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date: 29 July 2021

Abstract and Keywords

The question of religious practice in the historical texts of the Bible not only considers what the texts may have intended to portray as the correct religion but also the reality behind the texts: what did the people of ancient Israel actually believe and practice during the ninth, eighth, seventh, and early sixth centuries bce? In considering the major textual, archaeological, iconographic, and onomastic sources for this period, we will argue that ancient Israel practiced a variety of religious expressions that can be plotted on a continuum from the biblical perspective. There were those who practiced religious forms unrelated to biblical orthodoxy, those who saw YHWH as a chief deity governing a pantheon of lesser deities, and those who worshiped YHWH alone. All three categories have biblical and extrabiblical testimony from both the Historical Books of the Old Testament and from the categories of evidence mentioned above. Having made this point, however, it will be argued that the extrabiblical evidence also witnesses divergences from the Historical Books in terms of new categories of religious expression and in terms of an overall evolution in the movement toward worship of YHWH alone.

Keywords: religion, neo-Assyria, neo-Babylonia, Judah, Hezekiah, Josiah, Yhwh, Baal, Asherah, Israel

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