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Suffering From Formlessness: The Ban On Images In Exilic Times

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Chapter Summary

Throughout the Ancient Near East the cultic statue is regarded as the body of the deity and represents its presence in the temple. In deviation from its surrounding Ancient Near Eastern cultures, formlessness seems to be the trademark of the God of Israel. How did that happen? This chapter starts the investigation by a brief look at current scholarly trends. The second commandment of the Decaloguethe prohibition of any graven image (Bilderverbot)is certainly an Israelite peculiarity that distinguishes Ancient Israel from its Ancient Near Eastern neighbours. Other questions regarding the ban of images are highly controversial. Did it refer simply to the images of foreign gods; or did it, from the beginning, ban any representation of the God of Israel? If that was the case, was it limited to figurative representations or did it include every cultic representation of God? These questions are addressed in the chapter.

Keywords: cultic images; exilic times; formlessness



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