Biblical Interpretation in Ancient Israel

By Michael Fishbane | Go to book overview

16 The Mantological Exegesis of Dreams, Visions, and Omens

A The Types and Their Terms

A Remarkably consistent and common set of structural and terminological components are found with the interpretation of dreams, visions, and (visualized) omens. 1 Most salient is the recurrent citation and atomization of the mantological content in the course of its decoding-explication. There is thus, characteristically, first a presentation of the entire content, and then a selected repetition of its lemmata with interpretation. In Gen. 40, for example, the entire dreams of the butler and baker are first reported to Joseph, whereupon their pertinent subunits are repeated together with their interpretation (cf. vv. 10-11, 12-13; v. 17 and vv. 18-19). 2 Similarly, after the presentation of Pharaoh's dream-work in Gen. 41, the content is atomistically cited and explained in vv. 26-7. The hermeneutical form is characteristically: 'the x [the lemma cited] is/are (

) y.' Corresponding structural features appear in the interpretations of the dreams of Nebuchadnezzar in Dan. 2 and 4. In the latter cases, the lemmata cited from the dream-report are introduced by such phrases as 'and whereas you saw' (2: 41, 43; cf. 2: 45, 4: 17, 20) and 'and whereas they commanded' (4: 23).

In Dan. 7 the oneiromancer Daniel himself has a dream, which is first reported and subsequently interpreted by a divine being (vv. 2-14 + 17-27). Once again the successive atomizing citations of the dream-content are introduced by various distinctive phrases and particles, like

, , and . However, what deserves particular note in this dream report, and strongly emphasizes its ominous nature, is the fact that the dream-report is based on a written text: 'then he wrote the dream' (v. 1). Indeed, the written nature of this dream links it to Dan. 5 (also purportedly from the reign of Belshazzar), which is a report and interpretation of an omen inscribed ( ) on a wall

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