This article examines the various biblical terms for epidemics and their etymologies in order to define their meanings in their literary and theological contexts. It considers the possible divine or demonic background of the lexemes for epidemics, from the triad of Hebrew terms deber, qeteb and rešep, which are used in some of the mythological passages of Bible. Major works on the subject proceed from the assumption that these terms were demons in the ancient Near East or that they were deities who became demonised by the authors of the Hebrew Bible. Close attention is paid to the linguistic and semantic aspects of the texts in their immediate contexts in order to determine the function of each term. The study shows a clear difference in meaning between the terms, although in some cases their semantic contents overlap. However, their function as God’s negative agents prevail regardless of their original meaning and this is a consistent phenomenon with other Hebrew concepts of mythological origins in the Bible.
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