Praying the Bible liturgically every day you don’t half get to know the bits that aren’t headlines or sound bites. Seldom do you see them enacted before your very eyes, like Muntadar al-Zeidi’s dramatic gesture at Sunday’s Bush Iraq presser — a graphic example of the ancient Semitic gesture of disgust and contempt to be found in Psalm 60:8 (Doublet at Psalm 108:9): עַל-אֱדוֹם אַשְׁלִיךְ נַעֲלִי — Over Edom will I cast out my shoe (Coverdale).
The curious can regularly encounter this gesture in the prayers of monastic communities at around 5.45 a.m. every Wednesday and Saturday morning. None of us are at our most compos mentis that early. Jerome rather softened it (“In Idumæam extendam calceamentum meam,”). The Hebrew is down and dirty – (root שלך: looks like a straight hiph‘îl)— to chuck/ pitch an offending object, like the rocks God tossed down from heaven in Joshua 10:10. The 1945 Latin liturgical psalter headed back towards the orignal (“Super Edom ponam calceamentum meam’’), but 1980 went a bit soft — “Super Idumæam extendam ...” Call me old-fashioned, but Coverdale’s BCP hit the nail on the head.
President Bush himself was correct — This is the 8th century BC Semitic equivalent of giving the finger on the freeway, but more considered, contemptuous and rather more dramatic. It was very striking to see this done on cable TV, and eliciting so much comment. The Bible speaks today! Whatever next? ritual shaving for humiliation? Cutting animals in half to make a contract? Moloch?
If it takes some heat out of the situation, the Ship of Fools has a Biblical Curse Generator, where you can smite your enemies with boils like Amalekite Dogs...