Monday, December 05, 2005

BLEG FOR A PHOENICIAN GIANT: I'm wondering if any of my readers can help me with a question I've had for some time. I have a vague memory from perhaps twenty years ago, when I spent a lot of time working with Phoenician, that there is a Phoenician inscription that refers to the biblical figure Og, King of Bashan, (עוג מלך־הבשן) who is mentioned in Numbers 21:31-35; Deuteronmy 1:4; Deuteronomy 3:1-11; Joshua 12:4-5 and 13:12; and a few other biblical passages. The passage in Deuteronomy 3 indicates that he was a giant and the passages in Joshua trace his ancestry back to the Rephaim, who were also known as giants (see 2 Samuel 21:16-22, ילידי הרפה).

At the SBL meetings I asked a bunch of Northwest Semitists about this and a couple of them vaguely remembered it too, one suggesting that it was found in a curse in one of the Byblian inscriptions, which invoked King Og. But no one could remember which text it was precisely and, after I got home, I checked all the Phoenician inscriptions from Byblos and could not find a reference to Og in any of them. And no Og is mentioned in the names indices for Donner and Rôlling's Kanaanäische und Aramäishe Inscriften or Gibson's Syrian Semitic Inscriptions, vol. 3, Phoenician Inscriptions. I don't have access to Benz's Personal Names in the Phoenician and Punic Inscriptions.

So -- is my memory at all correct? Is there a Phoenician, Punic, or Neo-Punic inscription that mentions Og? I'm collecting material on the giants and on ancient non-Israelite mentions of figures from the Hebrew Bible, both for the More Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Project, and I would be very grateful if someone can either point me to the relevant inscription or else tell me authoritatively that there isn't one.

UPDATE (3:30 pm): My thanks to Arne Halbakken, who located the reference for me in HALAT. Wayne Pitard was right: the reference is in a Phoenician inscription from Byblos (Byblos 13). It was published in 1974 by Wolfgang Rölling in "Eine new phoenizische Inscrift aus Byblos," Neue Ephemeris für Semitische Epigraphik, vol 2, 1-15 and plate 1. Apparently J. Starkey published it first in 1970. It is a damaged 7-line funerary inscription that Röllig dates to around 500 BCE. It appears to say that if someone disturbs the bones of the occupant, העג יתבקשנ האדר, "the mighty Og will avenge me." Og the giant, King of Bashan? Could be. The Rephaim were ghosts too. I wonder how common the name was.

UPDATE (29 December): I've posted much more on Og here.

(UPDATE 7 September 2011): I should note that I no longer think that this inscription refers to Og the giant. I will explain my reasons in my general introduction to the Book of Giants, which is to be translated for volume 2 of the More Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Project.

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