Casting Nets and Burning Temples: The Babylonian and Persian Background of Jer 43:8–13
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This article offers a literary-historical analysis of Jer 43:8–13. The first section of the article addresses two lexical problems in this prophecy: (1) the hapax legomenon שפרירו (v. 10) is explained as an Akkadian loanword meaning »net«; and (2) in light of the fact that in various Semitic languages, verbs with the meaning »to cover,« have the additional meaning »to overwhelm,« the difficult sentence in v. 12b,מצרים ועטה את ארץ, is explained as »and he will cover (i. e. overwhelm) the land of Egypt,« meaning that Nebuchadnezzar will conquer it. In light of various Mesopotamian parallels, it is suggested that the original kernel of Jer 43:10–12 consisted of two sentences with the parallel similes of spreading the net and covering with the garment. The dependence of the original core of the prophecy on Akkadian language and motifs strengthens argument for a Neo-Babylonian origin of the prophecy. This original core was disturbed by the insertion of vv. 11–12a and 13. The contents of this stratum are nearly identical to the historical traditions about the conquest of Egypt by Cambyses and his attitude to the Egyptian Temples (especially those describing his attitude to the Obelisks in Heliopolis). The main purpose of these additions was to clarify and specify the imagery of the original core of vv. 10–12, and to reapply the Jeremianic oracle to the events of Cambyses' times.