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Jehoiakim’s Dehumanizing Interment as a Ritual Act of Reclassification


Though scholars rarely comment on the beastly nature of Jehoiakim’s predicted interment in Jer 22:18–19 (“[With] the burial of an ass he shall be buried, / Dragged and cast outside the gates of Jerusalem”), it is significant and worthy of careful explication, for it suggests a ritual act of reclassification: the king is to be punished by being dehumanized through the burial of his corpse, presumably in order to increase his shame. That ritual reclassification with animals represents a loss of rank for a king is made explicit in the narrative of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in Dan 3:31–4:34 and is implicit in various cuneiform descriptions of dehumanizing punitive rites imposed on living captive enemy rulers by Neo-Assyrian monarchs. Such ritual reclassification of a king represents a potentially efficacious assault on his own royal, hegemonic claims to honor, elite rank, exalted status, and, in some instances, even divinity. Far from being great, the reclassified Jehoiakim, like Nebuchadnezzar and the captive enemies of the kings of Assyria, is, according to Jer 22:18–19, nothing more than a beast with no claim whatsoever to royal honor or privilege.

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