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Old Testament Essays

On-line version ISSN 2312-3621

Abstract

PRINSLOO, Gert T. M.. Suffering bodies - Divine absence: towards a spatial reading of ancient Near Eastern laments with reference to Psalm 13 and an Assyrian Elegy (K 890). Old testam. essays [online]. 2013, vol.26, n.3, pp. 773-803. ISSN 2312-3621.

Suffering is a universal human experience. It causes an existential crisis and a struggle to construct meaning. When suffering is expressed through the medium of language, it is often done in terms of bodily experience in negative lived space. It is aptly illustrated in individual laments. Functional-anthropological and canonical approaches to laments open avenues to investigate individual laments as literary-poetic creations telling a "story " of intense suffering, as paradigmatic songs expressing the negative spatial experience caused by suffering. Drawing upon insights from "space" and "body" theories the thesis in this study is that the individual spatial experience of a sufferer provides a key to a holistic interpretation of individual laments. Suffering is expressed as the spatial experience of separation from the divine and his/her benevolent presence as well as social isolation, thus suffering is ultimately an experience akin to death. The resulting discordance can only be rectified by divine intervention. It is illustrated by means of a spatial reading of two texts, the "Assyrian Elegy " (K 890) and Ps 13. "...we all experience sadness, we all come at times to despair, and we all lose hope that the suffering in our lives and in the world will ever end. I want to share with you my faith... that this suffering can be transformed and redeemed..." (Desmond Tutu).1

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