Hiel Of Bethel Defies Joshua’s Command Re Jericho

Rebuilding of Jericho

There’s a neat little study of 1 Kings 16:34 (Hiel’s rebuilding of Jericho) in a 1996 issue of Biblica.

Charles Conroy, the author, begins with a structural analysis of 1 Kings 16:29-34.  He points out that grammatically the passage breaks down into an introductory statement (29a), a summary of the reign of Ahab (29b-33), and a final statement (34).  Hiel’s work is mentioned in the final section.

Conroy then points to the parallels within the text between Ahab and Hiel.  Both are said to be builders and both are subjects of 3 separate verbs of construction: Ahab “erected” an altar to Baal, “built” a house for Baal in Samaria, and “made” an Asherah (vv. 32-33).  Hiel “built” Jericho, “laid its foundations” and “set up its gates” (v. 34).

Though Conroy does not push the parallels, this emphasis on building has two effects: first, it connects Ahab (and Hiel) with Solomon, the great builder previously mentioned in 1 Kings; second, it highlights the fact that Ahab’s work (like Hiel’s) is a reversal of the conquest, restoring the Baal-worship that had been destroyed under Joshua.

Conroy does note, however, a further parallel between Ahab and Hiel: Ahab thinks it a little thing to follow the way of Jeroboam, and goes to Baal worship; in a similar move, Hiel of “Bethel” (the place of Jeroboam’s calves) thinks it a little thing to build Bethel, and moves to rebuild Jericho.  Conroy also points out that Hiel loses his two sons while building Hiel, arguing that this foreshadows Ahab’s later loss of his two sons: Ahaziah and Jerhoam.

Finally, he points out that the geographic references in 16:34 (Bethel and Jericho) anticipate the movements of Elijah and Elisha in 2 Kings 2.

Conroy unfortunately ends the essay with some speculations on the diachronic development of the text, asking the unanswerable question of when 16:34 was inserted.  Be that as it may, his study of the “final form” of this text is provocative and convincing.

posted by Peter J. Leithart on Thursday, August 07, 2003 at 05:19 PM



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