Abstract

2 Kings 10:28 says unequivocally, “and so Jehu destroyed Baal from Israel.” This declaration has factored significantly into several reconstructions of Israelite religion in the 9th-8th centuries BCE. Some scholars argue that an established Baal cult was wholly absent from Israel following Jehu's purge. These scholars must then reinterpret the Baal polemics of Hos 2 as indicating something other than religious defection. This approach, however, misses important contextual data when considered within a broader ancient Near Eastern setting. This article argues that the Jehu narrative employs several stereotyped motifs present in Assyrian Royal Inscriptions (divine election, characterization of the enemy, chaos vs. order, exaggerated rhetoric and violence) as an understood means of legitimizing Jehu's reign. When these factors are identified, the rhetorical nature of the biblical author's language comes into focus. Thus, a face-value reading misses important textual indicators. Though Jehu dealt a major blow to the established Baal cult in the 9th century BCE, the language of the text accounts for its continuation.

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