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EDE Stan-William Oshiozekhai

ʼĔlōhîm ʼĂḥērîm versus ʼĔlōhê Yiśrāʼēl. Dynamics of Persuasion in 1 Kings 11:26–14:20

Mod.: Prof. R.P. Peter DUBOVSKÝ, S.J.

The narrative configured around the personage and royal career of Jeroboam in 1 Kgs 11:26–14:20 represents the world as one in which the unfolding and realization of history are determined by divine propulsion. It depicts a worldview in which the destiny or fate of Israel depends purely on whether its people pledge unflinching allegiance to Yhwh or choose to worship other gods (ělōhîm ’ăḥērîm).

Intriguing details about Jeroboam’s religious agenda vis-à-vis the authorial representation and evaluation of the ensuing events evince a clash of intentionality, viz. Jeroboam’s intention versus the writer’s intention. The former remains elusive forasmuch as the manifold ‘fact-versus-fiction’ inquiries aimed at authenticating or disproving the historical veracity of Jeroboam I, together with the religious programmes attributed to him, continue to yield irreconcilable results. It may, however, be rendered intelligible when viewed through the prism of the latter, that is, the writer’s intention. Accordingly, this study affirms that the Jeroboam story is a carefully designed argumentative discourse targeted at addressing the ‘divinity-question’ which is central to Israel’s self-consciousness. It goes on to investigate, expose and analyse the pragma-rhetorical strategies employed by the writer to persuade the audience about the identity and character of the God of Israel in the face of the challenge posed by the lures of other gods and their cults.

At the heart of the argumentation lies the choice and use of the exodus confessional refrain, הִנֵּה אֱלֹהֶיךָ יִשְׂרָאֵל אֲשֶׁר הֶעֱלוּךָ מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם (1 Kgs 12:28b) for the identification and presentation of the golden calves which Jeroboam made. The analysis reveals that, there is a pragmatic purpose to the anonymity of the gods implied in the golden calves, as with anchoring their identification to the exodus event. It is owed to the writer’s intention and involves a deliberate strategy of ambiguity, created by encoding an irony-complex, which has the capacity to trigger cognitive response in the audience and provoke self-generated counterarguments against messages considered oppositional to the Yahwistic ideology that is propagated throughout the rest of the discourse. The pragmatics of referentiality anchored to the exodus event, therefore, dislodges the claim that Israel is beholden to other gods, such as those represented with the bull-calf symbol, and at the same time, strengthens the thesis that none other than Yhwh is the God of Israel.

Furthermore, along the cognitive route of pragma-rhetorical analysis, conceptual profiling occurs based on the opposition between doing what is right and doing evil (1 Kgs 14:8-9; cf. 11:33-34, 38; 13:33). This is employed to devise distinctions in the idea of deity and to establish clear-cut differentiation between Yhwh and other gods. It entails a rhetorical strategy that conceptualizes divinity as something inherent in Yhwh alone to the utter defamation and implied de-divinization of other gods (cf. שִׁקֻּץ /מַסֵּכוֹת ). Overall, the dynamics of persuasion in the discourse assert that, Yhwh, with his unique attributes, stands out as the singular divinity whose influence in the world is made visible in his interventions in the life of Israel vis-à-vis Israel’s unique place in the world.