I have two items for my write-up today on Angela Roskop's The Wilderness Itineraries: Genre, Geography, and the Growth of Torah. Itineraries are documents that discuss travel from place to place, and we see itineraries in both the Torah and also other ancient Near Eastern documents. What was their function? Why did the ancients consider it important to tell their audiences about travel from one location to another, to another? Roskop addresses such questions in this book.
In my latest reading, Roskop continues her discussion of the use of
itineraries in royal propaganda in Neo-Assyria and Egypt. She talks
about other ways that the itineraries could have functioned. On page
102, she states that "Sabrina Favaro suggests that itineraries carry an
ideological message of dominance over territory because they convey
detailed knowledge, and knowledge is control", and Roskop believes that
itineraries probably had such a function within Neo-Assyrian propaganda,
since "The early Neo-Assyrian kings would have had an interest in
conveying control of the Habur area..." Roskop also says on page 125
that, in the case of certain Neo-Assyrian uses of itineraries, "Movement
out from the home site to the site of battle and back created a picture
of a geographically coherent empire with the king going out from the
center and wealth coming back to it." According to Roskop, one
function of the use of itineraries in Neo-Assyrian royal propaganda was
to convey the power of the empire.
Roskop also talks about possible literary reasons for the inclusion of itineraries in royal propaganda.
First, on page 120, she says that the use of daybook entries in an
Egyptian description of Egypt's battle with the Hittites served to
"create in the audience tension and excitement". Second, on pages 129-130, in
discussing a Neo-Assyrian battle description, Roskop states that notices
of where people camped provided a "pause in the action that allows the
reader to breathe before the next violent episode..."
proceeds to talk about the wilderness itineraries in the Torah. She
argues that we see in the Torah a priestly layer, and a non-priestly
layer. The non-priestly layer depicts the Israelites leaving Egypt as
refugees. The priestly-layer, by contrast, portrays the Israelites
leaving Egypt as a moving army heading towards Canaan. Roskop
maintains that P's ideology in part was shaped by the destruction of the
Temple, for she contends that P's traveling Tabernacle served to
account "for Yahweh's presence among the Israelites after the
destruction of the Temple" (page 155). For Roskop, P in the Torah is
setting forth a program of post-exilic restoration, which entails the
exiles' return to Israel and their establishment of a cult.
Roskop holds that we see P's ideology in some of the itineraries. First
of all, there is an acknowledgment of the ritual calendar, as
Israelites in P's itineraries rest on the Sabbath rather than
traveling. Second, P in Numbers 33 essentially snubs the Sinai
theophany, for (according to Roskop) P does not want for Sinai or Horeb
(fixed locations) to detract from the moving Tabernacle, which concerns
God's mobile presence with Israel. In a sense, P is using the itineraries to shape and frame the Torah's narratives according to P's ideology.
(UPDATE: I may be misunderstanding Roskop here, for, later in
the book, she posits a model in which P wrote itineraries, later hands
added material to P for various reasons, and then Numbers 33 represented
an attempt to shift the Torah back to P's ideology. I'll get into this a little more in my post tomorrow.)
did P use the annals genre to depict the Israelites as an army leaving
Egypt, especially when P probably did not envision a post-exilic program
that involved military conquest of Canaan by the exiles (or such is my
impression)? In my latest reading, Roskop offers the
suggestion that P is responding to Second Isaiah, who depicts the first
Exodus as a time when the Israelites fled as refugees, whereas the
Second Exodus is one in which they march boldly from Babylon to Israel.
P, in this scenario, wanted to show that the first Exodus was a
time when the Israelites boldly marched. Why? Was it because P wanted
to affirm that the Israelites always had dignity? Was it because P
felt that P could give more authority to a post-exilic program by
setting it in the epic past, rather than by asserting (like Second
Isaiah) that the events of the epic past were not as grand as what was
to come? Roskop may elaborate on this issue later in the book.
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