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Woman in the Garden: A Sacrifice by Fire?


David T

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I've been doing a study of Genesis 2, and I came across the notion that the word for Woman, Ishshah, is also used throughout the Pentateuch as a term connected with sacrificial fire. Apart from the Ish/ Ishshah wordplay, according to this reading, could we also say:

And the side, which Yahweh Elohim had taken from man, made he a [sacrificial fire], and brought her unto the man.And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called [a sacrificial fire], because she was taken out of Man.

I'm familiar with one reading of the garden narrative as a parallel to the story of the fall of a King/Priest, and wonder if this additional layer may have any cultic associations to it. I welcome correction and further direction!

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I've been doing a study of Genesis 2, and I came across the notion that the word for Woman, Ishshah, is also used throughout the Pentateuch as a term connected with sacrificial fire. Apart from the Ish/ Ishshah wordplay, according to this reading, could we also say:

I'm familiar with one reading of the garden narrative as a parallel to the story of the fall of a King/Priest, and wonder if this additional layer may have any cultic associations to it. I welcome correction and further direction!

I think the main question to ask is what the wordplay would signify. What would it mean that a sacrificial fire was bone of Adam's bone, flesh of his flesh, and was taken out of man?

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Anybody besides me reminded of Prometheus/Epimetheus/Pandora?

Prometheus steals fire from the g-ds to endow mankind.

His twin brother is endowed by the g-ds with woman.

Or something.

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I think the main question to ask is what the wordplay would signify. What would it mean that a sacrificial fire was bone of Adam's bone, flesh of his flesh, and was taken out of man?

I'm trying to determine that myself. A first step to knowing that would be a better understanding of how the sacrificial fire itself was viewed in the ANE cultic setting (was there a connection with fire and fertility?)

If there's a connection, it's probably in source material far older than the current text. Thanks to a Benefactor, I'm now able to afford my own copy of Ancient Near Eastern Texts. I look forward to reading up on my Ugaritic and other Semitic myths. (I'd prefer to get the Context of Scripture, but alas, the Benefaction wasn't that big! Plus, I have volume 1 on the way through Interlibrary Loan).

I'm certainly aware the connection is most likely unrelated. I just thought it was of interest, and wondered if any of the specialists had any additional insight. A search of google and google books turns up very little commentary on any sort of connection, with the exception of late (and tenuous) Zoharic connections.

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I'm trying to determine that myself. A first step to knowing that would be a better understanding of how the sacrificial fire itself was viewed in the ANE cultic setting (was there a connection with fire and fertility?)

If there's a connection, it's probably in source material far older than the current text. Thanks to a Benefactor, I'm now able to afford my own copy of Ancient Near Eastern Texts. I look forward to reading up on my Ugaritic and other Semitic myths. (I'd prefer to get the Context of Scripture, but alas, the Benefaction wasn't that big! Plus, I have volume 1 on the way through Interlibrary Loan).

I'm certainly aware the connection is most likely unrelated. I just thought it was of interest, and wondered if any of the specialists had any additional insight. A search of google and google books turns up very little commentary on any sort of connection, with the exception of late (and tenuous) Zoharic connections.

The Hebrew word Ishshah is wife, but the word for fire sacrifice is pronounced Ashshah. Interesting connection though.

On a bit more checking I found this...

800. ??????? eshshah (77d); fem. of 784; a fire:
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I've been doing a study of Genesis 2, and I came across the notion that the word for Woman, Ishshah, is also used throughout the Pentateuch as a term connected with sacrificial fire.

It's actually a different word, from a different root. One ends with the normal feminine ending, -ah but the other ends in -eh, which is a common ending for a certain class of words (i.e. III-w/y roots). That may not seem like much to someone who hasn't studied Hebrew, but it's significant.

As pointed out, though, the real question would be what's the point of the proposed word-play, if there is any? I don't see anything significant.

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Hey Monkie Boy,

It's actually a different word, from a different root. One ends with the normal feminine ending, -ah but the other ends in -eh, which is a common ending for a certain class of words (i.e. III-w/y roots). That may not seem like much to someone who hasn't studied Hebrew, but it's significant.

As pointed out, though, the real question would be what's the point of the proposed word-play, if there is any? I don't see anything significant.

This is an important grammatical point that Nackhadlow would need to address in his analysis, although sometimes biblical authors will provide a word-play via a false etymological analysis of a root. Unless someone can come up with a really strong argument, however, to address how such a play would make sense contextually, I must agree. It's an interesting question, but I don't see anything too significant.

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Alas, seeing as I don't have any hebraic training (yet), this is as far as I can go. Although would I be correct in the observation that in non-Masoretic texts, the writing of the words would appear the exact same?

Either way, it looks as if the concept has been debunked, at least as far as I currently have power to go. While I won't devote any additional time on pursuing this particular connection right now, if in my additional readings I ever come upon something of interest relating to it, I'll bring it up. Otherwise, thanks for setting me straight :P

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Nack, both Pritchard's ANET and Context of Scripture are available electronically, which gives them some extra usage. Check out logos.com and accordancebible.com (Logos is PC and Mac, Accordance is Mac only. I own both of these through Logos.)

Also, COS is cheaper from CBD.com (IIRC). You can get a paperback version as well.

Edit: ok, it appears CBD doesn't carry COS. But do look for the paperback. It's much cheaper.

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My copy of Pritchard's ANET should be delivered tomorrow. Amazon seemed to have the best price, plus I'm in the Amazon Prime Free Trial, so it comes quick, too, at not extra charge. I'm quite excited.

All the editions of COS I saw were around the $300 range, and, while fully worth it in my estimation, don't fit into the 'buy it now' budget. As an amateur wanna-be scholar who works as a graphic designer/programmer/video editor, and who is about to be a father for the first time, I haven't had the time or resources to devote to learn ancient languages, and purchasing source texts in translation is the best I can do. (The Charlesworth Pseudepigrapha set is one of my faves).

I currently have two distinct focuses of my studies - source texts and documents of the Restored Church, and the history and religion of ancient Israel. It's fascinating the insights that come from doing both simultaneously. I have recently learned to take advantage of Interlibrary Loan, and find it to be an amazing resource! So I'd be quite open to suggestions as to books/studies that you've found interesting/enlightening concerning ancient Israelite religion and history (I'm currently reading through Miller's History of Ancient Israel and Judah, - which someone here recommended to me - and I find it fascinating.)

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Something I found interesting in my reading in Pritchard's ANET today:

In the Egyptian "The God and his unknown Name of Power" (ANET, p. 14), Isis, (the Mother goddess and either offspring or consort of Re/Atum, depending on the time period she is referred to), "was a clever woman. Her heart was craftier than a million men." She knew many things, but there was one piece of knowledge she did not have: the secret, powerful Name of Re/Atum. To aquire the knowledge she desired, she crafted a snake, and left it at a crossroads where she knew Re was wont to walk. He did walk by, and "the august snake bit him. The living fire came forth from his own self."

Re is quite unhappy, called his offspring together, and declares, "I am abounding in names ... I am called Atum and Horus-of-Praise. My father and mother told me my Name, but it was hidden in my body before I was born," so that wicked individuals might not use it against him.

Isis feigns shock, and suggests the snake be cast down in punishment. She then beguiles Atum into giving to her the Hidden Name, who entrusts her with passing it on to his son Horus at his seeming inevitable death from the serpent's venom. Upn learning the Name ,she then uses her art to heal him, and carries on, victorious as to having received this forbidden knowledge by guile.

I'm not proclaiming this a direct correlation to the Genesis Garden narrative, but I found the points of contact quite interesting. And what actually first made me turn my head was the phrase, "the living fire came forth from his own self".,in reference to Re/Atum, as a result of an action of the Mother Goddess (which was also at time his offspring) and a snake, and in relation to this discussion of wordplay, and not otherwise having a context when sacred fire, as connected with a proto-typical Woman, would have come forth out of a primal Man/King/God.

Either way, I love my copy of ANET wub.gif

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