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Eastern Powers and Western Prophets: Israel, Judah, and the Mesopotamian Empires in Prophetic Perspective

  • Credit: 2
  • Lecturer: Prof. David Vanderhoof
  • Semester: 2
  • Days: Mondays and Wednesdays

Mesopotamian imperial polities—Assyria, Babylon, and Persia—represented a nearly constant threat to the kingdoms of the Eastern Mediterranean during the period between the ninth and late sixth centuries B.C.E. Israel and Judah, like their neighbors, absorbed punishing military defeats, but also many cultural and material influences. One group of intellectuals, the prophetic figures in Israel and Judah, consistently responded to these Mesopotamian influences. This course examines a selection of prophetic texts from the Hebrew Bible as evidence for the intellectual and cultural engagement with the Assyrian, Babylonian, and Persian polities. Biblical texts will be studied alongside Mesopotamian and other epigraphic West Semitic texts to understand how prophets perceived and accounted for the Mesopotamian influences. Modern methods for reading prophetic texts will be introduced, alongside examination of the presumed historical and archaeological contexts of these texts. The material culture of Israel and Judah, but also of the urban centers of the East, will illumine the political valences of prophetic texts.