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The Hybrid Story of Balaam (Numbers 22–24): Theology for the Diaspora in the Torah

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image of Biblical Interpretation

The strange character of Numbers 22–24 as a story about foreigners and their attempts to rule YHWH can successfully be read with Homi Bhabha's concept of hybridity and Gayatri Spivak's subaltern. Focusing on the characters' relationships in this text, Balak is the hegemon and Balaam the subaltern, and this constitutes much of their communicational failures. The donkey's episode serves as a lesson for the reader as well as for Balaam who is the hegemon in this case: he learns—as Balak does not—that God is the real worldly and 'wordly' hegemon. This monotheistic message is explained to the Judaean readers/listeners through non-Judean protagonists. Many details point to an origin of the final text in a reception of the deuteronomistic YHWH/Assur/Israel constellation and theology in Persian times.

Affiliations: 1: University of Bern


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