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“Any that pisseth against the wall”

“Any that pisseth against the wall” September 18, 2013

There you have the “unseemly clause” in the Old Testament, at least according to the KJV, a number of times:

1Sam. 25:22 So and more also do God unto the enemies of David, if I leave of all that pertain to him by the morning light any that pisseth against the wall.

1Sam. 25:34 For in very deed, as the LORD God of Israel liveth, which hath kept me back from hurting thee, except thou hadst hasted and come to meet me, surely there had not been left unto Nabal by the morning light any that pisseth against the wall.

1Kings 14:10 Therefore, behold, I will bring evil upon the house of Jeroboam, and will cut off from Jeroboam him that pisseth against the wall, and him that is shut up and left in Israel, and will take away the remnant of the house of Jeroboam, as a man taketh away dung, till it be all gone.

1Kings 16:11 And it came to pass, when he began to reign, as soon as he sat on his throne, that he slew all the house of Baasha: he left him not one that pisseth against a wall, neither of his kinsfolks, nor of his friends.

1Kings 21:21 Behold, I will bring evil upon thee, and will take away thy posterity, and will cut off from Ahab him that pisseth against the wall, and him that is shut up and left in Israel,

2Kings 9:8 For the whole house of Ahab shall perish: and I will cut off from Ahab him that pisseth against the wall, and him that is shut up and left in Israel:

Most translations “sanitize” the term “pisseth.” So, here are the same verses in the NIV 2011.

1Sam. 25:22 May God deal with David, be it ever so severely, if by morning I leave alive one male of all who belong to him!”

1Sam. 25:34 Otherwise, as surely as the LORD, the God of Israel, lives, who has kept me from harming you, if you had not come quickly to meet me, not one male belonging to Nabal would have been left alive by daybreak.”

1Kings 14:10 “ ‘Because of this, I am going to bring disaster on the house of Jeroboam. I will cut off from Jeroboam every last male in Israel—slave or free. I will burn up the house of Jeroboam as one burns dung, until it is all gone.

1Kings 16:11 As soon as he began to reign and was seated on the throne, he killed off Baasha’s whole family. He did not spare a single male, whether relative or friend.

1Kings 21:21 He says, ‘I am going to bring disaster on you. I will wipe out your descendants and cut off from Ahab every last male in Israel—slave or free.

2Kings 9:8 The whole house of Ahab will perish. I will cut off from Ahab every last male in Israel—slave or free.

Just the sort of oddity in the Bible my colleague, Claude Mariottini, thinks deserves some scrutiny.
Dr. Mariottini breaks the options into five possibilities in his book Rereading the Biblical Text: Searching for Meaning & Understanding:

1. Males: men or boys of a family.
2. A dog’s actions as a pejorative metaphor for a man.
3. A metaphor for an evil man.
4. The Talmud discusses if it is permissible to urinate on another man’s wall.
5. A metaphor for a man who hopes for progeny (Smith’s view, rooted in “urine omina” in Assyrian Dream Book).

Claude doesn’t think Smith’s view holds the answer, as that view doesn’t work for David in 1 Samuel 25 where there is no suggestion of hoping for progeny. So he sorts the information out:

1. There is an allusion to dogs, so that is the origin of the metaphor (e.g., 1 Sam 25:3; 1 Kings 14:10-11).
2. In the Bible it refers to men pejoratively.
3. Dogs were unclean (Exodus 22:31).
4. In other words, the metaphor for humans is vulgar, an obscenity, and emerges from anger. To say of another man that he is one that pisses against the wall is to say he’s a dog, and to say he’s a dog is an insult of high order.

Claude says the natural equivalent is “S.O.B.”.


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