Children and Warfare in the Hebrew Bible and the Iron Age II: Rhetoric and Reality in Textual, Iconographic, and Archaeological Sources

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Jason Riley investigates the historical realities and rhetoric surrounding children as victims in warfare during the IA II. His analysis is based on texts from the Hebrew Bible, Neo-Assyrian and Neo-Babylonian inscriptions, Neo-Assyrian iconography, and archaeological remains from the sites of Ashdod, Lachish, Nineveh, and Hasanlu. He argues that children were valuable to ancient Near Eastern society, which made them vulnerable to various forms of victimization in war. According to the textual, iconographic, and archaeological sources, children suffered a number of non-violent and violent fates, including being deported, taken hostage, sold, killed, raped, burned, eaten, and even flayed. Firmly grounded in the historical realities of warfare and the ways in which children suffered, texts and iconography from the IA II also used motifs of children as victims in war for a number of rhetorical purposes. A number of ancient Israelite prophets, from the eighth to the sixth centuries, threatened violence against children in order to persuade their audiences to respond to their messages. Neo-Assyrian treaties and biblical covenant texts threatened children as a part of the larger curse sections as means of maintaining a vassal’s loyalty. Neo-Assyrian iconography employed depictions of children in tribute and deportee processions. Images of children in tribute scenes signify the value that children had as gifts to the Assyrian kings. Portrayals of children in deportee processions communicated a number of messages, including the totality of deportation and the vulnerability of children to psychological violence. Lastly, archaeological evidence from IA II destructions demonstrates that war was no respecter of persons—children were victims of physical violence when cities were attacked. The remains of children indicate that they were beheaded, burned, and even suffered the post-battle effects of war, potentially including disease and starvation.

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PHD in Theology

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Hays, Christopher B.

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Bible, Old Testament, Children and war, Iron age, Middle East


Missions and World Christianity


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