Wednesday, January 18, 2006

WHAT DO ELISHA and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy have in common? See Chris Weimer's comment to this Gypsy Scholar post to find out.

Cross file under "Cosmic Synchronicities."

UPDATE (19 January): Chris e-mails:
I saw you had mentioned my note on the number 42 and Elisha. There's more - Judges reports 42000 "sibboleth" sayers slain, 42 of Ahab's descendents slain, and 42 plays a role in the Apocalypse of John. I wish I could find the article I was looking for. If I do, I'll let you know. All I remember is that the article had an allusion to "Hitchhiker's" in the title, something along the lines of "Life, the Universe"... Have you heard of the article?

No, I haven't, but perhaps one of PaleoJudaica's resourceful readers has.
UPDATE: This isn't it, but reader Colin Toffelmire notes a related article:
Laura Joffe “The Answer to the Meaning of Life, the Universe and the Elohistic Psalter” JSOT 27 (2002): 223-235.

UPDATE: Chris e-mails to thank Colin and writes:
Ah, yes, that was the article that I had in mind. If I may quote the relevant portions to you.

"It is therefore my suggestion that the Elohistic editing was motivated by the desire to link the names of God with the number 42—to alter them according to the number 42, possibly by reducing the instances of the divine name Yahweh in these Psalms to 42.4 The motivation for the redaction would have been magical or theurgic."

"In the Hebrew Bible, 42 is a number of disaster and ill-omen. 42,000 Ephraimites are slain for not being able to say 'shibboleth' in Judg. 12.6. In 2 Kgs 10.14, the 42 relatives of Ahaziah are killed by Jehu. The Chronicles parallel of this incident is instructive. While the Chronicler does not specify how many relatives were killed (2 Chron. 22.8), he does alter the age at which Ahaziah came to the throne from 22 years (2 Kgs 8.26) to 42 (2 Chron. 22.2)."

"Particularly relevant to my case is 2 Kgs 2.24. Here Elisha curses in the name of Yahweh the children who had been taunting him (ויקללם בשם יהוה). Two bears then come out of the wood and kill 42 of them. Note the artificial (providential?) nature of the number in this incident—rather than having 42 children taunt Elisha, 42 of a larger group are slain by bears who, presumably, can count. This instance incorporates the three elements which are central to my case: cursing, the name of Yahweh, and the number 42."

"Turning to the New Testament, Rev. 11.2 gives the period of rampage to be 42 months (or put differently, 1260 days in Rev. 11.3; 12.6). In Revelation 13, a beast with blasphemous names on its head (v. 1) spends a period of 42 months (v. 5) blaspheming against God and his name (v. 6). Thus while 42 clearly has a larger, diabolical tradition, we have in Rev. 13.1-5 a restatement of the triad: blaspheming, the name of God, and the number 42.

The number 42 resurfaces in Jewish tradition in the form of a 42-lettered name of God, which is well-attested from the Talmud to the present day."

Hmmm ... I'm still not sure what the ultimate question is.

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