Scielo RSS <![CDATA[Old Testament Essays]]> vol. 34 num. 1 lang. es <![CDATA[SciELO Logo]]> <![CDATA[<b>Editorial</b>]]> <![CDATA[<b>Abraham and Sanballat</b>]]> Several important features of the narrative character of Abraham allude to the features of the historical person of Sanballat, the first Israelite governor of the Persian province of Samaria. The most important common features of Abraham and Sanballat are the origin in the city of Haran, a non-Yahwistic name, being related to the cult of the moon god Sin, being given the land of Israel as a hereditary possession, founding the central sanctuary of Yahweh on Mount Gerizim, and respecting an important priest from Jerusalem. These and other common features point to the origin of the book of Genesis in the secular elite of the Persian province of Samaria ca. 350-340 B.C. <![CDATA[<b>Edomite Defectors among the Israelites: Evidence from Psalm 124</b>]]> The present analysis of Ps 124 suggests that it relates the retreat to Israel of a foreign group of YHWH's worshipers. Its Edomite identity emerges from its comparison with other Songs of Ascents (especially Pss 120, 122 and 129) and the Adam appellation of their land of origin (v. 2). The setting of Ps 124 in complex antiphony provides further details concerning their fleeing from Edom, their new commitment to Israel, and their Edomite brothers' angry reaction. These events corroborate other biblical sources aiming for the integration of a group of Edomite poets and singers in the Jerusalem temple at the early Persian period. The consequences concerning the nature of the corpus of Songs of Ascents are discussed. <![CDATA[<b>Feasting and Fasting: Hybridity in the Book of Esther</b>]]> This article focuses on the feasting and fasting scenes that permeate the book of Esther. It examines the interactions between fasting and feasting through a lens of hybridity rather than reversal, as is the predominant approach of Western scholarship. To do so, it links the feasting and fasting to Persian and Jewish activity, respectively. Ultimately, it argues that Purim is an example of hybridity as it combines feasting and fasting in its observance, creating a hybrid of Persian and Jewish activity. The construction of Purim as a hybrid is considered in three sections and it relies on Homi K. Bhabha's postcolonial conception of hybridity: (1) feasting and fasting as Persian and Jewish activity, (2) Esther's mimicry and the beginning of the hybrid and (3) Purim as a hybrid. Understanding Purim as a hybrid, this article concludes by exploring how this hybrid can offer a challenge to the textual presentation of Persian hegemony in the book of Esther. <![CDATA[<b>Homosexuality and Liminality in Sodom: The Quests for Home, Fun and Justice (Gen 19:1-29)</b>]]> This essay explores the first segment of the Lot sub-narrative of the Abraham cycle (Gen 11:27-25:10). The study adopts a narrative close reading approach and canonical theological hermeneutical framework in its reading strategies (with the canon's reception history undergirding its plausibility structures), aiming ultimately at unfolding the world of possibilities of being-in-the-world in the text, particularly from an ethical standpoint. The study shows Lot, enmeshed in his sense of marginality from YHWH's repeated covenantal promises of progeny to Abraham, ditch time-tested tradition and embark on a quest for freedom and a home of his own, consequently, assuming significance and security in Sodom (where he sat on the city council at the gate). His initial assumed marginality in Abraham's home attains reality in Sodom, where the Sodomites desirous of 'having fun' with Lot's angelic guests (who were on a search for justice) reprimands Lot, a mere immigrant-in their view-for his audacity to rebuke them. The visitation of YHWH's justice on Sodom renders the self-serving Lot homeless, driving him to ultimate marginality, as he inhabits the liminal space of an incestuous cave dweller. A theologico-ethical appropriation of the narrative draws attention, first, to the temptation often to be so caring to outsiders and yet be so unkind to those closest to us (like Lot). Second, tradition is a stabilising force in society and jettisoning it unnecessarily creates cascading disequilibria. Third, alienation from God is the grand source of all liminality. Fourth, inordinate desires lead to choices that bring about a breakdown in the social order. Fifth, like Lot, we need to catch heaven's heartbeat for the oppressed and become voices for their justice in our time. <![CDATA[<b>'Like Father, Like Son'? The Woman as a Bargaining Object in Gen 20:1-18 and Gen 26:1-11</b>]]> Abraham and Isaac separately 'used' their wives to stay alive. Viewed, on one hand, as a pragmatic approach to life, the choice made by father and son demonstrates a moral failure that caused them to 'sacrifice' their wives, turning them to objects that could be exchanged. Hence, the end of preserving their lives justifies the means (lying and cooperation in formal evil of adultery). On the other hand, the story of Isaac, following in the footsteps of his father, offers us a reflection on how certain human actions, while useful and valid at a given point in time, cannot be judged morally good/bad or worthy of emulation without reference to the intention and historical situation of the primary agent. In Gen 20:1-18 and 26:1-11, the five protagonists (Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebecca and Abimelech) confront us with the perennial issues of patriarchy, the agency and compliance of women in reinforcing patriarchal patterns of politics and de-humanisation, the resilience and resistance of women in the face of the many forms of objectification and commodification as well as the error of repeating the mistakes of the fathers. Using a biblical social ethical approach, this article examines (a) how patriarchalism could and have fostered the objectification and commodification of women; (b) what themes from father and son communicate to the modern reader about the interplay of cause and effect in fostering a culture of gender violence and instrumentalisation of women, as well as (c) how the female protagonists' response to the situation of exploitation (especially sexual exploitation) and objectification could inspire modern women to break boundaries that negate female flourishing. <![CDATA[<b>YHWH's "Greatness," "Mighty hand," "Deeds" and "Mighty Acts" in Deuteronomy 3:24</b>]]> This article investigates the four words or phrases used in Deut 3:24 to describe the uniqueness of YHWH, namely "greatness" (•’’•’–), "mighty hand" (•’• •’•‘•’—’•), "deeds" (–’–‘—’•) and "mighty acts" (•‘’”•’—’•). Commentary on these four words or phrases is usually limited to a brief discussion of their possible referential background. Virtually no attempt is made to distinguish between the meanings of these words. Secondly, little conclusive proof is provided for the assumed referential background of the words, and thirdly, scholars are silent on the distinctive contribution of Deut 3:24 to Deuteronomy's overall theme of the uniqueness of YHWH. This article aims to address these three lacunae. <![CDATA[<b>Local Incoherence, Global Coherence? Allusion and the Readability of Ancient Israelite Literature</b>]]> Does a lack of coherence always render a text "unreadable" or "unintelligible"? In this essay, I explore the relationships between three of De Beaugrande and Dressler's standards of textuality: cohesion, coherence, and intertextuality (considered more narrowly here in the form of allusion). I consider examples of textual allusion that readers have considered surprising, incongruous, or incoherent. I conclude that in some cases, there is reason to believe ancient Israelite writers employed allusion in such a way as to create incongruity and incoherence at local text-segment levels while creating a coherent argument at larger text-segment levels. In these cases, at least, the text is still "readable." <![CDATA[<b>Making Meaning of Wisdom in Psalm 119 and in Contemporary African Contexts</b>]]> Psalm 119 has continually posed challenges to its interpreters owing to the difficulty of relating its unique acrostic structure to its thematic focus. The question of wisdom, especially as expressed in the Ps 119, is one such thematic problem which confronts both the Western and the African reader. This article, taking cognisance of the importance of the structural integrity of the psalm, identifies three dimensions of wisdom in Ps 119 which can be traced to the wider biblical Wisdom corpus. Using the African Biblical Hermeneutical method, it shows that these different dimensions of wisdom are equally found in African proverbs and underline the value of using this method as a vehicle for dialogue between the African and the Western reader of the Bible. <![CDATA[<b> The Lord is my shepherd" - Conceptual metaphor as a reality of life</b>]]> By means of metaphor, the less tangible can be made more tangible. This also applies to the declaration "The LORD is my shepherd" (Ps 23:1b). For a detailed approach to this declaration and the psalms, the focus here is first on conceptual perception (of God) and the Conceptual Metaphor Theory. It is then applied to the declaration, "The LORD is my shepherd," unfolded in its radiant effect on the entire psalm and merged again into one. The aim is to prove that metaphorical conceptualisation makes the world shine in a new light and become experienceable, as the psalmist experienced in the encounter with God, making himself perceptible to him. Concretely, the psalmist explores the world of the Ancient Near East and of the confidential personal relationship between himself and God in the image of the shepherd-king and the human being-sheep. He underlines the covenant relationship between the Lord and the vassal - and thus the possibility of becoming a reality in one's personal life. <![CDATA[<b>Suffering as Expressed in the Psalter and Beyond: An Unfinished Systematic-Theological Perspective on Evolutionary "Theodicy"</b>]]> From an evolutionary perspective, it is argued in the following exposition that specific expressions of suffering in the Psalter open up a broadened, deeper and gracious understanding of human suffering within a kind God's good creation. From the many and diverse voices of suffering as responses to diverse kinds of suffering, and if hermeneutically embedded in a post-Darwinian evolutionary framework, different existential and theological horizons of interpretation are prompted and revisited. These very horizons that interpretively open up direct us as embodied persons of flesh and blood, on the one hand, to new and other dimensions of our being vulnerable creatures before God, and on the other hand, to different glimpses of a kind creator God in a world of dynamic relationships and forces. Ultimately, embedded in a post-Darwinian evolutionary framework, the Psalter eventuates here and now, in contexts of suffering for embodied persons, a gracious cognitive-affective reappraisal of their faith. <![CDATA[<b>The Suffering Moses in the Pentateuch and Psalms</b>]]> The article shows the prophetic profile of Moses from the perspective of the "final text" of Deuteronomy especially in Deut 4 and Deut 2930. In Deut 30:1-10, Moses announces the circumcision of hearts. Moses' song in Deut 32 confirms his message of doom and final salvation for the people of Israel. It solves the question of collective salvation of the people by a kind of canonical theology, quoting as a subtext Prophets, Psalms and Wisdom Literature. However, Deuteronomy has no answer to Moses' fate of suffering death. He has to die, so that instead of him the written Torah can accompany the people on their way into the Promised Land. Moses' fate of suffering death is not at all over because Pss 90-92 function also as a subtext for Moses' individual fate, developing a perspective of salvation for him as a kind of subtext for the Moses narrative in Deuteronomy. <![CDATA[<b>Reading Psalm 13 as a Strategy for the Cathartic Release of Negative Emotion</b>]]> Psalm 13 moves from debilitating circumstances registered therein into resolution in six short verses. This article explores the strategies that the psalmist employs in achieving such a release to engage with the reality of victims of war rape in their managing feelings of abandonment. The article utilises African hermeneutics primarily interested in meaning derived from the text and beyond the critical issues to interact with existential challenges. Due to the psychological nature of the victims of war rape atrocities and the post-traumatic disorders, cathartic release is envisioned in recognition that, for some, healing may remain unattainable. After closely analysing the psalm, the article ends with some considerations for deriving meaning as sought by the methodological premise. <![CDATA[<b>Human Suffering in Need of God's 'Face' and 'Eyes': Perspectives on Psalm 13</b>]]> The COVID-19 global pandemic and its consequent outcomes have caused immense suffering and distress in every community and at all levels of life worldwide. Theological and religious communities raise the question about God's involvement in the causes of and healing from this horrendous misery and grief. These questions become paradigmatic of how God is involved in suffering and how the supplicant could experience deliverance through interaction with God, whilst situated in the midst of such a crisis. Exegetic contemplation on Ps 13, a well-known lament song, provides an exemplary experience of a psalmist in a severe life-endangering context. An exposition of the text-its historical, cultic and literary contexts-and the genre of 'lament' brings insight into the Yahweh-believer's interaction. Without pretending to provide answers to enigmatic forms of suffering, this article shows how Yahweh-believers in ancient Israel understood and reacted to suffering. Human suffering is indeed in need of the ' face' and ' eyes' of Yahweh to experience healing and redemption. <![CDATA[<b>"Oh, that I Had Wings Like a Dove..." Psalm 55 and Breaking the Silence about Violence against Women</b>]]> In this article, the author looks at suffering in Ps 55 from the perspective of women as victims of sexual violence. The research problem and gap addressed concern residual questions regarding the world of the text and the setting of the lament in earlier stages of its redaction and composition. The discussion takes its inspiration from a reading of Ulrike Bail wherein the speaker of Ps 55 appears to be resorting to forms and contents of expression associated with the trauma of rape. In supplementary relation to this, a reader response approach is adopted aiming to show how a female persona as the projected narrator and her language of distress relate to conceptions of sexual assault. The study thus offers confirmatory findings from Ps 55 of how women use words and ways of lamentation to break the silence and seek to cope with the devastating physical and psychological effects of rape. <![CDATA[<b>Psalm 89 and the Logical Problem of Evil: A Comparative-philosophical Perspective </b>]]> This study takes as its starting point the consensus in research on the relationship between divine attributes and suffering in Psalm 89 which holds that some of the beliefs expressed in verses 39-52 contradict those in 1-38(53). In an attempt to address a related gap in the research in a new and supplementary way, a comparative-philosophical perspective is offered regarding the reasoning operative within the Psalm's associated religious language. As counterpart, the so-called "Logical Problem of Evil" (LPE) in analytic philosophy of religion was identified. Conceptual and correlation-relations in Psalm 89 are clarified through correlation and contrast. The study argues that the logical status of the beliefs involved, as contradiction, makes more sense if interpreted as part of the protocol when prayer and poetry have to satisfy the conditions of a possible atheodicy. Thus, restating the Psalm's associated content on its own terms, even if not in them, contributes to our understanding of why certain states of affairs in the world of the text are the way they are, or why they are at all.