The Old Aramaic and Biblical Curses
Baranowski, Krzysztof J.
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The twentieth century resulted in a significant grow of the corpus of Old Aramaic inscriptions. Several of the discovered texts contain a series of curses which show a significant degree of similarity. The present contribution aims at a comparative analysis of the curses found in the Tel Fekheriye inscription (KAI 309), the Bukan inscription (KAI 320) and the Sefire treaties (KAI 222-224) as well as at their interpretation in the larger context of the West Semitic literary tradition attested in the Hebrew Bible and in the Phoenician epigraphs. The shared stock of expressions and images employed in the curses clearly points to the existence of a common tradition. This tradition goes back to the rural and pastoral lifestyle as it is revealed by the imagery of the curses (famine, infertility). Its distinct character is apparent when compared with the Phoenician curses that use a set of images such as a broken scepter and an overturned throne that betray a royal ideology. The level of literary sophistication of the curses indicates their transmission and subsequent elaboration in scribal circles. The occurrence of the same motifs in the Old Aramaic inscriptions and in a few passages of the Hebrew Bible hints at the common cognitive environment shared by the Aramaeans and Israelites and possibly the existence of a shared tradition. The scribal nature of this tradition is, however, evident only later, as in the case of Tobit and Ahiqar or Amherst papyrus 63 and Psalm 20, when it is possible to speak about knowledge of literary works by the scribes and not just stock phrases and formulas as is the case with the curses.
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