A Metaphorical Etiology in Judges 18:12

  • Uwe F. W. Bauer

Abstract

At first glance, the names of the localities in Judg 18:12 do not seem to fit the framework of chapter 18. Traditionally, v.12 (in particular 12ba) is therefore labelled as an etiological note which was added later. P. J. van Dijk has made it clear, however, that texts viewed as etiological often do not explain or legitimize any phenomena, but -as rhetorical devices -lend credibility to stories. However, the fact that a place named Mahaneh-dan is unknown to us argues against both the classical-etiological understanding of v.12 and that of van Dijk. A solution to the problem begins with the geographical location and the theological meaning of the city of Kiriath-jearim. Geographically, Kiriath-jearim is in Judah, on the boundary of the Northern Kingdom; theologically the city may be associated with the ark of the covenant, and thereby with the Torah of YHWH. That the Danites are encamped at or beyond of Kiriath-jearim, shows from a Judean perspective that they distance themselves from Judah and the Torah of YHWH. Their way -leading diagonally from the Southwest to the Northeast through the Northern Kingdom, and therefore representing pars pro toto the conduct of life for all of the Northern tribes -is a way of brutal force and uninhibited serving of idols. Because the location of the encampment of the Danites is called Mahaneh-dan, "Dan's Camp", the Danites are characterized as anti-Yahwist desperados. Judg 18:12 is neither a classical etiology nor a rhetorical device, but a metaphorical etiology, i.e. a verse governed by its context in such a way, that it signifies something other than what it appears to signify.
Published
2001-12-31
Section
Articles