"Eat this scroll" (Ezekiel 3:1): writing as symbol and metaphor in the Hebrew Bible in the light of ancient Near Eastern sources

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The Bible indicates that daily communication in ancient Israel was oral rather than written. In conspicuous contrast with the few references to writing as an everyday occurrence, there are relatively many references to writing as a symbol and metaphor. This discussion proposes to analyze these important passages that have received little attention in previous research. Expounding the texts in question, an attempt is made to answer the following questions: Why and under what circumstances were these passages written? Who was their author? Did he belong to a particular social stratum? In which books, traditions, sources and strata of the Bible is writing symbolically used? Can these instances be dated? Are the findings from the Bible compatible with those of archeology? No research on writing in ancient Israel can ignore the possibility of cultural influence from the highly developed neighbors in the north and south, especially since writing techniques and written texts existed millennia before Israel became a nation. Hence the present discussion introduces parallels from ancient near eastern cultures, notably the culture of Egypt, to shed light on the biblical texts. The research results are compatible with the epigraphic finding and affirm it. Although in the 8th to 6th Centuries BCE most inhabitants of the land lacked writing skill, they knew about it and the target audience of the biblical texts would have been aware of the possibility of setting matters down in writing.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)26-42
Number of pages17
JournalBibliotheca Orientalis
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2013


  • Assyro-Babylonian literature -- Relation to the Bible
  • Bible -- Criticism Form
  • Bible -- Criticism interpretation etc
  • Bible as literature
  • Literacy
  • Magic in the Bible
  • Middle Eastern literature Ancient -- History and criticism
  • Writing in the Bible


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