Diana Edelman: Strategies for Adjusting Identity in Local Discourses in the Hebrew Bible in Response to Persian Imperial Discourses and Policy in Judah/Yehud

Persian imperial identity did not follow the pattern of Durkheim’s notion of a global society characterized by normative integration and common cultural values. Indeed, the artwork in the Apadana palace at Persepolis depicts the world as being made up of distinctive ethnic groups, all bringing tribute to the Persian king, who maintains global dominion and order. Rather, the compression of cultures seems to have been the paradigm. Cultures that formerly had been separate, with restricted social relationships, were put into direct contact and juxtaposition without obvious organizing principles, resulting in a multicultural empire and leading in many cases to hybridity (Featherstone 1995). The kingdom of Judah ceased to exist in 586 BCE and became the neo-Babylonian province of Yehud, which continued in place when the Persians became the new imperial rulers in 538 BCE. Three sets of forced migration to Babylonia and voluntary emigration to Egypt and Transjordan created diasporic Judean communities within a multicultural empire. By the end of the Persian empire, southern Yehud had Aramean, Edomite, and Arab communities within its territory, in addition to Persians, Elamites, and Phoenicians.

Faced with the opportunity to maintain ethnic identity but with the former political definition tied to the Davidic dynasty no longer operative, Edelman will examine solutions that were developed in local discourses now collected in the Hebrew Bible in response to imperial Persian discourses and provincial policies. This will be done using the interdisciplinary frameworks of crisis literature, diaspora studies (e.g. Rutherford 1990; Bauböck and Faist 2010); P. Bourdieu’s concept of habitus (1977; 1991), and de Certeau’s emphasis on the individual’s role in negotiating newly encountered (imperial) discourses from another habitus by accepting them, rejecting them, or partially adapting his own habitus, creating, in many instances, hybridity (1984). Undoubtedly, the theoretical framework will be expanded and enriched by exchanges with colleagues from different disciplines at CAS. Edelman’s focus will be on the implied authors of various biblical texts, the literati of Yehud, who were “middlemen” between the imperial Persian authorities and those of Judean descent in the “homeland” of Yehud and in Judean diaspora communities, brokering power and identity. This case study complements a series of articles and a monograph (2005) Edelman has written on the impact of Persian discourses and policies on the formation of the Hebrew Bible and emerging forms of Judaisms and will contribute to a planned monograph on using the past to negotiate identity in the Hebrew Bible.

Short CV

Diana Edelman is for the time being an independent scholar, with a great many previous distinctions. She is based in Continental Europe. Her work in the past decade has focused on imperial policy in Yehud in the Persian period; the creation of various collections of books that eventually formed the Hebrew Bible in the Persian and Hellenistic periods, which encode little discourses as positive and negative responses to imperial great discourses; the Bible as cultural memory and an instrument of identity formation for the religious community of Israel; and the emergence of forms of Judaism in response in circumstances of empire. She has thirteen seasons of archaeological excavation experience and brings her expertise and training as a historian to the LDG project.

Selected relevant publications

1. The Origins of the ‘Second Temple’: Persian Imperial Policy and the Rebuilding of Jerusalem (London: Equinox Press, December 2005), 440 oversized pp.

2. “Tyrian Trade in Yehud under Artaxerxes I: Real or Fictional? Independent or Crown-Endorsed?,” in: Judah and the Judeans in the Persian Period (ed. O. Lipschits;  Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2006), pp. 207-246.

3. “Settlement Patterns in Persian-Era Yehud,” in: A Time of Change: Judah and its Neighbours in the Persian and Early Hellenistic Periods (ed. Y. Levin; Library of Second Temple Studies, 65; London: T. & T. Clark, 2007), pp. 52-64.

4. “God Rhetoric: Reconceptualizing Yahweh Sebaot as Yahweh Elohim in the Hebrew Bible,” in: A Palimpsest: Rhetoric, Ideology, Stylistics and Language Relating to Persian Israel (ed. E. Ben Zvi, D. Edelman, and F. Polak; Piscataway, NJ:  Gorgias Press, 2009), pp. 191-219.

5. “From Prophets to Prophetic Books: Fixing the Divine Word,” in: The Production of Prophecy: Constructing Prophecy and Prophets in Yehud (eds E. Ben Zvi and D. Edelman; London: Equinox, 2009), pp. 29-54.

6. “The Chronicler and the Atthidographers,” (co-authored with Lynette Mitchell) in: What Was Authoritative for Chronicles? (eds. E. Ben Zvi and D. Edelman; Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2011), pp. 225-248.

7. “Exodus and Pesah-Massot as Evolving Social Memory,” in: Remembering (and Forgetting) in Judah’s Early Second Temple Period (eds. C. Levin and E. Ben Zvi; Forschungen zum Alten Testaments; Tübingen: Mohr, 2012, forthcoming). About 24 pp.

8. “What Can We Know about the Persian-Era Temple at Jerusalem?,” in: Architecture and Cultic Activities at Levantine Temples in the Second and First Millennia BCE (ed. J. Kamlah; Oriens Biblicus et Orientalis; forthcoming, 2011), about 25 pp.

9. “Genesis: A Composition for Construing a Homeland of the Imagination for Scribal Circles or for Educating the Illiterate?,” in: The Writing of the Bible: Scribes and Scribalism in Ancient Judah (eds P. Davies and T. Römer; London: Equinox, 2011), about 15 pp.

10. Bringing the Past to the Present in the Late Persian and Early Hellenistic Period: Images of Central Figures (eds. D. Edelman and E. Ben Zvi; Oxford: Oxford University Press, forthcoming, 2013).