The Priestly Blessing in Inscription and Scripture: The Early History of Numbers 6:24-26

Hardcover | November 16, 2015

byJeremy D. Smoak

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The Priestly Blessing found in Numbers 6:24-26 left a deep imprint upon Jewish and Christian religious practice and tradition. The various ways in which the blessing was incorporated into these liturgical traditions, for example, are well documented in a variety of written sources from thepast two thousand years. Rabbinic literature demonstrates that the blessing held a central place in early Jewish traditions, especially as part of the development of the Amidah and other liturgical prayers. Christian tradition also attests to a rich diversity of applications of the blessing inByzantine and Medieval Christian practice. While the Priestly Blessing's development and significance in Judaism and early Christianity are well documented, considerably less is known about its earliest history in the ancient world.The Priestly Blessing in Inscription and Scripture breaks new ground in the study of the origins and early history of the blessing by examining its appearance on two Iron Age amulets discovered at the site of Ketef Hinnom in Jerusalem. Jeremy Smoak provides a comprehensive description of the twoamulets and compares the inscriptions on their surfaces with several Phoenician and Punic inscribed amulets. He argues that the blessing's language originated within a wider tradition of protective words, which were often inscribed on metal amulets as protection against evil. He contends that thePriestly writers of the biblical texts incorporated the specific words into the blessing's formulations precisely due to their wide popularity and appeal as protective words in the eastern Mediterranean world. Smoak's argument represents an important departure from earlier studies on the background of the blessing's language in the ancient Near East, and it sheds significant new light on the history of their use within early Judaism and Christianity.

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The Priestly Blessing found in Numbers 6:24-26 left a deep imprint upon Jewish and Christian religious practice and tradition. The various ways in which the blessing was incorporated into these liturgical traditions, for example, are well documented in a variety of written sources from thepast two thousand years. Rabbinic literature de...

Jeremy D. Smoak is a Continuing Lecturer in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures at UCLA, where he teaches courses in Hebrew Bible, Israelite religions, and ancient Near Eastern literature. His current research focuses on inner-biblical exegesis, prophetic literature, and northwest Semitic inscriptions.
Format:HardcoverDimensions:264 pages, 9.29 × 6.42 × 1.1 inPublished:November 16, 2015Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0199399972

ISBN - 13:9780199399970

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Table of Contents

AcknowledgmentsAbbreviationsList of IllustrationsIntroduction1. Yahweh's Blessing at Ketef Hinnom2. Blessing and Guarding in West Semitic Inscribed Amulets3. The Priestly Blessing in Numbers 6:22-274. The Face of Yahweh and the Temple5. Writing the Priestly Blessing in the Book of NumbersConclusion: The Priestly Blessing in Inscription and ScriptureBibliographyIndex

Editorial Reviews

"Alone among biblical texts, the Priestly Blessing is the only one for which direct evidence survives from ancient Judah, and Smoak richly illuminates its life context in the numerous amulets from this period. In addition to being the single best resource on a prayer central to the HebrewBible and Jewish identity, this book is also a compelling argument for using inscriptions as primary sources to reorient our view of an ancient world usually seen through a biblical lens." --Seth L. Sanders, Associate Professor of Religion, Trinity College