Light of the Land, Sun of the People: The Solarization of Ancient Near Eastern and Biblical Lawgivers

In: Journal of Ancient Near Eastern Religions
Dylan R. Johnson Postdoctoral Researcher, Theological Faculty, University of Zürich Zürich Switzerland

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Ancient Near Eastern kings were always assumed to mediate between the divine and human worlds, but where they fell in the spectrum between mortal and divine varied from one king or dynasty to the next. Additionally, human kings could claim divine or semi-divine status through certain activities attached to the office of kingship. Through a diachronic survey, this study examines how the royal act of lawgiving elevated human rulers above other people. As lawgivers, these rulers could embody certain attributes of gods of justice within their political realms – most evident in metaphors attributing solar imagery and solar language to human rulers in royal ideology. Using cognitive metaphor theory, I examine the various ways that ancient audiences received and processed this figurative language, answering for themselves how the king could simultaneously be a mortal man and represent a solar god of justice.

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