Emergence of Monotheism, Drunken El, Antichrist Defeats Hosts, Palin on O’Reilly

Here are some odds and ends:

1. I read more of Mark Smith The Origins of Biblical Monotheism yesterday, and page 49 is crucial because it offers insight as to when Smith thinks the shift from polytheism to monotheism occurred within ancient Israel. According to Smith, Israelite religion was initially tolerant of the idea that YHWH was for Israel whereas other gods had domain over the Gentile nations (Deuteronomy 32). The reason was that, at the time, foreign religions did not threaten the worship of YHWH in Israel. This began to change in the eighth century B.C.E., however, when the neo-Assyrian empire was promoting and creating a new world order under its dominion. In response, ancient Israelite religion became more monotheistic, affirming that YHWH should be worshipped by Israel and the other nations as well.

I hope Smith fleshes this out more in the course of his book. What I’ve heard in my classes is that Assyria and Babylon did not force the nations they conquered to abandon their national religion. In some cases, the imperial powers actually honored the gods of the nations they conquered. But could it have been the case that Assyria and Babylon were still promulgating Assyrian and Babylonian religion, thereby challenging Israelite religion with another way to see the world? “Yes, we’ll tolerate you, and your god does exist,” the imperial powers may have told Israel, “But our god is still the most powerful, for we are in control of so much of the world.”

2. On page 44, Smith refers to a Ugaritic document in which two pious sons hold the hand of the drunken god El. I’ve not read the Ugaritic source, but what Smith says reminds me of the story of Noah in Genesis 9: Noah gets drunk and lies down naked, and his sons Shem and Japheth cover him up. I wonder if this story-line was a common motif in the ancient Near East.

3. Smith talks about how many ancient Near Eastern deities in Ugaritic literature were seen as stars. Such a belief occurs in the Bible (e.g., Isaiah 14:13). Smith cites a passage that somewhat baffles me, indicating that perhaps I should see what some commentaries have to say: Daniel 8:9-11 states that the little horn (Antiochus Epiphanes) grew to the hosts of heaven and cast some of them down. I wonder how the author of Daniel believes that the little horn did that. What goes through my mind is II Thessalonians 2:4, which states that the man of sin will exalt himself above all that is called god, sitting in God’s temple as if he is God. Maybe the Antichrist (if you want to call him that) will cast down the hosts of heaven by undermining their authority and banning their worship, as he demands worship only for himself. Also, he may discredit the gods of other nations as he conquers their countries.

4. I watched some of the Bill O’Reilly interview with Sarah Palin on Greta. O’Reilly was grilling Palin over her lack of governmental experience, and she replied, “I never heard you criticize Joe Biden’s lack of experience.” O’Reilly replied, “But Joe Biden has lots of experience.”

Palin seemed to be talking to O’Reilly like he was part of the liberal media, even though many consider him to be a conservative voice. Also, her reference to Joe Biden was kind of a goof-up on her part. Good thing that O’Reilly gave her a hard interview. She’ll need practice on that.

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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