Article on the Epistle of Barnabas

One of the first articles I ever published was shortly after I completely my Master’s thesis at the University of Alberta. It is entitled “The True Covenant People: Ethnic Reasoning in the Epistle of Barnabas” and in the journal Studies in Religion. I argued that the author of the epistle of Barnabas feared that members of his own Christian congregation were being drawn to the religious practices of the more prominent local Jewish community or at least willing to share the covenant with “them.” In response, the author attempts to carve out a distinct ethnic identity for “us” as the new people of God, claims Abraham as our ancestor, insists that the Jews permanently lost the covenant and the Christians inherited it, and reinterprets the Jewish laws allegorically while setting out new distinctive Christian practices. Since we have been discussing the issue of Christian supersessionism, I thought it would be useful to highlight this article.

The Epistle to the Hebrews and Subsequent Christian Supersessionism

 The Epistle to the Hebrews: Introduction
  • Reception: though credited to Paul by some Patristic authorities (e.g. Clement and hesitatingly Origen of Alexandria) and included in a collection of Pauline epistles dating around 200 CE (P46), doubts about this attribution persisted among many ancient Christian commentators especially in the West.
  • Authorship: an anonymous writer familiar with members of Paul’s circle (13:23); the refined literary style and theology of Hebrews differs from Paul. Other candidates include Apollos, Barnabas, Silas, Luke, Priscilla, Clement of Rome, etc.
  • Date: the epistle is cited as early as 1 Clement at the end of the first century CE. The audience seems to be second generation followers rather than eyewitnesses of Jesus (2:3) and Timothy was imprisoned (13:23). It is unclear how much the author draws knowledge of the temple cult from observation or scriptural exegesis or whether it is presently functioning.
  • Audience: there is no specific address (1:1) and greetings are sent from “Italy” (13:24). There is debate over whether it was written to Hellenistic Jews or non-Jews (former “God-fearers”) wanting to adopt Jewish customs, perhaps in response to social ostracism or persecution (10:32-34; 12:4). The author stresses the superiority of the revelation of Christ and issues warnings against disobedience and admonishments to endurance (2:1-3; 3:12-13; 5:11-14; 6:1-12; 10:23-31; 13:7, 9, 17).
The Theology of Hebrews: the Superiority of Christ
  • Combines thorough knowledge and creative interpretation of the Septuagint and intertestamental Jewish traditions with Middle Platonism (e.g. the earthly sanctuary patterned after the heavenly one) .
  • Jesus is identified with God’s pre-existent wisdom (1:1-3). The text emphasizes his incarnation and exaltation.
  • Jesus is superior to the prophets (1:1-4), angels (1:5-2:18), Moses (3:1-4:13), and Aaron as well as the Levitical priesthood (4:14-7:28). Jesus ushers in a new covenant (8:7-13; Jeremiah 31:31-34) and is the sacrifice to end all sacrifices (9:13-10:18).
  • Jesus’ priestly office is compared to Melchizedek (Genesis 14:18-20; Psalm 110:4; Dead Sea Scrolls fragment 11QMelch [11Q13]).
  • A call to endurance like the former pioneers in the faith (chapter 11).

Christian Supersessionism in the Patristic Period

Replacement Theology: the idea that the church replaced Israel as the covenant people.

  • “…be not made like unto some, heaping up your sins and saying that the covenant is both theirs and ours. It is ours: but in this way did they finally lose it when Moses had just received it, for the Scripture says: ‘And Moses was in the mount fasting forty days and forty nights, and he received the covenant from the Lord, tables of stone written with the finger of the hand of the Lord.’ But they turned to idols and lost it. For thus saith the Lord: ‘Moses, Moses, go down quickly, for thy people, whom thou broughtest forth out of the land of Egypt, have broken the Law.’ And Moses understood and cast the two tables out of his hands, and their covenant was broken, in order that the covenant of Jesus the Beloved should be sealed in our hearts in hope of his faith” (Epistle of Barnabas 4:6-8)
  • “We have been led to God through this crucified Christ, and we are the true spiritual Israel, and the descendants of Judah, Jacob, Isaac, and Abraham, who, though uncircumcised, was approved and blessed by God because of his faith and was called the father of many nations.”(Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho the Jew 11.5)

The Third Genos (race, people, tribe) that is neither Jewish nor Greek

  • “Since I see thee, most excellent Diognetus, exceedingly desirous to learn the mode of worshipping God prevalent among the Christians, and inquiring very carefully and earnestly concerning them, what God they trust in, and what form of religion they observe, so as all to look down upon the world itself, and despise death, while they neither esteem those to be gods that are reckoned such by the Greeks, nor hold to the superstition of the Jews; and what is the affection which they cherish among themselves; and why, in fine, this new kind or practice [of piety] has only now entered into the world, and not long ago…” (Epistle to Diognetus 1.1)

The Harmful Charge against Jews of Deicide (The Accusation of Killing God)

  • “The one who hung the earth in space, is himself hanged; the one who fixed the heavens in place, is himself impaled; the one who firmly fixed all things, is himself firmly fixed to the tree. The Lord is insulted, God has been murdered, the King of Israel has been destroyed by the right hand of Israel.” (Melito of Sardis, On the Passover)

The Christian Appropriation of the “Old Testament”

Christians in the first few centuries had varied attitudes to the Jewish Scriptures. Some Jewish Christian sects such as the Ebionites or the Nazaraeans combined belief in Jesus as the promised Messiah with observance of the Law of Moses. Non-Jewish Christ followers also continued to be attracted to Jewish customs, festivals, and synagogues even in the period of Christian ascendancy in the Roman Empire, which sparked the bitter denunciations in the anti-Jewish homilies of the fourth century theologian John Chrysostom. On the other side of the coin, the Christian followers of Marcion completely rejected the Jewish Scriptures as a testament to a rival God, not the loving heavenly Father of Jesus revealed in the Gospel and letters of Paul.

Between these two extremes, emergent Christian orthodoxy re-affirmed that Jesus’ heavenly Father was the Creator God of Genesis and that the Hebrew prophets predicted the coming of Jesus, yet the Christians had to justify why the majority of Jews did not accept the latter claim. Thus, while Christians were trying to carve out a distinctive identity for themselves and their own roots in the biblical story, it also problematically fueled anti-Jewish interpretations. Some Christians claimed that the rejection of the Jews as accursed and their replacement with the Christians as the new covenant people of God was part of the divine plan all along, while others accused Jewish translators of tampering with the biblical witness as Christians defended the Greek translation in the Septuagint that they used in the churches. In light of the history of Christian anti-Judaism and modern racial anti-Semitism, there has been some re-thinking about this tragic legacy and increasing interfaith dialogue.

General Survey of the Hebrew Bible

I have completed a general survey of the main contents and narrative running through the Hebrew Bible. Of course, the area of my scholarly expertise is in the Jewish and Christian movements in the early centuries of the Common Era. Thus, I would be grateful for anyone who wants to email me feedback and constructive criticism of what I should add, omit, or edit. These posts are part of an introductory Bible course (both Testaments) that must be completed in one semester (!), so I cannot include too much information to overwhelm the student. Finally, I should note that I had received a huge amount of assistance in lecturing through the Hebrew Bible from my friend and Old Testament scholar Tyler Williams; he was my former OT professor and has taught this Bible course for several years (including one semester where we co-taught it). Although he does not blog anymore, his Codex website remains a very helpful site for biblical studies resources and blog posts.

 

“Turn! Turn! Turn!”

After discussing Ecclesiastes, I cannot help play the song “Turn! Turn! Turn!” by Pete Seeger and covered by The Byrds. Here is a song with the lyrics on youtube. Of course, for the author of Ecclesiastes, the view that there is a season to every action is a pessimistic reminder of the utter futility of it all. As you can get the idea, I am a big fan of bringing music and popular culture (though maybe not so popular anymore) into the classroom.

Israel’s Wisdom Literature

Wisdom Literature: Introduction

  • Wisdom (Chokmah): not just intellectual but can refer to understanding, insight, shrewdness, skill (e.g. administration or battle), prudence, or upright living (see Proverbs 1:2-7).
  • Traditional Wisdom (Proverbs; Wisdom of Ben Sira or Sirach, Wisdom of Solomon) and Radical Wisdom (Job, Ecclesiastes).
  • Wisdom could be passed down in the settings of households, schools, or royal courts.
  • Parallels with ANE Wisdom literature. For example, see the Egyptian Instruction of Amenemope (ca. 12th century BCE). Some differences include the Israelites’ focus on the source of wisdom (e.g. “Fear of Yahweh”) and this-worldly rewards.

Woman Wisdom (Hebrew: Chokmah, Greek: Sophia)

  • Personifying Woman Wisdom (Proverbs 8) in contrast to Woman Folly (5:1-14).
  • Origins: a remnant of a goddess cult, a metaphor due to the term’s grammatical feminine gender, or a divine hypostasis like God’s spirit or word (Wisdom of Solomon 7:25-26)?
  • Later identified with the Torah (Sirach 24:23) or with Jesus (Matthew 11:29-30; John 1:1-3; Colossians 1:15-18; Hebrews 1:3).

Proverbs

  • The Hebrew Mishlei means “Proverbs.” The book is comprised of didactic sayings expressed in a pithy manner and drawn from general, practical observations.
  • Authorship:the bulk of the collection is ascribed to Solomon as the fount of wisdom (10:1-22:16; 25-29) along with other collections (22:17-24:22, 23-34) and an introduction (1-9) and appendices (30-31).
  • It expresses traditional retribution theology in general, but there are exceptions.
  • Read the following verses about wealth (3:22; 6:6-11; 10:3; 11:24; 14:31; 28:6)

Job

  • The author is anonymous and Job is the main character. The date is uncertain, though Job is a non-Israelite set in the time of the Patriarchs from the land of Uz.
  • In the prose prologue, a celestial prosecutor called “the adversary” (ha satan) makes the case that Job is only pious because he has been blessed and is permitted to take away Job’s livelihood, children, and health (1-3).
  • After Job’s friends visit, there is an extended poetic section (4-37) where Job protests his innocence and his friends accuse him of guilty.
  • In a storm theophany, Yahweh emphasizes divine control over creation and forces of chaos (38:1-42:6), leading Job to “repent” or change his mind.
  • The prose epilogue (42:7-17) vindicates Job and reprimands his friends for their simplistic retribution theology. Job receives new blessings.
  • The primary question is whether there can be disinterested piety, but it is also concerned with “theodicy” or how a good deity can permit suffering.

Ecclesiastes

  • The Hebrew title Qohelet is often translated “teacher” or “preacher”. Since the verbal root is “to assemble”, it could be translated as “assembler.”
  • The implied author (1:1, 12-13; 2:9) is a wise Davidic ruler in Jerusalem (=Solomon?), but the book may fit the ANE genre of “Royal Fictional Autobiography.”
  • Pleasure, work, wisdom, wealth, youth, law-courts, seasons, and everything else is hebel (vanity, meaningless, fleeting, absurd) and no more profitable than chasing the wind.
  • Did the epilogue (12:9-13) help Ecclesiastes get into the canon and do you agree that fearing God and keeping the commandments is a satisfactory ending to the book?

Israel’s Worship in the Psalms

Hebrew Poetry

  • Half of the Hebrew Bible is poetry.
  • Hebrew poetry is not rhymes or a regular metre, but parallelism. It also features terse expressions, heightened style, figures of speech, and varying word order.
  • A psalm (Greek psalmos) is a translation of the Hebrew word for “song.” The Hebrew Tehillim means “praises.”
  • 117 of 150 of the superscriptions containing notes about the alleged author, the genre, the liturgical use, or the situation reflected in the Psalm.

Robert Lowth’s (1732) Three Categories of Hebrew Parallelism

  • Synonymous (A=B): the parallel line repeats or restates the idea of the first line (Psalm 2:1-3, 8-9)
  • Antithetic (A≠B): the parallel line contrasts with the first line (Psalm 1:6; 7:9)
  • Synthetic/Formal (A→B): the parallel line adds or continues the idea of the first line (Psalm 25:8)
  • Further study of Hebrew poetry shows that Lowth overemphasized similarities between the lines at the expense of differences, for rarely is the  parallel line entirely synonymous with the preceding line without building on it. “Synthetic Parallelism” is too loose a category and other types of parallelism have been identified (e.g. climatic or staircase parallelism, emblematic parallelism).

Herman Gunkel and Form Criticism

  • The “form” of a Psalm and the “situation in life” (Sitz im Leben) the ancient Israelites would have been in when they sang a particular type of Psalm. These are ideal types and not every Psalm includes all of these elements.
  • Hymns of Praise (sub-types include enthronement Psalms and Songs of Zion): an introduction or call to praise, praise of God’s attributes or deeds, and a conclusion. They may be sung on holy days, festivals, or royal coronations. Example: Psalm 8.
  • Thanksgiving Psalm: an introduction, complaint, deliverance, and conclusion or thanksgiving. They may be sung out of worship, gratitude, or feelings of groundedness. Example: Psalm 30.
  • Laments (subtypes include Penitential Psalms): an address, a plea for help, a complaint, an admission of guilt or innocence, a curse of enemies, and a reassertion of God’s faithfulness. They may be sung in times of repentance, fear of natural or human threats, suffering, or social upheaval. Example: Psalms 89 and 137.

The Prophets

Introducing the Hebrew Prophets

  • The “Prophets” (Nevi’im) in the Tanakh is divided by “Former” (Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings) and “Latter” (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi).
  • The division between Major Prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel) and the 12 Minor Prophets in the Christian Old Testament is based on book length.
  • Hebrew terms: nabi’ (prophet, speaker, herald), roeh (diviner, seer, one who sees), or hozeh (seer, one who sees).
  • Prophecy, divination, and ecstatic behaviour was a wider phenomenon in the ANE and often connected to temple cults or royal courts.
  • Hebrew prophets did not primarily predict the future, but acted as Yahweh’s spokespersons to call Israel and Judah back to covenant faithfulness in specific historical contexts.

Amos

  • Amos of Tekoa was a shepherd and took care of sycamore trees (1:1; 7:14). He ministered during the reigns of Uzziah of Judah and Jeroboam II of Israel and, though was from the south, directed his message to northern Israel.
  • Amos condemns the mistreatment of the poor during the long reign of Jeroboam II (786-746 BCE) and calls for social justice.
  • In the brilliant rhetorical introduction, Amos gets the intended audience on side by condemning other nations for crimes against humanity, only to turn around to condemn social inequality in northern Israel (1:3-2:8).
Hosea
  • Hosea, the son of Beeri, was from northern Israel and ministered in the time of kings Uzziah, Jothan, Ahaz, and Hezekiah of Judah and king Jeroboam II of Israel (1:1).
  • Hosea marries either a promiscuous woman or a prostitute named Gomer to symbolize Israel’s faithlessness to Yahweh in her devotion to Baal and gives his children symbolic names including Jezreel (recalls Jehu’s massacre in the Jezreel valley), Lo-ruhamah (“not loved”), and Lo-ammi (“not my people”).

Isaiah

  • Traditionally attributed to the eighth century BCE prophet Isaiah son of Amoz, a royal advisor during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah (1:1).
  • Chapters 1-39 urges Judah to remain steadfast against the Assyrian threat; the efforts of Israel and Syria to force Judah in a coalition against Assyria provide the context for the “Immanuel” oracle (7:14). An apocalyptic section (ch. 24-27) may be an addition.
  • Second Isaiah (chapters 40-54) stresses Yahweh’s exclusive sovereignty over world affairs and comforts the exiles about a second exodus through the “anointed” Cyrus the Great.
  • Third Isaiah (chapters 56-66) is a collection of post-exilic oracles that looks back on the ruins of Jerusalem (58:12; 61:4; 63:18; 64:9-10) and predicts its restoration including those traditionally excluded (e.g. eunuchs and foreigners).
  • The messianic oracles (Isaiah 9:1-7; 11; 61:1-3) and Servant Songs (Isaiah 42:1-9; 49:1-13; 50:4-11; 53) were influential on early Christians.

Jeremiah

  • Jeremiah, son of the priest Hilkiah, had a ministry that spanned the reigns of Josiah, Jehoiakim, and Zedekiah of Judah (1:1-3).
  • Jeremiah was set apart from birth and called as a young man to be  a prophet to the nations (1:4-10) and was not permitted to get married or have children (7:1-3). He is called the “weeping prophet” due to the extreme heartache he felt over his message and being persecuted as a traitor (e.g. imprisonments, abuse, deportations).
  • He urged the people to not count on divine protection based on their election and temple if they are not obedient to the covenant (7:1-15). He eventually insists that divine punishment is inevitable and that they must surrender to Babylon.
  • There is some textual variations and differences in length between the Septuagint and Masoretic versions of the text of Jeremiah.

Ezekiel

  • Ezekiel was a Zadokite priest from Jerusalem exiled to Babylon in 598 BCE and called to be a prophet in the fifth year of the exile of king Jehoiachin (1:2).
  • Ezekiel repudiates the idea of generational guilt, insisting that each one is punished for his or her transgressions and repentance is always available (3:16-27).
  • Ezekiel performs extreme symbolic acts as pointing to judgment (e.g. laying on his side for 390 days, cooking food over manure, attacking the hairs from his shaven beard, and leaving his deceased wife unmourned).
  • Ezekiel is famous for vivid imagery: the divine chariot throne, the nation’s adultery, the resurrection of dry bones, the defeat of “Gog and Magog,” and the fantastical proportions of the new temple.

Post-Exilic Prophets

  • Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi.
  • They generally deal with either the disillusionment of the returning exiles to the Persian province of Yehud, the encouragement to rebuild the Jerusalem temple, or the expectations of a yet future eschatological judgment and restoration.
  • Daniel is in the Writings in the Jewish canon. Most scholars believe the book was composed in the Hellenistic period around the crisis of Antiochus IV desecrating the temple (167-164 BCE). It hopes for divine intervention to vindicate a human-like figure (i.e. saints of Israel or their angelic or messianic representative) over beasts (i.e. imperial powers).

 

The Return to Persian Yehud

The Aftermath of the Exile (587 BCE)

  • Judah was a Babylonian province governed by Gedaliah; the Davidic king Jehoiachin was released from prison in Babylon (2 Kings 25:27-30).
  • The final edition of the Deuteronomistic History, select prophets, and psalms of lament address why Yahweh permitted the exile.
  • Exilic hopes: new exodus (Isaiah 40:1-5), new heart for covenant obedience in a restored nation (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Ezekiel 36:22-30; 37:1-13), and new temple (Ezekiel 40-47). The servant’s vicarious suffering (Isaiah 42:1-4; 49:1-6; 50:4-9; 52:13-53:12).
  • Jews in the dispersion met in local assemblies or “synagogues.”

Cyrus “the Great”

  • Cyrus II of Persia (550-530 BCE) conquered Babylon in 539 BCE and established the Achaemenid empire. The imperial propaganda of the Cyrus Cylinder has Cyrus as a liberator chosen by the Babylonian god Marduk.
  • Permitted subject peoples to practice native cultic practices.
  • The edict of Cyrus (Ezra 1:2-4; 6:3-5) enabled the exiles to return to their land and rebuild the temple, returning the sacred vessels stolen by Nebuchadnezzar. Many Jews remained in the diaspora (e.g. Esther).
  • Cyrus as Yahweh’s anointed (Isaiah 44:28-45:1).

The Persian Province of Yehud

  • Sheshbazzar (“prince of Judah”) led a first wave of returnees, but the rebuilding of the temple was stalled due to economic conditions and opposition (538 BCE).
  • The Davidic governor Zerubbabel and high priest Joshua led a second wave in the reign of Darius I (522-486) and they completed the temple dedication (515 BCE).
  • Nehemiah returns in the twentieth year of the Persian ruler Artaxerxes I in 445 BCE to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem and restore civil leadership to the Levites (Nehemiah 2:1; cf. the Elephantine papyri).
  • Ezra returns in the 7th year of Artaxerxes (Ezra 7:1-8), but it is unclear if this is Artaxerxes I (465-424 BCE) or II (404-358 BCE). Ezra enforced the Torah (final edition of Pentateuch) and prohibits intermarriage with foreigners to construct strong social boundaries for a minority ethnic group.
  • Ezra-Nehemiah was originally one book structured by Cyrus’ decree (Ezra 1:1-4), the temple construction (Ezra 1:5-Nehemiah 7:72), and the communal re-dedication to God (Nehemiah 7:73-13:31).

Alternative Voices

  • Ruth: a Moabitess becomes the ancestor of king David.
  • Jonah: a prophet is unable to resist the call to invite the people of Nineveh, the capital of Assyria, to repentance.
  • Trito-Isaiah: eunuchs and foreigners are welcome (ch. 56).
  • Esther: at the encouragement of her uncle Mordecai, Esther intervenes before the Persian ruler Ahasuerus (=Xerxes I from 486-465 BCE?) to deliver the Jews from the wrath of the prime minister Haman. The story is the basis for the Jewish holiday Purim and a subsequent Greek edition makes the diaspora characters more pious.
  • Chronicles: re-write the history in Samuel-Kings from a more hopeful theological perspective for the returning exiles.

 

The Divided Kingdom and the Fall of Israel and Judah

Rehoboam I and Jeromboam I

  • Rehoboam naively trusts young counselors and refuses to lift the burden Solomon placed on the people (12:6-16).
  • Jeroboam I and northern Israel reject the Davidic dynasty from Judah. To consolidate his rule and prevent his subjects from attending religious services in Jerusalem, he sets up cult centres in Dan and Bethel and installs golden calves in them.
  • The Deuteronomistic Historian calls this the “sin of Jeroboam” and no rulers of Northern Israel turn away from it.

Rulers of Israel and Judah: Overview

  • Synchronism between north and south rulers. All rulers of Israel are deemed evil, while some rulers of Judah are deemed good.
  • Israel: Jeroboam I, Nadab, Baasha, Elah, Zimri, Omri, Ahab, Ahaziah, Jehoram, Jehu, Joahaz, Jehoash, Jeroboam II, Zechariah, Shallum, Menahem, Pekahiah, Pekah, Hoshea
  • Judah: Rehoboam, Abijah, Asa, Jehoshaphat, Jehoram, Ahaziah, Athaliah, Jehoash, Amaziah, Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, Hezekiah, Manasseh, Amon, Josiah, Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin, Zedekiah

The House of Omri in Israel

  • Omri (876-869 BCE) set up the capital Samaria, aligned with Judah and Phoenicia, and controlled Moab (cf. Mesha Stele). The Assyrians called Israel “Omri-land.” 1 Kings 16:25-26 briefly dismisses him as evil.
  • Omri’s son Ahab (869-850 BCE) marries Abizebel (“my divine father is a prince”), better known as “Jezebel” (“not a prince”), the daughter of Ethbaal (“With him is Baal”) of Tyre.
  • Ahab establishes the Baal cult in Israel. The Baal Cycle was discovered in 1929 in ancient Ugarit (=Ras Shamra in Syria). El (Ilu) was head of the Canaanite pantheon, Athirat (Asherah) his consort, and his 70 offspring include Yam (“Sea”) and Mot (“death”). The cloud-rider Baal (“fertility”) was a storm god who aided agriculture (crops, cattle, grain, wine, oil) and defeated Yam and Mot.
  • The prophet Elijah (“Yahweh is God”) caused drought in the land and proves that only Yahweh can set the sacrifice ablaze on Mt. Carmel (1 Kings 18).
  • Jehu’s (842-815 BCE) coup against Omri’s line put an end to Jezebel, 70 sons of Ahab, 42 members of the Jerusalem court, and Baal’s prophets. He continued the “sin of Jeroboam” and Hosea 1:4 condemns Jehu’s violence.

The Fall of Israel

  • Jeroboam II (786-746 BCE) re-fortified Samaria and had a long, prosperous reign that created conditions for social inequality (cf. Amos, Hosea).
  • Political instability from Zechariah to Hoshea.
  • Tiglath-Pileser III (Pul in the Hebrew Bible) extends the Assyrian empire west to the Levant. Pekah of Israel and Rezin of Syria tried to force Judah in an alliance against Assyria in 732 BCE (cf. 2 Kings 16:5; Isaiah 7:14), while Ahaz of Judah appealed to Assyria who defeated Israel and Syria and made Judah a vassal.
  • Hoshea (732-721 BCE) assassinated Pekah in support of Tiglath-Pileser III, but renounced his vassalage to Assyria in the rule of Shalmaneser V.
  • Shalmaneser attacked Samaria for three years. His successor, Sargon II, destroyed Samaria and deported nearly 30,000 Israelites while resettling others in the region in 721 BCE (2 Kings 17:7-24).

The Fall of Judah

  • The good king Hezekiah (715-687 BCE) supported reforms (e.g. removed altars, promoted Passover) and building projects (e.g. water tunnel). He resisted vassalage to Assyria and, though Assyria’s king Sennacherib took 46 cities and shut up Hezekiah in Jerusalem “like a bird in a birdcage” (ANET 288; cf. 2 Kings 18-19; Isaiah 36-37), he did not take Jerusalem in 701 BCE. 
  • Manasseh (687-642 BCE) was a long reigning yet evil king. 2 Chronicles 33:11-17 adds a story of how the Assyrians imprisoned him and he repented before resuming his rule.
  • The good king Josiah (641-609 BCE) promoted reforms based on a “book of the law” (Deuteronomy?). He is slain in battle with Pharaoh Neco II at Megiddo.
  • Babylon defeated Assyria’s capital Nineveh in 612 BCE. Judah was caught between Egypt and Babylon who each had the upper hand at times.
  • Pharaoh Neco II replaced Jehoahaz II with Jehoiakim as Judah’s king.
  • Johoiakim refused the tribute to Babylon, so Jerusalem was attacked. Jehioakim died before the siege ended, but his son Jehoiachin was taken captive in 597 BCE.
  • Babylon’s Nebuchadnezzer II put Zedekiah on Judah’s throne, but a year later destroyed Jerusalem and its temple and exiled its elites in 587 BCE.