A Hittite blessing for a house (Psalm 127)

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Illustration: Hittite beehive houses from Harran

Virtually all people are concerned for the well-being of their own home and household. Frequently people will invoke divine help for the protection of their families, but often the differences we see among such invocations are far greater than what they have in common.

A Hittite text has been discovered that describes ritual purification of a house deemed to have become ritually polluted. The reason for the alleged defilement is unclear; perhaps its inhabitants had suffered from misfortune or infertility or the house itself had manifested problems such as mildew. The text explains that an exorcist came and ritually recited various possible explanations for the defilement, suggesting that perhaps a perjurer, murderer or witch had entered the house. The exorcist proceeded with an elaborate ritual involving the recitation of myths and magic formulas, while making animal sacrifices and pouring out libations at various locations. All of this was meant to encourage primordial deities to carry off the uncleanness of the house to the underworld.

Although the Old Testament specifies a number of rituals that concern uncleanness, none involves magic formulas, recitation of myths or the invocation of infernal deities. In fact, the Old Testament is extremely practical in its outlook regarding household defilement (see Leviticus 14:33-57). Psalm 127 vividly illustrates the Old Testament attitude toward the welfare of a household. First, security comes from God, not from personal diligence (127:1-2). Second, children, as a gift from God, constitute the true wealth of a home (127:3-5). Reverence for God and the devotion to family are at the heart of the Bible’s teaching on the well-being of a home, in contrast to the superstition of pagan teaching.


 

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