- IMPALEMENT, method of execution employed in the Ancient Near East, whereby a living body was pierced between the legs or in the solar plexus by being thrust upon a spike fixed on the ground. The Code of Hammurabi (§153, in Pritchard, Texts, 172) prescribes impalement for a woman who caused her husband's death because of another man; and the Middle Assyrian Laws (§53, in Pritchard, Texts, 185), for a woman convicted of inducing her own abortion. Assyrians and Persians used to impale chiefs of a city that had revolted against them. In Ezra 6:11 the punishment to be incurred by anyone who would change Darius' edict about the rebuilding of the Temple is probably impalement. The same Darius threatens Arakha, pretender to the throne of Babylon, with impalement: "This Arakha and the nobles, his main followers, shall be impaled in Babylon" (see Roux in bibl.). Herodotus (3:159) reports that he actually impaled 3,000 of them. Since impalement was an established practice in Persia, it may be that talah in Esther 2:23; 5:14 (LXX 7:9, σταυρωθήτω, "impale"); 7:10; 9:13–14 refers to this method of execution. It is also possible that the religiously motivated executions of Numbers 25:4 and II Samuel 21:6–13 refer to impalement. However, the meaning of the verb used in these passages to describe the execution, hokiʿa (הוקיע, hiphʿil of יקע), cannot be determined with certainty. The Septuagint renders it as either παραδειγματίζω, "make an example of," or ὲζηλιάζω, "expose to the sun." While the hanged man should be buried the very day of his execution (Deut. 21:22–23), the corpses of the victims in II Samuel 21:6–13 were exposed for about six months before being buried. It is worth noting that the body of the impaled mother convicted of abortion was denied burial (Middle Assyrian Laws, 53). Unless new data will become available one cannot, however, say with certainty that impalement was practiced by the Israelites. -BIBLIOGRAPHY: S.R. Driver, Notes on the Hebrew Text of the Books of Samuel (19132), 351; R. Dussaud, Les origines cananéennes du sacrifice israélite (1921), 287ff.; G. Roux, Ancient Iraq (1966), 371.
Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.