Thursday, April 29, 2004

Acharei Mot #3: Seirim

Here is, as promised, the survey of Seirim throughout Tanach. I obtained the list of locations from this web site, but I take exception to at least one of the psaukim classified as speaking about Seirim.

The first the one in Vayikra 17:6:

וְלֹא-יִזְבְּחוּ עוֹד, אֶת-זִבְחֵיהֶם, לַשְּׂעִירִם, אֲשֶׁר הֵם זֹנִים אַחֲרֵיהֶם: חֻקַּת עוֹלָם תִּהְיֶה-זֹּאת לָהֶם, לְדֹרֹתָם.
"And they shall no more sacrifice their sacrifices unto the satyrs, after whom they go astray. This shall be a statute for ever unto them throughout their generations."

Satyrs is JPS's translation, where a satyr was a Pan, a demi-god which had half human and half-goat form. Chazal in midrash Rabbi say it means demons.

The next pasuk to consider is the list of altars that King Yoshiyahu destroyed in his reformation. In Malachim Bet, 23:8:

וַיָּבֵא אֶת-כָּל-הַכֹּהֲנִים, מֵעָרֵי יְהוּדָה, וַיְטַמֵּא אֶת-הַבָּמוֹת אֲשֶׁר קִטְּרוּ-שָׁמָּה הַכֹּהֲנִים, מִגֶּבַע עַד-בְּאֵר שָׁבַע; וְנָתַץ אֶת-בָּמוֹת הַשְּׁעָרִים, אֲשֶׁר-פֶּתַח שַׁעַר יְהוֹשֻׁעַ שַׂר-הָעִיר, אֲשֶׁר-עַל-שְׂמֹאול אִישׁ, בְּשַׁעַר הָעִיר.
"And he brought all the priests out of the cities of Judah, and defiled the high places where the priests had made offerings, from Geba to Beer-sheba; and he broke down the high places of the gates that were at the entrance of the gate of Joshua the governor of the city, which were on a man's left hand as he entered the gate of the city."

The web site above listed this verse, and so is suggesting that הַשְּׁעָרִים should be read HaSeirim rather that HaShearim. The Shin/Sin difference is recorded by a dot on the left (sin) or right (shin) side, but this dot is not written in a Sefer of Navi, just as nikud is not. However, the verse only talks of the altar being on the left side, not the dot ;). Further, there would be a missing yud. Further, we have the weight of tradition on the side of the verse as it currently stands. Finally, while in the context of an altar is is somewhat tempting, the local semantic context of the verse, namely that it was located in Shaar Yehoshua and in the Shaar of the city gives much more credence to the reading Shearim.

The next verse is in Divrei HaYamim Bet, 11:15:

וַיַּעֲמֶד-לוֹ כֹּהֲנִים, לַבָּמוֹת וְלַשְּׂעִירִים, וְלָעֲגָלִים, אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה.
"and he appointed him priests for the high places, and for the satyrs, and for the calves which he had made."

The context is that there is a newly divided kingdom. Rechovom still controls Yehuda and Yerovam controlled the kingdom of Israel. All the priests and levites went to serve in the Bet HaMikdash in the kingdom of Yehuda, because king Yerovam had cast them off. Instead he appointed his own priests.

According to this translation, וְלַשְּׂעִירִים means the satyrs, or for Chazal they would then be demons. So, he made Bamot, altars for the satyrs, and he made Bamot for the golden Calves which he had made.

If so, אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה, that he made, should only go on the calves and not on the seirim, since he did not make demons/satyrs, but did make golden calves. The trup (cantillation) obliges, giving an etnachta after seirim, thus making "the calves which he made" a section to itself. Rashi also chimes in, saying that the reason the levites abandoned him was because he appointed priests to serve demons/satyrs.

I have a few problems:

1) Why the vav in וְלַשְּׂעִירִים? It should be "He made Bamot for the Seirim, and for the calves he had made." What is with this extra "and?" It seems to set it off from the rest.

2) Where else do we see he made Bamot for the demons/satyrs besides this verse? This came as a big surprise to me. We know he made golden calves, but no mention of Seirim is made in Melachim Aleph 12

3) Seirim literally means goats, which are sacrificial animals. The juxtaposition of that next to וְלָעֲגָלִים increases the likelihood of it referring to animals rather than demons.

4) Without the trup my first inclination was to pause after Bamot, because of the vav in וְלַשְּׂעִירִים. But then אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה should be distributive, and he could not make demons/satyrs, as I mentioned above.

Perhaps the etnachta should be on the word Bamot; וְלַשְּׂעִירִים means "and the goats," not the demons/satyrs. וְלָעֲגָלִים does not mean the golden calves, but actual calves. אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה need not mean which he physically made, but can mean (and I think it is used in this context elsewhere) "that he sacrificed."

Thus, Jeroboam appointed priests for his altars, and to bring the goats and calves which he sacrificed.

This is unlikely given the verse in Malachim Aleph 12:32:

וַיַּעַשׂ יָרָבְעָם חָג בַּחֹדֶשׁ הַשְּׁמִינִי בַחֲמִשָּׁה-עָשָׂר יוֹם לַחֹדֶשׁ כֶּחָג אֲשֶׁר בִּיהוּדָה, וַיַּעַל עַל-הַמִּזְבֵּחַ--כֵּן עָשָׂה בְּבֵית-אֵל, לְזַבֵּחַ לָעֲגָלִים אֲשֶׁר-עָשָׂה; וְהֶעֱמִיד בְּבֵית אֵל, אֶת-כֹּהֲנֵי הַבָּמוֹת אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה.
And Jeroboam ordained a feast in the eighth month, on the fifteenth day of the month, like unto the feast that is in Judah, and he went up unto the altar; so did he in Beth-el, to sacrifice unto the calves that he had made; and he placed in Beth-el the priests of the high places that he had made.

So לְזַבֵּחַ לָעֲגָלִים אֲשֶׁר-עָשָׂה here informs us that the phrase means the calves he formed. However, we also see אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה applying to the Bamot, which imples that the אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה in the verse in Divrei Hayamim may also be distributive, and should apply to the Bamot, the Seirim, and the Agalim. Perhaps he made some kind of golden goats as well?

{Update: Perhaps וְלַשְּׂעִירִים is meant to be metaphorical. After all, Jeroboam here is moving away from the centralized worship in the Bet HaMikdash specified in Vayikra, and is giving an alternate form of worship. This may be a Biblical allusion to Vayikra, saying that his making of calves and making the people worship outside the Bet HaMikdash was like worshipping the Seirim, which were associated with the prohibition of Bamot in Vayikra.}

For now, let us assume the conventional explanation supported by Rashi and the trup.

The next occurance is in Yeshayahu 13:21, but let us cite the surrounding verses for context:

וְהָיְתָה בָבֶל צְבִי מַמְלָכוֹת, תִּפְאֶרֶת גְּאוֹן כַּשְׂדִּים, כְּמַהְפֵּכַת אֱלֹהִים, אֶת-סְדֹם וְאֶת-עֲמֹרָה.
לֹא-תֵשֵׁב לָנֶצַח, וְלֹא תִשְׁכֹּן עַד-דּוֹר וָדוֹר; וְלֹא-יַהֵל שָׁם עֲרָבִי, וְרֹעִים לֹא-יַרְבִּצוּ שָׁם.
וְרָבְצוּ-שָׁם צִיִּים, וּמָלְאוּ בָתֵּיהֶם אֹחִים; וְשָׁכְנוּ שָׁם בְּנוֹת יַעֲנָה, וּשְׂעִירִים יְרַקְּדוּ-שָׁם.
וְעָנָה אִיִּים בְּאַלְמְנוֹתָיו, וְתַנִּים בְּהֵיכְלֵי עֹנֶג; וְקָרוֹב לָבוֹא עִתָּהּ, וְיָמֶיהָ לֹא יִמָּשֵׁכוּ.
"And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldeans' pride, shall be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah.
It shall never be inhabited, neither shall it be dwelt in from generation to generation; neither shall the Arabian pitch tent there; neither shall the shepherds make their fold there.
But wild-cats shall lie there; and their houses shall be full of ferrets; and ostriches shall dwell there, and satyrs shall dance there.
And jackals shall howl in their castles, and wild-dogs in the pleasant palaces; and her time is near to come, and her days shall not be prolonged."

Sure satyrs or demons would hang out in a desolate place, but wouldn't a wild goat do this at well?
Consider the context: (pictures based on the JPS translation - I am not going to go anto all the possible identifications here)

The Wildcat shall lie there

and their houses shall be full of Ferrets

and Ostriches shall dwell there...

And Seirim (wild goats) shall dance there.

And Jackals shall howl in their castles...

And Wild Dogs in their pleasant castles...

The context is that of wild animals, not of demons, or so at least it seems to me.

Finally we have Yeshayahu 34:14, but again I am unconvinced by the context. The only thing that recommends it is Lilit, which might be a Night monster, but perhaps has another connotation - some nocturnal creature which we do not directly know about, which served as a source for the mythical Lilith. Again the full context, again about desolation:

וִירֵשׁוּהָ קָאַת וְקִפּוֹד, וְיַנְשׁוֹף וְעֹרֵב יִשְׁכְּנוּ-בָהּ; וְנָטָה עָלֶיהָ קַו-תֹהוּ, וְאַבְנֵי-בֹהוּ.
חֹרֶיהָ וְאֵין-שָׁם, מְלוּכָה יִקְרָאוּ; וְכָל-שָׂרֶיהָ, יִהְיוּ אָפֶס.
וְעָלְתָה אַרְמְנֹתֶיהָ סִירִים, קִמּוֹשׂ וָחוֹחַ בְּמִבְצָרֶיהָ; וְהָיְתָה נְוֵה תַנִּים, חָצִיר לִבְנוֹת יַעֲנָה.
וּפָגְשׁוּ צִיִּים אֶת-אִיִּים, וְשָׂעִיר עַל-רֵעֵהוּ יִקְרָא; אַךְ-שָׁם הִרְגִּיעָה לִּילִית, וּמָצְאָה לָהּ מָנוֹחַ.
שָׁמָּה קִנְּנָה קִפּוֹז וַתְּמַלֵּט, וּבָקְעָה וְדָגְרָה בְצִלָּהּ; אַךְ-שָׁם נִקְבְּצוּ דַיּוֹת, אִשָּׁה רְעוּתָהּ.
"But the pelican and the bittern shall possess it, and the owl and the raven shall dwell therein; and He shall stretch over it the line of confusion, and the plummet of emptiness.
As for her nobles, none shall be there to be called to the kingdom; and all her princes shall be nothing.
And thorns shall come up in her palaces, nettles and thistles in the fortresses thereof; and it shall be a habitation of wild-dogs, an enclosure for ostriches.
And the wild-cats shall meet with the jackals, and the satyr shall cry to his fellow; yea, the night-monster shall repose there, and shall find her a place of rest.
There shall the arrowsnake make her nest, and lay, and hatch, and brood under her shadow; yea, there shall the kites be gathered, every one with her mate."

Many of the animals were covered above by the previous verse, so we can establish a similar context. The remaining ones:

But the pelican

and the Bittern shall possess it...

and the Owl

and the Raven shall dwell within...

There shall the arrowsnake make her nest...
there shall the kites be gathered...

Thus, the context again seems overwhelmingly to be animals which live in desolate places. While demons is possible, I am not convinced.

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