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Fall 1995 · Vol. 24 No. 2 · pp. 98–99 

Current Research

Elmer A. Martens


Pierre Gilbert. “Le motif imprécatoire chez les prophetes bibliques du 8e siècle A.C. à la lumière du Proche-Orient ancien (The Curse Motif in the 8th-century B. C. prophets, in the light of the Ancient Near-East).” University of Montreal.

Current Position: Professor of Old Testament and Registrar, Institut biblique Laval, Montreal, Quebec

The purpose of this study is to determine the function of the curse motif in the prophetic literature of the 8th century B.C. and the theology which underlines its usage. More precisely, the problem gravitates around the following question: Does the curse motif in the prophetic literature reflect the usage and the ideology of the same motif in the Ancient Near East literature or does it manifest the distinctiveness of Israel’s religious thought?

The method adopted to treat this question integrates a comparative and exegetical approach. In the first chapter, we propose an analysis of the usage of the curse motif in the Ancient Near-East in terms of its form, its object, and its function. The purpose of this chapter is to provide a background against which we will examine the usage of the curse in the biblical prophets. In the second chapter, we perform, using the historical-critical methods, the exegesis of a series of thirteen prophetic oracles. In the third chapter, we summarize the most important observations relative to the usage of the curse in the prophetic corpus. Finally, in the fourth chapter, we perform a comparative analysis of the usage of the curse in the Ancient Near-East and the prophetic texts.

Our study reveals that the usage of the curse motif in the prophets generally corresponds to the literary canon which governs the use of the same motif in the Ancient Near Eastern literature. The few differences which we observe are relatively minor and can be attributed to the distinct literary genre of the prophetic oracles.

In the Ancient Near-East, two functions can be attributed to the curse motif: 1) a rhetorical function, present in a context preceding the transgression, and 2) a destructive function, evident in a context following the transgression. In spite of the fact that these two functions can be identified in the prophetic oracles, we have also observed a third function representing a fundamental modification of the use of the curse in the Ancient Near Eastern literature, i.e., the pedagogical function. Such a development is not accidental; it signals the influence of an element which {99} represents a fundamental presupposition in the theological substratum of the prophetic discourse.

Our exegetical analysis has highlighted the existence of a frame of reference which we identify as the Sinai covenant. This frame of reference serves to justify both the accusations and the prophetic judgments announced against Israel. It is, however, important, in order to explain the distinct pedagogical function of the prophetic curse, to go beyond the covenant and evoke the theological specificity underlying the making of the Sinai covenant, i.e., the creation and the preservation of a distinct people devoted to Yahweh. We propose that this is the element which constitutes the principle determining the ultimate function of the curse motif in the prophetic discourse.


Penner, Katharina. “Zwischen Menschliche beziehungen in der Haustafel an hand von Epheser 5:21-6:9.”

Tsvirinko, Vyacheslav. “A Search for Theological Identity among Russian Evangelicals.”

* Theses (100-120pp) were completed to meet degree requirements at Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary (1995), and are catalogued in Hiebert Library.

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