Edinburgh Research Archive >
Divinity, School of >
Divinity thesis and dissertation collection >
Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item:
|Title: ||De-demonising the Old Testament : an investigation of Azazel, Lilith, Deber, Qeteb and Reshef in the Hebrew Bible|
|Authors: ||Blair, Judit M.|
|Supervisor(s): ||Barstad, Hans|
|Issue Date: ||Jan-2009|
|Publisher: ||The University of Edinburgh|
|Abstract: ||The subject of demons and demonology has fascinated scholars and non-scholars,
ancient and modern alike; it is not surprising that much work has been done on the
topic by biblical scholars too.
Chapter 1 places the present study within the existing scholarship showing that the
early works on ‘OT demonology’ were influenced by comparative religion,
anthropology, and an increasing interest in Mesopotamian and Canaanite parallels as
well as a concern to seek and find vestiges of ancient religious beliefs in the Old
The consensus of early 20th century scholars regarding what constitutes a ‘demon’ in
the Old Testament has not been challenged by modern scholarship. Chapter 2 shows
that biblical scholars still commonly turn to the ancient Near Eastern religions and
cultures to explain difficult passages in the Hebrew Bible, to find parallels or the
‘original’ of difficult terms and concepts.
Since it is generally accepted without challenge that azazel, lilith, deber, qeteb and
reshef are the personal names of ‘demons’ appearing in the Hebrew Bible, the
necessity arises to return to the texts in order to examine each term in its context.
The present study seeks to answer the question whether these five terms are names of
‘demons’ in the Hebrew texts as we have them today.
To accomplish its goal the present study will provide an exegesis based on Close
Reading of all the relevant biblical passages in which the terms azazel (chapter 3),
lilith (chapter 4), deber (chapter 5), qeteb (chapter 6), and reshef (chapter 7) appear.
Attention is paid to the linguistic, semantic, and structural levels of the texts. The
emphasis is on a close examination of the immediate context in order to determine
the function (and if possible the meaning) of each term. The reading focuses on
determining how the various signals within the text can guide towards meaning,
noting how the (implied) poet/author uses the various poetical/rhetorical devices,
especially personification, but also parallelism, similes, irony, and mythological
The present study shows that contrary to former and current scholarship there is
nothing in the texts to support the view that azazel, lilith, deber, qeteb and reshef are
the names of ‘demons’. Azazel appears as the personification of the forces of chaos
that threaten the order of creation; his role is to stand in contrast to Yahweh. The
context requires that lilith is regarded as a bird, a night bird being the most plausible
explanation of the term. Deber, qeteb and reshef are personifications of destructive
forces and appear as agents of Yahweh, members of his ’Angels of Evil’ who bring
punishment (death) on the people of Israel for disobedience. There is no evidence to
suggest that there are mythological figures behind azazel, lilith or the
personifications of deber and qeteb. In case of reshef there is a possible connection to
the Semitic deity Reshef. However, the mythological motifs are used merely as a
|Sponsor(s): ||School of Divinity and School of Divinity Postgraduate Students Conference and Research Expenses Award|
|Appears in Collections:||Divinity thesis and dissertation collection|
Items in ERA are protected by copyright, with all rights reserved, unless otherwise indicated.