Wednesday, 1 April 2015

monotheism or my way or the highway

King Hezekiah, son of Ahaz and father of Manasseh, of Judah may not immediately conjure up any associations from the Bible or history, but his contribution to the manner in which future has unfolded is perhaps unmatched in its significance. Having witnessed the destruction of Samaria in the seventh century BC by the Assyrians, and fearing the same fate for Jerusalem and his southerly kingdom once it too came under siege, Hezekiah pledged to make the faith of the Judeans an exclusive one in exchange for deliverance. The king ordered the Temple Mount to be cleared of pagan paraphernalia and purged of altars (bamot, the high places) to all other gods save for their patriotic champion YHWY.
Jerusalem did not fall, thanks to the Angel of the Lord massacring a hundred thousand Assyrian soldiers and the clever underground sewer systems that Hezekiah had installed to allow the city to wait out a lengthy siege with a fresh water supply, and henceforth the Abrahamic religions were monotheistic ones—not implying that God had consorts and side-kicks before had that went suddenly out of fashion but that polytheistic traditions were generally much more tolerant and accepting of diversity and peaceable. A transitional term called henotheism (from the Greek for one God, as opposed to single, coined by theologist Friedrich Wilhelm von Schelling) holds that while one community worships a single, omnipotent being, the possibility of other deities, worthy of worship, is also acknowledged as well as the notion of divinity bounded by Fate or the laws as created—as opposed to the religious chauvinism and exceptionalism that Hezekiah’s deal-making gave us.