Bible Review 18:3, June 2002

When Gods Go Hungry

Mesopotamian rite clarifies puzzling prophecy

By Dominic Rudman

The prophet Zephaniah predicts that the Israelite God Yahweh will overcome the gods of foreign nations. These foreign deities will be deserted by their worshipers, who will turn instead to the God of Israel.

But just how God plans to defeat these false gods is not easily understood. Indeed, the question has perplexed Bible translators and commentators for hundreds of years.

According to the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) of the Bible, God will “shrivel” these other deities:

The Lord will be terrible against them; he will shrivel (rzh) all the gods of the earth, and to [the Lord] shall bow down, each in its place, all the coasts and islands of the nations.

(Zephaniah 2:10–11)

According to the New English Bible translation, God will “reduce to beggary all the gods of the earth.” In the King James Version, God “will famish” the other deities. One recent translator suggests God will simply “rule over” the deities.1 The New Jewish Publication Society’s translation is closer to the NRSV: The Lord causes the gods “to shrivel.”

Join the BAS Library!

Already a library member? Log in here.

Institution user? Log in with your IP address.