Israel’s House: Reflections On The Use Of Byt Ysõrʾl In The Old Testament In The Light Of Its Ancient Near Eastern Environment -- By: Daniel I. Block

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 28:3 (Sep 1985)
Article: Israel’s House: Reflections On The Use Of Byt Ysõrʾl In The Old Testament In The Light Of Its Ancient Near Eastern Environment
Author: Daniel I. Block


Israel’s House:
Reflections On The Use Of Byt Ysõrʾl In The Old Testament In The Light Of Its Ancient Near Eastern Environment

Daniel I. Block*

In the OT the nation of Israel is referred to in a variety of ways. Recalling the traditions of their putative ancestor, the poets and prophets of Israel frequently employ “Jacob” as a collective eponymous designation for their nation.1 Several interesting features characterize this usage. First, in two-thirds of these texts Jacob is paralleled with another designation for the nation, usually “Israel” itself.2 Surprisingly, Jacob is overwhelmingly favored as the a-word in the pair.3 Furthermore there appears to be a pronounced tendency to combine

*Daniel Block is associate professor of Old Testament at Bethel Theological Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota.

the name with another noun in genitive constructions.4 Of interest also is the frequent appositional association of Jacob with “my/his servant” (ʾbdy/w).5 Finally, Jacob appears to have been especially appropriate as a vocative term.6

Much more common, however, is the name Israel, which occurs 2,517 times, frequently in combination with other terms, thus producing compound forms of the name. Especially important are the expressions bny yśrʾl (hereafter “bny Israel”), byt yśrʾl and zrʾyśrʾl.7 Having previously investigated the significance of the first of these,8 the present study will focus on the usage and significance of byt yśrʾl.9 The procedure followed will consist of two major parts: (1) an examination of the significance of byt yśrʾl in the light of its OT context, and (2) an examination of the use of the byt-GN (“geographical name”) form as a national designation in the cognate Semitic texts. In the conclusion we will seek to synthesize the findings to arrive at a clearer understanding of the use of byt yśrʾl (hereafter “byt Israel”) as a self-de...

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