“The Tallest Man Cannot Reach Heaven; the Broadest Man Cannot Cover Earth” – Reconsidering the Proverb and its Biblical Parallels

Nili Samet

Abstract


An ancient Mesopotamian proverb states: "even the tallest man cannot reach heaven; even the broadest man cannot cover earth". This proverb, occurring in different contexts, periods and versions, expresses the limitedness of the human ability, physically as well as mentally. The proverb seems to stand at the background of several biblical passages, especially Deut 30:11–13; Amos 9:2–3; Job 11:8–9; Job 28:12–22; and Ps 139:8–10. This article seeks to re-examine the different manifestations of the proverb, and to trace the development of the topoi reflected in it, with a focus on their adaptation in the Hebrew Bible.

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