The offering of king Ashyahu (Isaiah 60)

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Illustration: This piece of pottery may contain the oldest mention outside the Bible of King Solomon’s temple

Isaiah 60:9 describes the expectation that one day the ships of Tarshish would come bringing silver and gold to honour the God of Israel. “Tarshish” may have been either in Spain or Sardinia, and the “hammered silver… brought from Tarshish” (Jeremiah 10:9) was imported silver of high value. An ostracon dated through paleography to around the time of king Josiah (640-609 B.C.) reads “So king Ashyahu has commanded you to give by the agency of Zkaryahu silver of Tarshish for the house of the Lord: three shekels“. But who was Ashyahu?

The names of Hebrew kings sometimes had elements inverted. For example, the name Ahaziah (2 Kings 8:25) was inverted to Jehoahaz in 2 Chronicles 21:17. Both names mean “Yahweh holds”, but in Ahaziah the word for “holds” is first and “Yahweh” is second (in the ending “-iah”), while in Jehoahaz “Yahweh is first (as “Jeho-“) and “holds” (“-ahaz”) comes second. Ashyahu could be an inverted form of Joash, king of Judah (ruled 835-796 B.C.), but it is more likely an inversion of Josiah, king of Judah (ruled 640-609 B.C.). Zakaryahu was probably the Zechariah of 2 Chronicles 35:8, a temple administrator in Josaih’s reign, and the ostracon seems to be a receipt for the offering. When Isaiah prophesied that one day Gentiles would bring the silver of Tarshish to Yahweh’s temple, he was alluding to a means of honouring God that was already being practiced in his own day by his own people.


 

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