Israel and Babylon: the Influence of Babylon on the Religion of Israel

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According to the discipline of critical spatiality 'Jerusalem and the sanctuary are not mere physical entities, but indicate a mental, sociological, theological space created' Venter The territory beyond the borders of Israel was demarcated as heathen or profane and Babylonia serves as one of the important symbols for this world. The space of Babylon is to be understood in terms of continuation of the life of Judah Venter Homeland gives way to alien land' Fewell Jerusalem serves as a symbol of Judah's religion in the perception of the narrator.

Priestly circles conceived the temple as the holy place of the people of Israel, but also the holy centre of all creation Sweeney - a cosmic institution in which temple and world were considered 'congeneric' Levenson For this reason, YHWH gives the 'king of Judah', 'Jerusalem' and 'the vessels belonging to the house of God' 5 into the hands of the king of Babylon, who puts the vessels into the treasury of his own gods.

Babylon is denoted as 'the land of Shinar' in the Masoretic text translated 'to Babylonia' in the Septuagint. The reference is to the narrative in Genesis 11, where the people of the earth moved eastwards when they found a valley in the land of Shinar where they settled and built a city and tower. The purpose of the tower, with its top reaching heaven, was to 'make a name for ourselves, so that we do not get scattered all over the world' Gn The enterprise ends with YHWH ironically having to come down to see the city and tower, and confusing their language so that they could not understand each other Gn The people were thus scattered all over the world in different language groups, and the city is called Babel - from the root bll [to confuse], although 'Babel' actually means 'gate of the god' Wansbrough The archaic term is used purposefully to call up associations for the readers: Shinar is the country connected to Nimrod, a mighty hunter in the eyes of YHWH and 'the first potentate on earth' Gn As the country of Babel, it is associated with hubris and evil - themes frequently exploited in apocalyptic literature of the inter-testamental period.

Zechariah describes Shinar as a woman sitting in the measuring basket called Wickedness, taken to Shinar where she will be housed. Babel is a symbol of humankind's best efforts to establish an earthly paradise Hammer The city was built on the banks of the Euphrates, approximately 80 kilometers from modern day Bagdad. The narrator uses the temporal-spatial placing of the narrative effectively to indicate where and when the narrative takes place, but also to create a creative contrast between two spaces in order to explain Daniel and his three friends' loyalty, which forms a major theme in the first chapter.

The narrative is about a struggle between Nebuchadnezzar and all that he stands for, and the four Jews and their loyalty towards the God of Israel, described in terms of their choice of food. The foreign space of Babylon requires the exilic Jews to adapt to new circumstances, whilst at the same time prevent becoming absorbed in the customs and religion of Babylon Venter : 'A specific immunity had to be maintained without withdrawing from the reality of the new circumstances.

The viewpoint of the narrator arranges spatial references in such a way that a dynamic originates in the first tale and becomes even more prominent in the following tales. The contest in Daniel 1 is not between Nebuchadnezzar and his god on the one side, and Jehoiakim and his God on the other side. Two of the characters, Jehoiakim and Nebuchadnezzar's god, fade in the background and die for all practical reasons in the tale with Nebuchadnezzar and the narrator's God coming to the fore as the only two characters surviving the tale.

The narrator's God is characterised by Jerusalem and all it stands for, whilst Nebuchadnezzar is associated with the land of Shinar and all the negative associations it carries for the narrator's readers.


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In this way, the narrator's perspective is enforced on the tale, with the narrator bringing Adonai's power and acts in relation to Nebuchadnezzar's activities. This constructs a world where the Jewish God rules sovereignly - where he determines what happens on earth, even in hostile territories. Even the acts of foreign rulers are determined by him. The narrator creates this world by mentioning Adonai as the determinative factor in one of the most decisive events in Israel's history, the Babylonian exile Fewell Daniel Working at the royal court.

The royal descendants and other nobles exiled from their country were given preferential treatment.

They were deported first, whilst the poor peasants were left behind 2 Ki ; Potential candidates for the royal court were recruited from this group. They had to be royal descendants without blemish, handsome, proficient in wisdom, knowledgeable and intelligent, and capable of serving in the royal palace Dn Chaldean wisdom carried the connotation of magic due to its connection with the Chaldeans, referring to tribes from Kaldu, but in 10 out of 12 times the term is used, it refers to predictors of the future Davies The Chaldeans were the magicians, exorcists and sorcerers that Daniel refers to - the intellectual elite of Babylon Helberg The Chaldean language, referring to the neo-Babylonian court language or the Sumerian language with its highly complicated cuneiform was the gateway to the omen texts and texts containing holy myths and rituals of Babylonian religion underlying the political system.

In learning the language, the Jews are not only exposed to this ideology, but they also acknowledge its power. The education of the Jewish young men were nothing else than a re-education in the Babylonian culture Burden , with religion forming an indispensable part of Babylonian culture. This entails a 'rite of passage' in Fewell's terms - a ritual designed to facilitate people's passing from one phase of life into another. The first step in this process was to separate the persons from their community and seclude them.

The Babylonian / Persian Influence

Then they experience a liminal existence in which they were taught special knowledge that would enable them to function in the new roles they would be assuming. They were encouraged to suppress their formed allegiances in elevation of their new allegiances. If successful, this process would lead them to adopt a new identity and a change of being. In the last stage of the passage, they were reintegrated into the new society Fewell As Venter explained:. In conflict with their upbringing and religious belief, they were to become magicians and enchanters at a foreign court.

They were to be educated in the Babylonian culture, its specific language and its ideology of the esoteric.

Awarding new names to the four friends was an important element of the rite of passage. The new names carried elements of the names of Babylonian gods. The process of name change denotes deculturisation and denationalisation Nomen est omen. Gn ; 2 Ki ; 2 Ki The first readers would have enjoyed the irony of the situation, carried further in the narration of the food.

The four friends successfully underwent the rite of passage and became an integral part of the Babylonian court, although they corroborated their original national identity. Their dual citizenship formed in the liminal phase was due to the specific measures Daniel took with regard to the assignment of food to the court candidates Venter Daniel Food and defiling. In the situation of exile in Babylon, it was 'self-evident' that the Babylonian gods had triumphed, that Yahweh had failed, either because of weakness or because of indifference.


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  8. Either way, the evidence suggested that loyalty to Yahweh no longer worked or was worth practicing, because other powers could give more reliable and immediate payoffs. Brueggemann Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the king's food and wine Dn He was not a vegetarian - the word indicates that he had a cultic problem with the food, related to the Mosaic laws regulating clean and unclean foods Clarke Strict observance of laws related to food has proven through the centuries an effective means to distinguish Jews and Muslims from the rest of the world Porteous Food is a symbol of one's culture, including religion Fewell Readers have an idea of the excellence and richness of royal food.

    That the young men renounced it for the sake of their loyalty towards Adonai, was the narrator's way of convincing readers in the 2nd century BCE, during the crisis caused by the Syrian king Antiochus IV Epiphanes, to stay faithful to YHWH, because the tale assures them that YHWH will reward them in the end.

    The righteous refused and they paid the highest price for their faithfulness.

    see

    Israel - Ancient History Encyclopedia

    Fewell reminds that the same verb is used to describe the giving of new names and the taking of food , indicating that Daniel's intention was to limit the all-consuming process of indoctrination and subjection. That the chief officer allowed Daniel's experiment, was due to God disposing him to be kind and compassionate towards Daniel Dn The experiment succeeded and, without stating it, the readers understand that Adonai alone could have done this.

    The food provided from the king's table could not harm the Judean men, whilst the vegetables and water the friends preferred could not guarantee that their appearance would be better and they would be fatter Dn after only 10 days. The implied reader would have understood that it was not the substance of the food and wine to which Daniel objected, but rather that Daniel expressed his dissent with the source of the food: the king and everything he stands for Venter The food could not endanger Daniel's purity.

    What the food stood for, threatened the Jews' loyalty towards their God. Taking this food 'would be tantamount to declaring complete political allegiance' Fewell Within a cognitive linguistic frameset, eating vegetables was a way for Daniel and his friends to set themselves apart as vessels through which YHWH could act inside of Marduk's god-space De Bruyn Despite their new identities as symbolised by new names, Daniel and his friends refused to act as vessels of the Babylonian gods, but continued to act as YHWH's.

    By choosing their own food, the four Jews created a personal space that allowed them to hold up their spiritual boundaries that kept their identity of purity and holiness intact. This way they retained some kind of personal control in a seemingly uncontrollable situation Fewell Daniel's personal space was still controlled by his beliefs of purity and holiness when he did not allow the cultural-religious system of the physical space at the Babylonian court to invade his inner life Venter Israel set up rules and regulations for the Temple, sacrifices and worship that functioned as indicators of the boundaries of their identity, but the diaspora situation deprived them of their system of holiness and purity and had to be replaced by different measures, such as the study of the Torah and regulations determining their eating customs.

    In this way, exilic Jews could reclaim their religious and national identity, whilst keeping the delicate balance between opportunity and threat in a foreign land Venter :. In the historical situation in Babylonia with its specific sociological structures Daniel and his three associates are depicted as the heroes who could hold their own and even surpass others in success due to the personal space they created around themselves. Daniel The result of loyalty towards God.

    God made the four Jews intelligent and proficient in all writings and wisdom, and gave Daniel understanding of visions and dreams of all kinds Dn Processing, please wait.. Wipf and Stock. My Account Log In Search:. You have no items in your shopping cart. Israel and Babylon. Add to Cart. In this searing critique of Delitzsch, Gunkel provides his own analysis of the relationship between ancient Israel and Babylon. In this edition, Gunkel's original work is newly translated, with a new Foreword, notes, bibliographies, and indexes.

    The new edition of Gunkel's work places in historical context the sometimes overly strong reaction against Delitzsch, headed in part by Gunkel. Hanson has provided scholars a great service in this edition, as he has composed an excellent Foreword, which contains a contemporary evaluation of Delitzsch's claims, as well as a solid review of the comparative method used today to investigate Mesopotamian and Israelite connections. Hanson deserves thanks from those of us in the field of Mesopotamian and Biblical studies.

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    Soon after the Exodus, Moses transmitted to the people of this newly emerging nation, the Torah, and the Ten Commandments Exodus Chapter After 40 years in the Sinai desert, Moses led them to the Land of Israel, that is cited in The Bible as the land promised by G-d to the descendants of the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob Genesis The people of modern day Israel share the same language and culture shaped by the Jewish heritage and religion passed through generations starting with the founding father Abraham ca.

    Thus, Jews have had a continuous presence in the land of Israel for the past 3, years. The rule of Israelites in the land of Israel starts with the conquests of Joshua ca. The year BCE marks a turning point in the history of the region. From this year onwards, the region was ruled or controlled by a succession of superpower empires of the time in the following order: Babylonian, Persian, Greek Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine Empires, Islamic and Christian crusaders, Ottoman Empire, and the British Empire. In the Diaspora scattered outside of the Land of Israel , they established rich cultural and economic lives, and contributed greatly to the societies where they lived.

    Yet, they continued their national culture and prayed to return to Israel through centuries. In the first half of the 20th century there were major waves of immigration of Jews back to Israel from Arab countries and from Europe.