Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Name That Text!

Read the following sacred text quote and ponder for a brief moment as to what the source is. Don't take the easy way out with a Google search. The answer will be seen shortly.

And Omri was king over Israel for twelve years. And he built an altar to YHVH in Jericho saying "because He has delivered me from all kings, and because He has made me look down on all my enemies." Mesha was the king of Moab, and he oppressed Israel for many days, for YHVH was angry with His land. And his son reigned in his place; and he also said, "I will oppress Israel!" But YHVH has looked down on him and on his house, and Moab has been defeated; it has been defeated forever! And Mesha took possession of the whole land of Jerash, and he lived there in his days and half the days of his son: forty years. But YHVH restored it in Omri's days and he built an altar to YHVH, and a water reservoir next to it. And he built Beit El. And the men of Moab lived in the land of Dibon from ancient times; and the king of Moab built Atarot for himself, and he fought against the city and captured it. And Omri killed all the people of the city as a sacrifice for YHVH and for Israel.

If you don't have a background in the early monarchy period of the Bible, you might not have noticed that this account is totally out of whack. Otherwise you will recognize a clumsy attempt at making something read as if it were a section in Kings or Chronicles. But it isn't. It is the first half of the Mesha Stele (see here), written with the "good guys" and the "bad guys" (and place names) reversed.

Look at things through Moabite eyes. Israel under King Omri and his successors were oppressors of Moab. But why was Israel able to subjugate the mighty nation of Moab? Because Chemosh (Moab's God), was angry at His people. Eventually Chemosh relented and restored Moab's land. The divinely commanded massacres against Israel were carried out dutifully. King Mesha would build altars to Chemosh after these successful military campaigns where people could bring their thanksgiving offerings.

We aren't reading our sacred Moabite stories today because it is the Jewish nation that survived, not the Moabites.

I guess that shows that God really is on our side.

Or perhaps it's just because history belongs to the victor.


MC Complete said...

History belongs to the victor? We lost to the Babylonians but we still got to write the history. Eventually. Etc.

Baal Habos said...

Frum, at first I thought, what's the big deal. Of course, the Moabites WOULD describe it differently and on the contrary it may be viewed as a proof to Nach's historicity (in the general sense). But on further thought, it highlights the absence of corresponding contemporary resports of the Exodus and the Jews living in Egypt.

Frum Heretic said...

MC - the Jews have survived while the Babylonians have been assimilated into melting pot of humanity. In that sense, we "won".

BH - yeah, that's how it works with archaeology; those with an agenda will use anything that musters support for their beliefs while ignoring evidence (or non-evidence) to the contrary.