Metathesis in the Hebrew Bible: Wordplay As a Literary and Exegetical Device
Author: Isaac Kalimi
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Metathesis in the Hebrew Bible begins by briefly discussing linguistic metathesis, in which letters or sounds are unintentionally inverted during the historical development of a language, and textual metathesis, in which the letters of a word are accidentally inverted during the transmission of a text. This sets the stage for the heart of the book, which focuses on the widespread use of literary-stylistic metathesis in the Hebrew Bible, in which two or more words that use the same letters in opposite orders are deliberately juxtaposed within a sentence.
The book also demonstrates that literary metathesis is not limited to the Hebrew Bible, but that it also appears in postbiblical Jewish Hebrew compositions, such as The Wisdom of Ben Sira and the rabbinic literature. This leads to the conclusion that the use of this literary tool by the Rabbis in the midrashic literature is not a late, artificial approach to Scripture, but rather one that has deep roots in the biblical texts themselves and that continued to develop in the writings of the Second Temple period and in later Jewish writings.
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