Reviews of

A History of the Kingdom of Jerusalem and Judah

In Edward Lipiński, HB/OT, Hebrew Bible, History of Israel, History of Judah, Kurtis Peters, Peeters on January 6, 2021 at 9:02 pm

2021.1.2 | Edward Lipiński. A History of the Kingdom of Jerusalem and Judah. OLA 287. Leuven: Peeters, 2020. pp. XII+179. ISBN: 978-90-429-4212-7.

Review by Kurtis Peters, University of British Columbia.

With A History of the Kingdom of Jerusalem and Judah Edward Lipiński has now added a companion volume to his recently published A History of the Kingdom of Israel (2018; see RBECS review here). The present volume proves to be as provocative as the first. From the front cover Lipiński prods at our assumptions. To call it the kingdom of Jerusalem and Judah implies a distinction of sorts: one kingdom, yes, but two polities? Or, perhaps, he implies that the kingdom changed sufficiently, such that the term “Judah” is not appropriate or adequate for the whole of the relevant time period. In fact, both of these ideas are presented, albeit briefly, in the book.

Neither suggestion is beyond the scholarly pale, but one also does not find them in mainstream biblical discourse. That typifies Lipiński’s two history works, pushing and prodding from fresh analysis, challenging long-held assumptions. Sometimes his suggestions are convincing, and other times they involve enough speculation that scholarly skepticism is inevitable. Both have value, because whether he is right or wrong, he forces us to open our perspectives to new possibilities.

As noted, this history of the Kingdom of Jerusalem and Judah pairs with his history of the Kingdom of Israel. In addition to inspecting the relationship of Jerusalem to Judah, Lipiński also separates Judah/Jerusalem from Israel. In his foreword he argues that “we deal with two states with different original populations and distinct ideologies” (XI). He notes that this is in distinction to the standard “history of Israel” approach, which he argues is misnamed (XI). We can therefore see that he belongs to those who prefer not to privilege the biblical text in reconstructing the history of Israel and Judah, the Bible being the only place where we find Judah included within Israel. Lipiński, then, begins with what we know from historical texts and archaeology, and those do not seem to show Judah as part of Israel.

Following an introduction to the work, Lipiński opens with a chapter concerning early Jerusalem, from the Bronze Age through to Iron I, surveying the archaeology of Jerusalem, the Egyptian execration texts, the Amarna letters, an excursus on the historicity of the Jebusite population, and the rise of David. Chapter II takes the reader from David to Joash in the mid-9th century BCE, where Lipiński sees a dynastic break. Chapter III continues on through to the mid-7th century and the end of Manasseh’s reign. Chapter IV picks up with Amon, as well as a lengthy section on Edomite-Judahite relations, and takes it to the destruction of Jerusalem by Babylon, and little more than a page on the neo-Babylonian period. Chapter V mirrors the History of the Kingdom of Israel and moves away from a chronological history to discuss religion in the kingdom of Judah (temples, shrines, figurines, certain sacrifices, etc.). Chapter VI is an extended excursus on the nature of Bethel, both as a sanctuary and a theonym. Here he attempts to clarify the various uses of the name. Chapter VII continues the concern for the thought-world of ancient Judahites to discuss burial customs and the netherworld. The book rounds off with a brief epilogue and a nicely delineated set of indices.

The volume is not comprehensive enough of a history to act as a standard reference work. At times it reads like such a survey, but at other times, it feels more like a loosely connected set of Lipiński’s observations. Therefore, I hope here to set out, in context, Lipiński’s most provocative claims or interesting details. Not every claim will be provocative to everyone, but at the least, these will be the parts of the work that will most interest readers.

In his introduction, Lipiński sets the groundwork for the rest of the book. Three observations are key: the biblical redactors were not interested in many of the facts recorded in their sources (1); Judah is a toponym, not a people (3); and the historical value of Chronicles is “at least doubtful” (3).

In the early history of Jerusalem in Chapter I, Lipiński notes that the first real mention of Jerusalem is in the Egyptian execration texts of the Middle Bronze IIA and this is coordinated with archaeological remains from the period found on the Ophel hill (9). The name Jerusalem, he argues, is Amorite in origin and is a combination of the elements wuru and šalim, meaning “Spur/offshoot of Šalim,” the latter being the divine evening star (11). This Amorite origin corresponds with the fact that the earliest rulers, noted in the execration texts, had Amorite names. By the time of the Amarna correspondence in the Late Bronze age, the rulers were Hurrian, such as Abdi-Ḫeba, whose name means “servant of Ḫeba(t),” the great Hurrian goddess. This ruler also uses a Hurrian term for “lord” in one of the Amarna letters, which gives away his Hurrian origin, despite the fact that he ruled over what was probably still a mainly Amorite population (18). The Jebusites add another layer of complexity to Jerusalem’s cultural make-up. These were likely a mercenary group hired by the Hurrian rulers after the withdrawal of Egyptian support from Canaan in Iron I, though the local population was likely still the descendants of the Amorites from before (21-22). This was the scene onto which David arrived.

David killed the ruler of Jerusalem who is erroneously called “Uriah the Hittite” in the biblical text. It should be read instead as Ewri Ḥutiya, ewri being the common Hurrian term for “lord/king” and Ḥutiya being a common Hurrian name. Bathsheba’s name is misunderstood and should be understood not as btšbʿ (“daughter of the oath/Shebaʿ”)but as btšb, meaning “daughter of Tešub,” the great Hurrian god. Later, in 2 Samuel 24 where David purchases the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite, the text should be emended to read ʾwrnh, which is again ewri, but here with the determinative nh, so “the lord/king.” The presence of “Jebusite” to qualify Araunah/ʾwrnh, is an incorrect addition. Therefore, David purchased the plot simply from “the king” (22). David then subsequently set up on the temple mount, guarded by his Philistine mercenary force, and therefore his palace should be located there and not, according to Eilat Mazar, in the “City of David” (24-5). David’s name, as described in Lipiński’s history of the Kingdom of Israel, is unknown. “David” is dāwid, meaning “warden/sheikh” (26).

Unlike some other scholarly reconstructions, Lipiński does indeed argue that David and Solomon ruled from Jerusalem over a kingdom of reasonable size. It is not the empire that the biblical text claims, but it included Judah and some of southern Israel (not the majority of what became the Kingdom of Israel) (33). Dating backward from Shoshenq’s campaign, and piecing together some of the disparate details, Lipiński places David’s reign at ca. 960-942/1 and totalling less than 20 years, with Solomon’s at 942/1-928/7 and totalling approximately 15 years (27-28). These are not the 40 year reigns the Bible attributes to these founding kings. Lipiński also dismisses the historicity of David’s early campaigns almost entirely (33) and suggests that Solomon’s supposed influence up north should actually be attributed to Omri and Ahab (34). Moreover, the temple building and adornment should be attributed to King Ahaz of the 8th century (35-6).

One of the most provocative suggestions from Lipiński concerns the Omride dynasty after Ahab. He argues that the battle of Ramoth-Gilead did not involve Ahab and Jehoshaphat as the Bible tells it, but Jehoram and Ahaziah (39). More importantly, there were no two Jehorams (one in Israel, one in Judah). This, he suggests, is evidence of a confused editor. Instead, Jehoram son of Ahab worked with his sister Athaliah. She married Jehoshaphat. She then arranged for Jehoram to become viceroy over Judah, in addition to his rule over Israel (40). When Jehoshaphat died, Jehoram took over and killed Jehoshaphat’s family. Jehoram became king over both Israel and Judah. A few years later, he placed his son Ahaziah on the Jerusalem throne, and the two of them went to the battle at Ramoth Gilead and both died (41). Athaliah, widow of Jehoshaphat, sister of Jehoram and aunt of Ahaziah, did not slaughter the royal family, since Jehoram had already done so (43-44). Subsequently, there was the plot concerning the child Joash. Who was he? Was this one they brought out at Athaliah’s demise really the same one they took away years before at the beginning? The fact that he was later murdered suggests that the people thought him illegitimate. Perhaps he was the son of the high priest Jehoida, who had orchestrated the coup, and who had married Jehosheba, sister of Ahaziah, moving himself into an elite position. So, perhaps the child Joash had been replaced by his cousin, now presented as Joash (44-46).

Later, concerning the late 8th century and early 7th, Lipiński sides with Finkelstein and Silberman to argue that Jerusalem’s population growth was due to the influx of refugees from Israel. He also sees a secondary movement into Jerusalem from Judah’s towns (75). Around this time Judah, which was quite different from Israel, was cast as one of the tribes of Israel, though this was a novel innovation (76).

Jehoshaphat was the first king of Jerusalem/Judah with a Yahwistic name, and maybe this was influenced from YHWH of Samaria and Jehoshaphat’s marriage into the Omride dynasty (101). Another religious note of contention is that the god Asherah, according to Lipiński, is never mentioned in the Hebrew Bible. All we have are references to an asherah, which is simply a sacred grove, chapel, or shrine (102-107). He also stakes a claim to say that there were no “cult prostitutes” as dreamed up by scholars (108ff). Child sacrifice, however, was practiced in 7th century Judah (lengthy section on molk sacrifices 111-124). The deities at the Arad temple are not Yahweh and Asherah, as some have claimed, but either a couple of North Arabian deities (possibly ʾil and ʾilat) or Edomite deities (Qaws and Rabbat?). This, he argues, is because the related strata at Arad are Edomite, until stratum VIII where one sees evidence of Hezekiah’s reform – first using the temple with one stele and altar, and then removing the temple altogether (129-131). The well known Judaean pillar figurines do not represent deities, but petitioner mothers, placed in the shrine to pray continuously on the owner’s behalf (137).

In his discussion of Bethel, he argues that the texts from Elephantine show that Bethel had become a theonym to replace the theonym ʾil (143-144). The god Bethel was already known in northern Syria in the 6th century BCE, and this is the origin for the god later known in Elephantine and elsewhere. However, bytʾl was commonly used to describe divine standing stones. Therefore, the god Bethel likely is derived from the divinization of stelae (148-149).

Finally, Lipiński’s discussion of the afterlife is stimulating. In addition to describing burial customs and the like, he also devotes space to discussing biblical sheol. In his opinion, sheol (šʾwl)is derived from the name of the Hurrian goddess Šuwala (160, note the connection to the Hurrian leadership of Jerusalem above). She is associated with Mesopotamian Nergal and plays the same role as Ereshkigal, queen of the underworld (161, 163). The Hebrew Bible used a frozen phrasing “go down to Sheol” that they had borrowed, even if they did not personify the god of the underworld themselves. However, Sheol is progressively demythologized until finally in the Mishnah we find evidence where Sheol is purely spatial and is no longer a proper noun (164).

As I have already stated, Lipiński’s volume has much to commend it. There are many observations worth considering, even if one disagrees with them in the end. There are also some drawbacks. The book feels only partly like a history. Only chapters 1-4 deal with what one might expect as history. Chapters 5-7 are very different. When Lipiński does cover the history, it varies between covering history in a standard survey fashion, in which there is little new information offered, and excursus-style treatment of topics of his interest (e.g. very lengthy treatments of Assyrian politics in a section titled “reign of Hezekiah” in 63-72, and of Edomite-Judahite relations in 79-86). He also cuts short his history by not including the Persian period, explaining that there is too much material to account for, though he covers the Persian period in his Israel volume (5). One other downside to the volume is that the scholarship Lipiński cites tends to be very dated. Much, if not the majority, of the citations are from works from the 1950s-’70s, with more scattered references to more recent material. However, where Lipiński shines is in his philology. He displays a mastery of multiple languages and their histories that few can rival. He is well versed not only in biblical material, but in epigraphic material as well. Were it for his philological conclusions alone, this book would be well worth having on the shelf. In addition to that are his many innovative insights on the history of the Kingdom of Jerusalem and Judah. In the end, Lipiński goes his own way, and it is well worth the time to track with him on the journey.

Kurtis Peters
University of British Columbia
Unceded Coast Salish Territories of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations
kurtis.peters [at]

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