Presentation and Article: “The Many Evils of Haman” and “The Flood Narratives in Gen 6-9 and Darren Aronofsky’s Film ‘Noah'”

“The Many Evils of Haman” is not the best paper I have presented so far. However, the teachers and colleagues from the NWU have been very supportive of me. It was fun testing my ideas and meeting other experts of the LXX at the IOSCS (International Organization for Septuagint and Cognate Studies) conference in Stellenbosch at the beginning of September 2016. The conference was held in conjunction with the congress of IOSOT (International Organization for the Study of the Old Testament).

I also enjoyed listening to Dr. Christoph Nihan’s paper “Les Vêtements d’Aaron et la Figure du Grand Prêtre dans les Traditions Sacerdotales du Pentateuque” (simultaneous translation into English was provided). His analysis of the relationship between Exodus 28 and Ezekiel 28 both interests and intrigues me. I look forward to reading his paper in print!

Look, this is the prettiest conference tote bag I have ever received! Within it one finds the Amarula cream liqueur (the bottle on the top right hand corner), which is produced from the marula fruits favoured by the South African elephants. My conference name badge is made from the colourful African beads 🙂


“This item was made in the Learn to Earn Business Resource Centre by recent graduates of our sewing programme. These graduates come from communities where the unemployment rate ranges between 30%-70%. The areas are characterised by high poverty and many people live in informal houseing. By purchasing from the BRC and using them to sew conference bags, folders etc you are playing a role in breaking the cycle of poverty in South Africa. / www. / LearntoEarnSouthAfrica / / 0213615972”

Guess what else I have found inside the conference tote bag? The most recent issue of the Old Testament Essays (South Africa-based)! My journal article “The Flood Narratives in Gen 6-9 and Darren Aronofsky’s Film ‘Noah'” is printed in this issue. Special thanks are due to the (soon-to-be Prof.) Dr. Nikolas Roubekas, who meticulously proofread the main body of my article. Dr. Abraham Ofir Shemesh’s paper “‘I Have Seen the Custom of the King of Egypt in Our Time as Well.’ A Study in Comparative Midrash and Commentary” is also an enjoyable read. This issue of the open-access journal is now available online:

Hope you enjoy reading the articles! 🙂




Announcement: Forthcoming Flood Paper and Cherubic Piece

My journal article entitled “The Flood Narratives in Gen 6-9 and Darren Aronofsky’s Film Noah” has passed the double-blind peer review! It will be published in Old Testament Essays (South Africa-based).

Here is an excerpt of the first anonymous reviewer’s comment:

 …what I liked most is the literary theological themes the paper managed to develop in conjunction with sound historical research.

According to the second anonymous reviewer,

The article represents a good mix between Old Testament scholarship and engagement with popular culture.

A rudimentary idea of the forthcoming article was first posted on my personal blog under the title “Noah Within and Beyond the Bible” on 19.04.2014. Of course, the in-press article contains many more content/language corrections and updated references. So, remember to check out the journal when the flood paper comes out! 🙂

My journal article entitled ” ‘You Were the (Divine) Cherub’: A Challenge to YHWH’s Sole Divinity in Ezek 28:14″ passed the double-blind peer review at the end of last year. It will be published in the Journal for the Study of the Old Testament (United Kingdom-based). The anonymous reviewer suggests some areas for further improvements but made this overall assessment:

This is a very good article. It is scholarly, clear, well-structured and makes a persuasive case on a difficult adn controversial text.

If the information provided by the editor is correct, my cherubic piece will come out at the end of this year. Stay tuned! 🙂

Speech: A Comparative Approach to My First Impressions of South Africa

Disclaimer: This drafted speech remains my personal opinion and does not represent the perspectives of NWU and its international office. Coloured sections and endnotes signify later additions, which serve to clarify and justify the original speech delivered on the International Welcome, Orientation and Multicultural Day (15.04.2016).


Processed with MOLDIV

Photos courtesy of my dad

Hello, everyone. My name is Lydia Lee, a post-doctoral fellow in biblical studies at the North-West University since January 2016. A comparative approach is one of the methods I deploy in my research of the Bible. According to a biblical scholar, Brent Strawn, “comparative methodology sets at least two (sometimes more) subjects alongside each other so as to look at them together in order to … reveal aspects of the subjects that may not have been as readily seen if each was looked at in isolation” [1]. Today, I would like to use the comparative methodology, setting my overseas experiences alongside each other in order to illuminate my first impressions of South Africa in general, and Potchefstroom in particular.

Let us first compare my experiences at Chicago O’Hare International Airport and Johannesburg O.R. Tambo International Airport. In 2012, I was given a chance to present a paper at the Society of Biblical Literature (SBL) annual meeting in Chicago [2]. I was really excited about this opportunity. Yet, for reasons that have remained unbeknown to me until today, I was detained with other strangers at the Chicago airport border control upon my entry to the USA. Without any explanations or concrete evidence of guilt, the airport personnel treated me impudently. Having found out my Australian passport and intention of travelling, they released me on the same day of my entry [3]. Later I filed a formal complaint to the authority and received an apology [4]. I did enjoy the academic conference later on, and I appreciate what SBL has done in fostering biblical scholarship worldwide [5]. Still, I can never forget that inhumanity I experienced and witnessed at a place of a country that speaks so loudly about human rights and international justice. When I was coming to South Africa, I was extremely nervous that the aforementioned experience in the USA would be repeated. To my surprise, the border control at the O.R. Tambo International Airport let me pass through without any difficulties. I had two huge suitcases with me, each was 32 kg. I was struggling to get them onto the trolley. One airport personnel quickly came and helped me place the suitcases onto the trolley. Before I could even thank him properly, he turned and disappeared into the crowd. I was touched by this random act of kindness by a stranger.

Now, let us compare my initial encounters of the people at Georg-August-Universität Göttingen in Germany and the North-West University in South Africa. To be sure, I have respect for the present German government, which bravely embraces its horrendous past [6], which has been rational and compassionate in its handling of refugees [7], and which generously granted me a visa as well as a fellowship to study at one of its universities. However, a good government does not and cannot guarantee that every single individual living in the country shares the same set of values. Between 2010 and 2015, I stayed at the University of Göttingen. In one of the welcome gatherings in 2010, I met a PhD candidate from Eastern Europe. She approached me and asked for my name. Without even knowing my country of origin, she interrogated me contemptuously: “What do you think of China’s treatment of Tibet?” I thought: “Wow, this is indeed the ‘perfect’ ice-breaker for a Malaysian-born Chinese!” For your information, I had not been to China until after the defense of my doctoral dissertation in 2014 [8]. I had no idea with what expertise she and I could discuss and comment on the issue she raised [9]. Another time, at a dinner table, a German professor derogatorily referred to me as someone from the British colony. I am not sure, with Germany’s troubling history, what kind of moral high ground he can claim to look down on someone whose ancestors and family have stayed in countries colonized by the Brits [10]. Still another time, I bumped into another German professor in the corridor. He greeted me with a smug smile: “You don’t have to learn German, because it is too difficult for you to understand.” I thought: “Does not this highly educated person believe in the power of education for  personal developments? What makes him think that I should give up learning a new language from the very beginning of my study without even trying?” Surrounded by these puzzlements, I did not bother to inform him that I had just enrolled in a German language course at the university. Of course, I did not tell him that if there were ever a reason for me not learning German, it would not be the difficulty of the German language, but the cacophony produced by this language [11]. There were many more awkward moments during my stay in Germany and I did behave in a foolishly recalcitrant manner under those circumstances, but today our focus is on Potchefstroom and South Africa [12].

When I was coming to Potchefstroom, I thought that I would have to overcome the same kind of prejudice all over again. To my surprise, nobody I have encountered so far is too obsessed with my countries of origin. The people in Potchefstroom are warm and friendly enough to include me as part of their members. On my first day of arrival in South Africa, my supervisor, Prof. Herrie van Rooy, and his wife Jacoba drove two hours from Potchefstroom to Johannesburg just to pick me up at the airport. I stayed at their place for one night. The next morning, Prof. Herrie accompanied me to the International Office to sort out all the administrative matters. Jacoba made sure that I had everything I needed for my accommodation. Working at his own home, Prof. Herrie has generously let me occupy his office for my research. During the first month in Potchefstroom, I received multiple invitations to braais from my South African colleagues and friends. My friends at the Bult International Church and Bible Study Group always give me a warm hug and a big smile whenever we meet together. One evening, two of my friends were waiting outside of the theological faculty to pick me up so that we could all go home together. Our acting rector, Prof. Fika Janse van Renburg, was talking to two of his colleagues outside of the theological faculty. When he saw my friends, he just dropped his conversation with his colleagues and came to greet my friends. I arrived in time to witness this scene. You see, my friends and I are all international students. We are not high-ranking personnel but merely students. Prof. Fika did not even know us at that time, but he shocked us with his willingness to take the initiative to talk to us – some unknown strangers.

From my experience in South Africa, I realize that what makes a person great does not depend on the person’s country of origin. It does not depend on how high the person can reach or how much the person can earn. Rather, it depends on how low the person is willing to bend down or how much the person is willing to give and serve. I think the humaneness of a person is more important than all the material wealth in the world. I don’t want to over-generalize or over-emphasize my positive encounters in Potchefstroom. I understand that circumstances may vary depending on individuals. There may be other areas at the university and in the country awaiting further improvements. But, just from my perspective, what makes Potchefstroom in particular and South Africa in general so attractive is the friendliness and warmth of the people here. You have made such excellent first impressions on me, that I am willing to stand with you and face all the challenges ahead during my stay in Potchefstroom. I sincerely wish Potchefstroom all the best. God bless South Africa.


[1] Brent A. Strawn, “Comparative Approaches: History, Theory, and the Image of God,” in Method Matters: Essays on the Interpretation of the Hebrew Bible in Honor of David L. Petersen (ed. Joel M. LeMon and Kent H. Richards; SBLRBS 56; Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2009), 117.

[2] See the advertisement of my presentation at the SBL annual conference in Chicago here.

[3] For a more detailed description of this traumatic event, see my Facebook post written in the morning after my release from detention (14.11.2012). Written in much haste and anger, the post is full of grammar mistakes. I sent a more polished complaint to the authority later on. This airport has remained the only one which treated me so rudely.


[4] I still keep my email correspondences with the authority. Please feel free to email me at, and I can forward them to you privately.

[5] For instance, I do appreciate the Society of Biblical Literature’s effort in providing free e-books to countries with substantially low GDP. For further information, see its International Cooperation Initiative (ICI) website.

[6] For a brief summary of the government’s solemn remembrance of Berlin’s history, see my previous blog articles entitled “Berlin: A City That Looks Back at the Past to Reinvent Itself in the Present.” and “Die großartige Antwort von Angela Merkel auf die Islam-Angst eines besorgten Bürgers.”

[7] For my encounters with and the other reports about the refugees in Germany, see the content and appendix in my previous blog article entitled “Refugees and I.”

[8] When I met the lady, I had no idea that one day I would be going to China for my engagement party 🙂

[9] Later I learned that the lady had stayed in Hong Kong for a while, without travelling to  mainland China.I seriously doubt if she has ever met a real person from Tibet. However, I can understand that we all like to be “Klugscheißer” (smart aleck) sometimes. For instance, we can write a very long critical article about another country, without really recognizing the names of the premier and president of that country.


Source: Badische Zeitung (06.03.2015). Photo courtesy of 新欧洲战法



Li Keqiang and 习近平 are two different people. Source: Badische Zeitung (06.03.2015). Photo Courtesy of 新欧洲战法


To be fair, the newspaper was quick to correct the aforementioned mistake. Source: Badische Zeitung (07.03.2015).

[10] Criticisms about the countries I have lived in are acceptable to me as long as the remarks are at least built on good intentions and not personal insults. For my critical reflections on life in Malaysia, see my blog articles entitled Malaysia: A Multi-Ethnic Society, Malayisa: A Divided Society, Malaysia: A Meritocratic Society, and Malaysia: The Dislocation.

[11] Just to justify my first impression of the German language, please watch the following video:

[12] I do not want to demonize all the people in Germany. In fact, I have a really good German friend, who has always remembered my birthday ever since we knew each other. I do not set facebook birthday reminder, so it is very precious that this true friend outside of my family circle will punctually remind me that I am getting older each year. All said, I don’t hate all Germans/people living in Germany, but I do find South Africans much friendlier 😉

UNA LINGUA NUMQUAM SATIS EST: Learning Latin at Potchefstroom

Here are the ancient languages I have learned so far (not counting the modern languages):

  1. Biblical Hebrew (8 semesters at the University of Sydney, with background knowledge of inscriptional Hebrew, Dead Sea Scrolls Hebrew, and Mishnaic Hebrew)
  2. Biblical Aramaic (6 semesters ar the University of Sydney, with background knowledge of inscriptional Aramaic)
  3. Akkadian (3 semesters at Georg-August-Universität Göttingen)
  4. New Testament Greek (2 semesters at the University of Sydney + vacation intensive course at Georg-August-Universität Göttingen)
  5. Classical Greek (1 semester, Graecum at Georg-August-Universität Göttingen)

Note: Certificates obtained from the above language courses can be sent to the relevant authority upon request.

Now I am picking up Latin at Potchefstroom! We are using Oxford Latin Course as our textbook. Further review exercises can be found on this really helpful website:


Photo courtesy of alibris

By the way, do you know that more than 50% of modern English words are built on Latin? The grammar structure of German and Greek bears great resemblances to that of Latin; French, Italian, Portugese, and Spanish find their roots in Latin. European languages can be so utterly connected! 😉

language family tree_cropped

Photo courtesy of Business Insider

South Africa: Singing “Hoe Groot is U” in Drakensberg

When: 18-21 March 2016

Where: BergVenture, Central Drakensberg


Who: Senior students and young workers from several Reformed Churches in South Africa


Photo courtesy of Lourens Aucamp


Photo courtesy of Lourens Aucamp

Highlight #1: Enjoyed the majestic beauty of the Golden Gate Highlands National Park from the height of the Protea Corner.



Highlight #2: Chilled out at the arty quaint Clarens. Savoured the FREE beer-tasting in the microbrewery there.



Photo courtesy of Motlasing Moreki


Photo courtesy of Motlasing Moreki

Highlight #3: Inhaled a lungful of fresh mountain air, took in the sights of the incredible peaks of Drakensberg, and pondered upon Psalm 8:3-4: “When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have set in place; What is man that You take thought of him, And the son of man that You care for him?”



Highlight #4: Hung out with cool brothers and sisters from different parts of the world.



Photo courtesy of Mukesh Kumar

Highlight #5: Sunbathed in Falcon Ridge Bird of Prey Center while being mesmerized by the lively raptor-flying show. Do you know that eagles most often fly by soaring and gliding instead of flapping their wings? Their particularly large wings make them prefer to rely on external forces, such as the lifting air stream or rising warm air, to move around. This means that they do not need to rely on their own strength during the flight. Knowing how an eagle flies helps explain Isaiah 40:31, which reads: “But those who wait for the Lord’s help find renewed strength; they rise up as if they had eagles’ wings, they run without growing weary, they walk without getting tired.” Like the eagles that soar high in the air by relying on external currents, we shall overcome our deficiencies not by our own strength, but by relying on the powerful God. 😉


Highlight #6: Explored the stunning Drakensberg (Dragon Peaks Park) on horse back. Lady Jemima was the horse I was riding on (not sure if I spell the name correctly).



Highlight #7: Sang the refrain of the hymn “O Moholo”/”Hoe Groot is U”/”How Great Thou Art”/ “Comme tu es grand”/”你真伟大” in different languages on the last night of our camp. It was really amazing to witness how people from diverse backgrounds can somehow be united by their awe of God.


Let’s enjoy the hymn once more in English 🙂




Resource: Living Biblical Hebrew in South Africa!

The faculty of theology at the North-West University (Potchefstroom Campus) has many nice and creative teachers. Liza Lemmer is one of them! I bumped into her at the beginning of the semester and she has kindly let me audit her class. It is a lot of fun to observe how she uses the “Living Biblical Languages” method to teach first-year students Hebrew! For an overview of the “Living Biblical Languages” method, you can look at this video produced by the Biblical Language Center here:


I first came into the class on the third day of Week 1, and the students could already follow basic commands of the teacher:


We also learned the Hebrew words for different body parts through a song 🙂


Once we even had our class outdoors! Guess what! The teacher told me that I already know a lot of Hebrew, so I got to be the camerawoman of the following outdoor recording 😉


Today, the teacher and her assistants acted out the funny story of two men – יואב ואדו – which gave us a real belly laugh 😀


As seen from above, the teaching techniques used by Liza are really diverse and there are a lot of interactions between teachers and students. I really enjoy going to the class. For the other videos of this Beginner’s Hebrew course, feel free to click on the SEMT112 playlist.

Sincerely hope that one day I can teach Hebrew creatively like her 😉

Egypt: A Wonderful Encounter in Luxor

One year has passed since my trip in Egypt (January 2009). I still vividly remember my encounter with this hospitable youth in Luxor. The story I am going to tell is about how I overcame my suspicion and built trust with a stranger.

1st Encounter

That morning I was occupied with the visits to the Valley of the Kings and the Funerary Temple of Queen Hatshepsut. Then I took a colorful local boat to the east bank where the magnificent Temples of Luxor and Karnak were located. [Note: For more about my tour in Egypt, feel free to read “An Adventure in the Land of the Pharaohs.”]After the bustling morning, I returned to my hotel. Restless, I decided to explore the Mummification Museum and the Luxor Museum situated in the downtown area. Two Egyptian drivers promised to take me to the Mummification Museum in exchange for a small fee. Happily, I jumped on their pony-drawn cart. And off we went! Well, in the middle of the journey, they informed me that they would change the rate and I had to pay more. Of course, I refused to accept this decision and threatened to jump off the cart. I was so ready to jump off the running cart that they were frightened and decided not to change the rate. Hastily, they dropped me off in the middle of nowhere and told me that the Mummification Museum was nearby. I gave them the amount of money that had been agreed upon. They disappeared in the blink of an eye.

The cart drivers who kind of lied to me...

The cart drivers who lied to me… 😦

No tourists or museums were in sight. Filled with anger and fear, I stood in the middle of the unfamiliar square, flipped through my Lonely Planet, and tried to find my way out. The locals passing by stared strangely at me. At that very moment, one young man appeared. Smiling under the bright sun, he tried to introduce me to a nearby hotel owned by “his brother” (I was pretty sure that he earned commissions by recommending tourists to that hotel). Given what I had just been through, it was really a wrong time for him to sell me anything. I angrily refused him and said: “I only want to go to the Mummification Museum.” I must have seemed quite desperate, and he must have taken pity on me, as he did end up leading me through some winding paths to get to the Mummification Museum (I initially thought that he would just point me in the right direction and leave me alone to find my way out).I was so relieved when he finally brought me back onto the main road along the Nile. Even more surprising was that he didn’t ask for baksheesh (a tip) in return (if you’ve been to Egypt, you know how some Egyptians are so into baksheesh). I thanked him briefly and that was when I caught the sight of his dimples when he smiled. Then it dawned on me that he, despite my ostensible anger and suspicion, had been very friendly and helpful along the way. A sudden guilt arose in me. But I decided that it did not matter as I thought that I would not see him again. So I just said goodbye to him (in a nicer tone this time). This was our first goodbye…

2nd Encounter

At the entrance of the Mummification Museum, the guards told me that the museum was having an afternoon break and would not be open until 4pm. To pass the time, I decided to walk slowly along the Nile to another Museum – the Luxor Museum. To my disappointment, the Luxor Museum was also closed until 4pm. When I turned around, I saw that youth again, standing opposite to me, across the road. “What a coincidence!” I thought and tried to find a public seat near the museum so that I could wait until the Museum opened. The seat was on the main road and there were several tourists around so I thought that it was quite safe. He also chose a seat near me and sat down. Then he attempted to strike a conversation with me. Having nothing to do but to wait for the museum to reopen, I replied to his questions. He looked 17 to 19 to me (even though he claimed to be 23). He spoke in broken English (which I could understand a fair bit). I spoke no Arabic at all. We communicated in English with a lot of hand gestures and facial expressions. Somehow, we could understand each other and it was fun!In the middle of our conversation, he said: “Let’s walk around”. I immediately became alarmed and curious if he would follow the footsteps of some Egyptian tour guides who led me to the shops or the hotels that sell merchandise I did not need or want. “No, I have no money, I don’t buy things,” I told him bluntly. “No money, no buy, just walk. I show you the city,” he waved his hands in denial, earnestly. “I have to wait for the museum to open,” I told him. He promised me that he would bring me back to the museum.  “It is not far,” he said. My curiosity about the part of the city he was going to show me arose (Curiosity can be dangerous but I always fail to suppress my curiosity when I travel). Having struggled in my mind, I finally gave in. Anyway, I had nothing to do at that moment. There was no harm following him. He led me to the area where the locals of Luxor lived. Along the way, I started to see Luxor from a different perspective. On the streets, there were women dressed in traditional clothes holding baggages upon their heads, old men sitting in front of the shops, and little children playing around or running under the sun. The whole streets were made even more lively and crowded by the horses, donkeys, ponies, and chickens with their excrements around the corners of the buildings. When we passed by, the people — whether adults or little children — all waved and smiled warmly at me. They treated me like a friend; that, I guess, was because I was with a local then.The boy invited me to his home. His mom welcomed me warmly by offering me hot tea. Suddenly many little children came running to his home to look at me and to say hello to me. They were all very cute and I took pictures of them. Looking at his home, one could guess that they were not materially rich. The house was a bit too small for him, his mother and other members of the family; the walls around the house seemed to be in need of renovations. However, he still told me proudly that his home was beautiful. When he was telling me this, I could not help but notice that the dimples on his lower cheeks deepened a little bit more. Surrounded by the warm and friendly faces of his family members, I had to agree admirably that indeed his home was beautiful. A home is beautiful when one can find the sense of belonging, familiarity, and cosiness that keep one’s heart warm; and I could feel the warmth at his home. After that, just as he had promised, he brought me back to the Luxor Museum. This time I thanked him sincerely for his hospitality, When I walked into the museum, I thought that it was a pity that I would not see him again. This was our second goodbye …

The cute little children at his home

The cute little children at his home

3rd Encounter

When I came out of the Luxor Museum one or two hours later on, I really could not believe my eyes to see that the boy was standing outside of the museum across the street just like he had been in the afternoon. I was wondering if he needed to work or study. Looking at me, he smiled and waved. I smiled back. He led me to his house again. This time his grandparents were there watching TV. His mother was friendly and warm just like the first time I met her. He showed me photos in his house. Then we went to the local night markets, which were loud and vibrant. On the one hand, the markets gave me a sense of familiarity as they reminded me of the pasar malam in Malaysia. On the other hand, they looked exotic since the people were speaking in a totally different language I could barely understand. He walked through all the streets and alleys as if he knew them all by heart (he probably did). It amazed me, since I did not know all the streets and alleys of the Australian suburb I lived in. I just followed him and we talked to each other on and off. He bought me a chocolate in one stall. Then he bought me a bottle of water in another stall. I did not ask for them. When I insisted on paying him back, he would not let me do so. Well, they did not cost too much for tourists but somehow they weighted so much in my hands. You need to know that, since my arrival in Egypt, most of the people I met always helped me to do something in exchange for money. That boy was the only one who offered me hospitality without asking anything in return. I told him that I had to return to Cairo that night. I had to return to my hotel. He accompanied me to my hotel in a local bus. Riding on the local bus was another new experience for me. This time, I really insisted in paying my bus fare despite his initial refusal. I managed to get him to accept it later on. In front of the hotel, he told me that he would come and see me off to Cairo at the Luxor train station that night. Well, he kept his promise. When I arrived at the train station, he had already been waiting for me. This time, I did not see his dimples or his smile. He just waited with me quietly until my train came. I boarded my train and found my compartment. Through the window of my compartment, I could see him stand motionless on the platform. Hiding behind the curtain, I did not have the courage to let him see me. After all the hospitality and friendship he had shown me, I felt sad that I had to leave my new friend behind. I did not offer him any baksheesh even at the very end (which I had given [sometimes involuntarily] to all the people who had helped and wanted from me in Egypt). I could not have repaid his kindness with all my money. Furthermore, I did not want to taint this friendship with money. Instead, I offered up a little prayer in my heart to God that He would repay the kindness of this kind youth and his mother. Firmly closing the curtain behind me, I whispered my third and last goodbye to this boy…


Now whenever I think of Egypt, I will remember this youth. Then I am reminded of the saying, you become great not by what you have but by what you give. This boy looks like a giant to me. If you ever get to see him next time in Luxor, say hi to him for me. Thanks!

Updated on 19 January 2017.