Saturday, December 30, 2006

Na'aman's Recent Trend

During December I posted some opinions on Nadav Na'aman to a couple of other blogs:

As I made an embarrassing statement therein misrepresenting Jodi Magness' interview by Gordon Govier, I thought it might be a good idea to summarize & preserve some of my statements about LMLK research here (which I'm definitely not embarrassed about).

Point Made by Nadav Na'aman (as reported by Aren Maeir):
"Hezekiah was not a very important & powerful king. He just got good PR, while in fact, his political maneuvering just caused disaster to the Judeans."

Point Made by Nadav Na'aman (as reported by Yitzhak Sapir):
"The recent trend to view Hezekiah as a powerful king is misplaced. Hezekiah received a very strong kingdom. Hezekiah found himself bordering the terrifying Assyrian empire on the northern & western border. So long as Sargon II was in power, Hezekiah was careful not to do any move that might cause his own kingdom to become an Assyrian province. The uncertain future of Judah, however, eventually caused Hezekiah to join a revolt against Assyria when Sennacherib replaced Sargon II. The result was a devastating blow to Judah, coupled with a heavy tax, from which Judah did not recover for many years. The author of Chronicles, writing hundreds of years later, is totally oblivious to this reality & does not understand the threat that Assyria posed to Judah. Hezekiah took a powerful kingdom, & led it to a devastating military blow from the Assyrian empire that now bordered his kingdom."

I wonder if Prof. Na’aman offered any examples of "important & powerful" ANE kings; I’d like to know who’s on his list, presumably no Judeans. For all others he names, I would then ask what their lasting achievements were.

I wonder if Prof. Na’aman offered the names of any ANE kings who "got good PR" from their neighbors. Personally, I can’t think of any. So my question for him would be, What criteria establish an ANE king’s importance, power, & PR from a historian’s perspective?

The archeological record, as viewed through LMLK jars, tends to disagree with Na'aman.

True, Assyria devastated western parts of Judah; but false, "coupled with a heavy tax, from which Judah did not recover for many years." Aside from the 1-time heavy tribute paid by King Hezekiah recorded in 2Kings & Sennacherib's prisms, I'm not aware of any evidence--archeological or historical--to support the view that Judah paid any Assyrian taxes during the final years of Hezekiah's reign. The surviving Judeans (of which there were apparently many) merely shifted eastward & built up new sites away from the destruction. It's likely that a significant portion of the population avoided the battle, & rapidly rebuilt after Sennacherib retreated from his Jerusalem failure.

Based on my research, there were just as many LMLK jars manufactured after the Assyrian destruction as before; & they stayed in Judah/Israel--a clear indication of autonomy (in the absence of any other evidence to the contrary; e.g., we know YEUD & YRSLM seals were only made during later periods when Judah/Jerusalem had already been conquered & resettled during the Persian & Greek eras, which is why their place names needed to be stated).

LMLK inscriptions (including those on the Personal seals that sometimes accompany LMLKs) are strictly Judean. They're only found in Judean & Israelite territory, & they only contain Paleo-Hebrew inscriptions (no hieroglyphs, no cuneiform). Since many hieroglyphic scarabs & some cuneiform tablets have been found in Judah & Israel, it is not a circular assumption to state unequivocally that LMLK seals indicate autonomy. It may be wrong--we may one day discover a text that says Judeans made these jars for Assyrians, but it is not circular today; it's founded on scientific evidence (artifacts & texts).

It's far more circular to state that God doesn't exist, therefore everything must've evolved by itself over billions of years. That's also founded on scientific evidence, but it'll be tossed out the window when/if Jesus returns & says, "Whassup homies!"

I'm unaware of anybody in recent years who believes that LMLK jars indicate submission to any government outside of Judah.

(Sidebar: Kurt Galling promoted this idea in the "Krugstempel" entry of the 1937 edition of "Biblisches Reallexikon" [I quoted his German text on p. 156 of my book]. He based it on the assumption that they were made after Assyria conquered & combined Judah & Philistia. Nobody could uphold this idea after better excavation techniques revealed LMLK jars under the Assyrian destruction layer. Regarding the 2 icons, Yohanan Aharoni in 1967 ["The Land of the Bible"] tried "to explain the change in insignia by the abject submission to Assyrian domination which took place either at the end of Hezekiah's or the beginning of Manasseh's reign." However, this too became invalid with the discovery of both types of icons under the Assyrian destruction layer.)

That they are found in northern territory not controlled by Assyrians seems to indicate that the conquest of Samaria did not encompass all of Israel, & it's unlikely that King Hezekiah was "terrif[ied]" by their presence. Na'aman has been reading too many Neo-Assyrian bedtime stories.

That's not to say Hezekiah had nothing to fear; his building projects & his LMLK jars in northern territory testify to his not being intimidated by the Assyrians. We daily face fears & either cower to or overcome them.

The statement, "Hezekiah was careful not to do any move that might cause his own kingdom to become an Assyrian province" is unfounded. Pure speculation contradicted by numerous building projects & seals/bullae attributed to him. 2Chronicles records him boldly soliciting support from the Israelites before the fall of Samaria, & as far as I know, none of the northern jar fragments were stratified under any destruction levels. Either Sennacherib did not destroy these sites, or Israelites still loyal to Hezekiah established them following the Jerusalem victory. It's doubtful they were intimidated by the Assyrian presence in Samaria or Philistia.

According to the abundance of such jars found at early 7th-century sites, Hezekiah's kingdom remained strong--not because of his military might, but because "the LORD saved Hezekiah & the inhabitants of Jerusalem from the hand of Sennacherib the king of Assyria, & from the hand of all others, & guided them on every side. And many brought gifts to the LORD at Jerusalem, & presents to Hezekiah king of Judah, so that he was exalted in the sight of all nations thereafter" (2Chronicles 32:22-3).

By the way, even if 2Chronicles was written as late as Minimalists imagine it to have been (i.e., the Roman era), viewing King Hezekiah as powerful hardly qualifies as a "recent trend". On this, Prof. Na'aman is with all due respect delusional, & obviously attempting to start his own trend.

In the absence of any contrary evidence, the Biblical text presents a sensible/logical historical explanation of the situation that complements the archeological data rather well. Minimalists are "totally oblivious to this reality." I'm unaware of any competent, non-Minimalist scholar (i.e., one without a closed-minded agenda to establish a new dogma) who views Judah as a more powerful kingdom prior to Hezekiah's inauguration. If so, I'd like to see their evidence. I have ancient artifacts & an ancient text; all they have are opinions.

It ain't easy, speakin' out
Some people take it to heart
And if you ain't standin' on top of The Rock
They'll try & tear you apart

Song of the week: "Top of the Rock" by HSAS (click the song title to visit Amazon; click here for a 30-second sample; 393kb).
G.M. Grena

Saturday, December 23, 2006

A Delicate Balance

Too deep last week ... must be shallow & silly this week ...

Courtesy of Scott Adams:

I heard Dr. Laura read this next one on-air this week, & I found several variations of it online so I can't resist personalizing it here (for everyone who knows my penchant for finding typos & correcting others; also for those familiar with the classic line for engineers like me, "I is an engineer."):

Teacher: George, let me hear you make up a sentence starting with "I".

George: I is the...

Teacher: No, no, no! George, correct English sentences begin with "I am", not "I is".

George: OK, if you say so. I am the 9th letter of the alphabet.

I printed & bound a full-size copy of my paperback excursus Thursday night, so I'm extremely busy & will have to refer readers who want more royal content this week to an excellent article published at Christianity Today by Mark Galli, "King Jesus the Disguised". After a quick read-through Friday afternoon, I wished it were something I had written (except of course for the grammatical typo, "a king is political figure")!

Song of the week...

Yikes! Just when I thought this was going to be a slam-dunk quickie fun blog...

I was so happy this week, not just for producing the first copy of my new book, but for getting to see a prayer answered for a friend who had died last week--for only a few moments--he was resuscitated but remained unconscious for a couple of days in intensive care. He was still not allowed visitors on Wednesday, but I decided to go Thursday & found he had not only regained consciousness but had been removed from intensive care & was standing up all smiles to greet me when I walked into his room!

Anyway, my first choice for the song this week was a stirring rendition of the traditional Hanukkah tune, "Sivivon" (click here for a longer-than-usual 58-second sample; 721kb) as performed by my friend & former Redondo Beach citizen, Laurie Z. But it's more deep & moving than the light-hearted tone of this blog entry. I searched for something else & considered several others, but none of them worked. I felt compelled to stick with Laurie's.

Unfortunately, the CD this particular track comes from is not listed on Amazon, so I had to go to her home page for an alternative distributor link. Those of you who don't like sad news will not want to read this (especially the part about her father, father-in-law, & husband).

I've been a big fan of Laurie's music since first hearing her back around 1991 on an Orange County radio station. She not only played keyboards as a solo artist, but she performed regularly with a live band at Disneyland, & she led hockey fans into rallies as the house organist for The Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. You can read her extensive biography online for more details.

Her first concert I attended was August 14th, 1994 at Veteran's Park in Redondo Beach where Torrance Blvd. hits the ocean; I still have the promo poster I stole from a local music store (no longer in business) right by my apartment door--it's the first thing I see when I get home from work each day. For the next few years, I attended almost all of her public South Bay shows--I don't know exactly how many at the moment--at least 11 including gigs in El Segundo, Hermosa, Torrance (when she composed 2 songs impromptu later published on "Roots"), & shopping mall promo performances for "Heart" in late 2001, plus a private release party in Santa Monica for "Roots". When she opened for Leo Kottke at The Strand (a.k.a. Club Caprice), I left after her performance because I didn't want to hear from anyone else to spoil what my ears had experienced.

She not only took time to chat with me at some point before/after each show, but always gave me hugs. For someone as physically beautiful as her, it always surprised me & overwhelmed me.

Most ladies like that are, well, not like that. But that's the way she was. I used to love watching her interact with little kids who were dancing at her concerts--she loved them so much. My memory of her is a ray of sunshine in an often-dark Jungle-In-Here land.

She wrote many personal E-mails to me (29--but who's counting). I didn't write to her much after she moved to the state of Washington because I thought that she was trying to start a new life there, & I'm not the prying type. Here is the final E-mail she sent to me almost 4 years ago to the day (12/24/2002):

"Just wanted to drop you a note and wish you the best for the holidays, George!
From your friend newly up north (Washington)-
Laurie Z."

That's about as close to someone talking to me from the other side as can be. I have no doubt that she is indeed "newly up" in a spiritual "north" this very moment. Here's a snippet of the closing from the first E-mail I wrote to her in September of 1996 (a year before I had ever heard of LMLK handles; more than 5 years before I'd begin studying them):

"If I were a king, I'd want you to be my personal musician!"

Her response:

"Thank you so much for your letter - it made me feel great. Please share my music with your friends!"

Laurie Z.

(and if you were a king, it would be my honor...)"

Tonight, I have honored her request.
G.M. Grena

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Another Hebron, Another King

In this final segment of the series documenting my trip to Cincinnati, I'll cover the beginning & end.

Imagine my surprise when plans for the trip came together earlier this year & I discovered that I could catch flight number 484 from L.A. to Cincinnati! And this was shortly before I had the opportunity to convert my Redondo mailbox to 484!

For those of you who have flown into Cincinnati (CVG), you know that the airport is not only not located in Cincinnati, it's not even located in Ohio! It's in Kentucky! When its official abbreviation was named "CVG" in 1974, the nearest large city was Covington; hence, the "C" in "CVG" does not stand for "Cincinnati" as most travelers think (while being perplexed for an explanation of "VG", or why "CIN" wasn't chosen). But since then, its own town--Hebron--has developed quite a bit:

After landing in the afternoon, I immediately drove to the Skirball Museum on the campus of Hebrew Union College. I had been told that they did not have any LMLK handles, but I wanted to see all that they did have, & compare it to the Skirball here in L.A.

I was not disappointed by the exhibit, but was very disappointed that I did not bring batteries for my camera! All I can say is that it was far better than the one here. Whereas ours contains a significant emphasis on modern Judaica, Cincinnati's emphasizes ancient Judaism with artifacts from the Holy Land & surrounding Levantine cultures. Their displays featured material from Rabbi Nelson Glueck's collection including the original full-size painting of him used for the cover of Time magazine (vol. 82 #24, Dec. 13th, 1963), which was later featured on the cover of BAR (vol. 12 #5, Sep/Oct 1986):

I wasn't aware that Rabbi Glueck, past president of Cincinnati's Hebrew Union College, had delivered the benediction at President John F. Kennedy's inauguration.

I returned later that evening to do a few hours of LMLK research at HUC's Klau Library, & with the wealth of material available, I could only make a small dent into my list of material (which I still have not had a chance to absorb/process). I've been very grateful for their sending of rare books on loan to the L.A. branch (Frances-Henry) during my research for LMLK vol. 1.

The place I stayed at during the week was Heavenly! It's about as close to being in paradise as I can imagine! Before leaving, I took some pictures of the property--memories I'll treasure forever! It was on a Saturday morning as the fog began to dissipate; these first 5 show a 180-degree sweep near the entrance:

Cool late-summer mornings are amazing! From far away the grass seems to have ugly, whitish blemishes in a few spots...

...however, upon close inspection I observed that some arachnidan engineers had been hard at work the previous evening doing what their creator designed them to do, & the dew glistened as diamonds upon their magnificent handiwork:

I love walking through forests...

...but sometimes it's good to step back from the forest to gain a new perspective...

...and cut paths in places others avoid:

I've learned to accept the fact that I may not be able to achieve everything I want to in this life, but I'm having tons of fun with my small accomplishments:

No matter where I go, there will always be greener grass, but I've found great joy in shades less colorful:

And I'm no longer intimidated by what may be over the next obstacle:

I'll continue to have fun leaving tracks on my way there:

I've learned not to fear the ever-present shades of darkness & mistakes I've made...

...but to benefit from them when I keep my eyes on things of greater magnitude:

Notice the obscure little black blob at the bottom-center of this photo:

From a distance, it doesn't seem very important, but when studied close up...'s fairly easy to find anomalies that don't match what we've been taught:

We tend to keep these things near the marshy regions of our minds:

But even in the murky regions there's something interesting awaiting discovery. Can you see it?

Sometimes it helps when a friend points you in the right direction:

Another 8-legged engineer, only this one is upside-down, & seems to like it that way this time of day; & who am I to judge those viewing things from a different position?

I've also learned that when the water I normally drink isn't flowing, the water I've already received continues to reflect new things that others can benefit from:

Projects, like knowledge, take time to grow along the path of life...

...and we just need to keep crossing bridges in our journey from dark areas to Light...

...and keep trusting the One who can see it all from an even greater distance...

...for an even greater purpose...

...since the beginning:

A couple of months after I left, a "very old" king came to town & began roaming these same trails!

"There are no royal roads to knowledge, & we can only advance to new & important truths along the rugged path of experience, guided by cautious induction."--Joseph Henry in the Smithsonian Annual Report for 1856 (p. 36), in whose honor the unit of "henry" was named for the physical property of electric inductance.

Song of the week: "In Paradisum" by Sarah Brightman (click the song title to visit Amazon; click here for a 27-second sample; 360kb).
G.M. Grena