John Van Seters, «Dating the Yahwist’s History: Principles and Perspectives.», Vol. 96 (2015) 1-25
In order to date the Yahwist, understood as the history of Israelite origins in Genesis to Numbers, comparison is made between J and the treatment of the patriarchs and the exodus-wilderness traditions in the pre-exilic prophets and Ezekiel, all of which prove to be earlier than J. By contrast, Second Isaiah reveals a close verbal association with J’s treatments of creation, the Abraham story and the exodus from Egypt. This suggests that they were contemporaries in Babylon in the late exilic period, which is confirmed by clear allusions in both authors to Babylonian sources dealing with the time of Nabonidus.
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18 JOHN VAN SETERS
haviour must have been regarded as a migration for religious rea-
sons, although the state as a whole certainly benefited from the
goods and income that it produced. After this long sojourn in Teima,
urgent matters of the realm called him back to the home base, par-
ticularly as it had to do with the growing threat of Cyrus after his
successful campaign against the Lydian Kingdom of Croesus, ca.
547-546. For a few years Cyrus was preoccupied with consolidat-
ing his rule in his homeland in the east, and it was during this respite
that Nabonidus had time to rebuild the temple to Sîn in Harran and
the ziggurat in Ur 28.
It is not my purpose to engage in a detailed discussion of Nabo-
nidus’s career, which may be found in Beaulieu’s book mentioned
above 29. The point I want to make is simply that J’s representation of
the migration of Abraham’s Aramean family from Ur to Harran, as
a first stage, and then the move from Harran to Canaan and even-
tually to the southern city of Hebron, was patterned after the mi-
gration of Nabonidus to Teima. The similarities are too striking to
be coincidental. Whether or not Nabonidus visited Harran on his
trip to Teima at least to begin the restoration of this most important
northern city remains uncertain, but Harran rapidly experiences a
renaissance as the major Aramean city of Syria. Moreover, this
identification of Ur and Harran with the Arameans in J’s version of
the patriarchal stories could not have been done at a later date be-
cause the memory of Nabonidus was soon vilified and his actions
obscured, and Ur also went into decline soon after the death of
Nabonidus and the establishment of the Persian empire of Cyrus 30.
Furthermore, it is clear that J has taken great liberties with the Jacob
tradition in which the traditional homeland of Laban the Aramean,
the father-in-law of Jacob, lay in Aram just north of Bashan, in the
shadow of Mount Hermon, and not in the very distant Harran. Such
BEAULIEU, Nabonidus, 109-112.
I am much indebted to Beaulieu for reviewing an earlier draft of this
essay and offering some helpful suggestions and corrections, as well as in-
forming me of some more recent publications. However, he is not responsible
for the particular use and interpretation that I have given to the evidence con-
cerning Nabonidus’s reign.
For the archaeological record of Ur in this period see P.R.S. MOOREY, Ur
‘of the Chaldeans’. A Revised and Updated Edition of Sir Leonard Woolley’s
Excavations at Ur (Ithaca, NY 1982) 233-263.