A recent article by Stuart Irvine adduced new arguments for the emendation of the Masoretic Text (MT) [phrase omitted] 'according to their understanding' in Hos. 13:2 to [phrase omitted] 'according to their design', (1) as proposed by numerous scholars in the past and with considerable versional support (LXX, Vulgate, Targum, Peshitta). (2) The present essay will argue that such an alteration of MT is unnecessary and that the received text makes perfect sense as it stands.
First, in the realm of morphology, while the base form [phrase omitted] 'understanding' in Hos. 13:2 constitutes the only such t[partial derivative]qul form in Biblical Hebrew (BH) (3)--in contrast to its common feminine counterpart [phrase omitted] (41x) (4)--if we expand our horizons just a bit we are able to cite the following parallel forms:
Ben Sira 3:14 (MS A lr:6) [phrase omitted] 'exchange' Ben Sira 4:10 (MS A 1 r:28) [phrase omitted] 'exchange' 4Q405 ([ShirShab.sup.f]) 32.3 [phrase omitted] 'offering' Note that the standard forms in BH are [phrase omitted] 'exchange' (6x) (5) and [phrase omitted] 'offering' (63x), (6) respectively. And yet here in post-biblical Hebrew we encounter the afore-cited forms, in exact relationship as Hos. 13:2 [phrase omitted] stands to standard [phrase omitted]. (7)
Now, to be sure, there may be problems with these post-biblical citations. Since the word [phrase omitted] 'exchange' appears only in a medieval manuscript of Ben Sira (MS A), (8) quite possibly this form represents a later accretion to Hebrew morphology, especially since this very word is common in the piyyutim of Yosi, Yannai, Qillir, et al. (9) And yet in general scholars of Ben Sira agree that the medieval manuscripts serve as reliable witnesses to the ancient composition, without major accretions of later lexical and/or grammatical features. (10) This is especially demonstrable when we have overlap between the Masada scroll and MS B (spanning Ben Sira 39:27-44:17). (11) Not that every form or lexeme in the medieval manuscripts should be naively accepted as ancient, but the point remains. In the words of E. Y. Kutscher, "The Masada fragments prove beyond a doubt that the Geniza fragments represent the Hebrew original." (12)
A parallel to the case of [phrase omitted] in Ben Sira ~ [phrase omitted] in 4Q405 may be helpful. Once upon a time, scholars may have questioned the antiquity of [phrase omitted] 'trial, ordeal' in Ben Sira 33:1 (MS B Vv:16; MS E Ir:9; MS F Iv:13), (13) 44:20 (MS B XIVr:6), (14) especially since the word was known only from the piyyutim of Yannai. (15) The Dead Sea Scrolls, however, attest to the word five(!) times, e.g., 1QS 1.18, demonstrating its active employment in literary Hebrew of the second century BCE. (16)
In short, and to repeat, in general the medieval manuscripts of Ben Sira may serve as reliable testimony to the literary Hebrew of the late Second Temple period. To return to the specific case before us, note that M. H. Segal, in his commentary, accepted Ben Sira 3:14, 4:10 [phrase omitted] as authentic and indeed correlated the form to Hos. 13:2 [phrase omitted] (17)
The above reference to [phrase omitted] offering' in 4Q405 ([ShirShab.sup.f]) 32.3 involves a problem of a different kind, because the fragment (which already is tiny) breaks just after the mem (see Fig. 1).
But since the form there is clearly a final mem, one will assume that this completes the word, hence, [phrase omitted] Caution is advised, since Qumran scribes occasionally used final mem in medial position (and even in initial position, albeit more rarely), (19) but such instances are rare, so that the default reading at 4Q405 32.3 is clearly [phrase omitted] (and not [phrase omitted]). (20)
In short, Irvine's comment that "[phrase omitted] lacks the support of even one other attestation of the form" (21) (by which, I assume, he means the morphology in general, not this specific noun) is correct for BH proper, (22) but not for ancient Hebrew generally when late Second Temple period sources are incorporated into the picture. (23)
MESOPOTAMIAN (AND OTHER) PARALLELS
The full context of Hos. 13:2 is: [phrase omitted] "and they made for themselves, molten-images from their silver according to their understanding, idols, the work of craftsmen all of it." (24) That is to say, the images are the products of craftsmen who typically use their skill and understanding for the benefit of humanity, but in this case have done so for the manufacture of idols. All of this, of course, is a typical prophetic critique of the worship of idols, both in Israel (especially notable in Hosea) and in surrounding lands, in particular Babylonia (as manifested in Second Isaiah). (25)
The main point to be presented here is that the skill and understanding of craftsmen engaged in the production of cultic venues and objects (ranging from temples to idols) is noted throughout Mesopotamian literature--so that [phrase omitted] 'understanding' makes perfect sense within the context of Hos. 13:2.
In fact, all three of the classic texts put forward by Irvine as support for his proposed emendation include this trope. First, from the well-known Shamash Tablet from the reign of Nabu-apla-iddina (c. 888-855 BCE), col. IV, 11. 12-20: (26)
To fashion that image, he (the king) directed his attention. Then through the craft (nemequ) of Ea, by the skill (sipru) of Ninildu ... the image of Shamash, the great lord, he (the king) carefully prepared. (27) Second, from the Erra Epic (eighth century BCE), Tablet II, col. 1,11. 34-35, one reads as follows:
He himself [sc. Marduk] gave those same (human) craftsmen great discretion (libbu rapsu) and authority, He gave them wisdom (uznu) and perfect dexterity. (28) Next, consider the...