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JBL 134, 545- 529 :(2015) .

doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.15699/jbl.1343.2015.2816

Naboths Vineyard after Mari and Amarna


ANNE MARIE KITZ
anne.mariekitz@aol.com
New Berlin, WI 53151

This inquiry reevaluates the Naboth pericope of 1 Kgs 21 in light of a refined


translation of ARM 10.73, a letter written by Inib-Sarri to her father Zimri-Lim,
king of Mari. The content of ARM 10.73 permits a comparison between the two
texts regarding a form of political intrigue that the principal players exploit to
gain advantage. Inib-Sarri details the efforts o f her husband, Ibl-Addu, to
incriminate the regional Mari delegate, Itr-Asd, in seditious activities. IblAddus maneuverings, which Inib-Sarri labels karssu kul (lit., they ate his
pieces, that is, denounced him), are remarkably analogous to the steps Jezebel
takes against Naboth. Such a correlation reveals an operative relationship between
the l u 2.me sarr (dishonest men) mentioned in ARM 10.73,'rev 21 and the
( worthless men) in 1 Kgs 21:10,13. Two Amarna letters, EA
160 and 161 confirm the ongoing relationship between the l u 2.meS sarrti and
the act of karsi aklu. Both EA 252 and 254 likewise attest to the abiding relevance
of karsiaklu in the area ofO m ris future kingdom. On the basis of the evidence
adduced, this study concludes that 1 Kgs 21 records an incident of karst aklu
without using the expression, and suggests that Jezebels acts are not the product
of authorial imagination but reflect features of the ancient Near Eastern practice
o f d en u n cia tio n .

For obvious reasons, the tale of Naboths vineyard in 1 Kgs 21 is a source of


perpetual interest to scholars. What could be more poignant than the story of a
man defending his paternal inheritance from the covetous desires of evil King
Ahab? Certainly Ahab initiates his negotiations to acquire the plot ofland with two
more-than-generous offers: an exchange for superior property elsewhere or a payment for twice its value. Naboths emphatic rebuff clearly wounds royal pride. A
despondent Ahab slips into a sulk, takes to his couch, and waliows heartily in apool
of discontent.
Ferhaps impatient with her husbands adolescent behavior, Queen Jezebel
intervenes by exploiting a lesfoan-straightforward course of action. She writes
foe leaders of Naboths tribe and directs them to hold a fast, assemble foe people,
and, through foe agency 0^ , two worthless men (w. 10,13),
accuse Naboth of sedition. The people comply. Naboth is publicly charged and
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Journal of Biblical Literature 134, no. 3 (2015)

found guilty. With disturbing speed the tribe exeeutes the sentence, ^ e y drag
Naboth out of the city and stone him to death.
Shortly thereafter, Elijah, inspired by YHWH, excoriates Ahab for his swift
action against Naboth. The prophets words are harsh; Ahab and his household will
be exterminated from the face ofthe earth. Hearing this, Ahab immediately repents
and wins a stay of execution for himself but not for his heirs.
Interpretations ofthe incidentvaryprincipally according to scholarly approach.
The most compelling studies consider the ancient Near Eastern context of 1 Kgs 21.
Law codes and land rights, in particular, have provided important insights into
Ahab and Jezebels legal manipulations^ ^ e s e studies have drawn attention to the
cultural inheritance of the Hebrew Bible, confirming the continuity of societal
practices that transcend time periods and geographical locations.
The study offered here will revolve around two points: the historical/literary
character of 1 Kgs 21 and the application ofthe Akkadian phrase karst aklu (eat
pieces) to describe the procedures found there. Such a treatment necessitates a
rvaluation of the degree of authorial creativity attributed to 1 Kgs 21. The plot
twists in Naboths vineyard reveal a carefully crafted scheme that presents Jezebel
as the epitome of subterfuge who inspires divine rage against her husband. Yet one
question lingers. Does 1 Kgs 21 draw on ancient Near Eastern procedures exploited
in earlier times in earlier cultures or does the author fabricate these procedures for
the sake ofthe story?
To address this question 1 will turn to selected letters from Mari and Amarna
and reexamine the Naboth pericope in light of their contents. ARM 10.73, a letter
written by Inib-Sarri to her father, Zimri-Lim, king of Mari, receives particular
attention. This missive describes an incident in which the same method Jezebel
used against Naboth is exploited by King Ibl-Addu to deflect res^nsibilityfor the
death and seizure of property belonging to a certain Yap^ur-Lim. lnibarri
describes Ibl-Addus attempt to implicate Itr-Asd, Zimri-Lims long-suffering
representative in foe upper Habur region, as an example of karssu ikuly literally,
they ate his pieces. She writes that, in order to do this, Ibl-Addu hired a group
of individuals referred to as LU2.MES sarar (dishonest men) to denounce
Itr-Asd.
From foe selected Mari and Amarna letters 1 develop two paradigms, one
based on hierarchical power structure and the other delineating the protocol associated with denunciations of this type. At fois juncture, 1 adduce five Amarna letters, EA 252 and 254, written by Labaya of Shechem EA 16 and 161 drafted by
Aziru of Amurru; and Pharaohs reaction to Azirus activities articulated in EA 162.
Each text draws on various permutations of karsi aklu and expands on associative
terminology that, in turn, broadens the context of such political artifices, ^ e s e

1See esp. ^edore j. Lewis, The Aneestral estate ( ) in 2 Samuel 14:16, JBL 110
(1991): 597-612, esp. 608.

Kitz: Naboths Vineyard after Mari and Amarna

531

Amarna letters and ARM 10.73 provide additional evidence that 1 Kgs21 describes
a well-known ancient Near Eastern political strategy.

1 . 1 K i n g s 21

Contemporary discussions of 1 Kgs 21 generally focus on two general divisions of the text, w . l-20b a and w . 20by27- 29 ,24 , and the primacy of date
assigned to a related account in 2 Kgs 9:25-26. j. M. Miller considered the latter to
be historically superior and viewed 1 Kgs 21 as nothing more than a novelette.^
C f the many treatments ofthe Naboth incident, Reinhold Bohlens is perhaps
the most precise. He argued that 1 Kgs 21:1-16 demonstrated a consistency of
sentence structure and vocabulary and, therefore, that w . lb -9, 11-16 formed a
coherent unit that dated to the seventh century.^ At the same time, however, he
stronglypressedforthe exclusion ofv. lObecauseJezebelsletter is too explicit. Why
should she explain her entire plan and not engage the services of the
herself? The entire verse bespeaks an adjustment to the narrative. As for
the remaining verses, Bohlen dated w . 17-20d to the eighth century and w . 25-29
to the sixth century and later.4
Alexander Rof refuted Bohlens position on V 10: What we have here is not
a police report about Jezebels crime, but a piece of fiction which does not necessarily relate to plausible facts.5 He also refined Bohlens proposal and advanced a
postexilic date because the terminology harks back to that period.5 Consequently,
1 Kgs 21 addressed the concerns of Ezra and Nehemiah, who sought to maintain a
pure community by condemning those Judahites who married foreign women.7
Most current scholars view w . l-20b a as the earlier pericope and w . 20by-24,
27-29 as a Deuteronomistic expansion. This diachronic view encourages an artificial disconnect between the episode involving the vineyard and Elijahs prophetic
delivery of the word of God and YHWHs subsequent forgiveness of a suitably
penitent Ahab in w . 27-29. This perspective yields the image of an intractable deity
whose wrath is so absolute that it can neither be swayed nor mollified. Divine mercy
then becomes an afterthought designed to meet the needs of a later redactor desperate to accommodate the historical reality of Jehus coup dtat during the reign
of Ahabs son Jehoram.
2j. m. Mler, The Fall f the Huse f Ahab, V T 17 (1967): 307-24, esp. 312, 316.
^Reinhld Bhlen, Der Fall Naboth: Form, Hintergrund und Werdegang einer alttestamentliehen Erzhlung (1 Kn 21), TThSt 35 (Trier: Faulinus, 1978), 257-61, 309-26.
4Ibid., 65-68.
^Alexander Rf, The Vineyard fNabth: The Origin and Message of the Stry, VT 38
(1988): 89-104, esp. 91.
6Ibid., 97-101
7Ibid., 102.

532

Journal ofBiblical Literature 34, no. 3 (2015)

II. ARM

1 0 .7 3

ARM 10.73 provides evidence that many of the plot details that sharpen the
appeal of Naboths vineyard are neither fictitious nor the product of the authors
inventive license. The modern history of ARM 10.73 begins with Georges Dossins
publication oArchives royales de Mari X: La correspondancefminine in 1967 The
autograph copy appears on pi. 32. As is t^ ica l of most clay tablets, the text is damaged, in this case on the right side. A broader audience was served when Dossin
published his transcription and translation eleven years later in ARMT 0
.
In
2000, Jean-Marie Durand tendered a refreshed translation based on an improved
reading of the cuneiform text.10

Dramatis Personae

author of ARM 10.73 is Inib-Sarri, a fiercely devoted daughter of ZimriLim (line 2).11 She was married twice. Her first husband was Zakura-abum, foe
ruler of Zallu^an, a small but important pastoralist enclave located in foe Upper
Habur region. It was a happy but short-lived marriage.
After the death of Zakura-abum, Inib-Sarri returned to Mari only to marry
another vassal of her father, Ibl-Addu, whom Zimri-Lim installed as king of
Aslakk sometime during his third regnal year. The city, also located in the Habur
triangle, was foe leading metropolis of a confederate kingdom sometimes referred
to as foe land of Ida-Maras. Surviving documents suggest that foe marriage was
cheerless and strained and seems to have lasted no more than five years.
Of particular importance is foe reference to Itr-Asd, who is none other than
the Itr-Asd, Zimri-Lims highest ranking official in north (lines 5,9,20,28).12 His
surviving correspondences reveal that he lived in Na^ur, a municipality situated
within the infamous Habur triangle, and that his administrative authority just so
happened to include foe principality of Aslakk.13
8Georges Dossin, Archives royales de M ariX: La correspondancefminine, TCL 31 (?aris:
Geuthner, 1967).
Georges Dossin and Andr Finet, Correspondancefminine: transcrite et traduite, ARM
10 (Paris: Geuthner, 1978), transcription, 110, 112; translation, 111, 113.
Ojean-Marie Durand, Les documents pistolaires du palais de Mari, 3 vols., LAPG 16-18
(Paris: Cerf, 1997-2000), vol. 3, text 1249 [X 73], pp. 475-76.
Jack M. Sasson, Biographical Notices on some Royal Ladies from Mari, JCS 25 (1973):
59-78, esp. 63-67; Jozef De Kuyper, Grundeigentum in Mari, in Das Grundeigentum in Mesopotamien, ed. Burchard Brentjes, JWG.S 1987 (Berlin: Akademie, 1988), 69-78, esp. 75; Michal
Guichard, Le remariage dune princesse et la politique de Zimri-Lm dan la rgion du Haut
Habur, RA 103 (2009): 19-30.
^Jean-Marie Durand, Sur Katlim(m)u/Sh-Hmad, How and Why? in Dr-Katlimmu
2008 and Beyond, ed. Hartmut Khne, Studia Chaburensia 1 (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2010),
49-66, esp. 59-62.
**Durand proposes that his tenure at Na^ur began during the fifth year of Zimri-Lims reign

Kitz: Naboths Vineyard after Mari and Amarna

533

The Date ofthe Text


Fifteen letters nf prineess Inib-Sarri survive of which ten are published. The
references to the above individuals in ARM 10.73 provide the apparatus for the
historical context as well as the letters approximate date. It is believed that InibSarris first husband died during the second h l^ ^ im r i- L im s sixth regnal year.
When she returns to Mari, her father promptly begins negotiations with Ibl-Addu
for her hand in marriage, which suggests that a formal union may have occurred
in the seventh regnal year. If the marriage lasted no more than five years, then its
dissolution roughly coincides with the dissolution of Mari around the twelfth and
final year of Zimri-Lims reign.
Inib-Sarri probably wrote ARM 10.73 toward the beginning of her marriage.
This would place its composition around Zimri-Lims eighth or ninth regnal year,
^ e n , depending on ones chronological inclinations, this will yield the years 16701669 BCE for the fiber-short chronology, or 1702-1701 consistent with the short
c h r o n o lo g y : or 1766-1765 according to the middle c h r o n o lo g y .

Transliteration and Translation


The transliteration offered below is based principally on Dossins autograph
copy of 1967 and his 1978 publication. Nevertheless, in an effort to provide the best
transcription possible, Durands enhanced assessments published in 2000 have
been incorporated. This represents the first time Dossin and Durands readings
have been brought together. The odd character of this transcription is due to the
differences in Dossin and Durands transliteration styles.^
la-na b[e-l]i-ia qt-[bi-ma] 2um-ma f-n i-ib- LUGAL am[atl-ka-a-ma] 3i-napa-nitim-ma i-nu-ma \na-ak-ra-am 45 a i-da-ma-ra-as be-lii-na [...] 5i-du-ku lI-tr s-du-[-m a] 6a-na lI-ba-al-Addu ki-im [iq-bf] 7um-ma-mi su-ma a-di-ma-ti
\ a i - t a \ 8an-ni-ke-em su-su-ba-ta-[a] 9 i-tu-ur-ma ll-tr-s-d[u\ 10as-sum bit
Ia-ap-hu-ur-Li-im e&n ki-im iq-bi-sum um-ma-mi e%A2ba-lu-um sarrim bit laa[p]-h[u-ur-Li-im] / te-[l]e-[q] Teyl4awlum da-an as-s[-ur-ri] revl5LUGAL
li-ib-ba-t[i-ka im-ma-li] rev16r a-na-ku an-n-t\im-ma\ Kyl7ad-bu-ub-sum
-ul [i-q-ul] revl8 L se-t[u] i[l*-q-ma] Teyl9as-$um a-wa-tim an-n-ti\m-ma1
rev.20 ri-tr-s-du id-bu-uK \i-ba-al--im] rey2lawliMESsa-ra-ri us-ta-[as-bi-it-ma]
Tey-22ka-ar-si-su i-[ku-lu] rey23ki-ma tup-pi ka-a[r-si-su-ma] Tey24rf-tu-ur-m a
i-\ba-al-im I ez-25[a]-na LTJ*-ME^ \sa-ra-ri1 eg26ke-em [iq-bi um-ma-mi] eg-27fl[fka-nim -s le-q-nim] sideeg2sum-ma at-tu-nu-ma I-tr-s-du -sa-hi-za-ni<r>sideeg-29fi na-ap-sa-am ni-du-uk* te4-mu-um an-nu-um sideeg-305 a* ^ lha-ammi-sa-gi-is-ma L-ME su-nu-ti [X X ] side eg-31LU2 SU-U2 us-ta-as-bi-it

(Archives pistolaires deM aril/l, ARMT 26 [Paris: Recherche sur les civilisations, 1988], 574-75);
Durand, Sur Katlim(m)u/Sh-Hmad, 59-61.
14Dossin, ARM 10.73, pi. 32; Dossin and Finet, ARMT 10.73,110-13; De Kuyper, Grundeigentum in Mari, 75; Durand, LAPD 18, text 1249 [X 73], pp. 475-78; Guichard, Te remariage,
25 . 42.

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Journal ofBiblical Literature 134, no. 3 (2015)


1To my Lord speak: 2Thus (says) Inib-Sarri, your lady, 3aNot long ago, when
4bmy lord 53defeated 3b[the enemy] 43of Ida-Maras 4ca t ... sbItr-Asd b[spoke]
73thusly bto Ibl-Addu, How long . . . d o you 8remain here 93 in opposition (to
me)?
^Concerning Yap^ur-Lm, 9bItrAsd egllalso spoke to him as follows,
egl3D 0 not take egl2bthe home o f Yaphur-Lim egl2bwithout (the approval) of
the king! rev l4The man (i.e. the king) is powerful. On no account ^ ^ 5should the
king be angry with you.
revl63As for me, rev-173I discussed revl6bthis matter (with him). revl7b(Yet)
without any regard, revl8he took the house of this man. revl9aEven though
rev-203Itr-Asd had discussed revl9bthis issue (with him), rev-20b[IblAddu]
^^-^instruct[ed] the dishonest men rev-22(who) then denoun[ced him] rev23in the
(same) way [they den]ounced him (on the) tablet. rev-24Again Ibl-Addu [s^oke]
eg-25to the dishonest men ^ ^ 4(concerning) Itr-Asd eg-26as follows, eg-27G [ 0
and take his house!] sideeg-28(But) you (will say) the following, sideeg-293Itr-Asd
made us seize (the house) and so we killed (that) man. side eg-29bThis news side
eg-30a(comes) from a servant of Hammi-sagis. sideeg-31That man (Ibl-Addu was
the one who) instructed ^ ^ ^th o se ( d i s h n e s t ) men.15

Commentary
The opening 0fInib$arris missive defies the conventions of the day. She dispenses with the customary inquiries after her fathers health, an absence that
imbues the letter with an undercurrent of urgency. According to lines 3-5, ZimriLim had launched a successful sortie in defense of IdaMara. Ibl-Addu, who, as
Zimri-Lims appointedpn'raws inter pares in I d ^ a r a , by o b lig tio h o th personal
and political, most assuredly imparted his assistance. Despite the successful conelusion of the raid, Ibl-Addu loitered among the columns in toe palace at Na^ur.
This idleness drew Itr-Asds attention, prompting him to press Ibl-Addu about
his plans.
While his inquiry may seem innocuous enough, it nevertheless has pointed
undertones. Itr-Asds consternation is caused by Ibl-Addus inchoate objective
to seize property belonging to a certain Yap^ur-Lim. to ARM 28, Yap^ur-Lim
describes himself as one ofthree sugg, tribal leaders or sheiks, in Lu^ay.^ Even
though ARM 73. uses toe logogram E2 = bitum to describe toe dwelling and
household, it is clear that his is more than just a hovel on the ^abur. Yap^ur-Lms
own letters substantiate that he held sway in Izallu, a city that Durand places West
of Ida-Mara and next to toe kingdom of ASlakk. Eor all intents and purposes,

15 This translation and all subsequent translations in this discussion are my own.
16ARM 28.120 [A. 504], pp. 177-78; l.meS su-ga-gi, line 4; 1 su-ga-gimtl, line 28. Even
though a tribe nominated a suggu for toe position, the Mari king had officially to recognize toe
appointment for it to be valid. See further ?ierre Villard, Nomination dun Scheich, Florilegium
marianum 2 (1994): 291-97, esp. 293.

Kitz: Naboths Vineyard fter Mari andAmarna

535

Yaphur-Lm is a vassal ofZimri-Lim. The rivalry between Ibl-Addu and YaphurLim seems to span snme years.
Neither Itr-Asds resolute instructions (lines eg13-rev15) nor lnibarris
counsels (lines revT 6 -revT7) deter Ibl-Addu from his designs. He brazenly confiscates the house and kills Yaphur-Lim. Then he puts into play a well-crafted strategy
that plainly demanded malice aforethought.
Ibl-Addu avails himself of a procedure that should echo in the ears of scholars a^uainted with the tale of Naboths vineyard. Inib-Sarris letter fters conclusive evidence that Jezebel employed a well-known scheme. We may reconstruct the
following sequence of events. Ibl-Addu, apparently caught with his hand in the
cookie jar, quickly gathers a coterie of individuals 0 f L U 2.MES sarriy dishonest
men (lines rev-21, eg25). He then composes a letter laying blame on Itr-Asd and
dispatches his dishonest men with the tablet to Zimri-Lim. Inib-Sarri describes
this act as karssu kuly which, as noted above, literally means, they ate his pieces,
that is they denounced him (Itr-Asd) (rev-22).
Should this be an accurate restoration ofthe transactions, Inib-Sarris letter is,
in all probability, a hastily written communication intended for delivery into her
fathers hands as soon as possible. Certainly ARM 10.73 reveals Inib-Sarri to be a
very shrewd woman skilled in diplomatic language. She discreetly insinuates an
uncanny coordination between the wording of the tablet and toe LU2.MES sarris
public allegations against Itr-Asd. As if to give the information greater impact,
Inib-Sarri quotes Ibl-Addus instructions to his cohorts in crime, Go and take his
house. But you will say the following, Itr-Asd made us seize (the house) and so
we killed that m an (lines eg27- side eg29). Inib-$arri has folly exposed Ibl-Addus
duplicitous nature as he strives to lay responsibility for toe death of Yaphur-Lm
and the dispersal of his household at the feet of Zimri-Lims representative,
Itr-Asd.

HL P a r a d i g m s

fo r

C o m p a r is o n

The Old Babylonian Mari letter offers new insight into toe social context of
1 Kgs 21. The date of ARM 10.73 allows toe assigning of an early rather than late,
that is, Persian, origin to the biblical pericope. It also confirms that Jezebels machinations are not the result of authorial imagination; rather, toe pericope actually
describes an incident of karsi aklu without using toe phrase.
Key to understanding I Kgs 21:1-16 is toe intriguing Akkadian idiom, karst
aklu. Scholars maintain that this expression refers to gossip, rumors, or idle chatter indicative of the petty rivalries so often found in centralized palatial systems.
Benno Landsberger suggested that kil karsi refers to the institution of a public
informer.17 A. Leo Gppenheim concluded, The expression kil karsi (CAD s.v.)
17Benno Landsberger, Remarks on the Archive of the Soldier Ubarum, JCS 9 (1955):
121-31,esp. 124.

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Journal ofBiblical Literature ^, no. 3 (2015)

is much less o^robrious and is restricted to literary texts and to situations outside
of the court of justice, to denunciations, jealousies at court, etc.18
This understanding should be set aside, as a review of the phrases use in letters, treaties, and even poetry indicates that the fundamental meaning of the idiom
is (accuse of) disloyalty, which in the political arena constitutes nothing other
than treason.
Karst is plural because it refers to a sequence of acts that betray a carefully
calculated plan. When the deeds are gathered together and placed in chronological
order, they demonstrate a conspiracy of disloyalty and treason. Behind aklu is the
notion of diminishment. The conspirators person and position are eaten away bit
by bit through the declaration of these acts until what lies beneath is laid bare. So
glaring is this exposure that the accused cannot deny his duplicity.
Essential to the hoped-for success of such a course of action are foe LU2.MES
sarri (dishonest men), who are the equivalents of the in
! Kgs 2 0: and in V. 13.19 foc$c coteries are responsible for
the public denunciation of the targeted individual, and it is certainly possible that
part of their duty is to gather and/or generate all the evidence necessary to prove
foe guilt of the accused.
Even though foe data in ARM 0.73 support a more nuanced comparison
with Kgs 21, such comparative analyses are fraught with accidental consequences. The greatest peril is foe presumption ofa parallel that on closer scrutiny
proves to be unsustainable. For this reason, a reliable foundation on which to base
the comparison is essential for an accurate and successful examination. This
necessitates foe development of paradigms to ensure precision and prevent
unwanted digressions.

The Protocol ofPolitical Intrigue


The legal procedure associated with karstakalu follows a specific protocol, and
ARM 10.73 proffers foe means to generate basic standard paradigms.^ In this case,
viable models depend on three fundamental points: (1) identifying foe individuals
18A. Leo Oppenheim, The Eyes of the Lord? JAOS 88 (80- 174 968(, here 177 n. 9, http://
dx.doi.org/10.2307/597911. See also Jack M. Sassons invigorating article Nothing So Swift as
Calumny: Slander and Justification at the Mari Court, in Ancient Near East, A Life! Festschrift
Karel Van Lerberghe, ed. Tom Boiy et al., OLA 220 (Leuven: ?eeters, 2012), 525-42.
19 fo e definition of the Stative verb sarru from which sarri derives has evolved slightly
over the years. Wolfram von Soden proposed to be unstable, be false, tobe untrue (AHw 2:1028).
CAD advanced to cheat, be frise, to be a criminal (15:174-75), while foorkild Jacobsen offered
fleeting, momentary, insubstantial, false, lies (fo e Graven Image, in Ancient Israelite Religion:
Essays in Honor of Frank Moore Cross, ed. Patrick D. Miller Jr., Paul D. Hanson, and s. Dean
McBride [Philadelphia: Portress, 1987], 15-32, esp. 19).
20 fo e schema given here includes only foe most fundamental elements associated with the
procedure.

Kitz: Naboths Vineyard after Mari and Amarna

537

named in the letter, (2) establishing their social positions, and (3) determining the
nature oftheir political relationships. The hierarchy ofrank and the directional flow
of information from one party to the other also play a role. The final forms of these
models are a hypothetical reconstruction of events based on the ideal flow of power
from one authorized party to another.
Hierarchical Power Structure
Tribal Sheik *Immediate Superior^ >Immediate Superior <Primary Superior
(TS)
( $
(1
(PS)
Yaphur-Lm (TS) >Ibl-Addu/Inib-Sarri (IS2) >Itr-Asd (IS1) *Zimr-Lm (PS)
Naboth (TS)/(IS2) -> Jezreel Tribe (IS2) > Ahab/Jezebel (IS1)
YHWH (PS)

The historical c o n t e x t of ARM 10.73 reveals a four-tier h ie r a r c h ic a l s tr u c tu r e .


In descending order these are PS, IS1, IS2, and Anally TS. I Kings 21 comfortably
accommodates the sem ence and in so doing brings to the fore YHWHs preeminent position. All legitimate authority originates from this pinnacle. Just as ZimriLim appointed Itr-Asd and Ibl-Addu to their respective political ranks and are,
therefore, personally responsible to foe Mari king, so are Ahab and Jezebel, as well
as the elders and nobles of Jezreel, equally accountable to YHWH. For these individuals, foe issue then becomes the 'exercise of this power in accordance with
the will of the PS, foe Primary Superior.
Protocol p r o n u n c ia tio n

Denounced Agents o f the Denunciation > Denouncer > Primary Superior


(
(AD)
(Der)
(PS)
YaphurL1m (T S)/(D *) <- LU2.MES sarri (AD) <- Ibl-Addu (IS2)/(D er)
Itr-Asd (IS1)/(D ed) - Ibl-Addu (IS2)/(D er) LU2.MES sarri (AD) - >Zimrl-L 1m (PS)
Ibl-Addu (IS2)/(D ed) <- Inib-Sarri (IS2/1)/(D er) *Zimr-Lm (PS)
Naboth (TS/Ded) <( AD) - Jezreel Tribe (IS2)/(D ed) - Jezebel (lSl)/(O eT)

This paradigm reveals that foe LU2.MES sarri and


are not
themselves denouncers but agents ofthe denunciation (AD), ^ e y are foe intercursitors who publically accuse another on behalf of their superiors. This likewise
suggests that they may be professionals who offer a range of services for the right
price. We may also note that IS2 individuals appear to hire them.

IV. ARM

1 0 . 7 3 a n d 1 K in g s 2 1

The above paradigms will now be applied to the two texts presently under
consideration. The aim is to provide an accurate comparison and thus to allow foe
two documents to bring clarity to each other. Other Amarna letters, especially

538

Journal ofBiblical Literature 134, no. 3 (2015)

those texts written by Labaya of Shechem, will be brought to the dlseusslon to


underscore the persistence o f vocabulary and expression in the fourteenth century
and build a bridge between the Mari letters and Naboths vineyard.

The Denounced (Ded)


^ e r e are five denunciations. According to rank these are Yap^ur-Lim (TS),
Naboth (TS), Ibl-Addu (IS2) and Itr-Asd (IS1). A fifth, foe tribe of Jezreel, is
implied. Yap^ur-Lim and Naboth offer interesting social parallels, as both are tribal
leaders. Even though Jezebel is the source ofthe arrangements, foe fact that Naboth
may readily occupy a seat , at foe head of the assembly, suggests that
he Is of high social rank (v. 9). He could well be the leader of , foe
elders and nobles (w. 8,11). ^ i s point, of course, is neither new nor surprising.
The question that does arise concerns the Jezreehtes. Are foey denouncers (Der) or
were foey themselves denounced (Ded)? If the latter, only Jezebel was in a position
to do so. Certainly her letter suggests as much when she commands the elders and
nobles to proclaim a fast (v 9). ^ i s particular directive obliquely accuses them of
corporate guilt similar to that which the Israelites suffered in Josh 7 as a result of
the sin of Achan. The Jezreehtes are harboring a traitor, Naboth, and as long as they
shelter him foey are implicated in his treason. This is a serious accusation. If the
Jezreehtes were to leave foe issue unaddressed, they would endanger their entire
patrimonial holding. By shielding Naboth, foey conveniently provide a legal justification for foe crown to seize all tribal land.
The mechanism in play here is a time-honored custom. The exoneration and,
therefore, the survival of the whole are contingent on the elimination of Naboth
and his corrupting influence. In foe end, foe elders and nobles have no choice but
to sacrifice their kinsman. Thus, ft is likely that Jezebel did indeed denounce the
Jezreehtes. With Naboth dead, Ahab seizes the vineyard, Jezreel is saved, and the
crown is s a tis fie d .
Inib-Sarris pressing missive does not present a very clear image of Yap^urLims status. Other letters written by the sheik sharpen the picture considerably. As
noted above, Yap^ur-Lim was a suggUy a tribal leader in foe area of Lu^ay. He
and his two peers, ^ m d iya and Yadra^am, are vassals of Zimri-Lim. As a group
foey correspond with the Mari king directly, and, since Yap^ur-Lm is the first
name in foe list of addressors, he could well be their leader. The free exchange of
other letters between the Mari king and Yap^ur-Lim similarly reflects his senior
position.
One correspondence written by Yap^ur-Lm [A.1941], albeit unedited and
only a portion of which Durand quotes, is especially informative.
Ibl-Addu said to me: Why did you go to Zimri-him? That is why he took my
home, my people, and my daughters. Once again 1 went to my Lord. Due to the
fact 1 went to my Lord, Ibl-Addu sold my daughters, a priestess of
and a
priestess of Sin, for 50 shekels of silver in Hurra. My Lord sent Bl.sunu, his

Kitz: Naboths Vineyard after Mari and Amarna

539

servant, to Ibl-Addu, to tell him: Free the people ofYaphur-Lm! Ibl-Addu


did not eare at all about what was said to him my Lord!21

Since the entire text is not available, only a few cautious observations are possible.
Ibl-Addusmotivation is revenge.^ It appears thatYap^ur-Lm initially denounced
Ibl-Addu to Zimri-Lim for some offense. Learning of this, Ibl-Addu confiscates
Yap^ur-Lms assets. When the tribal leader complains again, Yap^ur-Lims sells his
daughters, and after a third denunciation, Zimri-Lim dispatches a representative
to Ibl-Addu to demand the release of Yap^ur-Lms family. This was an exercise in
futility. Nothing distracted Ibl-Addu from his course of action. Bit by bit he strips
Yap^ur-Lm of his family, his house, and finally his life. The important point here
is that Yap^ur-Lm always remained loyal to Zimri-Lim. His fetal error was to
inform the Mari king of Ibl-Addus expanding illicit acts.
The text proves that Yap^ur-Lim lived for a period after the fell ofhis household
and suggests that his eventual demise resulted from a series o ^ calatin g steps that
occurred over a period of time. Although foe specifics of these steps are not immediately apparent. It Is possible that, like Jezebel, Ibl-Addu pressured the other suggy
as well as the tribal citizens oflzallu, to relinquish Yap^ur-Lim. IfYap^ur-Lim was
indeed the foremost sugagu, then the domination ofLu^aywas as simple as eradicating its leader. The others, like foe Jezreelites, could not help but fell in line.
Those who are denounced have only one option: to appeal to the FS. Two
Amarna letters, EA 252 and 254, written by Labaya of Shechem afiirm this point in
familiar language:
uhqa-bi u qa-ar-si2-ia si-ir-ti 15i-napa-ni MLUGAL-ma be-li2-ia (EA 252)23
13bHe has 14denounced me, I am slandered 15in the presence ofthe king, my lord
16a-nu-ma yi-ka-lu ka-ar-si2-ia 17ha-ba-lu-ma u3 la-a 18yu 2-sa3-an-ni-qu2 sar3 EN-/fl 19ar-ni-ia (EA 254)25
16Now they denounce me 171unjustly, and 1sbthe king, my lord 1^does not
18ainvestigate (what) 1myoffense (maybe).

21Durand, LAPO 18, text 1249 [X 73], p. 477, comment d.


22This motivation aligns with Nadav Naamaris observation concerning the cause of Jehus
eradication of the heirs of Omri (Naboths Vineyard and the Foundation of Jezreel, /SOT 33
[2008]: 197-218, esp. 213).
23Carl Bezold and E. A. Wallis Budge, The Tell El-Amarna Tablets in the British Museum
(London: Trustees ofthe British Museum, 1892) copy: p. 117, pi. 21, letter 61 [BM.29844].
^ ^ e r e remains some variety among scholars regarding the appropriate translation ofthese
two lines, ili/e qab qartsa sirtu He is/was able to denounce me: I am denounced( Baruch
Halpern and John Huehnergard, El-Amarna Letter 252, Or51 [1982]: 227-30, esp. 228 and 229
n. 14) He has slandered me: 1 am slandered (William L. Moran, ed. and trans.. The Amarna
Letters [Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992], 305).
25Hugo Winckler and Ludwig Abel, Der Thontafelfund von El Amarna (3 vols, in 1;
Mittheilungen aus den orientalischen Sammlungen der kniglichen Museen zu Berlin - 3
Berlin: spemann, 1890), 2/1, copy, pl. 112; text 112, tablet (VAT 335).

540

Journal ofBiblical Literature 34, no. 3 ( 2 0 5)

EA252 is extraordinary because ofthe West Semitic gloss sirt attached to q/kars.26
Whether its appearance here is explanatory or emphatic, q/karst and kars aklu
maintained their relevance and meaning long after Mari had evaporated from the
Mesopotamian stage.
The protocol was as follows: (1) an individual (qab) or group (yikal) may
present evidence to substantiate the accusation; (2) the proofis disposed in person
before {ina pni) the PS; (3) the denounced person may contact the PS claiming an
injustice (hablu); and (4) finally, the PS is graciously expected to examine (yusanniqu) the circumstances.

The Agents ofDenunciation ( ) and karst aklu


The agents of denunciation are the ( w . 10, 13) and the
sarriy dishonest men (lines rev-21, 25). ^ e y are the public face of
otherwise hidden machinations.
Jezebel hired by proxy. She induces the Jezreelites to engage
for the monarchys private purposes and, in all probability, provided the necessary funds. That the queen should do so suggests that there were,
in fact, no authentic witnesses to Naboths seditious comment aside from herself
and/or Ahab. To counteract this deficiency as well as distance the crown from
any involvement, Jezebel gives explicit instructions to the Jezreelite leadership
regarding . She quotes exactly what they are to say:
, You (Naboth) have cursed God and king (v 10), a statement that renounces
the authority ofthe PS and IS1.27
ARM 10.73 bears some similarities. The LU2.MES sarar are clearly in the
employ of Ibl-Addu. It is significant that, rather than appearing personally before
Zimri-Lim, Ibl-Addu dispatches his LU2.MES sarri to communicate his justifications. He is hedging his bet and, at foe same time, offering a glimpse into his guilt.
Inib-Sarris careful description ofthe LU2.MES sarris testimony against Itr-Asd
insinuates that Ibl-Addu, like Jezebel but indirectly, schooled them on the content
l u 2. m e s

^William F. Albright proposed that sirt is a passive preterite that derives from the root
sw/yr, to triek, betray (An Archaic Hebrew Proverb in an Amarna Letter from Central Palestine,
BASOR 89 [1943]: 29-32, here 30 n. 13). Moran pronounced the question of etymology a moot
point but suggested that foe roots Iw/yr and sr have equal claims. For him sirt is a qal passive
perfect (The Syrian Scribe of foe Jerusalem Amarna Letters, in Unity and Diversity: Essays in the
History Literature, and Religion of the Ancient Near East, ed. Hans Goedicke and ]. . M. Roberts,
JHNES [Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1975], 16-62 n. 38). Halpern and Heuhnergard
advocate a G perfect (El-Amarna Letter 252, 299 n. 14). The possibility of a derivation from the
root Pr < is intriguing. T*r is attested in Ugaritic, Sabaean, Classical and Modern Arabic with
foe meaning avenge foe blood, revenge, retaliate. ff so, sirt would be explanatory and qabqartsa
sirt could mean, He has denounced me: 1 am the object of blood revenge.
27The word ( bless) functions as a euphemism for curse. The ancient editors were
reluctant to express such a sacrilegious act in writing.

Kitz: Naboths Vineyard after Mari andAmarna

541

of the evtdence. That Ibl-Addu seeks to manipulate the LU2.MES sarri in this way
demonstrates his desire to corrupt a process that is otherwise meant to protect the
rights of all the parties involved. In this Ibl-Addu and Jezebel share the same
crime.
The l u 2.m e s sarri and could well have played a role in the
subsequent murders. The Mari letter indicates that Yap^ur-Lim died at the hands
of the l u 2.m e s sarri. Since they are Ibl-Addus men bound to do his bidding, he
cannot deny his involvement. To deflect his culpability, the king of ASlakk had
only one option: claim that Itr-Asd ordered Yap^ur-Lims death.
The biblical passage is at pains to describe the corporate execution ofthe death
sentence. Although the text is silent with regard to the role that
may or may not have played in Naboths death, ARM 1 7 3. suggests that they too
were involved.
A slightly different form of LU2.MES sarri appears in two other Amarna letters, EA 160 and 161 as LU2.MES sarrti. ^ e s e Middle Babylonian texts were written by Aziru of Amurru, a political gadfly in the dance of dominance between the
Egyptian and Hittite kingdoms. Both letters use the phrase karst aklu to describe
the l u 2.m e sarrtis acts.
a-na-ku LU2A R A D -ka a-di da2-ri-ti 303 LUGAL a-na LU2.ME" sa-ar-ru-ti
i-rkar-lu-u2-nim kar3-si-ia32a-n[apa-]ni E N -ifl la te-se-im-mi (EA 160)28

29E N -/a
31[5 ]a

29My Lord, 1 am your servant forever 30aand may the king ^ n o t listen 3Obto the
dishonest men 31who denounce me 32ab[efor]e my lord.
7E N di-m i

a-na LU2.M E >sa-ar-ru-ti 8sa i-ka3-lu-u2-nim kar3-si-ia 9a-na pa-ni


la-a te-se-em-me-e 10a-na-ku-mi LU2.A R A D -ka a-di da2-ri-ti (EA

LUGAL EN -ia

161)29
7aMy lord, 9bdo not listen 7bto the dishonest men 7awho denounce me before foe
king, my lord. 10I am your servant forever.

Azirus desperate plea to ?haraoh not to listen (sem) to foe LU2.ME sarrti not
only indicates the oral delivery of the information but also the status of the LU2.
MES sarrti as messengers. As such, they are boundary crossers, afforded the
protection of safe passage to accomplish their assignments. This diplomatic position likewise obligates them to report back to their employers. Consequently, when
1 Kgs 21:15 states as soon as Jezebel heard [ ] that Naboth had been stoned
and was dead, it is feasible that she heard the news from . Of

^Winclder and Abel, Der Thontafelfund von ElAmarna, 2/1, copy, pl. 41 tablet 34[ EM.l,
25,1575]; Shlomo Izreel, Amarna Tablets in the Collection ofthe ?ushkin Museum of Eine Arts,
Moscow,/Sew 7 (1995): 125-52 + pis. i-ix, photograph, pis. vi-ix.
29Bezold and Budge, Tell El-Amarna Tablets in the British Museuniy copy, 72-73, letter 35,
tablets [BM. 29818; BU 88-10-13, 76]; photograph, pi. 22, letter 35.

542

Journal ofBiblical Literature 134, no. 3 (2015)

necessity, Jezebel and Itr-Asd relied on these Individuals to validate the consummation of the task at hand: the death of their respective adversaries.
On the basis of these parallels, several points regarding the Agents of Denun
ciation emerge: (1) the terms and LU2.MES sarri/sarrti refer to
a category of people; (2) their character is defined by the attending adjectives;
(3) they are hirelings, personally answerable to their employers; (4) they function
as messengers and/or executors of nefarious words and deeds; and (5) they are
responsible for the public denunciation of those suspected of treason.
The Amarna texts, in particular, confirm the continuity of context that links
the act of karsiaklu to the LU2.MES sarri/sarrti. Even the Hebrew Bible makes a
similar connection. Proverbs 19:28 observes wi sel y,
, A worthless witness mocks justice, and the mouth of the wicked devours
nothingness.

The Immediate Superior2 (IS2) and Immediate Superior1 (IS1)


^ e r e is a tactical divergence between the two texts on the IS2 to IS1levels. The
affiliation between Ibl-Addu and Itr-Asd and the Jezreelite leaders and Jezebel
is an IS2 to IS1hierarchical relationship. Even though Ibl-Addu and the elders and
nobles of Jezreel may occupy the same position-that is, the third tier as IS2IblAddu acts as though he were an IS1. As Jezebel acts, so does he. The Israelite queen,
however, functions well within the prerogatives due the IS1 status she and her husband enjoy. The distinction recommends that Ibl-Addu is the more grievous
o ffe n d e r .

The king of ASlakks aspiration to grander things exposes his two-front strategy. First, he sought to expand his authority by annexing Yap^ur-Lims city to his
sphere of influence. Second, he labored to implicate Itr-Asd in a treasonous act
that, if proved true, would compel Zimri-Lim to remove him from his appointment
in Na^ur. Ibl-Addus tangled web is both audacious and imprudent, for he foils
to consider his wife. He clearly underestimates Inib-Sarris political acumen and
familial loyalty.
Inib-Sarri comes into view as a strategic player in this multilayered scheme.
Her unique social position is eminently clear, as she occupies a rank that is almost
equal to that of her husband. While she might be married to an IS2, her status as
the daughter of Zimri-Lim grants her privileges beyond those of an ordinary queen.
Thus, Itr-Asd and Inib-Sarri are social equals both of whom have direct access
to the PS. Presumably Ahab and Jezebel enjoy the same privilege, namely, access to
YHWH.30 ^erefore, the issue for the king and queen of Israel becomes one of
divine authorization. The tenor of 1 Kgs 21 certainly suggests that they operated
on their own.
In the end, Ibl-Addu and Jezebel are united in the crimes they perpetrate.
They are the instigating parties of false accusations of disloyalty, Ibl-Addu against
^Jezebel, like Inib-Sarri, was probably free to contact her father, Ithobaal, if she so wished.

Kitz: Naboths Vineyard after Mari and Amarna

543

Itr-Asd and Jezebel against Naboth. In $ doing they are revealed to be bona fide
Their deceptions betray their ?rimary Superiors, Zimri-Lim and YHWH.

t r a ito r s .

Treason and the Primary Superior (PS)


ARM 10.73 and 1 Kgs21 have fundamentally distinct andintrinsically unequal
Primary Superiors. The former has Zimri-Lim, a mortal and all-too-human king.
The latter has YHWH, an omniscient and omnipotent divine king who issues his
condemnation of Ahab through his prophet Elijah in w . 17-24. Scholars have seen
w . 20by-24, in particular, as Deuteronomistic interpretations ofthe Naboth affair,
sudden in judgment and savage in punishment. This harshness stands in stark
contrast to the mercy YHWH extends to Ahab after he repents of Naboths murder
in w . 27-29. But which response is more in keeping with ancient Near Eastern
monarchical governance?
Unfortunately we cannot turn to Zimri-Lim for his reaction to Ibl-Addus
scheming, as a letter regarding this issue does not seem to have survived. Even so,
it is possible to reconstruct a few specifics. This is due to foe fortuitous survival of
EA 162, in which Pharaoh addresses Azirus seditious activities concerning his part
in foe death of Rib-Hadda, the usurped king of Byblos.
n u 3 i-n a VKU.si2-d u -n a a -si-ib u3 ta 2- a t-ta 2-d i3-in -su u a -n a LU2.ME h a -za -n u u2- ti k i-i te4-e -m i-i-k a u u2-u l ti-i-d e9 sa 3-a r-ru -u t-ta 2 s a u j 2.ME$ ... 16a m -m i3-n i
la -a ta 2-a -k u -u l k ar-si2-i-su a -n a p a - n i LUGAL E N - ^ 17u m -m a -a LU2 h a -za -a n nu a n -n u -u 2 il-ta p -ra -a n -n i u m -m a -a 18li-q a 2-a n -n i a -n a k a -a -sa 3 S u -ri-ba-an ni i-n a URU.Ki-ifl
33w3 su m -m a te-ip -p u -u s ARAD-ta 2 a -n a LUGAL EN-ka 343 m i-n a -a sa u 2-u l ip-

p u -sa -a k -k u LUGAL a -n a k a 3- a - s a 35su m -m a as-su m m i-im -m a d a -ra -a m e-p i2-si


li4- m u -u t-ti 36u3 su m -m a ta 2-la -a k -k a 3-an le4- m u -u t-ti a - rw a '- te .ME s?sa 3-arru -u t-ti i-n a lib3-b i-k a u3 i-n a h a -ra f - s i 2- i n - n i 38sa LUGAL ta 2-m a -a t q a - d u g a b 2rb f k i-im -ti-k a (EA 162).31

12aHe (Rib-Hadda) was living in Sidon and, 13follow ing your own initiative,
12byou transferred him 13ato (the authority of other) mayors. 14Did you not know
the dishonesties of (these) men?... 16why did you not denounce him (to) the
king, your lord, ^saying, This leader has written me, saying, *8Take me for
yourself and send me to my city?
33But if you perform your service for foe king, your lord 34(then) what is there
that the king will not do for you? 35If for some reason it gratifies you to do evil,
^and if you harbor evil plans, ^dishonesties in your heart, then you, together
with your entire household,38 shall die by the axe ofthe king.

With these lines, PharaGh lays bare foe crux Gf Azirus activities. Into the fabric of
the letter is woven the antithetical theme ofloyalty vs. disloyalty beaded with foe
31Winckler and Abel, Der Thontafelfund von Amarna, copy, pl. 95a-b, tablet 92 [VAT
347], lines 12-18, 33-38.

544

Journal ofBiblical Literature 134, no. 3 (2015)

vocabulary of offense and denunciation, ^ e s e beads are sarrttiy dishonesties


(lines 14,37), a m m lni l tkul karsxsUy Why did you not denounce him (line 16),
ttepus k k x tti ... ul knay you did act loyally . . . true
( line 19), pisi limuttiy
do evil (line 35), and tasakkan lem utti awte. MES, literally, you seize upon evil
words (line 36).
According to Pharaoh, the failure to denounce, karsx aklUy Rib-Hadda is
evil and bespeaks Azrius own duplicitous behavior. The sarrtta sa LU2MES, the
outright dishonesties of the (other) men, who probably killed Rlb-Hadda, is contrasted with sarrtti ina libbxkay the interior dishonesties of your (Azirus) heart.
If not in act, Aziru is in thought none other than the instigator behind the accusation of the l u 2.meS sarri. He too is a dishonest man because he has lied to
Pharaoh. Since Aziru has not written the truth (lines 19-20), the Egyptian king, for
all intents and purposes, is karsx aklUy eating (Azirus) pieces in this letter.
Pharaohs communication is a letter of warning. Tike other ancient absolute
rulers, he compels obedience by threatening Aziru and his family with extermination (lines 37-38). Nevertheless, he gives Aziru a second chance, and even provides
the means to achieve exoneration: the completion of an extensive list of tasks as
specified in the kings missive.
It seems likely that Zimri-Tim tendered an equally magnanimous and wellmodulated response to Ibl-Addu. The king of Aslakk certainly survives this
course of intrigue, as his many correspondences subsequent to lnib-$arris letter
attest. Zimri-Lim evidently needed Ibl-Addu in the Ida-Maras district. It may be
that he was a very influential local ruler who maintained the political equilibrium
in that part of the Upper Habur region. At the same time, however, Zimri-Tim
could draw solace from Inib-Sarri. Since she had been so successful in uncovering
Ibl-Addu sinister dealings, her ongoing presence there would certainly keep the
king of Aslakk in line. These circumstances, if accurate, suggest that the Mari king
c o u ld be like other ancient Near Eastern m o n a r c h . W h ile he would not have tolerated traitors, he nevertheless appears tobe firm but fair and given to second chances.
One might argue that the Hebrew Bible presents a different picture, since it
has a religious component that the Mari and Amarna letters lack. Unlike Zimri-Lim
or even Pharaoh, H W H is immortal. When taken as a whole, however, 1 Kgs
21:17-18, 229 - ,22
27 - is comparable to Pharaohs letter. This is where YHWH
karsxsuxkuly eatshis [Ahabs] pieces.^ e r e fo r e ,E lija h is Y H ^ s A gn tofD en u n ciation, who on behalf of his divine king pronounces Ahab guilty of treason. The
Israelite king immediately recoils with humility (v 27). He abases himself and
mourns his deceitful deed. Much impressed, YHWH relinquishes his ire and grants
Ahab a reprieve. The divine mercy shown in w . 27-29 is, therefore, an integral part
of the story. To view these verses as merely a Deuteronomistic realignment of history does the text a disservice. For it is here that YHWH reveals himself to be the
epitome of a wise and tolerant ancient Near Eastern monarch in keeping with his
human counterparts Zimri-Tim and Pharaoh.

Kitz: Naboths Vineyard after Mari andAmarna

545

In the end, however, it is the historical environment of the Mari and Amarna
letters that throws into reliefa finely tuned irony. Rather than the falsely accused
Naboth, it is Ahab and Jezebel who are guilty of treason against YHWH. For what
could be more treacherous that deigning to usurp heavenly authority by redistributing YHWHs property according to personal whims? In point of fact, Ahab as an
IS* is, in all respects, nothing more than YHWHs vassal.

V. C o n c l u s i o n

The ancient Near Eastern cultural milieu of the Naboth incident invites the
following observations. The essential pattern of 1 Kgs 21 is consistent with the
content of Mari and Amarna letters regarding karsiaklu and treasonous acts. The
full literary Gattung exploited therein is more than familiar: (1) the contrivance of
a crime, (2) the execution the crime, (3) denunciation, (4) repentance, and (5) qualified forgiveness.
The inclusive impact of the pericope depends on an awareness ohierarchical
governance and the structural flow of authority. Honoring this organization
supports accepted legal procedures, the protocols of which are designed to protect
the rights of parties caught in the net of ancient Near Eastern political stratagems.
The Akkadian phrase karsiaklu is an enduring, archaic descriptive term that refers
to the act of denouncing someone for the crime of disloyalty. It can apply to those
moments when an individual of lower authority, a TS or IS2, accuses an associate
of higher authority, here the IS2 or IS*, to the overlord PS. At the same time, however, the PS can likewise exercise karsi aklu against an underling.
In the examples discussed above, the procedure is exploited to commit and
conceal a crime through omission and/or deflection. It is murder by proxy for the
purpose of confiscating property to increase ones power base. Ibl-Addu kills
Yap^ur-Lim to seize control of Lu^ay. Aziru eliminates Rib-Hadda to gain greater
influence over Byblos. Jezebel arranges the demise of Naboth so that Ahab may
expand royal lands, ^ e s e acts augment the power of the IS2/IS* at the expense of
the authority of the PS. ARM 10.73, EA 162, and 1 Kgs 21 record the corrupting
forces of subordinates who refuse to respect the frontiers of their authority. It is
easy to see, therefore, why a Deuteronomistic editor would have found the Naboth
affair ripe for ideological refinement. He need only add a few well-placed statements, such as w . 25-26, to promote his theological perspective.
The question of the historicity of 1 Kgs 21 may never be resolved with certainty. Nevertheless, Ahab and Jezebels maneuverings are features of authentic
ancient Near Eastern political intrigue. That personal letters record these incidents
breathes cultural life into the account of Naboths vineyard that scholars have heretofore not appreciated.


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