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From Metaphor to Legal Idiom: The Depiction of Women as “Vessels” in Antiquity and its Implications for 4Q416

Pages 56 - 78


Beth Shemesh

1 The nature of metaphors, and their application to biblical studies, has been the focus of much scholarly attention, as evidenced in several recent studies of the Hebrew Bible; see, inter alios, M.C.A. Korpel, A Rift in the Clouds: Ugaritic and Hebrew Descriptions of the Divine, UBL 8 (Münster: 1990), 35–87, S.J. Dille, Mixing Metaphors: God as Mother and Father in Deutero-Isaiah (London/New York: T. & T. Clark Int., 2004), 1–20, Korpel's review of Dille's work, (JHS [online]), and P. van Hecke, ed., Metaphor in the Hebrew Bible, BETL 187 (Leuven: Peeters, 2006). My intention here is not to classify the variegated usage in biblical and post-biblical sources as a metaphor conforming to the various criteria set forth in recent studies (e.g., that of the interaction between „tenor“ and „vehicle“ or „target domain“ and „source domain“); rather, I demonstrate that these sources offer a plausible, and in some cases explicit, basis for interpreting the formulation of 4Q416 as an expression - idiom or metaphor - denoting wives.

2 See J. Strugnell, D. Harrington, and T. Elgvin, Qumran Cave 4. XXIV: Sapiential Texts, Part 2, Discoveries in the Judaean Desert, DJD 34 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1999), 90; 108–109.

3 „…that every one of you should know how to possess/acquire his vessel in sanctification and honor“.

4 The literature of the ancient Near East, including the Hebrew Bible and rabbinic sources, preserves ample evidence of various idioms and metaphors expressive of wives and, specifically, their role in sexual congress; see, inter alios, H.J. Marsman, Women in Ugarit and Israel: Their Social and Religious Position in the Context of the Ancient Near East [Leiden: Brill, 2005], 50, 598, 198, 502.

5 See T. Elgvin, „‚To Master His Own Vessel‘: 1 Thess 4.4 in Light of New Qumran Evidence,“ NTS 43 (1997), 604–19, and the sources cited in J. Smith. „Another Look at 4Q416 2 ii 21, a Critical Parallel to First Thessalonians 4:4,“ CBQ 63 (2001), 499–504. Elgvin adopts the translation „to control his organ/body“ for 1Thess 4.

6 See the preceding note.

7 See „A Qumranic Parallel to 1Thess 4:4? Reading and Interpretation of 4Q416 2 ii 21,“ DSD 10 (2003), 365–70.

8 See „Reconstructing and Reading 4Q416 2 ii 21: Comments on Menahem Kister's Proposal,“ DSD 12 (2005), 205–11. Wold further notes a „tendency to discuss women in the context of Genesis creation allusions“ (ibid., 209).

9 Ibid.

10 See „Marginilia on 4QInstruction,“ in DSD 13 (2006), 24–28.

11 See NJPS, which notes the uncertainty of this translation; the translations render this verse variously. Unless otherwise indicated, translation of biblical passages follows NJPS.

12 See, below, n. 15.

13 See, already, A.B. Ehrlich, Mikra ki-Pheschuto (Berlin: 1900 M. Poppelauer, 1900 [reprint: Jerusalem, 1969), part 2, 155 (Hebrew).

14 See, inter alios, Ps 127:5, C.R. Chapman, The Gendered Language of Warfare in the Israelite-Assyrian Encounter, HSM 62 (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2004), 50–54, and Segal, Sepher Ben-Sira, 162 (ad Ben Sira 26:12); see, also, C. Wilcke, „A Riding Tooth: Metaphor, Metonomy, and Syndecdoche, Quick and Frozen in Everyday Language,“ in M. Mindlin, et al., eds., Figurative Language in the Ancient Near East (University of London: London: 1987), 77–78. Note, also, that Syriac attests the usage „vessels of seed (מאני זרעא)“ to denote genitalia; it does not, to the best of my knowledge, employ „vessel“ alone in this capacity.

15 It bears mention that a literal rendering of „כ] תמול שלשם]“, as well as the explicit rendering of LXX ad loc. („τριτῆν ήμεραν“; see, also, the medieval commentaries), is consonant with the postion of 11QTa 45:11–12, which requires a three-day purification period following sexual intercourse; see, also, CD 12:1–2 and Exod 19:15.

16 While a semantically similar phenomenon - i.e., the interchange between „impure“ and „mundane“ - becomes more frequent after its use in H (as attested in Ezekiel and Jubilees), the interchange between „pure“ and „holy“ may reflect different issues; see, inter alios, the discussion of J. Milgrom, Leviticus 1–16, AB 3 (New York: Doubleday, 1991), 37, and C.E. Hayes, „Intermarriage and Impurity in Ancient Jewish Sources,“ HTR 92 (1999), 18 (especially n. 52), in connection with Jubilees 30. Note that Deut 23:15 requires that the Israelite war camp be „holy“ (not „pure“); here, however, the reference is to the status of the soldiers, not - specifically - their genitalia. (In addition, the use of the term „holy“ in this verse may be part of the motif of Israel's being „holy [to YHWH]“ in Deuteronomy; see 7:6; 14:21.) In any event, this consideration is not definitive, since, whatever the explanation of „vessels“ in this verse, the term „holy“ would appear to be synonymous with „pure“. Indeed, the medieval commentator, Rashi, was cognizant of this issue, as evidenced by his terse comment (ad loc.) that the word „holy“ here means „pure“. Note, further, that if David is referring to the vessels from which the soldiers eat, the use of the term „holy“ (rather than „pure“) is expected; David may be indicating that his men carry with them eating utensils that are sanctified and, hence, fit for consumption of cultic victuals. (This does not hold true, of course, if „vessels“ refers to the men's weapons, as understood by LXX.) These observations do not preclude the possibility that the author of 4Q416 viewed the concepts „pure“ and „holy“ as interchangeable; it simply suggests that the appeal to 1Sam 21 for proof of the biblical use of „vessel“ to denote genitalia is problematic.

17 Indeed, the acknowledgment of differences in ritual status between various limbs of the same person is a particularly rabbinic (and, presumably, Pharisaic) position, as manifest in the concept „impurity of the hands (טומאת ידים)“.

18 Note that although this verse refers to Coniah and the people of Judah being „removed/thrown (השלכו) to another land“ - not „thrown to the ground“ - the formulation is reminiscent of the Akkadian passage cited above; this is especially true of the expression „rejected vessel“ (see W. McKane, Jeremiah, ICC [Edingburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1986], vol. 1, 549, and cf. LXX: „Ioconias is dishonored as a worthless/useless vessel [ως σκευος ου ουκ εστι χρεια αυτου]“). Moreover, closer examination of the masoretic text also reveals a greater similarity with the passage from Gilgamesh. Specifically the word „ העצב נבזה) נפוץ)“ in this verse has been understood as stemming from the root, “’נ’פ’צ,” and bearing the meaning „break, smash [a vessel]“ (see Rashi and Qimhi). This, of course, reflects precisely the sense of the usage encountered in Gilgamesh; cf. W. McKane, Jeremiah, 547, and the reference there to the practice attested in Egyptian execration texts. See, also, the discussion of Egyptian sources attesting the use of vessels to depict women, below.

19 See Gen 2:7,22, Isa 29:16, 64:7, and Dille, Mixing Metaphors, 112–17. This datum is expressed in even clearer terms in rabbinic sources, as discussed below.

20 A similar state of affairs exists at Isa 7:20, where the Assyrian king is depicted as YHWH's „hired razor,“ and at 10:15, which likens him to an ax, saw and a rod – i.e., vessels in the hand of the deity; for other examples of specific individuals functioning as tools of the divine, see the conclusion, below. See, also, Jer 18:1–6, where the deity is depicted as a potter and the people of Judah as „clay in the hand(s) of the potter“ and likens them to earthenware pots that do not turn out right. While this passage, too, stops short of calling individuals „vessels“ – it is all of Judah that is thus depicted – rabbinic tradents appear to have understood Jer 18:6 as referring to individual Jews (rather than Judah, collectively); see the discussion on the rabbinic usage of „vessels,“ below.

21 See the commentaries, and C.L. Seow, „Qohelet's Eshatological Poem,“ JBL 118 (1999), 209–34, especially 231–32, for discussion of the various types of vessels mentioned in this passage as well as the (ritual) issues associated with breaking of the vessels.

22 Translation follows that of P.W. Skehan and A.A. DiLella, The Wisdom of Ben Sira, AB 39 (New York: Doubleday, 1987), 249.

23 See Seow, op. cit.

24 Other instances of specific utensils, rather than the general „vessel,“ are also attested during the Second Temple period. Thus, the term „sheath (נדן)“ is employed at Dan 7:15 and 1QapGen 2:10 to convey the meaning „body“; see LXX to Dan 7:15, which renders the Aramaic term by means of „in my body (εν τη ‘εχει μου),“ and J. A. Fitzmyer, The Genesis Apocryphon of Qumran Cave I (Rome: Pontifical Biblical Institue, 1966), 78.

25 To anticipate the discussion below, it ought also be noted these passages do not bear out Elgvin's assertion that the biblical attestations of this usage appear exclusively in connection with man's fragility („To Master,“ 616).

26 See E. Feucht, Das Kind im Alten Ägypten: Die Stellung des Kindes in Familie und Gesellschaft nach altägyptischen Texten und Darstellungen (Frankfurt: Campus Verlag, 1995), 93; see the discussion below, and the analysis of rabbinic texts in the following section.

27 Indeed, the Egyptian hieroglyph for femininity is a water jar. For broader discussion of this phenomenon, see E. Neumann, The Great Mother: An Analysis of the Archetype (transl. R. Manheim; Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univeristy Press, 1970). Note, especially, Neumann's formulation: „The basic equation woman=body=vessel corresponds to what is perhaps mankind's - man's as well as woman's - most elementary expereinece of the feminine“ (ibid., 39). Note, also, the depiction of women pouring water from containers in ancient drawings expressive of fertility and, more generally, the depiction of women as water-bearers in the ancient Near East and the Hebrew Bible. See, also, W. Lederer's description of the motif of women (in folklore and art) as constituting „the vessel that cannot be adequately filled by man“ (The Fear of Women [New York and London: Grune and Stratton, Inc., 1968], 233).

28 Following the lead of of N. Aschkenasy, Marsman has averred that Ruth 1:21 attests the view of women as vessels (see Aschkenasy, Eve's Journey: Feminine Images in Hebraic Literary Tradition [Detroit: Wayne State University, 1986], 77–105, especially 87, and Marsman, Women in Ugarit and Israel, 223). Specifically, she argues that the use of the terms „full“ and „empty“ reflect the use of „vessels“ in depicting women, specifically in their capacity as bearers of children. In fact, however, the evidence of this passage is less than compelling; while it may, indeed, reflect the depiction of women as vessels, „full“ and „empty“ may simply refer to the viscisitudes of Naomi's life; see the commentaries. Moreover, Ruth Rabb. 3:7 (which also mentions this view) proffers a second interpretation, wherein Hebrew „full“ means pregnant, a usage amply attested in Rabbinic Hebrew. This interpretation does not entail the use of a „vessel“ metaphor; indeed, 11QTa (50:10; 52:5) employs this same lexeme in connection with both pregnant women and animals; see Y. Yadin, The Temple Scroll (Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society, 1983), vol. 2, 222, for discussion of post-biblical usage. While it is far from clear that this semantic usage was intended by the biblical author, the evidence of postbiblical usage together with the literary context of Ruth 1 render Aschkenasy's position less than certain.

29 Translations of the masoretic text follow NJPS.

30 Translation of LXX Proverbs is taken from the provisional translation of J. Cook, A New English Translation of the Septuagint (2004 [copyright]).

31 The plural form, „vessels,“ attested in LXX, though perhaps less expected than the singular form, does not necessarily affect the present argument. It is not necessary to infer that this form reflects a polygynous marriage; the plural form may simply reflect the simple fact that households usually have more than one drinking vessel.

32 Proverbs: A Critical and Exegetical Commentary, ICC (New York: Scribner, 1904), 113; cf. D.M. D'Hamonville, Les Proverbes, La Bible D'Alexandrie 17 (Paris: Cerf, 2000), 189.

33 Unfortunately, Toy does not elaborate on the „slight change of text“; see, further, the discussion below.

34 This is also the lexeme used at 1Pet 3:7; see, below, the discussion of the relevant NT sources.

35 See Hatch-Redpath, A Concordance to the Septuagint (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1897), 7.

36 Thus, it is possible that LXX's Vorlage read „ כד“ in place of [מ]כר[ך] i. e., [מ]כד[ך] (or, perhaps, „[מ]ככר[ך]“) in place of [מ]בור[ך]; see the following note.

37 See Hatch-Redpath, A Concordance to the Septuagint (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1897), 7. Although the authors list „בור“ as one of the Hebrew lexmes rendered by αγγειον, it is unlikely that such was the reading that appeared in LXX's Vorlage, a fact reflected in the translations of Brenton, Toy, and Cook, all of whom render LXX's text „(drinking) vessel“. (D'Hamonville renders the term „vases“ [Les Proverbes, 188–89].) See, further, Hatch-Redpath, A Concordance, 7, and compare Ben Sira 21:14, where Greek „αγγος“ corresponds to Hebrew „“בור”“; cf. the notes of Skehan and DiLella, and M.Z. Segal, ad loc.

38 See, inter alios, J. Cook, The Septuagint of Proverbs: Jewish and/or Hellenistic Proverbs? Concerning the Hellenistic Colouring of LXX Proverbs, VTSupp 69 (Leiden: 1997), and Fox, „LXX-Proverbs as a Text-Critical Resource“. On a related note, it is apposite to mention the view of G. Gerleman, who offers the following assessment of LXX's reticence in its use of metaphors: „It is noticeable that the translator, while frankly accepting even very bold similes, is very cautious as regards metaphorical speech“ (Studies in the Septuagint. III. Proverbs [Lund: Gleerup, 1956], 26).

39 The matter of translation technique and its role in reconstructing the Vorlage of LXX Proverbs is voluminous. See, inter alios, E. Tov, „Recensional Differences between the Masoretic Text and the Septuagint of Proverbs,“ in H.W. Attridge, ed., Of Scribes and Scroll: Studies on the Hebrew Bible, Intertestamental Judaism and Christian Origins, Presented to John Strugnell (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1990), R.L. Giese, „Qualifying Wealth in the Septuagint of Proverbs,“ JBL 111 (1992), 410–11, 43–56, J. Cook, „The Greek of Proverbs – Evidence of a Recensionally Deviating Text?,“ in S.M. Paul, ed., Emanuel: Studies in Hebrew Bible, Septuagint, and Dead Sea Scrolls in Honor of Emanuel Tov (Leiden: Brill, 2003), 605–18, idem, „Aspects of the Translational Technique followed by the Translator of LXX Proverbs,“ JNSL 22 (1996), 43–53, idem, „The Ideological Stance of the Greek Translator of Proverbs,“ in B.A. Taylor, ed., X Congress of the International/ IOSCS Congress X, Oslo 1998 (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 2000), 463–70, J. de Waard, „The Septuagint of Proverbs as a Translational Model?,“ Bible Translator 50 (1999), 3–4-14, R.E. Murphy, „A Brief Note on Translating Proverbs,“ CBQ 60 (1998), 621–25, J. Cook, „Aspects of the Translational Technique followed by the Translator of LXX Proverbs,“ JNSL 22 (1996), 43–53, T. Forti and Z. Talshir, „Proverbs 7 in MT and LXX: Form and Content,“ Textus 22 (2005), 129–167, and M.V. Fox, „LXX Proverbs as a Text-Critical Resource,“ Textus 22 (2005), 95–128.

40 See, inter alios, Gerleman, Proverbs, and cf. R.L. Giese, „Qualifying Wealth in the Septuagint of Proverbs,“ JBL 111 (1992), 409–25, and the numerous studies by J. Cook, especially The Septuagint of Proverbs.

41 See, inter alios, D'Hamonville, Les Proverbes, 23.

42 See Strugnell, et al., Sapiential Texts, 74, and M. Goff, The Worldly and Heavenly Wisdom of 4QInstruction (Leiden: Brill, 2003), 1–2, n. 3.

43 Indeed, J. Smith's argument that there is no apparent reason why the author of 4Q416, on Strugnell's approach, should have suddenly chosen to employ the term „vessel (of your bosom)“ rather than „wife“ (or, „wife of your bosom“) attested elsewhere in this document is countered by the evidence of Prov 5:15 and 5:20; see Smith, „Another Look,“ 501.

44 A cautionary note is, however, apposite. LXX renders this stich „nor be held in the arms of someone not your own (μη ε συνεχου αγκαλαις της μη ι ιας)“. It is unclear whether the rendering „arms“ reflects a different Vorlage or, simply, a translational variant, perhaps reflecting an attempt to soften the sexual tone of the Hebrew text. (Note, however, that LXX renders Hebrew „אשת] חיוך]“ by „εν τω κολπω“ at Deut 13:6 and 28:54). Of course, there is no a priori reason why the author of 4Q416 could have not been familiar with a Vorlage of Proverbs preserving textual features of LXX and the (proto-)masoretic text. Alternatively, the author may have been familiar with the masoretic and LXX versions and combined elements of both. This state of affairs underscores the difficulty in establishing the nature of the literary relationship between LXX Proverbs and 4Q416; see the discussion below. Note, further, that the motifs common to Prov 5:15–20 and 4Q416 2 ii 21 are manifest in other passages in 4QInstruction, as well, wherein the importance of intimacy and physical contact between spouses is addressed; see Wold, „Reconstructing,“ 211.

45 See E. Puech, „Qûmran e il Libro dei Proverbi,“ in G. Bellia and A Passaro, eds., Libro dei Proverbi: Tradizione, Redazione, Teologia (Casale Monferrat: Piemme, 1999), 169–89, and above, n. 36.

46 This is certainly the most plausible explanation case vis-à-vis the rabbinic usage. If 1Thess 4 does, in fact, employ „vessel“ as referring to one's wife, it may either reflect the existence of a common idiom or the influence of LXX; see the discussion of these points below. See, also, J. Joosten, „Biblical Hebrew as Mirrored in the Septuagint: The Question of Influence from Spoken Hebrew,“ Textus 21 (2002), 1–19, and C. Dogniez, „The Greek Renderings of Hebrew Idiomatic Expressions and their Treatment in the Septuagint Lexica,“ JNSL 28 (2002), 1–17.

47 See above, n. 25; see, also, M. Malul, Knowledge, Control and Sex: Studies in Biblical Thought, Culture and Worldview (Tel Aviv-Jaffa: Archaeological Center, 2002), 332.

48 Although Toy's understanding of LXX Prov 5:15, along with the analysis presented herein, is certainly plausible, one potential difficulty obtains in this explanation. For, while it is likely that the term „(drinking) vessel“ denotes wives, it may be argued that it is the water contained in the vessel, rather than the vessel itself, that constitutes the metaphoric equivalent of women. After all, the fountain/source/spring (mentioned in the Proverbs passage) and the water contained therein are one and the same; hence, the depiction of wives by these terms may reflect the fact that wives/women are compared to the water found therein. By contrast, a vessel and its liquid contents are distinct objects. Thus, the formulation „Drink waters out of thine own“ may simply mean „drink your own water (i.e., enjoy intimacy with your own wife)“. Stated differently, it is uncertain whether the water denotes women or, rather, (the act of) sexual intimacy. This possibility is buttressed by the fact that Proverbs elsewhere (9:17–18) may reasonably be understood as employing „water“ and „bread“ to denote women. (See, also, Gen 39:6 and Tg. Ps.-J. and the commentary of Rashi, thereto; see, further, the sources cited in M.M. Kasher, Torah Shelemah, vol. 6 [New York: 1948], 1487, n. 39, which suggest that bread/food functions as a metaphor for Potiphar's wife rather than a metaphor for sexual intercourse.) These considerations notwithstanding, the overall evidence of the biblical usage, along with the pictorial and artifactual data noted above and the evidence of rabbinic sources discussed below, indicates that „vessels“ in LXX Prov 5 goes proxy for women. In addition, it is likely that the distinction between „vessel“ and „water“ as depicting women/wives is artificial; the two notions appear to complement one another and are probably interchangeable, as emerges from the rabbinic usage discussed below. See the following note.

49 The evidence of LXX Prov 5:15 may suggest a somewhat different approach to the constellation of metaphors (fountain, spring, etc.) employed in Prov 5:15–20. The use of the term “מקור” at Prov 5:18 is similarly noteworthy. The term „ “מקור”‘“, whose beasic meaning is „source, fountain,“ also bears the meaning, in both biblical and rabbinic usage (see Lev 12:7; 20:18; b. Nid. 65b), „uterus“; it subsequently came to denote, by metonymy, „woman/wife,“ as in Prov 5:18. The use of “מעין (spring)“ to denote women/wives (Prov 5:16), may reflect a similar semantic development. This is suggested by the Ugaritic formulation at KTU 1.24:8–9; 11–12. The former passage reads: „‚nhn!.lydh tzd[n] špt lbšrh. (Let her ‚spring/well‘ boil for his ‚hand,‘ [her] ‚lip(s)‘…for his ‚flesh‘)“. The latter passage states: „[ylk.] mm <'nh>. lydh. tzdn (Let the waters of her ‚well‘ [flow], let them boil for his ‚hand‘)“. It is likely that Ugaritic ‚n (= Heb. [מעין/עין [„spring“]) in this passage denotes the vulva (see J.C. de Moor, An Anthology of Religious Texts from Ugarit [Leiden: Brill, 1987], 113, n. 25; 140, n. 35; 143, n. 14.). Thus, if, as maintained by Elgvin (et al.), Hebrew „ “כלי”“ does, indeed, bear the meaning „genitalia, vulva,“ it is possible that its appearance at LXX Prov 5:15, like that of „“מקור”“ and „“‘yn/מעין,” constitutes an instance of metonymy. This, of course, requires further investigation.

50 The following observation is apposite. The term „ “עציץ,”,“ though denoting „earthen vessel“ generally, is especially common in denoting containers used for plants (hence, the alternative rendering „flowerpot“). The choice of this specific term at m. Ket. 3:4–5 may, therefore, reflect the fact that women are frequently depicted in rabbinic literature (as well biblical and ancient Near Eastern sources, generally) in agricultural terms, as is the act of sexual intercourse (see, inter alios, R.A. Veenker, „Forbidden Fruit: Ancient Near Eastern Sexual Metaphors,“ HUCA 70–71[1999–2000], 57–73, and M. Malul, „Woman-Earth Homology in the Biblical Weltanschaung,“ UF 32 [2000], 339–63.) As noted above, D'Hamonville, too, renders „“αγγείων”“ at Prov 5:15 by means of „vases“ (Les Proverbes, 188–89).

51 This observation holds true with regard to the depiction of Esther at b. Meg. 12b, as well; see Elgvin, „To Master,“ 610, and Smith, „Another Look,“ 502, n. 12

52 „To Master,“ 610

53 „‚To Master‘,“ 610. This interpretation is cited by Smith („Another Look,“ 500), who, however, is non-commital in his assessment of it.

54 See ibid., and J.E. Smith, „Another Look“.

55 The analogy of the widow of R. Eleazar notwithstanding, it is unlikely she meant this analogy as a formally binding principle, i.e., expressive of the view that she was forbidden to marry R. Eleazar. It is more likely that this usage simply expresses her feeling that Rabbi was not deserving of the widow of so great a man.

56 In addition, it is highly unlikely (albeit, not inconceivable) that the wife of R. Eleazar (or, more specifically, the redactors of b.) would employ so coarse an expression, even if only idiomaticcally.

57 Indeed, it is striking that rabbinic sources, which attest a wide range of meptaphors in denoting the phallus never employ the metaphor „vessel“ in this connection.

58 2Sam 20:3, along with its influence on postbiblical literature, has been the subject of much discussion; see, inter alios, D. Rothstein, „Sexual Union and Sexual Offences in Jubilees,“ JSJ 35 (2004), 372–74, and Marsman, Women in Ugarit and Israel, 378–79. For recent discussion of David's treatment of his concubines, see A.E. Hill, „On David's ‚Taking‘ and ‚Leaving‘ Concubines (2 Samuel 5:13; 15:16),“ JBL 125 (2006), 129–39.

59 Translation of the passage is mine, based on the text of Talmud Yerushalmi: According to Ms. Or. 4720 (Scal. 3) of the Leiden University Library with Restorations and Corrections (Jerusalem: Academy of the Hebrew Language, 2001).

60 Nor, again, is there any compelling basis to interpret the metaphor as denoting female genitalia; even should such be the case, the ultimate referent of this metaphor remains (by pars pro toto) the woman.

61 The reading of this tradent's name is variously attested; see N. Rabinowicsz, Diq. Sof., ad loc.

62 Hebrew: „… אינה כורתת ברית אלא“. Cf. Yalq. Shim., vol. 2, par. 473, which reads: „a woman does not feel a debt of gratitude (אינה מחזקת טובה) towards…“. For analysis of women's first act of intercourse, but from the male persepective, see S. de Beauvoir, The Second Sex (New York: 1964), 144.

63 The midrashic interpretation is predicated on the premise that „בעליך“ means „he who has intercourse with you,“ reflecting the common rabbinic useage of the root ’ב’ע’ל. Although it is frequently claimed that in place of the ubiquitous biblical syntagm „אל + בא (ba‚ + ‘el),“ as well as the participle בועל to denote the male participating in the act of intercourse. (Although it is frequently claimed that biblical usage of this root bears the specific nuance of „be master [hence, husband] over,“ Malul has correctly pointed out that several biblical passages attest to the same semantic usage as that found in rabbinic texts; see Knowledge, 239–40.) Cf. the commentaries ad loc., as well as the targumic rendering, „For your master (מריך) who made you…“ and the rendering of LXX: „For it is the Lord (Κυριος) that made you“. It is unclear whether this rendering – and, possibly, that of the Aramaic targum, as well – reflects a free translation on the part of the translator(s) of LXX or, rather, a different vowel pointing or even Vorlage. For discussion of the metaphor employed by R. Samuel (viewed against the backdrop of Isa 54:5), see the commentary of R. Solomon Idels ad b. Sanh. 22b.

64 The term „גולם“ bears two basic meanings in rabbinic parlance. First, it denotes a vessel, whose unfinished (or, as yet unformed) status may affect its susceptibility to defilement; see, e.g., m. Kel. 12:6. In addition, it denotes persons lacking fundamental traits; see m. Abot 5:10. While the passage in b. Sanh. clearly involves sexual intercourse, the term „vessel“ can only be unpacked as referring to the woman, not her genitalia (alone). For depictions of the human body (in general) by this term, see, inter alios y. Nidd. 3:3 (50d).

65 This is made amply clear by the literary context of this passage; see the pericope at b. Sanh. 22b.

66 Note that the depiction of wives as „vessels“ was later used and developed by many post-talmudic authorities; see, further, Y. Ahituv, „זיקת האטה לבעלה שעשאה כלי, in M. Shiloh, ed., להיות, אשה יהודייה vol. 2 (Jerusalem: Urim, 2003), 160–62/159–79. See, further, the discussion of y. Ber. 2:5, below.

67 The latter reference is to m. Šabb. 22:3, which permits breaking a barrel in order to obtain food contained therein on the Sabbath, provided that one does not intend to transform the barrel, thereby, into a vessel for future storage.

68 Translation of the passage is mine, following the text of Talmud Yerushalmi: According to Ms. Or. 4720. (I have not, however, translated those words preserved in parentheses.) Note that the following lines in y. may also contain a reference to the wife's status as a „vessel,“ though this may depend on the correct reading; for discussion of these issues, see L. Ginzberg, A Commentary on the Palestinian Talmud (New York: Ktav, 1971 [reprint]), vol. 1, 360 (Hebrew).

69 See ibid., and the earlier commentaries, ad loc., who explain y.'s formulation on the basis of b. Sanh. 22. This is, of course, possible, though it must be borne in mind that the dictum attributed to R. Samuel b. Onia at b. Sanh. 22 does not, to the best of my knowledge, appear anywhere in y.

70 See L. Ginzberg, Commentary, 360, and Y. Ahituv, „זיקת האשה בעלה“. In contrast to their position, however, it ought to be noted that although the pericope does address the issue of תיקון as a legal factor in connection with the first conjugal act of a newlywed couple (of which the wife is a virgin), it never mentions the lexeme „vessel“. Indeed, the issue of „תיקון“ is introduced in the pericope in order to explain that the „wound“ resulting from intercourse does not constitute a „destructive“ act (in rabbinic legal parlance, „מקלקל“) but, rather, a constructive act; hence, the act constitutes (on this talmudic view) a forbidden act of „חובל“ i.e., wounding. While it is possible that the pericope has the notion of „תיקון כלי“ in mind, it is, therefore, less than certain.

71 Thus, although the story regarding R. Judah the Exilarch would have taken place at the close of the tannaitic period (i.e., ca. 200 CE), the attested literary/linguistic usage is of later provenance.

72 As noted above, ancient Egyptian texts also reflect the view of women as vessels. Specifically, in their understanding of the process of procreation these texts reflect the view wherein women serve as vessels in which the husband places his seed. While the historical nexus between the Egyptian sources and those of rabbinic provenance is hardly clear, the depiction of wives in similar terms is, nonetheless, noteworthy.

73 The development of the polyvalence of the „vessel“ metaphor and its application to the cases under discussion is uncertain…

74 See Gen. Rabb. 14:7 (ed. H. Albeck, 130–31, and notes thereto). The passage in Gen. Rabb. goes on to discuss Ps 2:11 („You can smash them with an iron mace, shatter them like potter's ware [ככלי יוצר]“), again comparing humans to vessels. Cf. Midr. Psalms, 2:11 (ed. Buber, 30).

75 The passage employs the Hebrew term „יוצר,“ which means „artisan, pot-maker“; the text also plays on the root „’י’צ’ר“ at Gen 2:19, in connection with the creation of the first man.

76 See Albeck, op. cit., note to l. 1 for discussion of the orthography and various forms of this word (singular, plural) as attested in mss.

77 See, also, Gen. Rabb. 72:6, which explains Jer 18:6 (cited in the fist section of this paper) to mean that just as the „potter“ can change the shape of clay-pots gone wrong, so can the divine potter change the sex of a fetus in the mother's womb.

78 Compare Elgvin's claim in connection with the biblical usage („To Master“).

79 See the comments of R. Solomon Idels, ad loc., who avers that this passage views the body as a vessel housing the soul; see the discussion below.

80 Similar issues and concerns obtain vis-à-vis the New Testament passages discussed in connection with 4Q416. Thus, the evidence mustered in the preceding discussion indicates that there is no reason why „vessel“ in 1Thess 4 should not denote wives. Indeed, this passage allows for the usage of the metaphor as expressive of the wife in her capacity as child-bearer as well as her role as the source of her husband's sexual pleasure (or some other role). Moreover, it even allows for the possibility that the vessel metaphor here is part of a broader usage descriptive of human beings, generally, as attested at 1Pet 3:7. Similarly, the evidence presented herein indicates that both translations of „κτασθαι“ at 1Thess 4 - i.e., „possess“ or the more likely translation, „obtain“ - are consonant with the context of this passage. Moreover, it even allows for the possibility that the vessel metaphor here is part of a broader usage descriptive of human beings, generally. See, also, Acts 9:15, where Paul is called a „chosen vessel (σκευος εκλογής)“.

81 A brief comment of another feature of the passage in 4Q416 is warranted. Assuming that the term „vessel“ does, indeed, denote one's wife, it is reasonable to read the following lexeme as „חיקכה“. At the same time, it ought to be recalled that the reading „הוקכה“ has also been proposed. To be sure, this reading is not implausible, nor does it undermine the central thesis advanced herein. This reading would yield the meaning „your legal (or, legally proper) wife“ (See Strugnell, et al., Sapiential Texts, 109, and Garcia Martinez, „Marginialia,“ 25–26). This interpretation is consonant with – and, indeed, may be a reflection of – the importance the Qumran community attached to maintaining Israel's genealogical purity and distinctiveness via proper observance of the marriage and incest laws as formulated in its writings (and in Jubilees). At the same time, this explanation of 4Q416′s formulation is beset by one difficulty, viz., the phrase „כלי חיקכה“ is extremely vague and depends heavily on the reader's ability to recall biblical passages and verbal associations.

82 While 4Q416 does not offer any specifics as to what kind of conduct this entails, the following point may be noted. A Wisdom passage from the Late (Egyptian) Period (Instruction of Ankhsheshonqy 14:16) exhorts husbands not to abandon a childless wife (see M. Lichtheim, Late Egyptian Wisdom Literature in the International Context: A Study of Demotic Instructions, OBO 52 [Fribourg: Universitätsverlag/Göttingen: Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, 1983] 79). Significantly, Jubilees appears to allow for a similar application of 4Q416. Jubilees 28:16 depicts Jacob as reassuring Rachel that, despite her barrenness, he has never abandoned her. (It is, furthermore, possible that Jacob is portrayed as saying that he did not cease treating her as his primary wife. I plan to discuss this passage more fully as part of a separate study.)

83 Compare the following rabbinic dictum instructing a man to honor his wife more than himself (b. Yeb. 62b), as well as the exhortation to spend more on the needs of his wife than on those of his own person (b. Hull. 84b).

84 See, inter alios, Skehan and Di Lella, Wisdom of Ben Sira, AB 39, 431. Ben Sira is, of course, a prime example of Second Temple authors maintaing a less than positive view of women; this may suggest that the expression reflects a misogynous/misogynistic bent, but this is hardly certain. In any event, Ben Sira's formulation indicates that a wife is to be appreciated and not treated lightly. This is certainly consonant with the literary context of 4Q416 2 ii 21.

85 On the question of the legal status of women, and wives in particular, at Qumran, see E.M. Schuller, „Evidence for Women in the Community of the Dead Sea Scrolls,“ in J.S. Kloppenborg and S.G. Wilson, eds., Voluntary Associations in the Graeco-Roman World (London: Routledge, 1996), 252–65, idem, „Women in the Dead Sea Scrolls,“ in P.W. Flint and J.C. VanderKam, eds., The Dead Sea Scrolls after Fifty Years: A Comprehensive Assessment (Leiden: Brill, 1999), 115–27, 117–44, M.L. Grossman, „Reading for Gender in the Damascus Document,“ DSD 11 (2004), 212–39, Rothstein, „Women's Testimony at Qumran: The Biblical and Second Temple Evidence,“ RQ 21 (2004), 597–614, and C. Wassen, Women in the Damascus Document (Leiden: Brill, 2005), who argues that despite their secondary status in some areas (particularly, that involving sexuality), women were full members of the community responsible for the Damascus Document.

86 See B. Halpern-Amaru, The Empowerment of Women in the Book of Jubilees (Leiden: Brill, 2000).

87 See, most notably, the treatment of Isaac and Rebecca.

88 The issue was noted (though not with regard to Jubilees) by Strugnell; see „4Q216,“ 109. There is, of course, no way of ascertaining how the author of Jubilees might have interpretetd this idiom/metaphor were he, in fact, cognizant of its existence; cf. Ahituv, „זיקת האשה לבעלה“. To be sure, the question of the relationship between Jubilees and 4Q416 is further complicated by the presence of several passages in 4Q416 that refer to male domination of women. This may suggest a stance different from that of Jubilees; at the same time, it must be borne in mind that Jubilees, too, endorses the dominant role of husbands. Similar questions obtain with respect to the view of women/wives in rabbinic sources. These issues, however, demand separate treatment.


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