The "isha zara" in Proverbs 1-9: allegory and allegorization

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Qumran tradents (4Q184), The classical Rabbis, and medieval commentators related to the figure of the "Isha Zara" in Proverbs (2:16–22; 5:1–23; 6:20–35; 7:1–27) as representing abstract dangers, such as foreign wisdom or Gentile culture, using allegory, or rather allegorization, as a legitimate hermeneutic tool. Modern scholars as well have interpreted the "Isha Zara" speeches in a variety of ways, being reluctant to admit that the texts mean nothing more than warnings against dangerous liaisons. This paper aims to retrieve the original meaning of the "Isha Zara" speeches and to prove that it is only the strong figurative and stylistic affinities between the portryals of the "strange woman" and Lady folly (Prov 9:13–18) which have evoked the hermeneutical tendency to interpret the former in light of the later, thus leading to the aforementioned proposed allegories. This conclusion requires setting aside methods such as intertextuality, that too often function as a modern version of midrash. In my view, the "Isha Zara" speeches do not differ from other issues of everyday life dominating the book of Proverbs such as family ethos, parental teaching, domestic harmony, and social stability–themes that are also attested to in another manual of conduct, that is, Ben Sira.
Original languageHebrew
Pages (from-to)89-100
JournalHebrew Studies
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2007

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