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Verbum et Ecclesia

On-line version ISSN 2074-7705
Print version ISSN 1609-9982

Verbum Eccles. (Online) vol.31 n.1 Pretoria  2010 



Deathly silence and apocalyptic noise: Observations on the soundscape of the Book of the Twelve



Aaron Schart

Department of Humanities, Institute for Protestant Theology, University of Duisburg-Essen, Essen, Germany





This paper proposes a reading of the Book of the Twelve (used interchangeably with 'Twelve' and 'Book' for convenience) that concentrates on the sound that is included in the description of the world of the text. Three onomatopoeic devices are singled out. First, the mourning cry hôy is considered. This interjection is used differently in several of the writings: in Amos (5:18; 6:1) the prophet cries out in compassion with the addressees. By contrast, in Nahum 3:1 and Habakkuk 2:6-19, hôy is uttered in a mood of mockery. In Zechariah 2:10 a third, joyful hôy is used. It appears that the different usages cohere nicely with the overall structure of the Book of the Twelve. Secondly, the interjection has likewise shows different usages. In Amos 6:10 and 8:3, it simulates the last breath of Israelites dying when the land is devastated. By contrast, in Habakkuk 2:20, Zephaniah 1:7 and Zechariah 2:17, the addressees are directed to be silent before YHWH. This command should be perceived as an act of reverence. Again, the sequence of the occurrences coheres with the overall structure of the Book of the Twelve. Of special relevance is that the last three instances build a frame around the Babylonian exile, which lies between Zephaniah and Haggai. The third example is the phrase hamônîm, hamônîm in Joel 4:14. The author employs an irregular double plural to construe this place as the loudest spot ('apocalyptic noise') within the Twelve.

Keywords: Book of the Twelve; mourning rite; onomatopoeic words; silence; soundscape



Full text available only in PDF format.




I would like to thank James Nogalski for correcting my English and giving some useful hints.



Andersen, F.I. & Freedman, D.N., 1980, Hosea, The Anchor Bible 24, Doubleday, Garden City/New York.         [ Links ]

Gesenius, W., 1977, Hebräische Grammatik. Völlig umgearbeitet von E. Kautzsch [Hebrew grammar.         [ Links ] Completely revised by E. Kautzsch], 28th edn., Olms, Hildesheim/New York.

Hardmeier, C., 1978, Texttheorie und biblische Exegese. Zur rhetorischen Funktion der Trauermetaphorik in der Prophetie [Text theory and biblical exegesis. The rhetorical function of mourning metaphors within the Prophetic Tradition], Beiträge zur evangelischen Theologie 79, Kaiser, München.

Meyers, C.L. & Meyers, E.M., 1987, Haggai, Zechariah 1-8, The Anchor Bible 25B Doubleday, New York.         [ Links ]

Schafer, R.M. (ed.), 1977, Five village soundscapes, A.R.C. Publications, Vancouver.         [ Links ]

Schafer, R.M., 1994 [1977], The soundscape. Our sonic environment and the tuning of the world. Destiny Books, Rochester, Verm.

Schart, A., 2009, 'Totenstille und Endknall. Ein Beitrag zur Analyse der Soundscape des Zwölfprophetenbuchs' [Deathly silence and the final big bang. A contribution to the analysis of the soundscape of the Book of the Twelve prophets], in C. Karrer-Grube, J. Krispenz, T. Krüger, C. Rose & A. Schellenberg (eds.), Sprachen - Bilder - Klänge. Dimensionen der Theologie im Alten Testament und in seinem Umfeld. Festschrift für Rüdiger Bartelmus zu seinem 65. Geburtstag [Language - pictures - sounds. Dimensions of theology in the Old Testament environment. Festschrift for Rüdiger Bartelmus on his 65th birthday], Alter Orient und Altes Testament 30, pp. 257-274, Ugarit-Verlag, Münster.

Weippert, H. 2002, 'Der Lärm und die Stille. Ethno-archäologische Annäherungen an das biblische Alltagsleben' [Noise and silence. An ethno-arachaeological study of everyday life in the biblical world], in A. Lemaire (ed.), Congress Volume Basel 2001, Vetus Testamentum Supplements 92, pp. 163-184, Brill, Leiden/Boston.



Aaron Schart
University of Duisburg-Essen
Department of Humanities
Institute for Protestant Theology
45117 Essen

Received: 01 Apr. 2010
Accepted: 18 May 2010
Published: 13 July 2010



Note: This paper is an expanded version of my presentation at the SBL Meeting, 24th November 2008 in Boston. Most of its content stems from my longer German article, 'Totenstille und Endknall' (2009).

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