Smite or be smitten

One of the pleasures of studying ancient peoples is that you can actually talk about people smiting others, because they actively smote back then and were not just smitten. Of course, mostly it was the powerful people, like pharaos, who smote others, usually their enemies. While smiting was a serious business and doubtlessly caused endless suffering, I do not doubt that then, just as now, people liked to play on self-aggrandizement to undermine the apparent importance and stature of the powerful. I don’t know whether such an attitude was expressed in Proverbs 30:29-31

There are three things that are stately in their stride,
four that move with stately bearing:
a lion, mighty among beasts,
who retreats from nothing;
a strutting cock, a he-goat,
and a king with his army around him. (NIV)

But it can certainly be read that a mighty king just struts around like cock or a goat. In any case, we must be grateful to the English language for giving us a word that is not only conveys the seriousness and satire of rather violent actions, but also expresses these intonations so well phonetically.

With this in mind I was excited that we might have discovered a smiting arm at Tell Halif. This arm of a statue was discovered in my square in somewhat uncertain context, namely backfill created when parts of the tell were levelled for agricultural purposes in the Byzantine period. Therefore, the statue could be rather late, for example from the Roman or Hellenistic period. Since most figurines in our area are from the Persian period, I’d guess that this fragment could also come from this time. The arm might not be an upraised, smiting arm, but rather held by the side, maybe clasping a sceptre or a bowl.
The arm is relatively big. It would certainly have come from a larger figurine than any we have found thus far at Tell Halif. Whether you tend to go with the smiting interpretation or see a more peaceful stance, it nevertheless is an exciting find early in the season.

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