Bulls on Parade

Metal Bovines, Pilgrimage Networks, and the Struggle for Israelite Identity in 1 Kings 12:25-33





Jeroboam, golden calves, pilgrimage network, identity performance, redaction criticism


1 Kgs 12:25-33 is composed of two significant layers – an earlier stratum that may be based on an Israelite royal inscription and a later, likely Judahite redaction. These can be disentangled based on a redaction critical approach rooted in studies of compilational and editorial practices attested in biblical and Cuneiform sources. Though the final text is often analyzed as an idol polemic, the Israelite strata suggest that Jeroboam is not depicted as constructing idols but rather pilgrimage outposts. This is borne out by the use of bovine iconography to direct ritual movement at other Levantine sites, as well as the broader Near Eastern practice of establishing pilgrimage networks in order to project political authority over multiple settlements, knitting them together into a kingdom. Accordingly, this article argues that the Israelite text depicted Jeroboam creating a pilgrimage network to performatively bring his Israel into being. Participating in this pilgrimage was a performance of Israelite identity. The Judahite redaction disavowed this by othering key aspects of the Israelite material culture depicted in the text. The final text is thus an example of identity politics rather than an idol polemic.


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How to Cite

Hogue, T. (2024) “Bulls on Parade: Metal Bovines, Pilgrimage Networks, and the Struggle for Israelite Identity in 1 Kings 12:25-33”, Avar: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Life and Society in the Ancient Near East . London, UK, 3(1), pp. 1–44. doi: 10.33182/aijls.v3i1.2848.