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Rethinking the Northern Israelite Refugee Theory

Koog-Pyoung Hong 1

1서울장신대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

It has been commonly assumed that a group of northern refugees flooded into Jerusalem after the fall of Samaria (722 BCE) and they played an important role in the ensuring religious reform in Judah. This essay reconsiders the biblical, historical, and archaeological evidence and explores its implications. The Hebrew Bible is almost entirely silent about any mass immigration from northern Israel to Jerusalem. The archaeological evidence of the expansion of the Jerusalem wall, which does prove a major societal change in Judah around the 8th century BCE, still remains inconclusive in proving the influx of northern refugees. Against the underlying assumption that the doomed Israelites would have found refugee in Judah given their ethnic tie, it is pointed out that the realpolitik around Judah and Israel at the wake of the Assyrian threat may not have allowed Hezekiah to accept Israelite refugees. To question the refugee theory is not to categorically reject the influx of Israelites; it is rather to critically rethink the implications of the ambiguity around this theory. While it is true that the refugee theory helps resolve many difficult questions around the composition history of biblical literature, the efficacy of the theory does not ensure its validity. As the uncritical basis of the theory lays bare, one must reconsider its implications to theories that are dependent upon the refugee theory. An uncritical acceptance of the refugee theory frequently resulted in a failure to pay attention to a complex dynamic involved in Judean's creative reception and reinterpration of the old Israelite tradition. It is suggested that in order to better understand this critical period in which Judah found a new self identity and went through a critical theological revolution, one must pay attention to the subtile dynamic between Judah and Israel at the aftermath of the Assyrian conquest. This will lead into a new way of understanding of the composition history of the texts that were composed or compiled in this period.

Citation status

* References for papers published after 2022 are currently being built.