Jeremiah 10:5 contains the collocation tomær miqšāh, which has been interpreted in a variety of ways ranging from “scarecrow in a cucumber field” to “plated pillars”. It is argued that the collocation should rather be interpreted as “palm sculpture” and that it refers to a known type of object from the ancient Near East whose depictions are designated by scholars as the “Assyrian sacred tree”.
It is proposed that the priestly story of Aaron’s flowering staff (Num 17:16-26) is an etiology for the asherah in Solomon’s temple (2 Kgs 21:3, 7; 23:4, 6, 7). The staff as described is closely similar both in form and in function to the asherah. This proposition accounts for the absence of hostility towards asherim in the priestly literature, and it generates a solution to the age-old problem of why Moses and Aaron were denied entry into the promised land (Num 20:1-13, 24; 27:14; Deut 32:51).
The biblical hapax legomenonסַנְסִנָּיו (Song 7:9) seems to denote a part of the date palm, but readers have disagreed widely on which part. Most scholars today follow Immanuel Löw, who concluded from Syriac and Akkadian cognates that the word denotes the spadices, which are the branched stalks that hold the clusters of flowers and fruit. Eran Viezel has recently argued on morphological grounds that it denotes a “fruit-laden cluster of dates”. It is proposed here that the word denotes the projecting leaf bases that line the trunk of the date palm and that it is cognate with the Arabic word sinsin, “edge of a spinal vertebra”, to which these leaf bases bear a close visual resemblance.
Jeremiah 49:38, the penultimate verse in the Bible’s only prophecy against Elam, reads: “Then I shall set my throne in Elam and exterminate king and princes from there—declares Yhwh.” It is argued here that the verse has two plausible and quite different meanings, that it was designed to convey both, and that as such it is a deliberately ambiguous oracle.
The throne of Solomon, described in 1 Kgs 10:18–20 and almost identically in 2 Chr 9:17–19, is the main object relating to the visual representation of royalty in the Hebrew Bible. This paper offers a close commentary on the description and considers what type of ancient Near Eastern throne the described object exemplifies, concluding that Solomon’s throne is a “biblicized” variant of the Canaanite-Phoenician sphinx throne.
>The word זֵר (zēr) occurs ten times in the Hebrew Bible, where it designates a feature of several major cult objects in the tabernacle. What, specifically, does it mean? The tortuous history of exegesis related to this question is surveyed. Close attention is paid to the Septuagint and Letter of Aristeas, whose authors seem to have understood the word as referring to a guilloche molding, based on an etymological association with the word משזר. A novel solution is then proposed, according to which the זר should be identified with the cavetto cornice (German: Hohlkehlsims), a common element in ancient Near Eastern architecture and crafts. The cavetto cornice is a concave molding, quarter-circular in profile, which surrounds the top of a structure or object.
Genesis 3:24, the final verse in the Eden Narrative, states that God stationed “the cherubim and the spinning-sword-flame” east of the garden of Eden, from which he had recently expelled Man. Or so it does in its masoretic version. Four Targumim, however, reflect an ancient, divergent vocalization of the verse’s fourth word. In this vocalization, the verse must be read as stating that God himself settled east of the garden. This divergence profoundly affects the meaning of the entire Eden Narrative. The targumic reading is grammatically and stylistically sound, and, conceptually, it fits well in the verse’s textual setting. Moreover, a deliberate alteration from it to the masoretic reading would fall squarely into an independently identified pattern of theologically-driven changes in vocalization. The targumic reading may therefore be closest to the original authorial intent.