Myth and Politics in Ancient Near Eastern Historiography - Mario Liverani

Myth and Politics in Ancient Near Eastern Historiography - Mario Liverani

7. The story of Joash

Myth and Politics in Ancient Near Eastern Historiography - Mario Liverani

Mario Liverani [+-]
University of Rome “La Sapienza”, (Emeritus)
Mario Liverani is Emeritus Professor of “History of the Ancient Near East” in the University of Rome “La Sapienza”. Member of the Italian National “Lincei” Academy, honorary member of the American Oriental Society. His most recent book is Immaginare Babele (2013); his general handbook Ancient Orient is now available in English translation.


The biblical story of Joash (in 2 Kings 11 and 12) suggests that in the late ninth century the rule of the house of David over Judah had been interrupted. King Ahaz had died as the result of wounds he suffered in battle, while his son, Joash, was an infant. Athaliah, the mother of Ahaz, became regent and massacred the rest of the royal family, but Joash was saved by an aunt, who hid him in the temple of Yahweh. Seven years later the high priest, Jehoiada, recognised Joash as the true king, installed him on the throne, and killed Athaliah. In this chapter Liverani reads this brief narrative as an example of the apologetic texts that are written by usurpers to the throne in order to justify their rule. He compares it to two well known apologies of the second millennium: the inscription on Idrimi’s statue (chapter 4 here), and the explanation given by the Hittite king Hattushili III after he seized the throne from his nephew Urhi- Teshub (for a recent translation, see van den Hout 1997). The Joash episode becomes then a fictional explanation from the hand of the high priest who de facto took charge by placing a seven-year-old boy on the throne. It is like the text of a staged theatrical performance where the recognition of the young boy is the event that removes the disruption in the rule of the house of David. The comparison with other apologies is done on the basis of a structural analysis that identifies themes and their sequence within the narrative, which are the same for the three texts. Moreover, in other types of documents, primarily treaties between the Hittites and their vassals, parts of the sequence can also be found in the so-called historical introductions. A recent translation of those has been published by Gary Beckman (1996; Shattiwaza = no. 6, Mashhuiluwa = no. 11, Benteshina = no. 16).

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Liverani, Mario. 7. The story of Joash. Myth and Politics in Ancient Near Eastern Historiography. Equinox eBooks Publishing, United Kingdom. p. 147 - 159 Aug 2004. ISBN 9781845532802. Date accessed: 22 Sep 2023 doi: 10.1558/equinox.18755. Aug 2004

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