Hyperbole in ANE Conquest Accounts (QOD)

Here’s my quote of the day from Ancient Near East: Historical Sources in Translation edited by Chavalas.

Tiglath-pilesar’s characterization of utter annihilation of the towns must be understood in light of royal propaganda.  The use of hyperbole was a significant feature in ancient Near Eastern conquest accounts.  Therefore, extensive archaeological excavations are required in making concrete determinations regarding the extent of military destruction.

I’d say that’s pretty important to know when one reads the Hebrew Bible.


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  • This seems like a double-edged sword to me.

    On the one hand, it’s reassuring to know that the Israelites didn’t utterly slaughter people and entire cultures and civilizations.

    On the other hand, those of us who still look to Scripture as divine (in some way or another) are still left with the very uncomfortable idea that our Scriptures contain these gruesome stories, hyperbole or not.

    In other words, it’s nice to know those stories are embellished, but it’s still incredibly disconcerting that they’re present in the first place.

    • BR: I agree 100%. I’m still disconcerted by violent texts, but I also think it’s important to know what exactly we are dealing with. Only then can we start to deal with the issues involved.

      I think the most difficult part is not just the stories, but the religious violence they have been used to legitimate throughout the centuries.