“The Plowers Plowed”: The Violated Body in Psalm 129

In: Biblical Interpretation
Elaine James St. Catherine University, USA

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Psalm 129 employs the metaphor of plowing the body. This metaphor is typically interpreted in light of the metaphor of yoked oxen common in other biblical texts. This paper considers an extension of the metaphor to include sexual violence. In light of the convergent uses in the metaphor of “plowing” in ancient texts to refer to both militarized violence and sexuality, “plowing the body” in Psalm 129 also has a nuance of sexual violence. This operates by analogy between the body of the victim and the land. This analogy provides for a coherent reading of the poem, Psalm 129, which employs agricultural imagery (plowing, sowing, harvesting, binding sheaves) throughout. The analogy between the body and the land via the metaphor of the plow suggests their shared vulnerability (to sexual violence, and to long-term agricultural destruction) in contexts of war.

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