Just Published in VT: The Literary Structure of Micah (pdf)

In the last issue of Vetus Testamentum, there is an article of mine about the literary structure of the book of Micah:

“Un triptyque au coeur du livre de Michée (Mi 4-5)”, VT 62 (2012) 232-247.

In this article I briefly study the structure of Mi 1-2, 3 and 6-7, then I suggest a new understanding of the core of the book, chap. 4-5. In my opinion, Mi 4-5 is a triptych (4:1-7: 4:9-14; 5:1-14).

In keeping with Brill policy, I am authorized to post here a PDF of this article. It is written in French; if you want an English translation, please send me an email (matthieu.richelle@gmail.com).

[notice that verse numerotation at the end of Mi 4 is not the same in English versions and in some French translations… in the article I follow the Masoretic Text]

Conference at the Collège de France

A conference organized by the Société Asiatique, the Collège de France and my research team (UMR 7192) will take place at the Collège de France on 29-30 May 2012.

The subject is “Les matériaux de l’historien de l’Orient” and the program is available here. Among others, Dominique Charpin and Thomas Römer will give papers.

(image source: LPTL/Wikimedia Commons)

Just Published: Semitica 54 (with the pdf of my contribution)

Semitica is a well-known series of “cahiers” published by the Semitic Studies Institute of the Collège de France.

N°54, edited by my friend and colleague Michael Langlois, has just been published:

Monde sémitique et Bible hébraïque, ed. M. Langlois, directed by T. Römer (Semitica 54; Paris: Maisonneuve, 2012).

This 250 pages volume comprises 2 parts:

(1) New documents (previously unpublished inscriptions).

(2) Epigraphical, philological and historical studies.

There are articles by J.-M. Durand, M. Guichard, A. Lemaire, Michael Langlois, M.-J. Roche, F. Bron, R. Achenbach, J. Hützli, T. Römer, H.-P. Mathys, C. Nihan, I. Koch, T. Elgvin, D. Hamidovic, and myself.

You can visit the new Semitica website, with table of contents and other information, here.

My own contribution to this book is entitled “Notes épigraphiques sur l’ostracon N°3 de Tell el-Mazar” (p. 127-46).

You can download the PDF here.


Since the editio princeps of the ostracon 3 from Tell el-Mazar, virtually all
scholars have reproduced its readings without significant changes. On the basis of a detailed analysis of new photographs, this article offers no less than seven corrections and the decipherment of several letters previously unnoticed. As a result, the translation of this message is considerably altered; in particular, line 3 seems to allude to a textile handicraft. Moreover, we have a new attestation of the relative pronoun which confirms that the language of this ostracon is Ammonite.

Hebrew Bible and Ancient Israel: Sample Issue

Thanks to Daniel O. McClellan’s blog, I have discovered that the PDF of the first issue of Hebrew Bible and Ancient Israel is available as a free sample issue here.

HeBAI is a new peer-reviewed journal published by Mohr Siebeck and edited by Gary N. Knoppers, Oded Lipschits, Carol A. Newsom and Konrad Schmid. The first issue deals with the figure of Moses, with articles by David M. Carr, Ehrard Blum, Thomas Römer, James Kugel and Carl S. Ehrlich.

Just Published in ZAW: A Possible Mesopotamian Parallel to the Deafness and Blindness Pattern in Isaiah

In the last issue of the Zeitschrift für Alttestamentliche Wissenschaft, there is a short note of mine:

M. Richelle, “Des yeux pour voir, des oreilles pour entendre… Comparaison entre un motif biblique et une formule mésopotamienne”, ZAW 124 (2012) 103-6.

Here is an English summary:

The theme of deafness and blindness is an important one in the book of Isaiah, from the famous scene of ch. 6 (“otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears…”, v. 10) to the many allusions in the rest of the book (43:8; 44:18…). Many studies have been devoted to this subject, including:

  • C. A. Evans, “The Text of Isaiah 6: 9, 10”, ZAW 94 (1982) 415-418.
  • Id., To See and Not Perceive: Isaiah 6:9-10 in Early Jewish and Christian Interpretation (JSOTSup 64; Sheffield: Sheffield University Press, 1989).
  •  Gregory K. Beale, “Isaiah 6:9-13 : A Retributive Taunt Against Idolatry”, VT 41 (1991) 257-278.
  • J.-P. Sonnet, “Le motif de l’endurcissement (Is 6,9-10) et la lecture d’‘Isaïe’”, Biblica 73 (1992) 208-239.
  • J. L. McLaughlin, “The Use of Isaiah 6,9-10 in the Book of Isaiah”, Biblica 75 (1994) 1-25.
  • L. Eslinger, “The Infinite in a Finite Organical Perception (Isaiah VI 1-5)”, VT 45 (1995) 145-173.
  • R. P. Carroll, “Blindsight and the Vision Thing: Blindness and Insight in the Book of Isaiah”, in C. C. Broyles-C. A. Evans (ed.), Writing and Reading the Scroll of Isaiah, 1997, 79-93.
  • G. D. Robinson, “The Motif of Deafness and Blindness in Isaiah 6:9-10: A Contextual, Literary and Theological Analysis”, BBR 8 (1998) 167-186.
  • J. Joosten, “La prosopopée, les pseudo-citations et la vocation d’Isaïe (Is 6,9-10)”, Biblica 82 (2001) 232-243.
  • G.K. Beale, We Become What We Worship: A Biblical Theology of Idolatry (Downers Grove, 2008) 64-68.
  • C. Balogh, “Blind People, Blind God: The Composition of Isaiah 29,15-24”, ZAW 121 (2009) 48-69.

Now I was interested to find a possible parallel in some Mesopotamian texts (I insist on the word: possible!):

  1. Assyrian queries to Shamash, a collection of which has been published by I. Starr, Queries to the SunGod: Divination and Politics in Sargonid Assyria (SAA 4; Helsinki: Helsinki University Press, 1990).
  2. Babylonian oracle questions (tamītu prayers), a collection of which has been published by Wilfred G. Lambert, Babylonian Oracle Questions, Mesopotamian Civilizations 13, Winona Lake : Eisenbrauns, 2007.

The same formula occurs in both kinds of texts at the end of prayers: “Will the seer see? Will the hearer hear?” (āmiru immâra šēmu išemmê). There is a disagreement between Starr and Lambert with regard to the sense of this recurring formula, but in my note I try to demonstrate that the basic notion behind it is simply to ask the gods whether an event will occur (or not) in an apparent, patent way. Also, there is the possibility that in spite of the ability to see and to hear, the “seer will not see and the hearer will not hear”. (Cf. a text where there is an ordeal: “should the River not overwhelm him so that the people will not hear the unfavourable news of him, so that [the seer] will not see and the hearer will not hear?”)

In these Mesopotamian prayers as well as in the book of Isaiah, the blindness-deafness pattern is closely related to the reception by humans of oracles from the gods/the Lord.  But there is a striking difference which makes me surmise that they might be an ironic allusion in Isaiah:

  • in Mesopotamia, people are anxious to receive answers from the gods and they are proactive in formulating queries; moreover, when they ask these gods to answer them, they insist with the formula: “will the seer see, will the hearer hear?”;
  • in the book of Isaiah, people are so rebellious to the word of God that the Lord wants them to become blind and deaf, so that they would become unable to perceive the messages he deliver to them through his prophet.

I want to be cautious. Like most of parallels between the Bible and ANE texts, it is impossible to prove that there is an allusion. Yet it seems to me that it would make sense and even shed some light on the exceptional situation we see in Isaiah 6. Notice that Greg Beale already has proposed to read in this text an ironic allusion to foreign religious practices (see references above). At least, it is clear that the blindness-deafness pattern is used in the context of polemics against the false gods: see Jer 5:21; Ez 12:2 and Psalms 115:4-6 (=135:15-17). Moreover, divination was a reality in Israel, mentioned by Isaiah (Is 8:19). So it would not be surprising to find in Isaiah an ironic allusion to one of the favourite formulae used in divinatory context.

Elisha and the Chariots of Fire

Here is the PDF of an article I have written for the journal published by my seminary:

“Une cécité ordinaire: analyse narrative de 2 Rois 6:8-24”, Théologie Evangélique 10.1 (2011) 1-13.

Summary: This article studies the narrative structure of 2 Kgs 6.8-23 as well as some of the literary techniques used in this text. By paying attention to the level of knowledge of the characters, one discovers a stress on the loss of their bearings (except Elisha) ; the blindness of the Aramaean soldiers constitutes a mise en abyme of this disorientation. This leads the reader to interpret as blindness the general ignorance with regard to the powers used by God in favour of his servants.
At the same time, some subtle asymmetries suggest that in the case of Elisha’s servant, it is an ordinary form of blindess which is highlighted by the narrator. Therefore, his strategy seems to consist in pointing out the blind spot of a spirituality which would forget the very existence of the invisible realities.