Journal for the Study of the Old Testament

Published by SAGE Publications
Online ISSN: 1476-6728
Print ISSN: 0309-0892
This article argues that the diverse units present within Num. 1.1–10.10 are more elaborately arranged than has been widely assumed. By utilizing a synchronic approach that pays special attention to repetition and other structural markers, Num. 1.1–10.10 is shown to consist of two parallel panels of three units each: 1.1–6.27 (1.1–2.24; 3.1–1.49; 5.1–6.27) and 7.1–10.10 (7.1–89; 8.1–26; 9.1–10.10). A resultant laity-clergy-laity pattern in each panel reinforces the centrality of Yahweh's tabernacle presence in Israel's midst, as mediated through the priests, for the campaign ahead.
Jeremiah 18.1–11 is a familiar passage, describing Yahweh in terms of a potter and Judah as his clay. Yet despite its familiarity, interpretations of the passage vary wildly. It is understood by various interpreters as a message of doom, a message of hope, a neutral message of neither doom nor hope, and a message of doom reworked into a message of hope by a later editor. Some commentators believe that Yahweh's sovereignty is the point of the text; others think that Yahweh has only partial control. Still others think the point is that the clay (Judah) has the capacity to thwart the potter's (Yahweh's) purposes. Scholars are united, on the other hand, in regarding Yahweh's contingent plans for ‘nations’ in vv. 7–10 as an interpretation of the potter's symbolic pot-making in vv. 1–4. In this article, this approach, which has led to the divergent and mutually exclusive views of the passage, is critiqued. Following a brief analysis of symbolic actions in Jeremiah and in the larger prophetic corpus, an alternative understanding is presented wherein vv. 7–10 are not directly related to the actions of the potter. Verses 1–6 and 7–10, rather, serve distinct but complementary roles in service of the larger purpose of vv. 1–11, which is to call the people of Judah to repentance.
The segment of the biblical history of the monarchy which narrates events leading to the succession of Solomon to the throne of David in 1 Kings 2, known as the Succession Narrative or Court History, continues to generate inconclusive debate as to its extent, its relation to the historical work of which it is a part, and its ideology. On this last point, its characterization of the principal actors and its realistic narration of events have led some commentators to conclude that its author is expressing a basically negative view of David, Solomon, and the institution of monarchy. After arguing for limiting the extent of the Succession Narrative to 2 Samuel 11–20 and 1 Kings 1–2, the present article disputes two of the most prominent interpretations of the text: that of W. Dietrich, who reads it as containing a basically negative Grundschrift of early date rewritten some two centuries later to present a favourable view of the principals; and that of J. Van Seters, for whom it is a late post-exilic composition, informed by an anti-messianic ideology and inserted into the Deuteronomistic History to present a decidedly negative view of David and Solomon. This article concludes that the Succession Narrative is a homogeneous and coherent text and that it is in no sense an indictment of David, Solomon, and monarchy in general.
This study's main impetus stems from an article by Brevard S. Childs published in 1971, ‘Psalm Titles and Midrashic Exegesis’, which offered an erudite examination of Psalm titles and argued for their exegetical character. After a brief overview of some of the traditional approaches to Psalm 127's superscription (especially its ‘Solomonic’ portion) throughout its history of interpretation, this study concludes that Psalm 127's ‘Solomonic’ superscription invites a hearing of the psalm within the context of the Davidic dynasty. The concluding section also suggests some possible implications of this hearing in light of Psalm 127's inclusion among the Psalms of Ascent.
In this article, the stories of Balaam’s donkey (num. 22.22-35) and the man of God from Judah (1 Kgs 13) are analyzed independently and are also compared for similarities. Features that are common to both accounts include: the importance of the word of YHWH, the employment of animals as literary characters, the motif of death, and the portrayal of animals as divine agents. This study argues that the literary function of animals as divine agents is a distinctive characteristic of the so-called preclassical phase of biblical prophecy.
This article proposes that Moses' encounter with the fighting Hebrews in Exod. 2.13–14 sheds light on the hypothetical case of the pregnant woman who is struck by men also engaged in a fist fight (Exod. 21.22–23). Specifically, Exod. 2.13–14 explains why singular verbs are used to describe the punishment (‭שנצי‬, ‭ותנ‬) when two or more men were actually responsible for the battery (‭ובּגנ‬). In the earlier episode, Moses rebukes the ‘guilty one’, presumably because he was the instigator of the fight. Likewise, if an integrative reading is called for, the penalty for the battery in 21.22 is placed on the shoulders of the instigator alone, which explains the use of the singular forms ‭שנצי‬ and ‭ותנ‬. Exod. 2.13–14 may indirectly resolve other tensions created by this law as well.
In this article, I try to analyze the possiblity of syntactic borrowings from the Greek language executed by Qoheleth in three passages of his book: 3.18; 4.13–16; 5.8. These passages present serious difficulties in Hebrew, which may perhaps be resolved through the detection of a syntactic Greek model.
Commentators differ on the location of the altar mentioned in Deut. 16.21 and do not substantiate their conclusions with evidence. Is the altar mentioned a local altar or the central altar of the temple/tabernacle? This article argues for local altars, with three lines of evidence. First, the altar law of Deut. 16.21 is compared with Exod. 20.24 to determine if the altar law of Deuteronomy borrows the language of the altar law of Exodus, as claimed by S.R. Driver. Second, the use of the lamed of advantage in Deut. 16.21 is analyzed to determine its function in the law. Third, clues for the location of the altar are sought for in the immediate context of Deut. 16.18–17.13.
Hosea 2.20 (Eng. 18) describes the resolution of some sort of human/animal conflict. Several things connect Hos. 2.20 to Gen. 9.2, where human/animal conflict is created. Assuming that Hos. 2.20 and Gen. 9.2 are related texts, they describe a paired set of events: the beginning of human/animal conflict in the distant past, and the end of that same conflict at some point in the future. Hos. 2.20 was, therefore, describing the resolution of the human/animal conflict which God wove into the fabric of the postdiluvian world in Gen. 9.2. Thus, Hos. 2.20 described a lasting, constitutional change to the human/animal relationship.
This article deals with the story of the prophet Elijah's flight from the threats of Queen Jezebel in 1 Kings 19, which is classified as a story of a ‘departure on a journey’. The article identifies the features of this pattern which are reflected in this account, and adduces the distinctive characteristics of the example under discussion which deviate from the pattern and thereby help elucidate the significance of Elijah's experience and the evaluation of the figure of the prophet. The discussion distinguishes between two journeys described in this chapter: the flight to the desert (vv. 1–8a) and the journey to Horeb (vv. 8b–21).
Recent studies have relied on Esther 2.5–6 to establish the story as fiction or as farce, a way of reading the text that was also the case in ancient and medieval interpretations. This article proposes that that reading strategy ignores the syntactic ambiguity in these verses, an ambiguity that allows for an alternate reading in line with both Hebrew grammar and historical plausibility. As a result, it is argued that a reading which was acceptable to the pre-modern interpreters, without access to historical data regarding the Persian Empire, ought to be rejected today in light of current knowledge.
This article departs from the traditional view that the episode involving Balaam and his donkey (Num. 22.21–35) is an independent insertion that disrupts the Balaam narrative (Num. 22–24). Instead, the focus here is on the manner in which, within this episode, Balaam displays certain characteristics that are associated elsewhere in these three chapters with the Moabite king Balak. Comparison with two other texts, Genesis 38 and 1 Samuel 25, reveals that the presence of such a role-reversal in the donkey episode renders it an indispensable component of the larger narrative. Each of these three texts thus instantiates a trope in which a role-reversing interlude interacts closely with its surrounding context to highlight the rich human complexity of a central figure.
The purpose of the paper is to answer a question that is hardly ever asked by the exegetes: ‘Where were Jacob's wives and children during his famous single combat at the Jabbok?’ Identifying and analyzing topographic data scattered in Genesis 32, especially in vv. 23–24 (Eng. vv. 22–23), I argue that the text shows the patriarch trying to survive not only by fleeing the Promised Land—in spite of the deity's command to return there—but by using his family as a human shield against approaching Esau. Skillfully using the geographical setting of the episode, the narrator represents Jacob's outrageous treatment of his household as a part and parcel of his overall cowardice and faithlessness and thereby implicitly denounces patriarchy as a corrupting, ineffective and ultimately ungodly system.
Although scholars have closely studied 2 Kgs 4.8–37, few have given careful consideration to the sequel in 2 Kgs 8.1–6. The fact that the sequel explicitly refers back to the earlier story and that the two texts feature the same characters invites the reader to examine the relationship between the two narratives. Closer reading also reveals other literary and thematic connections, including motifs of food and house, the use of intermediaries, framing devices and the significance of prophetic presence and absence. These connections show that the sequel develops the critique and ambiguous depiction of Elisha while elevating the woman. A few suggestions are offered concerning the significance of the critique of the prophet and of the portrayal of a strong female character.
Aaron should be seen as the tragic hero of the story in Leviticus 10. He is affected not merely by the death of his sons, but also by its shameful circumstances, and the disgrace is emphasized by Moses' conduct. He is caught in an unwinnable contest of honour with the deity; but ultimately he should be seen as being to blame for his own tragedy, owing to his countenance for idolatry among the people. The theme of the father being disgraced by his sons is very widespread in the narrative of the Hebrew Bible; its popularity in the socio-cultural milieu may be accounted for as a means of harmonizing conflicting feelings about powerful families.
This article demonstrates that the punishment eventually imposed upon Absalom was not only due to Nathan's oracle in 2 Samuel 12, but was also the outcome of Absalom's own deeds. Absalom's narrative thus contributes to the structuring of the account according to the model of dual causality. On the divine level, Absalom is an instrument in God's hands to punish David, according to the rule of ‘punishing children for the iniquity of parents’ (Exod. 20.5; 34.7; Num. 14.18; Deut. 5.9); on the earthly level, however, Absalom is unaware of divine will, and he is motivated to act erroneously by his own bad nature—his ambitiousness, his narcissism, and similar traits—when he rebels against his father.
Although some biblical commentators nowadays do refuse an aesthetic disjunction between ‘art’ and ‘craft’, so allowing that ancient Israel’s ‘crafts’ might have aesthetic value, there seems to be little attention accorded the aesthetics—the aesthetic behaviour—presupposed in the canonical literature. In part this is due to the obsessions of our now questionable, socially restrictive ‘Enlightenment’ inheritance. But there is discernible in the canonical writings an aesthetics of abundance, intensification, plenitude, especially in much of the Psalter, and in concentration in Song of Songs. And this aesthetic celebration which we may discern here tallies well with much of the everyday aesthetic behaviour in which we ourselves engage.
In this article the status of the Joban satan is revised in connection to the Divine Wager. The broadened scope of the wager sees a test of Job's and the Friends’ fear of God in the sense of self-conceit about God's will for genuine social justice. Is it obscured by presumption of grace and the ‘Just World’ delusion? The disillusionment of this self-conceit in the God speeches paves the way for repentance and restoration in the Epilogue. Thus the Joban satan is seen as adopting a more central role which is more consistent with that of a primary character. Fear of God, in connection to God's will for social justice, is seen as a major unifying theme in the overall composition.
Amos 3.3–8 is usually interpreted as the historical prophet's self-justification before a hostile crowd. I employ this passage in a similar manner, but restrict the confrontation to a literary world created by a post-monarchic body of scribes and interpreters. These I label the ‘Dead Prophets Society’ (with apologies to the makers of the film Dead Poets Society). Their audience must supply the answers to the character Amos's interrogation on behalf of the textual audience. This situation forms the basis of a ‘trap’ which forces the guild to confront their own limitations vis-à-vis the ancient prophets, and still identify with Amos and experience the imperative nature of prophecy that the passage depicts.
A comparison of Amos with Sumerian City-Lament (SCL) reveals that SCL was likely used as the literary template for Amos’ prophecy. Amos also contains references to the flood, used as a covenant-curse to warn Israel of her treaty violations. This article compares these flood passages, 4.13; 5.8+9; 8.8; 9.5+6, (described by scholars as ‘hymnic’), with SCL, Genesis’ flood account, and Job 9.5–10, a similar flood-like hymn, in order to determine common vocabulary and themes. Analyzing the Amos hymn's vocabulary roots reveals an ancient narrative source. Exploration of the passage's literary connections to Amos in terms of a ‘flood covenant-curse',’, demonstrates why such literature was utilized. This article also discusses a new proposal that Amos’ hymn should be extended to incorporate a fragment at 7.4.
Engaging ancient Israel's economy is important for explicating economic processes in the social and legal composition of the society. Using biblical and extra-biblical texts, archaeological data, and knowledge primarily from the fields of anthropology and economic sociology, scholars have sharply delineated the processes of latifundialization when constructing representations of societal structure and agricultural economy in the ancient world. The purpose of this paper is to be in dialogue with this scholarship, yet move to a level of systemic analysis that treats the pertinence of three factors—land, slave labor and law. In this context, the economy of land and labor is used as an alternative optic for viewing and understanding the manumission laws of Deuteronomy 15.
Peer Reviewed
This article offers a critical reading of Deleuze and Guattari's A Thousand Plateaus, especially ‘587 B.C.–A.D. 70: On Several Régimes of Signs’ and ‘1227: Treatise on Nomadology—The War Machine’. These texts closely engage with biblical narratives concerning Moses and the scapegoat. This reading of Deleuze and Guattari has three lines: one is to trace how their argument that opposition is external must eventually face up to internal resistance as well. Another line is to connect the four régimes of signs—presignifying (the segmented tribe), signifying (the despotic state), counter-signifying (the numbered nomadic war-band) and post-signifying (the scapegoat wilderness-community)—with Marxist discussions of the Asiatic mode of production and tribal society. The third line relates these régimes to Marxist biblical scholarship and to the Bible itself, especially the scapegoat ritual in Leviticus 16 and Jethro's advice to Moses in Exodus 18. However, a closer look at the biblical material shows how the patterns of opposition are actually internal to one another. But then, to their credit, Deleuze and Guattari admit that these régimes are not only multiple, but also fluid and overlapping.
Attempts to read Judges in a unified fashion have shed much light on this book. Yet, such readings often are not fully convincing because they gloss over details that do not easily fit into the literary, theological, or ideological perspective being advanced. This essay moves in a new direction by exploring a thick web of verbal resonances that brings various distinct components within Judges into a complex literary and theological conversation. Even as this webbing draws various parts of the book into association with each other, it at the same time highlights the distinct elements of each story. While many narratives in Judges are indeed interconnected, it is less clear that Judges contains a linear and progressive narrative with an over-arching message.
Some scholars argue that every proverb should be interpreted on its own, while others search for clusters of sayings and posit that such clusters should determine how one understands a proverb. The first half of this study argues that the solution lies somewhere in between: clusters are important for interpreting individual proverbs, but they do not completely fix the meaning of a saying. Instead, they allow for several possible meanings, and they invite the reader to construct creatively his/her own reading. The second half of this article seeks to demonstrate how this theory works in practice, by using the example of the first three verses of Proverbs 16. In accordance with the reading strategy advocated in this study, several possible readings of the section are proposed.
Disagreement about the substance of the book of Joel is due, in part, to the complexity of and inconsistency in the book's portrait of the deity. This article seeks to unpack four divine attributes that undergird the complicated presentation of Yhwh in the book of Joel's interpretation of disaster: divine abandonment, divine aggression, divine compassion, and divine judgment. In each case, the portrait of the deity that emerges is rooted in the literature of Israelite laments. The importance of Israelite laments in shaping the themes, motifs, and metaphors of the book of Joel offers clues about the religious tradition from which the text emerged.
Ancient texts present the reader with an insurmountable challenge—namely, distance. Concerning the book of Lamentations, which was a response to the destruction of the Temple in 586 bce, readers are too removed from the raw experience of grief that gave rise to the lament in the first place. One way to overcome this obstacle—though imperfectly—is to juxtapose the book of Lamentations with a more recent and better documented horror. This article offers an analysis of women and children in Lamentations juxtaposed with the experiences of women and children in the Holocaust. The goal in this study is not to replace the experience of the destruction of the Temple with the Holocaust; rather, it is to reinvigorate the book of Lamentations, prompting the reader to move from apathy to empathy.
On the basis of a Bakhtinian analysis, I propose that Haggai-Zechariah 1-8 is a single text and, as such, is a prophetic parody of the chronicles. The group of Russian literary theorists, known as the 'Bakhtin Circle', proposed an illuminating way of analyzing a text that involves examining the literary conceptualization of time and space, that is, the chronotope. A comparison of the chronotopes of the chronicles and Haggai-Zechariah 1-8 reveals that Haggai-Zechariah 1-8 transforms and critiques the world view of the chronicles. The world view of the chronicles preserved and legitimated the political authority of the monarchy. The composer of Haggai-Zechariah 1-8 subverts that authority by emphasizing the necessity of obeying the prophetic word of Yahweh Sabaoth.
The biblical terms in Deut. 28.42 and in Isa. 18.1 were never satisfactorily defined. A thorough analysis of ancient Egyptian texts, classical literature, Aramaic and rabbinic sources, post-biblical texts and archaeological material suggests that in the Pentateuch means beetle and Isaiah's phrase can be translated ‘land of the winged beetle’, that is, Egypt. Moreover, the Egyptian beetle metaphorically could represent a (sacred) boat and in Christian commentary, crucified Jesus. Though viewed as abominable, the beetle was used as a potent drug in eastern Mediterranean communities down to the middle ages. Influence of time-honoured Egyptian culture left a distinct mark on the contiguous communities. Small wonder that the Bible, even talmudic literature, incorporated some of its tastes.
The religious content of the book of Esther is highly debated. Most approaches attempt to analyse religion in this narrative in terms of its similarities or dissimilarities with other texts from the Hebrew Bible. This article travels a different road. Applying ritual theory (more specifically, theories on rites-of-passage and ritualization) to selected parts of Esther, it explores processes of identity formation in the narrative in general, and their potential correlations with the religious identity of Esther and the Yehudite community in particular.
The biblical concept of holiness continues to be a subject of debate among scholars, in several respects. These include the basic meaning of ‭ש ד ק‬, the relationship between holiness and danger, and the morality or amorality of the holy. This article offers a fresh examination of these issues. In addition, the article assesses the significance of the fact that the root ‭ש ד ק‬ is almost totally absent from the book of Genesis. While aspects of holiness are anticipated in Genesis and intimated by several characters, the lethal danger presented by the holy enters the biblical world only in the book of Exodus, where it is intimately connected to Yahweh’s taking on the role of Israel’s exclusive divine suzerain. After this change is discussed in general terms, two specific events which illustrate this difference are examined, one which takes place before the initial mention of holy ground in Exodus 3 and one which occurs shortly after. In each instance God attacks the person to whom he appears. In the first case, the patriarch Jacob successfully wrestles a blessing out of God. In the second, Yahweh seeks to kill Moses (or one of his sons). This article concludes by examining the ways in which scholars have attempted to explain the theological differences between Genesis and later books. Such explanations must take into account the new character traits Yahweh displays after Genesis, including the relationship between his deadly wrath and his need to guard his prerogatives as the holy and jealous divine king to whom everything under heaven belongs.
This article analyzes the changing approach to state formation in the stories of Joshua, Saul, David and Solomon. These stories are here scrutinized for features of emerging constitutional and institutional economic governance. This article inquires as to why initially a rather federalist structure under Joshua emerged, one that subsequently was replaced by more formally coordinated, hierarchical governance structures. It focuses on attack/defense costs and transaction costs that explain the emergence of state structures and their evolution over time. In addition, institutional economic concepts of political governance (that overcome anarchy and organize wealth creation in society) are projected to state formation in the Hebrew Bible. In this way, this article traces the early, yet pseudo-modern, economic history of a theory of state formation.
This article seeks to understand the relation between form and content of biblical passages, focusing especially on the word ‭םימאות‬, ‘twins’. First, the six attestations of the word occur in pairs in the books of Genesis, Exodus and the Song of Songs. Second, they are highlighted through linguistic devices that in themselves have affinity with duality: geminates, alliteration and (numerical) paronomasia. Moreover, the number ‘two’ occurs in all texts and is evoked through the use of its homophone ‭ינש‬, ‘scarlet’, and through duplication of words. Thus, it is suggested that the language of biblical passages including the ‘twin’ word exteriorizes and emphasizes the twin concept by means of devices that mimic the twinning formally.
This article examines three family banquet scenes (those celebrating the weaning of a child [Gen. 21], sibling bonds [2 Sam. 13], and marriage arrangement [Gen. 29]) to demonstrate that the narrative function of intoxication in the Bible is a subtle one bound up with the social matrix of the drinker. More than a mere narrative means for duping certain characters in order to advance others, intoxication reflects something of the implied social dynamics of a banquet. Twists and turns often took place at banquets precisely because of the safety and goodwill that drinking engendered, but could not guaranteed. In biblical banquets, drinking remained an act of intimacy, because it signaled a trust that should be there, but was not always. But the betrayals of trust under the influence are no accidents. Instead, intoxication functions to correct, rather than destroy, a social boundary.
Peer Reviewed
This article contends that biblical scholarship on impurity has often been concerned with attempting to find one symbolic system underlying Israelite purity constructions. This tendency is clear in the work of Mary Douglas and Jacob Milgrom, but even in more recent scholarship the tendency to treat the diverse body of texts discussing impurity as a ‘system’ has continued. Even recent attempts to place all of these texts into two or more categories of impurity have had to force biblical texts to fit categories that supposedly encompass all of the Hebrew Bible. This article presents various important inconsistencies among the purity constructions of different biblical texts in order to demonstrate that these constructions are not in fact ‘systematic’. There is no ‘system of Israelite impurity’. Moreover, in positing such a system, scholars have displayed assumptions and utilized methods that are at odds with those of contemporary ritual studies. This article argues instead for an embodied approach to studying Israelite purity constructions that moves beyond Cartesian dichotomies and seeks to contextualize the evidence from different biblical texts, treating differences between texts not as obstacles but as analytical opportunities.
Hezekiah had a potentially fatal boil which suggests that he had bubonic plague. This also destroyed the Assyrian army threatening Jerusalem. The king made a miraculous recovery. Isaiah first predicted that the king would die for his sin (of destroying the high places) but he then promised recovery. The prophet’s two explanations of the king’s suffering inspired the Fourth Servant Song, which depicted the suffering servant first as a sinner and then as the sin bearer. This is evidence for a sin-bearing priest-king, and for Isaiah’s hostility to the so-called ‘reforms’ of the cult. Evidence from Lachish and ancient eclipses supports this reconstruction, and so calls into question the suggestion that it was a later fiction.
This article offers a socio-rhetorical analysis of the book of Job. Rhetorical devices of dramatic irony, ambiguity, overstatement, parody (mock heroic narrative) and contrast are identified. These are seen to indicate an alternative narrative in which Job is a judge being tested for the disillusionment of his false piety, specifically the honour values which pervert his administration of the Law. This is seen against an historico-political background in which an urban elite, bolstered by the honour values of the Wisdom Tradition, were able to exploit the poor through corruption of the judiciary. Thus the book of Job is seen as equivalent to a political satire (from a prophetic perspective) in the sense that it is an example story of the reform of a political figure. The honour discourse is seen as offering a means to integrate the Prologue, Dialogues and Epilogue in the book of Job from a didactic perspective. The view that the book of Job is a Wisdom text concerned with universal themes is thus challenged.
This paper investigates the theme of change in the book of Ecclesiastes, taking its cue from the statements ‘everything is transient’ (which introduces the book as a whole in 1.2, as well as heralding its closure in 12.8) and ‘for everything a season’ (which introduces a famous poem on the changing of the times in 3.1). The first statement demonstrates within itself a clever orthographic change which can be seen as symbolizing the philosophical meaning it carries, while the second statement—a variation on the first—leads into an intricately woven tapestry in the passage 3.1–8. Change is a universal human experience, and the paper utilizes concepts found in the Chinese ‘Book of Changes’, the I Ching, to chart a fresh reading of the biblical ‘Book of Changes’, Ecclesiastes.
In this article I build on my previous research in which I read the book of Isaiah and the book of the Twelve intertextually. Messengers of Yahweh in both books appear in sections concerned with Persian times (Isa. 40–66 and Haggai-Zechariah-Malachi) and are associated with laying the foundations of the Temple. However, while in Isaiah laying the foundations at the time of Cyrus is viewed as a future prospect, in the Twelve it is portrayed at the time of Darius as something already accomplished. Accompanying this difference is the portrayal of messengers in Isaiah as deaf and blind, while in the Twelve they are associated with seeing and hearing. This article also strengthens an earlier thesis by Naomi Cohen that messengers in these passages in Isaiah and the Twelve blur the distinction between ‘heavenly’ and ‘mortal’ beings.
This article examines one of the most enigmatic, if brief, texts in the biblical canon. It addresses several related questions or problems raised by the text. Who is circum cised? Why would God wish to kill Moses after sending him on a mission? And, why is it that Zipporah rather than Moses performs the operation? The article answers these questions through discussing them in the context of the Moses saga as a whole, and in terms of broader Hebrew structural patterns. The analysis focuses on the mechanisms of transformation developed, especially on that of inversion. It argues that all of the key mythemes, especially those in respect to women, are inverted, thereby clouding the structure of the text and creating the enigmas found in the narrative level. It also suggests that this inversion is related to the reversal of genealogical roles between Moses and Aaron.
This article seeks to explore the intriguing text of Numbers 27, in which the five daughters of Zelophehad challenge the judicial powers regarding the question of female inheritance (cf. also Num. 36). The daughters emerge as a symbol of the powerless standing up for what is right—the narrative serving as an example of where laws can be challenged and changed by the (divine) authorities in recognition of the needs of the disenfranchised. This study focuses on the complex hermeneutical issues involved in reading this narrative in the context of contesting points of view, including issues of gender, power and the right to land ownership. The proposal is made that the notion of human dignity may offer some important perspectives on this narrative, as well as the way it is used in contemporary context(s).
The double redaction theory of the Deuteronomistic History has its roots in the claim that there are logical discontinuities in the narrative from Manasseh to the end of 2 Kings. This article argues, however, that it is possible to see a coherent narrative in a synchronic reading of the final chapters of Kings once we recognize them as presenting a series of lessons to the Davidide in exile. Among the important lessons in 2 Kings 18–25 for Jehoiachin to learn is that, although he has received a negative evaluation from the narrative, the past sins on the parts of Josiah (for initially continuing Manasseh's sin) and Hezekiah (for initially failing to trust Yhwh to deliver Jerusalem) are ignored by Yhwh once they act rightly, and so are erased from their evaluations. It is still possible for Jehoiachin to earn an impeccable evaluation himself if he trusts Yhwh to deliver as Hezekiah eventually learned to do, and leads the nation in repentance as Josiah eventually did.
When the Tetragrammaton began to be read as Adonai is the subject of significant debate. While κύριoς in the Old Greek may be important evidence for this euphemism, many continue to doubt whether κύριoς is original to the Old Greek. In this article, the unique value of the double title ‭הוהי‬ ‭ינדא‬ is established in tracing the euphemism in question, and the replacement of ‭הוהי‬ ‭ינדא‬ of 2 Samuel with ‭םיהלא‬ ‭הוהי‬ in Chronicles is presented as early evidence of the euphemism. Thus the reading Adonai for the Tetragrammaton appears to have begun considerably earlier than is commonly thought.
Interpretations of the book of Jonah regularly focus on the prophet's explanation of his flight in 4.2 and Yhwh's explanation of the qiqayon in 4.10–11 to illuminate the main characters' conflict. However, neither speech is particularly explanatory. Additionally, closer examination of Jonah's words is suggested by his ironic and self-implicating speech elsewhere in the book. Yhwh's logic relating the qiqayon to Nineveh is also far from transparent. The reader is left to work out the nature of their conflict. In this article it is argued that the book focuses less on Yhwh's relationship with Nineveh than on pressing Jonah to recognize Yhwh's compassion for him, and that he is the only one in the entire world of the book that is unresponsive to Yhwh.
The Song of Deborah can be fruitfully analyzed as a literary whole which manifests a complex and intricate structure. In this article I first argue for the value of a unified treatment before presenting my own three-fold analysis. I demonstrate that there are important structuring devices within the text which have been ignored in the literature, and that vv. 2–8 and 9–22 run in close structural and thematic parallel to one another. I then turn to an examination of some of the literary devices at work in the Song of Deborah and make some observations about the types of poetic techniques it employs.
This article demonstrates that if there was love between Jonathan and David, it was primarily Jonathan's love for David; or at least, that it was a relationship based on both parties’ personal interests. Jonathan, under the guise of this love, seeks to obtain guarantees for private interests associated with his own future and that of his family and descendants. David, in turn, is concerned about his public image. He never expresses any sentiment for Jonathan; nowhere does the book of Samuel even hint that David returns Jonathan's love. Even when David, after Jonathan's death, pours out his soul in his lament and says: ‘I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan; very pleasant have you been to me’ (2 Sam. 1.26), he is not expressing sincere grief. Instead, the purpose of the lament is to enhance Jonathan's image after his death, in keeping with custom (de mortuus nil nisi bonum). It is also plausible that his mourning is a calculated pose, intended to impress the people and persuade them that he is deeply grieved by the death of the previous king's son, with all this implies.
Deborah, a respected leader, judge, and prophet who gives orders to Barak, a military commander, is similar in many ways to Moses—indeed, far more similar than either traditional or modern commentators acknowledge. Moreover, the story of the battle at Mount Tabor has remarkable parallels with the crossing of the Sea of Reeds. Nonetheless, Deborah is typically linked with Miriam and her story regarded as at best an aberration in the predominantly patriarchal world of ancient Israel. A full examination of the parallels, however, yields a reading that significantly raises the status of Deborah and sees her as an avatar of Moses himself.
The Deuteronomistic school/movement has left its traces in several biblical books. The Deuteronomistic History from Deuteronomy to Second Kings is not the only representative of Deuteronomistic (Dtr) theology—Dtr phraseology also occurs repeatedly in the book of Psalms. The most significant examples are Psalms 18, 25, 44, 50, 74, 78, 79, 81, 89 and 132. The Dtr influence originated differently in these psalms. In some cases editors inserted passages with Dtr colour into an earlier prayer, but in some other cases the original author of the psalm had employed Dtr language. It seems likely that Deuteronomism represented a kind of normative theology in the Second Temple period. However, this heritage was open for reinterpretation. Psalm 44, at least, protests against the Dtr way of thinking.
This article provides a response to an article by Yehoshua Gitay, ‘Prophetic Criticism—"What are they Doing?": The Case of Isaiah—A Methodological Assessment’ (JSOT 96), in which he assesses the articles in the volume, New Visions of Isaiah. These articles were originally delivered as papers to the Formation of the Book of Isaiah Seminar of the Society of Biblical Literature. Gitay characterizes the entire work of the Seminar as having a redaction-critical focus. I argue that to characterize my article as representing a redaction-critical approach is to misunderstand what others and I were doing as participants in the Isaiah seminar. My article was in fact a critique of redaction criticism and its author-centred approach to textual meaning.
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