Hiel – Steve’s break down

OK, so let’s break this down a little further.

Verse 1 Kings 16:34.

“In his days did Hiel the Beth-elite build Jericho; he laid the foundation thereof in Abiram his first-born, and set up the gates thereof in his youngest son Segub; according to the word of the Lord, which he spake by Joshua the son of Nun.”

Nowhere does this passage actually say that Hiel’s boys were “smote”.  Even Clark is stumped by the ambiguity.  As Clark notes, “…laid the foundation thereof in Abiram…” could as easily be a reference to when the work was begun as to any slaying of kids.  And as you noted earlier, setting up the gates would simply be coming full circle in that process.  Let’s hold that thought for a minute and jump into Clark’s options.

Third first b/c to me it’s the easiest to dispatch:

3. That he who rebuilt this city should, in laying the foundation, slay or sacrifice his firstborn, in order to consecrate it, and secure the assistance of the objects of his idolatrous worship; and should slay his youngest at the completion of the work, as a gratitude-offering for the assistance received. This latter opinion seems to be countenanced by the Chaldee, which represents Hiel as slaying his first-born Abiram, and his youngest son Segub.1

Given the context and the fact that we’re reading work in the Chronicles and Kings written in quasi-historic times by literate, trained scribes, this explanation makes absolutely no sense to me.  If Hiel’s sons had been sacrificed the writer would have said so directly.  After all, he’s busy recounting the tales of the great anti-Ba’alist, so this would not have been treated in some gauzy terms.  That’s Point A.

Point B is that we have no record of children being sacrificed in this way.  The whole Ba’al-ist child sacrifice ritual in those parts of the world is pretty sketchy anyway.  But such as it is, the methodology is much more like it was practiced in Carthage where baby burnings were an actual, documented thing.

Net/net, this option just doesn’t tread water IMHO.  The only way to do this one I can see is to have Hiel be such a devotee of Ba’al that this seems like a way to insure the success of the project at the beginning and an act of gratitude at the end – like Abraham being ready to sacrifice Isaac.

1. It is thought that when he laid the foundation of the city, his eldest son, the hope of his family, died by the hand and judgment of God, and that all his children died in succession; so that when the doors were ready to be hung, his youngest and last child died, and thus, instead of securing himself a name, his whole family became extinct.

Now this one does have some legs, as we’ve already discussed.  As I see Hiel in this version, he’s either unaware of the curse (like Oedipus) or he knows about it but is too cosmopolitan to fall for such rustic beliefs.  But, if so, now you’re kind of in horror movie territory. Hiel is the girl who can’t help but run directly into the path of the ax murderer.

There’s stuff you could do with that, clearly, but I continue to say this is not my favorite option.  But it certainly does give you some latitude. Kings doesn’t say how many children Hiel had, only mentions the two germain to the rebuilding of Jericho.  So some choices you have to work out if you go this route:

* Did he know about the curse?

* Did he believe it and proceed anyway?  If so, why?

* How many kids did he have?  Was sacrificing two a calculated decision?

* Does the passage really mean in the first place that the kids died?  Or is it just a literary way of explaining how long the building took?

* Importantly to this version – How does Clark know that all his children died and his line went extinct?  Where is that written in anything we know about the actual recounting of Hiel’s life?  I think he’s just taking for granted that Joshua’s curse would play out that way.

2. These expressions signify only great delay in the building; that he who should undertake it should spend nearly his whole life in it; all the time in which he was capable of procreating children; in a word, that if a man laid the foundation when his first-born came into the world, his youngest and last son should be born before the walls should be in readiness to admit the gates to be set up in them; and that the expression is of the proverbial kind, intimating greatly protracted labour, occasioned by multitudinous hinderances and delays.

Again, this is the fun one for me.  The possibilities here with “the great delay” are mind boggling.  Furthermore, it’s the most common sense rendition in my estimation.  In any of these three versions I think you’re free to draw Hiel almost anyway you choose.  There’s not a hint of his personality suggested in anything in Kings.  And to me the comic possibilities in the “multitudinous hindrances and delays” are almost too good to pass up.

Once again I thank my lucky stars I am only whispering in the ear of the artist and not the artist himself.

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