Attitudes to Gentiles in the Minor Prophets and in Corresponding Pesharim. by Anselm Hagedorn and Shani Tzoref

Shani Tzoref with Anselm Hagedorn, “Attitudes to Gentiles in the Minor Prophets and in Corresponding Pesharim,” Dead Sea Discoveries (DSD) 20.3 (2013): 472–509.

This essay surveys the attitudes towards gentiles/foreign nations in constructions of the “other” in the Minor Prophets of the Hebrew Bible, and examines how the biblical trajectories are continued and reshaped in the corresponding pesharim from Qumran. The development of the biblical texts is examined from historical, literary, and theological perspectives. Thus, for example, the concrete historical encounter with Assyria shaped the original prophecies of the last three pre-exilic prophets (Nahum, Habakkuk and Zephaniah), while later redactional layers transform these texts by incorporating the experience of the Babylonian conquest. Literarily and theologically, the initial texts focus upon individual judgement against a concrete people, and the divine salvation of Israel from this threat. In the Persian period, there is an initial expansion of the focus to universal judgment, highlighting the special status of Israel vis-à-vis other nations. This is followed by a narrowing of the group selected for salvation, so that only the righteous of Judah will survive the final judgment. In the pesharim, there is further narrowing of the discourse of alterity for internal identity formation, as the biblical prophecies against foreign enemies are applied to the group’s contemporary antagonists, including rival Jewish groups. Pesher Habakkuk closely follows the book of Habakkuk in depicting Gentiles as idolators, and in portraying foreign nations as both instruments and objects of divine retribution. The references to the Babyloni- ans (termed “Chaldeans”) in Habakkuk are applied in the pesher to the “Kittim,” understood by modern scholars to stand for Rome. This view of Rome as a signifi- cant existential and eschatological enemy reflects a profound theological and psychological development in sectarian thought. Pesher Nahum interprets the prophecies against Gentiles in Nahum primarily as condemnation of Jewish enemies.

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