A Significant Other: Moab as Symbol in Biblical Literature Open Access

Fitz, Erika Joan (2012)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/zk51vg92q?locale=en
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Abstract

The Bible's attitudes toward Moabites are more varied than those expressed toward any other group. By studying biblical portrayals of Moab, this study aims to describe 1) how biblical authors imagine encounters with foreignness, 2) how texts about foreigners construct in-group identity, and 3) what historical processes shaped the features specifically associated with Moab.

A historical survey (Chapter 1) suggests that Moab was weaker, smaller, and later to develop than Israel--a picture diametrically opposed to that presented by biblical texts. It also seems likely that no significant contingent of Moabites existed in Yehud by the time of Nehemiah. I conclude that the Moabites mentioned in Ezra 9 and Nehemiah 13 are purely literary references: they invoke Deut 23:4-7 to argue that "the peoples of the lands" are symbolically Moabite and subject to this law.

Literary analysis suggests that portrayals of Moab fall into two categories. Chapter 2 analyzes "State texts" in which Moab and Israel meet as political or military entities. I argue that these are modeled on competitive male-male contests in honor-shame societies. Outcomes establish hierarchical rank, which authors interpret in theological terms. Notions of cultural influence are absent from State Texts and in fact, confrontations reify group boundaries. By contrast, the "People texts" analyzed in Chapters 3 and 4 contemplate incorporation of Moabites into Israel/Judah. I argue that these texts imagine group encounters on analogy with male-female relationships in honor-shame cultures. These stories feature female characters, situations of sex and/or intermarriage, and language about impurity and female sexual promiscuity. Most People texts portray encounters with Moabites as threatening (Chapter 3), but some argue that foreigners can be incorporated to strengthen Israel (Chapter 4).

Though both kinds of texts have pre-exilic roots, I conclude that the People texts strongly reflect post-exilic contexts. Using early Moab traditions such as tainted ancestry, hostile relations, and the law of exclusion, golah writers retell the stories using Moab as a cipher for contemporary opponents, especially Samarians. I thus conclude that some "Moab" texts reflect Persian- or Hellenistic-era conflicts with closely-related groups rather than with actual Moabites.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

INTRODUCTION.. 1

ORGANIZATION.. 3

Historical Survey: Chapter 1. 3

Literary Analysis: Chapters 2, 3, and 4. 6

CHAPTER 1: THE MOAB OF HISTORY.. 14

Introduction. 14

What and Where is Moab?. 15

When Does Moab Begin to Exist?. 21

If Not a State, Then What?. 33

Transition to the Iron Age and a Tribal Paradigm of Socio-Political Organization. 33

Implications of the Emergence Pattern. 50

State Formation in Israel and Moab: Who Gets There First?. 55

Mesha as the Beginning of Statehood in Moab. 58

Moab after Mesha: The Assyrian Period. 64

The Babylonian and Persian Periods and the End of Moab. 71

Characterizing the Relationship between Moab, Israel and Judah. 78

A Proposal about Composition Dates 83

Conclusion: The Other and the Self 84

CHAPTER 2: MOAB AS STATE

Introduction. 86

Features of State Texts 87

Honor-Shame Dynamics in State Conceptions of Others 88

Why Men?. 96

Part I: Moab Defeated: Token of Israelite Status and Divine Favor 101

2 SAMUEL 8:2, 12 // 1 CHRONICLES 18:2, 11. 102

PSALMS 60 and 108. 106

2 KINGS 3. 110

Moab's Role as State in 2 Kings 3. 114

Moab's Meaning in 2 Kings 3. 115

Part II: Moab as Rival: Rhetorical Contests for Public Image. 118

ISAIAH 15-16. 118

Moab as State in Isaiah 15-16. 119

Critical Issues and Rhetoric in Isaiah 15-16. 122

Rhetoric of Shame in Isaiah 15-16. 130

JEREMIAH 48. 140

Critical issues in Jeremiah 48. 142

Moab as State in Jeremiah 48. 145

Rhetoric of Shame in Jeremiah 48. 147

Moab in the OAN.. 154

Part III: Moab as Oppressor:

Bogeyman and Buffoon. 156

JUDGES 3:12-30. 158

Moab as State in Judges 3. 161

Rhetoric in Judges 3: 163

Humiliating Moab and Valorizing Israel 163

NUMBERS 22-24. 171

Moab as State in Numbers 22-24. 176

The Image of Moab in Numbers 22-24. 177

MOAB AS STATE: CONCLUSIONS. 187

CHAPTER 3: MOAB AS PEOPLE, PART 1:

A THREAT TO INTEGRITY AND PURITY.. 193

Introduction. 193

Identity Construction: From State to ethnos 194

The Yehudian Context 195

Features of People Texts 212

Why Women?. 214

DEUTERONOMY 23:4-7 [3-6] 226

EZRA AND NEHEMIAH .. 232

Critical Issues 232

NEHEMIAH 13:1-3: Redefining "Moabite". 233

NEHEMIAH 13:23-27: Applying Deuteronomy 23 to Intermarriage. 238

EZRA 9-10. 241

Ezra 9-10 as a People Text 242

The Rhetoric of Crisis 243

Creating New Moabites 245

Why Women?. 255

GENESIS 19. 259

Genesis 19 as a People Text 261

Feminizing Moab. 261

NUMBERS 25: THE SIN OF BAAL PEOR. 266

Gendering Cultural Domination and the Response. 274

Women as Boundary Markers 276

Assimilation as Apostasy. 277

Letting the Wrong One In: The Foreign Wife as Invader 278

Numbers 25: Conclusion. 279

MOAB AS PEOPLE (PART 1): CONCLUSIONS. 280

CHAPTER 4: MOAB AS PEOPLE, PART 2:

BUILDING UP THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL. 287

CHRONICLES. 287

Intermarriage in Chronicles: 1 Chr 4:22; 8:8, 2 Chr 24:26. 290

Foreign Men Within Israel 295

Conclusions 297

RUTH.. 298

Date, Function and Relationship to Other "People" Texts 299

Ruth as People Text 306

Rhetorical Strategies 307

Conclusions 335

MOAB AS PEOPLE (PART 2): CONCLUSIONS. 339

CONCLUSION.. 341

Moab Texts and History: Gleanings 341

Moab in Rhetoric: Contours 345

BIBLIOGRAPHY.. 351

.. 351

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