HEALING AND HISSING SNAKES – LISTENING TO NUMBERS 21:4-9

Victor Avigdor Hurowitz

Abstract


The magical elements of the well-known account of the snake infestation and its
remedy by a bronze serpent (Num 21:4-9) have been discussed often in commentaries
and individual studies. This article directs attention to aural elements of this
story including aural-sympathetic magic, repetition of key words in multiples of
typological numbers, onomatopoeic use of snake sounding sibilants, interdialactical
word plays, and narrative statements resembling ancient medical prescriptions in
content and formulation. These elements, if not merely dramatic embellishments,
may indicate that this etiological story served as an incantation for invoking the
healing powers of Nehushtan.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.7833/87-0-965

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ISSN 2305-445X (online); ISSN 0254-1807 (print)

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