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’āmâ and šipḥâ in the Hebrew Bible

  • Korean Journal of Old Testament Studies
  • Abbr : KJOTS
  • 2017, 23(4), pp.183-208
  • DOI : 10.24333/jkots.2017.23.4.183
  • Publisher : Korean Society of Old Testament Studies
  • Research Area : Humanities > Christian Theology
  • Received : September 29, 2017
  • Accepted : October 30, 2017

Koog-Pyoung Hong 1

1연세대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

This paper examines the relationship between šipḥâ and ’āmâ, the two most frequently used words for female slaves in the Hebrew Bible. Traditionally, ’āmâ and šipḥâ have served source critics as a major criterion to discern the pre-P sources, J and E. One of the ramifications of this wide-spread source-critical premise is that critical efforts to understand ’āmâ and šipḥâ have centered on searching for distinctions between them. That is, despite textual evidence that point to the synonymous use of the two terms. However, the alleged source-critical value of these terms, whether one accepts it or not, is oblique to the question of their semantic, dialectic, or functional distinction. Different authors may demonstrate a tendency to prefer one term or the other, but this fact does not necessarily prove their semantic difference. It is also possible that a single author might employ synonyms. In a linguistic culture, the semantic values of words on the synchronic level of usage do not always conform with their philological origin and development on the diachronic level. Synonyms may develop regardless of their philological origins. After a descriptive analysis of each usage of ’āmâ and šipḥâ in the Hebrew Bible, this study concludes that there is no single overarching difference that does justice to the complicated textual evidence concerning the similarity and difference between the two terms.

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