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May Yhwh Bless You and Keep You from Evil: The Rhetorical Argument of Ketef Hinnom Amulet I and the Form of the Prayers for Deliverance in the Psalms

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AbstractMost of the attention that the two silver amulets discovered at Ketef Hinnom Jerusalem have received in recent scholarship has centered upon their date and relationship to the biblical texts. This is due in part to the fact that both amulets preserve formulations of the biblical Priestly Blessing from Numbers 6:24-26. The new edition of the amulets published in 2004, however, provides impetus for new questions about the form of the incantations on the amulets and what the magical objects tell us about ancient Judahite apotropaic practices. In particular, the new edition provides a clearer picture of the content and form on both amulets. In turn, the new edition paves the way for a better understanding of how the incantations functioned as magical texts, which attempted to make an argument about their own efficacy as apotropaic objects. Despite this fact, few studies have devoted sufficient to the overall form and content preserved in the incantations. The following paper will describe the content and structure of the incantation on Amulet I and argue that the specific statement made therein provides a unique glimpse into the argument of magical texts in ancient Judah. Finally, the following paper will also briefly compare the content and structure of the incantation to several Psalms that petition Yhwh for protection against various ills. Such a comparison reveals that there may have been more fluidity between magical formulae and ancient Judahite prayer traditions than previously recognized.

Affiliations: 1: UCLA 378 Humanities Building, Los Angeles, CA 90095, Email:, URL:


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