This paper considers whether biblical narrative was used as part of a technology of the self in Jewish antiquity. Many have seen the assumption that Israel’s ancestors were perfect and, hence, worthy of imitation as essential to the Bible’s identity as Scripture around the turn of the Common Era. Recently several scholars have detailed the specific dynamics of exemplarity among certain readers of the Bible, such as Philo, particularly in light of Hellenistic and Roman models. Such work draws attention to the relative lack of explicit attestation for such a practice in much of ancient Jewish literature. As a next step, we need to further delineate what constitutes a literary practice of exemplarity and explore alternatives or additions to it, such as memorialization. To do so, this paper examines a range of texts, including the Genesis Apocryphon, the Book of Jubilees, Ben Sira, Philo, Josephus, and the rabbinic collection, Genesis Rabbah.
In chapter 47 of the Book of Isaiah the fall of Babylon is described in metaphorical language: the arrogant queen Babylon is condemned for having practiced witchcraft since her youth. The evil which she inflicted on her victims will befall herself, and her downfall will be swift and without warning. Her dire fate follows that of her fellow sorcerers, who have perished in fire and flames. This article compares the portrayal of Babylon and her demise in Isa 47 with the Mesopotamian anti-witchcraft series Maqlû and discusses the shared terminology and the striking similarity of themes, such as the indictment of the witch, the gender-stereotype, the reversal of fate, and the condemnation to death by burning. The thematic, and sometimes lexical, overlap may indicate that Deutero-Isaiah incorporated Mesopotamian ideas about (counter-)witchcraft in his own composition, being exposed to local magico-religious thought whilst maintaining a critical stance towards it.
Recent scholarship has shown a burgeoning interest in the narrative functions and implications of references to dress and adornment in the Hebrew Bible. Yet the many references to the various clothing items and associated acts of dressing and undressing in the book of Esther have been less explored. In fact, the book of Esther weaves a complex tapestry of garment imagery, and untangling this tapestry is essential to properly interpreting this text. Through dress, characters can communicate their conformity to certain conventional expectations, affecting the ways in which other characters relate and behave towards them. Characters can utilize dress to express their protest, or conversely hide their true intentions. Crucially, differences in clothing develop distinctions between the power and status of the various characters. Clothing therefore has discrete and important functions in the book of Esther, providing new access to understanding characterisation and plot.