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Amuletic Inscriptions and the Background of YHWH as Guardian and Protector in Psalm 12

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image of Vetus Testamentum

The last three verses of Psalm 12 have long posed a variety of problems for interpreters. As a result, a number of studies have argued that certain textual emendations should be made to clarify their meaning. The present study argues that the MT reading should be retained and in fact makes good sense in light of the larger message of the Psalm. In particular, the following contends that the enigmatic phrase blyl in verse 7 should be understood as a reference to the types of Iron Age smelting furnaces, which were partially sunk into the ground. Moreover, the use of the dyad “guard” (šmr) and “protect” (nr) in the following verse is reminiscent of several amulets, which contain these two verbs inscribed on their surfaces. The occurrence of these two verbs on the amulets indicates that they formed a stock protective formula during the Iron Age. As a result, I argue below that the reference to the smelting furnace in verse 7 and the use of the dyad in the following verse allows for a conclusion that the imagery in these verses may have originated from the practice of forming and inscribing metal amulets.

Affiliations: 1: University of California Los Angeles


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