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The Gendered Language of Warfare in the Israelite-Assyrian Encounter
by Cynthia R. Chapman
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Table of Contents
Recognizing gendered metaphors as literary and ideological tools that biblical and Assyrian authors used in the representation of warfare and its aftermath, this study compares the gendered literary complexes that authors on both sides of the Israelite-Assyrian encounter developed in order to claim victory. The study begins by identifying and tracing historically the presentation of royal masculinity in Assyrian royal texts and reliefs dating from the 9th through 7th centuries bce. Central to this analysis is the Assyrian representation of warfare as a masculine contest in which the enemy male is discredited as a rival through feminization.
The second part of the study focuses on the biblical authors' responses to the Assyrian incursion and demonstrates that the dominant metaphorical complex for recording and remembering Israel and Judah's military encounters with Assyria was that of Jerusalem as a woman. This section, therefore, traces the evolving canonical biography of Jerusalem-the-Woman as her life story is told and remembered in relationship to Assyria.
In the final section of the book, the contest of royal masculinity described in royal Assyrian texts informs the reading of the redactional history of Judah's memory of Assyria, and the insights gained from the study of a feminized Jerusalem are applied to a rereading of the siege scenes of the Assyrian palace reliefs.
Innovative in its use of gendered language as the basis for historical comparison of biblical and Assyrian texts, this book is the first to offer a comprehensive methodology for defining and assessing the impact of gendered language within texts of historically linked cultures. This book also advances the discussion of what has been called "inner-biblical exegesis" by offering gendered metaphors as a lens through which to trace the evolution of Judean social memory within the biblical text.
Cynthia R. Chapman is a Professor of Religious Studies at Oberlin College in Oberlin, OH.
Publisher: Harvard Semitic Museum / Eisenbrauns
Publication date: 2004
Bibliographic info: xii + 203 pages
"...In her masterful Gendered Language of Warfare in the Israelite-Assyrian Encounter she carries the disciplines of Assyriology, ancient Near Eastern iconography, and Hebrew Bible studies light years beyond the .Bible and the ancient Near East. and .biblical history. approaches of the previous generation. She is able to breathe new life into what she labels .the comparative method. (14.15) by bringing the relatively new discipline of gender studies to bear upon the texts.both biblical and Mesopotamian.artifacts, and monumental art that attest to the largely unpleasant encounter between Judah and Assyria.
"Chapman shows that successful masculine performance on the part of an Assyrian or Judean king, including Yahweh, the God of Israel, includes being able to provide food, clothing, and oil for his subjects (see 29.33) and the protection of their women and children from abuse and exploitation (42). The downside (so far as defeated enemies are concerned) of successful masculine performance on the part of a victorious king is the literal and figurative emasculation of the enemies. male soldiers by exposing their genitals, impaling them on stakes, and breaking their bows, which were both the principal weapon of war and phallic symbols (50.51).
"Especially interesting is Chapman.s demonstration that, partly because the Akkadian word for city alu is masculine, the portrayal of the defeat of an enemy city emphasizes its emasculation so that the enemy.s erstwhile soldiers are turned into women, whose accoutrements are the distaff rather than the bow (52.53). Equally fascinating is the fact that Assyrian art and royal inscriptions seldom admit to the possibility of rape in the course of battle on the part of Assyrian soldiers. On the contrary, the victorious Assyrian.s king.s successful masculine performance includes his carrying away the defeated enemy.s women and children fully clothed and unmolested.
"This reviewer looks forward to reading additional studies by Chapman, whose published version of her doctoral dissertation breathes new life into the comparative approach to ancient Near Eastern languages and literatures. The seminal Gendered Language sets higher goals for historians of the ancient Near East and poses new challenges for biblical theologians." -- Mayer Gruber, Ben-Gurion University in Review of Biblical Literature, January 2006
"This is an engaging book, with a wealth of textual analysis beyond what I have outlined here. The argument is well-made and supported, and has broader applications beyond the case of the Israelite-Assyrian encounter. While it was interesting to see how gendered language worked in the earlier biblical texts and the Assyrian material, it was even more fascinating to see how the later biblical authors re-worked the earlier gendered metaphors."—Christine Mitchell, St. Andrew’s College, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan in The Bible and Critical Theory, Volume 2, No. 3, October 2006
"This is an engaging book, with a wealth of textual analysis beyond what I have outlined here. The argument is well-made and supported, and has broader applications beyond the case of the Israelite-Assyrian encounter. While it was interesting to see how gendered language worked in the earlier biblical texts and the Assyrian material, it was even more fascinating to see how the later biblical authors re-worked the earlier gendered metaphors."
--Christine Mitchell, St. Andrew's College, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada, in The Bible and Critical Theory, Vol. 2, Number 3, 2006.
". . . C.'s erudite demonstration of how "a literary battle was pitched after each actual
military encounter" in the ancient Near East (p. 166), as Assyrian and Judean authors created worlds in which both could valorize their own national experience as a triumph of unrivaled (masculine) power."
--Julie Galambush, (William & Mary, Williamsburg, VA) in Catholic
Biblical Quarterly 69 (2007)
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