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Jonathan Ben-Dov


In the passage Exod. xxii 20-26 the poor man cries to God after he had been mal-treated by a powerful creditor. In response God acts as an avenger against that evil individual. The article first clarifies the background to such violent acts by proprietors in Ancient Near Eastern Laws, and the response to it in the laws of Deuteronomy xxiv. The curse and revenge are then explained in the light of parallel practices from ancient Greek literature, mainly from the Oddesey. Curse practices meant to restore justice are explored on the basis of Greek binding spells and of the corpus of Greek literary curses. The image of the Mesopotamian god "ama" as an avenging god is analyzed according to the famous Babylonian "ama" hymn and to that god's epitheta. Finally, examples of Hebrew curse literature are highlighted in the Book of Job and in Psalm cix.

Head of All Years

Astronomy and Calendars at Qumran in their Ancient Context


Jonathan Ben-Dov

Rather than being an isolated, primitive body of knowledge the Jewish calendar tradition of 364 days constituted an integral part of the astronomical science of the ancient world. This tradition—attested in the Dead Sea Scrolls and in the Pseudepigrapha—stands out as a coherent, novel synthesis, representing the Jewish authors’ apocalyptic worldview. The calendar is studied here both “from within”—analyzing its textual manifestations —and “from without”—via a comparison with ancient Mesopotamian astronomy. This analysis reveals that the calendrical realm constituted a significant case of inter-cultural borrowing, pertinent to similar such cases in ancient literature. Special attention is given to the “Book of Astronomy” (1 Enoch 72-82) and a variety of calendrical and liturgical texts from Qumran.