War and Ethics in the Ancient Near East: Military Violence in Light of Cosmology and History (Beihefte Zur Zeitschrift Fur die Alttestamentliche Wissenschaft)
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The monograph considers the relationships of ethical systems in the ancient Near East through a study of warfare in Judah, Israel and Assyria in the eighth and seventh centuries BCE. It argues that a common cosmological and ideological outlook generated similarities in ethical thinking. In all three societies, the mythological traditions surrounding creation reflect a strong connection between war, kingship and the establishment of order. Human kings´ military activities are legitimated through their identification with this cosmic struggle against chaos, begun by the divine king at creation. Military violence is thereby cast not only as morally tolerable but as morally imperative. Deviations from this point of view reflect two phenomena: the preservation of variable social perspectives and the impact of historical changes on ethical thinking.The research begins the discussion of ancient Near Eastern ethics outside of Israel and Judah and fills a scholarly void by placing Israelite and Judahite ethics within this context, as well as contributing methodologically to future research in historical and comparative ethics.
by Liverani, who has particularly emphasised the supporting role of Assyrian religion.1 Though he does not employ the sociological theorisation of ideology which we find so useful, he does use language of order versus chaos which is easily incorporated into the more theoretical articulation. In his own work on the Assyrian manifestation of the sociological struggle between order and chaos, Liverani speaks of an Assyrian centre representing order and a non-Assyrian periphery which, by being
insofar as the author has included accounts of various military activities in the final narrative. Unfortunately, the certainty of at least one exilic or later revision of the narrative, combined with the invariable inconclusiveness of attempts to distinguish between these layers, makes the discernment of a late seventh century version of the Deuteronomistic History far too tentative to merit the consideration of its entirety as reflective of the late seventh century milieu. Kings and
denounced for sins which they could not have been expected to recognise as such (e.g. idolatry), but for offences against common humanity; not for disobedience to God, but for failing to follow the dictates of their own moral sense.9 As already noted, Yahweh is the designated agent of punishment for these offences; it is Yahweh who acts as defender of the moral order by destroying those nations whose actions contradict that order. Given the consistent depiction of Yahweh as promoter of justice
offending nations. That said, two points relating to the means of Yahweh’s intervention on behalf of order are in need of further examination. First, it is worth noting that the punishment for immorally conducted warfare is to be destroyed by means of war. There is a hint here of a concept similar to the legal principle of lex talionis, to which we will return momentarily, but for now suffice it to note that this choice of punitive method, associated as it is to Yahweh himself, is a clear
parts in locations like the city gate entails the possibility, even probability, that foreigners might see them and be deterred from any thoughts of rebellion, the primary audience remains the Assyrians. Whereas previous Assyrian kings had concentrated the display of mutilations onsite, where the local populations would be able to see and be appropriately warned of the dangers of future rebellion, Esarhaddon’s return of both the living and the dead to Nineveh for display indicates an altered