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The Usage of God and "Us" in Genesis PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 26 November 2012 16:01

Since it is a question that often comes up when studying Genesis I wanted to comment on the plural use of "us" as applied to God in the creation narrative in Genesis 1:26. While I am not a trained Hebrew scholar, I have made several observations from various study materials over time that I think may be useful to keep in mind when reading this passage to provide a broader context for Hebrew speech and thought. There are several instances in the Hebrew Scriptures where lexical plurals are used in reference to God but do not refer to plurality in the quantitative sense.  A few of the verses that do this are Ecclesiastes 12:1, Proverbs 9:10, Proverbs 30:3, Hosea 11:12, Isaiah 54:5, and Psalm 149:2, which I will cover below.

Before examining the examples though I will say that some who are familiar with those texts note that, in contrast to this text in Genesis, they chiefly provide evidence of plural participles (largely serving as nouns) that occur in sentences with singular pronouns and pronominal suffixes (word endings that determine the grammatical person in which it is addressed - 1st, 2nd, or 3rd person singular or plural endings), which clearly give the object being represented by the plural participle a singular sense (this will be made clearer below). This does, however, stand in grammatical distinction with the "let us make" in Genesis 1:26 which is a cohortative verb - rather than a plural participle - which indeed justifies the plural rendering, but I argue that its sense in context can still be taken as singular. Just as context and grammatical agreement helps determine when a plural participle is to be taken in a singular sense I believe the same can be said for this cohortative verb used in self-reference by Elohim.

First though I want to make some general observations on plurals and provide a parallel example from some observations in an Arabic text (the Quran). Then I will review the plural participle/noun instances in those verses mentioned above to establish some context for understanding lexical plurals for "we" and "us" references.

In general, Hebrew plurals can not only serve as indication of quantity but can also be intensifiers and amplifiers indicating a plurality of quality or degree rather than numerical value. When referring to God such plural usage is commonly called the "plural of majesty" or the "royal plural". This could even be called a "superlative plural". This characteristic of Hebrew lexical plurals is not limited to references to God either.

Jeff Benner in his Ancient Hebrew Lexicon of the Bible and on his website notes the following about Hebrew plurals:

Nouns are made plural by adding the suffix ים or ות. Generally the ים is used for masculine nouns and ות for feminine nouns. In some cases masculine words, usually very ancient words, will use the ות suffix. The Hebrew words אב (av – father) and אור (or – light) are masculine words but are written as אבות and אורות in the plural. In all modern languages the plural is always quantitative while in Ancient Hebrew a plural can be quantitative or qualitative. For instance the word “trees” refers to more than one tree (quantitative) while in Hebrew the plural word עץים (etsiym – trees) can mean more than one tree (quantitative) or one very large tree (qualitative). An example of this is the word בהמות (behemot or usually transliterated as behemoth in Job 40:15). This word is the plural form of the singular בהמה (behemah), meaning beast, but refers to a very large beast rather than more than one beast. One of the most common uses of the qualitative plural is the word  אלהים (elohim) which can be translated as “gods” (quantitative) or as “God” (qualitative). (source:1)

As with the example of etsiym refering to a large tree this is possibly even the case with the reference in Genesis to the "oaks of Mamre" in Genesis 13:18, 14:13, and 18:1 refering perhaps to one, well-known "oak" of Mamre that was a notable landmark, perhaps indicating the "(great) oak of Mamre" where the word 'great' would supply the qualitative or intensive sense of the Hebrew plural here. One scholar, Liv Ingeborg Lied, also notes, "[T]he LXX and Syriac version of Gen 18:1 both render the plural oaks of the Hebrew versions with a singlular oak" (source:2).  Dr. Jonathan Pennington in his book Heaven and Earth in the Gospel of Matthew surveys the use of the word for 'heaven' in the Old Testament, Shamayim (שמים), and says about its peculiar plural form (though often translated in the singular), "[T]he consensus is now that שמים is in fact plural morphologically. Yet, as with several other Hebrew words the sense of the plural is not purely numeric, but functions as a pluralis amplitudinis" (pg. 40; emphasis mine). This same phenomenon of Hebrew plurals being used in the qualitative or amplifying sense applies to references to God as has already been noted, hence the well-known instance of the royal plural.

Gesenius notes in his discussion of Hebrew plurals (emphasis in bold mine):

The plural is by no means used in Hebrew solely to express a number of individuals or separate objects, but may also denote them collectively. This use of the plural expresses either (a) a combination of various external constituent parts (plurals of local extension), or (b) a more or less intensive focusing of the characteristics inherent in the idea of the stem (abstract plurals, usually rendered in English by forms in -hood, -ness, -ship). A variety of the plurals described under (b), in which the secondary idea of intensity or of an internal multiplication of the idea of the stem may be clearly seen, is (c) the pluralis excellentiae or pluralis maiestatis.

In fact, the Quran, which is written in Arabic (a Semitic cousin to Hebrew), also uses the royal plural all throughout its text to refer to Allah. I was puzzled the first time that I read portions of the Quran when I tried to determine to whom the "we", "us", and "our" was referring throughout the text until I researched it and discovered that it is how Allah refers to himself in the Quran. Muslim scholars explain this as being a Semitic royal plural usage in the Quran. Here are some examples from the Quran:

We have, without doubt, sent down the Message; and We will assuredly guard it (from corruption).” (al-Hijr 15:9)

We created not the heavens, the earth, and all between them, but for just ends. And the Hour is surely coming.” (al-Hijr 15:85)

"Already has Our Word been passed before (this) to Our Servants sent (by Us). That they would certainly be assisted. And that Our forces, they surely must conquer." (al-Saffat 37:171-173)

So with all this in mind let's look first at Ecclesiastes 12:1. The passage is commonly translated as, "Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth" (KJV). However if you look at the Hebrew text it literally reads, "remember thy Creators (בּוֹרְאֶיךָ - bor'eka)," and yet it is clearly intended to refer to the singular Elohim of Israel, Yahweh. This plural form of "creator" (bor'eka which is related to the verb בָּרָא - bara found in Genesis 1:1) conceptually parallels the very passage in question, though it is to be noted that the verb for create in Genesis 1:26 (na'aseh) is different from the verb for create in Genesis 1:1 (bara): "let us create (נַעֲשֶׂה - na'aseh) man in our image" (Genesis 1:26). Nonetheless, the use of both verbs in Genesis 1 shows them to be in the same general semantic domain contextually. But also see Psalm 149:2 (below) for an actual example of the noun form of na'aseh (from the root asah) used for "Creators" as well. Thus both verbs for creation or making found in Genesis have related noun forms in plural form found elsewhere in Scripture, as applied to God, that indicate him as creator.

Moving on to Proverbs 9:10 it is translated (assume all translations are KJV from here on unless otherwise noted) "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the holy is understanding." Once again the KJV doesn't quite catch it here but what it translates as "the holy" is plural in the Hebrew (קדוֹשׁים ; qodeshim - literally "holy ones") but means, as is clear by the parallelism of qodeshim with Yahweh that it indicates "the MOST Holy (One)", the plural form serving as an intensive to mean "most".

Proverbs 30:3
is the same way, "I neither learned wisdom, nor have the knowledge of the holy" is literally qodeshim, meaning "knowledge of the Most Holy".

Hosea 11:12
too reads, "Ephriam compasseth Me about with lies, and the house of Israel with deceit: but Judah yet ruleth with God, and is faithful with the saints". Once again "with the saints" comes from qodeshim and is better translated "with the Holy One" but is plural so indicates "the MOST Holy One" even though only referring to the single "God" (Elohim - also plural in form yet accompanied with verbs and adjectives in the singular).

Now, moving on to Isaiah 54:5 we see a very interesting example with dual plurals intended in the singular sense, hence is plural in the qualitative sense. It is translated, "For thy Maker is thine husband; the LORD of hosts is His name; and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel". The phrase "thy Maker is thine husband" is literally in the Hebrew "thy Makers are thy Husbands" with both nouns being plural. Once again "makers" is parallel to the idea of "us" in the creation narrative, with the plural being an intensive.

Lastly Psalm 149:2 is translated (Young's Literal Translation) "Israel doth rejoice in his Maker, Sons of Zion do joy in their king." Here "his Maker" is literally "his makers" (בְּעשָׂיו). This is the noun that is related to the verb asah, which the cohortative verb ('let us create/make') in Genesis 1:26 is a form of.
(Note: Andrew Jukes in his book The Names of God discusses several of these plurals, which you can see in a sample of his discussion in this page scan).

So from the observations above we see that in Ecclesiastes 12:1, Isaiah 54:5, and Psalm 149:2 that "makers" or "creators" are used in the plural lexically while intended to be understood in reference to a singular Maker and Creator, just as Elohim is lexically plural but taken to refer to the singular God. This is not some forgotten remnant from a conjectured Israelite polytheistic, religious past but rather an accepted and recurring feature of the Hebrew language and culture itself, and in particular in Hebrew scripture, that has survived even in Arabic as can be witnessed in the Quran.

A much more technical and full discussion on the multiple uses of the plural form in Hebrew can be found in Gesenius' Hebrew Grammar at §124 (link here). There he remarks (emphasis in bold mine):

Of (c): the pluralis excellentiae or maiestatis, as has been remarked above, is properly a variety of the abstract plural, since it sums up the several characteristics[5] belonging to the idea, besides possessing the secondary sense of an intensification of the original idea. It is thus closely related to the plurals of amplification, treated under e, which are mostly found in poetry. So especially אֱלֹהִים‎  Godhead, God (to be distinguished from the numerical plural gods, Ex 1212, &c.) . The supposition that אֱלֹהִים‎ is to be regarded as merely a remnant of earlier polytheistic views (i.e. as originally only a numerical plural) is at least highly improbable, and, moreover, would not explain the analogous plurals (see below). That the language has entirely rejected the idea of numerical plurality in אֱלֹהִים‎ (whenever it denotes one God), is proved especially by its being almost invariably joined with a singular attribute (cf. §132h), e.g. אֱלֹהִים צַדִּיק‎ ψ 710, &c. Hence אֱלֹהִים‎ may have been used originally not only as a numerical but also as an abstract plural (corresponding to the Latin numen, and our Godhead), and, like other abstracts of the same kind, have been transferred to a concrete single god (even of the heathen).

Therefore the reference of God to "us" and "our" in Genesis may indeed be quite archiac, bearing witness to the antiquity of the narrative, but does not indicate a necessary interpretation that there were "gods" plural taking part in the creation. It is clear from other uses of plural forms of certain Hebrew words, in relation to God, that this is an accepted lexical (and ultimately oral) practice and that superlative plurals were occasionally applied to God. Also the broader context of Genesis 1 shows Elohim as a singular entity, and it would be strange to have a sudden shift in the intended indicated numerical quantity of the subject (Elohim) given the unity of the narrative.

Now, it is true however that the earliest Christian Church Fathers saw the plurals in Genesis 1:26 as a reference to the Trinity. I will grant that as an interpretive and theological possibility as well, but only if it acknowledges that in that case such a meaning must have been originally vieled to the Israelites' understanding at that time, and that also the text has to have made sense in its original context and time period in which it occured. It however cannot simply be wholly reinterpreted to refer to only the Trinity without any consideration of its function and meaning in the original text. A careful biblical hermeneutic (method of interpretation) will not ignore the original contextual meaning of the text, even if it may have additional theological significance.

However, we do know from the New Testament writers' quotations of Old Testament scriptures that they often saw dual or multiple fulfillment in some prophetic passages and even attributed a second meaning to some passages such as in Matthew's reapplication of meaning to Jeremiah 31:15, which originally referred to the devastation of the Babylonian invasion of Israel, to Herod killing all young males around Bethlehem in Matthew 2:18. So conceivably Genesis 1:26 may also be seen as offering a secondary meaning of reference to the Trinity. However I do believe that the lexical explanation for the Hebrew intensive, qualitative, or superlative plural usage as applied to "let Us create man in Our image" (Genesis 1:26) makes sense of the original text and is theologically satisfactory as well.

In any case, concerning how the Israelites would have understood it - as to whether "gods" or "God" took part in the creation - I am quite sure that when Yahweh's very presence was hovering over Mt. Sinai with a grand accompaniment of blaring trumpets, a smoking mountain, a dark cloud with lightings and thunder emanating from within, and a rumbling earthquake that made it difficult for the people to stand upright, that the ancient Israelites never misunderstood God's pronouncement reaching to their own ears with piercing clarity and power: "For in six days Yahweh made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day" (Exodus 20:11). I am quite confident that no Israelite who experienced that awe-inspiring event (at which they trembled - Exodus 19:16) ever believed that anyone other than Yahweh had any hand in creating the universe after that, if they ever did before!

Last Updated on Thursday, 07 July 2016 22:57
Quotes about Fear PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 13 February 2012 12:50

Quotes about Fear

No passion so effectually robs the mind of all its powers of acting and reasoning as fear.

 -Edmund Burke, A Philosophical Inquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful (1756)

The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.

 -Franklin D. Roosevelt, First Inaugural Address (March 4, 1933)

Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear — not absence of fear.

 -Mark Twain, Pudd'nhead Wilson, Chapter 12 (1894)

To fear love is to fear life, and those who fear life are already three parts dead.

 -Bertrand Russell, Marriage and Morals Ch. 16 (1929)

You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, "I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along."...You must do the thing you think you cannot do.

 -Eleanor Roosevelt, You Learn by Living (1960)

The concessions of the weak are the concessions of fear.

 -Edmund Burke, Second Speech on Conciliation with America. The Thirteen Resolutions (March 22, 1775)

I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.

  -Frank Herbert, Dune - Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear (1965), pg. 8.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

 -Psalm 23:4

The LORD is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The LORD is the strength of my life; Of whom shall I be afraid?

 -Psalm 27:1

God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, even though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea.

 -Psalm 46:1-2

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear.

 -1 John 4:18

Taken from: http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Fear

Last Updated on Thursday, 16 February 2012 22:41
Who wrote the Bible? - Challenging the Documentary Hypothesis PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 26 January 2012 22:59

Challenging the Documentary Hypothesis

Today I just discovered two books, coincidentally both released around the same time with the same title, called "Who really wrote the Bible?" which is a twist on the title of the book "Who wrote the Bible?" written by Richard Elliot Friedman, in which Friedman summarizes and expounds his views in favor of the Documentary Hypothesis. The former two books seek to challenge the Documentary Hypothesis and its assumptions. I was actually reading parts of Friedman's book yesterday for several hours at Barnes & Noble, particularly to read what his view is on what is commonly refered to as the Priestly document. In searching online for more information about that topic it was then that I ran into these two "Who really wrote the Bible?" books on Amazon.

The first book "Who really wrote the Bible?" is written by Eyal Rav-Noy and Gil Weinreich, and I found that there is also a great website that is the companion to this book which also has excerpts from the book here: http://www.whoreallywrotethebible.com/. You can read about the authors themselves on their page here. What is funny is that the authors of both books discovered each other on Amazon, read each others' books, and left comments/reviews.

The author of the 'other' book
commented on Rav-Noy and Weinreich's book saying, "This book simply and entertainingly exposes the sloppy thinking and circular reasoning behind the Hypothesis. The authors also reveal connections between several passages within the Pentateuch that I had not seen before and explain the nuances of some Hebrew words in a way that only those who speak the language can."

The second "Who really wrote the Bible?" book was written by Clayton Howard Ford and apparently is the only one of the two that directly aims to refute Friedman's book in particular. Rav-Noy and Weinreich's book tackles the Documentary Hypothesis more broadly according to the comments and summary. In the comments under Eyal Rav-Noy's review of Ford's book Rav-Noy elaborates on the differences between their two books:

"The basic difference between my book and Ford's book is that Mr. Ford deals at length with debunking Friedman's book "Who Really Wrote the Bible." He does a perfect and entertaining job. He also takes much time in answering various questions Bible Critics have been asking for some time. My book deals less with Friedman and deals more with Biblical Criticism in general. Part I explains why this subject is important and why it is completely baseless. Part II deals with various scholarly mistakes the Bible critics have made. Part III spends much time organizing the Bible, showing that there must have been one mind and a single author behind it all."

I am planning on and am looking forward to reading both of their books to learn about their contributions to defending the unified authorship of the Pentateuch, among other things. When first reading the opening chapters of Friedman's book about a year ago I immediately became sceptical of his assumptions and speculations on "who did what, at what time, for such & such reasons", weaving an impossibly elaborate and far-fetched scheme of competing priests with differing traditions and ideologies who pitted their texts against one another. And I also of course reject such a view in light of the fact that I accept the divine inspiration of the Bible, which consequently would mean that the entirety of the text has coherency of purpose - although expressed through many stylistically varied ways (as are the four Gospels in the New Testament). As an aside, Ben Witherington has an excellent book called "The Living Word of God" which considers the inspiration of the Bible in the context of an oral Jewish/Hebraic culture if you want to explore that more. Getting back to the topic though: Friedman's book presents a very convenient, self-constructed "imaginative" narrative to supplement and attempt to justify the DH which he constructed for his own purposes.

I look forward in particular to reading Ford's critiques of Friedman's book and also what sounds like investigations of the original Hebrew text in Rav-Noy and Weinreich's book. I just wanted to blog my thoughts while they are still fresh after having just discovered these two books. In the mean time, for the rest of you, please consider visiting Rav-Noy and Weinreich's website where you can learn a lot more about their book if you are interested. Maybe even buy one or both of the books too, as I definitely will.


Additional online reading material that challenges the Documentary Hypothesis: The Documentary Hypothesis by Duane Garrett

Last Updated on Tuesday, 22 October 2013 21:03
George Whitefield: Father of the Great Awakening PDF Print E-mail
Sunday, 24 January 2010 22:31

WhitefieldPicture2           WhitefieldPicture1          WhitefieldPicture3

The great 18th century English evangelist and open-air preacher George Whitefield made a tremendous impact on the American colonies before the Revolutionary War and in a way united the colonies for the first time. He overcame traditional parochial boundaries (the very reason the English clergy in Britain shunned him), by his extensive itinerant preaching style and his convicting and booming voice which (to Benjamin Franklin's amazement) could carry clearly to the ears of up to 30,000 people in open-air. This man performed the charitable work of starting an orphanage in Bethesda, Georgia and would customarily end his sermons with a call for a collection to be made for the orphanage. Though they eventually took different paths Whitefield was close friends with the Wesley brothers and he was part of their 'Holy Club' at Oxford. He was deeply impressed by their ministry and in turn later prepared the way for John Wesley to preach in England during his absence while he was in America.

This man touched the hearts of many on both sides of the Atlantic and preached from England, to Wales, to Ireland, to America. On one occasion he even convicted the oft hard-hearted Benjamin Franklin, by his own admission no less(!), to give an offering to the Georgia Orphanage after he had resolutely sworn he would not (read here). The Spirit of God rested on this amazing man and his ministry touched many lives and has left a heart-touching and amazing legacy for those who came after, and for those contemporary, to emulate. This man assuredly deserves the designation "Father of the Great Awakening". Read about his life further here in a paper I wrote exploring this amazing man's life and ministry:

The Life of George Whitefield.   
Last Updated on Friday, 10 February 2012 17:11
The Sennacherib/Taylor Prism PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 06 July 2011 19:35

"The Assyrian came down like the wolf on the fold,
And his cohorts were gleaming in purple and gold
- Lord Byron

Thus began the famous poem by Lord Byron poeticizing the infamous destruction of Sennacherib's army. This account of Sennacherib's clash with Hezekiah and the God of Israel has from the beginning inspired awe and wonder and become a story of great fascination to many. And interestingly enough there have been several accounts and artifacts of historical value which have been found that give details about this period in time during Sennacherib's rule which corroborate the Biblical story. One such artifact is the Taylor Prism.

The artifact known as Sennacherib's Prism, or the Taylor Prism, is a 38cm tall, hexagonal prism containing a personal account of Sennacherib written in cuneiform, in which he boasts of his exploits against his enemies. Sennacherib was an Assyrian king who laid siege to Jerusalem in 701 B.C. and executed a military campaign in Palestine to put down insurrections against Assyrian rule and attempts to break off vassalship to Assyria. At the time Judah was under the rule of Hezekiah who was a rather strong King among the neighboring nations, and possibly provoked Sennacherib's wrath when the Philistines overthrew their own King Padi (King of Ekron - appointed by Assyria) and had him imprisoned in Jerusalem during Hezekiah's reign. This could have been viewed as an attempt to throw off Assyrian vassalage and defer preference to the king of Judah, as a military ally against Assyria. This account though of Assyria's invasion into Palestine is one of the most well documented events in history and has many avenues of corroboration and has spurred many discussions about the details of the amazing sequence of events as recorded in the Bible.

Let's first look at the Bible's account of the event that the Taylor Prism also records:

The Bible records the story of Sennacherib in the book of 2 Kings as thus:

(Chapter 18) 13 Now in the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah, Sennacherib king of Assyria came up against all the fortified cities of Judah and seized them. 14 Then Hezekiah king of Judah sent to the king of Assyria at Lachish, saying, "I have done wrong. Withdraw from me; whatever you impose on me I will bear." So the king of Assyria required of Hezekiah king of Judah three hundred talents of silver and thirty talents of gold. 15 Hezekiah gave him all the silver which was found in the house of the LORD, and in the treasuries of the king's house.
17 Then the king of Assyria sent Tartan and Rab-saris and Rabshakeh from Lachish to King Hezekiah with a large army to Jerusalem
28 Then Rabshakeh stood and cried with a loud voice in Judean, saying, "Hear the word of the great king, the king of Assyria.
31 'Do not listen to Hezekiah, for thus says the king of Assyria, "Make your peace with me and come out to me, and eat each of his vine and each of his fig tree and drink each of the waters of his own cistern, 32 until I come and take you away to a land like your own land, a land of grain and new wine, a land of bread and vineyards, a land of olive trees and honey, that you may live and not die." But do not listen to Hezekiah when he misleads you, saying, "The LORD will deliver us."

(Chapter 19) 5 So the servants of King Hezekiah came to Isaiah. 6Isaiah said to them, "Thus you shall say to your master, 'Thus says the LORD, "Do not be afraid because of the words that you have heard, with which the servants of the king of Assyria have blasphemed Me. 7 "Behold, I will put a spirit in him so that he will hear a rumor and return to his own land And I will make him fall by the sword in his own land."'"
35 Then it happened that night that the angel of the LORD went out and struck 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians; and when men rose early in the morning, behold, all of them were dead. 36 So Sennacherib king of Assyria departed and returned home, and lived at Nineveh. 37 It came about as he was worshiping in the house of Nisroch his god, that Adrammelech and Sharezer [his sons] killed him with the sword; and they escaped into the land of Ararat And Esarhaddon his son became king in his place.


The Taylor Prism:

THe Taylor Prism

Now observe Sennacherib's account on the prism:

As for Hezekiah the Judahite, who did not submit to my yoke: forty-six of his strong, walled cities, as well as the small towns in their area, which were without number, by levelling with battering-rams and by bringing up seige-engines, and by attacking and storming on foot, by mines, tunnels, and breeches, I besieged and took them. 200,150 people, great and small, male and female, horses, mules, asses, camels, cattle and sheep without number, I brought away from them and counted as spoil. (Hezekiah) himself, like a caged bird I shut up in Jerusalem, his royal city. I threw up earthworks against him- the one coming out of the city-gate, I turned back to his misery.

His cities, which I had despoiled, I cut off from his land, and to Mitinti, king of Ashdod, Padi, king of Ekron, and Silli, king of Gaza, I gave (them). And thus I diminished his land. I added to the former tribute, and I laid upon him the surrender of their land and imposts-gifts for my majesty. As for Hezekiah, the terrifying splendor of my majesty overcame him, and the Arabs and his mercenary troops which he had brought in to strengthen Jerusalem, his royal city, deserted him. In addition to the thirty talents of gold and eight hundred talents of silver, gems, antimony, jewels, large carnelians, ivory-inlaid couches, ivory-inlaid chairs, elephant hides, elephant tusks, ebony, boxwood, all kinds of valuable treasures, as well as his daughters, his harem, his male and female musicians, which he had brought after me to Nineveh, my royal city. To pay tribute and to accept servitude, he dispatched his messengers.

Notice how there are three main correlations between those accounts: Hezekiah did not surrender to Sennacherib or "submit to [his] yoke" (he heeded the words of Isaiah), Sennacherib besieged Judah and seized 46 of its cities (except for Jerusalem), and Hezekiah tried to appease Sennacherib by paying him a lot of tribute, though still refusing to submit to him and surrender Jerusalem. Also there is a small correlation between the tribute amounts, though Sennacherib records the extra tribute that he exacted from Hezekiah in silver along with (as both record) exactly thirty talents of gold. But also note that Sennacherib never says that he took Jerusalem, though he boasts about the "terrifying splendor of [his] majesty". This is because a catastrophe struck the Assyrian's camp, which was surrounding Jerusalem.

There are three main extra-biblical explanations given for this catastrophe, two being historical accounts (from Herododus and Berosus, both quoted by Josephus) and one the product of modern speculation:

1. Herodotus, from the perspective of an Egyptian legend, recorded that mice gnawed through the soldiers quivers, bowstrings, and shield-straps, making them vulnerable to their enemies (Antiquities 10.1.4).

2. Josephus also quoted Berosus who recorded: "Now when Sennacherib was returning from his Egyptian war to Jerusalem, he found his army under Rabshakeh his general in danger [by a plague], for God had sent a pestilential distemper upon his army; and on the very night of the siege, a hundred fourscore and five thousand, with their captains and generals, were destroyed." (Antiquities 10.1.5).

3. The third, more modern, speculation is that a meteor struck the Assyrian camp, but is unlikely, and contradicts the Biblical and historical accounts.

But it is clear that in history something devastating happened to the Assyrian army that caused Sennacherib's campaigns around the Mediterranean to cease and cause him to return to his own land.

The Bible was even correct on how Sennacherib died. A clay tablet that now resides in the British Museum records: 'On the twentieth day of the month Tebet Sennacherib king of Assyria his son slew him in rebellion... Esarhaddon his son sat on the throne of Assyria.' Josephus, once again, comes through on this topic and also records: "Being in great fear for his whole army, he fled with the rest of his forces to his own kingdom, and to his city Nineveh; and when he had abode there a little while, he was treacherously assaulted, and died by the hands of his elder sons, Adrammelech and Seraser, and was slain in his own temple, which was called Araske. Now these sons of his were driven away on account of the murder of their father by the citizens, and went into Armenia, while Assarachoddas took the kingdom of Sennacherib." And this proved to be the conclusion of this Assyrian expedition against the people of Jerusalem. (Antiquities 10.1.5). There is amazing correlation between these multiple historical accounts and the Bible. Thus we can see that the story of Sennacherib in 2 Kings is soundly set in historical fact.

Last Updated on Thursday, 09 February 2017 19:35
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