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Capital letter P. Leviticus 24:10-11

CAT 38  Capital letter P.  Leviticus 24.10-11. Taferelen.  BA 58..jpg

CAT 37. Capital letter P. Printed as the first letter of Tableau 3 (from Leviticus 24:10-11) in Taferelen der voornaamste geschiedenissen van het Oude en Nieuwe Testament. The Hague: Pieter de Hondt, 1728, 1:119. Melville Memorial Room, Berkshire Athenaeum.

Leviticus 24: “[10] And the son of an Israelitish woman, whose father was an Egyptian, went out among the children of Israel: and this son of the Israelitish woman and a man of Israel strove together in the camp; [11] And the Israelitish woman’s son blasphemed the name of the LORD, and cursed. And they brought him unto Moses (and his mother’s name was Shelomith, the daughter of Dibri, of the tribe of Dan): [12] And they put him in ward, till the mind of the Lord might be shewed them.”

The two barefoot men in the foreground are separated by the letter P, whose upper curve contains the accusing finger of the man on the right. From the moment of accusation depicted here, the death of the son of Shelomith comes quickly in Leviticus 24. The will of the Lord is to “bring forth him that hath cursed out of the camp; and let all that heard him lay their hands upon his head, and let all the congregation stone him.” The penalty for “he who blasphemeth” is death for “the stranger as well as” the Israelite. After further instructions that include the “eye for eye” and “tooth for tooth,” the people of Israel brought the son of Shelomith out of the camp and stoned him to death (Leviticus 24:13-23), as depicted by Hoet in the full-page illustration for this Tableau. Saurin’s commentary begins with this message: “Cesspools of venom are in the mouth of the godless. What the helm is to a ship, and the bridle to a horse, such is the tongue to humankind” (1:119). Among the Dutch words printed on the verso of Melville’s engraving is “uitgerukt” (tear out), as in to tear out one’s tongue (“tong”). 

A bracketed addendum to Leviticus 24 in Melville’s Bible dates the action of this chapter “before Christ 1490” (Cowen 3:111-12).