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The Fall of Jerusalem and the Rise of the Torah

Conference Held at the Pontifical Biblical Institute, Rome, 2728 March 2015

Friday 27 March

Israel Finkelstein (Tel Aviv University)

Jerusalem and Judah 600-200 BCE: Implications for Understanding Texts in the
The paper will discuss the archaeology of Jerusalem and Judah in the 600-200 BCE (in fact
down to 100 BCE) time interval, with special emphasis on demography and settlement history.
Special emphasis will be put on the destruction of Jerusalem and its status in the Persian and
early Hellenistic periods and on settlement patterns in the highlands of Judah at these periods.
The archaeology of Bethel will also be considered. The archaeological finds will be examined
in relation to current theories regarding composition of Pentateuchal texts.

Lester L. Grabbe (University of Hull)

The Last Days of Judah and the Roots of the Pentateuch: What Does History Tell Us?
The main purpose of this paper is to focus on the historical background for our discussion of
the origin of the Pentateuch or Torah. The historical context is taken to be the late monarchic,
the exilic, and the Persian periods. Not everyone will agree with this framework, but there is a
certain consensus. Counting backwards we seem to have clear evidence of the existence of the
Pentateuch in Ben Sira, about 200 BCE. A century earlier Hecataeus of Abdera talks of the
written law of the Jews, but perhaps a more solid indication is the translation of the Torah
into Greek about the middle of the third century BCE. Yet when we move further back to the
Elephantine community that existed through the fifth century BCE, there is an obvious lack of
a written Torah, even though the Jewish military colonists participated in many religious
activities and observances known to us from the Law of Moses. Yet concluding that the Book
of the Law was compiled between 400 and 300 BCE is only part of the story, because the
contents of the Law have a long history of development and composition. A factor often not
considered is the issue of linguistic dating: does this tell us anything of value about the growth
of the Torah? What about the argument that P is not as late as often dated? Could it really be
pre-exilic? All the tools at the disposal of the historian will be employed to suggest a history
of the Law of Moses.

Peter Dubovsky (Pontifical Biblical Institute)

Suspicious Similarities: A Comparative Study of the Fall of Samaria and Jerusalem

The Assyrian conquest of Samaria and the Babylonian conquest of Jerusalem constituted two
most traumatic events in the history of Ancient Israel. Both events had already become the
object of historical and religious reflections in the past. Consequently various comparisons are
made between the fall of the Northern Kingdom and that of the Southern Kingdom (Hosea 5;
Ezekiel 23, Jeremiah 3:6-13, 2 Kings 15; 17 and 2425, etc.). In this paper I will compare both
events, the way they are described in the Books of Kings and their connections with the


Konrad Schmid (Universitt Zrich)

Divine Legislation in the Pentateuch in its Late Judean and Neo-Babylonian Context
With its notion of divine laws, the Pentateuch stands out in its ancient Near Eastern legal
context, since lawgiving was usually the task of kings, not of gods. From a historical
perspective, the Pentateuchs concept of God as lawgiver was not a given from the beginning
of its literary and legal history, but developed over time. The earliest components of the
Covenant Code do not present their stipulations as divine laws. Rather, this perspective on the
laws as Gods laws results from different redactional framings of older collections that
introduce God as speaker and lawgiver. This paper will ask about the processes and factors that
enabled this notion of divine law, asking how they might relate to the historical experience of
the fall of Samaria and Jerusalem and to the loss of kingship in ancient Israel and Judah.

Bernard M Levinson (University of Minnesota)

Zedekiahs Release of Slaves as the Babylonians Besiege Jerusalem (Jer 34) and the
Formation of the Pentateuch
The literary setting of the narrative of Zedekiahs release of slaves (Jer 34) places it in the
context of the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem. Biblical scholarship has tended to reify that
setting as the historical context of the chapter. Since the chapter appears to cite the
manumission laws of Deut 15, it has therefore played an essential role in the history of
scholarship. It has been used to establish the sequence of the pentateuchal legal sources, as well
as in reconstructions of the compositional history of the book of Jeremiah, with its various
literary layers. The conventional assumptions about the dating and composition of this narrative
have even had an impact upon text critical work on the chapter, creating a circular argument
regarding what material should be considered original and which should be removed as a
secondary overlay. The harder the models are pushed to explain the evidence, the more they
break down into contradiction. What finally emerges is a parade example of how a heuristic
model, once fossilized, begins to obscure that which it was designed to illuminate. This paper
proposes an alternative solution. The proper background for understanding the composition of
the chapter is not the imminent destruction of Jerusalem but rather the formation of the
Pentateuch. Jeremiah 34 only becomes intelligible once it is recognized that its author knew all
three of the pentateuchal legal sources, and exploited them to craft a brilliant exegetical homily
on the cause of the Babylonian Exile. His halakic midrash justifies the Exile as punishment
for covenantal transgression: breach of Torah, now meaning an exegetical blend of the three
manumission laws of the Pentateuch.

Eckart Otto (Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitt Mnchen; University of Pretoria)

Born out of Ruins: The Catastrophe of Jerusalem as Accoucheur of the Pentateuch in the
Book of Deuteronomy
For three hundred years Hebrew Bible scholarship since Astruc learned and became used to
attempt to develop the literary history of the Torah starting with Genesis, whereas the book of
Deuteronomy as part of a Deuteronomistic History became more and more isolated from the
other books of the Pentateuch. Time has come to turn round and start a literary history of the
Pentateuch from its end in Deuteronomy and no longer only from its beginning in Genesis.
The literary history of Deuteronomy started with a pre-exilic deuteronomic book as a revising
completion of the Covenant Code without Moses, Horeb and the Decalogue. But as a reaction
to the Babylonian destruction of the temple in Jerusalem it became as its substitution something
entirely different: a program of divine revelation at Horeb with Moses as its mediator. The
destruction of the temple was the starting shot to develop this deuteronomistic program, which

became a decisive cradle for the development of a post-exilic Pentateuch. In a second step
deuteronomists connected the deuteronomistic book of Deuteronomy with the book of
Joshua.The two levels of deuteronomistic redactions of a Deuteronomy connected with Horeb
and of a Deuteronomy and Joshua connected with Moab became the post-exilic blueprints for
creating Hexateuch and Pentateuch by connecting the deuteronomistic Deuteronomy with P
and by post-exilic redactions revising Deuteronomy intensively, which were also responsible
for its integration into Hexateuch and Pentateuch. So the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem
became a kind of accoucheur for the Pentateuch by forcing to change the pre-exilic
deuteronomic law book into a theological program of revelation.

Jean Louis Ska (Pontifical Biblical Institute)

Why Does the Pentateuch Speak so Much of Torah and so Little of Jerusalem?
The city of Jerusalem is central in many parts of the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, for instance
in 1-2 Samuel, 1-2 Kings, 1-2 Chronicles, Ezra-Nehemiah and in the Psalms, but not in the
Pentateuch. Allusions to Jerusalem are indirect and never completely univocal. There are
probably several ways of explaining this startling phenomenon. We intend to explore one of
these ways, namely the fact that cities that were conquered by foreign powers are, so to speak,
desecrated and lose many of their intrinsic qualities. Some oracles in Jeremiah and in Ezechiel,
and songs such as the Book of Lamentations, can buttress this opinion. In a similar way, Isaiah
40 describes the return of the exiles from Babylonia as YHWHS return to Jerusalem, and this
implies that Yhwh was no longer in Jerusalem (see Ezek 10:18-22). Laments on destroyed cities
in Mesopotamia can corroborate the idea that such cities are forsaken and forgotten by their
gods (Isa 49:14; see 54:1-10). This situation must have triggered different kinds of answers.
We propose that the community of returnees, or some of them, decided to rewrite the origins of
Israel without mentioning Jerusalem explicitly for this reason and proposed some different,
more solid, foundations when rebuilding Israels community.

Christophe Nihan (Universit de Lausanne)

Jerusalem as the Central Place in the Traditions of the Second Temple Period:
Negotiating Centrality after the Exile in Chronicles
Contrary to other royal cities in the Levant, Jerusalem managed to regain its position as a
political, economic and cultic center in the centuries that followed the citys capture by the
Babylonian army in 587 BCE and the subsequent demise of the local (Davidic) monarchy. The
question of what role, precisely, the emerging Torah/Pentateuch played in this process remains
a much disputed issue. While it has been customary to identify the central place (mqwm)
defined in the law of Deut 12 and related passages of Deuteronomy with Jerusalem, the recent
discussion has shown that the issue is, in effect, significantly more complex: on the one hand,
a number of pre-MT textual witnesses identify the chosen place with Gerizim, rather than with
Jerusalem/Zion; on the other hand, the discourse on Jerusalems centrality in some key
traditionslike, e.g., Samuel-Kingsproves to be much more discontinuous with
Deuteronomy than had been previously assumed. This paper will revisit the topic of the Torahs
contribution to the reestablishment of Jerusalem as political and cultic center by discussing one
key witness which, surprisingly, has received little scholarly attention so far, namely, the Book
of Chronicles. Specifically, the paper will focus on four related issues: (1) the transformation
and adaptation of the Deuteronomic law on centrality; (2) the connections between the
wilderness sanctuary and the First Temple in Chronicles; (3) the negotiation between Mosaic
and Davidic authority in the cult; and (4) the relationship with Israel/Samaria. Overall,
Chronicles provides important evidence regarding the ways in which the Torah/Pentateuch
could be used by elite groups in Jerusalem in order to reclaim a central position for their city,
as well as the complexities involved in such a process.


Nathan MacDonald (University of Cambridge)

The End of the Temple and the Priesthood in the Pentateuch

The destruction of Jerusalem has been viewed as an important factor in the internecine strife
within the priesthood that is widely thought to have dominated subsequent decades, perhaps
even subsequent centuries. The exiling of the temples leading priests together with the lack of
political authority produced a vacuum that was soon filled by other aspiring cultic functionaries,
such as the Levites. The shifting political fortunes of rival priestly septs are thought to have left
their imprint on the prophetic literature of the post-exilic period (so Hanson), and on the stories
and legislation of the Pentateuch.
In this paper I examine two Pentateuchal narratives that are often mentioned in this context:
Exodus 32 and Leviticus 10. I argue that these stories should be seen within the context of
Israels national epic. As such they should not be interpreted as instantiations of an antiAaronide polemic, but as a way of trying to respond to the defeat and destructions of the Hebrew
kingdoms. By placing catastrophic and inexplicable acts of disobedience at the moment of
foundation, the composers of Exodus 32 and Leviticus 10 demonstrated that forgiveness and
continued existence as Gods people was possible. Thus, Exodus 32 and Leviticus 10 are
responses to the destruction of Jerusalem, but in a different way than envisaged in accounts of
priestly rivalries.

Saturday 28 March

Angelika Berlejung (Universitt Leipzig)

Living in the Land of Shinar: Reflections on Exile in Gen 11:1-9

The tower of Babel story is already from the setting of the narrative a very good starting point
for the idea, that biblical texts reflect exilic experiences. After the creation story and the floodstory it is the third biblical narrative within the Urgeschichte/primordial story, with clear
references to Mesopotamia. The difference of the Babel-story is that it places the events
explicitely in Babel, the capital of Babylonia. The paper wants to clarify how far
mesopotamian background can be detected, and esp. how far babylonian
background (references to myths, or to events of the neo-babylonian period) or clichs can be
identified in the biblical narrative which can be characterized as reflections on the Exile.

Ron Hendel (University of California, Berkeley)

Remembering the Exodus in the Wake of Catastrophe

The Exodus story has a remarkable capacity for resignification in new cultural contexts. In the
wake of catastrophe in the exilic and postexilic periods, prophets and scribes generated a variety
of novel resignifications. Ezekiel and Second Isaiah repurposed the story as inverse theodicies,
justifying Gods wrath and Israels shame (Ezekiel) or Gods compassion and Israels ideal
restoration (2 Isaiah). Other writers addressed exegetical issues intrinsic to the proto-biblical
text, adding nomistic expansions (Exod 12-13), anticipatory prophecy (Gen 15), and
harmonizations (proto-SP). These scribes participated in the scripturalization of Exodus,
elevating the world of the text as a vehicle to efface the disappointments of history.


Jeffrey Stackert (University of Chicago)

Political Allegory in the Priestly Source: The Destruction of Jerusalem, the Exile, and
their Alternatives
The pentateuchal Priestly source exhibits indirect evidence of the destruction of Jerusalem and
the subsequent exile in its P and H strata. Read as a political allegory, the P stratum is most
plausibly situated in the preexilic period. Ps conceptualization of the fundamental connection
between the land and the sanctuary requires a landed context for its authorship and audience,
and its omission of any consideration of divine abandonment or exile makes a postexilic context
for its composition problematic. The H stratum, by contrast, exhibits some evidence of
Babylonian influence. Particularly relevant are its revisions to P under the apparent influence
of Babylonian language and legal practice. H also explicitly acknowledges the possibility of
exile, even as it introduces this idea into the theological framework that it inherits from P. Based
on their particular ideological perspectives and their specific language, then, P and H are best
understood as originating on the two sides of Jerusalems destruction.
11:15-12:00 Nili

Wazana (Hebrew University of Jerusalem)

God Versus King: Kingship in the Bible in the Light of Empire and Destruction
While ancient Near-Eastern literary texts may be critical of certain impious kings and warnings
against dangers inherent in monarchy are a familiar trope in wisdom literature, the Bible is the
only corpus including explicit anti-monarchial texts. This paper will focus on the Law of the
King (Deut 17: 14-20), in an attempt to distinguish between two layers found in it: an antiAssyrian anti-imperialistic law dating to the seventh century BCE, and a secondary addition
reacting to the conditions prevalent in the post-destruction era (sixth century BCE).

Jean-Pierre Sonnet (Pontifical Gregorian University)

The Siege of Jerusalem between Rhetorical Maximalism (Deut 28) and Narrative
Minimalism (2 Kings 2425)
How come the description of Jerusalems siege and fall in 2 Kgs 25 is so dry and laconic, in
sharp contrast with the horrors of besiegement detailed and announced in the curses of Deut
28? The answer may lie in the intended correlation of the two texts. The linking of the last days
of Jerusalem with the curses of Deut 28 is, in the first place, an interpretative act narrated in the
book of Kings: in 2 Kgs 22, Josiah and Huldah correlate the fate of this place with the words
of this (Torah) book in a momentous construing of history. The connection they create in the
world of the narrative, however, prompts an analogous linking in the readers world, between
the books of Deuteronomy and the book of Kings. It is indeed tempting to carry on Josiahs and
Huldahs interpretive act in a stereoscopic reading: whereas 2 Kgs 25 records the facts of
Jerusalems fall in mute historiography, Deut 28 prophetically provides the ins and outs, the
whys and wherefores of the inexpressible events, and this before Deut 30:1-10 adds a prospect
of restoration. Do the Torah and Israels first history end by prompting cross-reading?


Georg Fischer (Universitt Innsbruck)

Dont Forget Jerusalems Destruction! The Perspective of the Book of Jeremiah

The Book of Jeremiah offers, in many respects, a unique perspective on Jerusalems fall:
a) With regard to 2 Kings (2225), Jer deals with these events at the end of the Judean monarchy
in a much more elaborate way, as almost the entire book is taken up with it.
b) When compared to other prophetic books, Jer presents this catastrophe very differently,
taking the point of view of a contemporaneous eye-witness. This distinguishes it from Isa, Ezek,
and those books of the Twelve which also refer to Jerusalems fall.
c) With respect to Deuteronomy, especially the law on an apostate city in c13 and the curses in
c28, Jer reports their realization, but also brings significant reversals, showing how divine grace
is renewed.
Jer testifies to the rise of the Torah, taking its books as the main source; however, it distances
itself, in some specific cases, from them and from those who handle them (Jer 2:8; 8:8). Jer,
more than any other biblical book, invites its readers to reflect in depth on Jerusalems
destruction and to discover its theological and spiritual meaning.

Agustinus Gianto (Pontifical Biblical Institute)

How Does Daniel See the Fall of Jerusalem?

According to the Book of Daniel the fall of Jerusalem marks the end of the era when land, king,
and temple served as symbols of identity for Israel. The Book of Daniel even subtly suggests
that not even the Torah, which was expected to replace these symbols, could give a new longstanding identity to the people. In a situation like this, esp. during in the Seleucid era, the book
represents a more down-to-earth search for a new identity. This finds expression in the life of
Daniel and his companions narrated in the first part of the book as well as the life of the teachers
of wisdom placed the spotlight in the latter part of the book. Along the same lines is the vision
of the figure like a human being who received everlasting dominion. The Book of Daniel thus
portrays a renewed effort to discover what it means to be Israelite when the traditional
institutions could no longer provide a firm ground.

Dominik Markl (Pontifical Biblical Institute)

The Wilderness Sanctuary as the Archetype of Continuity between the Pre- and the
Postexilic Temples of Jerusalem
The descriptions of Israels wilderness sanctuary in its divine revelation (Ex 25-31) and Israels
actual construction (Ex 35-40) have long been understood as being idealistic rather than
historical. Their function, however, has been disputed. This paper will re-examine the
sanctuarys relationship with the pre- and the postexilic temples of Jerusalem both on a literary
and on a historical level. Special attention will be paid to two important cultic objects of the
sanctuary: while the ark (Ex 25,10ff) is likely to have existed for some time in the pre-exilic,
but not in the post-exilic temple, the reverse is the case regarding the lampstand (Ex 25:3139).
Further analysis will focus on intertextual relationships of the sanctuary texts. On a literary
level, many observations suggest that the wilderness sanctuary prefigures the temple built and
dedicated by Solomon (according to the narrative in 1 Kgs 68; compare, e.g., Ex 40,34f; 1 Kgs
8:10f). At the same time, the wilderness sanctuary seems to prefigure several aspects of the
post-exilic cult. In conclusion, this paper will argue that the wilderness sanctuary is presented
as an archetype that functions as the origin of both the Solomonic and the post-exilic temple.
It thus helps bridge the disastrous gap in the history of Jerusalems official cult that the
destruction of the temple by the Babylonians had created.