Saturday, June 15, 2013
The conservative case against Lincoln is not only tendentious and wrong, it puts the Right crosswise with a friend. As I argue in my new book, Lincoln Unbound, Abraham Lincoln was perhaps the foremost proponent of opportunity in all of American history. His economics of dynamism and change and his gospel of discipline and self-improvement are particularly important to a country that has been stagnating economically and suffering from a social breakdown that is limiting economic mobility. No 19th-century figure can be an exact match for either of our contemporary competing political ideologies, but Lincoln the paladin of individual initiative, the worshiper of the Founding Fathers, and the advocate of self-control is more naturally a fellow traveler with today’s conservatives than with progressives.
In Lincoln Unbound, I make the positive case for Lincoln, but here I want to act as a counsel for the defense. The debate over Lincoln on the Right is so important because it can be seen, in part, as a proxy for the larger argument over whether conservatism should read itself out of the American mainstream or — in this hour of its discontent — dedicate itself to a Lincolnian program of opportunity and uplift consistent with its limited-government principles. A conservatism that rejects Lincoln is a conservatism that wants to confine itself to an irritable irrelevance to 21st-century America and neglect what should be the great project of reviving it as a country of aspiration.
An excerpt from Rich Lowry’s “Lincoln Unbound.” Morning Joe. MSNBC, June 11, 2013.
Rich Lowry audio interview on Lincoln Unbound with John Miller. National Review Online, June 11, 2013.
Rich Lowry: Lincoln Can Teach Us Today. By Courtney Coren and Kathleen Walter. Newsmax, June 12, 2013.
The Ricochet Podcast: Lessons from Lincoln. Interview with Rich Lowry. National Review Online, June 13, 2013.
The lost lesson of Lincoln. By Rich Lowry. New York Post, June 16, 2013.
Hard work, discipline and self-improvement make the man.
Lincoln, America, and Opportunity. Rich Lowry interviewed by Kathryn Jean Lopez. National Review Online, June 18, 2013.
Lincoln’s Path Still. Review of Lincoln Unbound. By Jay Winik. National Review, July 1, 2013. Also here.
Press Pass: Rich Lowry on Lincoln Unbound. Interview with David Gregory. Meet the Press. NBC News, June 14, 2013.
Address to the 166th Ohio Regiment, August 22, 1864. By Abraham Lincoln. The American Presidency Project. Also in Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, edited by Roy P. Basler. Vol. 7, p. 512.
SOLDIERS—I suppose you are going home to see your families and friends. For the services you have done in this great struggle in which we are engaged, I present you sincere thanks for myself and the country.
I almost always feel inclined, when I say anything to soldiers, to impress upon them, in a few brief remarks, the importance of success in this contest. It is not merely for the day, but for all time to come, that we should perpetuate for our children's children that great and free government which we have enjoyed all our lives. I beg you to remember this, not merely for my sake, but for yours. I happen, temporarily, to occupy this big White House. I am a living witness that any one of your children may look to come here as my father's child has. It is in order that each one of you may have, through this free government which we have enjoyed, an open field, and a fair chance for your industry, enterprise, and intelligence; that you may all have equal privileges in the race of life with all its desirable human aspirations--it is for this that the struggle should be maintained, that we may not lose our birthrights--not only for one, but for two or three years, if necessary. The nation is worth fighting for, to secure such an inestimable jewel.
“Secularization of Consciousness” or Alternative Opportunities? The Impact of Economic Growth on Religious Belief and Practice in 13 European Countries. By Jochen Hirschle. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, Vol. 52, No. 2 (June 2013).
Unique in the crowd: The privacy bounds of human mobility. By Yves-Alexandre de Montjoye et al. Nature Scientific Reports, March 25, 2013. PDF.
Edward Snowden: US government has been hacking Hong Kong and China for years. By Lana Lam. South China Morning Post, June 13, 2013. Also here.
Edward Snowden Tells South China Morning Post: U.S. Has Been Hacking Hong Kong And China Since 2009. By Rebecca Shapiro. The Huffington Post, June 13, 2013.
of the restored six-chambered gate from the time of King Solomon at Hazor, 10th
century BC; in the background in the far left: the roof above the ceremonial
Joshua turned back at that time, and took Hazor, and struck its king down with the sword. Before that time Hazor was the head of all those kingdoms. And they put to the sword all who were in it, utterly destroying them; there was no one left who breathed, and he burned Hazor with fire.
—Joshua 11:10-11. New Revised Standard Version
Who Destroyed Canaanite Hazor? By Amnon Ben-Tor. Biblical Archaeology Review, Vol. 39, No. 4 (July/August 2013).
If we can eliminate the Egyptians, the Sea Peoples, rival Canaanite city-states and even the local population of the city as being responsible for the fall of Hazor, who then are we left with?
The differences between the Alt and Albright schools with regard to the process of the early Israelites’ settlement in Canaan (outlined above) were discussed with much passion at the time but are of little consequence for the issue at hand. Both sides eventually agreed that Hazor was indeed destroyed by the early Israelites. Even Martin Noth, the greatest exponent of Alt’s school of thought, admits to a link between the capture of Hazor and Joshua 11:10. Both sides thus agree on the “who”—the early Israelites—but still differ with regard to the “how”—the nature of the process by which the early Israelites took possession of, and eventually settled in, the Land of Canaan.
An array of publications by various scholars over the years, trying to determine who was responsible for the downfall of Hazor, indicates a tendency to attribute the site’s destruction to anyone except the ones specifically mentioned in the Bible as having done so.
As clearly shown by the famous Merneptah Stele, dated to the last decade of the 13th century B.C.E., the Israelites were present in Canaan at this time. They must have arrived some time before their encounter with Merneptah, the Egyptian pharaoh. Some prefer to call this group “proto-Israelites,” but there is no reason for this. If the term “Israel” was good enough for Pharaoh Merneptah to designate this particular group of people, it should be good enough for us. Indeed, those Israelites were still largely a seminomadic society, and their national identity was not exactly the same as that of Israel in the ninth century B.C.E. A lot of changes occurred during the three centuries separating their presence in the region in the 13th century B.C.E. from the foundation of the Kingdom of Israel. Certain groups from among the local population must have been absorbed into Israel, while others left. The same is true for other national groups: The Americans of today are certainly different from those two centuries ago, and even more so the Israelis of today are very different from those who were in the country just 65 years ago when the State of Israel was founded. Such changes do not justify considering the Israelites of Merneptah and the inhabitants of the Kingdom of Israel as two different peoples.
Biblical historiography, in particular the books of Joshua–Kings, cannot be considered a completely accurate account of the events described in them, because they are motivated by a theological and—to some extent—a political agenda. They do contain a considerable number of true historical nuclei, however, and the account of the downfall of the last Canaanite city of Hazor is very probably one of them. Left with the early Israelites as the only viable agent responsible for the destruction of Hazor, one may wonder how it was possible for such a ragtag group of people to bring down a mighty city like Hazor. We need only look at analogous instances of ancient states, and even empires, being overwhelmed by “uncivilized” tribes—for example, the destruction of the Roman Empire by Germanic tribes and the Arab conquest of Byzantine Palestine.
As for Canaan, after some 300 years under oppressive Egyptian rule, it was drained of most of its resources. Egyptian documents tell us about constant military raids, during which the pharaoh’s army lived off the land; what was not consumed or taken as tax was burned. Huge numbers of sheep, cattle and slaves were taken to Egypt as well. The various Canaanite cities were divided and poor. Most of them were not fortified, and even Canaanite Hazor’s fortifications probably went partially out of use. The constant disputes among the Canaanite city-states are clearly reflected in the 14th-century Amarna letters, which also inform us of the meager number of warriors kept by the Canaanite rulers: Requests for military assistance from neighbors often mention no more than 10 to 50 men. The decline in the 13th–12th centuries B.C.E. of all the major powers that had previously ruled the region has been documented and discussed thoroughly.
Seizing the opportunity—while the cat was away, the mice filled the power vacuum and settled all over the region at the end of the Late Bronze Age (c. 1200 B.C.E.): the Greeks in western Asia Minor, the Sea Peoples in the eastern Mediterranean, the Arameans in Syria, the Arabs in the Arabian peninsula—and the Israelites in Canaan.
Canaan of the 13th–12th centuries B.C.E. was “ripe for the taking,” and the early Israelites were in the right place at the right time. None of the other potential destroyers of Hazor can be held responsible. The early Israelites were in the region at the time, and they are the only ones who have a record of doing the deed. They should therefore be credited with having brought down Canaanite Hazor.
Hazor Excavations’ Amnon Ben-Tor Reveals Who Conquered Biblical Canaanites. Bible History Daily, July 5, 2013.
Fragment of ancient Egyptian sphinx discovered at Hazor. By Eli Ashkenazi. Haaretz, July 10, 2013.
Scorched Wheat May Provide Answers on the Destruction of Canaanite Tel Hazor. By Noah Wiener. Bible History Daily, July 24, 2012.
3,000-year-old wheat traces said to support biblical account of Israelite conquest. By Asher Zeiger. The Times of Israel, July 23, 2012.
|A bronze statue of a Canaanite king from Hazor.|
Hazor: “The Head of All Those Kingdoms.” By Abraham Malamat. Journal of Biblical Literature, Vol. 79, No. 1 (March 1960).
Hazor and the Archaeology of the Tenth Century BCE. By Amnon Ben-Tor and Doron Ben-Ami. Israel Exploration Journal, Vol. 48, Nos. 1-2 (1998).
Hazor—A City State Between the Major Powers. By Christa Schäfer-Lichtenberger. Scandinavian Journal of the Old Testament, Vol. 15, No. 1 (2001).
Anatomy of a Destruction: Crisis Architecture, Termination Rituals and the Fall of Canaanite Hazor. By Sharon Zuckerman. Journal of Mediterranean Archaeology, Vol. 20 (2007).
“. . Slaying Oxen and Killing Sheep, Eating Flesh and Drinking Wine . .”: Feasting in Late Bronze Age Hazor. By Sharon Zuckerman. Palestine Exploration Quarterly, Vol. 139, No. 3 (November 2007).
The Renewed Hazor Excavations. By Amnon Ben-Tor. Near Eastern Archaeology, Vol. 76, No. 2 (June 2013).
|The Merneptah Stele. Cairo Museum|
Israel in the Merneptah Stela. By Michael G. Hasel. Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research, No. 296 (November 1994). Revised version here.
Israel in Merenptah’s Inscriptions and Reliefs. By Anson F. Rainey. Israel Exploration Journal, Vol. 51, No. 1 (2001).
Archaeologist Amnon Ben-Tor Explains Hazor on Site. Video. Galyn Wiemers, July 10, 2012. YouTube.
Israelite Conquest of Canaan Debated. National Geographic. Video. digkabri, September 29, 2007. YouTube.
[Download the articles on Hazor from Near Eastern Archaeology, June 2013, when it becomes available on Academic Search Complete/EBSCO]
Palestinians Need Tough Talk From Europe. By David Makovsky. New York Times, June 14, 2013.