Sea and the Combat Myth: North West Semitic Political Mythology in the Hebrew Bible. (AOAT 457)
xiv + 621 pp.
Sea and the Combat Myth examines the political use of the ancient North West Semitic myth of divine combat between the Storm-God and the Sea. The myth originated with the rise of the Sargonic Empire and was disseminated across ancient Near Eastern polities during the Amorite Kingdom period. Vestiges of the myth have also been retained in the Hebrew Bible: a myth of symbolic combat between the Storm-God and the Sea was likely used as a foundational myth by the mostly polytheistic Pre-Exilic kingship in Palestine. The study demonstrates how the myth was used in ancient North West Semitic societies to resolve the crisis of monarchy through appeal to numinous legitimacy, and how reading a selection of Biblical texts in the framework of the tradition confirms the use of the myth in the same context in the emergent Palestinian kingdoms of the Iron Age.
Most of what is known of Israelite kingship and the monarchic institution is largely based on later and ideologically slanted material, making the comparison of Biblical texts to their antecedents necessary. The book discusses references to the myth in the Hebrew Bible in connection with the relevant witnesses from relevant ancient Near Eastern traditions. Different iterations of the combat myth witness to the continuation, longevity, malleability, and the capacity of the myth to transform to suit changing historical realities. In contrast to previous research, the study demonstrates three distinct sources for the Biblical traditions in addition to living local iterations of the myth. In addition to vestiges retained in the Hebrew Bible, based on the analogy of preceding, concurrent, and continuing traditions in the shared cultural sphere, the accumulation of mythic traditions suggests that it was used in the Palestinian kingdoms to resolve the crisis of monarchy and to legitimize sovereign political rule. After the end of the Jerusalem monarchy, the myth was democratized and reforged to legitimize the existence of the people of Israel.