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References to Secondary Nations in Prophetic and Poetic Biblical Literature1

Filed under: Peace Process
Publication: Jewish Political Studies Review

Jewish Political Studies Review

Jewish Political Studies Review 16:1-2 (Spring 2004)



This research suggests that the term “secondary character,” known from the biblical story, be broadened and applied to collective ethnic characters in the prophetic and poetic literature. The relationship of the prophets and poets to this phenomenon is called “secondary reference” in this paper.

One hundred and forty biblical citations are presented where the writers of the passages relate to the nations in a secondary fashion. They were classified according to three characteristics that differentiate the functions of the nations. The suggested classification describes the role of these nations in shaping the historical background of the primary nations in the events’ past, present and future:

  1. The role of the nations as a background characteristic from the past of the primary nation.
  2. The function of the nations in the description of the primary nations in the relevant episodes at the time of the described event.
  3. The reaction of the nations (positive and negative) to political situations that were created following what happened to the primary nations.

The arguments are based on the widespread assumption in the research of metaphors that the author of any text is in the habit of choosing an assumed given as a subject of comparison or contrast. Therefore, that the attitude to the nations is expressed in a secondary way in some of the instances is a trusted proof of the conventions of political history. In light of this, the research pointed out the historical knowledge, political concepts, and theological consensus that were widespread among those who heard the prophets and poets.



Biblical prophets and poets expressed their political viewpoints about the gentile nations through artistic expressions. Personification2 was used in order to illustrate situations and political processes, indicating that the Bible refers to the nations of the world with collective metaphors. A common example is the personification of nations as women. According to prophecies and hymns, the age and social status of the woman used to represent a nation indicate its political strength. Comparisons of a given nation to a baby (Ezekiel 16:4-6), a maid servant (Isaiah 47:2; Psalms 123:2), a barren woman (Isaiah 23:4; 49:21; 54:1), a woman deserted by her husband (Isaiah 54:6) and children (Isaiah 51:18), a widow (Isaiah 47:8; Lamentations 1:1), and a woman in childbirth (Isaiah 13:8; Jeremiah 30:6) tell us about the nation’s weakness and coming defeat. In contrast, describing a nation as a bride (Isaiah 61:10; 62:5; Jeremiah 2:2), a mother (Isaiah 66:8), and a comely woman (Ezekiel 16:13; 27:3) indicates that it is flourishing and being rejuvenated. Finally, comparing a nation to a harlot and an adulteress (Isaiah 1:21; 23:15-16; Hosea 2:1-3) indicates that she is being censured for her sins.3 In these instances, the attitude of the prophets and poets toward the depicted nation is the same as that of the biblical storyteller toward the “main characters” whose personification in the prophetic books and poems helps sharpen the rhetorical message.

Some of the nations referred to by the prophets and poets are depicted as “background characters” who contribute to the enrichment of the storytellers’ rhetoric regarding the primary nations. The biblical writers consider these nations as secondary, like the “minor characters” in biblical stories.

Uriel Simon argues that the “minor characters” highlight the “main characters” in those stories.4 Shamai Glendar also shows that when the “minor character” is reduced to a singular episode “its basic attribute represents one characteristic, consistent or unchanging behavioral pattern or a fixed view.”5 Finally, Shimon Bar Efrat6 concluded that “the minor characters act as a background to emphasize specific characteristics of the ‘main characters.'”7

The same applies to collective ethnic characters. The nations “play” the literary role of (secondary) “supporters” in order to depict the major characters and nations in the clearest way, and thus highlight in an indirect manner the message directed at the primary nation.8

However, in contrast to the minor role that secondary nations play, their political impact is greater than that of the major nations in that they serve as models for comparison. This idea is based on the widespread assumption in metaphor research9 that the author of any text selects commonly-known facts as the subject of comparison. We may therefore conclude that the attitudes toward given nations are authentic reflections of their political standing as conceived by both the writers and their audiences.10

Due to the variety of literary roles of the nations in the prophetic and poetic literatures, syntax characteristics and literary dialects that characterize secondary relationships cannot be identified. Therefore, nothing can be learned from the frequency of use of the Hebrew “kaf” (‘?) (similar to) concerning similarity, or from the use of negative terms to specify negatives. Similarly, nothing can be inferred from the frequency of use of relative words that indicate additions (the Hebrew letter “vav” (‘?) – and/or, the word “gam” (??) – also), because in these instances the terms express similarity, negation, and affinity in a standard way that is not specific to secondary relationships.

There is a great variety in the representation of the nations. In many instances, ethnic nicknames are used to represent a group of nations.11 Many times, the nicknames given to secondary nations describe their political12 and geographic13 affinity to the primary nations. At times, the metaphoric description of the primary nations is widened to include related collective secondary images of secondary nations. Thus, in prophecies where the primary nations are depicted as women, the secondary nations are depicted as their lovers.14 In prophecies where the kings of Judea, Assyria, and Egypt are portrayed as trees (Ezekiel 17:1-10, 22-23, 31), the nations observing them are also portrayed as trees: “and all the trees of the field” (Ezekiel 17:24), and “the trees of Eden, that were in the garden of God” (Ezekiel 31:8-9). Finally, in the prophecy which describes the sinking of a ship that represents Tyre, the nations trading with her are also described as traders (Ezekiel 27:3, 12-25).

Therefore, in order to get literary and political benefits from secondary references to the nations in prophecies and poems, there must be a distinction between the three times of occurrence (past, present, and future) in the histories of the primary nations, that cause the prophets and poets to express their attitudes toward those nations. Consideration of the time of occurrence may help elucidate the variety of attitudes toward the secondary nations and clarify the messages delivered to the primary nations:

  1. Regarding past events: secondary nations provide the background for the actions of the primary nations.15
  2. Regarding present events: secondary nations enrich the descriptions of the primary nations regarding the relevant episodes.16
  3. Regarding future events: secondary nations’ (positive17 and negative18) reactions to the political situations that arise in the aftermath of acts carried out by the primary nations effect future repercussions.


The aim of the present paper is to discuss the attitude of prophets and poets to the secondary nations, whose exposition helps sharpen the messages directed at the primary nations.


Secondary Reference that Shapes the Background of the History of the Primary Nations

The attitudes of the prophets and poets toward the primary nation can be elucidated by how they are equated or contrasted to a secondary nation. This comparison involves value judgments (positive or negative) on the part of the prophetic and poetic writers which are consistent with that of audience and are therefore considered credible.

Three categories of background information can be identified:

  1. Description of national conduct.
  2. Description of military and/or political situations.
  3. Description of God’s attitude toward the nations.


Description of a Nation’s Conduct

Some prophets compare the Israelites’ sins to those of the other nations; all the nations in general: “But have done after the ordinances of the nations that are round about you” (Ezekiel 11:12); and the people of Sodom in particular: “Hear the word of the Lord, ye rulers of Sodom; give ear unto the law of our God, ye people of Gomorrah” (Isaiah 1:10), “declare their sin as Sodom” (Isaiah 3:9), and “They are all of them become unto Me as Sodom, and the inhabitants thereof as Gomorrah” (Jeremiah 23:14).19

Behavior of secondary nations is portrayed in contrast to the behavior of the primary nation. In the prophecy of Michah 4 and Psalms 120, the foreigners are contrasted negatively to the Israelites: “For let all the peoples walk each one in the name of its god, but we will walk in the name of the Lord our God for ever and ever” (Michah 4:5); “Woe is me, that I sojourn with Meshech, that I dwell beside the tents of Kedar. My soul hath full long had her dwelling with him that hateth peace. I am all peace; but when I speak, they are for war” (Psalms 120:5-7).20

At times, the actions of the Israelites are contrasted with those of secondary nations to point out that the secondary nations’ moral rites and laws are better than those of the Israelites: “For pass over to the islands of the Kittites, and see, and send unto Kedar, and consider diligently, and see if there hath been such a thing. Hath a nation changed its gods” (Jeremiah 2:10-11); “And she hath rebelled against Mine ordinances in doing wickedness more than the nations, and against My statutes more than the countries that are round about her” (Ezekiel 5:6); “‘As I live,’ saith the Lord God, ‘Sodom thy sister hath not done, she nor her daughters, as thou hast done, thou and thy daughters'” (Ezekiel 16:48); and “For the iniquity of the daughter of my people is greater than the sin of Sodom” (Lamentations 4:6). According to Malachi’s prophecies, the honors that God receives from the distant nations are greater than those bestowed on Him by the priests in Jerusalem: “For from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same my name is great among the nations; and in every place offerings are presented unto my name, even pure oblations; for My name is great among the nations, saith the Lord of hosts. But ye profane it” (Malachi 1:11-12). Moshe Greenberg21 commented on this verse: “The last of the written prophets described the spreading of faith in God as a living fact already in his time.”22

It may be assumed that the information about the behavior of the nations, as provided by the prophets and poets, represents the contemporaneous Israelites’ view of secondary nations.


Description of Political and Military Situations

The biblical prophets and poets used to compare the political situations of a given nation to those of secondary nations in order to clarify their messages. These descriptions may serve as circumstantial evidence of a national historical memory among Israelites at the time of the composition of the writings, concerning events that took place in the far past as well as familiarity with political events that secondary nations experienced in the recent past.

Gideon’s victory over the Midianite princes (Judges 6-8) is a good example of the victories foreseen in Isaiah’s prophecies: “Thou hast broken as in the day of Midian” (Isaiah 9:3), “A scourge, as in the slaughter of Midian at the Rock of Oreb” (Isaiah 10:26), and the beseeching of victory in Psalms 83: “Do Thou unto them as unto Midian; as to Sisera, as to Jabin, at the brook Kishon….Make their nobles like Oreb and Zeeb, and like Zebah and Zalmunnah all their princes” (Psalms 83:10, 12).23

On the other hand, depictions of the destruction of settlements are combined with threats of divine punishment to sinful nations. The total destruction of the cities of Sodom (Genesis 19) is a model for the punishment awaiting many nations.24 Moreover, the defeat of the Chaldeans (Isaiah 23:13); Egypt (Ezekiel 31:11-18); Assyria, Elam, Mesheh, Tubal, Edom, the principates of the North, and Tyre (Ezekiel 32:17-32);25 Aram and the Philistines (Ezekiel 16:57); many nations (Zephaniah 3:6); and the dwellers of Jerusalem (Lamentations 1:21) tell about the fate foreseen for secondary nations.26

Amos contrasts the strength of the Israelites in his time with the political power of secondary nations: “Pass ye unto Calneh, and see, and from thence go ye to Hamath the great; then go down to Gath of the Philistines; are they better than these kingdoms? Or is their border greater than your border?” (Amos 6:2). In Ezekiel’s and Nahum’s prophecies, the Assyrian king is compared to Pharaoh, king of Egypt. In the allegory of the trees in Ezekiel, there is a comparison between the strength and beauty of the Assyrian king and the strength and beauty of Pharaoh, king of Egypt. In this allegory, strength and beauty stand for political power (Ezekiel 31:1-9); Nahum mocks the Assyrians by comparing them with Thebes, whose fortifications did not save her from defeat (Nahum 3:8).27

A disgrace deriving from political distress is exhibited twice in the prophecies. Isaiah describes the disgrace of a sinful king who was disinterred, unlike other kings who were buried in their own land: “All the kings of the nations, all of them, sleep in glory, every one in his own house. But thou art cast forth away from thy grave like an abhorred offshoot. Thou shalt not be joined with them in burial” (Isaiah 14:18-20).28 In Jeremiah’s prophecy on the destruction of Moab, the disappointment of the Moabites with their god Chemosh is compared with that of the northern kingdom with the failure of the temple in Beit-El to save them from calamity. “And Moab shall be ashamed of Chemosh, as the house of Israel was ashamed of trusting in Beth-el” (Jeremiah 48:13).29

Taken together, it seems that knowledge emanating from familiarity with historical and political facts was taken for granted by the prophets and poets when addressing their audiences.


God’s Attitude toward the Nations

In some instances, the special relations between God and the people of Israel are highlighted by contrasting His relationship with the nations of the world. When this happened, the judgment of events was consensual.30

Amos argues that God punishes the people of Israel frequently because of his closeness to them: “You only have I known of all the families of the earth; therefore I will visit upon you all your iniquities” (Amos 3:2).31 According to Amos and Jeremiah, God’s special relationship with the people of Israel ensures that it is not eradicated from the face of the earth: “The eyes of the Lord God are upon the sinful kingdom, and I will destroy it from off the face of the earth; saving that I will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob” (Amos 9:8-9); “For I will make a full end of all the nations whither I have scattered thee, but I will not make a full end of thee” (Jeremiah 30:11; 46:28). In Psalms 147, this relationship is by special statutes: “He declareth His word unto Jacob, His statutes and His ordinances unto Israel. He hath not dealt so with any nation; and as for His ordinances, they have not known them” (Psalms 147:19-20).

Amos considers that migration to a new place is an act of God. This idea is expressed in identical terms to a number of nations: “‘Are ye not as the children of the Ethiopians unto Me, O children of Israel?’ saith the Lord. ‘Have not I brought up Israel out of the land of Egypt, and the Philistines from Caphtor, and Aram from Kir?'” (Amos 9:7). Migration as an act of God occurred in the history of both the primary (Israel) and secondary (Ethiopians, Philistines, and Aramians) nations. As Meir Weiss pointed out, Amos’ listeners probably knew about this concept.32

In sum, the audiences of the prophets and the poets seem to have been familiar with the notion of the “chosen people” in one way or another.


Role Played by Secondary Nations in Events Related to the Primary Nations

In many instances, the fate of secondary nations is described in order to highlight that of the primary nations. There are two kinds of relationships between the primary and secondary nations: the role played by the secondary nations in events related to the primary nations and the passive testimony of the secondary nations to the events related to the primary nations.


Partnership of Secondary Nations in Events

In prophecies, poems, and lamentations there are instances where secondary nations aid the primary nations in performing their tasks and thus become partners to their deeds.33 In some of the battles described, nations that send adjunct forces are considered partners in the war effort of the primary nations: Put and Lubim help the Assyrians (Nahum 3:9); the Assyrians aid the people of Lot: “Assyria also is joined with them; they have been an arm to the children of Lot” (Psalms 83:9); fighters from Persia, Lud, and Put defend the boats of Tyre (Ezekiel 27:10); “the terrible of the nations” escort Nebuchadnezzar in his war against Egypt (Ezekiel 30:11); and soldiers from Persia, Ethiopia, Put, Gomer, Beit Togarmah, and the peoples of the far north join Gog in his war against the Israelites (Ezekiel 38:5-6). These partnerships account for the guilt of these nations, and justify their falling together with the primary nations.

In the parable describing Israel and Judah as harlots (Ezekiel 16:23), Egypt (Ezekiel 16:26; 23:8, 19-21), Assyria (Ezekiel 16:28; 23:7, 12), Babylon (Ezekiel 16:29; 23:17), and Sabaim (Ezekiel 23:42) are depicted as lovers who are partners in the sin of prostitution.34

In the parable of the sunken ship relating to Tyre in Ezekiel 27: the people of Tarshish (Ezekiel 27:12); Tubal, Javan, and Meshech (Ezekiel 27:13); Togarmah (Ezekiel 27:14); Dedan (Ezekiel 27:14, 20); Aram (Ezekiel 27:16); Judah and the Land of Israel (Ezekiel 27:17); Damascus (Ezekiel 27:18); Vedan and Javan (Ezekiel 27:19); Arabia and the heads of Kedar (Ezekiel 27:21); the traffickers of Sheba and Raamah (Ezekiel 27:22); and Haran and Eden (Ezekiel 27:23) are all depicted as traders with the merchant ships of Tyre.

There are prophecies that describe a situation in which nations profit from the acts of the primary nations and thus become partners. In the prophecy of the battle against Gog, the people of Sheba, Dedan, the merchants of Tarshish, and all her cubs35 praise Gog, who is planning to plunder the Israelites and retrieve much booty (Ezekiel 38:13).36

Jeremiah and Ezekiel prophesize similar fates for both the primary and secondary nations. Jeremiah describes the weakness of Tyre and Zidon when the Philistines were destroyed: “Because of the day that cometh to spoil all the Philistines, to cut off from Tyre and Zidon every helper” (Jeremiah 47:4).37 Ezekiel elaborates on the strong blows that the Ethiopians, Putim, Ludim, all Arabia, Cubim, and all members of the league will suffer for aiding Egypt in her wars (Ezekiel 30:4-5): “And her foundation shall be broken down…to make the confident Ethiopians afraid; and there shall come trembling upon them in the day of Egypt” (Ezekiel 30:8-9).38 In his prophecy on the downfall of Gog, the prophet predicts that soldiers from Persia, Ethiopia, Put, Gomer, and the house of Togarmah from the north will die (Ezekiel 38:5-7): “I will cause to rain upon him, and upon his bands, and upon the many peoples that are with him” (Ezekiel 38:22), “thou…and all thy bands, and the peoples that are with thee” (Ezekiel 39:4).

As the paragraphs above show, there are two kinds of primary-secondary national partnerships; of acts of fate. The description of the partnership intensifies the message to the primary nations: their actions were more serious because they had partners, and their fate is worse because their downfall includes secondary nations who made treaties with them.


Passive Testimony of the Secondary Nations to the Events Related to the Primary Nations

Prophets and poets call out to the nations to learn from the messages that arise from their prophecies and poems.39 The literary similarity of their rhetoric notwithstanding, they have different goals.

The prophets call upon their Israelite listeners to learn from the fate of the nations and to correct their ways, but the poets call on both the Israelites and the gentiles to praise God and to tell of His glory everywhere.

Amos “sends” his listeners to call the Philistines and Egyptians. “Proclaim it upon the palaces at Ashdod, and upon the palaces in the land of Egypt, and say: ‘Assemble yourselves upon the mountains of Samaria, and behold the great confusions therein, and the oppressions in the midst thereof'” (Amos 3:9-10). Jeremiah “sends” them to the gentiles: “Ask ye now among the nations, who hath heard such things” (Jeremiah 18:13) and “declare ye among the nations and announce” (Jeremiah 50:2). The poets “send” their listeners to the people of the nations: “Declare among the nations His doings” (Psalms 9:12),40 “Say among the nations: ‘The Lord reigneth'” (Psalms 96:10; 1 Chronicles 16:31), and “Declare His glory among the nations” (Psalms 96:3).41

Publicizing national goals to a gentile audience is an important and recurring component in prophecies and poems with no political implications, such as the one in “David’s song”: “Therefore I will give thanks unto Thee, O Lord, among the nations” (2 Samuel 22:50; Psalms 18:50), and in two psalms (Psalms 57:10; 108:4). The viewing of God’s acts by many nations glorifies His name: “That Thy way may be known upon earth, Thy salvation among all nations” (Psalms 67:3), “and all the peoples saw His glory” (Psalms 97:6), and “His righteousness hath He revealed in the sight of the nations” (Psalms 98:2).42 At the time of the future salvation: “The Lord hath made bare His holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God” (Isaiah 52:10), and “so the Lord God will cause victory and glory to spring forth before all the nations” (Isaiah 61:11).43

Public defeat before the gentiles causes feelings of shame: “Moreover I will make thee an amazement and a reproach, among the nations that are round about thee…an instruction and an astonishment unto the nations that are round about thee” (Ezekiel 5:14-15),44 and disgust and rejection: “Thou hast made us as the offscouring and refuse in the midst of the peoples” (Lamentation 3:45).45

According to one prophecy of Ezekiel, the suffering of the Israelites in front of a gentile audience is the application of Divine wrath: “But I will leave a few men of them from the sword, from the famine, and from the pestilence; that they may declare all their abominations among the nations whither they come” (Ezekiel 12:16).

Considering what has been said above, it appears that the testimonies of secondary nations concerning the fate of the primary nations contribute to the clarification of the messages of the writers. The “rhetorical calls” to the surrounding nations to learn the lesson and to tell God’s glory help clarify the aims: intensifying the shame of the persecuted and the spreading of God’s glory.


Reactions of the Secondary Nations to the New Standing of the Primary Nation

In many cases, prophets and poets describe the positive and negative reactions of the surrounding nations to what is happening in order to sharpen the messages delivered to the primary nations. Two types of reactions can be identified: admiration of the primary nations, and readjustment to the new circumstances that result from whatever happened to the primary nations.46


Admiration of the Primary Nation

According to prophecies and psalms, the reaction of gentiles to what is happening to the primary nation is silence that emanates from a recoiling from the strength of God. “Be silent, all flesh, before the Lord; for He is aroused out of His holy habitation” (Zecharia 2:17).47 According to Habakkuk’s prayer, the approaching revelation of God will cause a panic of “the curtains of the land of Midian” (Habakuk 3:7). According to Psalms, the nations are in a panic because of the power of God’s kingship (Psalms 99:1) and His strong will (Psalms 48:6-8).

Some gentiles attribute the Israelites’ affluence to divine blessings that in turn caused them to reach a state of “fearing God”:48 “May God bless us; and let all the ends of the earth fear Him” (Psalms 67:8), and “so the nations will fear the name of the Lord, and all the kings of the earth Thy glory when the Lord hath built up Zion” (Psalms 102:16-17).

Jeremiah forecasts that Israel’s redemption will cause fear and trembling: “Before all the nations of the earth, which shall hear all the good that I do unto them, and shall fear and tremble for all the good and for all the peace that I procure unto it” (Jeremiah 33:9).49

Frequently, astonishment and wonder at the strength of the primary nation are expressed. In Lamentations, the astonishment was in the past: “The kings of the earth believed not, neither all the inhabitants of the world, that the adversary and the enemy would enter into the gates of Jerusalem” (Lamentations 4:12), and in Psalms: “Then said they among the nations: ‘The Lord hath done great things with these'” (Psalms 126:2). The consolation prophecy predicts that it will take place in the future: “All that see them shall acknowledge them, that they are the seed which the Lord hath blessed” (Isaiah 61:9).50

According to the “Song at the Sea,” many nations were alarmed when they heard of the downfall of another nation: “Then are the chiefs of Edom affrighted; the mighty men of Moab, trembling taketh hold upon them; all the inhabitants of Canaan are melted away. Terror and dread falleth upon them; by the greatness of Thine arm they are as still as a stone” (Exodus 15:16-17). A similar picture is depicted in other prophecies: “Howl, ye ships of Tarshish, for it is laid waste” (Isaiah 23:1-2), “At the noise of the taking of Babylon the earth quaketh, and the cry is heard among the nations” (Jeremiah 50:46), and “All they that know thee among the peoples shall be appalled at thee” (Ezekiel 28:19).

In two of Ezekiel’s prophecies about the coming downfall of Tyre, there are descriptions of shock and mourning ritual customs of many nations that are performed upon learning about it: the kings and the people will remove their precious clothing, wear mourning clothes, and sit on the ground, and sailors will leave their boats in order to mourn (Ezekiel 26:16-18; 27:28-36).51 In Ezekiel’s prophecy on the destruction of Egypt, women depicted as “daughters of nations” lament: “This is the lamentation wherewith they shall lament; the daughters of the nations shall lament therewith; for Egypt, and for all her multitude, shall they lament therewith” (Ezekiel 32:16).

Many times, prophets and poets describe the observing nations’ attitude of derision toward the national ruin of the primary nation. Hosea describes the Egyptian’s mockery of the Israelites: “This shall be their derision in the land of Egypt” (Hosea 7:16). The poets of the Psalms and the soothsayer of Lamentations complain about those who mock them at the time of their destruction: “Thou makest us a taunt to our neighbors, a scorn and a derision to them that are round about us. Thou makest us a byword among the nations, a shaking of the head among the peoples” (Psalms 44:14-15); and “The adversaries have seen her, they have mocked at her desolations. All that honoured her despise her” (Lamentations 1:7-8).52

Frequently, mockery is mixed with a glee deriving from feelings of satisfaction about the desired defeat: “All mine enemies have heard of my trouble, and are glad” (Lamentations 1:21). The stricken Israelites demand that their enemies desist from this: “Tell it not in Gath, publish it not in the streets of Ashkelon; lest the daughters of the Philistines rejoice, lest the daughters of the uncircumcised triumph” (2 Samuel 1:20), and “Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy” (Michah 7:8).53

Lamentations and some prophecies describe symbolic actions which express the mockery that the enemy nations showed toward the defeated nations: “All that hear the report of thee clap the hands over thee” (Nahum 3:19), and “All that pass by clap their hands at thee; they hiss and wag their head…and gnash the teeth” (Lamentations 2:15-16).54

In Ezekiel’s prophecy, there are three more reactions on the part of the nations observing what happened to the primary nation. The Philistines who view the Israelites’ behavior are ashamed: “The daughters of the Philistines55 that are ashamed of thy lewd way” (Ezekiel 16:27).56 The success of the king of Assyria created jealousy in all the nations: “So that all the trees of Eden…envied it” (Ezekiel 31:9).57 The destruction of Egypt caused great anger: “I will also vex the hearts of many peoples” (Ezekiel 32:9) which was caused by panic: “I will make many peoples appalled at thee, and their kings shall be horribly afraid…and they shall tremble at every moment, every man for his own life” (Ezekiel 32:10).

In light of the above, it seems that the description of the emotional reactions58 of the secondary nations to the experiences of the primary nation demonstrates the intensity of the events directed at the latter, thus contributing to the sharpening of the messages of the biblical writers.


Readjustment of the Secondary Nations to New Circumstances

According to the prophecies, poems, and lamentations, whatever befell the primary nations caused political shocks that required readjustment on the part of the secondary nations. Upheavals frequently brought about a political separation from the primary nation: “and the nations shall not flow any more unto him” (Jeremiah 51:44), “that the children Ammon may not be remembered among the nations” (Ezekiel 25:10). Ezekiel tells of a desperate search for the people of Tyre following its destruction: “Though thou be sought for, yet shalt thou never be found again” (Ezekiel 26:21).

The destruction caused existential and economic distress that have political repercussions.59 The ships of Tarshish lament the loss of their fortress (Isaiah 23:14), and the coastal inhabitants who heard of the downfall of the Egyptians express their political distress: “And the inhabitants of this coast-land shall say in that day: ‘Behold, such is our expectation, whither we fled for help to be delivered from the king of Assyria; and how shall we escape?'” (Isaiah 20:6).60

In sum, the description of the readjustment of the secondary nations vis-?-vis the primary nations demonstrates the concrete ramifications of divine retribution of the relevant geopolitical factor.



The present study suggests that the term “secondary character” that is usually employed in research on the biblical story should also be applied to collective ethnic characters of secondary nations in the prophetic and hymnal literature.61 One hundred and forty biblical quotations were brought62 that were classified in terms of past,63 present,64 or future involvement with events occurring to the primary nation.65

In line with the widespread notion in metaphor research that the authors tend to highlight their message regarding their primary targets by referring to either consistent or inconsistent properties regarding secondary targets, it was found that biblical writers and poets tend to similarly compare their primary nation with secondary nations. Comparisons are based on knowledge of past events66 and ritualistic practices67 of the neighboring nations, and on political68 and theological69 analyses that are shared by the writers or poets and their audiences.

These comparisons enhance the understanding of the behavior of “primary nations” and their consequences. By employing these comparisons, the authors manage to balance their dual literary and political goals.70

*     *     *


* I thank Prof. Rimon Kasher of the Department of Bible Studies, Bar Ilan University, for his comments on an earlier draft of this chapter.

1. The term “secondary” means an object of a second level of importance. Therefore, in this paper the nations described as “background characters” will frequently be called “secondary nations.” For an example of the use of this term in biblical research, see Gillian Greenberg, “Some Secondary Expansions in the Masoretic Text of Jeremiah: Retroversion Perilous But the Risk May be Worthwhile,” in Ada Rapaport-Albert and Gillian Greenberg, eds., Biblical Hebrew, Biblical Texts, Essays in Memory of Michael P. Weitzman, (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 2001), pp. 222-243.

2. According to the research literature, the use of the concept of “anthropomorphism” is an efficient literary medium to sharpen messages. See Knut M. Helm, “The Personification of Jerusalem and the Drama of her Bereavement in Lamentations,” in Richard S. Hess and Gordon J. Wenham, eds., Zion, City of Our God (Grand Rapids, MI: W. B. Eerdmans, 1999), p. 130: “Personified as a woman she can be consoled through her participation in multifaceted dialogue that may best be described as a drama of bereavement.” Charles W. Miller, “Reading Voices: Personification, Dialogism and the Reader of Lamentations,” Biblical Interpretation, 9 (2001): 393: “Both speakers, in other words, are personifications, who are given their existence by the poet.” For more about these, see: James J. Paxon, The Poetics of Personification (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1994), pp. 35-62.

3. At times, the prophets and poets refer to nations as “daughters” in order to compare the nations to women: Isaiah 1:8; Jeremiah 4:11; Michah 4:8; Zephaniah 3:14; Zechariah 9:9; Psalms 9:15; Lamentations 1:15 – Zion, Jerusalem, and Judah; Lamentations 4:21 – Edom; Isaiah 47:1, 5; Jeremiah 50:42, 51:33; Zephaniah 2:11 – Babylon; Jeremiah 48:18 – Divon; Jeremiah, 46:11, 19:24 – Egypt; Isaiah 23:12 – Zidon; Isaiah 23:10 – Tarshish. Examples of research: Barbara B. Kaiser, “Poet as Female Impersonator: The Image of Daughter Zion as Speaker in Biblical Poems of Suffering,” The Journal of Religion 67 (1987): 164-182; Ruth Landau, “How will I be Like You? Zion Beloved, Adulterous and Deserted: The Metaphorical Background of Lamentations in the Steps of the Prophets,” in I. Heckelman, ed., Avi Ofarim, A collection of Essays in Memory of Zvi Koreh, Founder of the Ofarim Project, Jerusalem, 2002 : 61-69 [Hebrew]; Yosepha Rahman, “Isaiah as the Artist of the Image, Research in Isaiah 40-66 with specific relation to images in chapters 47; 51:17-23; 60:6-58,” Bet Mikrah, 48 (2003):154-163 [Hebrew]. See update related to this discussion: Michael D. Goulder, “Deutero-Isaiah of Jerusalem,” Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 28 (2004): 351-362. There are researchers who extend the allegories of nations as women to the idea of marriage between them and their gods. On this, and on the connection between mythological terminologies in the ancient Near East and their meaning in prophecies, psalms, and lamentations, see: Aloysius Fitzgerald, “The Mythological Background for the Presentation of Jerusalem as a Queen and False Worship as Adultery in the Old Testament,” The Catholic Biblical Quarterly 34 (1972): 403-416; Majella Franzmann, “The City as Women: The Case of Babylon in Isaiah 47,” Australian Biblical Review 43 (1995): 1-4. On the similar and dissimilar aspects of the term in the Bible and the parallel image in Hellenistic writings, see Elaine R. Follis, “The Holy City as Daughter,” in Elaine R. Follis, ed., Directions in Biblical Hebrew Poetry, (Sheffield, England: JSOT Press, c1987), pp. 173-184.

4. See Uriel Simon, “The Secondary Images in the Biblical Story,” in Literary Reading of the Bible: Stories of the Prophets (Jerusalem: Bialik Institute and Bar-Ilan Press, 1997), pp. 317-324 [Hebrew]. This publication is a new, updated version of Simon’s publication in The Fifth World Congress of Jewish Studies (1969), pp. 31-36 [Hebrew]. This term was used by many researchers. Examples of this are: Adele Berlin, Poetics and Interpretation of Biblical Narrative (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1994), pp. 85-86 (discussion on Orpah and the liberator in the Book of Ruth); Shimon Bar Efrat, in his discussion on “Secondary Characters” in The Literary Style of the Bible Story (Tel Aviv: Poalim Press, 19923), pp. 107-110 [Hebrew]; Frank Pollak, in a discussion on “the superficial character” in: The Biblical Story, Literary and Style Aspects (Jerusalem: Bialik Institute, 1994), pp. 257-258 [Hebrew]; Yair Zakovitz, Ruth, With Foreword and Commentary (Bible for Israel) (Jerusalem: Am Oved Press, 1990), pp. 7-8 [Hebrew]; David M. Gunn and Danna N. Fewell, Narrative in the Hebrew Bible (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993), pp. 120-128, 166-173, etc.

5. Shamai Glender, The Relationship Between Style Types and the Ideological Subject: Theological-Kingly Ideology in Samuel II, Chapters 1-8, (Tel Aviv University: doctoral dissertation, thesis, 1993), p. 9 [Hebrew].

6. Shimon Bar Efrat, Literary Style in the Biblical Story (Tel Aviv: Poalim Press, 1984), p. 108 [Hebrew].

7. His words resemble those of Simon, “The Secondary Images in the Biblical Story,” p. 322: “They contribute to clearing up the situation, acting as a background.” However, Simon (pp. 321-4) points to other literary roles of the secondary characters: advancing or stopping the plot, and illuminating the story with irony and contrast to the main character.

8. Since this study deals with indirect relationships with nations, we shall not deal here with situations in which there is doubt about the attitude of the prophets or the poets to them. It is possible to detect ethical judgments about the nations even when the reference uses few words. Therefore, the function of the nations as a weapon of God used to punish will not be discussed here (the examples of Assyria – Isaiah 10:5,15; Babylon – Jeremiah 25:12, 27:6-7, 46:26; Medea – Isaiah 13:17, etc.). Furthermore, when the nations suffer and lament about the destruction of the primary nation (Jeremiah 48:17; Ezekiel 26:17, 27:32-34), and from hate mock and blaspheme (Ezekiel 22:5; Joel 2:17; Michah 7:10; Psalms 42:4,11, 79:10, 115:2; Lamentations 2:15-16), one may infer that the latter are condemned.

9. See a definition of metaphor in: Peter W. Macky, The Centrality of Metaphors to Biblical Thought, A Method for Interpreting the Bible, (Lewiston, NY: E. Mellen Press, 1990), p. 32: “Hearers mentally construct a replica of the speaker’s meaning, thereby seeking to imitate his thinking.” See Adele Berlin, “On Reading Biblical Poetry: The Role of Metaphor,” in John A. Emerton, ed., Congress Volume: Cambridge 1995, (Leiden: Brill, 1997), pp. 25-36.

10. It is similar to the summary, in Simon, “The Secondary Images in the Biblical Story,” p. 324: “This is the proof: The ability to say little of them makes them a useful tool to teach the essential. The concealment of the religious meaning and inclusion of ethical values, the minor characters frequently give us the key to the tidings of the story.” However, here the importance of identifying the term does not rest with clarification of the ethical and theological meaning of the prophecies, psalms, and lamentations, but with exposing the political thinking that created the consensus in the Israelite society during the times described in these passages.

11. Examples: Mesheh and Kedar (Psalms 120:5-7); Kush, Egypt, Philistines, and Aram (Amos 9:7); “all flesh” (Isaiah 40:5; Ezekiel 21:4); “all the inhabitants of the world” (Lamentations 4:12); and “the whole world” (Jeremiah 51:7; Ezekiel 35:14), etc.

12. For example: adversaries (Lamentations 1:7), helpers (Jeremiah 47:4; Ezekiel 30:8; 32:21, etc.)

13. For example: nations round the “main nations” (Jeremiah 48:17, 39), neighbors (Ezekiel 16:26; Psalms 44:14), passers-bye (Jeremiah 19:8; 49:17). Nations are sometimes called by ambiguous nicknames that tell us very little about them. For example, the ends of the earth (Psalms 98:3), coast dwellers (Isaiah 20:6; 23:6; Ezekiel 27:3), and the like.

14. In a few prophets and Lamentations, the nickname “lovers” refers to many unspecified nations or their gods (Jeremiah 22:20; Ezekiel 26:33, 36-37; 23:5-31, Hosea 2:7, 9, 12, 14, 15; Lamentations 1:9). About the possibility that the “lovers” are “gods,” see Ehud Ben Zvi, “Observations on the Marital Metaphor of Yahweh and Israel in its Ancient Israelite Context: General Considerations and Particular Images in Hosea 1:2,” Journal for the Study of the Old Testament, 28 (2004): 375. In Ezekiel and Lamentations, the metaphor of “lovers” may include the nations and their gods because those characters are described like real active personas.

15. Equal and opposing elements to the “primary nation” with three background characteristics: behavioral description, political constellation, description and divine relationship with them.

16. Partnership and testimony of the episodic description of “primary nation.” The partnership can be accomplished in two ways: by being a partner in the acts of the primary nation, or by sharing its fate. On this level, the other nation is subordinate to the primary nation in both the literary and political aspects of the term.

17. Learning a lesson from the punishment of the “primary nation” and political adjustment to the new situation: astonishment, praise for achievement, and help in case of defeat.

18. Fear, flinching, and jealousy of the “primary nation” from the new state.

19. Many researchers deal with the “Sodom Tradition.” For example, see James A. Loader, A Tale of Two Cities, Sodom and Gomorra in the Old Testament, Early Jewish and Early Christian Traditions (Kampen: J. H. Kok Pub. House, c1990); Weston W. Fields, Sodom and Gomorra: History and Motif in Biblical Narrative (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, c1997). In Moses’ song, this term indirectly refers to Israelite acts. The dissenters are accused of eating food brought from Sodom and Gomorrah. This accusation is a metaphor for a behavior that is characteristic of the dwellers of Sodom and Gomorrah: “For their vine is of the vine of Sodom, and of the fields of Gomorrah” (Deuteronomy 32:32).

20. Two prophecies prohibit the Israelites from imitating the nations: “Learn not the way of the nations, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the nations are dismayed at them” (Jeremiah 10:2); and “We will be as the nations, as the families of the countries, to serve wood and stone” (Ezekiel 20:32). In these cases it is hard to observe a secondary reference towards the described nations.

21. Moshe Greenberg, “Is There a Need for Israelite Mediation for the Return of the Nations to God in the End of the Days?” Bible Studies and Commentary, 5 (2000): 101-102 [Hebrew]. Further on in his essay (p. 102) Greenberg says: “The background of this distant picture is unknown, and there is no hint to identify secondary nations and how and when they ‘accompanied the Lord’; therefore we did not refer to this verse in our discussion.”

22. Many researchers wonder about the relation between this description and its connection to the reality during the early period of the early Second Temple. See: Ralph L. Smith, Micha-Malachi (Waco, TX: Word Books Publisher, 1984), pp. 312-16. For a survey and metaphorical comments on this, see: Ake Vieberg, “Waking a Sleeping Metaphor: A New Interpretation of Malachi 1:1,” Tyndale Bulletin, 45 (1994): 297-319.

23. The poet compares the desirable victory to the victory of Deborah and Barak over Sisrah (Judges 4).

24. Comparisons of the destruction of nations to that of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah are widespread in the Bible. The relevant are: Israel in the prophecy of Hosea (11:8), and Amos (4:1), Judah in the prophecy of (Isaiah (1:9), and Lamentations (4:6). This term is used in the prophecy on the nations. For example: Edom (Jeremiah (49:18), Amon and Moab (Zephaniah 2:9), and Babylon (Isaiah 13:19; Jeremiah 50:40).

25. In this prophecy, Ezekiel intensifies the disgrace caused by defeat by using terms of condemnation such as “uncircumcised” and “casualties of the sword” in the description of all the defeated nations. The term “uncircumcised” implies “disgrace” in Genesis: “We cannot do this thing, to give our sister to one that is uncircumcised; for that were a reproach unto us” (Genesis 34:14). See also: Jeremiah 14:3; 15:18; 1 Samuel 18:25-27; Jeremiah 9:24-25; Ezekiel 28:10, 44:7, 9; Habakuk 2:16. For further connotations concerning circumcision see: Joseph Fleishman, “On the Significance of a Name Change and Circumcision in Genesis 17,” The Journal of the Near Eastern Society 28 (2001): 19-32. For a focus on the political aspect see: Amichai Nachshon, God’s Requirements from the Gentiles in the Historiographical and Prophetic Biblical Literature (Ramat Gan: doctoral dissertation, 2003), p. 172, remarks 1043-1044. According to Ezekiel, Pharaoh will be consoled by watching the defeats of these nations: “These shall Pharaoh see, and shall be comforted over all his multitude” (Ezekiel 32:31). In the words of Gershon Brin, “Ezekiel,” in Gershon Brin, ed., The World of the Bible (Tel Aviv: Davidson Azati Press, 1997), p. 168 [Hebrew]: “This will be a small consolation for him.”

26. The defeat of the Chaldeans serves as a model for the destruction of Tyre (Isaiah 23:13); the downfall of Egypt illustrates Assyria’s downfall (Ezekiel 31:11-18); the fall of Assyria, Elam, the peoples of Meshech and Tubal, Edom, the principalities of the north, and Tyre by the sword and their falling into a pit illustrates what is waiting for Pharaoh (Ezekiel 32:17-32); the destruction of the nations will serve as reproof of Jerusalem (Zephaniah 3:7); and the mourner in Lamentations (1:21) hopes that the destruction of Jerusalem will bring about a worthy punishment of her enemies.

27. On this prophecy and its historical background, see: John R. Huddelstun, “Nahum, Nineveh and the Nile: The Description of Thebes in Nahum 3:8-9,” The Journal of the Near Eastern Society 62 (2003): 97-110.

28. Disinterment is considered a serious disgrace in many places. For example: 1 Kings 13:2; 2 Kings 23:16; Jeremiah 8:1-2; 22:19; 36:30; Amos 2:1, etc. See Mordechai Cogen, “A Note on Disinterment in Jeremiah,” in Isidore D. Passow and Samuel T. Lachs, eds., Gratz College Anniversary Volume, On the Occasion of the Seventy-Fifth Anniversary of the Founding of the College 1895-1970 (Philadelphia: Gratz College Anniversary Volume, 1971), pp. 29-34.

29. This idea fits in with Jeremiah’s prophecies that designate disgrace and failure to those who leave God and rely on other gods: “All that forsake Thee shall be ashamed” (Jeremiah 17:13), see also: Jeremiah 13:10; 44:8, etc.; For this see: Johanna Siebert, The Construction of Shame in the Hebrew Bible, The Prophetic Contribution (London: Sheffield Academic Press, c2002), pp. 124-126.

30. This consensus seems to be consistent with a prevalent idea in many passages: “knowledge of God” (examples: Exodus 7:5; 14:4; Deuteronomy 4:35; 1 Kings 8:60; Isaiah 19:21; Ezekiel 25:5, 7; 39:6, etc.) provides theological meanings to the analysis of historical events. According to Isaac A. Zeligman, “Knowledge of God and Historical Consciousness in Israel in Ancient Times,” Avi Horowitz, Emanual Tov, and Sarah Yefet, eds., Studies in Books of the Bible, (Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 1992), pp. 141-168 [Hebrew], the meaning of the term “knowledge of God” is providing an appropriate theological commentary to the actions of God’s acts by their observer, who is therefore considered a “witness” to God’s acts. This idea can be culled from the proximity in Judges 2:10 between the recalling of the term “knowledge of God” and understanding his actions: “who did not know God or what He did for Israel.” See Nachshon, God’s Requirements from the Gentiles in the Historiographical and Prophetic Biblical Literature, pp.134-135.

31. Arvid S. Kapelrud, “New Ideas in Amos,” in Volume du Congress, Geneve 1965 (Leiden: Brill, 1966), p. 198, argues: “Objectively seen, that what Amos preached was not new, it was part of Israel’s life from of old. But it was forgotten knowledge and Amos had to renew it.” See also: Yehoshua Gitay, “A Study of Amos’s Art of Speech: A Rhetorical Analysis of Amos 3, 1-15,” The Catholic Biblical Quarterly, 42 (1980): 297.

32. On the link between the two prophecies of Amos (3:2; 9:7), see Meir Weiss, The Book of Amos 1 (Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 1992), pp. 73-74 [Hebrew]. See ibid., p. 280 (Weiss’ commentary on Amos 9:7). In his view, this assumption applies to two prophecies (Amos 3:2; 9:7).

33. In two of Isaiah’s consolation prophecies, the people of many nations help the destitute Israelites return to their land: “I will lift up My hand to the nations, and set up Mine ensign to the peoples, and they shall bring thy sons in their bosom, and thy daughters shall be carried upon their shoulders” (Isaiah 49:22); “and they shall bring all your brethren out of all the nations for an offering unto the Lord, upon horses, and in chariots, and in drays, and upon mules, and upon swift beasts, to My holy mountain Jerusalem” (Isaiah 66:20). However, since these descriptions might refer to the end of days, it is uncertain whether there is a secondary relationship between the prophet and the nations (maybe there are primary relationships).

34. Regarding the possibility that the “lovers” are “gods,” see note 14.

35. The leader in the Bible is frequently given the title of “lion cub” who rules his subjects firmly: “The terror of a king is as the roaring of a lion” (Proverbs 20:2), and “thou didst liken thyself unto a young lion” (Ezekiel 32:2). See also Ezekiel 19:1-9; Nahum 2:12-14, etc. The translation ascribed to Targum Jonathan, in the Menachem Cohen, ed., Keter Bible (Ramat Gan: Bar Ilan University, 2000) ]Hebrew] about Ezekiel 38:13, translates “úâøé éîà” as “sea traders.” See Radak, Menahem ben Shimon, in the “Keter” edition (ibid. ). See also: Daniel I. Block, The Book of Ezekiel, Chapters 25-48, (Grand Rapids, MI: W. B. Eerdmans, 1998), p. 449, n. 122.

36. Both Joel and Amos accuse Tyre and the Philistines of slave trading (Joel 4:3-8; Amos 1:6-10). It is possible that slave traders, who provide homes for exiles (Edomites in Amos, Greeks in Joel), are accused of indirectly collaborating with the sinners.

37. A similar idea appears ambiguously in an allegory: “The nations have drunk of her wine, therefore the nations are mad” (Jeremiah 51:7). Jeremiah describes the influence of the fall of Babylon, that will also befall secondary nations, as being similar to drinking a cup of wrath together.

38. According to Ezekiel’s prophecies, together with Egypt will also fall: Ethiopia, Put, Lud, all Arabia, Cub, and the children of the land league (Ezekiel 30:4-5). Ezekiel (32:21) and Jeremiah (46:25) describe the death of Pharaoh’s aids: “that [put their] trust in him” (Jeremiah 46:25) at the time of his defeat.

39. In prophecies, psalms, and lamentations there is an appeal to the primary nations to watch what is happening and to learn (Isaiah 41:1; 43:9; 49:1; Ezekiel 17:24; Psalms 49:2; Lamentations 1:18). In these cases the nations are primary nations.

40. Similarly “make known His doings among the peoples” (Psalms 105:1, 1 Chronicles 16:8).

41. The same is similarly expressed in the eschatological prophecies: “They shall declare My glory among the nations” (Isaiah 66:19).

42. According to Ezekiel, completing the destruction of a southern kingdom is an important spectacle worthy of observation by all the nations of the world: “And all flesh shall see that I the Lord have kindled it; it shall not be quenched” (Ezekiel 21:4).

43. This idea appears in this prophecy a few times: “And their seed shall be known among the nations, and their offspring among the peoples” (Isaiah 61:9); “and the nations shall see thy triumph, and all kings thy glory” (Isaiah 62:2); and “lift up an ensign over the peoples. Behold, the Lord hath proclaimed unto the end of the earth” (Isaiah 62:10-11). According to Ezekiel’s prophecy, God empowers His name amidst them through the acts directed at Israel: “I will be sanctified in you in the sight of the nations” (Ezekiel 20:41). See also Ezekiel 28:25; 36:21-23; 39:27. The same is formulated in an opposing manner. God prevents the disgrace of His name in the eyes of the gentiles: “And wrought for My name’s sake, that it should not be profaned in the sight of the nations” (Ezekiel 20:22).

44. Many prophecies describe national shame as a component of divine punishment (e.g., Jeremiah 24:9; 44:8; Ezekiel 5:8; 16:37, 39, 44, 45, 52, 54; 23:27; 28:18; 32:46; Zechariah 8:13). This idea also appears in Joel: “a reproach among the nations” (Joel 2:19) as a divine answer to a hymnal text in the priest’s prayer in the Temple: “Spare thy people, O Lord, and give not Thy heritage to reproach” (Joel 2:17). God’s answer in the words of the prophet is: “I will no more make you a reproach among the nations” (Joel 2:19). Ezekiel similarly links hunger to shame in the view of the nations: “that ye may receive no more the reproach of famine among the nations” (Ezekiel 36:30); and “they shall be no more consumed with hunger in the land, neither bear the shame of the nations any more” (Ezekiel 34:29); “Neither will I suffer the shame of the nations any more to be heard against thee, neither shalt thou bear the reproach of the peoples” (Ezekiel 36:15). This idea also appears in the prophecy on the destruction of Egypt (Jeremiah 46:12) and Assyria (Nahum 3:5). In the parable of prostitution and adultery in Ezekiel 16, the shame of defeat will be in front of women who represent the nations of the world: “in the sight of many women” (Ezekiel 16:41). In chapter 23, shame is called: “a byword among women” (Ezekiel 23:10). On the rhetorical use of notion of “shame,” see Steibert, The Construction of Shame in the Hebrew Bible.

45. The desecration of Israel’s honor in front of the nations is explained by Ezekiel: “Thou shalt be profaned in thyself, in the sight of the nations” (Ezekiel 22:16), see also Ezekiel 23:10.

46. Many prophecies and psalms describe the call to the nations to worship God. For example: Isaiah 11:10; 26:9; 42:10-12; 45:14, 22; 55:5; Psalms 2:10-12; 22:28-32; 47:7-10; 66:8; 67:4-7; 68:30-33; 86:9; 96:1; 100:1; 102:23; 117:1; 138:4; 145:21; 1 Chronicles 16:28-9, etc. In these instances, the peoples constitute primary nations and they will therefore not be discussed here.

47. Similar to Habakuk 2:20.

48. The term “fear of God” appears five times in relation to the demands directed at the nations. The words of Abraham (“And Abraham said: ‘Because I thought: Surely the fear of God is not in this place; and they will slay me for my wife’s sake'” (Genesis 20:11), teaches us that the fear of God protects man from committing serious crimes, such as murder of a man in order to take his wife. In Egypt, the midwives of the Hebrews were afraid to kill the babies as ordered by Pharaoh, because it was incompatible with “fear of God”: “But the midwives feared God, and did not as the king of Egypt commanded them, but saved the men-children alive” (Exodus 1:17). Prior to the plague of hail it was observed that: “He that feared the word of the Lord among the servants of Pharaoh made his servants and his cattle flee into the houses and he that regarded not the word of the Lord left his servants and his cattle in the field” (Exodus 9:20-1; see also verse 30). For Moses, “fear of God” means obeying God’s commands. In 2 Kings 17:25-41, it means to designate the sacrifice to Him: “So they feared the Lord, and made unto them from among themselves priests of the high places, who sacrificed for them in the houses of the high places” (2 Kings 17:32). Job is considered: “one that feared God” (Job 1:1, 8; 2:3) because of special sacrifices he offers God (Job 1:5). For other interpretations of the concept of differing commentaries on the term “fear of God,” see: Meno Soebagjo, The Fear of Yahweh in the Old Testament (London: doctoral dissertation, Edinburgh University, 1982); and Lindsay Wilson, “The Book of Job and the Fear of God,” Tyndale Bulletin, 46 (1995): 59-79, etc. 49. The meaning of the root RG”Z ((øâæ in Hebrew in this context is similar to the roots RG”SH (øâù), RA”SHøòù) ). See Yair Hoffman, Jeremiah 26-52 (Jerusalem: Am Oved Press, 2001), p. 637 [Hebrew].

50. According to the prophecy of Malachi, in the future the nations will strengthen Israel: “And all nations shall call you happy” (Malachi 3:12).

51. “Shall not the isles shake at the sound. Then all the princes of the sea shall come down from their thrones, and lay away their robes, and strip off their richly woven garments; they shall clothe themselves with trembling; they shall sit upon the ground, and shall tremble every moment, and be appalled at thee….Now shall the isles tremble in the day of thy fall; yea, the isles that are in the sea shall be affrighted at thy going out” (Ezekiel 26:15-16, 18). “At the sound of the cry of thy pilots the waves shall shake. And all that handle the oar, the mariners, and all the pilots of the sea, shall come down from their ships, they shall stand upon the land. And they shall make themselves utterly bald for thee, and gird them with sackcloth, and they shall weep for thee in bitterness of soul with bitter lamentation….All the inhabitants of the isles are appalled at thee, and their kings are horribly afraid, they are troubled in their countenance; The merchants among the peoples hiss at thee” (27:28-31, 35-36).

52. See also Psalms 79:4; 80:7; 89:42; Lamentations 3:46; Jeremiah 19:8; 49:17. More generally, Ezekiel says: “Neither will I suffer the shame of the nations any more to be heard against thee, neither shalt thou bear the reproach of the peoples any more” (Ezekiel. 36:15). See also Ezekiel 34:29.

53. See also “When the whole earth rejoiceth” (Ezekiel 35:14). In Jeremiah’s prophecy on the downfall of Moab, the joy of the neighboring nations described in their downfall and the accompanying fear: “Derision and a dismay to all that are round about him” (Jeremiah 48:39).

54. See also Jeremiah 48:17, 27; 50:13; Nahum 3:17; Zephaniah 2:15. See about that: Paul A. Kruger, “Nonverbal Communication in the Hebrew Bible: A Few Comments,” Journal of Northwest Semitic Languages, 24 (1998): 141-164 and the extensive bibliography.

55. In this prophecy, the Philistines are called “the daughters of Philistine” so as to fit into the context of harlotry and adultery.

56. Block, The Book of Ezekiel, Chapters 1-24, (Grand Rapids, MI: W. B. Eerdmans, 1998), p. 496, n. 199, compares what is written here to Ezekiel 16:52: “Be thou also confounded, and bear thy shame, in that thou hast justified thy sisters.” Namely, the manner of your incest is so bad that the Philistine women who hate you are embarrassed even when they rejoice over in your downfall (Yechiel Z. Moskowitz, The Book of Ezekiel, (Daat Mikrah), (Jerusalem: Harav Kuk Institute, 1985), p. 95 [Hebrew]).

57. In this prophecy the nations of the world are compared to the trees in the Garden of Eden.

58. Silence, awe, fear, hesitation, astonishment, wonder, panic, dismay, mourning traditions, ridicule, happiness, expressions of mockery, shame, jealousy, and anger.

59. The Philistines’ fear in Zechariah’s prophecy: “Ashkelon shall see it and fear, Gaza also and shall be sore pained, and Ekron, for her expectation. shall be ashamed” (Zechariah 9:5), is for their physical existence after the downfall of a neighboring country that is stronger than themselves. Isaiah 33:24 describes the amazement of the neighboring nations upon the salvation of Israel following forgiveness for her sins: “And the inhabitant shall not say: ‘I am sick’; the people that dwell therein shall be forgiven their iniquity.”

60. Ezekiel describes the fear of many nations: “every man for his own life” (Ezekiel 32:10) because of the downfall of Egypt. Regarding the identity of “the dwellers on the coast” mentioned in Isaiah’s prophecy, see Shmuel Vargon, “The Prophecy of Isaiah on the Revolt of Ashdod against Sargon II and its Crushing (Historical Interpretation of a Prophetic Text, Isaiah 20),” Bet Mikrah, 43 (1988): 18, n. 59 [Hebrew].

61. Due to the variety of pertinent sources, it cannot be determined whether this attitude characterizes a specific prophet or poet, or if it is a rhetorical style common in a specific period. Therefore, although a process of historical-literary development that explains this attitude cannot be established, it nonetheless fits the literary context and the political situation that was a basis for the prophetic and poetic works.

62. In this paper 140 passages that describe prophecies and psalms relevant to secondary nations were discussed. Further on we will survey the sources according to their order of appearance in the research. (If in one paragraph there is an overflow of nations and one function for all mentioned can be identified, all the nations will be counted as one. Also, all the works mentioned in the notes were counted.) Eleven passages describe the behavior of the nations: Ezekiel 11:12; Isaiah 1:10; 3:9; Jeremiah 23:14; Michah 4:5; Psalms 120:5-7; Jeremiah 2:10-11; Ezekiel 5:6; 16:48; Lamentations 4:6; and Malachi 1:11-12. Twenty-two passages describe political constellations of nations: Isaiah 9:3; 10, 26; Psalms 83:10, 12; Hosea 11:8; Amos 4:11; Isaiah 1:9; Lamentations 4:6; Jeremiah 49:18; Zephaniah 2:9; Isaiah 13:19; Jeremiah 50:40; Isaiah 23:13; Ezekiel 31:17-18; 32:17-32; 16:57; Zephaniah 3:6; Lamentations 1:21; Amos 6:2; Ezekiel 31:1-9; Nahum 3:8; Isaiah 14:18-20; and Jeremiah 48:13. Six passages describe God’s attitude to the nations: Amos 3:2; 9:8-9; Jeremiah 30:11; 46:28; Psalms 147:19-20; and Amos 9:7. Thirteen passages describe partnerships of the nations in the described episode: Nahum 3:9; Psalms 83:9; Ezekiel 27:10; 30:11; 38:5-6; 16:26, 28; 23:7, 8, 12, 19-21, 42; 27:3, 12-23; 38:13; Jeremiah 47:4; and Ezekiel 30:4-5, 8-9; 38: 5-7, 22; 39:4. Forty-one passages describe passive testimony of the nations at the time of occurrence of the episode: Amos 3:9-10; Jeremiah 18:13; 50:2; Psalms 9:12; 105:1; 1 Chronicles 16:8; Psalms 96:3; Isaiah 66:19; 2 Samuel 22:50; Psalms 18:50; 57:10; 108:4; 67:3; 97:6; 98:2; Isaiah 52:10; 61:9, 11; 62:2; Ezekiel 20:41; 28:25; 36:21-23; 39:27; 20:22; 5:14-15; Lamentations 3:45; Jeremiah 24:9; 44:8; Ezekiel 5:8; 16:37, 39, 41, 44, 45, 52, 54; 2310, 27; 28:18; 32:46; Zechariah 8:13; Joel 2:19; Ezekiel 36:30; 34:29; 36:15; Jeremiah 46:12; Nahum 3:5; and Ezekiel 22:16;12:16. Forty passages describe the astonishment expressed by the secondary nations which was caused by watching what happened to the occurrences of the primary nations: Zechariah 2:17; Habakuk 3:7; 2:20; Psalms 99:1; 48:6-8; 67:8; 102:16-17; Jeremiah 33:9; Lamentations 4:12; Psalms 126:2; Isaiah 61:9; Malachi 3:12; Exodus 15:15-16; Isaiah 23:1-2; Jeremiah 50:46; Ezekiel 28:19; 26:15-18; 27:28-36; 32:16; Hosea 7:16; Psalms 44:14-15; Lamentations 1:7-8; Psalms 79:4; 80:7; 89:42; Lamentations 3:46; Jeremiah 19:8; 49:17; Ezekiel 36:15; 34:29; Lamentations 1:21; 2 Samuel 1:20; Michah 7:8; Ezekiel 35:14; Jeremiah 48:39; Nahum 3:19; Lamentations 2:15-16; and Ezekiel 16:27; 31:9; 32:9-10. Seven passages describe the adjustment of the nations to the new situation that was created: Jeremiah 51:44; Ezekiel 25:10; 26:21; Isaiah 23:14; Zechariah 9:5; and Isaiah 33:24; 20:6.

63. The nations refer to three topics associated with the primary nations: behavioral description, political constellation, and divine attitude.

64. The nations have two functions related to the status of the primary nations: partnership, and testimony to the primary nations regarding the political situation.

65. The positive reaction: learning from the punishment of the “primary nation,” and political readjustment to the new situation that has arisen which involves astonishment and praise for success, aid, and submission. The passive reactions: fear, hesitation, and jealousy emanated from the new condition of the primary nation.

66. The story of the sins and destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, the story of Gideon’s victory over the Midianites, and the defeat of many secondary nations (Babylon, Egypt, Elam, Meshech and Tubal, Edom, the nations of the north, Tyre, Aram, and the Philistines).

67. A foreign ritual and the attitude of the nations to God (Malachi 1:11).

68. The situation in Calneh, Hamat the great, and Gat of the Philistines were no better than that in the Kingdom of Israel during the time of Amos (Amos 6:2). The disinterment of the imperialist is an exceptional event (Isaiah 14:18-20).

69. The destruction of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah was just. According to Amos, the people of Israel are unique in their closeness to God (Amos 3:2); therefore they are not eliminated like other people (Amos 9:8-9; Jeremiah 30:11; 46:28). According to Psalms 147:19-20, the laws given by God to Israel are unique.

70. See also Matitiyahu Zevat, “The Prophets as Public Speakers,” Yearbook of the Bible and Research of the Antique East, 10 (1986-9): 151: “The prophetic reality (especially the judicial).

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AMICHAI NACHSHON completed his doctorate in Bible studies in 2003 at Bar-Ilan University under the direction of Prof. Rimon Kasher on the topic: God’s Requirements from the Gentiles in the Histiographic and Prophetic Biblical Literature. Dr. Nachshon is a teacher and researcher at the Ashkelon Academic College, Bar-Ilan university and Moreshet Yaacob institute, about the ethical aspects of philanthropy, justice, and animal rights in the Bible.