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The poor's curse: Exodus xxii 20-26 and curse literature in the ancient world

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In the passage Exod. xxii 20-26 the poor man cries to God after he had been mal-treated by a powerful creditor. In response God acts as an avenger against that evil individual. The article first clarifies the background to such violent acts by proprietors in Ancient Near Eastern Laws, and the response to it in the laws of Deuteronomy xxiv. The curse and revenge are then explained in the light of parallel practices from ancient Greek literature, mainly from the Oddesey. Curse practices meant to restore justice are explored on the basis of Greek binding spells and of the corpus of Greek literary curses. The image of the Mesopotamian god "ama" as an avenging god is analyzed according to the famous Babylonian "ama" hymn and to that god's epitheta. Finally, examples of Hebrew curse literature are highlighted in the Book of Job and in Psalm cix.


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