146 WAS 1 ESDRAS FIRST?
certain aspects of history, such as Hatshepsut’s full status as pharaoh.
To thesecases we may add Egyptian attempts to suppress the memory of private,nonroyal
personae non gratae
such as the viceroys from the Eighteenth Dynasty,Usersatet and Nakhtmin, as well as Rekhmire and Menna.
In addition to thedestruction or deportation of statues, monuments, and other symbols of anopponent’s power, the archeological record from western Asia knows many examples of a victor erasing names in order either to wipe out his enemy’smemory or to usurp his monument. The fear that a later generation might blotout and supplant inscribed names resonates in the imprecations engraved on awide array of durable memory media.
In ancient Israelite society, memory erasure may be studied in relation tothe destruction of progeny, statues, cultic spaces and objects, monumental archi-tecture and landscapes, municipalities (“urbicide”), place names, and not leastinscriptions (e.g., the Tel Dan inscription, which appears to have been intention-ally shattered at a later time),
libraries, and portable texts.
The theme of memory preservation and erasure reverberates throughout biblical literature.One encounters it, for example, in the commands to wipe out the memory of “Canaanite” cult and culture (e.g., Deut 7:24–25), in its notions of the deity keeping heavenly books from which names can be erased, and in the way itsauthors themselves commemorate names, events, and places from Israel’s pastand homeland.
The memory-mindedness of the biblical authors reflects a largerconcern for the survival of self and society after the ravages of war. It belongs tothe project of building peoplehood in response to the dangers posed by thepolitics of statehood. An indispensable component in this project of forming anIsraelite collective identity is biblical historiography.
Its practitioners knew not
2. See Catherine Roehrig et al., eds.,
Hatshepsut: From Queen to Pharaoh
(New Haven:Yale University Press, 2005).3. See discussion in Peter James Brand,
The Monuments of Seti I: Epigraphic, Historical and Art Historical Analysis
(Probleme der Aegyptologie 16; Leiden: Brill, 2000).4. See Karen Radner,
Die Macht des Namens: Altorientalische Strategien zur Selbsterhal-tung
(Santag 8; Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2005), 252–66.5. Relevant to this topic is the conference, organized by Natalie N. May, at the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute on “Iconoclasm and Text Destruction in the Ancient NearEast” (April 2011).6. I plan to discuss this memory erasure in relationship to ancient Israel in a forthcomingstudy (to be published by Oxford University Press).7. With respect to a culture of commemoration in Hellenistic-period Judah, the prologueto Ben Sira’s “Praise of the Ancestors” (44:1–15) witnesses to a possible formal, ritual settingin which the names of national heroes were commemorated with the help of texts like “Praiseof the Ancestors.” The final lines call on the congregation collectively to join the reader inproclaiming the praise of great figures.8. For the importance of stories to the formation of a collective identity, see most recently Rogers M. Smith,
Stories of Peoplehood: The Politics and Morals of Political Membership
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003).