You are on page 1of 20

Demons and Illness

from Antiquity to the

Early-Modern Period

Edited by

Siam Bhayro and

Catherine Rider


For use by the Author only | © 2017 Koninklijke Brill NV


Preface ix
Contributors x

1 Introduction 1
Siam Bhayro and Catherine Rider

Ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt

2 Shifting Alignments: The Dichotomy of Benevolent and Malevolent

Demons in Mesopotamia 19
Gina Konstantopoulos

3 The Natural and Supernatural Aspects of Fever in Mesopotamian

Medical Texts 39
András Bácskay

4 Illness as Divine Punishment: The Nature and Function of the

Disease-Carrier Demons in the Ancient Egyptian Magical Texts 53
Rita Lucarelli

5 Demons at Work in Ancient Mesopotamia 61

Lorenzo Verderame

Second Temple Judaism and Late Antiquity

6 Demons and Illness in Second Temple Judaism: Theory and Practice 81

Ida Fröhlich

7 Illness and Healing through Spell and Incantation in the Dead Sea
Scrolls 97
David Hamidović

8 Conceptualizing Demons in Late Antique Judaism 111

Gideon Bohak

For use by the Author only | © 2017 Koninklijke Brill NV

vi Contents

9 Oneiric Aggressive Magic: Sleep Disorders in Late Antique Jewish

Tradition 134
Alessia Bellusci

10 The Influence of Demons on the Human Mind according to

Athenagoras and Tatian 175
Chiara Crosignani

11 Demonic Anti-Music and Spiritual Disorder in the Life of Antony 192

Sophie Sawicka-Sykes

12 Over-Eating Demoniacs in Late Antique Hagiography 215

Sophie Lunn-Rocklifffe


13 Miracles and Madness: Dispelling Demons in Twelfth-Century

Hagiography 235
Anne E. Bailey

14 Demons in Lapidaries? The Evidence of the Madrid MS Escorial,

h.I.15 256
M. Carolina Escobar Vargas

15 The Melancholy of the Necromancer in Arnau de Vilanova’s Epistle

against Demonic Magic 271
Sebastià Giralt

16 Demons, Illness, and Spiritual Aids in Natural Magic and Image

Magic 291
Lauri Ockenström

17 Between Medicine and Magic: Spiritual Aetiology and Therapeutics in

Medieval Islam 313
Liana Saif

18 Demons, Saints, and the Mad in the Twelfth-Century Miracles of

Thomas Becket 339
Claire Trenery

For use by the Author only | © 2017 Koninklijke Brill NV

Contents vii

Early Modernity

19 The Post-Reformation Challenge to Demonic Possession 359

Harman Bhogal

20 From A Discoverie to The Triall of Witchcraft: Doctor Cotta and

Godly John 376
Pierre Kapitaniak

21 Healing with Demons? Preternatural Philosophy and Superstitious

Cures in Spanish Inquisitorial Courts 396
Bradley J. Mollmann

22 Afterword: Pandaemonium 412
Peregrine Horden

Index of Subjects 419
Index of Texts 421

For use by the Author only | © 2017 Koninklijke Brill NV


Demons and Illness in Second Temple Judaism:

Theory and Practice

Ida Fröhlich

Biblical and nonbiblical texts from the Second Temple period testify to the
notion that illnesses and physical dysfunctions were linked to demons.
The Qumran library is a rich repository of both biblical and nonbiblical texts
from this period. Fragments of the texts of the Masoretic canon (with the
exception of the book of Esther) have been discovered among the Dead Sea
Scrolls. Besides these, works labelled today as apocryphal and pseudepigraphal
books are represented by several copies in their original language—usually
Hebrew or Aramaic, but both in the case of the book of Tobit which appears to
have had authoritative status in the tradition of the Qumran community,1 and
which demonstrates a belief in demons even being able to kill humans.
Ancient near eastern cultures considered demons and spirits to be an axi-
omatically coherent part of the world, liminal beings that are neither human
nor divine. Their relation to gods (or to God in monotheistic religions) is often
doubtful and controversial. In contrast to gods, they do not receive regular
offferings from humans. However, their activity concerns the human world.
They can be good or evil, although the latter is much better represented and
usually more characteristic than the other former. They are usually imagined
as aeriform fijigures, often with a wind-like nature. Demons can also appear in
the form of animals.2 Their residences are remote places, the desert or ruins,

1  Represented by four Aramaic (4Q196–199) and one Hebrew copy (4Q200), the book of Tobit
is a unique example of a work documented both in Aramaic and Hebrew. All the copies
were written between 100 and 50 BC. Other apocryphal and pseudepigraphic works whose
original Hebrew or Aramaic versions were found in Qumran are 1 Enoch (Aramaic), Jubilees
(Hebrew) and Ben Sira (Hebrew).
2  For Egypt, Rita Lucarelli, “Demonology during the Late Pharaonic and Greco-Roman periods
in Egypt,” Journal of Ancient Near Eastern Religions 11 (2011), 110–125, gives a good overview of
ancient beliefs on demons. For Mesopotamia, see Jeremy A. Black and Anthony Green, Gods,
Demons and Symbols of Ancient Mesopotamia: An Illustrated Dictionary (Austin, 1995). For
demons in the ancient near eastern world, see Karel Van der Toorn, Bob Becking, and Pieter
Willem Van der Horst, Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible, second edition (Leiden
and Grand Rapids, 1999).

© koninklijke brill nv, leiden, 2017 | doi 10.1163/9789004338548_007

For use by the Author only | © 2017 Koninklijke Brill NV
82 Fröhlich

outside the boundaries of the regular human world. They are often referred to
as related in some way to the nether world. As for their origin, Mesopotamian
texts very often refer to them as “the spawn of Anu”, begotten by the sky-
god with Erṣetu (Earth), but no systematic statements are given about
their origin.3
The Hebrew Bible is usually not favourable to demons. However, several
chance remarks testify to beliefs in spiritual beings that may have a decisive
efffect on human life.4 When they are mentioned, demons are referred to as
a natural part of the (human) world—e.g. the spirit sent by God to cause dis-
cord between Abimelech and the lords of Shechem (Jud 9:23). The reference
(probably penned by a Deutenronomic redactor) to the rwḥ r‛h sent by God
(1 Sam 16:14) to cause madness in Saul relates to an illness that is psychiatric in
nature.5 The therapy of Saul’s illness, David’s playing (ngn) on the lyre (knwr) in
1 Sam 16:23, is clearly magical in nature, simultaneously pointing to the magical
side of David’s character. The exact way the spirit works is not explained in the
narrative.6 It can be assumed, however, that a belief in demons and associated
magical practices had been an integral part of ancient Israelite thought since
preexilic times. This assumption is supported by the amulets found in Ketef
Hinnom (near Jerusalem), originating from the late preexilic period. These
silver plates, bearing texts of blessing, attest to a special form of apotropaic
object in ancient Judah: wearing a holy text on the body with the purpose of
warding offf demonic harm.

The Foundation of Jewish Demonology

As mentioned above, ancient near eastern and classical texts give only scant
explanations regarding the origin of demons—reports like the myth of

3  A recurring element in the descriptions of UDUG.HUL, the evil utukku demons, is their ori-
gin from Anu and Erṣetu; see Markham J. Geller, Evil Demons: Canonical Utukkū Lemnūtu
Incantations (Helsinki, 2007).
4  See Ann Jefffers, Magic and Divination in Ancient Palestine and Syria (Leiden, 1996), who dis-
cusses a variety of magical techniques in the Bible.
5  Saul’s illness is generally taken to be bipolar disorder. The demonological literature shows
that demons were believed to cause mental illness; see Markham J. Geller, “Freud and
Mesopotamian Magic,” in Mesopotamian Magic: Textual, Historical, and Interpretative
Perspectives, ed. Tzvi Abusch and Karel van der Toorn (Groningen, 1999), pp. 49–55.
6  New Testament reports of exorcisms often reflect the idea that the demon was inside the
body of the victim. Other manifestations can also be imagined, however, such as the spirit
residing outside the body, near to the victim.

For use by the Author only | © 2017 Koninklijke Brill NV

Demons and Illness in Second Temple Judaism 83

the origin of the demon Lamaštu/Labartu are exceptional. Systematic and

theoretical demonology is rare among the texts produced in ancient near
eastern cultures.7
The Second Temple period is a time of the “recrudescence of Jewish demon-
ology”—at the same time, it is an age of creating a theoretical demonology
explaining the origin of evil. The establishing of an etiology of demons and
a demonological system occurs in various cultures when practice related to
demons needs a legitimation. Demonology is formulated in myths on the ori-
gin of evil. In Judaism, an etiology of demonic evil was shaped between the
fijifth and third centuries BC in the Enochic corpus as an independent tradi-
tion, providing an answer to the question of the origin of evil in the world.8
Texts are social products, and Mesopotamian culture—the background of the
exile—provided a strong impetus to this, the Babylonian exile being when
the self-identifijication of the exilic community was shaped against a foreign
milieu. The means of this self-identifijication were, fijirst of all, practising special
customs that were presented as traditional, insisting upon endogamy, main-
taining genealogical purity, and shaping distinctive ideas on the origin of evil.9
The latter was done in the core tradition of the Enochic collection. Fragments
of the Aramaic original of a group of Enochic writings were found in the
library of the Qumran community. These Enochic writings were the source of

7  A rare exception is the utukkū lemnūtu tradition, about the seven evil spirits, which gives sys-
tematic descriptions of evil demons that cause infertility, impotence, drought, famines, and
mortality among humans and animals. This tradition was documented in both Sumerian and
Akkadian—a canonical collection was compiled in the Neo-Babylonian period; see Geller,
Evil Demons.
8  Gen 1–11 gives a very diffferent etiology of evil; see Joseph Blenkinsopp, Creation, Un-creation,
Re-creation: a Discursive Commentary on Genesis 1–11 (London, 2011).
9  The prohibition of intermarriage and the ideal of endogamy are widely documented
in postexilic Jewish sources, from Ezra and Nehemiah through to Tobit, Jubilees, and the
Qumran Genesis Apocryphon, as well as in later Rabbinic works. See Thomas Hieke,
“Endogamy in the Book of Tobit, Genesis, and Ezra-Nehemiah,” in The Book of Tobit: Text,
Tradition, Theology, ed. Géza G. Xeravits (Leiden, 2005), pp. 103–120; William Loader, The
Dead Sea Scrolls on Sexuality: Attitudes towards Sexuality in Sectarian and Related Literature
at Qumran (Grand Rapids, 2009), p. 291 (on the Genesis Apocryphon); Christine E. Hayes,
“Intermarriage and Impurity in Ancient Jewish Sources,” Harvard Theological Review 92
(1999), 3–36; Christine E. Hayes, Gentile Impurities and Jewish Identities: Intermarriage and
Conversion from the Bible to the Talmud (Oxford, 2002); Christine E. Hayes, “Palestinian
Rabbinic Attitudes to Intermarriage in Historical and Cultural Context,” in Jewish Culture and
Society under the Christian Roman Empire, ed. Richard Kalmin (Leuven, 2003), pp. 11–64. This
subject was recently treated in a conference volume—see Mixed Marriages: Intermarriage
and Group Identity in the Second Temple Period, ed. Christian Frevel (London, 2011).

For use by the Author only | © 2017 Koninklijke Brill NV

84 Fröhlich

the collection known to us as 1 Enoch or Ethiopic Enoch.10 The earliest Enochic

manuscripts from Qumran, containing 1 En 1–36, were written at the end of
the third century BC, well before the establishment of the Qumran settlement
in middle of the second century BC.11 The Qumran library offfers a continuous
tradition of the Enochic manuscripts. The story of the Watchers—the founda-
tion of Second Temple period Jewish demonology—is preserved in the earliest
Enochic texts found at Qumran. The story of the Watchers in 1 En 6–11 is a myth
that relates the origin of evil, which is represented in the Enochic tradition by
evil demons.12 According to this narrative, evil came into the world as a result
of two hundred heavenly beings called Watchers descending to the earth in
order to mate with human women, and then teaching witchcraft to them. The
Watchers thus became impure, and their activity caused further impurities:
their giant offfspring, having devoured all that humans could provide for them,
then devoured humans and fijinally each other. The activities of the Watchers
and their giant offfspring defijiled the earth—hence the Flood was sent, as both
punishment against and purifijication of the earth.13 A later commentary in
the Enochic collection (1 En 15) explicitly connects the origin of evil spirits
to the Giants, asserting that they emerged from the dead bodies of the giants
who perished in the Flood. The activity of these evil spirits is directed, fijirst of
all, against women and children.

10  1 Enoch is fully preserved in an Ethiopic translation—for the text, see Michael A. Knibb,
The Ethiopic Book of Enoch. Text and Apparatus: A New Edition in the Light of the Aramaic
Dead Sea Fragments (London, 1985).
11  The fijirst edition of the Aramaic fragments of the Enochic literature from Qumran,
including the Book of Giants, is Józef T. Milik, The Books of Enoch: Aramaic Fragments of
Qumrân Cave 4 (London, 1976). The fragments of the Book of Giants were edited by Émile
Puech, Qumrân Grotte 4 XXI: Textes araméens, première partie: 4Q529–549 (Discoveries
in the Judaean Desert) XXXI (Oxford, 2001); Loren T. Stuckenbruck, The Book of Giants
from Qumran: Texts, Translation, and Commentary (Tübingen, 1997). The earliest Enochic
manuscripts, which contain 1 En 1–36, come from the third century BC, but the literary
tradition predates this and may originate as far back as the fijifth century BC.
12  The story of the Watchers, or Fallen Angels, was fijirst treated as a myth of the origin of evil
by M. Delcor, “Le mythe de la chute des anges et de l’origine des géants comme explica-
tion du mal dans le monde dans l’apocalyptique juive histoire des traditions,” Revue de
l’histoire des religions 95 (1976), pp. 3–53. On 1 Enoch and the origin of evil demons, see
Archie T. Wright, The Origin of Evil Spirits (Tübingen, 2005); Ida Fröhlich, “Theology and
Demonology in Qumran Texts,” Henoch 32 (2010), pp. 101–129.
13  S. Bhayro, The Shemihazah and Asael Narrative of 1 Enoch 6–11: Introduction, Text,
Translation and Commentary with Reference to Ancient Near Eastern and Biblical
Antecedents (Münster, 2005), p. 33.

For use by the Author only | © 2017 Koninklijke Brill NV

Demons and Illness in Second Temple Judaism 85

Thus, according to the Enochic myth, evil entered the world as a result of
the physical and ethical impurities caused by the activities of the Watchers
and their giant offfspring. The Giants are described in the Enochic tradition in
terms of Mesopotamian demonology as attested in Neo-Babylonian sources—
the devouring nature of the Giants is similar to that of the evil demons that
cause various plagues, infertility and illnesses. In the Enochic tradition, these
Giants become evil demons that work in the world, so the demons retain their
characteristics: impure and harmful beings that bring about plagues, infertility,
illnesses and death to humans. This is the basis of Qumran demonology and
their concept of illness.

Types of Texts Relating to Demons

Enochic demonology seems to have been an integral part of the worldview

of Second Temple Judaism, both within and outside Qumran. The story was
reinterpreted several times—but the core beliefs, that evil spirits are at work in
everyday life and that they derive from celestial beings, remained unchanged.
1 Enoch is a theoretical text that gives a systematic explanation of the origins
and activities of demons. The book of Jubilees, a narrative based on Genesis,
also presents a systematic demonology.
Another genre that can help us understand beliefs about demons is “literary
demonism”, i.e. narrative works in which demons play a role. The book of Tobit
and the Aramaic Genesis Apocryphon (1Q20) are good examples of this.14 Such
literary texts do not present a systematic demonology because their demonic
fijigures are used for literary aims.
Finally, apotropaic texts like 4Q560 (in Aramaic) and 11Q11 (in Hebrew),
both discussed below, may have been used for practical purposes, i.e. to pre-
vent or heal illness, physical harm, and mental disorders. Practical texts thus
reflect the everyday ideas of their users regarding illness and healing.15

14  The Genesis Apocryphon is clearly well acquainted with the Enochic tradition of the ori-
gin of demons. There is no direct reference in Tobit to the Enochic tradition. The success
of the heavenly-matched marriage over demonic influence, however, can be taken as a
counter-example to the mixed marriages that result in demons as described in 1 En 6–11.
15  It is worth noting that some texts that were later canonised were used for apotropaic
purposes even before the Exile, e.g. the Priestly blessing of Num 6:23–27 was used in the
Ketef Hinnom silver amulets—general apotropaic texts without the mention of any spe-
cial danger; see Gabriel Barkay et al., “The Amulets from Ketef Hinnom: A New Edition
and Evaluation”, Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 334 (2004), pp. 41–71.
The background for the use of amuletic texts is well illustrated by the list of blessings and

For use by the Author only | © 2017 Koninklijke Brill NV

86 Fröhlich

Taken together, the theoretical, literary and practical texts attest to a strong
interest in demonology. The use of Aramaic for many of the texts indicates a
possible Mesopotamian origin for these traditions and texts.16 Aramaic was
the language of mediation for the Mesopotamian sciences, including demon-
ology. 1 Enoch was written before the Essene settlement at Qumran, and
was probably brought there by members of the community.17 It is likely that
the rest of the Aramaic texts were also written outside the community and
brought there. Many of the Qumran Aramaic texts reflect the Mesopotamian
milieu and its scholarly traditions, which suggests that they originated among
Mesopotamian Jewish diaspora communities.

4Q560 (4QExorcism ar)

This is a partially preserved text that consists of two fragments.18 The manu-
script is usually described as containing an exorcistic or an apotropaic healing
text that seeks to counteract demonic illness.19 Fragment 1 consists of two col-
umns while fragment 2 contains two lines.

curses in Deut 28, in which the dangers and plagues correspond well with those listed in
apotropaic texts (e.g. barrenness, drought, rust, enemy hordes etc.).
16  The Aramaic texts from Qumran are clearly acquainted with Mesopotamian traditions.
The Prayer of Nabonidus (4Q242) is based on the historical legend of Nabonidus (r. 555–
539 BC), the last Neo-Babylonian king. The Astronomical Book of the Enochic corpus
was influenced by Mesopotamian astronomical texts. Some of the Watcher traditions
show striking similarities with Mesopotamian scholarly literature, particularly that of
the Babylonian omen series Enūma Anu Enlil; see Rykle Borger, “Die Beschwörungsserie
bit meseri und die Himmelfahrt Henochs,” Journal of Near Eastern Studies 33 (1974),
pp. 183–196. The demonic traits of the Giants reflect the series Utukkū lemnūtu; see
Fröhlich, “Theology and Demonology”; Henryk Drawnel, “The Mesopotamian Background
of the Enochic Giants and Evils Spirits,” Dead Sea Discoveries 21 (2014), pp. 14–38.
17  The sectarian settlement was established in the middle of the second century BC, while the
earliest manuscripts found in Qumran are dated to the fourth and third centuries BC; see
G. Bonani et al., “Radiocarbon Dating of the Dead Sea Scrolls,” Atiqot 20 (1991), pp. 27–32.
18  The standard edition of the text is Émile Puech, Qumrân Grotte 4 XXVII: Textes araméens,
deuxième partie: 4Q550–4Q575a, 4Q580–4Q587 et Appendices (Discoveries in the Judaean
Desert) XXXVII (Oxford, 2009), 291–302. Earlier editions: Douglas L. Penney and Michael
O. Wise, “By the Power of Beelzebub: an Aramaic Incantation Formula from Qumran
(4Q560),” Journal of Biblical Literature 113 (1994), pp. 627–650; Joseph Naveh, “Fragments of
an Aramaic Magic Book from Qumran,” Israel Exploration Journal 48 (1998), pp. 252–261.
19  Philip Alexander thinks that 4Q560 has preserved the “remnants of a recipe book con-
taining the texts of amulets, which a professional magician would have copied out and

For use by the Author only | © 2017 Koninklijke Brill NV

Demons and Illness in Second Temple Judaism 87

The text begins with a title followed by a list of demons against whom the
incantation was written (4Q560 1 i:3). It is followed by an exorcistic formula,
a summons to the demons not to harm the patient: [’nh mwmh lk kl] ‘ll bbsr
“[I adjure all you who en]ter into the body” (4Q560 1 i:3). Line 4 contains a
reference to Ex 34:7, a reference to YHWH as the source of magical power,
and then continues with a new list of demons, those summoned not to
disturb the patient. This is followed by an exorcism that ends with words that
exile the spirits to the nether world: w’nh rwḥ mwmh [lk] “And I, O spirit, adjure
[you] (4Q560 1 ii:5).
The malevolent agents are listed as myldth mrdwt yldyn pqr b’yš š[yd]
“from the midwife, the punishment of childbearers, an evil madness, a
de[mon]” (4Q560 1 i:2). Thus the text refers to something related to or com-
ing from the midwife (yldth), which is a punishment or chastisement (mrdwt)
for the parturient (yldn).20 This chastisement is seemingly identical with an
illness called pqr b’yš “an evil madness” and šyd “a demon”. The next line men-
tions male and female agents of the illness that enter the body: [’nh mwm’ lk
kl] ‘ll bbsr’ lḥlḥ<l>y’ dqr’wḥlḥlyt <’> nqbt’ “[I adjure all you who en]ter into the
body, the male Wasting-demon and the female Wasting-demon” (4Q560 1 i:3).
After this, there is a tripartite series of terms that appears to refer to various
symptoms of fever: ’š’ “fijire”, ‛ry’ “chill”, and ’št lbb “pain in the heart” (4Q560 1
i:4).21 Similar series occur in later Jewish amulet texts.22
The fever is most probably caused by a rwḥ “spirit” (4Q560 1 ii.5), which may
be identical with the previously mentioned pqd b’yš “evil visitor” that ‛ll bbśr’
“enters the flesh” (4Q560 1 i.2–3).23 Using a series of names to refer to the agent
of an illness is a regular custom in magical medical texts. Coupled with the
reference to both male and female entities, this represents a holistic approach

personalized for the client’s use”; see Philip S. Alexander, “The Demonology of the Dead
Sea Scrolls,” in The Dead Sea Scrolls after Fifty Years: a Comprehensive Assessment, ed.
Peter W. Flint and James C. VanderKam (Leiden, 1999), pp. 331–353, esp. pp. 345–346.
20  mrdwt “punishment, chastisement”; the semantic fijield of the root mrd II includes “to run,
discharge matter, be sore, be inflamed”—see Marcus Jastrow, Dictionary of the Targumim,
Talmud Babli and Yerushalmi, and the Midrashic Literature (New York, 1903), p. 836.
21  Puech’s translation reads “fijièvre et frisson, et feu/fijièvre de coeur”.
22  Examples can be found in Joseph Naveh and Shaul Shaked, Amulets and Magic Bowls:
Aramaic Incantations of Late Antiquity (Jerusalem, 1985), pp. 46–47, 56–57, 82–83, 102–103.
23  Contra Puech: “est entré dans la chair le poison mâle, et le poison femelle”. E.g., a Genizah
text mentions “seven spirits that enter into the entrails of women and spoil their offfspring,
and that she should not abort her foetus”—see Joseph Naveh and Shaul Shaked, Magic
Spells and Formulae: Aramaic Incantations of Late Antiquity (Jerusalem, 1993), pp. 152–155.

For use by the Author only | © 2017 Koninklijke Brill NV

88 Fröhlich

that aimed to avert all possible causes of harm.24 The same method occurs in
Mesopotamian incantation texts, in which a long list of demon names often
ends with the expression mimma lemmu “anything evil”.
According to one reconstruction and interpretation of the next line, it
appears that the text refers to when the demon is active: [w’syr lbhlh blyly’
bḥlmyn ’w bymm]h bšn’ prk dkrw pkyt <prkyt> nqbt’ mḥt’ “[You are forbidden
to disturb by night in dreams or by da]y during sleep, O male Shrine-spirit and
female Shrine-spirit, O you demons who breach” (4Q560 1 i:5). The interpreta-
tion of bšn’ as “during sleep”, however, is far from plausible. Sleeping during
the day is not documented in apotropaic texts. It is more likely that masculine
prk and feminine prkt, when followed by bšn’, refers somehow to teeth. The
Aramaic root prk means “crumble” or “crush”. The translation “male Shrine-
spirit and female Shrine-spirit” probably supposes a meaning of the word as
“spirit of the dead”.25 An earlier translation rendered it as that which “comes
during sleeping in/through the tooth of the male prk and female prkyt, strikes
down”.26 This may refer to toothache or tooth decay, or a disease that was
thought to enter through the teeth. 4Q560, therefore, visualises a spirit that
brings fever, and that can enter under various forms, male or female, and per-
haps through the teeth.
Line 6 also mentions the ‛yn’ byšt[’] “evil eye”, which, together with the
midwives mentioned in line 2, play an important role in the origin of fever.27
The presence of the midwife, the punishment of the mother, and a fever, in the
same passage, suggests that the text relates to the illness of an infant, which
may be taken to be a punishment for the parturient.
Wet nurses are mentioned in several Mesopotamian incantation texts—and
never positively. The list of types of demons in Utukkū Lemnūtu series includes
the mušeniqtu “wet nurse” together with the demons Lamaštu, labaṣu and
ahhazu (5:21–23).28 An incantation text, ASKT 11 VII, mentions the mušeniqtu

24  Magical texts tend to be holistic, trying to include all possible dangers, so demons are
often mentioned according to both sexes—see, e.g., Naveh and Shaked, Amulets and
Magic Bowls, pp. 56–57, 68–69, 70–71.
25  The translation is that of Michael Wise in The Electronic Library of the Dead Sea Scrolls,
4Q 560.
26  Puech tranlates the two expressions as “broyeur/une idole mâle, et la broyeuse/l’idole
femelle”, allowing an interpretation that supposes the devouring activity of the demon.
27  There is insufffijicient space at this point in the manuscript for a concluding formula and
the beginning of a new paragraph.
28  For the text, see Geller, Evil Demons.

For use by the Author only | © 2017 Koninklijke Brill NV

Demons and Illness in Second Temple Judaism 89

whose milk is māru “bitter”.29 The favourite trick of the baby killer Lamaštu is
to pose as a wet nurse and, once in possession of her victim, to kill it either with
her venomous milk or by strangulation.30 Incantations were written, therefore,
with the purpose of warding offf both fever and the Lamaštu. The negative
role of wet nurses in incantations written against Lamaštu allows us to sup-
pose that the midwives mentioned in 4Q560 had a similar role, and were
somehow related to the fever that attacks newborn children. To ward offf the
demon, the text reads w’nh rwḥ mwmh . . . ’wmytk rwḥ’ “I adjure you, spirit . . . I
compel you, spirit” (4Q560 1 ii.5–6). The demon is thus made inefffective by
an mwmh “oath”, the reciting of a fijixed text, which is probably the above
It could seem unusual to have a text dealing with midwives and infant fever
in the library of a celibate community—however, it is not so implausible. The
Qumran halakhic fragments of the Damascus Document treat themes relating
to marriage and female impurity,32 and may have served as a rule for those
members of the Essene community that lived in families. This may illuminate
the purpose of 4Q560. It can be supposed that it was an apotropaic text rather
than the description of a real exorcism. Apotropaic incantations, like amulets,
were written in order to avert demonic attacks. The authors of these docu-
ments used an active voice, describing a demonic attack that ends with the
exorcism of the demon. Considering this phenomenon it is to be supposed
that 4Q560 was a master text for an incantation against infant fever.

29  Rykle Borger, “Die erste Teiltafel der zi-pà Beschwörungen (ASKT 11),” in lišān mitḫurti, ed.
Manfried Dietrich and Wolfgang Röllig (Kevelaer, 1969), pp. 1–22, esp. p. 9.
30  Frans A. M. Wiggermann, “Lamaštu, daughter of Anu. A profijile,” in Birth in Babylonia and
the Bible: Its Mediterranean Setting, ed. Marten Stol (Groningen, 2000), pp. 217–152, esp.
pp. 230–231.
31  The grammar of incantations has been well established; see Wilfred L. Knox,
“Jewish Liturgical Exorcism,” Harvard Theological Review 31 (1938), 191–203; Bonner
Campbell, “The Technique of Exorcism,” Harvard Theological Review 36 (1943), 39–49;
Todd E. Klutz, “The Grammar of Exorcism in the Ancient Mediterranean World:
Some Cosmological, Semantic, and Pragmatic Reflections on How Exorcistic Prowess
Contributed to the Worship of Jesus: Papers from the St. Andrews Conference on
the Historical Origins of the Worship of Jesus,” in The Jewish Roots of Christological
Monotheism, ed. Newman C. Carey (Leiden, 1999), pp. 156–165.
32  A fragment of the Damascus Document deals with the question of impurity after child-
birth; another treats various cases relating to menstruation and childbirth.

For use by the Author only | © 2017 Koninklijke Brill NV

90 Fröhlich

The Two Incantations in 11Q11

11Q11 contains four songs that are probably to be identifijied with the four Davidic
songs that are mentioned at the end of the Great Psalms Scroll (11QPsa = 11Q5)
as being ‛l hpg‛ym “for the stricken”.33 The list of songs attributed to David for
every day, sabbath, and festival of an ideal 364-day year has a defijinite calen-
drical background. The four songs of 11Q11 may have been recited on the four
liminal days of the year: Song 4 (identical to Psalm 91) at the summer sol-
stice; Song 3 at the spring equinox; Song 2 at winter solstice; and Song 1 for
the autumn equinox. Only Song 4 is known in extenso, while, from Song 3, the
beginning is readable. Songs 1 and 2 are too fragmentary to draw any conclu-
sion concerning their contents.34

Psalm 91 in the Context of 11Q11

Psalm 91 is an ašrē-psalm.35 The title in the manuscript of 11Q11 attributes it to

David. The plagues threatening the righteous are listed in three sequences, each
separated by sentences afffijirming that the plagues are not to smite the righ-
teous. The three sequences comprise, respectively, three, four, and fijive names
of plagues.36 The fijirst and second series mention, among other names, words
that refer unambiguously to pestilence: deber (second in the fijirst sequence,
and third in the second sequence), and qeteb (fourth in the second sequence).37

33  Émile Puech, “Les psaumes davidiques du rituel d’exorcisme (11Q11),” in Sapiential,
Liturgical and Poetical Texts from Qumran, ed. Daniel K. Falk (Leiden, 2000), pp. 160–181.
34  See Ida Fröhlich, “Healing with Psalms,” in Prayer and Poetry in the Dead Sea Scrolls, ed.
Jeremy Penner, Ken M. Penner, and Cecilia Wassen (Leiden, 2012), pp. 197–215. The struc-
ture of Songs 1–3 is very diffferent from that of Psalm 91. The three songs contain typical
exorcistic formulae and show general characteristics of incantations. On the structures of
the songs in 11Q11, see Ida Fröhlich, “Incantations in the Dead Sea Scrolls,” in Oral Charms
in Structural and Comparative Light, ed. Tatyana A. Mikhailova, Jonathan Roper, and
Andrey L. Toporkov (Moscow, 2011), pp. 22–27.
35  Named after its opening formula.
36  This 3 + 4 + 5 = 12 arrangement was probably loaded with numeric symbolism, which
would explain the repeated reference to certain plagues by diffferent synonyms and
37  dbr b’pl yhlwk “pestilence coming in darkness” and qtb yšwd ṣḥrym “destruction devastat-
ing at noon” (11Q11 6.9–10).

For use by the Author only | © 2017 Koninklijke Brill NV

Demons and Illness in Second Temple Judaism 91

The other plagues in the fijirst series are pḥ yqwš “the fowler’s snare” and
ḥwwt “destruction” (Ps 91:3, 11Q11 6.6).38 The other plagues in the second
series are “nocturnal dread” pḥd lylh and ḥṣ y‛wp ywmm “arrow that flies by
day” (Ps 91:5–8). The metaphor of the arrow may refer to sunstroke39 or to
pestilence.40 The third series of plagues lists physical dangers (Ps 91:12–13),41
which are without any obvious demonic connotation.
However, deber and keteb are not mere names for illnesses—they are
demonic represtentatives of plague, and can be considered to be demon
induced illnesses in Psalm 91 and 11Q11.42 The immediate causes of the illness
are visualised as physical objects—arrows that smite humans and transfer ill-
ness into the body. This may be compared to the prayers offfered at the solstices
to the Mesopotamian diety Nergal, who was represented by arrows, and was a
god of the burning heat of the sun, the netherworld and pestilence.

Song 3 in the Context of 11Q11

Beside Psalm 91, the very fragmentary text of 11Q11 contains three more com-
positions (Songs 1–3) that are not found elsewhere. The third composition
(11Q11 5.4–6.3) is attributed to David, and, according to its title, is “a charm
for the stricken, in YHWH’s name” (11Q11 5.4). The generic term lḥš “charm”
clearly refers to a magical song that is used against demonic forces. The title
refers also to the time or occasion when the song is to be recited: [qr‛ bk]l ‛t
’l hšm[ym ’šr] ybw’ ’lyk bly[lh “[Invoke at a]ny time to the heav[ens when] it

38  On “the fowler’s snare”, see André Caquot, “Le Psaume XCI,” Semitica 6 (1956), 21–37,
esp. 27.
39  Compare Job 6:4, where Job’s plague is caused by the arrows of God. The heat of the
arrows results in fever.
40  The arrows of the sun were associated with pestilence in several cultures of antiquity,
e.g. loimos in Homer is due to the arrows of Apollon Smintheus (god of both sun and
pestilence). In Mesopotamia, the arrow symbolised the deities Erra, Ninurta, and Nergal,
with the latter described as bearing “bow, arrow, and quiver”—see Egbert von Weiher,
Der babylonische Gott Nergal (Neukirchen-Vluyn, 1971), p. 71. Both Erra and Nergal were
associated with pestilence and demons. The biblical metaphor for pestilence is the sword
of YHWH’s angel—e.g. 2 Sam 24:10–17.
41  Namely ’bn “stone”, šḥl “lion”, ptn “adder”, kpyr “young lion”, and tnyn “serpent”.
42  André Caquot, “Sur quelques démons de l’Ancien Testament (Reshep, Qeteb, Deber),”
Semitica 6 (1956), pp. 53–68. Caquot argues that the names are not simply personifijica-
tions of diseases, but that they stand for demonic beings.

For use by the Author only | © 2017 Koninklijke Brill NV

92 Fröhlich

comes to you during the ni[ght]” (11Q11 5.5).43 If we were to read ’l hšm[ym]
“to the heav[ens]” as ’l hšm[rym] “at the šimmurim”, we would then be able to
place the text into a calendrical context.44 The term šmrym is mentioned in Ex
12:42 as the vigil before the day of the exodus, a fijixed nocturnal point in the
calendar. Thus the interpretation of the passage would be “Invoke at any time
at the vig[il of Passover when] it comes”.45 This would almost coincide with
the day when Song 3 was uttered, as the timing of Passover was determined by the
fijirst full moon after the spring equinox.46
The song depicts a meeting with a demon who is to be made inofffensive. The
fijirst step involves asking the demon “Who are you?”47 This is followed by a
description of the demon, which was probably either a horasis, a demonic
vision during the night of the vigil, or a nightmare experienced during the night
that was prescribed to be spent awake. The demon has human traits (face)
and animal characteristics (horns): pnyk pny [š]ww wqrnyk qrny ḥl[w]m “For
your appearance is [nothing,] and your horns are horns of vision” (11Q11 5:7).48
The fragmentary state of the text does not allow us to form a clear idea of this
fijigure. It seems that the demon is a phantasma, mentioned not only in vision-
ary literature but also in Jewish amulet texts.49 The demonic illness could
either result from the shock caused by seeing such a monstrous fijigure or from
some physical harm caused by its activity.50
Looking for the image of the “horned demon”, one fijinds a demon with ani-
mal characteristics on the list of Utukkū Lemnūtu, among the demons that

43  There is room in the lacuna for an extra reš.

44  There are no examples of apotropaic prayers addressed generally “to the heavens”. The
addressee, who is the source of the magical power, is always well defijined in this type of
prayer—in Jewish tradition, God is the source. A reconstruction of the text as ’l hšm “to
the Name” would be too short for the gap.
45  The Hebrew of Samuel, Kings, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel occasionally uses ’l in the sense of ‛l,
which allows the interpretation “on, at” in this context.
46  The ideal calendar of 364 days determines the feasts solely by the days of the solar year;
thus, the day of the feast would coincide with the spring equinox.
47  Compare the fijirst phase in Jesus’s exorcism of the demon named Legion in Mark 5:9 and
Luke 8:30.
48  Non-human beings, if visualised, usually appear in human form in Jewish literature, e.g.
Gen 18–19, Tobit 5. Greek sources usually depict evil daimones as visible fijigures, ghosts
(eidōla, psukhai) and apparitions (phasmata, phantasmata).
49  E.g. Naveh and Shaked, Magic Spells and Formulae, pp. 122–124: “this is the fijigure of the
tormentor (mbklt’) that appears in dreams and takes various forms,” which may be refer-
ring to a female night demon. Greek Christian literature calls this a phantasma, probably
referring to erotic dreams and visions.
50  See Geller, “Freud and Mesopotamian magic”.

For use by the Author only | © 2017 Koninklijke Brill NV

Demons and Illness in Second Temple Judaism 93

bring disease (5:124–141). This long list mentions the sherifff-demon as “a goring
ox” (5:127–128). This demon, one of the Seven (5:129), is ruthless, a demon who
“knows not how to act kindly” (5:130). Its assignment is “eating flesh, causing
blood to flow, (then) drinking from the veins” (5:134). Filled with malevolence,
the sherifff-demons “do not cease consuming blood” (5:137–138). Another part
of the same collection, that describes the characteristics of the evil utukku-
demons (6:1–39), mentions the sherifff-demon among the evil utukku together
with the evil ghost (6:1–4) and fate-demon (6:11). The sherifff-demon “does not
listen”, “has no shame”, and “performs sex crudely” (6:5–7). The bailifff-demon,
the evil ghost, and the sherifff-demon, “who do not sleep” (6:79), attack domes-
tic animals and human families, fathers and mothers, together with their chil-
dren: “They strike down the cattle in the pen, they slaughter the sheepfold”
(6:81–82); “They seize the one lying in his wife’s room, having taken the son
from the nurse-maid’s lap. They murder the father and children together, and
they spear the mother together with children like fijish in the water” (6:83–86).
It seems that the sherifff-demon appears to humans in the fijigure of a horned
demon.51 As already stated, the Mesopotamian background of the Jewish
Aramaic texts from Qumran is well known. It would not be surprising, there-
fore, to fijind the antecedent of a demon depicted in a Jewish Aramaic incanta-
tion in a Mesopotamian demon.52 The Mesopotamian sherifff-demon has many
similarities with the mšḥyt of the Passover tradition, who is told in Exodus to
kill the fijirstborn. The occasion of this attack is Passover night, the evening of
the fourteenth day of the month, when YHWH “goes through” (psḥ) the land
to strike the fijirstborn of Egyptians, but when he sees the blood on the door-
frame he will pass over that doorway, and “he will not permit the destroyer
(ha-mašḥīt) to enter the house and strike” (Ex 12:23).
The precise nature of “the destroyer” is not revealed in the text. According to
Ps 78:49 the name may refer to a “band of destroying angels”. The Passover nar-
rative does not predate the Priestly source (P) in Exodus—thus, it may coin-
cide with the Babylonian exile. The other source in Exodus, J, depersonalises
the term mašḥît into an action (lmšḥyt; Ex 12:23). This may lead one to think
that the textual development moved from Ex 12:21b–23 to Ex 12:1–14 rather

51  The horned sherifff-demon is the negative counterpart of the protective demon kusarikku,
the “bull-man”, who was characterised in Mesopotamian and Syrian iconography as a door
keeper protecting those inside from malevolent intruders; see Frans A. M. Wiggermann,
“Mischwesen,” in Reallexikon der Assyriologie, Volume 8, ed. Dietz Otto Edzard (Berlin,
1993), pp. 222–246, esp. p. 225.
52  In addition to the references given in footnote 16, see Helge S. Kvanvig, Primeval History:
Babylonian, Biblical, and Enochic. An Intertextual Reading (Leiden, 2011).

For use by the Author only | © 2017 Koninklijke Brill NV

94 Fröhlich

than in the reverse direction. The mšḥyt in the J source works as a hypostasis of
YHWH according to the late Jewish doctrine of angels.53
As for the nature of the Passover festival, Ex 12:21b–23 describes it as a
blood ritual to be performed by the family in order to protect the family in its
house during the night of the ritual, thus placing the family in the situation of
the exodus night. The protection of the family is then complemented by the
destruction of Israel’s enemies.54 In Exodus, Passover is a ywm lzkrwn “memo-
rial day”, commemorating deliverence from the mšḥyt “destroyer”, a festival to
YHWH, and a lasting ordinance for the generations to come (Ex 12:14).
Passover is highlighted in the book of Jubilees, a rewriting of the narra-
tives of Genesis and Exodus until the giving of the Law on Sinai.55 Beside the
striking similarities between the calendar of Jubilees and the calendrical texts
from Qumran—the accordance between the 364-day calendars of Jubilees, the
Temple Scroll (11QT), and 4QMMT, is well known56—there are further similari-
ties between Jubilees and various literary texts from Qumran. In the Passover
scene of Jubilees, the destroyer is called Mastema, “the instigator”, “who raises
animosity”. Mastema is the head of a demonic host who provoke spiritual error
and improper religious practice—a topic that pervades Qumran literature.57
Passover in Jubilees is a ritualisation of an immanent divine law, a propos of
a divine rescue from a demonic attack on the fijirstborn: “when all the powers
of Mastema had been let loose to slay all the fijirst-born in the land of Egypt”
(Jub 49:2–3). It is a ritual that is to be kept in perpetuity as a protection against
demonic plagues, annually on the day of its fijixed time. Observing Passover
thus ensures that “no plague shall come upon them to slay or to smite in that

53  So Eckart Otto, “pāsaḥ, pesaḥ,” in Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament Volume 12,
ed. G. Johannes Botterweck, Helmer Ringgren, and Heinz-Josef Fabry (Grand Rapids,
2003), pp. 1–23, esp. p. 12.
54  On the origin and function of Passover, see Otto, “pāsaḥ, pesaḥ,” pp. 12–13.
55  The earliest Hebrew fragments of Jubilees from Qumran are dated to around 125 BC,
although they must have been preceded by an earlier written tradition—see James
C. VanderKam, Textual and Historical Studies on the Book of Jubilees (Missoula, 1977),
pp. 215–217. The suggested dates for the creation of the book range from the third to the
fijirst centuries BC. The terminus ante quem is set by the Damascus Document (CD 16:3–4),
which mentions “the book of the divisions of the times according to their jubilees and
their weeks”, and the Qumran fragments of Jubilees. The terminus a quo is set by 1 Enoch,
which is very much used in Jubilees. See also John C. Endres, Biblical Interpretation in the
Book of Jubilees (Washington DC, 1987).
56  On the calendars, see Jonathan Ben-Dov, Head of All Years: Astronomy and Calenders at
Qumran in their Ancient Context (Leiden, 2008).
57  The fijigure is like Satan in the book of Job, who proposes Job’s testing—Job 1:6–12.

For use by the Author only | © 2017 Koninklijke Brill NV

Demons and Illness in Second Temple Judaism 95

year in which they celebrate the Passover in its season in every respect accord-
ing to His command” (Jub 49:15–16).
The New Testament alludes to the idea of the demonic attack against
the fijirstborn on Passover night: “By faith he [Moses] kept the Passover and the
sprinkling of blood, so that the destroyer of the fijirstborn would not touch
the fijirstborn of Israel” (Heb 11:28). Passover has been celebrated since antiquity
by a night vigilance. The Last Supper, a Passover meal, was followed by singing
psalms and vigils,58 although it is not known which psalms were sung.
The apotropaic formula preserved in 11Q11 survived, with variations, for over
a thousand years. Variants are found in the Sasanian period magic bowls and
in a fragmentary magic text from the Cairo Genizah.59 The bowl texts were
written for women. One of them, MS 2053/7 was written for Mahdukh daugh-
ter of Nevandukh, against various demonic harms. The formula occurs at the
end of the text, between a double citation of Zech 3:2 (which refers to Satan).
The formula is preceded by a reference to the events of the fijirst Passover and
reads: “I adjure you who are barred, who are subdued. Your face is the face
of a lowly creature, your horn is the horn of animate beings. May God smite
you and put an end to you, for you shall die if you come near and if you touch
Makhdukh daughter of Newandukh”.
The Genizah fragment dates to at least one millennium after the Qumran
text. It is an amulet that seeks to protect from various harms, preceded by
incantations relating to crying infants. The last part of the text lists demons
and other causes of sudden fear: “and it c[omes] up[o]n you whether by day or
by night, and says to you: Who are you, whether from the seed of man or from
the seed of cattle. Your face is the face of old age (?) and your horns are (like) a
water-current. You shall come out (?) . . .”.
The bowl texts were written for women while the user of the Genizah text is
not known.60 In all cases the formula stands at the end of the text. MS 2053/7
clearly refers to the Passover tradition, which could be the occasion of its use,
whereas the Genizah text is intended for demonic attack, “whether by day or
by night”. In the context of the characteristics of the Qumran text and the date
for its recital, and the concept of Passover in Jubilees, it can be suggested that

58  Matt 26:17; Mark 14:12; Luke 22:7–8.

59  Gideon Bohak, “From Qumran to Cairo: The Lives and Times of a Jewish Exorcistic
Formula (with an Appendix from Shaul Shaked),” in Ritual Healing: Magic, Ritual and
Medical Therapy from Antiquity until the Early Modern Period, ed. Ildiko Csepregi and
Charles Burnett (Florence, 2012), pp. 31–52.
60  The grammatical features of the text refer to a female owner. Moreover, the formula is
preceded by a series relating to children; see Bohak, “From Qumran to Cairo,” p. 50.

For use by the Author only | © 2017 Koninklijke Brill NV

96 Fröhlich

Song 3 of 11Q11 is an apotropaic text that was uttered at the spring equinox
against a demon that was similar to the mšḥyt of Exodus, i.e. that may cause
the death of members of the household, most probably of children. Some
aspects of this are reflected in the magic bowls and the Genizah text, but their
purpose appears to have been a general protection for the house and children
rather than simply for Passover.
The address to the demon in 11Q11 clearly reflects Qumran demonology,
whereas the bowls do not mention either the mixed (heavenly and earthly)
origin of demons or their relation to darkness and injustice. It is the Genizah
text alone that reflects some elements of the Qumran formula in its mention
of the questionable origin of the demon: “whether from the seed of man or
from the seed of cattle”—there is, however, no mention of a heavenly origin
of the demon.

Concluding Remarks

There are important distinctions to be drawn between the demons who

cause illness in 4Q560 and 11Q11. In 4Q560 the demon is invisible—it pene-
trates the body and generates symptoms of fever, the feeling of heat inside
and outside the body. In 11Q11 the demon is visible—it is similar to that of the
Mesopotamian sherifff-demon who kills either by fear or by physical harm, and
was later related to the Passover narrative. Interestingly enough, ethnography
offfers no parallels of folk beliefs relating to a demonic destroyer endangering
the fijirstborn around the time of the spring equinox. Rather, it seems that this
fijigure is a literary construction of the P source in Exodus, the fijinal and con-
cluding element of the series of ten plagues in Egypt (Ex 7:14–10:29). It seems
that postexilic Jewish traditions were acquainted with the demonic dangers of
the Passover vigil.

For use by the Author only | © 2017 Koninklijke Brill NV