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Today we get some serious military history as we look at the main chunk of King Saul's reign. We deliberately avoid David as much as possible today, because it is far too easy for King Saul to get upstaged in his own chapters by history's favorite king, and so we end up with a surprising amount of often quite detailed military history, and a bunch of interesting details about the time period itself. Finally, we get to see how Saul is super desperate to be a good Yahweh worshipper, and then we read his final eulogy and hear that the bible writers blame his death on failing to pursue God, which seems a bit unfair, but sometimes life is just that way. --- Send in a voice message:
Today we properly start the career of King Saul, or at least Saul as he makes his bid for kingship. This story is important as a piece of ancient literature, it is important through the question of whether or not the bible is valid as history, but most of all it is important because this is one of the only windows we get in the entire near east for military history details during the crucial transition from late bronze age chariot warfare to the massed imperial warfare of the iron age. Thanks to both the text itself and its extensive commentary traditions, we can pull out some really interesting details about how armies equipped themselves and the grander picture of how warfare and tactics contributed to ancient kingship that will play into our wider story even past the Israel section. --- Send in a voice message:
Today we look at the lead up to King Saul, and how Israel made the transition from a collections of tribes to a unified kingship. Why is the Old Testament so ambivalent on the matter of kingship? Most interestingly, there is a universally applicable political lesson here, in what may be history's earliest commentary on the nature and source of effective governance. Also, why do the Israelites cut up animals as messages so often in this period? We look at Gideon, Abimelech, Micah and the Danites, and the Benjaminite war. --- Send in a voice message:
Just to give an overview of this episode to see if you want to listen all the way through, the topics I am going to discuss are: Why do I believe that Israel entered Canaan as outsiders violently invading, when so much of academia believes that these invasions never happened, and that the Isarelite emergence was largely peaceful? Why do I believe that the bible, as we have it today, is a worthwhile historical record, at least worthwhile enough to go over it so extensively on a history podcast? Why has my perspective on the historical tale of the bible not changed even though I began studying as an atheist and am now studying it as a fairly conservative Christian? How can I, personally, continue to have faith in the religion revealed in the Bible when I have vehemently argued that certain fairly important parts of the Old Testament are meant as history, and yet false? Why does God's story so often occur inside gaps of our knowledge, and why does the revealing light of science never reveal God's hand? And finally, what is the meaning of analyzing the various books of the bible through the lense of genre, why does that matter for understanding some biblical problems, and why does that make other problems even worse? Why does history matter at all, particularly Israelite/biblical history? --- Send in a voice message:
The institution of Judges, as described in the book of Judges, is an English translation of the word Shofet, a political position which doesn't really exist in modern times, and as such is often poorly understood even in the study bibles and commentaries that I have read. And yet, there are reasons to think that whether or not the stories themselves within this book are true or not, there really was a class of Shoftim prior to the monarchy. That, plus issues of chronology among the judges, get hashed out a bit. And also we talk about the fact that the bible really doesn't like to talk about Israel getting defeated in times when it is theologically inconvenient, yet was probably getting kicked around like a rented mule around this time. --- Send in a voice message:
Today we go full archeology on everyone, looking at what makes a settlement more or less likely to be Israelite as opposed to Canaanite or whatever based purely on the archeological record. Also, a brief overview of the entire history of the Philistines, because I introduced them as a brief tangent and ended up telling their entire story all at once. Archeology by itself is just a bunch of broken clay pots, and serious archeology really has a tendency to put me to sleep, especially once they start listing of subvariants of pottery, but understanding the evidentiary foundations is crucial especially in a hotly debated area of history. Even more important is getting a sense of how these evidences map onto various interpretive frameworks to build the idea that we actually do start to see a distinctive and probably Israelite people emerging in the Levant during the bronze age collapse. --- Send in a voice message:
When did Joshua conquer Canaan for Israel? Did Joshua even exist, as described in the Book of Joshua? We continue our march through the Old Testament as the people of Israel march through Canaan. We spend some good time discussing the Canaanite genocide in the context of ancient warfare, and the things that are and are not remarkable about it. We look a bit at settlement patterns in archeology and destruction layers and what they mean for the entry or emergence of Israel in the holy land. Also, we talk a bit about the meaning of Herem and the idea of Devoting to Destruction. --- Send in a voice message:
What does it mean that the people of Israel are the biggest whiners in recorded history? It may mean that a lot of the people were not actually on board with the theological mission of the Yahwist religious leaders. It may also mean that we are knee deep in the book of Numbers. My favorite Old Testament story, Balaam son of Beor, gets a mention here, as does some points where the people of Israel may well have left some actual historical evidence. And finally we get to the first actual mention in non-biblical history of the people of Israel, recorded in the Merneptah Stele around 1207 BCE. --- Send in a voice message:
Today we obsess over the word Hebrew and go deep into what it means, who was and was not a Hebrew, whether it was a social or ethnic designation, what that implies about the religious and cultural mission of Israel, and what that might mean for the historicity of the Bible. In a sense, this is kind of a tangent from our wider story, but I think this is one of the really core issues that most people either wonder about, or are ignorant of and should be wondering about. If you really want to skip this, the short version is that there is a theory that the word Hebrew comes from 'Apiru, or Habiru, and while there is quite a lot of back and forth on the topic, I happen to think this is surprisingly likely, for reasons that go way beyond linguistic matters. But we also look at the other possibilities and what I think about them as well. --- Send in a voice message:
Today we look at possibly the oldest section of the entire Bible, Exodus chapter 15, the Song of Moses, as well as the issues with the census listed in Numbers and what that might mean for biblical historicity. These are some pivotal chapters today, not so much for the narrative itself but for keying in how we are going to interpret the bible and a whole in historical context. I think one of the most important questions for our own personal understanding of the bible is "How would this look in a movie", because how it plays out in our imagination, in terms of things like how many people there are in the scene, really affects who we can and can not consider plausible later on. --- Send in a voice message:
Here it is, the part of ancient Near Eastern history that excites the most passion and interest. There is no doubt that there were kingdoms of Israel and Judah, and there is no doubt that after they were conquered by the Babylonians there was a class of Judahite priests who assembled the collection of texts we now call the Old Testament, but before that pretty much all bets are off. Today begins what will be a bit of a series on Israel, and we will go over briefly the four main points of view on Israelite history, which I call the Biblical Literalists, the Accomodationists, the Pure Archeologists, and the Radical Skeptics. Then we will look in a very bare bones way at what is the bare minimum we can say about pre-kingdom Israelite history to set the stage for future episodes. --- Send in a voice message:
After the Hittite Empire fell during the bronze age collapse, Anatolia became a Mad Max style wasteland with tribes crossing the hills and fighting for survival. Amidst all this, we have the fateful arrival of the mysterious Sea Peoples, and out of this mess emerged not a whole lot for a long time, but eventually we get the Phrygians in the northwest and the Neo-Hittites in the southeast, as well as a whole host of more peripheral people who will merit more mentions as our story progresses. The Phrygians we will look at briefly, but the Neo-Hittites, who are the same as the Biblical Hittites, are fascinating and poorly understood, and we will emerge from our time with them still fascinated and still not understanding much, but maybe a bit more than we started with. --- Send in a voice message:
Animals in ancient Mesopotamia. From sheep, goats, horses, and other domesticated animals to wild beasts like lions, elephants, insects, birds and fish, the ancient world was surrounded by animals. But in our history we are usually so focused with humans that we don't get a chance to focus on the four legged companions of the ancient world. So today we rectify that with an overview of all the animals that the Old Babylonians cared about and a look at how they interacted with each. --- Send in a voice message:
Today we look at pretty much everything we know about the Mesopotamian dark age following the bronze age collapse, and manage to cover about 120 years of history in about half an hour. After that is a discussion about chronologies and why we know when all these things happened, with a reference to lost time and other alternate chronologies, both legitimate and silly. --- Send in a voice message:
Today we are going to look at the reign of Adad-Apla-Iddina, the fact that he was hit by some brutal Aramean invasions and that he built a ton of stuff despite the times being pretty awful. But the star of our show today is the first great scientist in human history whose name reached great levels of fame. Esail-Kin-Apli may be forgotten now, but for a thousand years after his own time his name carried the same cachet as Einstein does to a modern lay person. It isn't wholly clear that he existed, or that he wrote the whole corpus with which he is credited, but there is a chance that he really did write the great catalogs of wisdom which constitute the first great body of scientific knowledge under a single known author. The significance of him as an historical figure and what his scientific catalogs looked like are discussed here. This episode is long, because I got a little too excited about the theoretical foundations of Babylonian thought. --- Send in a voice message:
This week, Tiglath-Pileser is going to kill more people, just like last week. But now he is going to branch out into killing animals, too! But when he pauses to catch his breath between killing, he is also going to build up Assyria domestically and fund a bit of an intellectual renaissance. Then he will die and things will get grim again for a while. But that is the rollercoaster of ancient Mesopotamia, it is great. --- Send in a voice message:
Today we see Assur rise mightily with Tiglath-Pileser I, and we see the seeds of another century of decline sown in the climate change that drives the Aramean invasions. Meanwhile, Babylon has to deal with the same set of problems, but without the same sort of vigorous leadership. --- Send in a voice message:
For a Babylonian polytheist, the gods are worshipped with the explicit expectation that divine veneration will avert bad fortune and attract good fortune. Yet as long as there have been people, we have seen that sometimes bad things happen to good people, and sometimes good fortune finds bad people. Religious explorations of this are called Theodicy, and we have already see a number of Mesopotamian attempts to wrestle with this, back in Episodes 26 and 53. The genre appears to culminate in one of the most impressive technical and philosophical works of ancient Mesopotamia, in the Babylonian Theodicy. Also, after looking at the Theodicy, we compare it to another Babylonian writing from an old man who is simply miserable with life. For more on this, check out episode 26, where we discussed the Sumerian "A Man and His God" and episode 53 where we discussed the Old Babylonian "Poem of the Righteous Sufferer", both of which are thematic precursors to this and almost certainly were at least indirect references for the author of the Babylonian Theodicy. --- Send in a voice message:
Nabu-Kudurri-Usur, the first Nebuchadnezzar, rescued the statue of Marduk from Elam after a grueling adventure beset by intense heat, low supplies, and enemies on all sides. And yet, even though this event would be celebrated in later generations, it is unclear if it was highly celebrated in his own lifetime. Today we look at the cult of Marduk, how it may have developed within the city of Babylon, and some more of Nebuchadnezzar's life. --- Send in a voice message:
In Babylon rules Nebuchadnezzar the first. He isn't the Nebuchadnezzar that we remember today, but he was certainly the more famous king of that name for most of Babylonian history. His great accomplishment, the retrieval of the stolen statue of Marduk from the Elamites, would inspire poets and leaders until the end of Babylonian history, and even a bit beyond. That one campaign has some exciting detail, but he is more than just that, and today we will look at this first Nebuchadnezzar in extensive detail.  --- Send in a voice message:
Comments (2)

Cristy Thiessen

this is exactly what I was looking for! you make my quest easier! I also was set out to read the oldest texts, and get a historical timeline. You are very far ahead of me...Thank you for sharing, you are an enthusiastic story teller! 😀

Jan 4th

Serial277something Something

That was a bit uncomfortable

May 25th
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