash on the Jeremiah’s prophecy (Jer 25:11-12) in the book of Daniel, and argues that the stories of Daniel 1-6 are not midrash (Collins, 40). Thus, the question is this: Do the stories in Daniel 1-6 reinterpret or retell the Joseph story? 

Collins argues that the stories of Daniel are neither an interpretation nor a retelling of the Joseph story. He concludes that “the influence of Genesis is only one factor among many in the shaping of the tales” (Collins, 40). I agree with Collins’ conclusion that the stories in Daniel 1-6 are NOT an interpretation of the Joseph story, BUT they represent an influence of the Joseph story. This is not same as we can see in the case from the book of Jubilees. It is noteworthy, therefore, to notice the similarities between the two stories with the verbal correspondences which indicate that the author of Daniel was influenced from the story of Joseph. The affinities between the Joseph story and the stories of Daniel can be seen as follows:

  • Both Joseph and Daniel are taken into captivity
  • Both are courtiers of foreign kings
  • Both are good-looking (Gen 39:6; Dan 1:4)
  • Both are siad to have a divine spirit (Gen 41:38; Dan 5:11)
  • The interpretation of dreams rests with God (Gen 40:8; Dan 2:28) 8)
  • God makes known what will come to pass (Gen 41:25; Dan 2:28) 8)
  • Both are decorated with a chain around their neck (Gen 41:42; Dan 5:29)

Reference

Collins, John J. Daniel. Hermeneia.  Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1993.

Hartman, Louis F. and Alexander A. DiLella, The Book of Daniel AB. 23; Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1978.

The Formation of Ancient Israel

Who were the Israelites and where did they come from? The biblical archaeologist William Dever also asked those qustions in his recent book as reflected in the title of his book: Who Were the Israelites and Where Did They Come From? (2003). In recent decades, one of the most debated issues among both biblical scholars and archaeologists is the origin of ancient Israel. The Bible tells us that Abraham’s descendants escaped from the slavery in Egypt and crossed the Jordan River conquering the Canaanite cities. But there is a contradiction between the two books, Joshua and Judges. The book of Joshua reports the complete conquest (Josh 11:16-17) listing the conquered kings and cities; Jerusalem (Jebus), Hebron, and Taanach, whereas the book of Judges does not support the book of Joshua’s claim of an “all-at-once” military conquest of Canaan listing the unconquered territory (Judg 1:9); Jerusalem (Jebus), Hebron, and Taanach. How do we deal with this contradiction? In his book, What are They Saying About the Formation of Israel? (1998), John J. McDermott offers an excellent discussion on the contradiction of the two biblical accounts in which he discusses the “Three Classic Models.” It is well written, in my view, this is one of the best books on the issue of the formation of ancient Israel. I will summarize the “Three Classic Models” based on McDermott’s discussion on the models and then move to the recent scholarly view that the early Israelites were indigenous to Canaan.

The Three Classic Models

1. The Conquest Model

(1) Evidences

W. F. Albright and his students are mainly responsible for articulating the Conquest Model. Albright insisted that the Israelites were a people religiously and ethnically distinct from the Canaanites. This model most follows the biblical story: the Israelites came out of slavery in Egypt and invaded Canaan. The main process of the conquest was a successful military invasion by a unified people distinct from the Canaanites as the book of Joshua describes.

Albright cited archaeological evidences to support the historicity of the conquest. In the 13th century B.C.E., a pattern of city destructions, such as Debir, Bethel, Hazor, and Lachish, supports the conquest model. Albright attributed the destruction of those cities to the Israelites’ invasion.

W. F. Albright

W. F. Albright

(2) Evaluation of the Model

As I stated above, the literary evidence of Joshua and Judges contradict each other. Also, this model does not explain the similarlity and continuity between the Canaanites and the early Israelites because this model views the Israelites as a group distinct from the Canaanites. It is clear that the earliest written expressions of Israelite religion had much in common with Canaanite religion. The location of the new settlements (Israelite highland settlement) is difficult for this model to explain. If a group of people came in from the outside and successfully defeated the previous inhabitants, they would be expected to take over the best land.

2. The Peaceful Infiltration Model

(1) Evidences

Albrecht Alt and Martin Noth were responsible for the peaceful infiltration. According to Alt, the stories in Genesis about Abraham, Isaac and Jacob preserve some genuine historical memories of the nomadic people who became the Israelites. These nomads or semi-nomads had migrated into Canaan. They had previously worshiped different gods, who are reflected in the different titles used for the divine name in the stories of the patriarchs. At first they settled in the empty spaces away from the Canaanite cities, that is, in the highlands. With the decline of the Canaanite city-state system, they were able to occupy the lowlands as well. According to Noth, Israelites could not have been indigenous to Canaan because the location of their settlements, the hill country away from the Canaanite cities (Israelite highland settlement) and their way of living clearly indicate patterns of peaceful migration and the preservation of desert tribal traditions as reflected in the patriarchal stories (M. Noth, The History of Israel, 2nd ed. [New York: Harper & Row, 1960], 53, 68). The peaceful infiltration model appealed to people who were convinced that a more gradual process and it is also more compatible with the idea that the Israelites came from mixed background. A significant piece of evidence for this model is the presence of the shasu in the region who were mentioned frequently in Egyptian documents. The stories of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob having a similar lifestyle to the shasu, may support this model.

Martin Noth

Martin Noth

(2) Evaluation of the Model

The location of the new settlements (the highland settlements) is consistent with this model. Nomadic people setting down in new villages would prefer taking unoccupied land. Like the conquest model, however, this model must explain the similarities in culture and religion between the Israelites and the Canaanites because the materials of the new settlements show clear continuity with Canaanite material culture.

3. The Social Revolution

(1) Evidences

George Mendenhall and Norman Gottwald were responsible for the social revolution model. According the Mendenhall, the lower-class Canaanites were heavily taxed by the Canaanite kings, so they rose up in a violent revolt. The revolt was successful, and these people then established a new decentralized, egalitarian society in the highlands. Mendenhall attested that the Amarna letters, written by Canaanite kings to their Egyptian rulers during the 14th century B.C.E., mention a group of people called the hapiru. These hapiru had politically separated themselves from the city-state society and lived as outlaws in the countryside. Thus, there was a precedent for some form of social upheaval occurring in Canaan shortly before the beginnings of Israel. When the Israelites of the Exodus entered Canaan, Canaanites dissatisfied with the rule of the cities did what the hapiru had done earlier- they withdrew, except that this time they joined forces with the Israelites.

Goerge Mendenhall

Goerge Mendenhall

(2) Evaluation of the Model

This model says that the Israelites did not come in from the outside but were Canaanites themselves. Therefore, the evidence of continuity supports this model. Like the conquest model, however, this model does not explain why the new settlements were located in the poorer land. If these people successfully defeated the Canaanite kings, why did they not take over the best land? This model also need to explain why the Bible tells such a different story.

After the analysis of the three classic models, McDermott asks two major questions on which they differ: (1) Were the early Israelites indigenous to Canaan, or were they people who came from elsewhere? Both the conquest and peaceful infiltration models maintain that they came from elsewhere, while the social revolution model holds that they were Canaanites; and (2) Was the beginning of Israel mainly a violent or a peaceful process? Both the conquest and social revolution models say that it was violent, whereas the peaceful infiltration model says that it was mainly peaceful. I think that these two questions lead us to new theory that the indigenous origins of the early Israelites.

The View that the First Israelites Were Canaanites

Regarding the identity of the Israelites’ ancestors, there is a basic agreement among some scholars that the early Israelites were Canaanites. McDermott divides the scholars of this view into three groups: (1) the views of William Dever, Niels Peter Lemche, and Gösta Ahlström; (2) the view of N. Gottwald; and (3) the view of R. Coote. Among these three categories, I will summarize the views of scholars in the first category who describe a complex resettlement of Canaanites from the cities and rural areas into the new settlements of the highlands.

1. William Dever

William Dever maintains that the conquest model should be ruled out (William Dever, Recent Archaeological Discoveries and Biblical Research [Seattle: University of Washington, 1990], 56-61). He also disagree with the peaceful infiltration model because the material culture of the new settlements shows clear continuity with the Canaanite material culture.

William Dever

William Dever

Dever agrees with Volkmar Fritz (“the symbiosis model”) that many of the early Israelites (“the proto-Israelites”) could have been people who lived near the Canaanites for a long period of time (William Dever, “How to Tell a Canaanite from an Israelite,” in The Rise of Ancient Israel: Lectures presented at a symposium sponsored by the Resident Associate Program, Smithsonian Institution October 26, 1991 [Biblical Archaeology Society, 1992], 30). Based on Fritz’s argument, Dever concludes that it is best to see Israel as emerging from various backgrounds, namely, those of urban and rural Canaanites, some nomadic people, and a small number of escaped slaves from Egypt. Thus, the emergence of the Israelites should be seen as part of a transformation within the Canaanite society.

2. Niels Peter Lemche

Niels Peter Lemche

Niels Peter Lemche

Niels Peter Lemche sees that the beginning of Israel as an internal change within the Canaanite society (Niels Peter Lemche, Early Israel: Anthropological and Historical Studies on the Israelite Society Before the Monarchy [Leiden, Netherlands: E. J. Brill, 1985]; Ancient Israel: A New History of Israelite Society  [Shefield, England: Sheffield Academic Press, 1990]). He discusses the social and economic situation of Late Bronze Age Canaanites in the cities and on the farmland controlled by the cities. Like Dever, Lemche uses an internal process to explain the origin of the Israelites showing the continuity in material culture. According to Lemche, apart from the Sea Peoples on the coast, there is no direct evidence of waves of immigrants coming into Canaan. Lemche argues that the new settlements that became Israel as consisting mainly of the peasant farmers around the cities, who would have made up 90 percent of the population of Canaan.

3. Gösta Ahlström

Gösta Ahlström discussed the identity of the first Israelites in his 1986 book, Who Were the Israelites? and in The History of Ancient Palestine (1993). Ahlström rejected the three classic models, maintaining that the first Israelites were mostly Canaanites from the cities and rural lowlands. He drew information from the Merneptah Stele (See Ralph W. Klein’s (my teacher) explanation on The Merneptah Stele).

He pointed out that the names of the defeated peoples listed on the mounment are arranged in a ring structure. The first and last places are large regions; the next ring inside includes Canaan and Israel, representing smaller territories; at the center of the structure, individual city-states are mentioned- Ashkelon. Gezer and Yeno’am. Canaan and Israel, therefore, represent the two parts of Palestine. The word Canaan normally refers to the urban lowlands, then the use of the term Israel must be a designation for the highlands. Additionally, Israel is written with the sign for a people rather than a city or nation, meaning that this group of people was seen by Egypt as more loosely organized. Robert Coote also argues that the reference of Israel is the indication of people rather than a state. Coote discusses that Israel must have been a tribal organization that existed alongside the city-state of Canaan. Ahlström concluded that the pottery and architecture of the Israelites is in continuity with Canaanite material culture. The following chart shows the ring structure (chiastic structure) of the Merneptah Stele as Ahlström argued:

Ring Structure of the Merneptah suggested by Ahlstrom

Ring Structure of the Merneptah suggested by Ahlstrom

 Reference List

Callaway, Joseph A. Callaway and J. Maxwell Miller, “The Settlement in Canaan: The Period of the Judges,” in  Ancient Israel From Abraham to the Roman Destruction of the Temple. Revised and Expanded Edition  (Biblical Archaeology Society, 1999).

McDermott, What are They Saying About the Formation of Israel? (New York, Mahwah: Paulist Press, 1998).

Hagar’s Story as a Story of Class Conflict

One of my favorite stories in the Old Testament is the Hagar’s story found in Genesis 16. This story has been read as an etiological tribal story of the Ishmaelites after H. Gunkel suggested, but it is a story on “the struggle between the two women” (Van Seters, 192-96). What struggle is this story? Is this a class struggle or a family struggle? The story demonstrates a family struggle of Abram’s two wives as presented in the story. It reflects an ancient family conflict, consisted of a beginning, a body, and a resoultion. The three main characters in this story, Hagar, Sarai, and Abram, are husband and wives. John Goldingay sees that the story falls into three scenes: (1) Sarai’s scheme of surrogate motherhood (vv 2-6), (2) Hagar’s encounter with the angel (vv 7-14), and (3) the birth of Ishmael (v 15). He diagrams the structure of the story as follows:  
The Story Structure of Hagar's Story
The Story Structure of Hagar’s Story (Goldingay, Genesis 16-50, 4)

Abrams’ family conflict begins with the problem of his wife Sarai’s barrenness because of her “old age” and ends with the solution stating Abram’s “old age.” In the midst of the story, however, Hagar is portrayed as a pivotal character in all three scenes: Scene 1- Hagar and Sarai; Scene 2- Hagar and an Angel; and Scene 3- Hagar and Ishmael.

What does this story of family conflict disclose about the life of ancient Israel? In ancient civilization, a woman’s self-worth and social status revolved around her family. While Sarai is considered superior in many aspects, her barrenness brings shame to her family. Sarai’s dialogue with Abram in Gen 16:2 demonstrates well this ancient custom: “You see that the LORD has prevented me from bearing children; go in to my slave-girl; it may be that I shall obtain children by her” (NRSV, my emphasis). Sarai sees this as the social custom of having a child through a surrogate (see C. F. Fensham, “The Son of a Handmaid in Northwest Semitic,” VT 19 [(1969]: 312-21).

But the story reveals more a class conflict than a family struggle; it seems that a family struggle comprises many social aspects of conflict. In her article, “A Mistress, A Maid, and No Mercy” in Just A Sister Away (San Diego, California: 1988), Renita J. Weems describes the different social status of the two women: 

Comparision between Sarai and Hagar

Comparision between Sarai and Hagar

Hagar is more higher status in that of the ancient society as reflected in the story by contrasting Hagar’s fertility and Sarai’s barrenness. However, Hagar is Sarai’s property. The story could be understood as a story of ethnic prejudice that was made worse by economic and social exploitation as Weems states as follows:

Like our own situation, the stroy of the Egpytian Hagar and the Hebrew Sarai encompasses more than ethnic prejudice. There is a story of ethnic prejudice by economic and sexual exploitation. There is a story of conflict, women betraying women, mother conspiring against mothers. Theirs is a story of social rivalry (p. 2).

Weems stresses that the social equality has always been problem not just for black against white women, but all races, colors, and ethnic background, as Sharon P. Jeansonne proposes to read Hagar’s story as a story of “powerless foreigner.” In American history, this would be comparable to the rich white landowner and the poor black slave.

I assigned my students to write a reflection paper on Weems’ article in the inaugural week of the first black president, Barack Obama. Most students appreciated that they were assigned to read the article since they currently face to the transitional period from the Bush administration to the Obama administration. One of the parts of the paper should be included the concepts/ideas of the article for analyzing our contemporary society. Many students mentioned the major successes by electing their first black president, Barack Obama. I quote one of the students’ refleciton on the article:

I have pondered since the inauguration on how significant of an event this is, and in the Middle East, and terrorism in our nations to elect this man as president, and hope for a new way of life.

The students believe that America is in store for a new begining after the inauguration of their new president.

Reference List

Jeansonne, Sharon Pace. The Women of Genesis: From Sarah to Potiphar’s Wife. Minneaspolis: Fortress Press, 1990: 43-52.

Van Seters, John. Abraham in History. Yale Univ. Press, 1975.

Weems, Renita J. “A Mistress, A Maid, and No Mercy,” Pages 1-21 in Just A Sister Away. San Diego, California: Lura Media, 1988. 

Wenham, Gordon J. Genesis 16-50. WBC. Dallas : Word, Incorporated.

Joseph’s Bones as the Fulfillment of Promise

Both the book of Genesis and the book of Joshua end with the reference of Joseph’s bones. What does this fact signify? In his book, Joseph’s Bones, Jerome M. Segal insists that the first six books of the Hebrew Bible opens with a promise about Joseph’s bones and ends with the fulfillment of that promise.  

Joseph’s bones are mentioned three times in the Hebrew Bible.Josseph's Bones

So Joseph made the Israelites swear, saying, “When God comes to you, you shall carry up my bones from here.” And Joseph died, being one hundred ten years old; he was embalmed and placed in a coffin in Egypt (Gen 50:25-26).

And Moses took with him the bones of Joseph who had required a solemn oath of the Israelites, saying, “God will surely take notice of you, and then you must carry my bones with you from here” (Exo 13:19)

The bones of Joseph, which the Israelites had brought up from Egypt, were buried at Shechem, in the portion of ground that Jacob had bought from the children of Hamor, the father of Shechem, for one hundred pieces of money; it became an inheritance of the descendants of Joseph (Joshua 24:32).

 According to those passages, Joseph died four hundred years before the Exodus, and was embalmed and placed in a coffin (Gen 50:26). In the Exodus, the Israelites took Joseph’s bones with them through the forty years in the wilderness. Eventually, the passage of Joshua tells us that Joseph’s bones were buried in the Promised Land.

It is interesting to note that the references of Joseph’s bones are related to the theme of “fulfillment of the promise,” demonstrating the compilation of Hexateuch. According to G. von Rad, the historical credos found in Josh 24:2-13 and Deut 6:20-24 and 26:5-9 are the confessions of faith, comprising Genesis through Joshua. The structure of the Hexateuch shows a problem not only in the position of the Sinai traditions within the framework of the whole, but also in the relationship between the patriarchal theme and the Exodus theme. So George Coats asked the prominent quesiton: “What kind of relationship did the patriarchal traditions, with their focus on strife/promise have with the exodus tradition, with its focus on redemption from oppression?” (Coats, 981). He states that the references of Joseph’s bones answer the question. The three references of Joseph’s bones link the patriarchal traditions with the exodus tradition.  

Reference List

Coats, George W. “Joseph, Son of Jacob.” ABD III (1992): 977-82.  

Segal, Jerome M. Joseph’s Bones: Understanding the Struggle between God and Mankind in the Bible. New York: Riverhead Books, 2007.

Why Did Alexander the Great Like the Book of Daniel?

Josephus records that when Alexander the Great arrived to attack Jerusalem, Jaddua the High Priest went out to meet him and showed him a copy of the book of Daniel, wherein Daniel declared that one of the Greeks should destroy the empire of the Persians (Ant. 11.337):

And when the book of Daniel was showed him, wherein Daniel declared that one of the Greeks should destroy the empire of the Persians, he supposed that himself was the person intended; and as he was then glad, he dismissed the multitude for the present, but the next day he called them to him, and bade them ask what favors they pleased of him.

The biblical references where Alexander saw might be Daniel 7:6; 8:3-8, 20-22; 11:3. Alexander supposed that himself was the person intended in the book of Daniel. He was so impressed by this that instead of destroying Jerusalem, so that he entered the city peaceably and worshipped at the Temple.

What does this account tell us? It tells us a very interesting point. The book of Daniel was understood as a prophecy by Josephus. For example, Josephus identifies the reference of the great horn in Daniel 8 as Alexander the Great. He regards Daniel as “one of the greatest prophets,” distinguished by the fact that he not only prophesied future things but fixed the time at which they would come to pass and also prophesied good tidings (Collins, 84). But the book of Daniel does not belong to the Prophets but to the Writings in the Hebrew Bible.

Reference List

Collins, John J. Daniel. Hermeneia. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1993.

Josephus, Flavius ; Whiston, William: The Works of Josephus : Complete and Unabridged. Peabody : Hendrickson, 1996, c1987.

Why is Nebuchadnezzar Portrayed as an Animal?

In his recent article, Christopher B. Hays asks the following question: “Why is Nebuchadnezzar portrayed as an animal?” (“Chirps from the Dust: The Affliction of Nebuchadneaar in Daniel 4:30 in Its Ancient Near Eastern Context,” JBL 126/2 [2007]: 3-25). His answer is that the animals of Dan 4:30 (MT) can symbolize demons and the dead in ancient Near Eastern texts. Nebuchadnezzar’s portrait as an animal (MT Dan 4:30) and his recovery (MT Dan 4:36) reveals the movement from affliction to salvation (thanksgiving). But Hays did not discuss the reason of why the author of Daniel 4 shows the movement by using the type of animal imagery.

The tale of Nebuchadnezzar’s affliction and his recovery reveals the main theme of the Aramaic tales in Daniel: the acknowledgement of the God of Israel. Nebuchadnezzar is afflicted by divine powers becuase he does not give glory to God. Dan 4:30 (NRSV) reads:

Is this not magnificent Babylon, which I have built as a royal capital by my mighty power and for my glorious majesty? 

The conclusion of Daniel 4 is the restoration to the king of his royal splendour “for the glory of my kingdom” (Dan 4:33). His former glory made him supreme ruler of the world, but his new position will be different. Nebuchadnezzar is recovered by dvine powers becuase he acknolweges that he has to give glory to the God of Israel. Dan 4:34 (NRSV) reads:

When that period was over, I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me. I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored the one who lives forever. For his sovereignty is an everlasting sovereignty, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation.

Thus, the author of Daniel 4 reveals the main theme of the narrative in Daniel 4 through the transition from Nebuchadnezzar’s affliction to his restoration.

Reference List

Hays, Christopher B. “Chirps from the Dust: The Affliction of Nebuchadneaar in Daniel 4:30 in Its Ancient Near Eastern Context.” JBL 126/2 (2007): 3-25.

Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream in Daniel and Alexander’s Dream in Josephus

The Letter to the Hebrews begins with the multiple forms of the divine revelation: “Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways (πολυμερῶς καὶ πολυτρόπως) by the prophets (Heb 1:1, NRSV).” What does the phrase “the various ways of the divine revelation” mean? One of the ways that God reveals himself to humans is “dream” or “vision.” Indeed, the dream is the best way to convey a divine message to humans. In the Old Testament, the divine message is revealed in dreams to Jacob (Gen 28:12-15; 31:10-13), to Laban (Gen 31:24), to the Midianite soldier (Judg 7:13-15), to Solomon (1 Kgs 3:5-14), to Samuel (1 Sam 3:3-14), and to Nebuchadnezzar (Dan 2:1-45; 4:4-27). The dream narratives in the Old Testament are conceived principally as a means of conveying divine messages both “good” and “bad,” such as the divine deliverance and judgment.

Josephus also accounts Alexander’s dream in Antiquities of the Jews 11.334-35. Among the biblical dream narratives, Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in Daniel can be compared to Alexander’s dream in Josephus in terms of common themes and features.

Tae Hun Kim discusses the similarities of the two dreams as follows (Kim 2003, 430):

  1. The dreamer is a great pagan king who previously had not been particularly well-disposed toward the Jews.
  2. A positive change in his attitude toward the Jews is effected by his dream and its fulfillment, and great honor is given to the Jews as a result.
  3. A human-like figure (an angelic watcher in Dan 4:13; Jaddua himself in Ant. 11.334) appears and delivers an oral message, though in a different way.

Kim also shows how the two dreams are different in themes and features (Kim 2003, 430):

  1. In Antiquities Alexander is not presented as particularly hostile to the Jews. Nebuchadnezzar, however, destroyed Jerusalem and exiled the Jews. Nebuchadnezzar’s change of attitude toward the Jews thus is much more dramatic.
  2. Alexander’s dream is a divine encouragement and promise of blessing; there is no punitive element in his dream. Nebuchadnezzar’s dream foretells a divine castigation and punishment.
  3. Alexander had a specific dream that answered specific concerns he already had in mind, and thus the dream functioned like an oracle, i.e., a divine response to Alexander’s question regarding the outcome of his imperial plan. Nebuchadnezzar’s dream is an unsolicited vision of pending disaster, which does not address him personally or cater to his concerns.
  4. The message of Alexander’s dream was sufficiently clear that he could readily understand it without the aid of a dream interpreter. The identity of the dream figure still eluded him, yet Alexander did not call for a dream interpreter. But the dream message addressed to Nebuchadnezzar was so cryptic that Daniel had to be brought in to explain to the king the meaning and the repercussions of his vision.

After the comparison of similarities and differences of the two dreams, Kim concludes as follows:

Both dream narratives share a common theme, i.e., a great pagan king becomes the protector of the Jews by means of a divinely-inspired dream, and the honor of the Jews is greatly increased as a result. In this sense, both dreams essentially function as a propaganda piece for the Jews (Kim 2003, 431).

Does the dream of Daniel function as a propaganda piece for the Jews? Does the dream of Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 4 reveal an optimist tendency toward the foreign king? I think the theme of Daniel is not to express a propaganda for the Jews, but to insist that the Most High God is only one real God. The dream of Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 4 is probably a polemical exaggeration. This theme also occurs in the tradition of Nabonidus in Prayer of Nabonidus (4QProNab; 4Q242). As a result, the dream of Daniel 4 reveals not only a possibility of conversion of a pagan king, but it also expresses the acknowledgment of the Most High God.

Reference List

Kim, Tae Hun. “The Dream of Alexander in Josephus Ant. 11.325-39.” Journal for the Study of Judaism in the Persian, Hellenistic and Roman Period. 34 no 4 (2003): 425-442.

Bamot in Kings and Chronicles

The Hebrew בָּמוֹת (bāmôt) means “high places” appeared, as a cultic context, 97 times in the Hebrew Bible. But what’s basic meaning of bāmôt? They were local sanctuaries. In the Hebrew Bible, the local sanctuaries were once legitimate cultic sites. They are often perceived as the site of Canaanite rituals, but they are local sanctuaries for the worship of YHWH before the centralization of Jerusalem Temple (1 Sam 9:12). The Moabite Stone (Mesha Inscription) contains the reference to the term bāmôt. The following map shows bāmôt sites. These sites contain religious sanctuaries that reflect a variety meanings of bāmôt, including platform for rituals, an altar, and a temple (Nakhai 1994, 21).

Bamot

These sites were “torn down” (2 Kgs 23:8; 2 Chr 33:3), “burned” (2 Kgs 23:15), and “removed” (1 Kgs 15:14; 2 Kgs 17:29; 2 Kgs 23:19) mostly by the reforms of Hezekiah and Josiah. Beside the issue of centralization of the DrtH, it is interesting to compare bāmôt of the books of Kings with those of the books of Chronicles during the time of the United Monarchy:

  • 1 Kgs 3:2-4: people sacrificed at high places since temple was not yet built. Solomon walked in the statues of David though he sacrificed at high places. Solomon sacrificed 1,000 animals at high places at Gibeon.
  • 1 Kgs 11:7: Solomon built a high place for Chemosh.
  • 1 Chr 16:39: David stationed Zadok before the tabernacle of YHWH in high place of Gibeon.
  • 1 Chr 21:29: The Tabernacle Moses had made and the altar of burn offering were at the high place of Gibeon.
  • 2 Chr 1:3: Solomon went to the high place at Gibeon for there was the tent of meeting that Moses had made.

There is no doubt that both Kings and Chronicles see bāmôt as legitimate cultic sites during the time of the United Monarchy, but the ways how both books describe are different.

In the books of Kings, the ancient people of Israel continued to offer sacrifices at bāmôt before Solomon built the Jerusalem Temple (1 Kgs 3:2). For example, Solomon also offered sacrifices at the bāmôt of Gibeon (1 Kgs 3:3).

In the books of Chronicles, the Chronicler mentions that the tabernacle was located at Gibeon (1 Chr 16:39). Solomon visited the cult site at Gibeon in 2 Chr 1:3-13 and sacrificed a thousand burnt offerings on its bronze altar. After Solomon had completed the building of the temple, the priests and Levites brought up the ark, the tent of meeting, and all the holy vessels that were in “the tent” to the new building. The ark was already in the city of David; the tabernacle was brought from Gibeon. Why does the Chronicles mention the tabernacle at Gibeon? Ralph W. Klein states that “locating the tabernacle at Gibeon may be an attempt to justify Solomon’s pilgrimage to the high place at Gibeon” (Klein 2006, 368). The Chronicler depicts Solomon as the ideal king so that the tabernacle should be there at the bāmôt in Gibeon.

Reference List

Fried, Lisbeth. S. “The High Places (bāmôt) and and the Reforms of Hezekiah and Josiah: An Archaeological Investigation.” JAOS 122/3 (2002): 437-65.

Klein, Ralph W. 1 Chronicles: A Commentary. Hermeneia. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2006.

Nakhai, Beth A. “What’s a Bamah? How Sacred Space Functioned in Ancient Israel.” BAR 20/3 (1994): 18-29.

The Monday Night Group

Did you know that there were missionaries who aided Korea’s democratic revolution? I went to the library today and found an interesting book entitled More Than Witnesses: How a Small Group of Missionaries Aided Korea’s Democratic Revolution (Seoul: Korea Democracy Foundation, 2006).

More Than Witnesses in EnglishMore Than Witnesses in Korean

This book is a collection of the witnesses of missionaries who got involved in Korea’s democratic revolution. They came from the United States, Canada, Australia, and Germany. They voluntarily walked the path of suffering in the darkest days of Korea’s political history in the 1970s and 1980s. The current president of Korea Democracy Foundation, Father Ham Sei Ung, designates them as “Good Samaritans.”

They are a small minority of missionaries those who were struggling for justice, while the majority of missionaries remained silent. They agreed to get together to share news about what was happening to their Korean colleagues, students, and neighbors on Monday nights. This is how the “Monday Night Group” was born.

As a missionary-journalist and a member of the Monday Night Group, Jim Stentzel edited this book, and all contributors of the book were also the members of the group.

Stentzel identifies the small group of missionaries with the small minority within the Korean Christian community:

One of the interesting things about the democratic revolution that occurred slowly in south Korea over the last three decades of the 20th century is that the Korean Christians who played such central roles in the revolution were a small minority within the Korean Christian community, which at that time comprised a minority of the south Korean people. Why is this worth noting? Because self-proclaimed ‘Christian majorities’- in south Korea today as well as in the United States- lay moral claim to levers o conservative state power. As a small minority within a minority Christian in the 1970s, the Korean Christian patriots could never have been accused of such arrogance. Any secret ambition to impose a religious or moral agenda would have been laughable. The Korean Christian patriots were more the conscience of the nation than a power base. They sought not power themselves but the empowerment of others, especially the exploited and oppressed (pp. 29-30).

This book provides a new aspect on missionaries to Korea. They were sent to Korea to transform Korean, but they were transformed. They were also introduced to some of the dark side of capitalism. They saw God’s handiwork to the Korean Christians who moved to the forefront of the country’s struggle for democracy and human rights.