Monday, February 23, 2015

Separation as curse. No. Wait. This is wrong

What is most curious about the Exodus account is the disjunction between the traditional interpretation of separation due to heavenly malediction and affiliation due to benediction. Typically, what is cursed is banished from the deity, and what is blessed is kept near the deity. It is peculiar that the “blessed” Israelites are expelled into the wilderness in a manner synonymous with those who are “cursed.” As we have seen, the feature of separation associated with expulsion into the wilderness is synonymous with two fundamental precepts related to curses: (1) divine absence and (2) advancement toward death. In this case, the opposite occurs. The Israelites not only find life in the wilderness but they also encounter Yahweh himself in the very place where deities are thought to be absent.

The Exodus account has turned a conventional maxim on its head. The Israelites, whom the Egyptians believed were cursed and whom they treated as such, turn out in fact to be blessed. This flies in the face of ancient customary wisdom, which held that the target of divine curses, the Egyptians, should have been expelled and not the Israelites, who were the object of heavenly blessings. One might classify this narrative as an exceptional example of positive separation, because it ultimately benefited those who were dismissed.— Cursed Are You!, page 244


David Reimer said...

I'm grateful for this series of posts.

Have you got anything in the queue on Joshua 9:23, the "curse" on the now-covenanted Gibeonites? (Or does Kitz offer any analysis of that one?) Unfortunately there are no sneak peeks of the book on Amazon or Google Books... :(

If not, not to worry. Thanks in any case!

jps said...


Glad you are enjoying it. Definitely worth the read.

Unfortunately, she doesn't. The only mention is in 2 footnotes: p. 112 n. 47 where she mentions that ארר is passive and p. 138 n. 12 to note that YHWH is not the subject of ארר. Not a lot of help.

I don't recall that Aitken deals with it, either. His book was interesting for the semantic domain, but short on synthesis (which is what the reviewers all said, as well).

I just got a book through ILL that has an article by Thiselton dealing with the whole concept of the innate power of a spoken/written word. I'll post on it as soon as I read it...


David Reimer said...

Many thanks for checking. And that's a wee shame! I take it there is a particular tension with stating a curse on people you've just made a covenant of peace with (cf. R.P. Gordon, ‘Gibeonite Ruse and Israelite Curse’, in Covenant as Context: Essays in Honour of E. W. Nicholson, ed. by A.D.H. Mayes and R.B. Salters (Oxford: OUP, 2003), pp. 163-190).

I now have Aitken in front of me, in fact, and he doesn't mention this text at all.