Thursday, August 09, 2012

Chedorlaomer vs. the army of the dead

From a recent comment by SPACE:
josh, can you help me with ibn-Ezra commentary on Genesis 14-5, why he calls Rephaim deadman, ghosts, because they have no resurrection?

The pasuk is this one in Lech Lecha, in Bereishit 14:

ה  וּבְאַרְבַּע עֶשְׂרֵה שָׁנָה בָּא כְדָרְלָעֹמֶר, וְהַמְּלָכִים אֲשֶׁר אִתּוֹ, וַיַּכּוּ אֶת-רְפָאִים בְּעַשְׁתְּרֹת קַרְנַיִם, וְאֶת-הַזּוּזִים בְּהָם; וְאֵת, הָאֵימִים, בְּשָׁוֵה, קִרְיָתָיִם.5 And in the fourteenth year came Chedorlaomer and the kings that were with him, and smote the Rephaim in Ashteroth-karnaim, and the Zuzim in Ham, and the Emim in Shaveh-kiriathaim,

Ibn Ezra writes:
רפאים -שכל הרואה אותם ימות לבו ויחשב מהרפאים שהם מתים.
האימים -שיש מהם אימה: 
"Refaim: That all who saw them, his heart would die [sink] and he would think of the Refarim that they were the [un]dead."

That is, both Refaim and Eimim were fearsome. But I am slightly unsure if Ibn Ezra was saying that those who saw them would consider themselves to be of the dead, or (most likely) that they thought of the Refaim that they were the fearsome [un]dead, something like zombies.

Why does Ibn Ezra associate Refaim with ghosts or the [un]dead? See this article by Philologos. He points us to, for example, Yeshaya 14:
ט  שְׁאוֹל, מִתַּחַת רָגְזָה לְךָ--לִקְרַאת בּוֹאֶךָ; עוֹרֵר לְךָ רְפָאִים, כָּל-עַתּוּדֵי אָרֶץ--הֵקִים מִכִּסְאוֹתָם, כֹּל מַלְכֵי גוֹיִם.9 The nether-world from beneath is moved for thee to meet thee at thy coming; the shades are stirred up for thee, even all the chief ones of the earth; all the kings of the nations are raised up from their thrones.

Stir up the shades; and they are coming from the netherworld. I don't see anything about having no resurrection. Indeed, if this reference to refaim is indeed to the dead, then it is one of a select few pesukim which hint to some sort of afterlife, rather than simple disappearance and being obliterated upon death. See also references to sheol, and the idiom that one rests with one's fathers, used even when the deceased was not buried in the family plot. Such after-life existence certainly allows for the possibility of a resurrection, though it is an entirely different thing.

Update: Actually, scratch that. If, in the popular mind, there was an idea of the dead rising from their graves as a scary army of the dead from the netherworld, then that rising is a form of resurrection, and can stand as evidence towards, or perhaps as evidence against, the idea of resurrection as a normal human being living a new life in an ideal messianic future.


SPACE said...

Thanks josh, I got this idea of resurrection from one Biblical commentary, there was whole page on Nephilim, and in conclusion said they have no resurrection.
But it is paradoxal situation, Bible says "sons of God", Targum renders "sons of princes" came on daughters of earth, and came out such strange creatures. Apocryphal literature says, they were bad angels. Azazel and his company.
And it is interesting, that in Jerusalem is street ‘Valley of Ghosts.’ :)

Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

In the Babylonian myths of Ishtar, when she storms the Underworld to rescue her husband Tammuz, she threatens the rulers and gatekeepers of the Underworld that if they don't let her in, she'll "release the dead to devour the living". It's all there in ANET. :-)


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