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Ritual Violence in the Hebrew BibleNew Perspectives$
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Saul M. Olyan

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780190249588

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: December 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190249588.001.0001

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Between Politics and Mythology

Between Politics and Mythology

Josiah’s Assault on Bethel in 2 Kings 23:15–20

(p.67) 3 Between Politics and Mythology
Ritual Violence in the Hebrew Bible

Mark Leuchter

Oxford University Press

King Josiah’s assault on Bethel in 2 Kings 23:15–20 is the climax of the account of his cultic purge in 2 Kings 22–23. The episode is often understood as evidence of an actual incursion by that king into the former northern kingdom of Israel and the remnants of its primary sanctuary. Yet the king’s destruction of the site and violation of an adjacent mortuary remains difficult to explain by strictly political models. Josiah’s actions are better understood as a result of literary stylization, one that draws from Israel’s ancient ethno-mythology and its particular iteration of the common myth of divine combat. The account of the violent acts at Bethel and throughout the north present Josiah as representing Yhwh as a divine warrior in mythological terms, eradicating the symbols of cosmic foes as a necessary prelude to the reclaiming of the north as part of the sacred landscape.

Keywords:   Josiah, Bethel, myth, combat, ritual, tombs, historiography

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