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JBL 132, no. 4 (2013): 865-882

Y h w h ’s Hand and the Iconography of the Blow in Psalm 81:14-16


jmlemon@emory.edu Candler School of Theology, Emory University, Atlanta, GA 30322 University o f Stellenbosch, Stellenbosch 7600, South Africa

?salm 81 contains a divine oracle in which Y hw h promises to act against Israel’s enemies. The nature o f that activity, however, is unclear, particularly as V 15b

describes i t: ידי ביש א םהירצ לעו .

sort of “turning” (^בוש)— relate to the verbal object of the sentence, ١٦١ (“my hand”), as well as the prepositional phrase beginning with לע ? On the basis of evidence from the immediate literary context as well as iconographie data from the ancient Near East, this essay argues for a translation “1 will rear back m y hand

above their foes.” The text thus provides a literary instantiation of the icono- graphic trope o f the Egyptian king lifting his hand menacingly above his subju- gated enemies. As such, it reflects both a borrowing and a bold reappropriation

o f Egyptian imagery. The allusion

com munity that Y hw h has supplanted the pharaoh in his position of dominance and now stands ready to vanquish any other foe who might oppose them.

H ow does the verbal action—ostensibly som e

to the “iconography o f the blow” reminds the


Th e

O b sc u r e

M o v e m e n t

o f

¥ h w h s

H a n d

Following و call to praise God in its opening verses (2-6), Fsalm 81 contains a divine oracle in which Y h w h recounts Israel’s salvation front bondage in Egypt and the testing in the wilderness (w. 7-17).إ The oracle culminates with a double promise: if Israel would listen and be obedient (v. 14), Y h w h would act decisively against its enemies (w. 15-16) and provide sustenance (v. 17). w hile the general

Many thanks go to several individuals who provided comments and suggestions on earlier drafts of this paper: Brian DiPalma, Brent A. Strawn, Izaak ٦٠de Hulster, and Christopher B. Hays.

؛For the use of prophetic oracle in this psalm, see Thijs Booij, “The Background of the Oracle in Psalm 81,” Bib 65 (1984): 466-75.


866 Journal ofBiblical Literature 132, no. 4 (2013)

sense 0 ؛ the text Is clear enough, the nature ofYHWH’s promised action against Israel’s enemies Is markedly less clear, particularly as ٧. 15b describes it: םהירצ לעו ידי בישא. The interpretation of בישא has proven critical for understanding the verse:

How does its verbal action—ostensibly some sort of “turning” (־^בוש)—relate to the verbal object ofthe sentence,ידי (“myhand”), as well as the prepositional phrase beginning with לע? A long-standing interpretation reads ?s 81:15, “I will then turn my hand against their foes,” or something closely akin to it (see KJV, NIV, NASB, ^ ^ ٧١. This translation, also found in standard lexica such as HALOT, presumes that the hiphtl of בוש here conveys the act ofturning.^ Therefore, one can find little distinc- tion between this use and the meaning ofthe same verb in the qal. While many commentators, including Mitchell Dahood, Artur Weiser, Hans-Joachim Kraus, John Goldingay, Marvin Tate, and Frank-Lothar Hossfeld adopt this translation, few have expanded (even briefly) on the phrase or acknowledged the difficulty of understanding what exactly it means for one to turn one’s hand.^ Since there are, of course, many ways of and reasons for turning one’s hand, one wonders how the poet imagined the movement ofYHWH’s hand in this context. Is the hand turning from the Israelites and toward the enemies, as Franz Delitzch and, later, David F.mannel have suggested?^ And if so, does the turning necessitate

2Ludwig Koehler, Walter Baumgartner, and Johan Jakob Stamm, The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon ofthe o ld Testament (trans. and ed. under the supervision ofM. E. j. Richardson; 2 vol. study ed.; Leiden: Brill, 200i), 1433. ^Weiser reads “turn my hand against their oppressors,” but makes no comment on the imagery employed here except to say that God “confirms he is willing to help them against their enemies” (The Psalms: A Commentary [nans. Herbert Hartwell; OTL; ?hiladelphia: Westminster, 1962], 552, 556). Kraus reads “turn my hand against their adversaries” but likewise gives no discussion ©؛ the translation in his commentary (Psalms 60-150: A Commentary [trans. Hilton c. Gswald; CC; Minneapolis: Fortress, 1989], 146,152). Dahood reads “and against their adversaries turn my hand” with no further explication (Psalms, vol. 2, 51-100 [AB 17; Garden City, NY:

Doubleday, 1968], 263,267). Goldingay reads “against their foes 1would turn my hand,” but does not elaborate on his translation (Psalms 42-89 [Baker Commentary on the Gld Testament Wisdom and Fsalms; Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2007], 546, 554-55); likewise Tate (Psalms 51-100 [WBC 20; Dallas: Word, 1990], 318). Hossfeld translates “turn my hand against their attackers” and suggests in his commentary that the verse describes “the lifting ofYahweh’s hand against the oppressors,” with a conferral ofD eut 32:41 (Hossfeld and Erich Zenger, Psalms 2: A Commentary ٠» Psalms 50-100 [trans. Linda M. Maloney; Hermeneia: Minneapolis: Fortress, 2005], 319-20,325). Yet Hossfeld provides no insight on how “turning the hand” can indicate the activity of “lifting the hand.” For a discussion ofthe option of “lifting the hand,” see section 11 below.

٠Delitzsch, Biblical Commentary ٠« the Psalms, vol. 5 of Commentary ٠« the o ld Testament (ed. Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsch; trans. Francis Bolton; 1866-91; repr., Feabody, MA:

Hendrickson, 1996), 541, 547 (commentary). Delitzsch translates the verse “Suddenly would 1 humble their enemies, and against their oppressors turn My hand” (p. 541). With the translation

“1 would


against their oppressors,” Emanuel suggests that the phrase indicates “the process

LeMon: Yh w h s Hand and the Iconography ofthe Blow


a negative outcome for those toward whom the hand is turned, as most presume?^ In fact, a hand often serves as the object of בוש in the hiphil (Gen 38:29; I Kgs 13:4; Josh 8:26; Lam 2:3,8; Ps 74:11; Ezek 18:8,17; 20:22). In most ofthese cases, the verb suggests a drawing back of the hand as a means of ceasing activity or stopping aggressive actions. In Josh 8:26, for example, Joshua does not “drawback” his hand until all ofthe enemies have fallen. In this context, the act of drawing back (hiphil of בוש) is the opposite of stretching out (הטנ) the hand.6 Likewise, in Ps 74:11, the psalmist questions why God would draw back his hand, that is, cease from acting against the enemies, ^ e s e texts complicate the idea that the hiphil of בוש in Ps 81:15 designates an aggressive action, given that in the other contexts the verb indicates a cessation of activity or a pulling back of an outstretched hand. Complicating matters further, the NJPS provides an alternate translation of Ps 81:15, which interprets the phrase ידי בישא םהירצ לעו as signaling some sort of repeated activity, rendering V 15 thus:

1 ا،،لا

strike their foes again and again.

would 1 subdue their enem ies at once,

This translation reflects the sense of the phrase לע די בשה as ft occurs in Jer 6:9.7

תואבצ הוהי רמ א הכ

לארש י תיראש ז،נגכ וללועי


תולסלס־לע רצובכ ךדי בשה

Thus says Yhwh of hosts:

Let them glean thoroughly as a vine the remnant o f Israel; Bringing your hand back again like a grape-gatherer over its branches.8

In an interpretation that remains largely uncontested, one finds here the notion of bringing back ones hand over the branches and/or passing one’s hand through the

in which YHWH turns his hand from his people to those oppressing them” (“An Unrecognized Voice: Intra-textual and Intertextual Perspectives on Psalm 81,” HS 51 [2009]: 106).

5 See n. 3 above. ^On the iconographical background of this imagery, see Othmar Keel, Wirkmächtige Siegeszeichen im Alten Testament: Ikonographische Studien zu Jos 8,18-26; Ex 17, 8-13; 2 Kön 13, 14-19 und 1 Kön 22, 11 (OBO 5; Fribourg: Universitätsverlag; Göttingen; Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1974), 11-82.

Hebräisches und aramäisches Hand-

Wörterbuch über das Alte Testament (17th ed.; Berlin: Springer, 1954), 811. 8My translation, which accords with most interpretations. See, e.g., Robert p. Carroll, The Book of Jeremiah: A Commentary (OTL; Philadelphia: Westminster, 1986), 193; Jack. R. Lundbom, Jeremiah 1-20: A Hew Translation with Introduction and Commentary (AB 21A; New York:

Doubleday, 1999), 421-22; William L. Holladay, Jeremiah I: A Commentary ٠« the Book ofthe Prophet Jeremiah, Chapters 1-25 (Hermeneia; Philadelphia: Fortress, 1986), 213. For the difficulty of rendering the MT’s singular participle ללוע with the plural verb וללוע) in the first colon, see

Holladay, as well as John Bright, Jeremiah: Introduction, Translation, and Notes (AB 21; Garden City NY Doubleday, 1965), 44.

^See HALOT, 1443, s.v. בוש؛ Wilhelm Gesenius et al

868 Journal ofBiblical Literature 132, no. 4 (2013)

branches repeatedly—essentially the causative use of the hiphil with an additional iterative sense. The parallelism between the cola heavily informs the translation ofbp די בשה in Jer 6:9. Since the thorough gleaning described in the first colon can be accom- plished only through repeated movement ofthe hand, the second colon likely indi- cates a similar repetitive movement. It is essential to note at this point that only the immediate literary context allows for the determination ofthe particular sense of the hiphil of בוש here. Without those contextual clues, it would be exceedingly dif- ficult to establish the nature ofthe movement ofYHWH’s hand in Jer 6:9. Indeed, for any problematic word or phrase, while other occurrences in the biblical corpus can provide helpful data, the immediate literary context serves as the primary guide for apprehending its meaning. However, the NJ?S has imported the repetitive sense of לע די בשה from Jer 6:9 into Ps 81:15: “strike their foes again and again.” In fact, most interpreters have not based foe translation of Ps 81:15 solely on Jer 6:9؛ instead, they have seemed to render the verse in accordance with other occurrences ofthe phrase לע די בשה in Isa 1:25; Ezek 38:12; Amos 1:8; and Zech 13:7. In these cases, H ALO T suggests “turn or direct one’s hand against some- one,” and most translations have adopted that sense for Ps 81:15 as well.9 The various translations of this phrase in several contexts prompt one to ask whether in fact לע די בשה ever achieves foe status of a firmly established idiom with a consistent meaning. Already we see that Jer 6:9 argues against that idea. Thus, the translation of לע די בשה in Ps 81:15 warrants further analysis. The following provides such an analysis, focusing primarily on the immediate literary context ofthe psalm as the first and most important datum for determining meaning. I will also consider the historical context of the psalm, especially as revealed through iconographical material, an important but heretofore under- utilized source of data for illuminating this passage. After treating the phrase in the context of Psalm 81 and in light of iconographie material, I will return briefly to foe other instances of לע די בשה (Isa 1:25؛ Ezek 38:12; Amos 1:8؛ and Zech 13:7) to suggest what the phrase might signify in these passages beyond the cryptic “turn- ing one’s hand against someone.” In terms of methodology, one could situate this study within the framework of so-called iconographie approaches to biblical texts, as it builds on the important works of Othmar Keel and foe Fribourg school.^ Keel and his colleagues have argued forcefully and effectively over foe past thirtyyears that biblical scholars must

9HALOT, 1443, s.v.בו ש. 10A period of remarkabiy productive research from Keel, his students, and colleagues centered at the University of Fribourg in Switzerland began with the publication of his seminal volume The Symbolism ofthe Biblical World: Ancient Near Eastern Iconography and the Book ٠/ Psalms (trans. Timothy 1. Hallett; repr., Winona Lake, IN: Fisenbrauns, 1997; figs. 1, 3 ,4a-c, and 6 in fois article are used by permission from Eisenbrauns)؛ first published as Die Weh der altorientalischen Bildsymbolik und das Alte Testament: Am Beispiel der Psalmen (Zurich: Benziger,

LeMon: Yh w h s Hand and the Iconography ofthe Blow


take seriously the fact that the biblical text was composed and redacted within a world of images.“ Therefore, analyzing a text in its fullest historical context means attending carefully to the ways that foe Bible’s literary imagery reflects and refracts the larger imagistic world from which it emerged. One should note further that such iconographie approaches are appearing with increasing frequency, especially among ?salms scholars, even those not directly associated with foe Fribourg school.“ The present work constitutes another example of this trend.

1972). These scholars, whose work largely appeared In the series Orbis biblicus et Orientalls, have come to be known as foe Fribourg school. Keel’s interests originally focused on foe intersection of ancient art and foe biblical text. See esp. Othmar Keel, Jahwe-Visionen und Siegelkunst: Eine neue Deutung der Majestätsschilderungen in /6 ﺀك, Es 4 ل س،ا ل0 س ك،اﺀمأ (SBS 84/85; Stuttgart: Katholisches Bibelwerk, 1977); idem, Vögel als Boten: Studien zu Ps 68,12-14, Gen 12- 6 ة , Koh 10, 20 und dem Assenden ٧٠» Botenvögeln in Ägypten (OBO 14; Fribourg: Universitätsverlag; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1977); idem, Jahwes Entgegnung an Ijob: Eine Deutung ٧٠« Ijob 38-41 ٧٠٢ dem Hintergrund der zed- genössischen Bildkunst (FRLANT 1^1; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1978). The work ofthe Fribourg school soon extended into penetrating studies of ancient Near Eastern art as an end in itself, as well as studies ofthe history of religions to which the iconography gives witness, fo e volumes are too numerous to include here, but for a representative example, see Othmar Keel and Christoph Uehlinger, Gods, Goddesses, ه»ﺢﻣ Images ه/ﺀﺖﻬﺤﻣ in Ancient Israel (trans. foom as H. Trapp; Minneapolis: Fortress, 1998). See also foe four volumes of Studien zu den Stempelsiegeln aus Palästina/Israel (OBO 67, 88, 100, 135; Fribourg: Universitätsverlag; Göttingen: Vandehoeck & Ruprecht, 1985-92), which Keel authored with Siliva Schroer (OBO 67, 1985), with Hildi Keel-Leu and Silvia Schroer (OBO 88,1989), with Menakhem Shuval and Christoph Uehlinger (OBO 100,1990), and alone (OBO 135,1992). Two other significant multi- volume works are in progress: Silvia Schroer and Othmar Keel, Die Ikonographie Palästinas/ Israels und der Alte Orient: Eine Religionsgeschichte in Bildern (4 vols.; Fribourg: Academic Fress, 2005-); Othmar Keel, Corpus der Stempelsiegeln aus Palästina/Israel (5 vols.; OBO Series Archae- ologica; Fribourg: Academic Press; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck 8f Ruprecht, 1995-). Important Internet-based resources for ancient Near Eastern iconography include the Bibel + Orient Datenbank Online (www.bible-orient-museum.ch/bodo/) and foe Iconography of Deity and Demons in the Ancient Near East: An Iconographie Dictionary with Special Emphasis on First Millennium BCE Palestine/Israel (http://www.religionswissenschaft.uzh.ch/idd/). ^For a recent overview and evaluation ofthe role of ancient Near Eastern iconography in various aspects of biblical interpretation, see Iconography and Biblical Studies: Proceedings ofthe Iconography Sessions ٠؛ the / مﺀ'»ﺀ EABS/SBL Conference, 22-26 July 2007, Vienna, Austria (ed. Izaak j. de Huister and Rüdiger Schmitt; AOAT 361; Münster: Ugarit, 2009); Izaak I. de Huister, Iconographie Exegesis and Third Isaiah (FAT 2/36; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2009); foel M. LeMon, Yh w h s Winged Form in the Psalms: Exploring Congruent Iconography and Texts (OBO 242; Fribourg: Academic Press; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2010). ^See, for example, the important role that iconographical material plays in the extensive Psalms commentary by Frank-Lothar Hossfeld and Erich Zenger, Psalms 2: A Commentary ٠» Psalms 51-100 (trans. Linda M. Maloney; Hermeneia; Minneapolis: Fortress, 2005); eidem. Psalms 3: A Commentary ٠« Psalms 101-150 (trans. Linda M. Maloney; Hermeneia: Minneapolis:

Eortress, ^011). See also William p. Brown, Seeing the Psalms: A Theology ofMetaphor (Louisville:

Westminster John Knox, 2002).

870 Journal ofBiblical Literature 132, no. 4 (2013)

II. Th e Th r e a t o f Yh w h s B low

Set within a larger divine oracle, Ps 81:13 begin$ with a statement that God’s people would not listen and submit to God but instead walk according to their own counsels.^ After announcing the problem, the oracle then moves to a conditional statement (w. 14-16). Its protasis, recalling the themes ofv. 13, suggests that listen- ing to Y h w h and walking according to his way provide the conditions for Y h w h ’s actions against the adversaries of Israel (v. 14).

13 $٠ 1 gave them over to the stubbornness o f their heart. They walked according to their own counsels.

14 If only my people would listen to me, If Israel would walk in m y ways.

The apodosis of the conditional statement in V 15 presents a picture of these divine acts, beginning in the first colon with God humbling the enemies.

עינכא םהיכיוא טעמכ

Then 1 would quickly subdue their enemies. (Ps 81:15a)

The verb ענכ in the hiphil appears several times in the Hebrew Bible. In most cases the object of the verb is a person or people: Deut 9:3; Judg 4:23; 2 Sam 8:1; 1 Chr 17:10; 18:1; 2 Chr 28:19; Neh 9:24؛ lob 40:12These instances of the verb suggest a condition in which the enemies are defeated but not necessarily killed, or, at least, not yet killed. In fact, these texts reflect a pattern ٠٢ process of violence in which incapacitation and humiliation (represented by ענב in the hiphil) precede the actual killing ofthe enemies. Consider Judg 4:23-24, which describes God subduing King Jabin (v. 23) before the Israelites destroy him (ותירב;־؛, V 25). Nehemiah 9:24 pro- vides a further example, describing God’s subjugation ofthe Canaanites so that the Israelites could then “do with them as they pleased” (םנ ו צרב ם ה ב ת ו שע ל ). In both of these cases, it is important to note that God is the one who subdues the enemies. Indeed, God is the agent in virtually every case where the hiphil of ענב appears; David subduing the Philistines in 2 Sam 8:1 = 1 Chr 18:1 provides the only exception. The act of subduing enemies, then, seems to be a distinctly divine and/ or kingly activity in the Hebrew Bible. So as the picture ofYHWH begins to emerge in the first half of this verse, we see God exercising uniquely royal/divine power to subdue the enemies, an action that signals that the destruction ofthe enemies is imminent.

13For structural analysis ofthis oracle, see Tate, Psalms 51-100, 325; Kraus, Psalms 60-150, t47; Goldlngay, Psalms 42-89, 547. 14In Uvo instances the object is not the person exactly but the heart (Ps 107:12) and the noise, that is, the mouth (Isa 25:5).

LeMon: Yh w h s Hand and the Iconography ofthe Blow


The next colon dc$crlbc$ the actions of God’s hand:

ידי בישא םהירצ לעו

1 will rear back my hand above their foes, (?s 18:15b)

As discussed above, several verses showcase the hand as the object of בוש in the hiphil (Gen 38:29; 1 Kgs 13:4; Josh 8:26; Lam 2:3, 8; ?s 74:11; Ezek 18:8,17; 20:22). Those contexts uniformly warrant translating the verb with its simple causative sense: to bring back or draw back. As such, the phrase typically indicates a cessation of action or aggression. The context ofPs81:15, however, suggests that Gods violent action is clearly in view. In fact, given the use ofyiD, destruction seems imminent. Indeed, them is a way to understand the hiphil o f i w in this context with a simple causative sense that also conveys an aggressive action ofYHWH’s hand: “1 will rear back my hand above their foes.” At this point, the iconography ofthe ancient Near East provides a helpful source of data, for the Psalmic imagery resonates with the image ofthe Egyptian god-king rearing back his hand in preparations for striking a blow against a subdued enemy.^ T^is image, often referred to as the smiting posture, originated in Egyptian art in the Predynastic period as a way to represent the rulers lordship over enemies and the chaos that they embody.^ The famous Narmer Palette provides one ofthe earliest representations of this scene (see ftg. I).17 In this palette, the ruler stands above and strides toward the kneeling enemy. The rulers left hand holds the enemy’s hair and the right hand draws back the mace ready to strike the deathblow.*؟ These essential elements constitute one ofthe most common ways of representing the power ofthe king against his enemies from the Predynastic period through the Roman period.*؟ Some ofthe clearest examples come from New Kingdom art, both monumental and miniature. See, for example, a relief on a column from the foreconrt ofthe temple of

15Othmar Keel has already suggested that the presentation ofthe king in royai psalms bears affinity to the ideology ofkingship evident in Egyptian iconography, though he has not linked ffie image of the smiting king specifically with Ps 81:15 (Symbolism ofthe Biblical World, 291). 16For a study of the history and development of this iconographie trope, see Emma Swan Hall, The Pharaoh Smites His Enemies: A Comparative Study (Münchner ägyptologische Studien 44; Munich: Deutscher Kunstverlag, 1986). See also H. Schüfer, “Das Niederschlangen der Feinde: Zur Geschichte eines ägyptischen Sinnbildes,” WZKM 54 (1957): 168-76; and Keel, Wirkmächtige Siegeszeichen, 11-82. ؛^See also the decorated Tomh 100 at Heirakonpolis (Humphrey Case and Joan Crowfoot Fayne, “Tomb 100: The Decorated Tomb at Hierakonpolis” JEA 48 [1962]: 5-18). ؛®For extensive treatment ofthe prehistory of the image and its use in the context of the Narmer Falette, see Whitney Davis, Masking the Blow: The Scene of Representation in Late Pre- historic Egyptian A rt (California Studies in the History of Art 30; Berkeley: University of California Fress, 1992). 19Gay Robins, The A rt ofAncient Egypt (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Fress, 1997),

33. See also Hall, Pharaoh Smites; and Schäfer, “Das Niederschlangen der Feinde.”

872 Journal ofBiblical Literature 132, no. 4 (2013)


F i g u r e 1. Slate palette; Hierakonpolis, ca. 2850 B .C .E .; after Keel, Symbolism ٠/ the Biblical World, fig. 397.

Ramesses III at Medinet Habu (fig. 2).20Here Rame$$es ¡II appears Iwlcc, wearing the red and white crowns, poised to slay subjugated

enemies. The king is the same size as the gods who authorize and observe his actions, sug- gesting that the king is equal to the gods and indeed can be construed as a god himself.21 Another example from this same temple complex (relief on the first pylon) shows Ramesses III holding multiple enemies visi- ble in profile, all of whom have their hands raised in entreaty and humiliation.^2 This imagery is reflected with particular clarity in

the same

period (fig. 3).23As in Ps 81:15, the ruler here is pictured with not just one but many subju- gated enemies in the moment before the deathblow. The image ofthe smiting king appears outside of the Egypt as well, especially in Late Bronze Age Syria-Palestine, where

m iniature


an ostracon




column from the fore- court of the temple of Ramesses 111 at Medi- net Habu. After Keel,

W irkm ächtige Sieges- Zeichen, Abb. 47.


i g u r e

2 . Relief © a

20Cf. Harold Hayden Nelson et al., Later Historical Records ofRamses III, vol. 2 of Medinet Habu (OIP 9؛ Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1932), pi. 121c. 21On the nature of the interaction between god and pharaoh in this scene, see Othmar Keel, “Powerful Symbols o f ¥ ؛ctory: The Parts Stay the Same, the Actors Change,” JNSL 25 (1992):

208-9. For the complexities associated with understanding the pharaoh as god, see Ancient Egyptian Kingship (ed. David O’Connor and David p. Silverman; Probleme der Ä g^tologie 9 ت Leiden: Prill, 1995). 22See Keel, Symbolism ofthe Biblical World, pl. xxi; cf. Albert Champdor, Thèbes aux cent portes: 167 photographies, 40 vignettes et 4 hors-textes en couleurs d’après les aquarelles de David Roberts (3rd ed.; Les hauts lieux de l’histoire 5; Paris: A. Guillot, 1955), 156. 23Cf. Illustrated World ٠/ the Bible Library (ed. Benjamin Mazar; 5 vols.; New York:

LeMon: Yh w h s Hand and the Iconography ofthe Blow


Egyptian power and influence were palpable. Testifying to its prevalence in the Levant, the motif of the king rearing back his hand to strike the enemy can be found in scarab seals from Beth-Shean, Tell Beit Mirsim, and Tell eI-Far؛ah (flg. 4a-c), for example. Though admittedly much more rudimentary than the icono- graphic prototypes in Egypt, these objects show the king with hand reared back, ready to strike the enemy with the blow of a sickle sword.24 In each case, the enemy is subdued and humiliated in a completely submis- sive posture. In figures 4a and 4b, the enemies kneel before the king, who

In figures 4a and 4b, the enemies kneel before the king, who are bound behind the

are bound behind the back, rendering the captive unable to plead and/or resist the impending blow. This imageofdominationandsubjugationremains remarkably stable through- out multiple iterations in Egyptian and Egyptianizing art. Levantine examples from the Iron Age include scarabs from Tel Masos (fig. 5a)2s and Tell el-Far؛ah (fig. 5b),26 and an ivory carving from Samaria (now sadly lost) from the early ninth cen- tury B .c.E ., which reflects the thoroughly Egyptianizing elements of Fhoenician

^ After Keel, Symbolism ofthe Biblical World, fig. 400. Fig. 4a.: cf. Alan Rowe, A Catalogue ofEgyptian Scarabs, Scaraboids, Seals and Amulets in the Palestine Archaeological Museum (Cairo:

imprimerie de l’Institut français d’archéologie orientale, 1936), no. 671. Flg. 4b.: cf. William Foxwell Albright, The Excavation of Tell Beit Mirsim Palestine (AA$OR 12; New Haven: Yale University Fress, 1932), 51, fig. 9.; Carl Watzinger, Denkmäler Palästinas: Eine Einführung in die Archäologie des Heiligen Landes (2 vols.؛ Leipzig: Hinrichs, 1933), 1:40, fig. 3f. Fig. 4c.: cf. Rowe, Catalogue ofEgyptian Scarabs, no. 670. Keel suggests that the prevalence of this image is not exclusively or even primarily propagandists, but rather that the images have a magical effect, particularly at the frontiers of the kingdom, to ward off danger and discourage enemies from threatening the Egyptian state (Symbolism of the Biblical World, 294). ^See Othmar Keel, Menakhem Shuval, and Christoph Uehlinger, Studien zu den Stempel- siegeln aus Palästina/Israel, vol. 3, Die Frühe Eisenzeit: Ein Workshop (OBO 100; Fribourg:

Universitätsverlag; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1989), 343-44. The image here is taken from fig. 17. ه Dated by w. M. Flinders Fetrie and Olga Tufnell (Beth Pelet: [Ted Fara] / [Publications of the Egyptian Research Account and British School of Archaeology in Egypt 48; London: British School of Archaeology in Egypt, 1930], 319, pi. 31). Image after Keel, Shuval, and Uehlinger, Studien zu den Stempelsiegeln, vol. 3, fig. 18.

874 Journal ofBiblical Literature 132, no. 4 (2013)

874 Journal ofBiblical Literature 132, no. 4 (2013) F i g u r e 4 _Scarab

F i g u r e 4 _Scarab s e a ؛$. Fig. 4a: Beth-Sh(e)an, Nineteenth Dynasty (1345-1200 B .C .E .); fig. 4b: Tell Beit Mirsim, end of the period ofRamses 11 (1301-1234 B .C .E .); fig 4c: Tell el-Far؛ah, Nineteenth Dynasty. See n. 24.

.); fig 4c: Tell el-Far؛ah, Nineteenth Dynasty. See n. 24. F i g u r e
.); fig 4c: Tell el-Far؛ah, Nineteenth Dynasty. See n. 24. F i g u r e


i g u r e 5 a. Scarab from

Tel Masos, dated

F i g u r e

5 b. Scarab from Tell el-Far'ah,

1050-900 B .C .E . See n. 25.


to the Twentieth Dynasty (1190-



B .c .E .). See n. 26.

workmanship (fig. 6).27Later Phoenician seals also render the same artistic constel- lation of ruler with a reared back hand and a subdued enemy (figs. 7a and 7b).2® ^ i s smiting posture occurs in various derivative forms throughout Mesopo- tamia, Syria-Palestine, and Anatolia as early as the nineteenth-eighteenth centuries

^After Keel, Symbolism of the Biblical World, fig. 401؛ cfi John Winter Crowfoot and Grace Mary Hood Crowfoot, Early Ivories from Samaria (London: Palestine Exploration Fund, 1938), pL 141. 28Figures 7a and 7b: after Izak Cornelius, The Iconography ofthe Canaanite Gods Reshefand Bacal: Late Bronze and Iron Age Periods (C 1500-1000) (OBO 140; Fribourg: University Press; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1994), fig. 31 (my fig. 7a) and fig. 36b (my fig. 7b). See Eric Gubel, “The Iconography ofthe Ibiza Gem MAI 3650 Reconsidered,” AuOr 4 (1986): 111-18, and fig. 1. w. Culican suggests that the tree atop the subjugated enemy represents the cedars of Lebanon (“Melqart Representations on Phoenician Seals,” A7؛r Nahrain 2 [1960-61]: 41-54). However, Gubel has argued persuasively that the tree represents a cypress tree, which is the home ofthe “dwarf-demon” that the smiting figure holds.

LeMon: Yhwhs Hand and the Iconography ofthe Blow


B.C.E.29 Indeed, several nnn-Egyptian deities, including Baal (fig. 8),30Resheph, Adad, and Teshub, have the smiting posture in their iconographie profiles, testifying to the visual power and wide distribution of this origi- nallyEgyptian image.31As theimage migrates through cultures, the weapons, headgear, and dress vary, but the essential element, the reared-back hand, remains constant. Nota- bly, outside of Egyptian and explicitly Egyp- tianizing art (e.g., Phoenician), subdued enemies generally do not appear before these s؛riding menacing figures.32These derivative images, therefore, do not align as closely with

the imagery in Psalm 81 as do their Egyptian and E ^ tiatd zin g prototypes. However, the Egyptian iconography with its constel- lation of images of domination and subjugation does reflect the literary imagery in Psalm 81, and ^rticularfy when one interprets the hiphil of בוש literally as “to rear back” or “bring back” one’s hand. Yet what of the function ofthe prepositional phrase םהירצ לעו in Ps 81:15b? The preposition לע has a wide range of meanings. Among them, Bruce Waltke and M. O’Connor indicate that the spatial sense of לע is primarily locational, that is, “upon, on, over,” and “at, beside, by.”33 They also detail metaphorical usages of לע, of which “against” as a marker of disadvantage is an acceptable, though far less frequent, reading (see 2 Kgs 17:3). So while the typical translation ofPs 81:15, “1 will turn my hand against their foes,” is possible, in fact, one would expect to find


i g u r e 6 . Ivory carving ninth century B .C .E . See


from Samaria (early n. 27.

29Cornelius, Iconography ofthe Canaanite Gods, 256. 29Image after Cornelius, Iconography ofthe Canaanite Gods, fig. 27a; cf. C. F. A. Schaeffer, “Les fouilles de Minet el-Beida et de Ras Shamra (champagne du printemps 1929). Rapport sommaire,” Syria 10 (1929): pl. LI1I; André Caquot and Maurice Sznycer, Ugaritic Religion (Iconography of Religions 15.8; Leiden: Brill, 1980), pl. IX d. For other images of Baal in the smiting posture and a thorough discussion of his iconography, see Jürg Fggler, “Baal,” in Iconography of Deities and Demons, online at: http://www.religionswissenschaft.unizh.ch/ id d /^ e^ lica tio n s/e_ id d _ b a a l.p d f (text); M ^ ://w w w .reh gion sw ien ch ft.u n izh .ch /id d / ^ e^ blication s/ed d d ^ lu strafton s.b ^ .p d f (images); last updated December 19, 2007 (cited July 26, 2011). 2؛See Cornelius, Iconography ofthe Canaanite Gods, 255-59. For a catalogue of bronze figurines in this posture throughout the Near East and a discussion of its development and distribution, see Dominique Collon, “The Smiting Cod: A Study of a Bronze in the Fomerance Collection in New York,” Levant 4 (1973): 111-34. 32See Robert Houston Smith, “Near Eastern Forerunners ofthe Striding Zeus,” Archaeology 5(1962): 180. 33/BHS, 216 (§11.2.13).

876 Journal ofBiblical Literature 132, no. 4 (2013)

Figure 7a. Seal, Ibiza, sixth-fifth century
Figure 7a. Seal, Ibiza, sixth-fifth century

B.C.E. See n. 28.

7a. Seal, Ibiza, sixth-fifth century B.C.E. See n. 28. F i g u r e 7

F i g u r e 7 b . Seal, Ibiza, f if t h century B.C .E. See n. 28.

the preposition ־ב here as much as לע. Indeed, one frequently finds -ב conveying the sense of “against” in the context of someone using one’s hand violently against a foe. Deuteronomy 2:15 provides a clear example:^

against a foe. Deuteronomy 2:15 provides a clear example:^ Bronze Age- ee n. 30. ם מ

Bronze Age-

ee n. 30.

ם מ ת


ה גהמ ה

ברק מ

ם מ הל ם ב התיה הוהי׳די םגו

Indeed, the hand o f Yhw h was against them, to root them out from foe camp completely.

In light of the patterns of usage for -ב and לע and foe iconography of the reared-backhand, foe common loca- tional reading 0 ^ ע emerges as the most reasonable one in this text. Thus: “I will rear back my hand above their enemies.” Though it is possible that the preposition לע here may denote both location and disadvantage, so that “over/above”and foe metaphorical sense o f“against”may be in view in this context. In the pictorial images discussed above, the king towers above foe enemies as foe largest figure in the scene. These images reflect foe Egyptian (and wider

؟׳ M؛netf 1'®eida> Late ancient Near Eastern) iconographie principle ofhierar-

ch y of scale, whereby size and, particu}arly, height encode

importance.^؟ ^s such, foe upraised hand as the highest point in foe image empha- sizes the position of the king in relation to the enemies. Reading םהירצ לע as “above/ over their enemies” therefore provides a literary correlate to the hierarchy of scale in foe Egyptian smiting imagery. Construed in this way, the text portrays Yhwh as utterly dominant. Moving forward tov.16,one finds further evidence of the congruence between foe literary and pictorial imagery, هإﺀ verse provides a fuller description of the fate of those whom Yhwh has subdued and whom he is preparing to strike.

^See, e.g., Gen 16:12; Deut 2:15; 13:9; Judg 2:15; Ruth 1:13; 1 $am 5:9; 7:13; 12:15; 18:17,

etc.; IBHS,

197 (§11.2.5.d.); HALOT, 104, s.v. ב .

35See Rubblns, A rt ofAncient Egypt,


LeMon: Yh w h s Hand and the Iconography ofthe Blow

ול־ושחכי הוהי יאנשמ םלועל םתע יהיו:


Those who hate Yhwh wللا shrink before him

And their suhmission will last forever (Ps 81:16).

This verse Is not without its own translational difficulties. The verb ושחכי in the first colon and the noun םתע in the second colon present unique challenges. John H. Eaton’s reading ofthe verse significantly informs my own translation, one that the NJPS and NRSV generally affirm as well.36 Eaton argues that the verb שחכ in the ما'ﺞﺋconveys the action of to “grow lean/wither/become small/shrink.”^ Tak- ing the well-attested sense of the verb from Aramaic and later Hebrew, Eaton rea- sons: “The enemies may/»؛٠؛/¿ with arrogant pride, but are quickly reduced when they feel the weight of [God’s] manifested glory.”38 Indeed, this expression of the diminution in size ofthe subjugated enemies accords well with the artistic principle of hierarchy of scale that obtains in the various iconographie representations ofthe towering ruler threatening a blow. Eaton goes on to suggest that תע in this verse is derived from ^הנע (“be bowed down, afflicted, lowly”), with the sense here that “their submission”will continue forever.3؟ In short, this reading ofthe verse pictures the enemies in a state of perpetual cowering and subjugation to Y h w h . In considering once again the iconography ofthe blow in Egyptian art, we find a uniquely powerful visual trope, as the numerous derivative ancient Near Eastern forms attest. One can attribute the power ofthe image in part to the fact that it captures a moment pregnant with expectation. One sees the potential energy ofthe reared-back hand rather than the kinetic energy of the actual blow crushing the scull ofthe enemy. The image therefore has a singular ability to hold the gaze ofthe viewer in anticipation of the event that is about to be realized. In addition, as an image of domination, the iconography ofthe blow acknowledges, however subtly, the unsettling reality that the enemies are not yet vanquished. The enemy still lives in these representations. So the image conveys something ofthe persistence of danger and enmity, while simultaneously reassuring the observer that the king in fact holds these chaotic forces in check. He will obliterate them in a moment. Picturing that moment prior to the blow expresses both the hope ofthose seeking salvation from the enemy and the dread and despair ofthose about to be slain. In doing so, the imagery creates,

6أEaton, “Some Questions of ?hilology and Exegesis in the Psalms,” JTS 19 (1968): 603-9. Compare: “Those who hate the Lord would cringe before him, and their doom would last forever” (NRSV) and “Those who hate the Lord shall cower before Him; their doom shall be eternal” (NJPS). ^Eaton, “Some Questions of Philology,” 603-4. 38Ibid., 604 (my emphases). 39Ibid., 608. “^ e ir time” is also a possible translation here. Tate argues as much: “‘their time’ (ם ת ע ) seems to be a pregnant way of saying that their time of rebellion would be over or that ‘their time of submission/subjugation will be forever’” (Psalms 50-100, 321).

878 Journal ofBiblical Literature 132, no. 4 (2013)

somewhat paradoxically, an endless moment in a drama of domination, suggesting a violence that is never quite realized. ?salm 81:15-16 and the Egyptian iconography oftheblowboth relate the same sense of expectation. In both text and art, the king/YHWH has subdued the enemies but has yet to ¥anquish them. Israel waits for Y h w h to strike the deathblow and ultimately conquer evil (w. 15-16). At the same time, Y h w h waits as well, staying his poised hand until Israel would listen and follow in foe paths that Yhwh has directed (v. 14). The larger poetic structure of Psalm 81 ultimately confirms the reading of w . 15-16 for which I have argued above: a literary instantiation of a congruent iconographie motif. The image ofthe king drawing back his hand over foe enemies in preparation for foe deathblow is a distinctly Egyptian one. Likewise, foe psalm situates itself in the context of Y h w h ’s dominance over foe Egyptians. The call to praise Yhwh in w . 2-6b explicitly recalls the exodus from Egypt and locates foe festival celebration so decreed (w. 5-6) as deriving from the exodus episode.^،؛The divine oracle beginning in ٧٠6c also recalls the events ofthe exodus, from the cries of the people in slavery to their salvation, and ultimately to their testing in the wilderness. Verse 11 contains another explicit reference to the exodus with the self-identification of Y h w h as foe God “who brought you up out ofthe land of Egypt.” In light ofthe confluence ofimages of exodus and images derived from Egyp- tian iconography (٧٢. 15-16), one realizes that this picture of Y h w h acting against foe foes of Israel reflects bofo a borrowing and a bold reappropriation ofEgyptian imagery. Rather than the pharaoh as god-king poised to smite the subjugated for- eigners, the psalm flips foe imagery of domination on its head. Yhwh now stands above foe subjugated enemies of Israel with his arm reared back. The psalm pictures the enemies frozen in the position ofhuiniliation as Y h w h s deathblow looms above them, ^ e y await foe deadly violence of God while the Israelites await sustaining and nourishing acts of God, who promises to fill their open mouths (٧. 11), satisfy- ing Israel with the finest wheat and honey from the rock (٧. 17).


ל ע


ב ש ה

E l s e w h e r e


t h e

H e b r e w

B iki.k

The argument has proceeded above in line wifo foe principle that the immedi- ate literary context of difficult and problematic phrases should be the governing datum in determining meaning. As for לע ٦١בשה in ?s 81:15, the immediate liter- ary context—one informed by the larger ancient Near Eastern iconographie con- text—conveys the sense of rearing back ones hand above someone in a menacing gesture. However, as discussed above, this reading does not fit the context of Jer

40See Tate, Psalms 50-100, 323.

LeMon: Yh w h s Hand and the Iconography ofthe Blow


6:9, where the phase appears as well. That context suggests a repeated action of drawing the hand back and forth over something, a causative-iterative sense ofthe hiphil of בוש. What, then, ofthe other instances of the phrase in the Hebrew bible? Might the new reading of?s 81:15 in light of Egyptian and Egyptianizing iconog- raphy inform the translation ofthe phrase in other literary contexts? Though a thorough examination of each of these contexts goes beyond the scope of this article, the following brief discussion suggests that the reading of לע די בשה in Ps 81:15 is, at the very least, a viable translational option in other texts as well. As in Psalm 81, לע ٦١ בשה often occurs alongside other divine threats and descriptions of Godsviolentjudging action: against Israel in Isa 1:25 and Zech 15:7, and against the Philistines in Amos 1:8. Isaiah 1:25 (ךילע ידי הבישאו) could certainly be construed “I will rear back my hand above you,” given the immediate context of violent threats of vengeance (v. 24) and acts of purification (w. 25b). As Joseph Blenkinsopp has noted, there seems to be a missing colon here, so it is difficult to determine precisely the sense ofth e phrase as ft is deployed in this context.41 Blenkinsopp, among others, opts for the oblique construction, “I will turn my hand against you,”^ while some have imported the repetitive sense of the phrase from Jer 6:9م Unfortunately, a definitive translation of Isa 1:25 eludes us. Yet, since the context contains numerous threats ofviolence, the image of the God in a threaten- ing posture could certainly be in view here, as it is in Ps 81:15. Zechariah 13:7 (םירעצה־לע ידי יתבשהו) also presents the phrase in the context of a threat, here against “the shepherd” (הערה). Most translations render the phrase as a “turning ofthe hand,”44 and commentators have typically understood ft with a generally negative connotation^ The threatening gesture ofYHWH’s uplifted hand

^؛B l^ k ؛ns©pp, Isaiah 1-39: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary (AB 19; New York: Doubleday, 2000), 187. ^O tto Kaiser reads, “And 1 will turn my hand against you” (Isaiah 1-12: A Commentary [trans. John Bowden; 2nd ed.; OTL; Philadeiphia: Westminster, 1983], 39). Similarly, Hans Wildberger: “1 want to turn my hand against you” (Isaiah 1-12:A Commentary [trans. Thomas H. Trapp; CC; Minneapolis: Fortress, 1991], 69). John D. w. Watts expands on the verse very briefly to suggest that turning the hand means “to change from supporting to chastising” (Isaiah 1-33 [rev. ed.; WBC 24; Nashville: bornas Nelson, 2005], 39). Watts unfortunately provides no Justification for his reading. ^See, e.g., Arnold B. Ehrlich, Randglossen zur Hebräischen Bibel: Textkritisches, Sprachliches und Sachliches (7 vols.; Leipzig: Hinrichs, 1912), 4:8. ٠٠See, e.g., NRSV, NJFS, KJV, NASB, NJB. See also David L. Petersen, Zechariah 9-14 and Malachi: A Commentary (©TL; Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1995), 128. بأ See, e.g., the comments of Carol L. Meyers and Eric M. Meyers, Zechariah 9-14: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary (AB 25C; New York Doubleday, 1993), 388-89. The descriptions of metallurgical purification in Zech 13:9 and Isa 1:25 prompt Meyers and Meyers to understand that the locution of God turning his hand implies purification rather than suggesting that the little ones (םידעצה) “are to be slain or exiled” (p. 389). See also John Goldingay and Pamela j. Scalise, Minor Prophets II (N1BC©T; Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2009), 306. Scalise considers this verse simply to be describing Gods act of Judgment.

880 Journal of Biblical Literature 132, no. 4 (2013)

against the “little ones” (םירעצה) may be in view, especially given that V 7 begins with a reference to the sword. If so, the image would be of God wielding a sword

against the shepherd and poised to strike the shepherd boys, that is, the “little ones.” In Amos 1:8, the phrase appears with reference to God’s judgment against the

?hi l i sti nes: ן ו רקע־לע ידי י תו בי שהו . Again, most translations attribute to

some sort of turning of the hand, more in line with the qal of בוש than the hiphily46 which commentators generally have presumed meant some devastating, though elliptical, display of divine power.^ Interestingly, Francis 1. Andersen and David Noel Freedman do indeed translate the phrase literally “and 1 will bring back my hand against Ekron,”^ a reading that, at least on the face ofit, aligns with the Egyp- tian iconography of the blow. However, in the commentary after the translation, they suggest that the phrase actually means “strike with repeated blows” following William Rainey Harper.*؟ Shalom M. Paul also interprets the phrase to mean “strik- ing [Ekron] with repeated blows.”^ Despite these suggestions, unlike in the case of Jer 6:9, none of the interpreters has identified a compelling reason to read a repet- itive sense of לע די בשה in this context. The notion ofYHWH rearing back his hand menacingly above Ekron is indeed particularly attractive in this context because of the reference to the mace (טבש )

the phrase

e a r l i e r

in V.


مو#ه טבש ٦١^ דודש אמ ™בשוי יתרכהו

ןורקע־לע ידי יתובישתו :הוהיינדא רמ א

םיתש לפ תיראש ודבאו

I will cut off the inhabitants from Ashdod

And the one w ho holds the mace

1w ill rear back m y hand above Ekron, And the remnant of the Philistines will perish says the Lord Yh w h.

from Ashkelon.

**See NRSV, NJB, NJPS, KJV. 4آ See, e.g., Hans Waiter Wolff, Joel and Amos: A Commentary ٠« the Books ofthe Prophets Joel and Amos (trans. Waldemar Janzen, s. Dean McBride ! ٢., and Charles A. Mnenchow; Hermeneia;

“1 will turn my hand against Fkron”

(ibid.). In the commentary section, Wolff expands: “Yahweh’s ‘hand,’ turned against Lkron, denotes his overwhelming strength” (p. 158). James Luther Mays translates similarly, arguing that the phrase contributes to the larger description of the utter defeat ofthe Philistines: “by his [ Y h w h ’s] hand their defenses would be breached, their kings cut off, and the population slain to the last man” (Am05:A Commentary [OTL; Philadelphia: Westminster, 1969], 33).

48Andersen and Freedman, Amos: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary (AB 24A; New York: Doubleday, 1989), 258. 49Ibid., 259; William Rainey Harper, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary ٠« Amos and Hosea (ICC 20; New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1910), 26. 50Paul translates the phrase, “I will turn my hand against Fkron,” and expands later to suggest the repetitive sense ofthe phrase (Amos: A Commentary ٠« the Book ofAmos [Hermeneia; Minneapolis: Fortress, 1991], 43, 58 n. 147).

Philadelphia: Fortress, 1977), 130. Wolff translates the phrase:

LeMon: Yh w h s Hand and the Iconography ofthe Blow


“The ©ne who holds the mace” Is of course a circumlocution for the ruler of Ashkelon. Thus, one could read the text as God destroying a ruler of one ?hilistine city and, as it were, seizing his mace to rear it back threateningly against another ?hilistine city. Ezekiel 38:12 is the only other text where one finds the phrase, though this context does not describe God’s hand in judgment. In Ezekiel 38, Gog is consider- ing an evil scheme to attack the newly resettled Judeans. Among the actions he considers is:

ץראה רובט־לע יבשי ןינקו ה נקמ הש ע םיונמ ף סא מ םע־לאו תבש ונ

תוברח־לע ךדי ביש הל

to rear back your؛؛ hand above the repopulated wastelands and against the peo- pie who were gathered from the nations, who acquired cattle and belongings, who dwelled at the center o fth e land.

In this context, the phrase לע די בשה clearly indicates an aggressive action. Yet

predictably, translations ofthe phrase vary widely. The NJ?S opts for the sense of “turning one’s hand against,” while foe NRSV provides a more figurative reading:

“to assail the waste places that are now inhabited.” While many commentators read “turning the hand,”52Walter Eichrodt and Leslie c . Allen have translated Ezek 38:12 essentially as I am arguing here, with the phrase indicating a “raising” or “lifting” of one’s hand against the land, though neither has linked the literary imagery hem with iconography or, for that matter, provided any comment on their translations.^5

^ i s brief discussion ofthe variou s o ccu rren ces of לע די בשה has had two

goals: first, to show that these texts (Isa 1:25؛ Zech 13:7; Amos 1:8؛ Ezek 38:12; Jer 6:9) should not be overly determinative for identifying the meaning ofthe phrase in ?s 81:15; and, second, to suggest that foe proposed reading of ?s 81:15 might actually shed some light on the phrase in other literary contexts, w hile none ofthe other literary contexts aligns so completely with the standard iconographical trope ofthe Egyptian king and his subjugated enemies, foe reading “rear back one’s hand above someone/something” is reasonable in Isa 1:25; Zech 13:7; Amos 1:8; and Ezek 38:12. In the contexts where weapons am mentioned (mace in Amos 1:8; and sword Zech 13:7), the case is even stronger that foe phrase depicts an armed Y h w h in a threatening posture. If these texts do indeed reflect ionographic material through the phrase בשה לע T, foe imagery may well be drawn more generally from various representations of images of ancient Near Eastern deities in smiting posture (e.g., Baal in fig. 8)

؛؛The LXX inciudes a first person common singular suffix here, which makes for a smoother reading. ؛^See, e.g., Walther Zimmerli, who translates the phrase without comment: “to turn your hand against (re-)؛nhab؛ted ruins” (Ezekiel 2: A Commentary ٠« the Book ofthe Prophet Ezekiel, Chapters 25-48 [trans. James D. Martin; Hermeneia; Minneapolis: Fortress, 1983], 287). ؛؛Fichrodt, Ezekiel: A Commentary (trans. €osslett Quin; QTL; London: SCM, 1970), 516; Allen, Ezekiel 20-48 (WBC 29; Dallas: Word, 1990), 198.

882 Journal ofBiblical Literature 132, no. 4 (2013)

rather than the particular image ofthe Egyptian king standing above the enemies.^ If so, then these texts would stand alongside others, like Ps 10:12, in which scholars have already noted a correspondence between Yhwh as a divine warrior with uplifted hand and the similar iconographie portrayals of ancient Near Eastern


IV. C o n c l u s io n

The foregoing analysis of Ps 81:14-16 has shown that this text is a literary instantiation ofthe iconographie trope ofthe Egyptian king lifting his hand menac- ingly above his subjugated enemies. As for the particular rhetorical function of w . 14-16, the allusion to the iconography ofthe blow reminds the community of the stark threat of Egyptian overlordship even as it radically inverts the standard Egyptian iconographie trope of domination and subjugation. In the psalmist’s vision, Y h w h has supplanted the pharaoh in his position of dominance and now stands ready to vanquish any other foe who might oppose the community. Thus, the psalmist recasts an ancient image in a new form and, in doing so, vividly pictures hope for the people: that Yhwh will again act as he did for their ancestors.

54 As noted earlier, only Egyptian and Egyptianizing iconography contains representations ofboth the violent actor and the subjugated enemies. 55 See discussion in Brown, Seeing the Psalms, 175-78, and esp. Martin Klingbeil, Yahweh Fightingfi-om Heaven: God as Warrior and as God ofHeaven in the Hebrew Psalter and Ancient Near Eastern Iconography (OBO 169; Fribourg: University Fress; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1999).


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