Academic journal article The Journal of the American Oriental Society

A Body Refigured: The Meaning and History of Hebrew BDN

Academic journal article The Journal of the American Oriental Society

A Body Refigured: The Meaning and History of Hebrew BDN

Article excerpt

In memory of Moshe Weinfeld

INTRODUCTION

Two different corpora of ancient Hebrew display distinct usages of a noun spelled. [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] In Biblical Hebrew (= BH) it appears twice as a proper name, vocalized as [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (1 Sam. 12:11; 1 Chr. 7:17). By contrast, in Qumran Hebrew (= QH) it appears several times as a common noun, both in the War Scroll (1QM 5:6,9,14) and in various passages of the Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice. (1) For lexicographers of both corpora, this word has eluded full explanation in terms of its origin and range of meaning, and it is left as a disturbing crux in the various dictionaries and lexical treatments. The purpose of the present discussion is to offer a solution that would fit all usages in their respective contexts, and will also take into account considerations drawn from the realm of comparative Semitics.

For practical reasons it is preferable to begin with the late corpus (QH), rather than the early one (BH). Admittedly, this procedure may look as strange at first glance, since the Dead Sea scrolls are evidently later than the Hebrew Bible, having their linguistic background in the Greco-Roman period. Sometimes, however, QH sheds light on earlier strata, (2) and the word discussed constitutes an example of that.

CONTEXTUAL ANALYSIS

The basic meaning of [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] in QH can be established by contextual analysis. It was well defined by Johannes van der Ploeg in his commentary on the War Scroll, (3) and his conclusions were later corroborated by Carol Newsom in her edition of the Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice. (4) By examining the actual usage of the word in various contexts, both scholars ognized that [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] must mean something like 'form, figure, pattern', (5) since it is synonymous with [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. (6) The semantic equivalence of these two words is particularly evident when comparing parallel expressions within practically identical formulations in the same column of the War Scroll: (7)

(a) "The shield (shall be) surrounded with a border patterned like a cord, with the design of a joint, a skillful work, in gold and silver, and bronze welded together, and precious stones, [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (8) the work of a skillful craftsman" (1QM 5:5-6).

(b) "On the socket (shall be) three chiseled rings, with a border patterned like a cord, in gold, silver, and bronze welded together, as when patterned in a skillful design, and a joint; the d[e]sign shall be on both parts of the ring, around precious stones, [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], the work of a skillful craftsman ..." (1QM 5:7-9).

(c) "The hilt of the sword (shall be) a selected horn, a skillful work, [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] in gold and silver, and precious stones" (1QM 5:14).

Comparable usages of the two lexemes are found also in the Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice, although not in the same context (as in the War Scroll). The appositive [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] "works of wondrous embroideries, figures of living divine beings" in Song IX (4Q405 G 21 [= frg. 14 6']) can be compared to [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] "[sh]apes of living divine beings" in Song XI (4Q405 I 20 [= frg. 19d 4']), which is explained later on in the text as [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] "[spirits of] embroidery, (9) [fi]gures of the shapes of divine beings" (ibid., 21 [= frg. 19c-d 5']).

This passage from Song XI furnishes yet another kind of evidence for the semantic equivalence of [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] and [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. Since the two terms are synonymous, they can be coupled as a construct phrase. In such a case the order of components may invert without affecting the meaning of the entire phrase (10) and indeed we find both possibilities attested in the Songs, i.e., both [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (line 21 [= 5']) and [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (line 23 [= 7']), which are semanti-cally equivalent. …

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