II Samuel 12:31

Numberup at worldnet.att.net Numberup at worldnet.att.net
Thu Dec 16 03:53:43 EST 1999

Anything is possible, but I wonder if many modern scholars are not correct in trying
to pin down the real meaning of "malben."  Does it mean a place where bricks were
burned, or does it mean the small, rectangular mold used to shape bricks?  Many
buildings  in ancient Israel used bricks that were sun-dried, not tempered in a kiln.
And from Egypt on, brick making was often delegated to slaves and captives.  If the
text contains a genuine clue that brick making was involved, that would seem to carry
more weight than observations of people writing centuries or millenia after the fact
of the events described in II Samuel 12:31.  It would also downgrade the "sadistic
torture" of the captives to menial or slave labor rather than the crematorium.

It's not a matter of exonerating David, just of getting all the facts to make a
reasonable judgment.  Out of 10  Bible translations I have checked, seven tend to
favor the "put them to work"  idea in rendering II Samuel 12:31.

Solomon Landers
Memra Institute for Biblical Research

Robert Vining wrote:

> Why is the text so problematic?  Has anyone ever done a research paper
> on the correlation of apparently tampered texts with ideas unpalatable
> to later text handlers?
> Yes, the I Chronicles 20:3 parallel is more ominous.  "He (David) led
> out the people who lived there, and he hacked them with saws and iron
> threshing boards and axes; David did thus to all the towns of Ammon."
> (JPS ‘85).  This redaction is noteworthy since the Chronicler usually
> whitewashs  rather than blackens the Court Narrator's David.  The need
> to completely omit the whatever brick allusion, suggests he saw the more
> offensive  "brickkiln", than the more benign "brickmaking".
> A later Jewish historian, Josephus, reports plainly that, "as for the
> men, he (David) tormented them; and then destroyed them: and when he had
> taken the other cities of the Ammonites by force, he treated them after
> the same manner."  Antiquities 7.7.5   Although following the Chronicler
> closely,  he departs by  including  the unpalatable destruction.
> Josephus' erstwhile translator/commentator, Wm  Whiston, while balking
> at this brutal picture, reluctantly acknowledges it "most probable"
> that it was true to the copy used by Josephus. (n. to 7.7.5)
> A still later Jewish commentator shows no reluctance whatsoever in
> accepting that the ancient author intended to portray David as a
> sadistic torturer and incinerator.  Avi Erlich, in, "Ancient Zionism",
> in a chapter significantly entitled, "Brickkiln and Winepress",
> translates the problematic passage, thus, "And he brought forth the
> people that were therein, and put them under saws, and under harrows of
> iron, and under axes of iron, and made them pass through the brickkiln:
> and thus did he to all the cities of the children of Ammon". (p. 115) He
> then comments, "What are we to make of David's harshness?  The chilling
> execution of a captive population is made all the more horrible by the
> twisted pressing into service of peacetime tools, and by the
> matter-of-fact tone which ushers civilians into the fiery brickkiln".
> (ibid)


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