The find from southern Turkey is abnormally interesting. The newly discovered Esarhaddon vassal treaty likely does join other Esarhaddon vassal treaties that may (or may not) help us understand the context of biblical covenants. But, why can’t we have an announcement of an important find without highlighting Biblical parallels that are already well known and without directly saying so? Treaties are important. This treaty is certainly important. Esarhaddon vassal treaties are important. This Esarhaddon vassal treaty is certainly important. But I doubt that it will make more than a small incremental change in our understanding of biblical covenants. It is very unlikely to be paradigm shifting. That sure didn’t keep the press and the archeologists from highlighting what scholars would expect.
Canadian archeologists in Turkey have unearthed an ancient treaty written in cuneiform that could have served as a model for the biblical description of God’s covenant with the Israelites.
The tablet, dating from about 670 BC, is a treaty between the powerful Assyrian king and his weaker vassal states, written in a highly formulaic language very similar in form and style to the story of Abraham’s covenant with God in the Hebrew Bible, says University of Toronto archeologist Timothy Harrison. [Citizen]
Sure they didn’t say that this find was unique, at a couple of points they even refer to “treaties” but without a direct reference to the other Esarhaddon vassal treaties the silence allows the unknowing to too easily infer uniqueness.
Again, I think this find is an important find but as Jim Davila says at Paleojudaica, “We already have copies of vassal treaties between Esarhaddon and other states (See ANET 533-34 for one with Baal of Tyre; also see here). It’s not clear to me what the relationship of this new copy is to the others. But in any case, more is always better.”
The fact that we have an Esarhaddon vassal treaty with Baal I of Trye didn’t keep Harrison from telling the Citizen, “The language in the (Assyrian) texts is (very similar) and now we have a treaty document just a few miles up the road from Jerusalem [emphasis added].” It is impossible to suppose that Harrison didn’t know of the treaty with Trye.
The important thing at this point is not this treaty’s possible relationship with the Biblical material. The important thing is how this Esarhaddon vassal treaty relates to the other Esarhaddon vassal treaties.