The Vanishing Hebrew Harlot

The Adventures of the Hebrew Stem ZNH

by Irene E. Riegner (Author)
©2010 Monographs XVIII, 239 Pages
Series: Studies in Biblical Literature, Volume 73


The Vanishing Hebrew Harlot is written with two objectives: First, to recover the core meaning of the Hebrew stem ZNH as a complex of non-Yahwist rituals, deities, institutions and beliefs prevalent in ancient Israel and Judah. With this understanding, the author assigns the translation value «participate in non-Yahwist religious praxis» to ZNH. The second objective is to understand how this core meaning came to be encrusted with promiscuity, prostitution, and detestable things, and, above all, with adultery, a capital offense, as well as with religious contamination and its destructive consequences. In the biblical texts, the stem ZNH, which encompasses a complex of non-Yahwist religious practices, operates in a powerful, adversarial relationship to the Yahwist complex of religious practices. Since non-Yahwist sacrifices signify the repudiation of Yahweh, non-Yahwist sacrifices arouse fierce opposition. The prophets Hosea and Jeremiah grasp this adversarial relationship and in their advocacy for Yahweh infuse non-Yahwist praxis with images of illicit sexual encounters and with the production of religious contamination that will lead to the devastation of Israel and Judah and to the exile of their inhabitants. The new structure of ZNH that emerges with Hosea and Jeremiah is one that re-visions ZNH activities by incorporating repugnant sexual imagery and devastating theological contamination into the core of non-Yahwist praxis. However, ZNH also has a sexual signification in contexts that are independent of and distinct from cultic contexts. The stem ZNH is examined in its Ancient Near Eastern environment, but the thrust of this research is the analysis of ZNH in its Hebrew textual environment using concepts from cognitive linguistics: network of associations, associated commonplaces, and blending.


XVIII, 239
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2009 (October)
Hebräisch znh-Stamm Altes Testament Sakrale Prostitution Marriage metaphor, adultery, prostitution, Hosea Jeremiah adultery Hosea Gome Gomer's children sacrifice Baal Peor intermarriage priests ritual contamination religious contamination holiness independent women Ugaritic Aramaic tav prostitution Marriage metaphor assimilation purity
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2009. XVIII, 239 pp.

Biographical notes

Irene E. Riegner (Author)

The Author: Irene E. Riegner holds an M.A. and Ph.D. in religious studies from Temple University in Philadelphia and has also taken courses at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. Among Riegner’s research interests are the use of metaphor as a structuring device in the Hebrew Bible as well as the types and functions of the various ideological frames that surround the Hebrew texts.


Title: The Vanishing Hebrew Harlot