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An Egyptian Loanword in the Book of Isaiah and the Deir 'Alla Inscription: Heb. nṣr, Aram. nqr, and Eg. nṯr as “[Divinized] Corpse”

Christopher B. Hays


The Egyptian noun ntr, “god,” provides a plausible explanation for Hebrew נצר in Isa 14:19 and נצורים in 65:4, both of which have thus far defied positive explanation. In Isa 14 it is perfectly suited to mock the king’s divine aspirations; it commonly refers to the deceased king and to the mummified corpse in Egyptian; it requires a strong negative modifier such as נתעב ; and it is no great stretch to think that Isaiah knew such common Egyptian vocabulary. In Isa 65:4 it avoids an emendation and reveals a far better parallelism (graves/corpses) than other proposed solutions. Isaiah 49:6 has long been understood to employ the same word as 65:4, and it may well reflect an intentional wordplay on the meanings “returning the survivors” and “restoring the corpses.” Finally, the Aramaic term nqr in Deir ‘Alla II.5, 12, 14 has frequently been connected to the Isaianic texts, and a reference to a divinized dead person in makes better sense in the context than a word related to “detached flesh.”


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