The מתנבאות in Ezekiel 13 Reconsidered - PDF

JBL 132, no. 1 (2013): The מתנבאות in Ezekiel 13 Reconsidered jonathan stökl University College London, London WC1H 0AG, United Kingdom In this paper I suggest a new interpretation

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JBL 132, no. 1 (2013): The מתנבאות in Ezekiel 13 Reconsidered jonathan stökl University College London, London WC1H 0AG, United Kingdom In this paper I suggest a new interpretation for the background of Ezek 13: Until recently, most interpreters have viewed the women in this pericope as witches and therefore evil; more recently a number of interpreters have stressed that it is only Ezekiel who regards these women as bad and that they should really be understood as female prophets who competed with Ezekiel. In contrast, I point out that the history of growth of the pericope has to be taken into account. As the text stands, the women are accused of being false prophets, like their male counterparts in vv But in an earlier layer of the text we find the women connected with some form of communication with the dead; this, in turn, fits with the munabbiātu found in the Emar texts. Because of the biblical prophets, they had been interpreted as female prophets as well, but the use of the verb nubbû in the context of caring/communicating with the dead suggests that they are religious specialists either communicating with or caring for the dead. This and the openness with which they are addressed in the Emar texts suggest that they were highly skilled specialists held in considerable regard. It is likely that the Hebrew מתנבאות originally had a similar function and therefore high social status. The textual history of the book of Ezekiel turns them into female prophets at odds with Ezekiel; reception history turned these women into witches. In their own lifetimes they were probably well-respected religious specialists. Ezekiel 13:17 23 is part of Ezekiel s polemics against false prophets. Unlike most other words against false prophets in the Hebrew Bible, such as Ezek 13:1 16, these verses are addressed not to male prophets but to women who are described as,מתנבאות the hitpael participle in the feminine plural of the root נבא ( to prophesy ). In the past, most interpreters have taken this term to mean sorceresses This paper was first read at the 2009 meeting of the OTSEM network at Göttingen. I would like to thank the members of that workshop for their questions and contributions. I would like to thank Professors Reinhard G. Kratz, Pernille Carstens, Hugh G. M. Williamson, and Esther J. Hamori as well as the anonymous JBL reviewers for their comments on drafts of this paper. 61 62 Journal of Biblical Literature 132, no. 1 (2013) or female soothsayers, following the Bible s negative value judgment against such activities in contrast to positively received proper prophecy. 1 In the recent debate, however, the majority of scholars understand the daughters of your people who התנבא as female prophets. 2 This more recent view is often related to an open attack on the paradigms and value judgments of earlier interpreters who shared the Hebrew Bible s concept that prophecy is good while magic and divination are bad. It has become clear that this view is apologetic and untenable in the scholarly community. 3 The difference between good (or white) magic and bad (or black) magic and the clear-cut division between (negative) magic and (positive) religion are emic judgments; they are valid within the culture that makes them, but they are not based on objectively observable data. In this article I will present and review the two main interpretations of the pericope in Ezek 13:17 23: (1) the women are not really good prophets but evil witches; and (2) the women are (good) prophets and magicians. Adducing evidence from Emar, I will then suggest a third reading, which combines elements of the first two: the daughters of your people are involved in necromancy of some sort, but this should not be taken to mean that they are of lower status than either the male prophets of Ezek 13:1 16 or Ezekiel himself. This solution is closer to the more traditional reading, but it does not carry the moralistic baggage imposed on the text by earlier exegetes. A corollary of this argument is that 13:1 16 and 13:17 23 were probably not composed as a coherent whole in the first instance, but carefully put together at a later point. 1 See, e.g., William Hugh Brownlee, Exorcising the Souls from Ezekiel 13:17 23, JBL 69 (1950): ; Walther Eichrodt, Der Prophet Hesekiel (ATD 22; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1959); Walther Zimmerli, Ezechiel (2nd ed.; 2 vols.; BKAT ; Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener Verlag, 1969), Eng. trans.: Ezekiel: A Commentary on the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel (2 vols.; Hermeneia; Philadelphia: Fortress, 1979); Henry W. F. Saggs, External Souls in the Old Testament, JSS 19 (1974): 1 12; Karl-Friedrich Pohlmann, Das Buch des Propheten Hesekiel (Ezechiel): Kapitel 1 19 (ATD 22.1; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1996); and Daniel I. Block, The Book of Ezekiel: Chapters 1 24 (NICOT; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997). 2 See, e.g., Renate Jost, Die Töchter deines Volkes prophezeien, in Für Gerechtigkeit streiten: Theologie im Alltag einer bedrohten Welt. Für Luise Schottroff zum 60. Geburtstag (ed. Dorothee Sölle; Gütersloh: Kaiser, 1994), 59 65; Nancy R. Bowen, The Daughters of Your People: Female Prophets in Ezekiel 13:17 23, JBL 118 (1999): ; Irmtraud Fischer, Gotteskünderinnen: Zu einer geschlechterfairen Deutung des Phänomens der Prophetie und der Prophetinnen in der Hebräischen Bibel (Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 2002), ; Paul Joyce, Ezekiel: A Commentary (Library of Hebrew Bible/Old Testament Studies 482; New York/London: T&T Clark, 2007), ; and Wilda Gafney, Daughters of Miriam: Women Prophets in Ancient Israel (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2008), Somewhat surprisingly, Klara Butting (Prophetinnen gefragt: Die Bedeutung der Prophetinnen im Kanon aus Tora und Prophetie [Erev-Rav-Hefte, Biblisch-feministische Texte 3; Knesebeck: Erev-Rav, 2001], ) comments only in passing on this pericope. 3 E.g., John G. Gager, Curse Tablets and Binding Spells from the Ancient World (New York/ Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992). Stökl: The מתנבאות in Ezekiel I. The Text Before approaching the content of the text it is necessary to make some preliminary comments on the structure and vocabulary of the pericope. I will first define the pericope and then comment on some particularities of the text. There is a plethora of obscure terms in this text, and in spite of numerous attempts to improve our understanding of these terms, uncertainties still abound. 4 Nevertheless, there are few significant variants in the versions, apart from where the Hebrew text is either corrupt or difficult to understand. Delimitation of the Pericope As early as 1840, Heinrich Ewald remarked that Ezek 12:21 14:11 formed a larger group of literary oracles about true and false prophecy. 5 It is well known that this group is divided into five subsections, in which the first two (12:21 25 and 12:26 28) and the third and fourth (13:1 16 and 13:17 23) form pairs. 6 Additionally, there are two themes that hold this larger text together, that of false visions in 12:21 13:16 (and vv ) and that of consulting the deity in 13:17 14:11. It is difficult to say whether this arrangement is original or was established by later redactors. Because it is so competently arranged, I tend toward the latter option. 7 The pericope itself is of a composite nature. This is supported by the changes in grammatical gender in the middle of v. 19 and again in v. 20 from feminine plural to masculine plural without any apparent reason for such a change. This is an issue known from elsewhere in the book of Ezekiel (e.g., ch. 1) and, in my view, is the result of the redactional processes that shaped the entire prophetic book. 8 4 See, e.g., Saggs, External Souls, 1 12; Graham I. Davies, An Archaeological Commentary on Ezekiel 13, in Scripture and Other Artifacts: Essays on the Bible and Archaeology in Honor of Philip J. King (ed. Michael D. Coogan, J. Cheryl Exum, and Lawrence E. Stager; Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1994), ; and Marjo C. A. Korpel, Avian Spirits in Ugarit and in Ezekiel 13, in Ugarit, Religion and Culture: Proceedings of the International Colloquium on Ugarit, Religion and Culture, Edinburgh, July Essays Presented in Honour of Professor John C. L. Gibson (ed. N. Wyatt, W. G. E. Watson, and J. B. Lloyd; Ugaritisch-biblische Literatur 12; Münster: Ugarit-Verlag, 1996), Ewald, Die Propheten des alten Bundes (2 vols.; Stuttgart: Adolph Krabbe, ), 2: See also Leslie C. Allen, Ezekiel 1 19 (WBC 28; Dallas: Word, 1994), 193; and Block, Ezekiel 1 24, This pentapartite structure is reminiscent of several such structures in Amos and elsewhere. 7 I share Davies s interpretation that vv were modeled to correspond to vv. 1 16, and that vv are written for that purpose (Davies, Archaeological Commentary, 110). 8 Contra Vladimir Orel ( Textological Notes, ZAW 109 [1997]: ), who thinks that the women put the bands on the arms of men only. While it is true that in modern Judaism 64 Journal of Biblical Literature 132, no. 1 (2013) In my view, vv a and 20* 21 are the original oracle of doom. This is supported by the fact that vv. 20* 21 consist mainly of vocabulary from 17 19a. Verses are a reflection on vv *, and 19b is inserted in order to improve the connection between vv and the preceding verses. Indeed, similar developments can be identified also in vv These verses consist of at least two unrelated oracles, each with an announcement of doom. The second oracle (vv ) is itself preserved in two versions (vv and 13 16). Both of these versions show lexical links between initial criticism and announcement of doom, which are similar to the links in vv Because the prophets in vv are condemned for what could depending on perspective either be called sign acts or sympathetic magic, and because of the similarity of the links in vocabulary, it seems plausible that vv and vv represent the first combination of the oracles out of which ch. 13 grew. It follows that the original oracles are aimed at technical diviners or magicians. If this is the case, it is possible that the root נבא initially referred not only to prophecy but to divination in general, possibly including some forms of magic. If so, the reduction of the meaning of the root to refer only to prophecy is a later development, traces of which may be detectable in vv. 6 9 and This profile is more akin to verbal prophecy, and there can be no doubt that the scribes who wrote vv. 8 9 and regarded both the נביאים and the מתנבאות as diviners who were not among the true prophets of Yhwh. Text-Critical and Lexical Remarks From a text-critical point of view, our pericope does not present any major difficulties; most of the evidence for different textual traditions exhausts itself in the adding or leaving out of אדני before the tetragrammaton (vv. 18 and 20). More interesting is the relative density of possible Akkadian loanwords. The most convincing case is כ ס ת ות (v. 20; plural of כ ס ת, band ), which in all likelihood is a loan of Akkadian kasîtu ( bondage ; derived from the verb kasû, to bind ). 9 The other candidate is מ ס פ ח ות (v. 18; plural of מ ס פ ח ה ). It should probably be connected to Arabic safīhi ( robe of coarse material ), etymologically related to Akkadian sapāh u ( to loosen, scatter ). 10 The strong connection of the pericope to Tefillin are worn only by men, there is no reason to assume that the bands here are truly the direct predecessors of Tefillin; and even if they were, it is by no means sure that they would have been worn (only) by men at this stage. 9 This solution is considerably easier than Korpel s suggestion to link כסתות with Akkadian katāmu ( to cover ), which is etymologically entirely unrelated to the root כסה (Korpel, Avian Spirits, 103). The LXX translates כסת as προσκεϕάλαιον ( cushion ) here, following the normal postbiblical meaning of כסת (e.g., Saggs, External Souls, 2). 10 I do not follow Saggs s suggestion, adopted by Korpel, that ultimately relies on Carl Brockel mann to relate מספחות to Akkadian musah h iptu ( net ) with a metathesis of /h / and Stökl: The מתנבאות in Ezekiel Mesopotamia, expressed in words that appear only in this pericope and nowhere else in the entire Hebrew Bible, supports Nancy Bowen s recent reappraisal of the structural link between the pericope and the incantation list Maqlû. 11 In her reading of the pericope, Ezekiel is using a structure reminiscent of anti-witchcraft incantations, which means that in effect he is using magic while arguing against the women whom he accuses of using magic. א ת נ פ שׁ י ם The last expression on which I want to comment is the mysterious at the end of v. 20. Contrary to Walther Zimmerli, I do not think that the ל פ ר ח ות infinitive ל פ ר ח ות earlier in the verse is a later addition on the basis of the similar expression at the end of the verse. 12 Instead, I suggest that the last three words are מ צ ד ד ות the result of a simple mistake (aberratio oculi) of a scribe coming upon ( hunting ). 13 One final remark is necessary. The following is based on the assumption, for which I argued above, that vv and the additions with masculine suffixes in vv. 19 and 20 were added later to vv *. In its final form, ch. 13 accuses both the male prophets of vv and the female prophets of vv of false prophecy. In the following discussion I will focus on vv and will for the time being ignore vv ; only in the conclusion will I refer to the text in its entirety, as this article is initially interested in the first women accused by the text, and only secondarily in the women whom the book of Ezekiel accuses as it now stands. It is important to be clear at the outset: Ezekiel 13 does not portray the women positively nor does the reconstructed oracle underlying the text. This does not, however, mean that we have to follow the assessment of the biblical authors. /p/ (Saggs, External Souls, 6 7; Korpel, Avian Spirits, 103; Brockelmann, Kurzgefasste vergleichende Grammatik der semitischen Sprachen: Elemente der Laut- und Formenlehre [PLO 21; Berlin: Reuther & Reichard, 1908], 60 e δ). Labials and laryngeals are at times metathesized, and Saggs s suggestion would make good sense of the passage. The vocalization, however, seems to make such a derivation less likely. Further, as Davies points out ( Archaeological Commentary, 121), binding and loosening form a logical pair that is found also in magical texts. Some interpreters return to a suggestion to understand the מספחות as an early form of Tefillin/ Phylakteria, e.g., Orel, Notes, ; and Jost, Töchter, 60. As far as I can see, the suggestion goes back to Godfrey Rolles Driver, Linguistic and Textual Problems: Ezekiel, Bib 19 (1938): 60 69, Bowen, Daughters, See already G. A. Cooke, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Book of Ezekiel (ICC; Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1936), ; and Alfred Bertholet, Hesekiel (HAT 13; Tübingen: Mohr, 1936), Zimmerli, Ezechiel, Zimmerli s solution is based on evidence from the LXX and the Peshitta, which do not have the expression the first time but do note it the second time. Speculatively, one could surmise that the first scribe added א ת נ פ שׁ ות ל פ ר ח ות following a slip of the eye (aberratio oculi). A subsequent scribe added a second masculine plural suffix, resulting in פ שׁ ות יכ ם,נ which in turn was shortened to נ פ שׁ י ם in a further mistake. This would fit well with the assumption that vv. 19b, 20aβ, 20bβ were added later. In the absence of evidence, however, this theory must remain speculative. 66 Journal of Biblical Literature 132, no. 1 (2013) II. The Status Quaestionis After these preliminary remarks, we may approach the central topic of the article: What are the role and function of the עמך המתנבאות?בנות Are they good prophets or are they evil witches? How do we distinguish between these interpretations? Are prophets by definition good, while witches are evil? In earlier scholarship, exegetes argued that the women in Ezekiel 13 perform magic, playing with the souls of the Israelites. The rhetoric used by these exegetes implies that they thought that the women perform some lower and despicable form of magic, that they are pretending to be prophets and do not deserve the title prophet. 14 According to these interpreters, this is why the hitpael is employed here: it allegedly implies that the women are just pretending to be prophets. Wilda Gafney has recently shown that the neat distinction between the niphal and the להתנבא cannot be upheld. 15 Indeed, Renate Jost points out that, if נבא hitpael of carried such negative connotations, the use of the hitpael by Ezekiel to describe his own actions in 37:10 would be rather problematic. 16 Additionally, the use of the participle indeed, the feminine participle occurs only here 17 instead of the feminine noun נביאה ( female prophets ) is often interpreted negatively; it is also used to argue that the מתנבאות are not really prophets. 18 Traditionally, scholars have distinguished between magic and religion on the grounds that religion is supposedly characterized by submission to a/the divine will whereas magic seeks to coerce that divine will. 19 The term magic has often 14 See, e.g., Katheryn Pfisterer Darr ( The Book of Ezekiel: Introduction, Commentary, and Reflections, NIB 6: ), who describes the women as female exiles who are accused of playing the prophet ; and Fritz Dumermuth ( Zu Ez. XIII 18 21, VT 13 [1963]: ), who speaks of the women s niedere Mantik. Darr does allow for the fact that the distinction between magic and religion is emic and even within one society people may not agree whether a certain practice is religious or represents magic. 15 Gafney, Daughters of Miriam, 36 47, contra Klaus-Peter Adam, And He Behaved Like a Prophet Among Them (1Sam 10:11b): The Depreciative use of נבא Hitpael and the Comparative Evidence of Ecstatic Prophecy, WO 39 (2009): I do not out of hand deny the possibility that the hitpael of נבא is at times used with negative undertones, but Gafney shows that this is not a coherent principle. 16 Jost, Töchter, 59. The form ו ה נ ב את י with assimilated ת is unusual, and some manuscripts have the uncontracted form ו ה ת נ ב א ת י) ). BHS suggests reading niphal ו נ ב א ת י, as in v. 7. I see no reason for the change other than to avoid a difficult form. The form found in the MT is rare. To my knowledge להתנבא assimilates the ת only here and in Jer 23:13. For the assimilation of ת in the hitpael to both נ and,שׁ see GKC 54c and Joüon-Muraoka 53e. 17 The masculine participle occurs five times in the plural (Num 11:27; 1 Sam 10:5; 1 Kgs 22:10; 2 Chr 18:9; Jer 14:14) and four times in the singular (three times without the article: 2 Chr 18:7; Jer 26:20; 29:26; once with the article Jer 29:27). 18 See, e.g., Davies, Archaeological Commentary, This view is criticized already by Islwyn Blythin, Magic and Methodology, Numen 17 Stökl: The מתנבאות in Ezekiel been used to describe unofficial rites, often hidden and regarded as negative, while religion is open and regarded as positive. 20 But because one person s magic can be another s religion, scholars of religion in general view the distinction as suspect; it is more a value judgment than a description of objective differences. Therefore, recent studies of magic and religion have come to the conclusion that it is impossible to develop objective criteria by which to distinguish between the two. 21 This means that the terminology of magic and religion does not help to distinguish differences in social function. In a similar development, the distinction between prophecy and divination has become blurred as well. The biblical opposition between divination and prophecy has influenced scholars for a long time, but on
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