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

Peter Kirk peter.r.kirk at ntlworld.com
Thu Jul 3 09:31:30 EDT 2003

On 03/07/2003 03:33, Ben and Jo Crick wrote:

> <snip>
> Kings Ahaz and Manasseh of Israel later turned themselves to the worship of
> the "abomination of the Moabites", causing their sons to pass through the fire
> (obtulit holocaustum) to Molech (2 Kings 16:3; 17:17). This caused YHWH to put
> an end to the Ten Tribes (2 Kings 17:18). So did this sacrifice of the
> heir-apparent win the spiritual battle, and turn the Ten Tribes of Israel to
> the worship of Chemosh/Molech?
> Ben (only asking questions) 
Interesting point at the end here. One can certainly imagine the 
animistically minded or "superstitious" Israelites expecting the wrath 
of Chemosh/Molech to come upon them at this point, falling into a panic 
because of the expectation, and then interpreting that panic as caused 
by that god's wrath. This, and the resultant defeat, would have weakened 
their faith in YHWH and encouraged them to believe in the efficacy of 
human sacrifice.

But could the author of 2 Kings have shared this popular understanding 
of the defeat? Possibly. Or could the text reasonably be interpreted as 
"the Israelites imagined that wrath had come upon them"? Probably not.

I am now wondering if "wrath" or "anger" is actually a correct 
translation of qetseph in such a context. It certainly doesn't seem to 
fit well in Esther 1:18 and Ecc/Qoh 5:16 (English 5:17), the two cases 
noted in BDB as "of man (late)". Something more like "anxiety" or "fear" 
would fit better in those contexts as well as in 2Ki 3:27. This seems to 
fit the sense of the Syriac cognate. And from a quick look at the usage 
of the noun and the verb throughout the Hebrew Bible, it looks as if in 
the earlier books this was not so much the active wrath of YHWH as some 
kind of automatic result of breaches of the rules of holiness etc, and 
bringing disastrous consequences - see e.g. Lev 10:16, Num 17:11. It 
would probably be helpful to reexamine this concept in the light of 
studies of anthropology and comparative religion.

Peter Kirk
peter.r.kirk at ntlworld.com

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