Date of this Version
The Hebrew Bible is full of miracles, but without, it seems, a word to describe them. The post-biblical and modern term for miracle, nes(pl. nissim), does occur in the Hebrew Bible, but with only two exceptions with a concrete referent, it means a pole (Numbers 21, 9-9; Isaiah 30,17), a flag, an ensign (Isaiah 5, 26; 11, 10 and 12; 13, 2; 18,3; 62,10; Jeremiah 4, 6 and 21; 50,2; 51,12 and 27; Psalms 60, 6) or a flag on top of a mast (Isaiah 33, 23; Ezekiel 27,7). The word occurs as a metaphor twice. In Exodus 17, 16, Moses builds an altar and names it 'Adonai-nissiM/em>', that is 'the Lord is my banner'. In Numbers 26, 10, the extraordinary event in nature in which "the earth opened its mouth and swallowed" Korah and his band, is referred to as a nes, a warning sign and an example1. The term serves to name not to narrate the incident. It is absent from the biblical text which unfolds the events surrounding the disappearance of Korah (Numbers 16), but occurs in its editorial summary.
Originally published in Fabula © 1994 DeGruyter.
Ben-Amos, D. (1994). Historical Poetics and Generic Shift: Niphla'ot ve-Nissim. Fabula, 35 20-49. http://dx.doi.org/10.1515/fabl.1994.35.1-2.20
Date Posted: 22 September 2017
This document has been peer reviewed.