A Story of YHWH: Cultural Translation and Subversive Reception in Israelite History, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

A Story of YHWH

Cultural Translation and Subversive Reception in Israelite History, 1st Edition

By Shawn W. Flynn


240 pages

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Hardback: 9781138641471
pub: 2019-09-26
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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 both 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.

Table of Contents


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 mīs pî 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 Reactionssuch 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



About the Author

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 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 (Routledge, 2019). He is currently an Associate Professor of the Hebrew Bible at St Joseph’s College, University of Alberta, Canada, and the Academic Dean of the College.

About the Series

Studies in the History of the Ancient Near East

Advisory Board of Associate Editors

Ra’anan Boustan, University of California, Los Angeles, USA; Zeba Crook, Carleton University, Canada; Elizabeth DePalma Digeser, University of California at Santa Barbara, USA; Matthew Gibbs, University of Winnipeg, Canada; John Lee, University of California at Santa Barbara, USA; Harry Munt, University of York, UK; Richard Payne, Oriental Institute, University of Chicago, USA; Lucy Wadeson, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium; Philip Wood, Aga Khan University, London, UK; Alan Lenzi, University of the Pacific, USA.


Studies in the History of the Ancient Near East provides a global forum for works addressing the history and culture of the Ancient Near East, spanning a broad period from the foundation of civilisation in the region until the end of the Abbasid period. The series includes research monographs, edited works, collections developed from conferences and workshops, and volumes suitable for the university classroom.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / Ancient / General