[b-hebrew] Translating Ezekiel 16:26

Ben Crick ben.crick at argonet.co.uk
Sun Jul 31 08:37:35 EDT 2005

On Sat 30 Jul 2005 (13:10:21), christopher.heard at pepperdine.edu wrote:
> I am working through Ezekiel and I am not sure how to take the phrase  
>                 [GDLY B&R] "those being great of flesh" in Ezekiel  
> 16:26. It's clear enough from the context that the speaker is  
> referring to male genitalia, and the use of        [B&R] in Ezekiel  
> 23:20 confirms this. However, I am not sure whether to understand  
>                 [GDLY B&R] as a reference simply to large genitalia  
> per se, or to _enlarged_ genitalia, that is, erections. NIV, NRSV,  
> and JPS all take it in the latter sense, and translate it as  
> "lustful." The LXX has a fairly literalistic translation,  
>                          [MEGALOSARKOS], "big-fleshed." Neither the  
> Hebrew word-pair nor the Greek word appear elsewhere in the Tanakh or  
> LXX, so I don't have any comparative data there to work with. Does  
> anyone know of any good evidence, e.g. uses of the Hebrew phrase or  
> Greek word in extra-biblical sources, or similar phrases in cognate  
> languages, that would help me solidify this translation, or is it an  
> irreducible ambiguity?  Anybody know why NIV, NRSV, JPS read this as  
> they do?

 Dear Christopher,

 I seem to remember reading a work on Egyptology which I cannot now track
 down, describing the religion of the priests of Amun-Re in the temples of
 Karnak(?). The main activity of the priests at worship was to manually
 masturbate before the statue of Amun, and then ritually eat the semen thus
 produced. The statue of Amun was an "alpha male" with an enlarged sexual
 organ sticking straight out in front. Ptolemy's(?) troops were so disgusted
 with this that they struck off the offending member, which was how Manetho
 and later archaeologists discovered things. A few statues of Amun were found
 with everything still in place. Crudely carved hands and phalluses were also
 discovered as religious artefacts.

 All this activity was conducted in windowless chambers, in near darkness.
 This could find a resonance in Ezekiel 8:12, "Have you seen what the elders
 of the house of Israel are doing in the darkness, each at the shrine of his
 own idol?". The women were "weeping for Tammuz" (verse 14), but "still
 greater abominations than these" (verse 15) were being perpetrated by the
 25 men "worshipping the sun" (Amun-Re?) in the inner court of the Temple
 (verse 16).

 So yes, I think you are on the right lines. The Bible is never pornographic;
 conventional euphemisms are used to avoid offensive language. I'm sorry I 
 can't now recall the learned work wherein I read the above, or something
 similar. Maybe someone else?

 Revd Ben Crick, BA CF                                       ZFC Hf
 <ben.crick at NOSPAM.argonet.co.uk>
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