Divination, Politics & Ancient Near Eastern Empires. Edited by ALAN LENZI and JONATHAN STOKL. Ancient Near East Monographs, vol. 7. Atlanta: SOCIETY OF BIBLICAL LITERATURE, 2014. Pp. x + 209, illus. (paper). $29.95.
This volume probes the multivalent ways that divinatory texts from the ancient Levant both bolster and undermine the empires that produced them. Spanning the fields of Assyriology, Hebrew Bible, and Dead Sea Scrolls, the book underscores how prophetie communication serves as a vehicle for resistance to power or support of authority. Several articles represent revised versions of papers delivered at the 2011 SBL session of the "Prophetie Texts in Their Ancient Contexts" group on the topic "Divination, Propaganda, and Empire." Each essay addresses a specifie historical or literary issue that reflects how imperial settings shape and are shaped by divination.
The first two articles focus on cosmology and politics of the first millennium B.C.E. Jeffrey L. Cooley introduces the lens of propaganda studies to analyze references to celestial divination within the corpus of Assyrian royal inscriptions. Cooley examines the influence of literate intelligentsia on Neo-Assyrian royal inscriptions since they understood the visual, ritual, and textual symbols which Esarhaddon adopted to promote his political agenda. Beate Pongratz-Leisten investigates how ancient Near Eastern rulers "appropriated divination as a System of thought for their ideological self-representation" (p. 38). Through attention to divinatory sources and royal inscriptions, Pongratz-Leisten documents the ways in which kingship utilized divination for ideological reasons. She asserts that references to kingship in omen compendia and liver reports link the authority of the royal office to the cosmic order.
The subsequent two essays employ comparative-historical analysis to demonstrate how biblical and Mesopotamian governance was legitimized by divination. In his study of divination across borders, Jonathan Stokl analyzes the international politics refracted through Mari letters concerning Aleppo, and 2 Kings 23 (2 Chronicles 35) and 2 Kings 18-19 (Isaiah 37-39), where foreign deities claim authority over foreign territories. He compares the structure of communication in the Levant to the Roman evocatio rite, when the Romans invoked the protection of a local deity who had abandoned his city. Alan Lenzi reexamines the question of open communication of prophecy and divinely...