New Evidence of Hezekiah’s Anti-Idolatry Campaign

Jan. 10 2017

One of the few ancient Israelite monarchs to receive nearly undiluted praise in the Bible, King Hezekiah (who reigned from 715 to 686 BCE) was a religious reformer who cracked down on idolatry. He also successfully resisted an Assyrian onslaught by building a new wall around Jerusalem and a high-tech (for its time) tunnel to divert water into the city—both of which have been excavated and can be visited today. More recently, writes Joshua Gelernter, archaeologists have discovered an additional monument to his career:

Hezekiah’s Tunnel, also known as the Siloam Tunnel, is perhaps what [the king] is best known for today. It’s a remarkable thing. It winds its way deep under Jerusalem; it’s 1,500 feet long, and despite an altitude difference of less than a foot between the source spring and the reservoir to which the water is being moved, water is able to flow smoothly from one end to the other.

But what really makes the tunnel remarkable is the way in which it was built. Hezekiah needed his tunnel pronto—so his engineers began carving it out of solid rock at both ends, simultaneously. Where the two teams of tunnel-men met in the middle, an inscription was carved; it’s 2,700 years old, but can still be read (mostly); it lives in a museum in Turkey. . . .

During the years leading up to Hezekiah’s reign, some of the old tribal religions were making a comeback in Israel and Judea, and Hezekiah would have none of it. One of the local pagan gods was Baal. . . . The Bible refers to the despoiling of a shrine to Baal: the king (not Hezekiah but Jehu, a slightly earlier king of Israel) “broke down the house of Baal, and made it a draught-house”—i.e., a bathroom.

This was assumed by many to have been a metaphor. But a few weeks ago, excavations at Lachish found remnants of a pagan altar room, and inside it, a smashed altar, and beside that, seals of Hezekiah, and beside those, in perfect condition, an unmistakable stone-hewn privy. Soil samples taken beneath it suggest it was never used. Hezekiah put it there for the symbolism, evidently. Or maybe as a remark on his esteem of paganism.

Read more at Weekly Standard

More about: Archaeology, Hebrew Bible, Hezekiah, History & Ideas, Idolatry, Jerusalem

In Dealing with Iran, the U.S. Must Make the Best of a Bad Deal

Jan. 23 2017

Were Donald Trump to tear up the nuclear deal with Tehran, Washington would gain little leverage while Iran would still have pocketed enormous sums of money, would continue to benefit from the lifting of international sanctions, and could continue work on its nuclear program unimpeded. Therefore, argue Emily Landau and Shimon Stein, U.S. interests would best be served by working to constrain the Islamic Republic within the parameters of the agreement:

[M]uch can be achieved simply by changing the U.S. approach to the deal and to Iran, and by altering the rhetoric. Given the strong reservations voiced by Donald Trump and his administration toward Iran, the new president should send an unequivocal message, . . . warning it against any erosion of the deal and the consequences that will follow from any violation. The next step will be to work with the [the other parties to the deal] to clear up [its] ambiguities—especially regarding inspections at suspicious military facilities and looking for unknown facilities—and set clear guidelines for responding to every type of Iranian violation.

The Trump administration should press to end the secrecy surrounding many of Iran’s nuclear activities and plans. . . . But the Trump administration must also carve out a more comprehensive approach to the Islamic Republic, taking into account the dynamics between the United States and Iran that have unfolded over the past eighteen months since the nuclear deal was presented and that underscore the absence of any convergence of interests between the two states. . . .

New policies that reflect the Trump administration’s determination to pursue an uncompromising course in dealing with Iran—both on the nuclear front and with regard to its regional behavior—could in the long run help to reduce the likelihood of an Iranian breakout, and contain Iran from further destabilizing the region in its drive to realize its hegemonic ambitions.

Read more at National Interest

More about: Donald Trump, Iran nuclear program, Politics & Current Affairs, U.S. Foreign policy