The Materiality of Power 978-3-16-154709-6 - Mohr Siebeck

Brian B. Schmidt

The Materiality of Power

Explorations in the Social History of Ancient Israelite Magic

[Die Materialität der Macht. Untersuchungen zur Sozialgeschichte der Magie im antiken Israel.]

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Published in English.
Were there countervailing cosmic realms ruled by Yahweh and Asherah in late pre-exilic Israel? Brian B. Schmidt presents five case studies corroborating the existence of a daimonic realm replete with intermediary protective spirits and a pandemonium that wreaked havoc upon both the living and dead. Having converged with Egypt's protective deities Bes and Beset, YHWH and Asherah also possessed the enhanced powers to govern a counteractive apotropaic realm from which Asherah mediated divine protection for humanity.
Brian B. Schmidt presents five case studies in which architectural spaces, artifacts, epigraphs, images and biblical manuscripts corroborate the existence of a robust daimonic realm ruled by YHWH and Asherah in late pre-exilic Israel and an embryonic pandemonium foreshadowing later demonological constructs. The material and epigraphic data from Kuntillet Ajrud, Ketef Hinnom, and Khirbet el-Qom, along with the early manuscript evidence from Deut 32 and 1 Sam 28, indicate that this pandemonium wreaked havoc on the living and the dead. These same data also preserve a countervailing realm of apotropaism—a realm over which YHWH and Asherah, portrayed as Egypt's quintessential protective deities Bes and Beset, governed. Various other material media including amulets, inscribed blessings and decorated jars also conveyed this counteractive apotropaism. Yet, the data as a whole highlight Asherah's central role in this magical realm as YHWH's mediatrix. Alongside various protective spirits, Asherah executed divine protection for mortals, those alive and departed, from threatening demons.

Brian B. Schmidt B.S., Th.M., D.Phil. (Oxon.); completed graduate studies at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem and The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; currently Professor of Biblical Studies and Ancient West Asian Cultures in the Department of Middle East Studies at The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.


The following reviews are known:

In: Zeitschr. f. d. Alttestamentl. Wissenschaft — 129 (2017), S. 474–475 (A.B.)
In: Journal for the Study of the OT — 41.5 (2017) (George Nicol)
In: — (11/2017) (Ryan Thomas)