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Review of Biblical Literature Blog

Yahweh's Winged Form in the Psalms: Exploring Congruent Iconography and Texts
LeMon, Joel M.

Fribourg/Göttingen: Academic Press/Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2010 pp. xiv + 231. $87.00

Series Information
Orbis Biblicus et Orientalis, 242

Description: The striking image of the winged Yahweh occurs in six psalms (e. g., Ps 17:8 Hide me in the shadow of your wings). Scholars have disagreed on the background, meaning, and significance of the image, arguing that it: (1) likens the Israelite deity to a bird; (2) alludes to the winged sun disk; (3) draws from general Egyptian symbolism for protection; (4) evokes images of winged goddesses; or (5) refers to winged cherubim in the temple and/or on the ark of the covenant. These divergent proposals signal a need for clearer methods of interpreting biblical imagery in light of visual-artistic material from the ancient Near East. This volume refines iconographic methodologies by treating the image of the winged Yahweh as one among a constellation of literary images in each psalm. Since the portrayals of Yahweh in each psalm have distinct contours, one finds several congruencies in Syro-Palestinian iconographic material. The congruent iconographic motifs for Yahweh's winged form include (1) the winged sun disk (in multiple forms and variations), (2) the Horus falcon, (3) winged suckling goddesses, and (4) winged deities in combat. No single image stands behind the portrayals of Yahweh. In fact, even within a single psalm, more than one iconographic trope can provide congruency with the literary imagery and inform the interpretation of the text. Thus, the winged Yahweh in the Psalms provides an example of a 'multistable' literary image, one which simultaneously evokes multiple iconographical motifs.

Subjects: Bible, Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, Writings, Ancient Near East, Egyptian Literature, Literature, Psalms

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Review by Jeremy M. Hutton
Published 8/6/2011
Citation: Jeremy M. Hutton, review of Joel M. LeMon, Yahweh's Winged Form in the Psalms: Exploring Congruent Iconography and Texts, Review of Biblical Literature [] (2011).

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