At the door of the ToM

Today Mandy and I had our final meeting with the Rabbi. We’ve been translating the first few chapters of 1 Samuel. Today we happened upon 1 Samuel 2.22, which has an interesting section in the MT.

הצבאות פתח אהל מועד

So, roughly: the women serving at the opening of the Tent of Meeting. I wasn’t aware of any wording such as this so I wondered aloud if we were dealing with part of the problem right there: cultic prostitutes. The Rabbi didn’t know off the top and his head, and so we discussed it briefly and then let the matter rest as we moved on. Later I swung by the library and looked at several commentaries on 1 Samuel. To my complete and utter amazement I found that the section I was interested in doesn’t occur in the LXX or 4QSam, but only in the MT. Excitement abounds – partially because in Exegesis of 1 & 2 Samuel this fall we’re required to write a paper on a passage that has a textual issue.

Back on topic, the Rabbi and I looked at a few other commentaries and couldn’t find any that really dealt with these women. Pastoral commentaries ignored them, and critical commentaries were more interested in dealing the the absence of the text in 4QSam. We did find a side reference to the possibility of them being prostitutes. We finally looked at S.R. Driver’s commentary and he mentioned Exodus 38.8, which uses similar wording.

So, to all those who know Hebrew out there; are there any theories as to what it was these women did? What are we dealing with here? Nazarites? Female Levitical job doers? Temple (tent) prostitutes?


2 thoughts on “At the door of the ToM

  1. I wondered that as well. It’s hard to know — the passage uses or mentions several ritual practices that are biblically unique. In addition 4QSamA is more or less a witness to the LXX Vorlage (not completely, but enough that it’s witness can’t stand alone when it’s coupled with LXX).

    The Exod 38 passage basically stumps everyone as well. If we’re talking about an authentic historical reference, then cultic prostitution is right out. There’s no evidence for it at Ugarit or Phoenicia, I can’t see it showing up in the Bible (I put the Joseph cycle in the exile, can you tell?). It’s definitely weird.

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