Proto Holy Wars

The Rescue of Jerusalem: The Alliance Between Hebrews and Africans in 701 BC

By Mark Heffernan

A review of The Rescue Of Jerusalem: The Alliance Between Hebrews And Africans In 701 Bc by Henry T. Aubin

Published on October 1, 2002

The Rescue Of Jerusalem: The Alliance Between Hebrews And Africans In 701 Bc
Henry T. Aubin

Doubleday Canada
$39.95
cloth
420pp
0-385-65912-1

This is a fascinating account of an event that took place in Jerusalem in the 8th century BC, at a time when the cult of Yahweh – only one among a number of Semitic cults – was in the process of becoming a monotheistic religion. The event in question – the ‘deliverance’ of Jerusalem from the threat of annihilation by an Assyrian army in 701 BC – has long been considered a pivotal moment in history. An Assyrian victory would have (in the most dramatic interpretation) crushed the incipient religious orientation that formed the basis of the Jewish, Christian, and Moslem theistic visions. The distinctive trait here is that of a people threatened with extinction but ‘chosen’ to lead the world in the name of their God, a people who hoped that the practice of a higher morality – like that advocated by the profoundly pessimistic Isaiah – would save them from the might of the superpowers (Babylon, Assyria, Egypt).

Aubin sets himself the task of explaining why the rout of Sennacherib’s army, by an Egyptian force under Kushite (Nubian, and therefore black) command, has been largely overlooked by history. Basing his analysis on close readings of the relevant passages in the Bible and on extensive research into several centuries of scholarship, Aubin turns the denial of the African presence into a psycho-historical drama.

His interpretation faces a number of obstacles. While the Bible records the very words of the Assyrian envoys as they demand Jerusalem’s surrender, its authors say nothing about an Egyptian-Kushite force. They attributed the sudden decimation and decamping of Sennacherib’s army to the miraculous intervention of Yahweh’s angel. Archaelogical evidence for an Egyptian, which should have been found on a Kush monument or stele, was either lost or destroyed. (Another source of information – the Assyrian annals – often failed to record military embarrassments.) The elisions of the ancient records have made Aubin’s thesis dependent on deductive reasoning.

Scholars (at least those who do not believe in divine intervention) have usually concluded that the Biblical obfuscation of events was motivated by a desire to enhance the power of Yahweh. But there was no doubt that the 25th Dynasty’s army was in the area: they had recently battled with Sennacherib near Tel Aviv. When he scrutinizes the reasons why modern scholarship has overlooked certain clues to the ‘deliverance’ of Jerusalem, Aubin discovers an inexpicable tendency to diminish Kushite influence in Judah. Many scholars assumed that, in conformity with the rules of realpolitik, the 25th Dynasty’s involvement in Judah was selfishly motivated. Aubin questions this assumption, pointing out the favourable Biblical references to Kush and to their benign rule over Egypt. If a strategic alliance between Kush and Judah was evident to the 16th-century John Calvin, why then did later scholarship erode or ignore the significance of this connection?

Aubin examines the life and work of one of the giants of ancient Middle Eastern scholarship in the late 19th century, A.H. Sayce, and discovers a disturbing blend of erudition and blatant racism. In a book published in 1891, the Reverend Sayce said, “The black colouring matter of the Negro extends to…even his brain…” Aubin believes that Sayce, as a “cosseted adjunct” of British imperialism, could not accept or tolerate the idea of a sophisticated black Egyptian dynasty, let alone their instrumental role in the history of the West. In other words, at a time when scholarship was most proud of its objective methods, it succumbed to the most subjective of prejudices.

The Rescue of Jerusalem has an interesting and well-argued thesis. It is written with narrative verve and supported by extensive footnotes. mRb

Mark Heffernan is a Montreal writer.

Comments

1 Comment

  1. justin butler

    great job

    Reply

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