[b-hebrew] qetseph in 2Ki 3:27

Peter Kirk peter.r.kirk at ntlworld.com
Wed Jul 2 15:50:12 EDT 2003

On 02/07/2003 11:24, Liz Fried wrote:

>Clay wrote:
>>Liz brought up the issue of agency for qetseph. David, do you need to make
>>agency explicit in your target language or can you leave it ambiguous? If
>>you are required to make it explicit then it becomes a
>>probability issue. If
>>we were translating Euripides, then Agamemnon offering up his daughter
>>Iphigenia to Artemis in exchange for fair winds to sail off to Troy would
>>not cause any problems but as Yigal has pointed out this isn't a probable
>>solution in 2Kings.
>>Liz no doubt will disagree with this assessment.
> Liz can you give us other
>>examples where pagan deities are shown in the OT as responding
>>favorably to
>>human sacrifice or any other kind of sacrifice?
>>This isn't a rhetorical question, I really want to know.
>Well..., I don't think it's relevant really.....
>Just cuz one episode sneaks in, that doesn't mean there'll be more.
>Uh, how about Exodus 7:11,22; 8:7???
>>greetings, Clay
This is certainly an interesting issue because of the way it cuts across 
different worldviews.

1. According to the modern or modernist secular worldview, there are no 
spiritual beings with any real power in the world today.

2. According to the classic Judeo-Christian and also Islamic worldview 
(and ignoring Trinitarian complications), there is precisely one such 
being, the creator God.

3. But according to the pagan, polytheistic or animist worldview which 
is currently resurgent in the post-modern western world as well, there 
are many such beings.

4. And many, mostly more popular expressions of Christianity and Islam, 
I think of Judaism as well, also accept that there are many such beings, 
but hold they are all ultimately subservient to the one creator God 
although some are in rebellion against him. (This is in fact clearly the 
worldview of the New Testament authors, most clearly in the gospels in 
narratives relating to demons or evil spirits, but also in Paul who 
writes of spiritual "principalities and powers". But these aspects of 
the Christian message were marginalised in classic theology.)

Which of these worldviews is seen in the Hebrew Bible? Obviously not #1. 
#3 is the dominant worldview of the polytheistic peoples around Israel, 
into which the Israelites lapsed during periods of apostasy. In Isaiah's 
ridicule of idolatry and in encounters like 1 Kings 18:20-39 those who 
read according to worldview #2 seem to see that same view reflected 
there. But even at Carmel there are hints that there is more than that 
happening - surely the priests of Baal were expecting something to 
happen as it normally did for them, and it failed on this occasion only 
because YHWH stopped it, according to worldview #4. And did 
(deutero-)Isaiah  really believe that pagan gods were nothing more than 
lumps of wood, or was that  rhetoric for their powerlessness in the face 
of YHWH? On the other hand, there are other passages in the Hebrew Bible 
which clearly reflect worldview #4 if not #3: Job 1:6, Psalm 82, 1 Chr 
21:1 as contrasted with 2 Sam 24:1, much of Daniel etc, also any passage 
in which angels appear, if angels are spiritual beings distinct from YHWH.

There is obviously a certain reluctance in the Hebrew Bible to make a 
clear choice here. Perhaps this reflects tension or ambivalence on this 
issue among  the Israelites. Perhaps it reflects layers of redaction. 
The later books seem to have more #4 and less #2. But, concerning 2 
Kings 3:27, I would conclude that it is by no means impossible that we 
see here a reflection of worldview #4, that (according to the author) 
the god of Moab had real spiritual power and was able to exercise this 
against the Israelites, presumably because for some unknown reason YHWH 
chose to allow this.

Peter Kirk
peter.r.kirk at ntlworld.com

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