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THE RAPE OF COZBI (NUMBERS XXV)

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image of Vetus Testamentum

In the brief narrative featuring the execution of Cozbi the Midianite and of Zimri the Shimonite more is omitted than said. Reconstructed here as a rape, deliberately cast so as to invoke souvenirs of Gen. xxxiv and the tale of Dinah, Num. xxv 6-18 is best understood when compared with Roman foundational myths and particularly with the so-called 'rape of Lucretia'. In both, a strictly speaking family avair is turned into a matter of 'national' concern engineered to induce a far reaching change into the notions of what constitutes 'private' and 'public' and what makes a Jew a Jew and a Roman a Roman.

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