I was reading the book of Jeremiah the other day and came across this passage:
Jeremiah 18.16 (NASV)
To make their land a desolation,
An object of perpetual hissing;
Everyone who passes by it will be astonished
And shake his head.
Not every translation has the word "hissing" in the text. The NIV renders the passage this way:
Their land will be an object of horror
and of lasting scorn;
all who pass by will be appalled
and will shake their heads. 
In translations like the NIV the physical act of hissing is replaced with something more psychological, a feeling of scorn. 

The word "hissing" isn't overly common in the OT. Most of the references are in Jeremiah (18.6, 19.8, 25.9, 25.18, 29.18, 51.37). As hinted at by the NIV, the most common interpretation of hissing is that it was an act of derision. But I wonder if this psychological interpretation of hissing is missing something about the concrete act of making an actual hissing noise.

I ask because in one of my study bibles I found the following in the note to Jeremiah 18.16:
Hissing: in some ancient Near Eastern cultures hissing was not only a sign of derision but a magical means of keeping demons away; people hissed in order to ward off danger, like whistling in a cemetery.
In light of this, I've taken up hissing as a part of my practice in resisting the Principalities and Powers. I'm now hissing in meetings, in stores, in political discussions.

True, it's all a bit distracting to co-workers, friends and family, but spiritual warfare is spiritual warfare.

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16 thoughts on “Hissing”

  1. //True, it's all a bit distracting to co-workers, friends and family, but spiritual warfare is spiritual warfare.// Literally chuckling out loud.

  2. Add to that Luther's recommended practice of dealing with the devil when all else seems to fail: throw things at him.

  3. I'd never witnessed a crowd hissing until I moved to Abilene and went to a movie. The film's bad guy was the recipient of this rough treatment. It seemed an oddly cathartic expression against some embodiment of evil - odd in that I'd never heard it previously while I'd been part of numerous cheers for the heroes. The hissing was only in movies but it was specifically in movie viewings in that town and I've never seen it since anywhere else. Weird.

  4. A really great therapeutic tool in counselling! "Hiss that demonic depression away..."

  5. Hilarious. And fascinating.

    Western pop culture seems to take the exact opposite from hissing. It is a way of identifying the powers when they are at work. In our stories, vampires hiss, possessed people hiss, angry villains hiss. Sometimes, its a sort-of unintentional "unmasking" that takes place - the hiss is what removes all doubt that something is "wrong" with this person.

    I suppose, since it is a natural threat display for many species, it could be taken either way.

  6. I read somewhere that hissing produces its effect because snakes hiss and our ancestors were (understandably) very afraid of snakes and very alert for any noise that might warn them that a snake is nearby. So if I hiss, I am trying to produce an effect rather like a snake's hiss: I'm telling the person to stay away from me, to watch it.

  7. You should combine the theological implications of hissing with your old posts about the Snake Handlers! Totally not a coincidence.

    Other translations besides the New American Standard Bible keep "hissing." It's used in the RSV, ESV, NRSV, and the KJV. The HSCB uses "scorn" but, unlike the NIV, includes the literal translation in a footnote.

  8. I want the cat. Then I can hiss wherever and whenever I want. Heh-heh...

  9. Interesting, but really not surprising. I came across some similar uses for hand-clapping when researching for a blog post on the Book of Nahum. I suppose it's a lot like how many hand gestures can often be "okay" in one culture and highly offensive in others.

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