Yhwh, a God of the Wilderness: A Biblical and Extrabiblical Investigation


I’m Saul Olyan, and
it’s my pleasure to introduce our speaker
tonight, Thomas C. Romer, professor at the
College de France in Paris and the Universite de Lausanne. He is the Brown Judaic Studies
Visiting Scholar for 2015. Professor Romer is one of the
most distinguished scholars of the Hebrew Bible in the world
today, and I don’t overstate. A German citizen called
to a professorship at the Francophone world’s
most prestigious institution of higher learning,
Professor Romer is the author of many
influential books and articles on the Hebrew Bible and the
world out of which it emerged. His authored books
include [GERMAN], roughly translated Israel’s
Fathers, Investigations of the Patriarchal
Theme in Deuteronomy and the Deuteronomistic
Tradition from 1990; [FRENCH], roughly translated
Obscure God– Sex, Cruelty, and Violence
in the Old Testament, 1996, English edition 2013;
The So-called Deutoronimistic History from 2007;
and recently [FRENCH], The Invention of God, 2014. I believe that is being
translated into English right now. He has been a professor
at Montpelier, Neuchatel, [INAUDIBLE],
Pretoria, and Managua, a Sackler Scholar at the
University of Tel Aviv, among other honors. I understand that the
University of Tel Aviv will award Professor Romer
an honorary doctorate this coming spring. Professor Romer’s
presentation tonight is entitled, “Yhwh, a God of
the Wilderness– a Biblical and Extrabiblical
Investigation.” Please join me in
welcoming Thomas Romer. [APPLAUSE] Thank you very much
and good evening and thank you for coming
despite very difficult weather conditions. So I experienced some Providence
now yesterday and today. And I’m very happy
to be with you and to have this
little talk with you about Yahweh, god
of the wilderness. In the religious
landscape of humanity, Judaism figures as
the most ancient so-called monotheistic religion. We have a whole debate
about whether we should call it monotheistic or not. But I’ll skip this discussion. Judaism proclaims
there’s only one god who is, at the same time,
the particular god of the people of
Israel and who is also the god of the whole world. And this ideal of a
single, unique god was taken over and propagated
throughout the world by Christianity and Islam, each
of which inflects a little bit the original conception
in its own way. When we read the Jewish and
Christian bibles or the Koran, we have the impression
that this god was always present and unique. After all, he is the creator
of the heaven and the Earth, tells the first
chapter of the Bible. Looking more closely
through, though, we find Biblical text that does
not fit well with this idea. First of all, there
are an important number of texts that reflect the idea
that Yahweh– I will come back to the question of the name–
was not worshipped by Israel from the very beginning. When this god reveals himself
to Moses in the Book of Exodus, Moses does not know
the name of this god. And in another version
of Moses’s commission, God tells him that he has
not yet himself revealed to Israel under his real name. This is a trace
of historical fact that this god was not
always the god of Israel. Why, after all, does
he review himself in the wilderness between
Egypt and the land of Canaan? Does this god have a special
connection to the wilderness? And if so, what is
this connection? In this presentation,
I would like to invite you to an
investigation, a little bit like in a crime
novel, to determine the origin and
successive transformation of the god of Israel. And you have to look on what
kind of evidence you have. To be sure, the results cannot
be more than hypothetical, because we have at our disposal
only a handful of indirect pieces of evidence. Relying exclusively on this
evidence of Biblical text can also, of course,
constitute a trap, which we must be
careful to avoid, because the authors of the
various books of the Bible are obviously not interested in
giving us a historical reality. They are rather keen to
impose on their readers their vision of the history
and of the god of Israel. The Bible, then, must be
analyzed historically, without preconception, just like
any document of the antiquity. Furthermore, the results of
our analysis of Biblical text must be compared with
archaeological, epigraphics, and iconographic facts. That is the only way to
trace the career of a god who was originally
located in the desert and eventually became the god
with the unpronounceable name of the Hebrew Bible. This investigation
will also break a taboo which has dominated
recent Biblical studies. Since 1917, at least in
Europe, the text of the Torah, of the Pentateuch, some
of which had traditionally been thought to be
extremely ancient and to date back
to the beginning of the first
millennium, have come to be assigned a much
more recent time. For this reason, we
have seen the advent of a perfectly understandable
and healthy skepticism about the historical
valuable of these texts. They have come to be seen
as theological constructions rather than historical records. For this reason,
many scholars would consider it illegitimate to
use even those texts to trace the origin of
Israel and its god. To take this tack, however,
is to ignore the fact that the narratives
contained in the Pentateuch are not inventions
preceding simply on the minds of
some intellectuals sitting around in their
comfortable chairs. Biblical literature is a
literature of tradition. Those who put these traditional
accounts into writing receive them from others. And they were, of
course, free to write them modifying older
versions, sometimes in a very drastic way. In most cases, however,
the process of revision operated in a manner that rested
on certain archaic kernels that might perhaps have received
the definite formulation only at the relative late stage,
but which could still preserve traces of memory of
events of the distant past. So let us start
our investigation. But before doing
that, I just want to present the outline–
what we are going to do. We will speak about
text that speaks about this encounter in the
wilderness, then of the name Israel and Yahweh–
Yahweh, god from the south and the wilderness, in Biblical
and extrabiblical evidence– how this Yahweh became
the god of Israel, and then the god one and
only, then the only god, and in conclusion, some
remarks about the wilderness scene and the three
monotheistic religions. So that’s the menu for tonight. In the book attributed
to the prophet Hosiah, we find the following
divine speech. “Like grapes in the
wilderness, I found Israel. Like the first fruit on a
fig tree in its first season, I saw your fathers.” According to this
oracle, the relation between Yahweh and Israel’s
started in the wilderness. And a similar statement
occurs in the second chapter of the Book of Jeremiah. Here, Israel is often in
prophetic text compared to Yahweh’s wife–
more precisely, to Yahweh’s bride, who followed
his husband in his domain. Also, this domain is described
as an uncultivated land. The oracle insists on the idea
that the time in the desert was a time of a harmonious
relation between Yahweh and Israel. The problem arose in
the land, when Israel was seduced by other gods. Or, as a biblical scholar
Robert Carroll put it, the honeymoon was
wonderful, but the marriage a complete failure. And a similar idea occurs
again in the Book of Hosiah. Here, Yahweh announces that
he will restore this relation with his wife, Israel, and this
restoration will take place in the wilderness. Since the wilderness is a
theater of the first encounter between Yahweh and Israel,
a new start of the relation has to happen again
in this wilderness. And in the Book of Exodus,
Moses’s first encounter with the god, who will
commission him to liberate the Hebrews from
the Egyptian covey, takes place at a
divine mountain, which is located in the
wilderness in proximity of the land of Midian. We’ll come back to
this strange land. So because of all
these evidences, at the end of the 19th and
beginning of the 20th century, many scholars have emphasized
the role of the wilderness for the religious experience
of the Israelites. I don’t know if
you recognize him. Here, you have
Ernest [INAUDIBLE]. He was teaching the
College de France. So in his history of
the people of Israel, he boldly asserted that
the desert is monotheistic, thinking that the origins
of the Biblical monotheism are to be found
in the wilderness. A similar idea was then
taken by the German scholar Karl [INAUDIBLE], and
later in North America by J. W. Blight in a GBL
article, “The Nomadic Idea and Ideal,” arguing
that the wilderness was the birthplace of the
Yahwistic religion and that Christianity should
return to the desert ideal. This was a very– I don’t
know what this means exactly, but anyhow. So this very romantic
view on the wilderness was rightly criticized by
later scholars, whose interests shifted towards a more literary
analysis of the wilderness narratives in the Pentateuch. They argued that the
wilderness traditions do not belong to the oldest
traditions of the Hebrew Bible. In the oldest tradition,
the exodus out of Egypt was followed directly by
the entrance into the land without any sojourning in the
wilderness, as for instance, can be seen in
liturgical summaries, as you have it here
in Deuteronomy 26, where Yahweh liberates
the Israelites from the Egyptian oppression
and brings them then immediately to the land of Canaan. Nevertheless, the
importance of the wilderness in the Biblical
text is intriguing. And it is difficult to explain
them all together as just a literary invention. It is also clear
that the relation between Yahweh and Israel
is not an original one. And this can be show by the
quite simple observation– and this has to do with
the name of Israel. If you take the
name of Israel, it contains the theophoric
element “El,” which is the proper of a god. One finds, for
instance, [INAUDIBLE] as the head of the pantheon,
the Canaan [INAUDIBLE], if you want. The name Israel is
so composed of a verb and the name “El,” like
Yishmael, [INAUDIBLE] here. For the etymology of Israel,
we have two different options. I think I can skip
this a little bit. Isa– [INAUDIBLE]. And this is based on the
story about Jacob’s fight with an unknown
person in Genesis 32, or more probably, with
the Hebrew meaning “to rule,” “to govern,” so may
El govern, which corresponds, in fact, to El’s rule in
the Canaanite pantheon. Outside the Bible, the
first clear mention of the name of Israel
occurs in the Stele of Pharaoh Merneptah,
which can be dated roughly around 1210 BCE. And these granite steles
tells about the victory of the king of Egypt in
a campaign in the Levant. And here, we have Israel. Israel is destroyed, and
his seed is not anymore. First of all, the
name Israel, which we have here in Egyptian
transliteration, is given a
determinative, consisting of a man and a woman, and then
three vertical strokes that indicate that it’s a plural. This indicates that Israel
is the name of a group, rather than of a region
or of a locality. And these groups
seem to be located in the mountains of Ephraim,
exactly there where Saul later will found his kingdom. Israel, at any
rate, seems to have been a group that was known
by name to the Egyptians and was considered by them
to be an enemy sufficiently important for being
mentioned on a victory stele. The mention of the
name Israel here, however, does not
allude in any way to the exodus or any kind
of having left Egypt. It’s a group that was
always in this land. And as we have seen,
the name Israel indicates that its members
had worshipped the deity El. And this is a very
logical thing. If Israel would have
worshipped all the time Yahweh, Israel would not have been
called Israel, but [INAUDIBLE], like [INAUDIBLE], which is the
name for Jeremiah, as it were. So this raises a question
of how Israel met Yahweh and where this
encounter took place. Or to put the
question differently, where does Yahweh come from? And this brings us to
our next point– Yahweh, god from the south
and the wilderness– and first, some
Biblical evidence. In the so-called
victory song of Deborah in chapter 5 from
the Book of Judges– this is often supposed to be
one of the most ancient texts of the Hebrew Bible– we have
here a victory celebration of Yahwistic tribes
against the Canaanites. And in this song, we
can read, “Yahweh, when you went from
Seir, when you marched from the region
of Edom, the mountains quaked before Yahweh. He is Sinai, the god of Israel.” According to this
text, Yahweh’s origin is to be found in the Seir,
which is paralleled to Edom. In Psalm 68, which apparently
depends on Judges 5, has the same idea,
replacing the names by the word for wilderness. Both texts insist or share
a quite strange expression which, literally translated,
means “Yahweh, he is Sinai.” [HEBREW]. Sinai would then be
another name for Yahweh. Is it conceivable
that Yahweh originally was a place name, the
name of a mountain, and by extension, then, the
name of the god who lives there? One may even speculate whether
the Hebrew expression [HEBREW] was another name for
Yahweh, similar to the name of a pre-Islamic deity
Du-shara– “He is Mount Shara,” or “He is from Mount Shara,”
a mount next to Petra. Taking this parallel
seriously, then the expression
[INAUDIBLE], “he of Sinai,” would be a fitted
use for Yahweh. In any case, for
Judges 5 and Psalm 68, the Sinai cannot be located
in the Sinai peninsula, where we have it now. And this, as you all know,
is a late Christian idea of the Mount Sinai from the
fourth or fifth century. So the Sinai must be
something over what is called here on this
picture mount [INAUDIBLE]. The hymn in Judges 5 seems
to imagine that the Sinai is located somewhere in Edom. And the same idea also exists
in a poetic text of the book of Deuteronomy, Deuteronomy 33. “Yahweh came from Sinai
and down from [INAUDIBLE].” And finally, you can
also mention a passage from the prophetic
Book of Habakkuk. In this prophetic
vision, Yahweh comes from Teman, which seems
to be close to Midian. The word Teman is attested
in the Bible quite often, either as the name of a clan
in the genealogy of Edom, or as a territory which
may be next to Edom or even identified with Edom. Outside the Bible, we
should mention briefly the inscription from
[INAUDIBLE], which we have here, which is
in Sinai peninsula which was taken by Israel when
they occupied this territory. And in the numerous inscriptions
that they’ve found there, we have several
interesting inscriptions that speak of Yahweh
of Samaria, but also, still in the eighth century of
a Yahweh of Teman several times. The Hebrew word Teman simply
means south in general, and then probably also
south as a designation of a particular geographic
area somewhere in the vicinity of Edom and Midian. The land of Midian
also plays a major role in the Biblical exodus story as
a place of divine revelation. According to the
Biblical story, Moses, having murdered an
Egyptian overseer, escapes the anger
of the Egyptian king by flying to the
land of Midian, where he becomes the
son-in-law of a priest– Jethro, or sometimes
[INAUDIBLE]. Apparently, Midian
is close to Edom, as is also showed by this
text from the Book of Kings, where Midian is
just south of Edom. When working as a shepherd
for Jethro in Midian, Moses leads the flock to the
far side of the wilderness and comes to a
divine mountain where an unknown deity reveals itself
to him in a burning bush. And Moses asks his name. We all know this story. This is the only passage
in the whole Hebrew Bible that contains a speculation
about the significance of the divine name Yahweh. One might wish to follow the
Jewish philosopher Martin Buber, who understands
God’s answer to Moses– “I am who I am” or “I
shall be who I shall be”– as a refusal of revelation. The idea would be I am who I am. That’s none of your business. This is, of course, quite
tempting, but in the following verses, the explanation is
explicitly put into relation to the name Yahweh. The expression
[HEBREW], first of all, echoes the promise
of verse 12, where Yahweh says, “I will be
with you–” [HEBREW]. And so Yahweh is the god
who will be with Moses. In addition, “ehyeh”
also refers probably to the pronunciation
of the name Yahweh, since the verbal form sounds
very similar to this word. In any case, this revelation
of the divine name, which is presented
as unknown to Moses, is closely related to
his sojourn in Midian. And such a Midian
connection of Moses can hardly be an
invention, especially since later texts have a
very, very critical view on the Midianites. The motif of Yahweh residing
on a mountain in the wilderness also appears in other places
of the exodus narrative. You know all the
exodus narrative. According to the main
narrative, Moses and Aaron also ascend to bring
the Hebrews out of Egypt and to lead them into
the promised land. But in some passages,
however, one gets a very strange impression. One gets the impression that
the negotiation with pharaoh aimed only to get some days off
in order to worship the desert god Yahweh. For instance, in chapter 5,
“let us take a three day journey into the wilderness to offer
sacrifices to Yahweh, our god, or he might strike us with
plague or with the sword.” This passage and
others presuppose that the god of the
Hebrew is residing in the wilderness
a three day journey away from the
Egyptian delta, which may fit quite well to
Midianite [INAUDIBLE] location. First, Yahweh is presented as
a not very sympathetic god. He is a dangerous god
controlling plague, as do desert deities. In chapter six of the exodus,
after pharaoh’s refusal to let the Hebrews go, Yahweh
reveals again to Moses. Scholars often point out
that this is the very end of the story of Exodus 3. And Yahweh, in this
revelation, says to Moses that he has not revealed himself
under his real name until now. “I am Yahweh, but I appeared
to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as El Shaddai.” Interestingly,
here, Yahweh asserts that before his
encounter with Moses, he appeared as an “El” deity. And this may be an
attempt to explain why the name Israel does
not contain the name Yahweh, but “El.” Scholars often say that there
is a difference between the two version of Yahweh’s revelation. Whereas Exodus 3 is located
in the desert in Midian, Exodus 6 is supposed
to take place in Egypt. But is this really the case? At the end of chapter
5, after the failure of the negotiation
with pharaoh, we have a very small
verse that says simply, “Moses returned to Yahweh.” Commentators often think
that this just means that Moses prays to Yahweh. But if one takes his literally–
he returned to Yahweh– then it means that this
revelation does not happen in Egypt, but
in the same place as the first
encounter in Exodus 3. Finally, the divine
mountain appears again after the Israelites’
exodus out of Egypt. In Exodus 18, we are told
that Moses and the Israelites were camping in the wilderness
at the mountain of God, where he then received a visit
of his Midianite father-in-law and priest. This story apparently preserves
some memory of a Midianite contribution to
the cult of Yahweh, which was impossible
simply to endure. The reader must assume here
that the mountain of god is located in the
Midianite territory and that Jethro was there to
greet Moses when he arrived. And this encounter ends
with a sacrifice for Yahweh. And this is very interesting. Before even the mobile
sanctuary at the end of Exodus is constructed,
before the sacrifice rules are given
in the Leviticus, they do already
a sacrifice here. Also, the passage describing
the sacrifice is a little bit complicated. Here seems no
possible alternative to taking the
Hebrew text to mean that it was Jethro, the
Midianite priest who took the initiative
in this sacrifice. So the next step would
then be to assume that the priest of Midian
was a priest of Yahweh. In any case, the story
confirms the importance of a Midianite background
for Yahweh’s origins. Summing up so far,
the Hebrew Bible contains several indications for
the origin location of Yahweh on a mountain in
the wilderness which is to be located
in Midian or Edom, and there is possibly no clear
frontier between these two regions. Let us have a look on the
extrabiblical evidence. This location may be confirmed
by Egyptians’ inscriptions from the last century of
the second millennium BCE that mention nomadic
groups called Shasu, a word that may come
from an Egyptian verb meaning “to wander” or “to go, pass by.” In an inscription
of Amenophis III, there is a list containing
various mentions of these nomads, with
the specification of their territory. Amongst the Shasu
from Seir, Seir Edom, there is a group that
is called Shashu Yahwah. In this text, [? Yahwah ?]
seems to be a geographic term referring maybe to a mountain,
and perhaps also a divine name. The explanation of
this duality may be that the god
of a certain place could come to be
identified with that place and thus take the same
name as that place. The link between
the Shasu and Edom is attested in, first,
an Egyptian inscription. I have here one. You can have a look. And you can even see what
the Shashu looked like. Here, you have them in– this
is from the Temple of Amun at Karnak, which represents the
Philistine campaigns of Seti. And you can recognize the Shasu
by their goatees and their hair held back by a hairband. It’s quite fashionable,
again, these hairbands. So the archaeological,
epigraphic, and iconographic evidence all place some
Shasu in the territory of Edom and Midian at the
time of the transition from the Late Bronze
to the Iron Age. And amongst the
Shasu, there might have been a group whose
tutelary god was called Yhw. And this evidence, of
course, fits quite well with the text we just saw
representing Yahweh as a desert god, even the south. Interestingly, you can even
go a little bit further. In some seals in form of scarabs
found in the south of Judea, we have variants of
iconographic motifs called the master of the animals. Dating, for the most part, from
the 11th and 10th centuries, they depict a person,
probably a deity, who is taming in some way,
controlling, animals– here, ostriches. The ostrich clearly
points to the steppe and the regions of the Shasu. And so [INAUDIBLE]
and [INAUDIBLE] suggest that this might be
even a first representation of Yahweh. I don’t know if
we can go so far. But anyhow, that
would indicate, again, that Yahweh was worshipped
as the god of the steppe and the arid regions. And let us just
mention another point, which is the relation
between Israel and Edom. The Biblical text
gives the impression of a privileged connection
between Israel and Edom compared with the relation
with their other neighbors. Deuteronomy 2 even
says that it is Yahweh who has given
Seir to the sons of Esau, exactly as he has
given Israel his land. The Bible repeatedly
condemns the national gods of the Moabites and the
Ammonites, Chemosh and Milkom, but it never mentions
a god of Edom. This god of Edom
was Quas, of course, but this name is not
attested directly before the seventh
or sixth century BCE. So again, let’s speculate. Was Yahweh also worshipped
in Edom and Quas only stepped in when Yahweh became
the national god in Israel and in Judah? Or is it possible– and this
would be another option– that Yahweh and Quas were
two names for the same deity? In any case, as we have already
observed, in the eighth century BCE, Yahweh still was
worshipped according to the inscription of
[INAUDIBLE] as a Yahweh from Teman, which means that
the southern and wilderness connection were still
popular at that time. So how Yahweh became
the god of Israel– it is as plausible
that a Shasu group brought the veneration of
Yahweh as a god who defeats the Egyptians to Israel. As Nadav Na’aman has observed,
“the biblical the description of Egypt as a house of
bondage reflects very well the Egyptian reality
of Egypt”– sorry. I’ll start again. “The biblical description of
Egypt as a house of bondage reflects very well the Egyptian
reality of the new kingdom.” It is therefore
plausible speculation that a group that worshipped
an Edomite or southern Yahweh introduced this
Yahweh to Israel. And we have an interesting
text again in Deuteronomy 33 2 through 5. “Yahwah came from Sinai. He has risen out of
the south of Seir. He became king in
[INAUDIBLE] in Israel, and the chiefs of the
people assembled together with the tribes of Israel.” So this last verse
seems to indicate a kind of union between
the chiefs of a people Yahweh, maybe a Shasu group. And the tribes grouped
together under the name Israel. The chiefs of the
people of Yahweh meet here with the
tribes of Israel, and Yahweh thus becomes
the god of Israel. Of course, this encounter
preceded the time of the monarchy,
when Yahweh then was introduced into the
Temple of Jerusalem, but also in norhter sanctuaries
such as Bethel, Dan, and also Samaria. Yahweh then underwent
a transformation from a desert god into a
tutelary or national god. During the time of
the monarchy, Yahweh was considered both tutelary
god of Judah and Israel. In Israel, he was worshipped
similarly to the Ugaritic Baal and represented by
a bovine statue, as we can see, for instance,
in the Book of Hosiah, which criticizes this is
kind of Yahweh worship. Psalm 28, which probably
also comes from the north, clearly describes
Yahweh as a storm god, but also alludes
to the wilderness. The voice of Yahweh
is over the water, but also the makes the
wilderness tremble. In Judah, and
especially in Jerusalem, Yahweh was worshipped more
apparently as an El type, sitting on a throne, as
can be seen especially in the prophetic vision
reported in chapter 6 of the Book of Isaiah. It is plausible, also, that
there was a statue of Yahweh in the first temple
of Jerusalem, but this is a highly
debated issue which would need a long development. And I don’t want
to do this here. In any case, during the
time of the two monarchies, Yahweh was considered to be
Israel’s and Judah’s god, as Chemosh was the
god of Moab Milkom was the god of the Ammonites. This idea is expressed in the
original version of a verse in Deuteronomy 32, verse 8. The original text
can be reconstructed on the basis of the Greek
version and a fragment from Qumran. And here, we have when Elyon,
which is a title of El– apportioned the nations
when he divided humankind, he fixed the territories
of the people according to the numbers
of the sons of El. And Yahweh’s portion
is his people, Jacob his allotted share. So according to
this text, Yahweh is considered to be
one of the sons of El. According to Ugarit,
El has 70 sons, and each son receives
a people from El. So El gave Israel to Yahweh
in the same way he gave Moab to Chemosh and Amon to Milkom. Also a tutelary deity,
Yahweh was not the only god worshipped in Israel and Judah. He was associated with
a female deity called Asherah, or “Queen of Heaven.” And I refer to a very good book
of [INAUDIBLE] about Yahweh and Asherah. [INAUDIBLE] the
oracle Jeremiah even accuses his audience of
worshipping too many gods. There is clearly
polytheism at that time. So Yahweh’s transformation into
the one and unique god only started in the
seventh century BCE. After the Assyrians
destroyed Samaria in 722 BCE and integrated the territory
of the former kingdom of Israel into the Assyrian Empire,
the kingdom of Judah became the only
Yahwistic monarchy. From this period, Judah
began to lay claim to the name of
Israel and thus also to the heritage of the
former kingdom of the north. The events of 722 had
a significant impact on the demography of Jerusalem. In a few decades, the city
grew in a spectacular way. Demographic change
brought with it a reorganization of the
political structures of the kingdom of Judah. The traditional system of a
purely agricultural economy founded on the clan
was increasingly challenged by a centralized
power of a state. The Judean
administration underwent significant development
in the eighth century and was progressively
professionalized, reflecting the
city’s growing sites. King Josiah’s
arrival on the throne corresponds to the decline
of the Assyrian Empire. And this is probably
the reason that the king and his councillor undertook a
political and religious reform, trying to make Yahwah the
only god worshipped in Judah, and Jerusalem the only
legitimate sanctuary for this worship. And this ideology provoked
the closing of Yahwistic sanctuary, and according to
the narrative of 2 Kings 23, even the destruction of the
Temple of Yahweh in Bethel. The original version of
the Book of Deuteronomy, the first edition,
was written in order to promote the ideas
behind this reform. It opened with a text
which you all know, which is the famous
Shema Yisrael, which can be translated as follows. “Hear Israel, Yahweh is our god. Yahweh is [HEBREW]”– one. These two assertions are easily
understandable in the context of the reform of Josiah. Yahweh is the only god
of Israel, and he is one. That is, he is only the
Yahweh of Jerusalem. But there is no more Yahweh
of Samaria, Yahweh of Teman, of Bethel, or elsewhere. The claims that Yahweh is one
then corresponds to the fact that there is only
one place where he has a [INAUDIBLE] cult– Jerusalem. This ideology of centralization
cannot yet be labeled monotheistic, because the Book
of Deuteronomy constantly warns against the cults of other gods. “Do not follow the
[HEBREW],” the other gods, is a sort of refrain
of sort in this book. The existence of the
other gods is not denied. The focus is to prevent the
audience from worshipping them. The passage from the
one god to the only god only happened several
decades after the destruction of Jerusalem by the
Babylonians in 587 BCE and the deportation of the
Judean upper class to Babylon. These events may have
produced a major crisis in the collective
identity of the Judeans. The traditional political
and ideological pillars of monarchical states
in the ancient Near East had collapsed. One way of explaining
the deportations and voluntary immigrations,
especially to Egypt, was to say that
the gods of Babylon were stronger and had defeated
the national god, Yahweh. Or Yahweh had simply
abandoned his people. Different groups in
the Judean aristocracy tried to deal with and
overcome the crisis by producing ideologies that
endowed the fall of Judah with a religious or
theological meaning. A group of scribes that revised
the books of Deuteronomy to 2 Kings wanted to demonstrate
that the fall of Israel and the destruction
of Judah and Jerusalem are not due to
Yahweh’s weakness, but result from Yahweh’s
anger towards his people and their leaders,
who constantly disobeyed the divine
order expressed in the Book of Deuteronomy. Therefore, the anger of
Yahweh was the real agent who brought about the
collapse of the kingdom. But if Yahweh deduced
as his instruments the king of Babylon
and his army, this means that he was
in control of them. And this idea prepares a way
of so-called monotheistic statements, especially
in the second part of the Book of Isaiah,
often called Deutero-Isaiah. Some of these passages
are containing a theoretical demonstration
that Yahweh is the only god. And the author, for
instance, mocks the sale of the statues of the gods, the
only use of which is to enrich the artisans who made them. This demonstration
of the uniqueness of Yahweh, whom Deutero-Isaiah
often identifies, interesting, with El–
that’s very important– is here presented as a kind
of a theological revelation. As we have it in this
very interesting text– you may all know this– don’t
remember the former things. I will make everything new. Interestingly here,
the wilderness appears again as the
place of the new encounter between Yahweh and Israel. Yahweh’s origins
as a wilderness god are transcended and
presented– [INAUDIBLE] as the theological place that
Yahweh will reveal his power and love for his people,
and can be also seen in the opening of
this Second Isaiah– “a voice cries in
the wilderness. Prepare the way Yahweh.” The rise of Judaism in the
Persian and Hellenistic periods was materialized by the addition
of the Torah, the Pentateuch, and by the refusal to pronounce
the name of the god of Israel. Since he’s the only
god, why should this god have a proper name in
order to distinguish him from other gods? On the religious level,
the idea of the wilderness became very important
for Judaism, and then for
Christianity and Islam. And this brings me to some
short concluding remarks. Most of the parts of the
Torah, of the Pentateuch, are located somewhere
in the wilderness. And this location introduces a
sort of theological revolution. In the ancient Near
East, it was the kings who received from their
tutelary divinities laws that they were to teach
to the people living in the land they ruled. But in the Hebrew Bible, no king
ever gets a law from his god. Everything, or this function,
has been transferred to Moses in the Pentateuch. Judaism, then,
will be a religion which has no need of royal
or political legislation. It is the Pentateuch
which puts itself in the place of
political institution, but also in the
place of the land. Thus, the wilderness
setting of the Pentateuch is inventing the separation
of political power and religious practice,
and also the distinction between religious practice
and a specific territory, allowing Judaism to function
as a diaspora religion. In the last century
before the Christian era, the theme of the wilderness
played a major role in the community of Qumran. For instance, the image of
the Teacher of Righteousness in the sectarian
documents was patterned upon the image of Moses. And the Qumran community
understood its life in the desert as a
return to the Torah. The desert becomes
here, for the people of Qumran, a place of
purification and preparation for becoming the new Israel. Some of these ideas also
appear in the New Testament. The oldest gospel,
the Gospel of Mark, opens with a quotation from
the Second Isaiah– “the voice of one crying out
in the wilderness.” John the Baptist, who announces
the venue of the Messiah, is living in the wilderness
so that the wilderness appears again as a starting point
of a new divine revelation. And a similar idea can be
found in the Gospel of Luke, where the wilderness appears
as a time of preparation. “The child Jesus grew and
became strong in spirit. And he was in the
wilderness until the day he appeared publicly to Israel.” Again, Jesus, according
to the Gospel of Matthew, spends 40 days and 40
nights in the wilderness, echoing the 40 years of
the Israelites journey in the wilderness. The wilderness is
also the place where Jesus goes to pray to his god. And later, as you all
know, in Christianity, the wilderness becomes
a privileged place for the Amorites, who were
seeking an immediate relation with their god. Finally, in Islam,
the wilderness appears again as a place
of the original revelation, since it is a place where the
angel Gabriel reveals himself to Mohammad and begins to
describe the [INAUDIBLE], the recitations in his heart. In the Qu’ran, however, one may
observe a paucity of references to the wilderness. In most instances,
the wilderness appears as a place of
judgment or a place where God takes care of the [INAUDIBLE]. Historically, Islam is therefore
not a religion of wilderness. This idea started
in Islamic thinking around the ninth,
10th centuries, and was built on the
figure of Ishmael, who already in the Hebrew
Bible is described as dwelling in the wilderness. And this idea,
then, was taken up in the Occident in
a very romantic way. I gave you already
some examples. This started, perhaps,
with Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s “West-Eastern
Divan” and becomes, then, commonplace in Western thinking. Nevertheless, it is
striking that in the Hebrew and Christian Bible and in the
Qu’ran, the wilderness remains a place of an initial
encounter with the divine. And this idea may have
a historical foundation in the fact that Yahweh,
who becomes Adonai, the Lord, Allah,
or whatever, was at the beginning of his career
a god of the wilderness. Thank you very much
for your attention. [APPLAUSE] Thank you, Thomas. Do we have– I
should stand there. Do we have questions, comments,
reactions for our speaker? You compared to Martin
Buber’s book on Moses. Moses, yes. And no one of his, quote,
historical explanations for the use of
[INAUDIBLE] was to draw a distinction between
Egyptians’ gods, which could be conjured by
various incantations and saying, [INAUDIBLE],
and therefore, you can’t conjure me. And then you also
alluded to Psalm 29, which, again, it’s a
god of the weather– sort of like this
last couple of weeks, bringing in storm after
storm coming in from the sea. [INAUDIBLE] was not known
as an historian of religion. Do you see any validity this his
historical speculation there? Yeah. The two texts are quite
different, I think. I think for the first
text, Exodus 3, in a way, I think Buber was
very well aware about the discussion going on
on this historical critical interpretation of the Bible. And I think, in a
way, what he wanted to say– maybe he wouldn’t
have said it like this– but this chapter
maybe is already a reflection why the
name, the tetragram, should pronounce anymore. This depends, of course,
how you will date this text. If you put it on a
quite late level, as some of my German
colleagues would do, then I think you can quite
well go with the Buber idea in saying you cannot just
have me pronouncing my name. This name should not
be pronounced anyhow. But of course, then, there
is in the following verses an explanation– [INAUDIBLE]
is the god of the tetragram. For Psalm 29, that’s
very interesting, because I don’t think that
Buber was commenting on that. Psalm 29 has really very, very
strong parallels with hymns about Baal in Ugarit. What is interesting
in the Hebrew version of this psalm is
that next to the waters that Yahweh is dominating, like
Baal is dominating [INAUDIBLE], it’s also said that he is
controlling the wilderness. And this is something– you have
no parallels in the Ugaratic [INAUDIBLE]. So it’s interesting that they
put in this northern Canaanite Ugaritic context this
idea of the wilderness. So your talk focused
mostly on Exodus. And I think that in Genesis,
it says it appears [INAUDIBLE]. Right. So I’m wondering why
[INAUDIBLE] people would leave such an
obvious repetition on the name of the Lord. And one may be, why
the stakes would be written for Abraham when
there’s all this discussion? Yeah. You’re alluding to
Genesis 15, which where God is presenting
himself with the same thing that he’s doing in the
[INAUDIBLE], but saying, I brought you out, not of
Egypt, but of Ur, [INAUDIBLE]. Of course, it all depends how
you put these texts together on geochronic level. I think here, in this
text, it’s clearly the idea that Abraham, in a way,
is a foreigner of Yahweh. And this, of course, does not
fit very well with Exodus 6, where Yahweh’s saying,
I did not reveal myself under my real name. So here, it’s a little
bit competition. Did he or not reveal himself
under his real name to Abraham? The other interesting thing
in the Book of Genesis is that there are many texts
where the patriarchs are building altars or
founding sanctuaries, and where Yahweh is called El
Elohim Israel, for instance. So there is also this idea
that the patriarchal time is a time which was not really
the time of the revelation of the divine name. For instance, in
Genesis 17, when Yahweh is revealing himself
to Abraham, then he is saying, I am El Shaddai. And this fits with Exodus 6. Whereas in Genesis 15, he
is saying, I am the Lord. So this is, of course a tension,
or maybe even an attempt to say Abraham also knew
already the real name of God. Thank you for your talk. I have a question. You talked about the
roots and the development for Midian of [INAUDIBLE]. Yeah. Are there any
other circumstances of special
relationships or status given to Edomites or Midianites? Because it would seem
that that would be absent. The Midiantes– it’s
very complicated to grasp on a historical level. What is quite clear, at least
from the Egyptian documents, that in this territory, which
is called Edom or Midian, there are these Shasu groups. They are used apparently, also,
by the Egyptians, sometimes, in these copper mines, which are
in this region next to modern El’ad. And this would
bring, in a way, some parallels also to the
Biblical stories, in a way. So there is a link between
this nomadic group, Shasu, or maybe also the
so-called [INAUDIBLE], and Egyptian control
of this territory. And also, of course,
there’s evidence of conflicts of these groups
and the Egyptians from time to time, which also can be
one of the current [INAUDIBLE] of the [INAUDIBLE]. And what is striking
in the Bible is that Edom is treated quite
different than Moab and Amon. Edom is really the
most close to Israel. So this text in Deuteronomy
2:5 is very strange. It parallels the idea that
Yahweh gives Israel its land. But he also gives Edom its land. And this is never said
for Moab or for Amon. So there is some
indication of this idea. And of course, then,
the Yahweh of Teman, which still in the eighth
century, appears several times in this text from [INAUDIBLE]. So there’s a Yahweh from
Samaria from the north, but there’s also a
Yahweh from Teman, even in a time when Yahweh was
already a national tutelary deity in Israel and Judah. So if I understand right
what you’re suggesting, then I’m still wondering why
the editors or the writers who wrote the story of
Exodus– they would bring in the story of
Yahweh from the wilderness as a literary
allusion to something that they know from
the more recent past. So they would know around
the seventh century that they had received
Yahweh from the Edomites a century or two earlier. And they would just edit
over this story about Moses going to the Midianites
as sort of like, OK, this is similar to the experience
that we had 200 years ago. It seems a bit weird. It’s not clear what
is the interest. I also feel that your story–
that this description really falls through even
if you put aside the exodus aspect of things. It seems to me
that it’s a very– at the seventh century,
that would have been a distant history back then. I’m not sure that I
understand you exactly. So you think this Midianite
connection in the exodus would– So I’m trying to think from
the point of view of editor of the seventh century. Yeah. Why would they
use the same motif of the people of Israel or
Moses or the patriarch meeting God at the wilderness? Why would they use this– Why wouldn’t they censor it? That’s the idea? Or– Yeah. Why do they need it? It seems that– Yeah. This is– yeah. OK. Now, I think I got your point. I think that is a
little bit what I tried to say in the beginning. I think we should not
consider the Biblical authors or redactors as modern
sources in our way that want to make up a coherent story. I think they deal
with traditions, which they try, in a way, to
combine with their new ideas, or with revisions. But I think there’s also a kind
of this idea of transmission, not only just we
change the whole thing. One can change a
lot, and you see it also in other ancient
Near Eastern documents. But still, I think this is what
[INAUDIBLE], the Egyptologist, is calling these
traces of memory, which does not always well fit to the
new story that you will set up. For instance, take Exodus 18. It would have been much better
to leave the whole thing out. Already, the rabbis were
very puzzled by that. Why does this story be told
before the people arrive on Sinai? They are already in
the mountain of God. And this does not,
of course, fit. But I think there was
some idea in order also to keep with
tradition and to bring it, one way or another,
with what becomes more and more the official view. But I think this is the way
how the Bible is set up. It’s not one author who’s
deciding, at the end, I’ll take this story, and all
what does not fit to the story, I’ll just put it away. I think they put
away some stuff, but also, they kept
different thing– also, what you are alluding
to, to Genesis 15 and to Exodus 6, which
does not fit so well. I think their idea was not
to have a coherent story, but to transmit
traditions– to revise them, but also to offer to their
audience different views, I would say. I think it’s important
to underscore just how powerful the
[INAUDIBLE], the wilderness, is. [INAUDIBLE] Sinai or to the
[INAUDIBLE], or over Jordan. It is extremely inspiring to be
in that– one could understand why writers who might have
wandered into the wilderness, it’s not that– you could just
go downhill from Jerusalem into the Jordan Valley. And sometimes, we
overliteralize or make it– the sources are not only
literary, but physical. It is a very
physical place to be. Yeah. Yeah, this is also
part of this idea that the wilderness is giving
you some ideas about encounters with the divine. It may be. It may be also. But I think also it’s our way
we look on the Biblical text. I think it’s not just
the idea of coherence. It’s really also the idea
of transmitting things, and even of keeping
different things together. You have this also
in other stuff. So the Gilgamesh epic–
we have the old version. We have the new versions. But even in the so-called
standard version, you still have contradictions,
because sometimes, when they tell the flood
story, they forgot– or they maybe even
did not forget– that it was not at [INAUDIBLE],
but with [INAUDIBLE]. So they left it in. It’s a little bit the same idea. I think we should
still a little bit think of the scribes who
transmitted the Torah as both. They were very free in regard
to the traditions they had. But on the other hand,
I think they were also willing to keep
different traditions and to write them down, even if
it does not fit all the time. And I think they could also
have left out this Exodus thing. Why this idea we just
want to go three days and then we come back? So also, the commentators
were puzzled by that. Oh, maybe, it’s just a strategy. But what kind of strategy is it? Because in other texts,
it’s very obvious. So I think the Bible is more a
kind of a collection of traces. That’s what I was
saying in the beginning. We have to account that,
even in very recent texts, you can have memories
of quite old traditions. You have the same
outside the Bible. If you take Manetho,
which we know only by later sources,
this Egyptian priest, he knows a lot about the
Akhenaten story, which was, in the way, in Egyptian
memory, darkened and kept away– maybe more
than a thousand years. He has still this memory and
he’s using it in his own way– in order to construct even an
anti-Judaic story out of it. But it’s interesting– you
can see how old memories can survive, especially
in learned milieus, where it transmitted by the
generation of scribes, orally or also literarily. [INAUDIBLE] Wilderness can have a
local meaning as well as an absolute geographic meaning. And what I’m
getting at with that is that in many
tribal societies, and particularly in
Africa and North America, wilderness was
that place that was just outside of the village. It was just outside
the settlement. And it’s there that the
specific rituals were practiced. Yeah. And in Africa, it’s quite
common that the rituals that are practiced in that
wilderness, which is just next door, was circumcision. And I’m wondering–
and it was the place that was associated
with god, the gods, in particular, [INAUDIBLE]. Yeah. And I was just curious
as to whether there was any association between
circumcision and wilderness. In the Bible, there is no–
specifically to this question, in the Bible, there’s
no hint that– no. There’s maybe even a
different way in the Bible, because you have this very
interesting text in the Book of Joshua, in Joshua 5. When the Israelites
arrived in the land, then Joshua is circumcising
the second generation, saying that the first
generation in the wilderness did not circumcise their sons. So this is a little bit
the other way around. It’s sort of the opposite. You could say maybe it’s a
critique of other practices. This I don’t know. But the only text
who’s a little bit speaking about the
location of circumcision is this text in
the Book of Joshua. But you’re totally right that
if you have a word in Hebrew like [HEBREW], wilderness,
it can be very, very close. The text I was speaking
about– the difference is that they always have some
location with Seir, Edom, or Midian, which brings
them a little bit far away [INAUDIBLE]. I have just two questions
of clarification. I enjoyed it very much. So the first one– that
if I heard you right, you had the Yahweh
from the desert is surly and that wilderness
gets incorporated in. But then, the wilderness
serves this other function during the Babylonian exile. Right. And is that just a happy
coincidence in a way? I guess there’s a missing
piece of that in your story. [INAUDIBLE] I missed that. I don’t know if that’s
a missing piece. I think it’s, in a way,
showing that old tradition can get to a very new life
in different contexts. I think it’s not just that
we have these old texts and then we jump directly
to a text like Isaiah 43. You have, of course, already the
taking over of these wilderness traditions in other
texts– for instance, in the Exodus story,
which is certainly older, also, in these
prophetic texts, which are from the eighth
or seventh century. So it’s not just
a missing point. I think for the
prophets, they are not interested to know where
Yahweh’s coming from. They present the
wilderness, of course, also in a more religious
or theological way. Maybe also in
opposition to what’s going on in the time of
[INAUDIBLE] the second, when the differences
in the cities became more and more
important and to say that the wilderness
is idealized, in a way. But still, I think you can
see that there may be– and some of my German
colleagues would say, oh, no, that’s
impossible to say. But I think we have
these old texts. And I don’t understand– one of
my colleagues in Germany says, all this text– I
was quoting Judges 5, Deuteronomy 33– they
were all invented in the Persian period, when
Jerusalem was destroyed in order to show
that Yahweh doesn’t need to be in Jerusalem, that he
can be also in the wilderness. But if this was just an
invention at the time, then why the texts
are a little bit odd? Why they’re not all
in the same direction? Because there are differences
between these texts. So I think these texts can
reflect older traditions and we can use
them historically. But this does not mean that this
is the only way that wilderness was taken over in
the Biblical or what will become the Biblical books. I think already in the
prophets, wilderness is a religious or a theological
place of the encounter. But this can be based
on older memories. And what Second
Isaiah is then doing is taking over this
prophetic and maybe also the Exodus
discourse in order to make the wilderness
something which will prelude a new creation [INAUDIBLE]. And the other question was
simply that the evidence from the scriptures– [INAUDIBLE]–
you mentioned that it’s Yahweh of Samaria in the
eighth century? Yeah, eighth century. Right. [INAUDIBLE] if you just talked
for a minute about Yahweh getting to Samaria. What exactly? And how would that
fit into this? I think– yeah. This is a question when
Yahweh becomes a tutelary god. And I would say this is linked,
at least, to the Amorites, or maybe even earlier. I think the thing– of
course, a lot of people would say there was
never a united kingdom. This is all mythical invention. My colleague Israel
Finkelstein would say that. But still, you have to explain
why– and this, I think, is the only case– why
Yahweh was worshipped as a tutelary deity in
Israel and in Judah, and it was not just
one deity among others. Even the Biblical authors who
write from Judean perspective, they have to acknowledge
that Yahweh is also the god of the north. So I think it’s related to
the beginning of Israelite monarchy, which apparently–
desert tribes that then became the north in one day and
the south on the other, even if there was no united
kingdom under [INAUDIBLE]. But there is still
this tribal identity or whatever you want to call
it, which will be continued in the north and in the south. And there is also much evidence
that the exodus story probably was first transmitted
in the north before it came to the south. So I think if you look at what
we have in the Merneptah Stele, Israel in the
mountain of Ephraim, this is a little bit the kernel
where the monarchy starts, if we take the Bible and
we take the locations that are mentioned in relation
to the Saul narrative. So I would say Yahweh became a
national god with the beginning of the monarchy, I would say. 10th century? Yeah, 10th or ninth century. Yahweh was taken
out of the desert. He was taken out. At the one place– and this
is, of course, very difficult. So this is, I think, what
a text like Deuteronomy 33 is alluding to. So I can guess or speculate
that at once, there was an encounter between
these Shassu groups, because the Shassu, they
weren’t around quite long. We have Shassu
also in the north. So they apparently
came also to the north. So there was an encounter
with a nomadic group and this group called Israel
in the mountains of Israel. And so they were apparently
impressed by this god that the Shassu had to offer. But of course, this
is more fiction than– If I understand
you correctly, you mentioned in the
Ugaritic text El as this major [INAUDIBLE]
deity and Yahweh being more of a local god. Yeah. Is there any sort of
reading of the Bible– because you mentioned
El as the name, as mentioned in the
Bible, pre-Moses, pre the story of
exodus, as Judaism evolving as this
more monotheistic, El-worshipping
religion, and then developing a greater pantheon
with the worship of Yahweh. Isn’t that sort of almost
like monotheism in reverse? We don’t know what exactly
was the El religion, I think. Israel is the name with El. That does not mean that
they just worshipped El. It’s like in Ugarit. El is the chief of the pantheon,
but he’s not the most popular got. Baal is much more popular. And there are other gods around. So what is interesting in
regard to Yahweh and El. If you take this text
from Deuteronomy 32, and if you accept that the Greek
and the Qumran fragment that present the older version, then
you have still this idea that at one point, even when Yahweh
was already kind of a tutelary deity, he was still considered
to be part of the son of El , and that only successively he
took over the function of El. Some people would even
argue– Otto [INAUDIBLE] would even argue– when
Yahweh was introduced in the temple of Jerusalem,
he was not the only god who was worshipped there. But this is a more
complicated issue. But I would say that
there is at least attempts to show that Yahweh equals El. And why do they have
to show it so strongly? Probably because this was
something that was not accepted or acceptable so clearly. So they had to try to show it. It’s also interesting if you
have the story about Ishmael in Genesis 16. So the name is given
Ishmael, and the explanation is because Yahweh has listened
to the voice of [INAUDIBLE]. So it’s a kind of
almost an equation. [? Yishmael ?] equals
[? Yishbah ?] Yahweh [INAUDIBLE]. So I think this is something
that went on during one or two centuries ago. So there’s another
whole hypothesis that you didn’t mention,
that’s very popular here still, about the origin of Yahweh–
that Yahweh and El are not separate gods, but
Yahweh is a manifestation of El, a local manifestation. Thomas mentioned earlier that
Yahweh the one of Teman, Yahweh the one of Samaria. We also have Yahweh
[INAUDIBLE] in the Bible– [INTERPOSING VOICES] So we know about from all
over ancient West Asia that you have these local,
distinct manifestations of all kinds of
gods and goddesses. So this is the argument
of Frank Moore Cross, who is no longer with us, but
was a very influential American scholar of the
previous generation– that Yahweh is a
manifestation of El, and that he bears
all of El’s epithets. When the text says El Elohim
[INAUDIBLE] that that’s Yahweh, but known by his
more well known name, El, so that this is this
alternative hypothesis– not popular in Europe, but
still [INAUDIBLE] here. Oh, it was also
received in Europe. It has to do much also
with the etymology of the name of Yahweh. Well, that’s the next
part of my comment. How do we explain
the name Yahweh? Yeah. And cross argued that if you
go back again to Exodus 3 where you have the author punning
and playing on [INAUDIBLE], the verb “to be,” “I will be”–
so Yahweh has something to do with the verb “to be.” If you look at the
vowels and consonants, yeah, it looks like it does have
to do with the verb “to be.” But what form of
the verb “to be?” The causative. Yeah. And this is never attested
in the Hebrew, the causative. And this is also a problem. And some people would
say, this is already very– there were also
some other people who were going in this direction. [INAUDIBLE] was also
going and saying, Yahweh is just the one who
is or who is creating life or whatever. Yeah, the causative
of the verb “to be” would mean he causes to
be, which in plain English would mean he creates. The alternative explanation
is coming from scholars as [INAUDIBLE]. And they would say this is
already a theological attempt to explain a word or
name which maybe was not so evident anyhow. And they would say
maybe it’s related to a root, which is to– how do
you say in English– “to blow,” “to bring the wind.” And that would be
something– Yahweh, the one who brings the wind, who
is blowing, so like more storm gods, like the Baal in Ugarit. It’s a very tricky
question, this etymology. And also my colleague,
Jean-Marie Durand, he also always says,
do the people really care so much about etymology? Or does etymology give
us so much [INAUDIBLE] really essence of
somebody or a name? I think in Exodus
3 it’s quite clear. It’s playing on
the root [HEBREW]. But can you be sure
that this is really the origin of the
meaning of Yahweh? And we have all these– Of course we can’t,
because we can’t be sure about [INAUDIBLE]. We can’t. And I think the other
problem of this cross theory is a little bit– he does not
speak so much– of course, it depends always
which theory you have and which text that you take. He does not use very much
the text I was using now. He is more using
the text in Genesis, where Yahweh is often
identified with El. So he said, this is because
this is a historic reality. I would say this is an attempt
to identify two different gods. And then, of course,
it depends how we interpret the
age of the text, but also how you
organize your argument. I think an interesting
argument is also to see that in all place names
that we have in, let’s say, Judah and Israel, there is
no place names with Yahweh. There are names with El. There are names with
Baal, with Anat. And this is an
indication also probably for me that Yahweh was
not an autochtonous god in this region– that
he was, in a way, imported, because otherwise, why
do we have [INAUDIBLE] and not [INAUDIBLE] and
something like that? So we have all these
names and yeah, Yahweh never shows
up in these names. Yeah, the association
wtih Edom, Seir, Paran, is very, very strong,
as you pointed out. Yeah, and I think you
cannot just claim that– Everyone would agree on that. Yeah, not everyone. So a lot of people would say
it’s just set up in the exile or after the exile. Oh, OK. I have to deal with
that in Europe. [INAUDIBLE] Oh, you know, I gave
a similar paper, and I was very much
aggressed by some scholars. I don’t give you the
names, because they said, how can you say? This is a very late text. And I say, OK, even if
they are late texts, we still have to
explain the texts. We cannot just say it’s late. So I don’t take it into account. And they can [INAUDIBLE]
inscriptions. And this also is important. Absolutely, you have
to explain this also. [INTERPOSING VOICES] Yeah. And this is also intriguing. We have a Yahweh which
is worshipped in Judah and in Israel, but
also still in Teman. In Teman. And this is very
interesting, yeah. It’s very interesting. And another interesting
point– and this is the last thing
I’m going to say– you were talking about
early traditions, and I was wondering whether
you can make a case for some of these associations being
earlier by pointing out that Edom becomes really,
really negatively construed after 587 and the
destruction of Jerusalem. They’re accused of helping the
Babylonians destroy Jerusalem. And from that point on, Edom
has, in many, many texts, very negative associations. And [INAUDIBLE]. Right. Exactly. But in the text
you’re talking about, that’s where Yahweh comes from. Yeah. And also still, this text
in Deuteronomy– this idea that they have the same
right given by Yahweh to be in their
land as the Judeans have the right to
be in their land. I think this is– and the
same happens with Midian. If you look to the more recent
texts about the Midianites, in Numbers 25,
for instance, they are seducing Israel
to worship other gods, to adultery, to all
kinds of sexual organs, whatever you can imagine. So how can you explain this
if you just say, OK, it’s invented in the same time? No, I think we have some
older traditions around here. And you can see,
yeah, Edom and Midian become very negative, also. In prophetic oracles already
from the sixth century, you have this very
negative view on Edom. So perhaps all of this positive
stuff is actually early. It may be. But again, what is interesting
is that they keep it, even at the time when Edom maybe
was not so much appreciated by the final editor
of the Pentateuch. This means [INAUDIBLE]
some respect in regard to the tradition
that they transmit. They review. They change. But also, in a way, they
think it’s important– and this is maybe something
a little bit strange for us, but this is the way they think
[? chronologically ?], I think. They have this idea that you can
transmit traditions that do not fit, that are odd sometimes. And I think that’s why that
keeps us busy, happily. But it is the same thing
in the New Testament, also– why you have the four
Gospels, not just one Gospel. [INAUDIBLE]. Do we have other
comments, questions? It’s sort of
slightly peripheral. The question is in later
rabbinic traditions, I guess the
tetragram [INAUDIBLE] would be taken [INAUDIBLE]
with mercy, and Elohim more with that anger
or something like that. So I guess my question
is– [INAUDIBLE]– but how do we go
from a storm god, which denotes the anger
originally to more of the– how does the name swap
its association? I think the first thing
is that this decision not to pronounce anymore the
tetragram, because Elohim, you can use it for
the god of Israel. You can use it for
all kinds of gods. But it is true that in
the thinking already in the Pentateuch, Elohim
becomes more general. It’s not by accident that
in the first chapter, you have Elohim who is
creating Heaven and Earth. And also this can
be a plural that can integrate all kinds
of deities, divinities. It becomes a more
open concept, I would say, at
least in the Torah. And then this idea which,
of course, is a little bit strange– if this is the only
god, why does he have a name? A name you need in order
to distinguish somebody from somebody else. Though, I think this is one of
the reasons that at one time they decide not to
pronounce the name anymore and to find all kinds
of substitutions. But then, of course, there’s
speculation why this name cannot be pronounced anymore. And then there’s, of
course, all the speculation about the meaning of the name. And I think it starts,
maybe– but this is, of course, also
a matter of debate, how you understand the text–
it starts maybe already in this text of Exodus
3, where god is really presented [INAUDIBLE]. You cannot [INAUDIBLE]. So I think what
you were alluding to– that the tetragram
is more related to mercy and Elohim is more related
to the more judging function of the gods, et
cetera– is probably also this idea that Elohim
is it’s not just something specific for Israel. It is used for all the
nations, whereas the tetragram, even if you don’t
pronounce it, this is the god who is, of
course, the same as Elohim. But [INAUDIBLE] also
is a god who has a special relation to Israel. And this is another
problem, of course– why this god, who’s the
only god, the god of all the nations, why
does this god have a special relation to Israel. And this starts in, of
course, with all the theories we have in Deuteronomy
already about election and all this stuff. OK. Very good. Well, I think we’ve
worked you hard enough. Thank you so much. [INAUDIBLE] Thank you for coming. [APPLAUSE]

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