Well Geoff,  that's an interest list of questions.

You write:
"why one has to have an anti-wine god that is not the
> God of Israel in order to explain the Rechabite abstention from 
> alcohol....Just suppose a group (a 'tribe'say) of Israelites had
a bad experience that caused a large number of them to be wiped-out. 
Could such an experience affect their view of God and what his
commands are for them?  Do people's experiences form their views 
> of their god, at least to some extent?"

I'm not quite sure how "determined" you are to pursue this
method of analysis in the scanty world of Palestinian archaeology.
You could use this same approach to virtually any consensus view.

But perhaps you choose this approach simply because you don't
know that much yet about the Rechabites.  The injunction against
wine, living in houses and agriculture is EXACTLY the same 
set of taboos that the Aramaean Nabataeans had according to
Diodorus (he was reporting a text usually placed around the
300's BC).  While Diodorus doesn't say who first commanded
the taboo injunctions, Jeremiah's text tells us that the 
Rechabites got their injunctions from Jonadab, "Bar Rekab".

Interestingly, Sam'al, a neo-hittite Aramaean state in the S.E.
corner of Anatolia, had at least one king named "Bar Rekab",
and they had a deity called Rekab-El.  This deity was a 
"charioteer" deity, as in "chariot rider of storms".

And while we don't have the "ID" of a Jonadab in Sam'alian
texts, the circle of evidence does seem rather tight around
the idea that somehow a person or deity Rekab is related to
the region that the Rechabites hailed from, and/or that 
Shai al' Qaum is related to the deity Rekab.

What's especially interesting, I think, is that the O.T.
also puts the "legendary" Hadad (the same name as the
Aramaean "rider of storms" deity) right in the middle of Edom...
which is the homeland of the very same wine-avoiding Nabataeans.

So I guess, in view of all these overlapping factors, what 
evidence do you have that the Syrian Rechabites were influenced
by some OTHER deity other than the only one we know of that
was opposed to wine consumption.... or that they spontaneously
came up with the same rule system that the Nabataeans did?

I look forward to your comments.

Best wishes,

George


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