Friday, December 19, 2014

Bonus 35 - Black Obelisk

Replica of the Black Obelisk on display in the
Oriental Institute Museum University of Chicago.
The original is in the British Museum ME 118885.
Sir Henry Layard discovered this black limestone obelisk in 1846 during his excavations at Kalhu, the ancient Assyrian capital. The obelisk, now on display in the British Museum, celebrates the military achievements of Shalmaneser III (reigned 858–824 BC). More importantly while there are other Assyrian and Babylonian texts that mention Hebrew kings, this obelisk depicts the earliest surviving picture of an Israelite king. One of the panel’s depicts the Israelite King Jehu bringing tribute to King Shalmaneser III in around 841 BC.

The text translates:
The tribute of Jehu, son of Omri: I received from him silver, gold, a golden bowl, a golden vase with pointed bottom, golden tumblers, golden buckets, tin, a staff for a king [and] wooden puruhtu [javelin].1. 
However, while the Black Obelisk states that Jehu is the son of Omri, 2 Kings 9:2, 14 states that Jehu is the son of Jehoshaphat, the son of Nimshi. How does one reconcile this apparent contradiction? There are three possible proposed solutions.
  1. One of the two accounts is inaccurate. Either the Black Obelisk is inaccurate as our modern newspapers are often in error 2. or biblical critics would say the Bible is inaccurate.
  2. Kyle McCarter challenges the reading of the Black Obelisk that it is not Jehu but is actually referring to Jehoram (Joram), the grandson of King Omri whom Jehu killed. 3. However, Gallil dismisses this interpretation on linguistic grounds.4.
  3. Tammi Schneider argues that Jehu may have been a descendant of Omri. 5.
However, even if the mystery is not resolved, the presence of both Omri and Jehu mentioned in an extrabiblical text lends credibility to the notion that they were real historical individuals.

One of the panel’s of the Black Obelisk depicts the
Israelite King Jehu bringing tribute to
King Shalmaneser III in around 841 BC
Used with permission of Oriental Institute Museum, University of Chicago. Photos by Dr. David E. Graves. Original resides in the British Museum ME 118885

  • 1. James Bennett Pritchard, ed., The Ancient Near East, Volume 1: An Anthology of Texts and Pictures (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1973), 192.
  • 2. Hal Flemings, Examining Criticisms of the Bible (Bloomington, IN: AuthorHouse, 2008), 109.
  • 3. P. Kyle McCarter, “ ’Yaw, Son of ‘Omri’: A Philological Note on Israelite Chronology,” Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research, no. 216 (December 1974): 5–7.
  • 4. Gershon Galil, The Chronology of the Kings of Israel and Judah (Leiden: Brill, 1996), 33 n. 2.
  • 5. Tammi Schneider, “Did King Jehu Kill His Own Family?,” Biblical Archaeology Review 21, no. 1 (1995): 26–33, 80–82.
This bonus material was quoted from:

David E. Graves, Key Themes of the Old Testament: A Survey of Major Theological Themes (Moncton, N.B.: Graves, 2013), 217.

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