“You Have Refined Us Like Silver is Refined” (Ps 66:10): Yahweh’s Metallurgical Powers in Ancient Judah

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Jeremy D. Smoak http://orcid.org/0000-0002-1678-0684


Since the discovery of the Ketef Hinnom amulets most studies have focused upon the semantic content of their inscriptions and their relationship to the biblical texts. As a result, few studies asked how their manufacture from silver and their design as tiny scrolls communicated meaning. The present study attempts to fill this lacuna by exploring their materiality as purified silver that was rolled into tiny scrolls. While past studies emphasize that silver was a signifier of economic and social status, I argue that the affordances of silver were also central to their ritual logic. I show how a material religion approach to the amulets offers new insights into the sensory affordances of silver and how this metal’s properties mediated notions of divine presence and ritual purity. Several biblical texts describe Yahweh as a divine metallurgist who attempts to purify Judah through the removal or extraction of base alloys or impurities. Beyond clarifying the affordances of Ketef Hinnom’s silver, I argue that the silver materiality of the objects guided or influenced their semantic content. Verbal allusions to covenant loyalty and the shining face of Yahweh complemented silver’s chemical purity and shine.

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