Thursday, August 16, 2018

YHWH and metallurgy again

Metallurgy, the Forgotten Dimension of Ancient Yahwism

The Israelite religion appears to be an attempt to extend to an entire nation (and, subsequently, to the whole world) values originally belonging to a small congregation of Canaanite metalworkers and threatened by the rise of a new epoch in which metallurgy lost its prestige and even sustained a demotion. From a theological perspective, the birth of Israel represents the democratization of esoteric traditions founded on a close relationship with the divine reality that was experienced around the furnace.

By Nissim Amzallag
Department of Bible, Archaeology and Ancient Near Eastern Studies
Ben Gurion University, Beer Sheba, Israel
August 2018
For my part, I find the argument in this essay to be very speculative. The five key points involve indirect connections with metallurgy that could add up to some primal connection with YHWH. Or the apparent connections could just be confirmation bias. They don't seem compelling to me. But read it and see what you think.

Haaretz also published an article on Dr. Amzallag's case, which I noted here. But it is a premium article that has now retreated behind the subscription wall. Likewise, Matthew Richard Schlimm responded to some of his arguments in a recent issue of the Journal of Biblical Literature, which you can read here, if you have access to JSTOR. This is the abstract:
Nissim Amzallag recently argued that words from the Biblical Hebrew root קנא have very different meanings depending on whether they are used in the human or divine context. While “jealousy” is an acceptable translation in the human sphere, Amzallag claims that in the divine sphere these words refer to furnace remelting, signaling that Israel's God was viewed as a smelting deity. There are several problems with Amzallag's argument. By paying closer attention to linguistic evidence and methodological considerations, one finds that in both human and divine contexts words from the root קנא are best understood with the traditional translation “jealousy,” an emotion closely related to anger, rather than the elaborate metallurgical imagery that Amzallag proposes.
As I commented in my earlier blog post, the only way to prove an early connection between YHWH and metallurgy would be to find early texts that made the connection clear. For some thoughts on how that might happen, see that post and the one on Timna that I am going to post immediately after this one.

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