1st Edition

A Story of YHWH Cultural Translation and Subversive Reception in Israelite History

By Shawn W. Flynn Copyright 2020
    240 Pages
    by Routledge

    238 Pages
    by Routledge

    A Story of YHWH investigates the ancient Israelite expression of their deity, and tracks why variation occurred in that expression, from the early Iron Age to the Persian period.

    Through this text, readers will gain a better appreciation for the complexities and contexts in the development of YHWH, from its earliest origins to the Persian period. Two interpretive frameworks–cultural translation and subversive reception–are offered for filtering through the textual data and contexts. Comparative study with ancient Near Eastern deities and select biblical texts lead readers through early YHWHism, YHWH’s original outsider status, and the eventual impact of urbanization on the expression. Perceived and real pressures then challenge urbanite YHWHism and invite new directions for forming a unique expression of divinity in the ancient world.

    This book is intended for those interested in the study of ancient divinity broadly as well as those who study ancient Israel and the Hebrew Bible. The work provides generalists with a better appreciation for the particular challenges in working in the ancient Near East and with the bible specifically, while it provides specialists with a broad theory that can be continually tested. For both, the study provides two reading lenses to work through similar questions and an accounting of why the many contextually driven and varied constructions of YHWH may have occurred.


    List of abbreviations


    Chapter 1: Purpose and Scope

    The Story of Comparative Endeavors

    Understanding the Roots of Contemporary Questions

    Some Common Challenges

    Tools for a Comparative and Developmental History of YHWH

    Finding a Narrative Arc

    Cultural Translation

    Subversive Reception



    Chapter 2: Competing Narratives of Early Origins

    Geographical Options and Limitations

    Possible Southern Origins: Egypt and the Biblical Narrative

    An Egyptian/Southern Test Case: Seth and YHWH

    Early YHWHism From a Southern Perspective

    The North: Ugarit, Baal, El, and the Early Stages of YHWHism

    Early YHWHism

    YHWH in Early Poetry

    YHWH in Inscriptions

    The Divine Council



    Chapter 3: The Rise of YHWH and Jerusalem on the International Stage

    Urbanization and YHWH

    Urbanism and Divinity in the Ancient Near East

    Israelite Urbanism and Divinity in Shiloh and Jerusalem

    A Context for Change: Israel and its Neighbors

    Urbanization, Divinity, and the Role of Scribal Culture

    YHWH on the International Stage

    The Neo-Assyrian Context as Catalyst

    Isaiah 6 as Israelite Protest Literature

    Isaiah 6:18 in the Neo-Assyrian Period

    Subversive Reception: The mi¯s pi^ and its Connections with Isaiah 6:18

    The Call of the Neo-Assyrian Kings Versus the Call of Isaiah

    Subversive Reception in the Book of Nahum

    Nahum 1

    Nahum 2

    Nahum 3



    Chapter 4: YHWH as Israel’s Only God: YHWH in The Exilic Period

    The Exilic Context

    The Exile and Judean Reactions such as Psalm 137

    The Growth of Exilic YHWHism and Onomastics

    Psalms of Lament, Psalm 44, and the Silence of an Urban YHWH

    What happened to the Other Gods? The Deuteronomistic History


    Genesis 1 and Creation Imagery




    Chapter 5: Persian Period: The Afterlives of YHWHism

    The Context of the Persian Period

    Elephantine and the Judean Communities YHWHism

    YHWH in Third-Isaiah

    Isaiah 57:1415


    Tackling Monotheism

    The Book of Jonah

    Horizontal Movement and Tension

    Descending to Sheol and Escaping Heaven: The Vertical Axis

    Self-Constructed Distance from YHWH: Vertically and Horizontally

    Jonah’s Complex/Post-Exilic Perception of YHWH

    The Shape of YHWH in the Persian Period



    Chapter 6: Conclusion and Assessment

    Challenges and Limitations

    Discoveries and Fruits





    Shawn W. Flynn received a PhD in 2012 from the University of Toronto, Canada, in Ancient Near Eastern Studies. His first book was YHWH is King, published in Vetus Testamentum Supplements (2014); he has also authored Children in Ancient Israel: The Hebrew Bible and Mesopotamia in Comparative Perspective (2018). In addition, he has edited Children in the Bible and the Ancient World: Comparative and Historical Methods in Reading Ancient Children (2019). He is currently an Associate Professor of the Hebrew Bible at St Joseph’s College, University of Alberta, Canada, and Academic Dean of the College.