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Caught in the Crossfire? Economic Injustice and Prophetic Motivation in Eighth-Century Judah

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Prophetic complaints against landownership abuse that are attributed to eighth-century Judah pose an interpretive problem: their contextual ambiguity. Passages like as Isa. 5.8-10 decry land seizures but lack key socio-economic variables: motivations and the identities of perpetrators and victims. Faced with scarce archaeological and biblical evidence pertaining to landownership in the eighth century, several scholars have turned to the social sciences for clues. Marvin Chaney and D.N. Premnath have found interpretive value in cultural-evolutionary theory.Cultural-evolutionary theorists, like Gerhard Lenski and Timothy Earle, find that recurring patterns tend to emerge as agrarian societies experience rapid economic development and increased trade, including an abandonment of subsistence strategies, land consolidation, and a hoarding of the benefits amongst elites. While Chaney and Premnath have successfully used this model to explore economic abuses attributed to eighth-century Judah, when the region was absorbed into the Assyrian trade nexus, the effects of these recurring societal patterns on religious institutions have yet to be explored by biblical scholars.Religious practices and norms that support outmoded economic strategies tend to be overturned during these transitional periods to accommodate new economic goals. While some religious leaders are forced to choose between either honouring long-held traditions or capitulating to a new economic environment, others find that their place in society is rendered obsolete. Through considering these cultural-evolutionary patterns alongside Hezekiah's religious reforms, this paper explores the possibility that prophetic authors who condemned the displacement of farmers may have also been protesting their own displacement in an evolving Judean society.

Affiliations: 1: Concordia College


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