The Autobiography of Idrim (Nehemiah 13)

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Illustration: Statue of King Idrimi

In 1939 Sir Leonard Wooley, while excavating at Tell Atshana (ancient Alalakh), found a stone statue of king Idrimi seated on his throne. The statue, dating from approximately 1500 B.C., carries a lenghty inscription positioned as though it were issuing from the king’s mouth. Idrimi recounts in this manner how his family fled from their ancestral city of Aleppo during a hostile insurrection against his father. Hoping to regain his family’s lost prestige, Idrimi claims to have initiated  treaties with mighty warriors and kings around him, amassing an army and strengthening his power while in exile. He wiped out his enemies and reestablished his family’s dominance, setting himself up as king, after which he constructed a palace and instituted reforms throughout his land, including the reestablishment of sacrifices to his patron gods. The inscription ends with a curse and blessing formula: curses on anyone who would dare to destroy the statue or alter its writings, and blessings on Idrimi and his scribe.

One thousand years later, when the Jews returned from their exile, Nehemiah closed his writing in a similar way. Having detailed the final religious reforms he had instituted in Jerusalem, he asked the Lord to remember him favourably for those efforts. He called down curses upon any who defiled the priesthood, as well as upon those who had married outside the covenant, asking the Lord to remember them for their evil deeds. Unlike Idrimi, however, Nehemiah acted not for his own advancement or glory but out of zeal for God and the purity of His temple.


 

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