Journal of Hebrew Scriptures - Volume 11 (2011) - Review

KUSATU (Kleine Untersuchengen zur Sprache des Alten Testaments und seiner Umwelt) 8.9 (2008). Pp. 218. Paper. €25.00. ISBN 978-3-89991-080-3.

This relatively new periodical features shorter studies and notices on the language and world of the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament. This particular volume contains ten brief, worthwhile essays. In the first (“The Niphal and Hitpael of ברך in the Patriarchal Narratives,” pp. 1–17), Richard Benton examines the interaction of passive voice with “process” and “transition” types of predicates and proposes that the semantic distinction between the Niphal and Hitpael of ברך in the patriarchal narratives is explicable by the cross-linguistic pattern of these interactions. Specifically, Niphal focuses on the resulting state of an action by emphasizing a particular agent, whereas Hitpael refers to the process of an event by highlighting collective, indistinct agents (pp. 14–15). The typological data, drawn from Spanish and Tagalog, give Benton a persuasive case and raise hopes that his approach might explain the Niphal-Hitpael relationship beyond the small data set on which he based this study.

The second essay (Eberhard Bons “Psalm 33,7: nd oder nʾd ‚Deich‘ oder ‚Schlauch‘?” pp. 19–32) is a text-critical examination of Ps 33:7, wherein the ancient versions diverge from the MT in presupposing a Hebrew Vorlage of נאד “bottle” instead of the MT's נֵד “heap.” Bons examines the case in light of the latter word's appearance in Exod 15:8, Ps 78:13, and Josh 3:13,18, concluding that the divergent readings reflect different interpretations of the psalm—either as a reference to creation (“bottle” in ancient versions) or an implicit reference to the Exodus (“heap” of MT).

In the third essay (“Mitigating Devices in Biblical Hebrew,” pp. 33–62) Marco Di Guilio presents a classified taxonomy of mitigating devices, treating them as an independent category from politeness structures. He defines mitigation as “linguistic strategies performed by speakers to prevent undesired perlocutionary consequences” (p. 33) and examines eight “external” devices and five “internal” ones, the two types being distinguished by whether the device occurs external to or internal to the act and text of the utterance.

The fourth essay (David Kummerow, “How Can the Form יִקְטֹל Be a Preterite, Jussive, and a Future/Imperfective? A Brief Elaboration of the Forms and Functions of the Biblical Hebrew Prefix Verbs,” pp. 63–95) contains a useful summary of the now-standard view of the development of the prefix pattern verb in BH, namely, that West Semitic had a homophonous (or polysemous) prefix form that signified preterite/past tense and jussive, and it had a “long” prefix form with a final short vowel that became homonymous with the former “short” form in certain parts of the paradigm after the loss of final short vowels in the late second millennium. Kummerow's aim seems to be largely at the practical level of how and to what extend the various BH prefix forms can be disambiguated by the student of BH. Less satisfying than his morphosyntactic description of the prefix forms is Kummerow's semantic analysis, appearing in several footnotes and a “brief statement” on the last few pages of the article. No doubt his pragmatic aims account for his somewhat facile semantic description in terms of “prototypical functions of the prefix verb forms in BH” (p. 77), by which he means the statistically dominant translation equivalencies of the forms. This weakness notwithstanding, Kummerow's essay is a helpful summation that also includes a valuable bibliography of recent authorities on the subject.

The fifth and sixth essays (Łukasz Niesiołowski-Spanò, “The New Type of Inscription from Ekron—Revisited,” pp. 97–109, and Peter van der Veen, “‘To Baʿal and to Paraz’? A Paleographic Rejoinder,” pp. 110–18) dispute the reading of the Ekron storage-jar inscription which the editio princeps reads lbʿl wlpdy “for Baʿal and for Padi” (p. 98). Niesiołowski-Spanò argues that the editors of the editio princeps were seduced by the attractiveness of finding Padi's name on this inscription (pp. 100–101) and proposes an alternative reading of lbʿl wl-prz, which he interprets in light of Hab 3:14 as “for the lord and governer (paraz)” (p. 109). Van der Veen's rejoinder defends the reading in the editio princeps on paleographic grounds, and helpfully includes a color photo.

In the seventh essay (Jean-Sébastien Rey, “Quelques considérations sur le vocabulaire sapientiel de Ben Sira et de 4QInstruction,” pp. 119–34) Rey builds on an earlier analysis of vocabulary in Ben Sira and 4QInstruction.[1] In particular, he discovers that the two documents both employ נחלה “inheritance” with the extended-eschatological sense of eternal life and לקח with the cognitive sense of “grasp,” but that they diverge in their vocabulary for poverty.

The eighth essay (Jonathan Stökl, “Kings, Heroes, Gods. The History of the Translation of the term ʾrʾl dwdh in Line Twelve of the Mešaʿ-Stele,” pp. 135–62) surveys the history of this inscriptional crux and concludes that four options exist for interpreting dwdh: a deity Dōd, a different deity referred to as “beloved,” King David, or another David of Ataroth (p. 151). Stökl argues further that the name should be understood as an appellative or epithet, which alleviates the grammatical difficulty of the suffix. In the end Stökl opts for interpreting the term as “beloved” in reference to Israel's deity (p. 152).

In the ninth essay (“Ist auch Hiob unter den Propheten? Sir 49,9 als Testfall für die Auslegung des Buches Jesus Sirach,” pp. 163–94), Markus Witte examines the Hebrew, Greek, and Syriac versions of the aforementioned verse, demonstrating how the differences are reflective of different ideologies regarding the prophetic books and the figure of Job.

The tenth and final essay (André Lemaire, “Leonard Wolfe's Assessment of Unprovenanced Seals,” pp. 195–218) is a scathing review of Leonard Wolfe's essay, published in KUSATU 6 (2006) pp. 139–88, in which he concludes that Wolfe's paper “is totally unconvincing” (p. 218). The detailed discussion of various points of disagreement between Wolfe and Lemaire, while at times quite harsh, is illustrative of the issues involved in the ongoing discussion of epigraphic forgeries.

In all, this volume contains a number of valuable articles on Old Testament languages and paleography.

John Cook, Asbury Theological Seminary

[1] Jean-Sébastien Rey, “Quelques particularités linguistiques communes à 4QInstruction et à Ben Sira,” pp. 119–34 in Conservativism and Innovation in the Hebrew Language of the Hellenistic Period: Proceedings of a Fourth International Symposium on the Hebrew of the Dead Sea Scrolls and Ben Sira (ed. Jan Joosten and Jean-Sébastien Rey; STDJ 73; Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2008).