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Old Testament Essays

On-line version ISSN 2312-3621
Print version ISSN 1010-9919

Old testam. essays vol.21 n.1 Pretoria  2008


'Rescue me from the young lions'. An animal metaphor in psalm 35:171



Alec Basson

Department of Ancient Studies, University of Stellenbosch




References to enemies who ceaselessly orchestrate the downfall of the righteous abound in the psalms of lamentation. Whereas the identity of the wicked remains a point of debate among scholars, their evil character is beyond dispute. A salient feature of the psalms of lament is the poet's employment of an array of metaphors to describe the malevolence of the enemy. Often the portrayal of the adversaries is cast in animal imagery to accentuate their belligerence. A favourite among the animal metaphors utilised by the psalmist is that of the lion. It is reasonable to assume that the threat posed by lions accounts for the occurrence of leonine metaphors as a poetical strategy to depict the hostile forces. Given the prevalence of lion imagery in the psalms of lamentation, this paper endeavours to elucidate the reference to 'young lions' in Psalm 35:17 in terms of the conceptual metaphor theory. It is argued that the threatening associations of lions serve as an apt metaphorical source domain to explicate the abstract experience of antagonistic human behaviour in terms of a particular animal metaphor.



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1 A revised version of a paper read at the SBL international conference in Vienna, July 2007. The financial assistance of the University of Stellenbosch towards attending this conference is hereby acknowledged.