SBL 2007 (p. 6)

Sunday, the 2nd day of the SBL conference for me, was the big day that I had been anticipating for months, when I would finally get to meet LMLK VIP Dr. Andrew G Vaughn (who long ago told me he preferred “Andy” in informal settings, & since this blog is the most informal place on the planet, that’s what I’ll call him).

I had wanted to attend another lecture by Shlomo Bunimovitz & Zvi Lederman, but had gotten back late Saturday night, & consequently would not have been able to drive back in time. I had initially thought about staying in a hotel, but decided against it because the drive wasn’t too bad (if it had been more than 2 hours each way, I probably would’ve checked into one), & I had personal things to take care of at home. But here’s their abstract just for the record:

Jerusalem and Beth-Shemesh: A Capital and its Border

Excavations at Tel Beth-Shemesh – past and current – have exposed an array of state symbols: fortifications, public buildings, storehouse, granary, underground water reservoir and iron workshop (the earliest known from the eastern Mediterranean) – spread all over the town of Level 3. These finds indicate that since the second half of the tenth-beginning of the ninth centuries BCE, state organization was involved in the daily life of the site and brings into relief the problem of meager evidence for state formation in Jerusalem – the capital of the Judean kingdom- vis à-vis its periphery. Recent years saw increasing skepticism by historians and biblical scholars, as well as by archaeologists, about the authenticity and reliability of the biblical passages describing the days of the United Monarchy. This in turn has led to a dramatic lowering of the date of state formation in Judah from the tenth to the late eighth century BCE. One of the arguments for a late establishment of the state in Judah is the lack of clear archaeological evidence concerning the status of Jerusalem – the governmental heart of the kingdom – during the tenth and ninth centuries BCE. Relying on recent theory of anthropology of borders, we suggest a different perspective of the problem: ‘A view from the border’. Such a perspective shifts the focus of the discussion from the problematic core of the Judean polity to its well documented periphery – the border zone with Philistia where early signs of Judean statehood can be traced in the archaeological material. The finds from Beth-Shemesh, indicating that the Iron I village of Beth-Shemesh (Levels 6-4) was turned into a planned town, are interpreted as a deliberate action taken by the young monarchy at Jerusalem to overcome problems of liminal identity and loyalty at its most fragile frontier with Philistia.

Before Andy’s afternoon session, I would also have liked to have seen Hanan Eshel again:

A Late Iron Age Hebrew Letter Containing the Word Nôqedim

The Hebrew letter discussed in this paper contains twelve lines written on both sides of a storage jar sherd. The first ten lines of the letter were written on the exterior side, and the last two lines on the interior side, behind the lower part of the inscription. Paleographically, the script is similar to that of the Lachish letters and the Arad inscriptions of Stratum 6, and should therefore be dated to the end of the 7th or the beginning of the 6th century BCE. After the opening formula, in lines 3-8 Nethanyahu reports to Shelemyahu that some nôqedim had come to take the flock apparently from Hebron hill country, and that they were on their way to Lachish. The nôqedim evidently had come while ’Ibzan was staying in a placed called ’Arab. It seems that the term nôqedim is used in this context to refer to shepherds working for the kingdom who collected flocks as tax payments. This definition fits particularly well with what is said about King Mesha? in 2 Kgs 3:4.

I would have liked to have known the shard’s provenance (if any), but alas, I wasn’t able to depart till after noon, & when I saw that I wouldn’t be able to make it in time for his lecture (estimated to speak from 1:35 to 2:05), I opted to take another shot at the DSS exhibit at Balboa Park, confident that I’d make it to the Marriott in time to meet Andy before 4pm.

Unlike the previous day where I was able to drive right up to one of the museum parking lots, on Sunday when I arrived at 2:36pm, the whole area was so crowded, I had to park in one of the offsite lots! For some reason, it seemed like every human within 10 miles of San Diego had driven there that day, & I don’t blame ’em because the weather was indeed lovely. I arrived just in time to catch one of the free buses that loop through the area, but since reality settled in & I had no hope whatsoever of being able to get a ticket to see the scrolls, I decided to jump off at the first stop, which was the historic Spreckels Pipe Organ. It’s played every Sunday from 2:00-3:00, so it was crankin’ loud & proud when we pulled up (though by a guest organist, not the goddess who normally plays it; she was apparently still on her honeymoon).

I strolled around for a few minutes, & decided to walk back to my car & stop at the House of Pacific Relations International Cottages I had passed by on Saturday when they were closed. On this occasion, they were packed, & there was a group of Asian youths performing their ethnic music/dance routine in the area encircled by the cottages. I only went into a few of them (Israel, Great Britain, & a couple others I can’t even remember) where the volunteers were offering native food samples.

I continued on, not expecting to pause again, but couldn’t help but notice a giant Egyptian scarab icon painted on the side of the WorldBeat Center as part of a mural covering its outer walls (it used to be a water tower). As I approached, I could hear drums, which inside were extremely loud … so loud that I didn’t go in all the way, but stood by the door for a few minutes watching the young ladies inside dancing to it.

I wasn’t in too big of a hurry, but I definitely wanted to get to SBL by 3:30 to begin seeking the VIPs (especially Andy) scheduled to speak in the 4:00 sessions. I arrived at 3:20 (99% of the cars in San Diego had been parked at Balboa, so there was virtually no traffic going through downtown), & the first person I happened to meet was Prof. McCarter, who was sitting alone trying to enjoy a Naked Juice, but I couldn’t resist interrupting his blissful snack to tell him what Prof. Zuckerman had said the night before about the “elephant in the living room“. I asked him if he’d like to offer a rebuttal. In his usual calm, slow voice, he basically reiterated that he just didn’t see them (i.e., the non-ABGD inscriptions). I commented that I was amazed how 2 people so knowledgeable in the same field could look at the same artifact & see something totally different. He said he believed they were both seeing the same thing, but just interpreting it differently.

I proceeded to the elevator in order to get to the rooms where Andy & another LMLK VIP, Dr. Nili Fox, were scheduled to be. It was really cool to end up in an elevator with Ramat Rahel excavator, Oded Lipschits! I told him that I had several questions prompted by his ASOR lecture, particularly his statement that he had found 1 LMLK handle “under the floor“. But alas, we reached his floor just as I finished the question, & we agreed to resume our conversation the next day at another lecture he was scheduled to deliver (stay tuned for details later this week–it was the best part of the whole SBL conference for me).

At 3:40, I arrived at Dr. Fox’s room–one of the very small ones seating no more than 50 people. Only a couple other people were there, & as soon as she stopped speaking with them, I introduced myself (we had only exchanged a few E-mails back in 2004 when I published my book), & much to my embarrassment she asked, “Do I know you?” I told her I study the jar handles with royal seal impressions, & was hoping she’d sign a copy of her dissertation book for me. She agreed, & noted that it’s been a long time since someone asked her to inscribe one. I thanked her, & told her I’d be coming back, but wanted to go upstairs to meet Andy Vaughn, who was presiding over a session concurrent with hers. She asked what his session was about, & for the life of me, I had no idea!!! It made no difference to me whatsoever since I just wanted to meet him, & I confessed to her that I wasn’t able to remember all the session names in my head.

It’s so incredibly ironic how this scheduling occurred–she was doing her dissertation (published in 1997) including a study of LMLK seals at the same time Andy was doing his, though she ended up emphasizing the Personal seals, & he ended up stressing the overall phenomenon. Though he didn’t mention her in his book (published as a paperback in 1999) since he was apparently unaware of her, she mentioned him; this is from her UPenn dissertation pp. 366-7 & f/n 142 (Lv1 p. 293):

But the lmlk phenomenon need not be viewed solely as an emergency pre-war measure. Rather, it seems to reflect an economic maneuver that was part of Hezekiah’s reorganization following his revolt against Assyria and perhaps even earlier in preparation for independence. (I originally made this suggestion in a seminar paper for E. Oren … [7/1/92, unpublished]. A proposal on these same lines, but one more developed, is advanced by Vaughn in his dissertation. Apparently we arrived at similar conclusions independently.)

The footnote’s text in her book reads slightly differently (p. 232 & f/n 141):

(I originally made this suggestion in an unpublished seminar paper in 1992. A proposal on these same lines, but one more fully developed, is advanced by Vaughn in his dissertation. Apparently we arrived at similar conclusions independently.)

And here they were in San Diego a decade later, 2 among hundreds at the conference spanning several days, & yet someone at SBL completely unknowingly scheduled their sessions to overlap at the same time in just about the same place (the South Tower of the hotel). Amazing!

So things were working out great–it was 3:45, & I had high hopes that I’d be able to meet/greet Andy before his session began. He was not there yet, but at 3:55, Robert Deutsch arrived–it was terrific to see him again. I told him how excited I was to be able to meet not only Andy, but also Nili Fox on the same day in the same place. He was not aware that she was there, & in a classic case of deja vu, he asked me what her session was about!

Arrrrrr!!! It must’ve been a plot to embarrass me to death on this particular day! I told him it made no difference to me what the subject was since I just wanted to hear her lecture in person, & I wasn’t able to remember all the session names in my head.

At this point, with the room filling up (only slightly bigger than the one Dr. Fox was at), I could see that I was not going to have time to chat with Andy before the session began, but I soon began wondering if I’d get to see him at all. A lady (whom I later found out was Tammi Schneider) entered the room telling the other speakers seated at the front table that Andy asked her to begin the session without him. She said she’d be right back after using the ladies’ room.

My heart sank to the floor. I was stunned & in complete disbelief. (Not that Dr. Schneider had to use the ladies’ room, but that Andy was a no-show.)

I had waited so long for this occasion, but since I did not fully hear what she had said, I approached the table from where Robert & I were several rows back, & asked them (in front of God & everybody else in attendance, which I later discovered included VIPs such as Larry Geraty & Ann Killebrew) what she had said had happened to Andy, & if he was going to be late. If he was in some sort of trouble, I was fully ready to get in my car & drive to wherever he was & help him.

They didn’t know if he’d be there, & said I should ask her when she returned. I went back to Robert & told him I was heading back to Dr. Fox’s session, & if Andy showed up, to not let him escape!

G.M. Grena

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