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Table of contents :
The Oxford Handbook of the Writings of the Hebrew Bible
List of Contributors
List of Abbreviations
1. Studying the Writings as Postexilic Literature and Canon
Part I History
2. The Writings in the Early Postexilic Period (Cyrus through Ezra-​Nehemiah)
3. The Writings in the Hellenistic and Roman Period
4. Archaeology of the Postexilic Period and the Writings
Part II Institutional and Literary Traditions
5. Cultic Traditions in the Writings: Priests and Levites in the Postexilic Period
6. Wisdom Traditions and the Writings: Sage and Scribe
7. Apocalyptic Visions and Revisions of the End in the Writings
8. Postexilic Prose Traditions in the Writings: Novella Writers, Storytellers, and History Writers
9. Postexilic Poetic Traditions in the Writings
Part III Literature
10. Reading Psalms Sapientially in the Writings
11. The Book of Job in the Context of the Writings
12. Reading Proverbs as a Book in the Writings
13. Lamentations and Canon: Conversations in the Dark
14. Ruth: A Reading of Scripture?
15. Esther’s Frame within the Writings
16. Qoheleth in the Writings
17. The Wisdom of Desire in the Song of Songs
18. Reimagining Community Past and Present in Ezra and Nehemiah
19. Chronicles and the Writings
20. Reading Daniel as Part of the Writings
Part IV Later Interpretation
21. Writings in the Dead Sea Scrolls
22. Nascent Judaism: The Writings and the History of Religions
23. Ancient Near Eastern Religions and the Writings
24. The Divine–​Human Encounter in the Hebrew Wisdom of the Writings and the Confucian Analects
25. Moving Texts: The Writings in Western Music and Visual Arts
26. The Reception of the Writings and Their Place in the Biblical Canon
27. The Canonical Shape and Function of the Writings
28. Aspects of Jewish Reception of the Ketuvim (Writings)
29. The Writings in the Christian Bible
30. The Writings and Canon: Enduring Issues and Legacy
Textual Index
Recommend Papers

The Oxford Handbook of the Writings of the Hebrew Bible
 2018001368, 9780190212438, 9780190900526, 9780190212452

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T h e Ox f o r d H a n d b o o k o f


The Oxford Handbook of




3 Oxford University Press is a department of the University of Oxford. It furthers the University’s objective of excellence in research, scholarship, and education by publishing worldwide. Oxford is a registered trade mark of Oxford University Press in the UK and certain other countries. Published in the United States of America by Oxford University Press 198 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016, United States of America. © Oxford University Press 2019 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior permission in writing of Oxford University Press, or as expressly permitted by law, by license, or under terms agreed with the appropriate reproduction rights organization. Inquiries concerning reproduction outside the scope of the above should be sent to the Rights Department, Oxford University Press, at the address above. You must not circulate this work in any other form and you must impose this same condition on any acquirer. Library of Congress Cataloging-​in-​Publication Data Names: Morgan, Donn F., editor. Title: Oxford handbook of the Writings of the Hebrew Bible /​ edited by Donn F. Morgan. Description: New York, NY : Oxford University Press, [2018] | Series: Oxford handbooks | Includes bibliographical references and index. Identifiers: LCCN 2018001368 | ISBN 9780190212438 (hardcover : alk. paper) | ISBN 9780190900526 (epub) | ISBN 9780190212452 (online resource) Subjects: LCSH: Bible. Hagiographa—​Criticism, interpretation, etc. Classification: LCC BS1308.O94 2018 | DDC 223/​.06—​dc23 LC record available at https://​​2018001368 1 3 5 7 9 8 6 4 2 Printed by Sheridan Books, Inc., United States of America


Preface  List of Contributors  List of Abbreviations 

ix xi xv

1. Studying the Writings as Postexilic Literature and Canon  Donn F. Morgan


PA RT I   H I S TORY  2. The Writings in the Early Postexilic Period (Cyrus through Ezra-​Nehemiah)  Lester L. Grabbe


3. The Writings in the Hellenistic and Roman Period  Timothy H. Lim


4. Archaeology of the Postexilic Period and the Writings  Benjamin D. Gordon


PA RT I I   I N ST I T U T IONA L A N D L I T E R A RY T R A DI T ION S  5. Cultic Traditions in the Writings: Priests and Levites in the Postexilic Period  Mark A. Leuchter


6. Wisdom Traditions and the Writings: Sage and Scribe  James L. Crenshaw


7. Apocalyptic Visions and Revisions of the End in the Writings  Bennie H. Reynolds III


vi   Contents

8. Postexilic Prose Traditions in the Writings: Novella Writers, Storytellers, and History Writers  Thomas M. Bolin 9. Postexilic Poetic Traditions in the Writings  Susan E. Gillingham

116 132

PA RT I I I   L I T E R AT U R E  10. Reading Psalms Sapientially in the Writings  William P. Brown


11. The Book of Job in the Context of the Writings  Katharine J. Dell


12. Reading Proverbs as a Book in the Writings  Julius Steinberg


13. Lamentations and Canon: Conversations in the Dark  Scott Ellington


14. Ruth: A Reading of Scripture?  A. Graeme Auld


15. Esther’s Frame within the Writings  Timothy J. Stone


16. Qoheleth in the Writings  Erhard S. Gerstenberger


17. The Wisdom of Desire in the Song of Songs  Carey Walsh


18. Reimagining Community Past and Present in Ezra and Nehemiah  Melody D. Knowles


19. Chronicles and the Writings  John C. Endres


20. Reading Daniel as Part of the Writings  Ralph W. Klein


Contents   vii

PA RT I V   L AT E R I N T E R P R E TAT ION  21. Writings in the Dead Sea Scrolls  Lawrence H. Schiffman


22. Nascent Judaism: The Writings and the History of Religions  Jon L. Berquist


23. Ancient Near Eastern Religions and the Writings  Daniel C. Snell


24. The Divine–​Human Encounter in the Hebrew Wisdom of the Writings and the Confucian Analects  Archie C. C. Lee 25. Moving Texts: The Writings in Western Music and Visual Arts  Roger Ferlo

369 384

26. The Reception of the Writings and Their Place in the Biblical Canon  397 Lee Martin McDonald 27. The Canonical Shape and Function of the Writings  Timothy J. Stone


28. Aspects of Jewish Reception of the Ketuvim (Writings)  Alan Cooper


29. The Writings in the Christian Bible  Mark W. Elliott


30. The Writings and Canon: Enduring Issues and Legacy  Donn F. Morgan


Index Textual Index

473 481


This handbook serves as a research and reference resource for serious students of the Writings, the third canonical division of the Hebrew Bible. It presents and discusses the most current and significant scholarship dealing with this literature and its postexilic setting. In doing so, the handbook provides not only an important research guide for students of the Writings but a major contribution to the history of religion and interpretation of what has been called an Axial Age. The many chapters and individual studies contained in this Handbook of the Writings of the Hebrew Bible presuppose and argue for the significance of this literature as a canonical division of the Hebrew Bible. The import of the Writings has been discussed from three different perspectives. First, as a postexilic creation, this literature is both a resource for and a product of a time critical to the nascence of Judaism and Christianity. The postexilic period in Israel and the ancient Near East is the context for the Writings. Within this multicultural context several important social groups contributed to the oral and literary traditions associated with the Hebrew Bible. Sages, visionaries, cultic officials, singers, poets, storytellers, and more have left their marks on this literature and its institutional history. The most current thinking about these groups and their contributions, together with a solid presentation of the history of the time, including insights and contributions of archeology, is presented in the first section, a necessary backdrop for understanding the Writings. Second, as a collection of diverse literature, the Writings lift up the importance of difference and dialogue between seemingly incompatible traditions (universalism and particularism, the wisdom of Proverbs and that of Qoheleth, etc.) in scripture. The Writings illustrate a breadth of social functions and roles associated with late postexilic communities of faith struggling with the Diaspora, with loss of land, and national autonomy. The handbook gives special attention to each book—​its literary forms, structure, and message. Each chapter discusses the purposes of the literature, highlighting pertinent contemporary parallels or applications when appropriate. Third and finally, the Writings are scripture and a canonical division of the Hebrew Bible. As such, it has a rich history of reception in both Judaism and Christianity, reflecting a powerful impact on the nature of the faith communities that use it. The import of its overall structure and themes, the ways in which it commends the interpretation and use of Torah and Prophets, and the mandating of a biblical dialogue between books of very different origin and message continue to enrich and sustain its readers today. This final section of the handbook presents and discusses this rich reception history in religious traditions (biblical and nonbiblical), in music and art, and as scriptural canon.

x   Preface Because this handbook rests upon the recognition that these books are part of a scriptural canon, the normative and authoritative nature of particular books as well as of the entire literary collection must be taken seriously. The user of this handbook will thus be challenged to see the individual books of the Writings in larger scriptural, historical, theological, and hermeneutical contexts. It is hoped that this Oxford Handbook will provide a good orientation and starting point for future study of this literature important to historians, theologians, and literary scholars, to say nothing of the many faith communities that use it as normative scripture. This preface to The Oxford Handbook of the Writings of the Hebrew Bible would not be complete without my thanksgiving for the work and support of many friends and colleagues. First, without Steve Wiggins of Oxford University Press, this volume would simply not exist. It was Steve’s idea to have such a handbook. He then strongly encouraged me to take the idea and run with it. From helping to conceptualize its format, to aiding me in my search for first-​rate contributors, to providing other support all along the way of a four-​year research project, Steve has truly been indispensable. Thank you, Steve, and to all the staff of Oxford who help to make such projects become published reality. I owe many thanks to all the contributors to this volume who committed to a long-​ term project and faithfully not only did their own work but often helped me with larger issues of organization and implementation. To my colleagues in the Society of Biblical Literature, the Anglican Association of Biblical Scholars, the Society of Old Testament Studies, and the European Association of Biblical Scholars who patiently heard me read papers and speak informally about this project—​thank you for your interest and your insights. Finally, as always, my wife, Alda, has been the sounding board for new ideas, for frustrations, and for challenges along a long road of study and interchange with colleagues all over the world. Thank you! Donn F. Morgan October 2017


A. Graeme Auld  Professor Emeritus of Hebrew Bible The University of Edinburgh Edinburgh, Scotland Jon L. Berquist  Professor of Hebrew Bible Claremont School of Theology Claremont, California Thomas M. Bolin  Professor of Theology and Religious Studies St. Norbert College De Pere, Wisconsin William P. Brown  William Marcellus McPheeters Professor of Old Testament Columbia Theological Seminary Decatur, Georgia Alan Cooper  Elaine Ravich Professor of Jewish Studies and Provost The Jewish Theological Seminary New York, New York James L. Crenshaw  Robert L. Flowers Professor of the Old Testament Emeritus Duke University Durham, North Carolina

Katharine J. Dell  Reader in Old Testament Literature and Theology Cambridge University, United Kingdom, and Fellow and Director of Studies in Theology, Religion and Philosophy of Religion St. Catharine’s College Cambridge, England Scott Ellington  Professor School of Christian Ministries Emmanuel College Franklin Springs, Georgia Mark W. Elliott  Professor of Historical and Biblical Theology University of St. Andrews St. Andrews, Scotland John C. Endres  Professor of Sacred Scripture (Old Testament) Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University Berkeley, California Roger Ferlo  Professor of Biblical Interpretation and the Practice of Ministry Emeritus Bexley Seabury Seminary Federation Chicago, Illinois

xii   Contributors Erhard S. Gerstenberger  Professor Emeritus of Old Testament Philipps-​Universität Marburg, Germany Susan E. Gillingham  Professor of the Hebrew Bible University of Oxford United Kingdom and Fellow and Tutor in Theology Worcester College, Oxford Benjamin D. Gordon  Assistant Professor and Rosenberg-​ Perlow Fellow in Religious Studies University of Pittsburgh Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Lester L. Grabbe  Emeritus Professor of the Hebrew Bible and Early Judaism The University of Hull Hull, England Ralph W. Klein  Christ Seminary-​Seminex Professor of Old Testament Emeritus Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago Chicago, Illinois Melody D. Knowles  Vice President of Academic Affairs and Associate Professor of Old Testament Virginia Theological Seminary Alexandria, Virginia Archie C. C. Lee  Professor Center for Judaic and Inter-​Religious Studies Shandong University Jinan, China

Mark A. Leuchter  Professor of Hebrew Bible and Ancient Judaism Temple University Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Timothy H. Lim  Professor of Hebrew Bible and Second Temple Judaism The University of Edinburgh Edinburgh, Scotland Lee Martin McDonald  President Emeritus and Professor of New Testament Studies Acadia Divinity College at Acadia University Wolfville, Nova Scotia, Canada Donn F. Morgan  Professor of Old Testament Emeritus Church Divinity School of the Pacific Berkeley, California Bennie H. Reynolds III Director of Assessment Medical University of South Carolina Charleston, South Carolina Lawrence H. Schiffman  Judge Abraham Lieberman Professor of Hebrew and Judaic Studies and Director of the Global Network for Advanced Research in Jewish Studies New York University New York, New York Daniel C. Snell  L. J. Semrod Presidential Professor Emeritus University of Oklahoma Norman, Oklahoma

Contributors   xiii Julius Steinberg  Professor of Old Testament and Hebrew Theologische Hochschule Ewersbach, Germany Timothy J. Stone  History Department The Stony Brook School Stony Brook, New York

Carey Walsh  Professor of Old Testament Villanova University Villanova, Pennsylvania


AB Anchor Bible ABD

Anchor Bible Dictionary


Anchor Bible Reference Library


Alter Orient und Altes Testament


Annual of the Swedish Theological Institute


Das Alte Testament Deutsche


Biblical Archaeology Reports


Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research


Bonner biblische Beitrage


Before the Common Era


Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia


Biblical Interpretation Series


Brown Judaic Studies


Biblischer Kommentar, Altes Testament


Bibliotheca Sacra


Beihefte zur Zeitschrift für die altestamentliche Wissenschaft


Contributions to Biblical Exegesis and Theology


Catholic Biblical Quarterly


Catholic Biblical Quarterly Monograph Series


The Common Era


Discoveries in the Judean Desert


Dead Sea Discoveries


Ertrage der Forschung


Europaische Hochschulschriften


English Translation


English Version


Forschungen zum Alten Testament


Forms of the Old Testament Literature

xvi   Abbreviations FRLANT

Forschungen zur Religion und Literatur des Alten und Neuen Testaments


(Irenaeus) Adversus haereses (Elenchos)


Handbuch zum Alten Testament

HB Hebrew Bible HBM

Hebrew Bible Monographs


Herder’s Biblische Studien


Harvard Dissertations in Religion


Herders Theologischer Kommentar zum Alten Testament


Hebrew Union College Annual


Journal of Ancient Near Eastern Religions


Journal of Biblical Literature


Journal of Bible and Religion


Journal of Hebrew Scriptures


Journal of Hellenic Studies


Journal of Jewish Studies


Journal for the Study of Judaism in the Persian, Hellenistic, and Roman Periods


Journal for the Study of the Old Testament


Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Supplement Series


Journal of Theological Studies


Kommentar zum Alten Testament


Library of Ancient Israel


Library of Hebrew Bible/​Old Testament Studies


Library of Second Temple Studies

MT Masoretic Text NIB

The New Interpreter’s Bible


New International Commentary of the Old Testament


New Revised Standard Version


Orbis Biblicus et Orientalis


Overtures to Biblical Theology


Old Testament Library


Perspectives in Religious Studies


Revue de Qumran


Stuttgarter biblische Aufsatzbände

Abbreviations   xvii SBLDS

Society of Biblical Literature Dissertation Series


Society of Biblical Literature Monograph Series


Studia Judaica


Scandinavian Journal of the Old Testament


Studies on the Texts of the Desert of Judah


Theologisches Wörterbuch zum Alten Testament

Transeu Transeuphratene TRE

Theologische Realenzyklopadie


Trierer Theologische Zeitschrift




Vetus Testamentum


Vetus Testamentum Supplements


Word Biblical Commentary


Wissenschaftliche Monographien zum Alten und Neuen Testament


Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament


Zeitschrift für altorientalische und biblische Rechtgeschichte


Zeitschrift für die altestamentliche Wissenschaft

T h e Ox f o r d H a n d b o o k o f


Chapter 1

St udy ing the W ri t i ng s as P ostexilic L i t e rat u re and Ca non Donn F. Morgan

The Writings, or Hagiographa in Greek, is the title of the third division of the Hebrew Bible, following Torah and Prophets. Its contents contain a wide range of literature:  Psalms, Job, Proverbs, Song of Songs, Lamentations, Ruth, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Daniel, Ezra-​Nehemiah, and 1–​2 Chr. Within this literature the Psalms are much beloved and used regularly in both Jewish and Christian liturgy. The book of Lamentations, though traditionally attributed to Jeremiah and focused on the sixth century bce destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians, is closely tied to lament forms of prayer found in the Psalms. The book of Job is an enduring literary masterpiece, confounding and challenging as it addresses fundamental human and theological issues of life that touch all people everywhere. Job, together with Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, is recognized and categorized as biblical wisdom literature. The Song of Songs, often associated with Solomon, is love poetry, also seen by some as wisdom literature. Chronicles and Ezra-​ Nehemiah tell and retell the history of Israel from earliest times through the work of Ezra and Nehemiah in postexilic times, with a special focus on the monarchial period. Ruth and Esther, espousing very different theological and social perspectives, make their points through narratives focused on particular women important in the history of Israel. Daniel, usually considered the latest book of the Hebrew Bible, contains both stories of Daniel and others struggling against foreign threats to their religious practice as well as fully developed apocalyptic visions of the “end.”

Context and Raison D’etre There is incredible diversity within this literature: poetry and prose; apocalyptic and establishment points of view; theological and anthropological perspectives; lament and

2   Donn F. Morgan praise; and much more. In addition to the fact that most of this literature receives its “final” form sometime in the rather long postexilic period (ca. 520 bce to 67 bce), a frequent question posed to this seemingly disparate and different collection is: “What holds this literature together?” Or: “What is the rhyme and reason of the Writings?’ The first answer to such concerns may be perceived as a truism or perhaps begging the questions altogether: This literature is all scripture and set inside a canon, namely the Hebrew Bible, as a particular division. As such, this literature, all of it, is authoritative and normative for the teaching and living of communities of faith that consider it scripture. Beyond this, however, for much of its history as a part of the Hebrew Bible, the Writings as a division and collection has often raised more issues and questions than it has answered (Steinberg and Stone 2015a: 1–​58). Among the kinds of questions and concerns brought to this canonical division as a whole are the following: • Content and genre. What kind of literature is represented here (prayers [e.g., hymns, laments, etc.], proverbs, history, letters, apocalyptic visions, love poetry, et  al.)? What are its primary concerns? • Order: Structure and sequence. Is there any rationale to be discerned in the order of the books? Has that order affected the communities of faith that use it? What evidence do we have for this? • Interrelationships. How do we relate the liturgical poetry of Lamentations to the Psalms? Or the wisdom of Proverbs to Ecclesiastes and Job? Or the history writing of Ezra-​Nehemiah to 1–​2 Chr? The collection as a whole demands some answers to these questions. • Historical context. Can we learn anything about the purpose and rationale for including these books as scripture in the Writings by seeing them in their historical context as postexilic Jewish literature? What major traditions (religious, social, political, theological) are functioning at this time in the life of the people, and how are the Writings reflective of or influenced by them? • Function and use. How do the ancient biblical communities of faith use these texts? The Psalms, for example, perform an all-​important liturgical function for many. But what about the wisdom literature of Job and Proverbs? What about the wise naysayer in Ecclesiastes? How did they and how do we use the visions of Daniel or the histories of Chronicles and Ezra-​Nehemiah? • Relationship to other scripture. How is this collection of literature related to the other two divisions of the Hebrew Bible, Torah and Prophets? Are the Writings important to the New Testament or to contemporary rabbinic writings or later Jewish literature (e.g., the Mishnah or Talmud)? Answering these questions may involve a focus on intertextuality or tradition history. It may need to address theological and historical developments in religious institutions. Canonical questions focusing on the overall purposes of scriptural collections and how these collections are related to one another may also be raised. As is so often the case, exploring relationships to other scripture is set within our frail grasp of the historical settings and purposes for this ancient literature. In our contemporary attempts to understand and make sense of these relationships for our present day, we must first trace a fascinating

Writings as Postexilic Literature and Canon    3 and important history of interpretation in the postexilic period when Judaism is born. The study of the Writings touches and includes many important issues in biblical scholarship in both Judaism and Christianity for all who live in our world today. When the question “Who knows or cares about The Writings?” is raised, the answer should be “Everyone!” And yet, if we were to ask this question to Jewish or Christian congregations, in many cases there might not be much familiarity, recognition, or even interest in the Writings. Not so, however, in a typical gathering of biblical scholars. Today the significance of the Writings, with much attention to questions of history, literature, theology, and canon, is generally acknowledged in the academy. There appears to be a disparity between the interests of scholarship and the communities for which this literature is canonical scripture. Serious students of the Writings must acknowledge the wide gap between the interests and concerns of biblical scholarship and the communities of faith for whom this literature is both scripture and canon, and they must explore the implications of this disparity. Students of this literature know that its voices touch many important contemporary issues as well as provide an all-​important snapshot of the roots and development of both Judaism and Christianity. Whether as a professional scholar, a congregant, or a casual reader, there is a mandate coming from the study of the Writings to make this literature and canon more widely known and appreciated. While in biblical scholarship the books of the Writings are relatively well known, the ways in which they are organized differ widely, reflecting their different placements and order in Jewish and Christian Bibles. It might be argued that the diversity and sometimes seemingly inchoate nature of the Writings raise as many problems as they solve. Indeed, while this literature is a part of the scriptural canon, their definition, historical development, and function have become subjects of much disagreement in the past generation of biblical studies. Nevertheless, there are some points of consensus, some places where general agreement about the Writings can be had. This literature bears the stamp of the postexilic period, for the most part. As such, it is important in any discussions of the development of Judaism, and Christianity, containing within it themes and emphases of literary, sociological, historical, and theological import (sin, suffering, confession, and repentance; theodicy; governance; diaspora living; particularism and universalism; et al.). Whether so designated by philosophers, historians, or religious or secular scholars, this literature and the times in which it was composed deserve to be a part of an Axial Age. Coupled with important developments in biblical scholarship over the past fifty years or more, this literature warrants a continued focus as canonical scripture.

The Writings as Scripture and Canon Because the Writings are a canonical division within the Hebrew Bible, any study dealing with this literature as a whole must necessarily address questions about canon.

4   Donn F. Morgan Definitions of canon abound, but two of the oldest are pertinent here. First, canon is a container, something which divides, collects, and separates.1 So the literature in the Writings is separated both from the other literature in the Hebrew Bible as well as all other literature. Another central function associated with this characteristic of canon is preservation:  the books are kept—​safe and separate—​from others. Second, canon is a measure, providing limits. Not all literature can or should be in the container of canon. Certain judgments and evaluations about the character of the literature found in a canon are necessary. The Writings are a particular kind of canon, a canon of scripture. As such, all of this literature is authoritative, even normative, for the communities of faith that consider it “holy” scripture. The canonical functions of preservation and separation (distinguishing) are lifted up and emphasized because these writings are scripture. There can be no doubt, given the diversity of the Writings, that there were many different reasons for considering this particular literature authoritative, many different functions served, many different settings in which they were used. But, whether for worship or for general behavioral values and norms, or communal organization, or other purposes, this literature as scripture has a special place and role in religious communities. Ultimately, of course, these individual writings, originally written in particular times and places, become the property of a larger entity, Judaism, and, in another and different canonical container, Christianity as well. The Writings, together with Torah and Prophets in the Hebrew Bible, provide resources for the fulfillment of the basic needs of the larger community, among these being identity and mission. In contexts of governance or worship or family life, scripture provides important values, stories, and teachings for individual and communal formation and direction. The Writings as scripture begin with particular messages to the faith communities that consider it such. Ultimately, as this literature is used in many different religious and cultural contexts, published widely in a variety of books and other media, its value and import assume a universal character. Finally, then, not simply Jews or Christians but many others have the ability to learn from Job, to lament and praise with the psalmist, to experience the apocalyptic visions of Daniel, to learn of living faithfully in diaspora through Esther. As literature, as scripture, and as canon, the Writings lift up issues central for community identity building, for effective governance, for faithful living in the context of challenge and crisis. All of this, then, provides a rationale, even perhaps a mandate, for further study of the Writings of the Hebrew Bible. With a focus on the Writings as canon and scripture, there are a host of questions concerning its role and function that need to be addressed: • Does it make any difference how and when the Writings became canon? • Does the order and sequence of the Writings, as it has been transmitted over the centuries, make any difference to our interpretation of this canonical division? • Related to the question of order and sequence, how important is the (sub)collection of the Megilloth (Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther) for students of the Writings?

Writings as Postexilic Literature and Canon    5 • Does the nature of this literature as scripture and canon lift up the importance of any particular perspectives and methods for reading and interpretation, for example, canonical criticism or reception history? • How important are questions of authorship and original setting for the Writings? These questions, stemming from particular characteristics of canon and scripture, provide further motivation and shape for a rich study of this biblical material. It is to the history of this study we now turn.

Studying the Writings as Literature, Scripture, and Canon The current scholarship devoted to individual books found within the Writings and to the postexilic period in the ancient Near East is impressive and found in many articles, monographs, dictionaries, and commentaries.2 This is hardly surprising, for some of the best literature and poetry ever written is contained in the Writings. Moreover, this literature addresses issues critical to religion and society at all times: particularism, universalism, orthodoxy, heresy, the role and place of the “other,” identity, mission, theodicy, and so on. The postexilic context of the Writings leads into and overlaps a time of explosive literary activity (200 bce to 200 ce) in the ancient Near East. This is a period when canons of scriptures are formed and interpretive processes necessary for their continuance and pertinence are created. Viewed in this historical light, the Writings contain important precursors and catalysts for seminal developments in Judaism and Christianity. Despite the scholarly attention given to the individual books in the Writings and to the postexilic period, there have been relatively few books written about the Writings as a canonical division of the Hebrew Bible. The absence of such a general discussion focusing on the scriptural division of the Writings is confirmed by Brevard Childs: “Modern critical scholarship has attributed little significance to the Hebrew canon’s division of a final section called the Writings or Hagiographa (ketubim)” (1979: 501). If, then, not much significance has been given previously to the Writings, a rather obvious and legitimate question is raised: Is there any need now for serious attention to the Writings as a canonical division? Comparing and contrasting previous scholarship on the Writings is one way to answer this question, lifting up central and enduring characteristics of this literature as well as highlighting new developments. We begin with a comparison of T. Henshaw’s The Writings:  The Third Division of the Old Testament Canon, a general overview of the scholarship on the Writings published in 1963, with Julius Steinberg’s and Timothy Stone’s recently published volume, The Shape of the Writings (2015b), addressing structural and canonical aspects of this scriptural literature.

6   Donn F. Morgan From the beginning of his work, Henshaw acknowledges difficulty:  “Controversy continues on many questions relating to ‘The Writings’, so that in dealing with these it is impossible to speak of the ‘assured results which the future is not likely to reverse’ ” (Henshaw 1963:  5). Steinberg and Stone affirm this judgment:  “Finally, it is vital to note that the paucity of the historical evidence for the formation of the Hebrew canon leaves much unexplained and any final appraisal in serious doubt” (2015a: 52). This is complemented by Stone’s earlier study of the Megilloth where he states: “No overarching scheme unites the Writings” (2013:  6) as a way of introducing and summarizing the problems associated with describing the structural character of this literature as scripture and as canon. Despite the rather sobering consensus concerning the mysterious character of this collection, or perhaps inchoate is a more precise term, and despite warnings that studying the canon and its history, particularly that of the Writings, is fraught with supposition and tentative (or perhaps tenuous) conclusions, many studies addressing the very issues raised by the Writings have continued in the more than fifty years between Henshaw and Steinberg and Stone. For example, when the scholarship presented in Henshaw’s general overview of the Writings is compared with the interests of contemporary scholarship, most of the components are the same. These include a focus on (1) the literature itself; (2) the history of the postexilic period; (3) the significant traditions (for example, wisdom and apocalyptic) of sages and seers; and (4) the development and finalization of scripture and canon. What is not the same, however, are the issues being debated, the methods being utilized, or the sequence of the presentations. Henshaw, for example, presents the question of canon formation and its pertinence for the Writings as the very first topic. Today, however, canon is often the last topic, presenting the latest historical reconstructions of the canonization process. Henshaw, using a common metaphor for canon, begins by describing the “container” in which the Writings are found. Despite acknowledging there is much still unknown and unresolved, he relied upon a scholarly consensus of answers to the “when” and “how” and “what” of this division of the Hebrew Bible (for example, tripartite canon development, a council at Jamnia, etc.). In contrast, the present generation of biblical scholarship speaks of an ongoing debate (of which the Steinberg and Stone volume is a sterling example) about the shape and character of the Writings, on the one hand, and the whole development of canon, Jewish and Christian, on the other. Indeed, much contemporary scholarly work addressing the history, literature, and theology of the Writings and canon represents an overturning of the consensus views recounted by Henshaw in the early 1960s (no council at Jamnia, no early tripartite canon, etc.). Further, the methods used to study canonical literature have been supplemented by canonical analysis (see, for example, Childs 1979 and Sanders 1984 and 1987), by concerns with reception history,3 by revisionist histories based on new archeological findings (for example, Finkelstein 2001), to name but a few. There is, then, no longer a scholarly consensus about the “when,” the “how,” and the “what” of canon, its formation, and its interpretation. Rather than starting with a relatively well-​ defined container in which the components of the Writings fit, today we must begin to examine this literature in light of both its important historical context and its life

Writings as Postexilic Literature and Canon    7 subsequent to canonization in order to understand and articulate its pertinence and value. The pertinence and value of the Writings was something Henshaw had presumed. So things have changed! The consensus view represented by Henshaw rested upon historical critical methodologies. In both church and society, the social and political upheavals of the mid-​to late twentieth century ultimately highlighted diversity in both method and culture, with impacts that continue to bring shifts in our understanding of the Bible, its history, and its import. One of the powerful change agents in our understanding of canon and its history, namely the discovery and subsequent study of the Dead Sea Scrolls, was a part of Henshaw’s analysis as well. For many early on, the literary evidence from Qumran witnessed to a very different picture of “canon” in early Judaism, where many text types and text collections were in circulation at the same time. But it took significant time and reflection to tease out the implications of Qumran for canon. While most scholars of the period are now compelled to acknowledge the plurality of textual collections in the late postexilic period, there is still a desire by some to find the roots of the Writings as a canonical division early, while others believe it must be quite late. “Fluidity” is a characteristic of canon formation for text critics and historians of canon formation, with the reigning supposition being the presence of many texts, and perhaps even canons, in many communities. Another hotly debated issue revolves around the “containers” used to speak of and organize canon in this late postexilic period. In the older consensus represented by Henshaw, Torah was fully formed and recognized by the fourth century bce, the Prophets no more than two centuries later, with the Writings gradually developing until Jamnia in the first century bce. Today, besides recognizing that Torah was subject to editing and interpretation in later periods (see, for example, Fishbane 1985), many argue that the tripartite division of Torah, Prophets, Writings (Hebrew acronym: TNK/​Tanak) is a very late development, with a bipartite (Torah and Prophets) division in existence for much of the early period (see, for example, Barton 1997; McDonald and Sanders 2002; Lim 2013). The limited evidence makes it impossible to rule out either of these historical reconstructions. The “conservative” position argues for an earlier date, presumably more authoritative and less tarnished by subsequent interpretation, while the “liberal” position maintains a more inclusive and amorphous process of canonization with deference to prophetic authority and interpretation. Henshaw states concerning the formation and closure of the Hebrew canon: “It is generally supposed that the Hebrew Canon was finally fixed at the Council of Jamnia (c. a.d. 90)” (1963: 16). Today, many scholars see this supposition as the wishful and creative thinking of a previous generation of canon students. Together with long-​held suppositions concerning the history of Israel, for example, the size of the Davidic and Solomonic monarchies, or the character and size of Judea’s infrastructure and population in Persian times, the existence of the so-​called council of Jamnia has faded into the history of previous generations of biblical interpretation (see McDonald and Sanders 2002). In its place is a great diversity of opinion on the dates of canonization—​ranging from a late fixing of canon in the third century ce, or even later, to a relatively early

8   Donn F. Morgan formation in the second century bce, or even earlier. Regardless of methods used or eloquence of argumentation, the sparseness of evidence, formerly no impediment to consensus theories like the council at Jamnia, now prevents a new consensus. Instead, this lack of evidence in effect authorizes or validates the present diversity of opinion. Whether or not these changes in scholarly opinion will help answer our ultimate question of why anyone should know or care about the Writings remains to be seen. But surely the question itself is much more visible and in the center of biblical scholarship, if not the communities of faith that hold the literature of the Writings as scripture.

Issues and Methods So much has happened since Henshaw published his overview of the Writings now more than fifty years ago. Then we could speak of a consensus; today there is none. Then there were some “tried and true” methods providing perspective for the biblical text and its historical development; today there are many different methods and perspectives, some of them with historical focus, some not, with nothing considered “tried and true” by all. So many theories and positions! At one level, things have remained the same, with the ongoing debate over the historical nature and extent of the canon a prime example. Even in “new” canonical analysis, for example, many have noted the contrast of James Sanders’s position with that of Brevard Childs is in some ways a reflection or variation on older themes and concerns of Rudolph Bultmann contrasted with Karl Barth. But in other ways canonical study reflects a new postmodern approach, a decoupling of historical development and values from classical theological and literary interpretations, representing new concerns and perspectives in the academy and the world. And, as is so often the case, most of these “new” developments and perspectives are borrowed and imported from other academic disciplines and cultural developments. As we discuss the Writings in this new time and new place after Henshaw, which issues are most pertinent and which methods are most promising for our study of canon and its history? The following list is not exhaustive, but it represents some of the places where new scholarship has made a difference in our understanding of this canonical division. 1. Scripture: Definitions and significance. In the study of the Writings most attention on scripture has been on its extent and status, viewed primarily through an historical prism. So, for example, we speak of the problems with viewing such books as Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, and Esther as scripture, tracing their interpretations in early Judaism. Or we debate the existence of bipartite or tripartite divisions of scripture in the Hebrew Bible’s early development, contrasting them with a very different organization found in the Greek Septuagint. While the battle lines are clear and the positions strong, we are perhaps unlikely to reach definitive answers to these scriptural questions and their underlying historical development in the foreseeable future. On the other hand, the reading of a text holistically, looking

Writings as Postexilic Literature and Canon    9 at its “canonical” or final shape has enhanced, expanded, and nuanced the definition of scripture, on the one hand, and provided new opportunities for study and debate, on the other. Espousing a way of reading the biblical text in its final form that has some affinities with literary criticism, Childs has argued for a distinctive function of scripture within communities of faith based less on its historical anchor in a particular time and place and more on its theological structure, holistically conceived (1979). Sanders, on the other hand, while also concerned with the overall final picture of canon, focuses much more on historical development, relying upon redaction and other compositional perspectives to understand and describe the particular communities represented by the (final) text (1984). Sanders is more interested in explaining why the message is what it is, while Childs, focusing theologically on the final canonical structure of the text, is more interested in articulating the pertinence and relevance of the scriptural/​canonical message for all biblical communities. While many others have made significant contributions to our understanding of scripture and canon in the past fifty years, the focus on holistic reading of the final form of the text, coupled with a preference for either historical or literary perspectives, has become central to determining and describing the character of scripture in both ancient and contemporary worlds. 2. Themes. How shall we understand and make sense of the contents of the Writings? It is both popular and in a sense politically correct to notice and affirm the incredible diversity of history, literature, and theology in this canonical division. But without finding some major message or messages that continue to remain applicable to the present day, the diversity of the Writings is in danger of being jettisoned or dismissed as a collection of irrelevant literature. At the same time, there have been several interesting attempts to lift up its importance as a postexilic collection with many recognizable themes. Many have identified the wisdom voice of the Writings found in Proverbs, Job, and Ecclesiastes and, to a lesser extent, the Song of Songs. And a voice lifting up many historical themes, aiming to anchor the particularity of the community of Israel (Chronicles, Daniel) in Judea but also aware of the new diaspora character of Judaism (Ezra-​Nehemiah, Ruth, Esther) is also very important in this collection. While thematic approaches to the literature of the Writings do not clearly address the structure and meaning of the “whole” canonical collection in ways done for Torah and Prophets (Blenkinsopp 1977; Childs 1979; Sanders 2005 [1972], Seitz 2009; etc.), it does provide important ways to understand and tie together many of the different voices in the Writings, anchoring them in the new challenges of the postexilic period (see Steinberg 2006) and advocating their continued pertinence as scripture and canon in the present day. 3. Functions or roles. Highlighting the ways in which this literature functions within the community of faith is central to understanding its character as ancient scripture, as well as its historical development within both Judaism and Christianity. The liturgical functions and roles of the Psalms are an obvious and important example. Jews and Christians alike share this literature. Again, the enduring questions of Job, coming out of difficult circumstances that continue to be a part of every life, are always very much with us. And, while the tone and topic of Lamentations, are a

10   Donn F. Morgan bit too melancholy for some, and the pessimism of Ecclesiastes a bit too cynical, both of these works continue to provide important and paradigmatic roles for living honestly and faithfully. A more general discussion of the roles and functions of the Writings can be found in Sanders (2005 [1972]), who is trying to address the overall value and character of the collection. My study, Between Community and Text (1990), is another example of this kind of approach to the literature, focusing on the ways in which these texts can and have been used in the context of the community of faith. Eugene Peterson (1980) deals with the pastoral contributions one might find in the Megilloth, the later liturgical collection of Ruth, the Song of Songs, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, and Esther. Though it will always be a matter of debate whether a focus on themes, functions, and roles has anything to do with the “original” intentions and use of this literature, particularly as a canonical collection, there is no doubt that these kinds of approaches help us understand the character of ancient scripture in the life of faith communities, then and now. Several studies have focused on reception history, the ways in which biblical literature has been received and shaped by later communities of faith. This method can be used to highlight the continuing roles, functions, and themes of the Writings 4. Relationship of books to each other and to other parts of the canon. Work done in this area stretches back almost to Henshaw and continues to the present day. With a variety of methods, Childs (1979), Sanders (2005 [1972]), Barr (1983), Morgan (1990), Barton (1997), and Chapman (2000) have explored the relationship of the Writings’ components with Torah and Prophets, as well as questions of canonical development and reception. If we wish to take seriously the canonical “container” of the Writings, then we must, to the extent it is possible, study the interrelationships between the books of the Writings and their connection to Torah and Prophets. The importance of that order or sequence is likely to remain a matter of debate, with no consensus. But for those who begin with the Writings as a whole (for confessional or literary or historical or theological reasons), exploring the interrelationships found in the texts, sometimes with historical connections, sometimes not, is an important way to describe the character of the Writings as canonical division. Intertextuality and other methods associated with an exploration of the relationships between different texts in the Hebrew Bible represent one example of this holistic approach (see, for example, Childs 1986). 5. Authorship. At one level, a focus on authorship is directly related to thematic concerns already discussed. To speak of David, for example, is often to speak of psalms. To speak of Solomon, of wisdom. Like all other aspects of biblical study, there is an intertwined relationship between historical and literary, for many of these texts might well not have functioned as scripture without attribution to one of the ancients (David, Solomon, et al.). At the same time, the association of wisdom and prayer and song with these heroes and kings is accomplished more by the addition of texts to their names than by any actual historical composition process clearly attributable to kings or high priests or sages. Reading the Writings as a collection written or strongly associated with giant figures in the history of Israel represents a window into the “why” of the literature and its roles and functions in the life of the community.

Writings as Postexilic Literature and Canon    11 6. Order and sequence. The history of textual transmission would appear to support a view that there is no “one” order and rationale for the Writings. Still, there have still been many serious and recent attempts to define the character of the Writings in terms of particular orders and sequences of its books (see especially Steinberg and Stone 2015b). Barton (2015) has noted that the argument for order seems almost counterintuitive in light of the many sequences or variations for this collection of books. Questions about the significance of such an order, even if established, remain. If, for example, we were to discover a rationale for a structure of the Writings that can be anchored in the late postexilic period, could we then develop a hermeneutic that bridges, perhaps with reception history, ancient and contemporary periods? Alas, the hermeneutical significance of any particular order is still far from clear. Take the most fully developed complexes of Steinberg (2006): national/​historical and sapiential. How do we know these were significant for the communities who so “ordered” their canons? Are there particular writings or interpretations that explicitly demonstrate this? Often in The Shape of the Writings the evidence for the order presented is found within the texts themselves, but not in any writing external to the canon. And, while Barton also calls all this “ordering” reception history (2015), without commentary or other explicit demonstrations of its meaning, the significance of “order” for ancient communities remains veiled. If Stone, Steinberg, and others argue for the import of an early order, how do they demonstrate this? How does such an order function within a community of faith in such a way that demonstrates the order makes a difference? Put another way, doesn’t there need to be a clear and articulated intention on the part of such a community? The methodological perspectives associated with reception history seem especially pertinent for exploring the issues of order, sequence, and interrelationship of the Writings’ texts. Finally, how much can the “shape” of scripture (individual books and the divisions/​ subdivisions) be seen with historical methods, relating final form and sequence to the work of redactors? How much does the whole become greater than the sum of its parts, transcending the work and intentions of those same redactors? The divide between modern and postmodern and a variety of other polarities in scholarship are reflected in this debate over how to interpret scripture and its shape.

The Writings: Continuing Issues and Challenges Dating and History In assessing the value of determining precise dates for the closures of both Jewish and Christian scriptural canons, James Sanders once asked:  “Is it so important after all?” (McDonald and Sanders 2002:  292). Some, of course, would answer this question with a resounding Yes! Others, like Sanders, would interpret ancient closure as an example of a

12   Donn F. Morgan process of dialogue between text and community that continues into the present day. That dialogue, witnessed to by a myriad of different theological positions and faith communities, is what’s most important to learn, and remember, and continue. Still, a host of questions about dating and history remain and will continue to be debated. How vital is it that we focus on the Writings as something formed “early,” for example, perhaps, at the time of the Maccabean revolt? Some argue for this (see Steinberg and Stone 2015b), but what’s really at stake? Is it historical credibility? Or theological credibility? Or both? Whether one is conservative or liberal, the value and import of tying history to the theological are significant. For the students of canon, a focus on the whole—​whether a smaller text or a book or a division of scripture—​ is important. To interpret that whole within a clear historical framework is more important to some (e.g., McDonald and Sanders 2002) than to others (e.g., Childs 1979). The significance of an early tripartite structure for canon, versus the structure found in the Septuagint or the assumption that most of the literature of the Writings were grouped together under the “Prophets” until quite late, will continue to be debated and studied. Did the canons of Judaism and Christianity influence one another at an early stage of their process of closure? Or does each of them represent something unstained and pure, not touched by the other? And what difference does this make? The role of the Dead Sea Scrolls in assessing the issue of multiple canons and textual families will surely continue to be important. While most agree that Qumran witnesses to the existence of a great deal of fluidity of canonical literature in the centuries preceding Christianity, there are some who see the importance of an early structural formation of the Writings, perhaps even in the midst of textual pluralism. Is the pluralism we find at Qumran a figment of our imagination, in effect created by a later history of interpretation of scripture, authorized by present-​day experiences and values? Or does an earlier form of the canon authorize our contemporary interpretation? A clear answer to the question of an early or a late date for the development and closure of canon is important.

Diversity and Difference Most readers of the Writings note difference and diversity as central characteristics of the literature, as well as the lack of clear organization or structure of the whole. In a time and place where diversity is valued highly, where living with difference is a laudable goal for many, is this characteristic of the division a positive? While there are surely many ways to tie together certain parts (liturgically, historically, thematically, theologically, etc.), the Writings in their diversity seem to resist having one basic organization or structure or message. Might this be a welcome message and paradigm for our time (see, for example, Morgan 1990; Steinberg 2006)? What might be the implications of this diversity and difference for contemporary and very different faith communities? Can the Writings, already a division of scripture for Jews, become important to Christians who do not organize their canon according to this “container” but are still potentially affected by the diversity and difference found therein? And what are the implications for the academy? Do scholars have any responsibilities as they seek to make known the scriptural messages and mandates found within the Writings?

Writings as Postexilic Literature and Canon    13

Reading and Interpretation An interesting and important question raised by study of the Writings addresses the way we actually read the Bible in general and the Writings specifically. The Bible is often read in the context of common worship in relatively small sections. At the same time, literary critics and canonical scholars, among others, urge us to read books as a whole in order to see a larger message, to read books in relationship to one another to see an even greater message. So, for example, we explore the significance of the canon’s structure when Ruth is placed and read before the Psalms (with the focus on David being a point of connection) or when Job is read before or after Psalms. But do most individuals or communities of faith really read and interpret scripture in general and the Writings in particular in this way? Did ancient communities do this? What is the evidence for this? Everyone knows the structure and order of Torah and the Gospels. There are many ways to interpret those structures—​some of them old, some contemporary. To ask the question of Sanders again, what difference does it make whether the ways we interpret and see connections are old or new? Isn’t Brevard Childs ultimately right—​that there is no serious evidence for tying “final” canonical form to a particular time and place—​especially when looking at something like the Writings with its great diversity? In all of this, scholars and serious students are important resources in teaching and interpreting perspectives gained by holistic interpretations of the Writings.

New and Old Methods Our study of the Writings as literature and scripture for both Judaism and Christianity will necessarily rely on solid historical critical perspectives and the classical methods associated with such a perspective. At the same time, studying the message of scripture involves more than anchoring it in a particular time and place with particular authors and communities of faith. Indeed, we will need to assess the larger message to which scripture witnesses and for which collections like the Writings were created. Martin Noth, after providing an incredibly thorough analysis of historical, theological, and literary perspectives in the Pentateuch, perhaps said it best: The question still remains as to whether the combination of the sources—​even though the purpose of this was simply to augment the tradition-​material through addition—​actually did not give rise to something new, which transcended the individual sources and their particular content and put them in a peculiar light, beyond the conscious intentions of the (redactors) collectors. The question is whether this combination has not resulted, perhaps unintentionally, in unexpected narrative connections and theological insights, and hence whether in the final analysis the whole has not become great than merely the sum of its parts. Thenceforth this literary whole has been read as Holy Scripture and has been used in worship; thus it has exerted a historical impact, and has remained right to the present day as the only

14   Donn F. Morgan concretely given entity. Therefore, it is also a task of scholarship to take into its purview this totality in the form in which it has been transmitted. (1972: 250)

Many students of the canonical forms of biblical literature would see their task in ways compatible with Noth. In addition to this, discipline of reception history will be important for our study of the Writings. We can begin to see a development, beginning with historical critical methods and their special interests, then developing an interest in canon, both historically and theologically, finally culminating in reception history with its special interest in tracing the ways in which this literature has been received by and has impacted a community of faith through dialogue.

Conclusion Must anyone who argues for the import of the Writings as a canonical division necessarily be an apologist? From Henshaw to Steinberg and Stone, what has or hasn’t changed? We still have a postexilic historical focus, though our perceptions or evaluation of it has developed in new ways. Our views of canonization, putting it all together, and reading it as canon have changed. There have been new discoveries and new theories. There are new contemporary issues that divide and motivate us: diversity, pluralism, breakdown of consensus, postmodernism—​all of which affect our interpretation of the Writings. We conclude by noting again the disparity between scholarship’s interest in the Writings and the relative lack thereof in religious communities. The question “Does anyone or any community actually read and interpret the Writings like this?” seems to contain not only or even primarily a judgment but also a goal. In earlier days scholars devoted inordinate amounts of time addressing ways of thinking and interpreting that seemed incongruent not only with good scholarship but with common sense. This work continues (see, now, for example, Dell 2017). What if the Writings—​with all its challenges of interpretation and reception history, with all the pertinent parallels it has with contemporary culture, and all the differences of theology, history, and literature it contains—​became a part of the scriptural gospel proclaimed by students of the Bible? What if its students became a vehicle for sharing and living its message in contemporary religious communities and the larger societies of which they are a part? An interesting thought. Hopefully works like The Oxford Handbook of the Writings of the Hebrew Bible will contribute to such an endeavor.

Notes 1. For an overview of some of the major theories, issues, and debates about the biblical canon, see, for example, Lim (2013, 2017), McDonald (2007), and McDonald and Sanders (2002).

Writings as Postexilic Literature and Canon    15 2. See the bibliographies in standard dictionaries and in The Oxford Handbook of the Writings of the Hebrew Bible. 3. See, for example, volumes in the Through the Centuries in the Wiley-​Blackwell Bible Commentaries.

Bibliography Alter, Robert. 1981. The Art of Biblical Narrative. New York: Basic Books. Barr, James. 1983. Holy Scripture: Canon, Authority, Criticism. Philadelphia: Westminster. Barton, John. 1997. Holy Writings, Sacred Text. The Canon in Early Christianity. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press. Barton, John. 2015. “Response.” In The Shape of the Writings, edited by J. Steinberg and T. J. Stone. 311–​316. Siphrut 16. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns. Blenkinsopp, Joseph. 1977. Prophecy and Canon. A Contribution to the Study of Jewish Origins. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press. Chapman, Stephen. 2000. The Law and the Prophets. A  Study in Old Testament Canon Formation. Tubingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck. Childs, Brevard S. 1979. Introduction to the Old Testament as Scripture. Philadelphia: Fortress. Childs, Brevard S. 1986. Old Testament Theology in a Canonical Context. Philadelphia: Fortress. Dell, Katharine. 2017. Who Needs the Old Testament? Its Enduring Appeal and Why the New Atheists Don’t Get It. London: SPCK. Finkelstein, Israel. 2001. The Bible Unearthed: Archeology’s New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Its Sacred Texts. New York: Free Press. Fishbane, Michael. 1985. Biblical Interpretation in Ancient Israel. New York: Oxford University Press. Gillingham, Susan. 2008. Psalms through the Centuries. Volume 1. Blackwell Bible Commentaries. Oxford: Blackwell. Henshaw, T. 1963. The Writings. The Third Division of the Hebrew Canon. London: George Allen & Unwin. Joyce, Paul, and Lipton, Diana. 2013. Lamentations through the Centuries. Wiley-​Blackwell Bible Commentaries. Chichester, UK: John Wiley & Sons. Lim, Timothy H. 2013. The Formation of the Jewish Canon. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. Lim, Timothy H., ed. 2017. When Texts Are Canonized. BJS 359. Providence, RI:  Brown University. McDonald, Lee Martin. 2007. The Biblical Canon:  Its Origin, Transmission, and Authority. Peabody, MA: Hendrikson. McDonald, Lee Martin, and Sanders, James A., eds. 2002. The Canon Debate: On the Origins and Formation of the Bible. Peabody, MA: Hendrikson. McDonald, Lee Martin, and Sanders, James A., eds. 2007. Formation of the Christian Biblical Canon. Peabody, MA: Hendrikson. Morgan, Donn. 1990. Between Text and Community. The “Writings” in Canonical Interpretation. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press. Noth, Martin. 1972. A History of Pentateuchal Traditions. Translated by Bernard W. Anderson. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-​Hall. Peterson, Eugene. 1980. Five Smooth Stones for Pastoral Work. Atlanta: John Knox.

16   Donn F. Morgan Sanders, James A. 2005 [1972]. Torah and Canon. Cascade Books. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock. Sanders, James A. 1984. Canon and Community. A Guide to Canonical Criticism. Guides to Biblical Scholarship, Old Testament Guides. Philadelphia: Fortress. Sanders, James A. 1987. From Sacred Story to Sacred Text: Canon as Paradigm. Philadelphia:  Fortress. Seitz, Christopher. 2009. The Goodly Fellowship of the Prophets: The Achievement of Association in Canon Formation. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker. Steinberg, Julius. 2006. Die Ketuvim—​ihr Aufbau und ihre Botschaft. BBB 152. Hamburg, Germany: Philo. Steinberg, Julius. 2015.  “The Place of Wisdom Literature in an Old Testament Theology:  A Thematic and Structural-​Canonical Approach.” In The Shape of the Writings, edited by J. Steinberg and T. J. Stone. Siphrut 16, 147–​174. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns. Steinberg, Julius, and Stone, Timothy J. 2015a. “The Historical Formation of the Writings in Antiquity.” In The Shape of the Writings, edited by J. Steinberg and T. J. Stone. 1–​58. Siphrut 16. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns. Steinberg, Julius, and Stone, Timothy J., eds. 2015b. The Shape of the Writings. With the assistance of Rachel Stone. Siphrut 16. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns. Stone, Timothy J. 2013. The Compositional History of the Megilloth. Canon, Contoured Intertextuality and Meaning in the Writings. FAT 2. Reihe 59. Tubingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck. Stone, Timothy J. 2015. “The Search for Order: the Compilational History of Ruth.” In The Shape of the Writings, edited by J. Steinberg and T. J. Stone, 175–​186. Siphrut 16. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns.

Pa rt  I


Chapter 2

T he Writings in t h e E a rly P ostexilic Peri od ( C yru s t hrou gh Ezra-​Ne h e mia h ) Lester L. Grabbe

Most of the Writings of the Hebrew Bible originated or reached their final editing during the Persian period (ca. 550–​330 bce). Some no doubt had their original beginnings in the period of the Judahite monarchy, while others were probably written in the Greek period (e.g., Qohelet, according to most specialists) or at least reached their final form at that time. Yet for many of the books belonging to this section of the Hebrew Bible, the Persian period was the backdrop to their writing or a significant aspect of their editing and finalizing. My aim in this chapter is to discuss this historical background in the first part of the Persian period (the last part is discussed by Lim; see Chapter 3, this volume). It begins with Cyrus, who conquered Babylon in 539 bce and continues to the time of Ezra and Nehemiah (though like a number of scholars, I date Ezra to the first part of the fourth century bce, as will be discussed [cf. Grabbe 1992: 88–​93]). This was a seminal period in the history of Judah, but, as we shall see, this is a difficult period to get a handle on. Finding reliable information and being able to understand the history of this period of two centuries of Persian period rule will require us to engage in a careful critical look at the sources available and the historical questions that they raise. Please note that what follows is a history of the Jews in this part of the Persian period, not a commentary on Ezra-​Nehemiah (which is the task of Knowles; see Chapter 18, this volume). Figures known from Ezra-​Nehemiah and other biblical books will indeed be discussed, but only as they relate to the history of the period, judged from a critical perspective. The books of Ezra and Nehemiah have some useful material for historical reconstruction, but they cannot be read directly as straightforward history. Other sources will also be important, but all sources need to be critically evaluated.

20   Lester L. Grabbe

Transfer from Babylonian to Persian Rule Judah came under Babylonian rule about 605 bce. Jerusalem fell to Babylonia about twenty years later, and a certain number of Judeans were deported to Babylonia. As a province in the Babylonian empire, Judah remained under Babylonian rule for almost another half century. But then in 539 bce the Persian Cyrus conquered Babylon and the Babylonian king Nabonidus. At that point, the Jews—​wherever they lived—​became part of the Persian Empire. When we read the Bible, we are left with the impression that the Assyrians and then later the Babylonians were bad. These peoples are generally presented negatively, often as enemies or oppressors of Israel and Judah. Surprisingly, however, Persian rule is often presented rather more positively. For example, several Persian kings seem to enact measures that favor the Jews as a people or even the Jewish religion. We shall see some of these measures further on in this chapter, but we must keep in mind that all ancient Near Eastern empires had a lot in common, were headed by an autocratic ruler, and expected the various peoples in their empires to be submissive. These commonplaces apply whether the empire was Egyptian, Assyrian, Babylonian, Persian, Greek, or Roman. In reality the Persians were no more favorable to the Jews than the others. In studying the Persian historical background to various sections of the Hebrew Bible (including some of the Writings), we have to use the long-​recognized critical historical method. We have to distinguish between sources, because all sources may be useful but not all sources are equal. The quality of sources for the Persian Empire is quite uneven, ranging from Greek writers like Herodotus to cuneiform sources in Mesopotamia to Old Persian and Elamite inscriptions and documents in the Persian homeland. Our preference is for primary sources, those close in time and social context to the events and personalities that they describe. Only a few sources meet these criteria: Persian cuneiform inscriptions, the Greek historian Thucydides, the Persepolis Treasury Texts and Fortification Texts, the Behistun inscription, the documents of the Elephantine Jewish community. We shall be looking at some of these later, but it should be stated that even primary sources are not perfect. They may have their own biases, various lacks, or perhaps even have been written to deceive. Thus, all sources—​primary as well as secondary—​must be scrutinized critically and not just accepted at face value. Most of our historical sources are secondary sources. These include large sections of Herodotus, the later Greek compiler Diodorus Siculus, and several other Greek writers. It may be strange that I focus so much on Greek writings, but there is no history known to have been written by the Persians themselves. Herodotus is often very important. He wrote half a century after the Greek and Persian encounters in 480 and 470 bce, yet there are indications that he had good sources, and his writing was not far removed in time from some pertinent parts of Persian history. Furthermore, the biblical text is a secondary source for the most part. Parts of the prophets Haggai and Zech 1–​8 might

The Writings in the Early Postexilic Period    21 have been written close to the events described in the text, but biblical scholars generally see parts of the text as later editings. The book of Ezra is especially likely to be a later text; indeed, the Greek 1 Esd is thought by some scholars to be the more original text. Many believe that although large chunks of Nehemiah are from later periods, a memoir of Nehemiah himself is the basis of the first part of the book. If so, the Nehemiah Memorial (as the memoir is sometimes called) is a primary source; yet we do not have the original document but only an edited form in the present book of Nehemiah. Therefore, the biblical text is mainly a secondary source, and this needs to be recognized. On the other hand, it is often the only source that relates to the Jewish community, which is our concern. This means that we have to analyze the text carefully and critically to determine from what period the text arises and what the writer(s) intended by the narrative when it was written. Was it intended to report a historical event, or did it have the primary aim of imparting a religious message in which accurate history was of secondary interest? These are often difficult questions, and we cannot always be sure that the answers we give are the right ones. But we must always apply historical criteria and historical analysis.

The Initial Return and the Rebuilding of the Temple We begin with Ezra 1:1–​4. This is an important passage because it essentially marks a formal end to the exile. Judeans had been deported from their homeland, and now Cyrus is alleged to have decreed that they have the opportunity to return. There are some problems with this supposed decree: Is it likely that Cyrus, in his first year with huge pressing matters to resolve, would have focused on issuing a decree on behalf of a small province on the margins of his empire? Would he have used Jewish theological language in such a decree? Would he have written in Hebrew, when the standard scribal language was Aramaic for the western empire? On the other hand, we know from the Cyrus Cylinder that Cyrus issued a decree allowing people displaced by the Babylonian king Nabonidus to return home. We have no decree of return for those who had been taken captive at an earlier time, but it is reasonable to think that such a decree was issued, though a specific decree on behalf of the Jews is unlikely. If there was such a decree for Judeans, it would have been issued at a lower level of the administration. Therefore, although Ezra 1:2–​4 is probably an imaginary document, created by a Jewish scribe, there is likely to have been some sort of decree allowing exiled Judeans (or their descendants) to return. As you might expect, Ezra 1 goes on to talk about exiles taking advantage of the decree. According to Ezra 1:5–​7 various groups in society prepare to return. Then Ezra 1:8–​ 11 states that temple vessels originally taken from the Jerusalem temple were entrusted to Sheshbazzar to be brought back. This is a rather peculiar passage. Apart from the

22   Lester L. Grabbe fact that many or all the vessels had long since been melted down by the Babylonians (2 Kgs 25:13–​15), there is more to the figure of Sheshbazzar than Ezra 1 provides. According to a letter in Ezra 5:13–​16, Sheshbazzar was made governor of Judah by Cyrus and sent back to rebuild the temple to God in Jerusalem, and he actually lays the foundation of the temple. This raises all sorts of questions: Why does Ezra 1 not recognize that Sheshbazzar was not just responsible for bringing temple vessels to Jerusalem but that he was actually the governor of the province? Why does it not tell us that Sheshbazzar actually began to rebuild the temple, but for some reason it was still not finished many years later? It is as if Ezra 1 is trying to hide the truth about Sheshbazzar! As we move further through the text of Ezra, we begin to understand why Ezra 1 has been less than candid about Sheshbazzar and his mission. For in spite of his commission as governor, Sheshbazzar did not accomplish his mission: he did not build the temple to Yhwh. He began it, but for some reason he did not complete it. The text wants to forget this. Instead, it ignores this mission in Ezra 1 but then jumps ahead some fifteen years and describes a new situation. Now, the governor is Zerubbabel, and alongside him is the high priest Jeshua. The prophet Haggai is complaining that the temple has not been built, that people are putting their own interests and concerns before God’s house, and they are also suffering adverse conditions as a result. Zechariah takes a somewhat different approach, emphasizing the choice of Zerubbabel and Jeshua to do the job and accomplish the task that Yhwh has set. Ezra 2 and Neh 7 claim that Zerubbabel and Jeshua brought a large contingent of returnees with them from Babylonia to Judah. Yet a careful analysis of this list finds a number of problems with this. First, the list of returnees is made up of more than one sort of reference. For example, part of the list is organized by family (Ezra 2:3–​20//​Neh 7:8–​24), but another part relates to places of residence (Ezra 2:21–​35//​Neh 7:25–​38), two quite different types of data. Secondly, it is doubtful that such a large group of people could have been easily accommodated in the Persian province of Yehud but would have created a good deal of friction with the population already living there, as well as many practical problems of settlement, livelihood, and access to resources. Yet although some friction has been anticipated and postulated, we see nothing of the real upheaval that would have taken place if Ezra 2 were historical. Finally, the archaeological study of this time shows that the total population of Yehud was only 20,000 to 30,000 people, meaning that the total of the native population and any returnees was far fewer than the 42,000 returnees (not to mention those already living in the province) envisaged by Ezra 2/​Neh 7. The text suggests that there were major clashes between the returnees and those who were already living in the land. In fact, it seems as if the writers of Ezra envisage the native population as non-​Jews. They are referred to as “people(s) of the land(s),” and Ezra 9:1 appears to equate them with Canaanites. Native women who married men who had returned are referred to as “foreigners” (Ezra 9:1–​2; 10:2, 10, 18, 44), the marriages are said to pollute the Jewish “holy seed” (Ezra 9:2), and the men are forcibly separated from their wives and children (Ezra 10:9–​44). But we know that the settled inhabitants of the land were the descendants of Judeans who had not been deported to Babylonia.

The Writings in the Early Postexilic Period    23 This is clearly indicated by the fact that the Babylonians (unlike the Assyrians) had not brought in outsiders to replace those deported. The archaeology shows no signs of a major increase in population at this time. It seems that those returning came in small numbers—​perhaps a continuous trickle—​rather than larger groups. While some conflict between the immigrants and the native population was to be expected, it is likely that the returning Jews in general managed to settle down without major difficulties. For some reason, the authors of the book of Ezra want to build a wall of separation between the native Jews and those who had returned from Babylonia. However, this seems to be a literary creation rather than a record of actual historical events. The book of Ezra suggests that the people living in the land put up obstacles to the rebuilding of the temple. This is contrary to the books of Haggai and Zechariah, which indicate that the problems were not non-​Jewish opposition but the difficulties that Jews (whether native or immigrants) had with resources. According to Ezra 6:15, the rebuilding of the temple was completed in the sixth year of King Darius, or 516 bce. This is very unlikely: there were simply not the material resources and the manpower to complete such a project so quickly (think of the many great medieval cathedrals that were built over decades or even centuries). Also, this statement is found in the framework section of Ezra 1–​6, which is the least trustworthy part of these chapters, since it was created by the compiler rather than coming directly from a source (cf. Williamson 1983). More likely is that the temple continued to be worked on for years, perhaps being finished by about 500 bce. The events in Haggai/​Zech 1–​8 are dated to Darius I’s second year, which is 521–​520 bce (Hag 1:1, 15; 2:10; Zech 1:1, 7), except for a revelation in the fourth year (Zech 7:1). The events of Ezra 3–​6 mainly take place under Darius I (except for the alleged letters in Ezra 4 and the reference in 6:14, which are dated to the reigns of Xerxes [486–​465 bce] and Artaxerxes [465–​424 bce]). We happen to know from Mesopotamian sources that a governor Tattenai (Ezra 5–​6) was over the satrapy of Abir-​nari or Transeuphrates around 502 bce, which was under Darius I. Yet in Ezra 5–​6 he is associated with the early part of the reign of Darius I, two decades earlier. This points to a considerable dilemma for understanding the situation in Ezra 4–​6:  the letters and references to Persian kings in these chapters are very confusing! There are several reasons for this: First, because of the language and the letter formulae used, some have argued that the letters are perhaps forgeries; in any case, they date from a time after the Persian period. Second, they are associated with the rebuilding of the temple under Darius, but some are said to be from the reigns of the much later kings, Xerxes and Artaxerxes (4:6–​23; 6:14). Third, the letters themselves do not always talk about the rebuilding of the temple but other events. This makes them very problematic to use as historical sources. Therefore, apart from the mention of Tattenai as satrap of the Transeuphrates region, we are left with a gap in Jewish history until about the middle of the fifth century bce. We have information from general Persian history, but the book of Ezra seems to skip over this period, and there are few if any Jewish sources to help determine what was happening to the Jewish community in Palestine. For this reason, some have suggested

24   Lester L. Grabbe that the letters in Ezra 4–​6 might give us some help. This seems strange at first glance because (as noted earlier) these letters are associated with building of the temple in Darius I’s second year (or about 621 bce). Yet the contents of the letters do not fit that date in some cases but the much later reigns of Xerxes and Artaxerxes. This has led some scholars to believe that letters from a much later time have been mistakenly associated with Darius I’s early reign but that they can tell us something about the time of the king whose names are mentioned in the text. Thus, it has been pointed out that the letter in Ezra 4:7–​16 talks not of the building of the temple but of the building and fortifying of the city. They infer that perhaps the building of the city, and especially the building of the fortifications, might suggest that the Jews were preparing to revolt against Persian rule. Or perhaps they did revolt—​or were suspected of planning to revolt by the Persian authorities—​and the Persians even came against them with an army and fought them or at least tore down some of the city’s defences. Those who date these events to the reign of Artaxerxes I have then suggested that this destruction explains the state of Jerusalem that Nehemiah laments in the first chapter of Nehemiah. It is an interesting and plausible interpretation, but it suffers from a number of problems. The most important difficulty is the assumption that the letter is authentic, yet there are several serious arguments against authenticity, as mentioned earlier. These arguments require specialized knowledge for proper evaluation, and not all scholars reject authenticity, at least at some level or other. Yet we have to ask about a letter that has major problems of language and form. Furthermore, we have a letter that is dated to the days of Artaxerxes, yet the author of Ezra has used it to tell us about events in the days of Darius. Can such a document be trusted to help fill in the great gap in Jewish history? Many of us cannot have enough confidence to attempt to use it as some have done. After Ezra 1–​6, which seem to relate to events in the first two or three decades of the Persian period, we find the story of Ezra in Ezra 7–​10 (plus Neh 8 and some references in Neh 12). According to Ezra 7:7–​8, the account begins in the seventh year of Artaxerxes. The difficulty is that there were three Persian kings by that name. Which is the one named here? Through much of the twentieth century, scholars as a whole dated Ezra’s mission to the reign of Artaxerxes II, which would mean that he came to Judah in 398 bce (cf. Grabbe 1992: 88–​93). This would place him after the time of Nehemiah. More recently, quite a few specialists have dated him to Artaxerxes I, or 458 bce. This seems to be mainly a scholarly fad, because no new arguments have generally been presented. One of the reasons for dating Ezra later was that there is no clear evidence in the text of his overlap with Nehemiah, who is dated to the twentieth year of Artaxerxes, a reference to Artaxerxes I according to almost all scholars (or 445 bce). If we date the activities of both Ezra and Nehemiah to Artaxerxes I, we have to assume that the two addressed similar problems, did some of the same or similar things, yet the writers of Ezra and Nehemiah ignored these overlaps in their administrative roles in Judah. In fact, there are more difficulties with the Ezra story than just the dating. For this reason, Nehemiah will be presented first and then Ezra.

The Writings in the Early Postexilic Period    25

The Governorship of Nehemiah When it comes to the history of this period, Nehemiah is probably one of the best documented figures in the biblical text. The reason is that most scholars accept that he left behind a writing often referred to as the Nehemiah Memorial, which presented his perspective on aspects of his governorship of Judah (see especially Reinmuth 2002). Unfortunately, we do not have this autobiographical writing, but it seems to have formed the basis of a significant section of the present book of Nehemiah (primarily in ­chapters 1–​6 and perhaps 12–​13). This makes these chapters especially valuable as incorporating primary historical sources. This does not mean that we can accept them uncritically as “the truth”; on the contrary, it seems clear that Nehemiah was a man of strong opinions and convictions, who sometimes jumped to conclusions for which he had no clear evidence. For example, his suspicions of Sanballat and his companions might have been concocted mostly from Nehemiah’s own imagination. At least, this seems to be a viable alternative to the picture that Nehemiah himself paints. This means that it would be politic to be sceptical about Nehemiah’s claims to know the plans, thoughts, and intentions of those he considers his opponents. The story begins with Nehemiah receiving word that the population of Jerusalem was in a bad state, and the wall of the city had serious damage to it. This communication is dated to the twentieth year of Artaxerxes. If this Persian king was Artaxerxes I—​and almost all agree—​this would date the event to November–​December 445 bce. This was almost a century after the Persians had given permission for the Jerusalem temple to be rebuilt (c. 538 bce). So how was it that Jerusalem had not been rebuilt or at least repaired during this long period? This has led some to look at passages, such as the alleged letters in Ezra 4:7–​22, and draw the conclusion that Jerusalem had suffered from military action not long before 445 bce (as already discussed in the previous section), perhaps a decade or two earlier. (For a further discussion of these points relating to Nehemiah, with extensive bibliography, see Grabbe 2004: 294–​313.) It is possible for all sorts of things to have happened to Jerusalem during the century before Nehemiah, but events in the Persian Empire do not suggest that Judah was involved in any nefarious activity that would have inflamed the wrath of the Persian authorities. Egypt was conquered by Cambyses in 525 bce, and it remained under Persian rule until 402 bce. Although there were periodic rebellions, there is no evidence that Judah was involved. Although it has been hypothesized that Judah was affected by unrest in Egypt, there is no reason why this should have been the case. Jerusalem was up in the hill country, and much of the province of Judah was not in the most accessible territories of the region. When Persia had to put down Egyptian revolts, they usually disembarked troops from Phoenicia. Judah was not “in the line of fire,” as it were. (See especially Briant 2002: 573–​577, 586.) The event in Egypt that is often appealed to as background for a theorized Judean revolt is the Egyptian revolt of Inaurus in 460 bce. This was a serious challenge to Persian

26   Lester L. Grabbe rule. The Egyptians successfully called on Athens for aid (a fleet was sent), and the Persian satrap was killed. Yet the revolt seems to have been confined to the Delta and was successfully suppressed after a few years. There was no wider threat, and we in fact find no evidence that Judah was affected, much less was involved. Thus, if there was some event that resulted in the walls of Jerusalem being breached and other damage done not long before 445 bce, we are ignorant of it. On the other hand, nothing is said about the habitations of Jerusalem being left unrepaired. The situation in Jerusalem, as described in Neh 1 (assuming we read the text for what it says and do not exaggerate it), could be the state of things continuing from the early days of the Persian period. As we shall see, there was no need for Jerusalem to have a substantial wall or significant fortifications. The damages to the wall could be those inflicted by the Babylonians in 587/​586 bce and never properly repaired. Granted, Nehemiah tells the Persian king that the city was in ruins, but this could have been hyperbolic language to get the king’s attention and make him sympathetic. We need to consider Nehemiah’s position. He was cupbearer to the king. Some have assumed that this was a high administrative post. It is true that among the major administrative positions near the king was “cupbearer,” but this was not the post that Nehemiah held. On the contrary, it was only given to high-​born Persians. Nehemiah held the position of glorified waiter (cf. Briant 2002: 292–​293, 296–​297). Yet as is often the case of those who serve nobility and royalty, an intimate relationship might develop, so that the person with a relatively lowly position nevertheless has unprecedented access to persons in power. This seems to be the case with Nehemiah. The king took note of his downcast demeanor, made inquiries, and decided to appoint him governor of the province of Judah. The main purpose of this appointment was, however, to build up the wall and some other areas of fortification in the city. Nehemiah did indeed carry out his mission, but he did so with an enormous chip on his shoulder. He makes a number of moves that look almost as if he was deliberately trying to antagonize the local community leadership. As soon as he arrived, he made a survey tour of the walls and the work needing to be done (Neh 2.11–​16). But he did this alone (except for a few personal companions) and at night, apparently without informing any of the local people. He then tells them his plans, and the text indicates they were willing enough. Yet Nehemiah’s actions appear not to be those to make the local leaders his partners but rather to dictate what they should do. We shall see several examples of this. Nehemiah 3 describes the various crews, including priests, who repaired individual sections of the wall (except for a few who refused to help [Neh 3:5]). To what extent this is a genuine document is very debatable; in any case, it probably dates from a time later than Nehemiah and was inserted into the narrative by an editor. It does not fit smoothly with the end of ­chapter 3 or with the situation described in ­chapter 4. These passages move from a combined community effort to rebuild the wall to a state of opposition, fear, and defence against a possible attack. According to Nehemiah, Sanballat the “Horonite,” Tobiah the “Ammonite slave,” and the Arab Geshem were jealous of the welfare of Judah and did all they could to thwart the measures Nehemiah took.

The Writings in the Early Postexilic Period    27 His description of these individuals has hardly been neutral or fair but deliberately misleading. Sanballat was actually governor of the neighboring province of Samaria. The designation “Ammonite servant” for Tobiah disguised the fact that he was evidently Jewish but was also a Persian official (i.e., “servant” of the Persian king) in the Transjordanian province of Ammon. Geshem was an Arab ruler. So they were important regional officials who were part of the overall Persian administration. But were they engaged in nefarious actions, as Nehemiah asserts? No doubt there were regional rivalries, as is often the case, but the question of where blame lies is more difficult. Throughout his narrative, Nehemiah tells us time and again that Sanballat and his colleagues were planning this and that and would have done this and that, if he had not taken measures to prevent it. Yet at no point does he put his finger on a concrete action on their part that affected Judah negatively. This is hardly surprising, because provincial governors were subordinate to a powerful satrap (who is strangely never mentioned in Nehemiah), and the satrap would quickly have stamped on any violence of one governor against another. Any actions of one province against another that threatened the social order would have been viewed extremely seriously by the Persian administration. As the walls of Jerusalem were being repaired, Nehemiah claims to have intelligence that Sanballat plans an attack on the workers. So he arranges for weapons to be issued and a guard rota to be instituted. But there was no attack on the workers on the wall. Was this because of Nehemiah’s prompt action, or was Nehemiah simply being paranoid? Did Sanballat oppose the repair of the wall, or was this all in Nehemiah’s mind? We have only Nehemiah’s side of the story but no other source of information to help us in evaluating it. All we know is that there was no attack, and the wall was finished without any outside interference. Nehemiah then claims that Sanballat tried to arrange a meeting with him but was planning a trap to do him harm, for which reason he refused. But could it have been that Sanballat was sincere and wished to seek some sort of reconciliation? Nehemiah then goes on to say that some prophets uttered prophecies against him but, once again, this is assumed to be because they were suborned by Sanballat and Tobiah. In Nehemiah’s mind, any opposition or even lack of agreement is seen as being in cahoots with those whom he labeled as the enemies of Judah. Nehemiah’s lack of partnership with the local leaders is well summarized by Neh 6:17–​19, which claims that the Judean nobles stayed in touch with Sanballat, reported Nehemiah’s actions to Sanballat, and spoke well of him to Nehemiah’s face. To Nehemiah this is seen as blatant disloyalty and cooperation with the enemy. This is one interpretation, which is clearly Nehemiah’s interpretation. But another way to read it is that the Judean nobles were willing to cooperate with Nehemiah but disagreed with him in not regarding Tobiah and Sanballat as enemies. On the contrary, the nobles saw them as potential allies that could be useful to Judah and that there was no need for Nehemiah to take such an antagonistic attitude and approach to them. As for poor Noadiah the prophetess (Neh 6:14), what had she done other than deliver the prophecies that had been revealed to her? Nehemiah was hardly the first ruler in Judah to see prophets as enemies!

28   Lester L. Grabbe The repair of the wall was completed in less than two months, in spite of the disruption in organizing the repairs because of Nehemiah’s belief the workers might be attacked. But this short space of time suggests that Jerusalem still lacked major fortifications. On the other hand, what need was there for substantial fortifications? Jerusalem did not have a Persian garrison and was evidently not a part of the Persian defence system. Yet a wall can have functions other than keeping attackers out: it can serve as an effective means of keeping people in. A wall can be a way of bringing the population under more effective administrative control. As soon as the wall was finished, Nehemiah had a tenth of the provincial population brought in to live in the city (Neh 11:1). The gates were to be kept closed until later in the morning and closed again in late afternoon (Neh 7:1–​3). Nehemiah also used the wall and gates to enforce sabbath observance, by keeping out Phoenician merchants but also keeping the people in the city on the seventh day (Neh 13:15–​22). It seems clear that Nehemiah had a particular vision of Judaism that others did not share. Even some of the priests saw things differently, though Nehemiah used his position as governor to interfere even in matters of the temple, although he had no official authority there (cf. Neh 13:4–​9). In opposition to the local priests and nobles, Nehemiah enforced his perspective on religion. In the centuries after Nehemiah we know that his interpretation of Jewish religion did not necessarily prevail, but in the long run others had a view that was in harmony with Nehemiah, so that over the centuries the religion moved in the direction that Nehemiah had given it. Whether he was right or not can, of course, be a matter of debate.

The Jewish Community at Elephantine in Egypt We last hear of Nehemiah about the year 433 bce (cf. Neh 13:6). It is unclear if any of the material relating to Nehemiah is later than this. It appears that the story of Nehemiah comes to an end with this date, as far as we have information preserved. Yet our knowl­ edge of the Jews does not finish at this point. We are fortunate that we have considerable first-​hand data in documents and archaeology for a Jewish community on the island of Elephantine in the Nile in Upper Egypt (see especially Porten 1968). This was a military settlement that had apparently been established with Jews from Palestine perhaps as early as the time of the Judahite monarchy. They were certainly there at the beginning of the Persian period, but most of what we know about them concerns the time at the end of the fifth century bce, from about 410 to 400 bce. The community members identify themselves as Jews and observe various Jewish practices, including the sabbath and various religious festivals. They worship the God Yhw (perhaps vocalized as Yahu or Yaho, a form of the standard divine name Yhwh). However, they have their own temple and offer animal sacrifice to Yhw. But then priests

The Writings in the Early Postexilic Period    29 of the local Egyptian temple of Knum attacked the temple and destroyed it. The priests and officials of the Jewish community wrote to Jerusalem, asking for support, but did not receive a reply. They then appealed to the Persian satrap of Egypt and the Persian governor of Judah and even sent a letter to a son of Sanballat who was governor of Samaria, asking for permission to rebuild the temple. They went further and offered to abandon animal sacrifice and confine themselves to vegetable offerings on the altar. Eventually this offer was accepted, and archaeology indicates the temple was rebuilt but evidently abandoned not long afterward. Several important points can relate to Jewish religion. First, the Elephantine community has contact with Jerusalem and cognizance of who the high priest and some other officials are. We know this because the letter to Jerusalem addresses them by name. They were not an isolated community cut off from the center of Judaism, as some might suppose. On the contrary, they were well aware of whom to consult in the Jerusalem temple. Secondly, it is also clear that they did not possess the Pentateuch. How is this, if they observed the sabbath, the Passover, and some other festivals? The answer is that customs and practices—​including religious customs and practices—​do not require a book to be observed. Even today, most people learn their religion from their parents and others rather than from a book. But the Elephantine documents do not know of a religious book. The word torah does not occur in the writings, nor do the names of Moses or Aaron. They talk about priests, though the term “Levite” does not appear. It is plain that this community, which is in contact with Jerusalem, does not know anything about the five books of Moses. This demonstrates what has been argued on other grounds:  the Pentateuch had not yet been written. Some parts of it were no doubt in existence, but it had not been compiled into a single Book of the Law. The Pentateuch seems to be a post-​400 creation (see especially Grabbe 2016), and this brings us to the Ezra tradition.

The Person of Ezra and the Promulgation of the Law On the surface the Ezra story has resemblances to the Nehemiah story. There is a section written in the first person (Ezra 8–​9), just as with the Nehemiah Memorial. This has led some to propose that there was an “Ezra memoir” incorporated into the narrative about Ezra and his activities. Alas, this does not explain some serious problems with the account of Ezra. It begins in Ezra 7 with an alleged decree on the part of Artaxerxes, commissioning Ezra to bring the law to Judah. It goes on to describe how Ezra came to Jerusalem, bringing an enormous amount of gold and silver (Ezra 8). After dealing with a case of intermarriage (Ezra 9–​10, discussed earlier), it then describes the public reading of the law in Neh 8. The problems begin, however, when we start to look at the details of the story.

30   Lester L. Grabbe The decree of Artaxerxes is in Aramaic, but as many studies have shown, the Aramaic language of the decree is not on the whole that of the Persian period but from a later time, centuries after the time of Ezra (Schwiderski 2000). Also, many questions arise about the contents of this alleged royal document. Why would the king in person concern himself with a legal matter relating to a small province on the edge of the empire? It might have seemed proper to a Jewish author that the number-​ one interest of the Persian king was to promote the welfare of Judah. But the king had more important things to think about. Furthermore, the document provides enormously generous support for the Jerusalem temple and cult, an issue taken up later in this chapter. But the financial generosity is not the only incredible thing about this supposed decree. The commission is given in the name of “the king and his seven counsellors,” and the gift of silver and gold is also in their name (Ezra 7:14). The king had advisors, naturally, but no such “seven counsellors” are known in Persian history. What is more, no Persian king would share his authority with them, certainly not in an official document. The idea that the king would issue decrees jointly with his advisors goes against everything we know about the Persian monarchy. This incredibility continues on into Ezra 8, which describes Ezra’s journey to Jerusalem. First, he makes strenuous efforts to take Levites with him (Ezra 8:15–​20), and he finally manages to gather 220. Why? The temple and its cult had been functioning for decades, probably well over a century. There clearly existed sufficient temple personnel to take care of the necessary work. It is almost as if Ezra was founding the temple and cult; one can in fact argue that this was the perspective of the author of the Ezra narrative. But within the present book of Ezra, the scribe did not need to bring anyone with him to Jerusalem, much less Levites. Artaxerxes’s supposed decree allows Ezra to escort people to Judah, but it does not require it. Ezra’s primary task is to teach the law, not lead a wagon train of returnees with specific categories of people. The text does not make sense. The main problem, though, is that found in the supposed Artaxerxes decree, only multiplied several times over. This is the enormous amount of silver and gold that Ezra is given as a gift for the temple, including from the king, his counselors, and his officers (Ezra 8:21–​29). This comes to more than 25 metric tons of gold and silver. A talent was worth 3,000 sheqels. If we reckon 10 grams to a sheqel (though preserved coins are actually slightly heavier), that makes a talent approximately 30 kilograms (65 pounds). We can take the price of silver as about $450 or £320 per kilogram (the approximate price in 2015, though the price fluxuates through the year). If we convert the gold to its value in silver (13 to 1), we have the equivalent of 2,300 silver talents (equal to about US $31,000,000 or £22,000,000 sterling today). We should compare this with the income of the entire Persian Empire, according to Herodotus (3.91). His statements (which are the only ones we have) list the annual income of the whole Persian Empire—​stretching from Egypt to India—​as 14,560 talents of silver. The whole of the satrapy of Transeuphrates (of which the province of Judah was a part) yielded only 300 silver talents. Are we to believe that a tiny province on the edge of the empire had 15 percent of the annual Persian

The Writings in the Early Postexilic Period    31 income assigned to it, a large part of which was from the king himself? The picture in Ezra 8 is simply not credible. Furthermore, in the “Artaxerxes decree” of Ezra 7, not only are the basic expenses of the temple and cult covered by the Persian royal treasury (Ezra 7:20), but in addition a slush fund of 100 silver talents is appropriated for Ezra to use as he wishes. Remember that these 100 talents alone are one-​third of the tax income for the entirety of the Transeuphrates region. The 100 talents would be worth about $1,350,000 or £960,000 in today’s money. Thus, Ezra had about a million pounds sterling, or well over a million US dollars, to spend for whatever he wanted—​on top of a supply of funds for all the expenses of the temple. Is it very likely that the Persian king would have been so generous? Then there is the strange situation in which Ezra is embarrassed to ask for an escort from the king (Ezra 8:21–​29). Really? The king has donated a king’s ransom—​literally—​ for the Jewish temple. Is it likely that he would have allowed Ezra to make that journey without adequate provision for security? It would not have been a case of asking for an escort; on the contrary, the Persian government would have insisted on it. Ultimately, the “Artaxerxes decree” and the story of Ezra’s journey to Jerusalem are not statements about history but about theology. Their purpose is not to describe to us the activities of a particular Jewish scribe at a particular time in history but to make a point about the Jewish religion:  that God would inspire the Persian king to issue generous—​indeed, unprecedented—​resources and favorable commands on behalf of the Jewish people, and that God himself would protect and shepherd them at all times (see Knowles 2018). Yet that is not the end of the story. Even though the Artaxerxes decree is basically in the language of a later era, there are also here and there signs of Achaemenid language and time in the decree. A Persian authorization may well have been issued to permit the teaching of a new Jewish law code and religious document. But it was unlikely to come from the king but further down in the Persian administration, perhaps from as high up as the satrap in charge of the Transeuphrates satrapy. The unbelievable amounts of financial gifts and other grants to the Jews would not have been part of it, but a basic permission to promulgate the newly compiled Pentateuch would be in keeping with the Persian way of doing things (see further Grabbe 2015). More could be said about the Ezra story, including the picture of his reading the law to the people. But the important points have been made. The Ezra narrative (including Ezra 7–​10 but also Neh 8) has a good deal of unbelievable content. There is a real historical person in there, but he is obscured by a lot of scribal or popular expansion (Grabbe 2015). However, there is one issue that stands out in the Ezra tradition: this is that Ezra is associated with promulgating the Torah. There are several points that could be made. The first is that the Pentateuch appears to be post 400. This fits very well with the arguments that have often been used to conclude that Ezra is to be associated with the reign of Artaxerxes II (404–​359 bce). The text (Ezra 7:7–​8) mentions the seventh year of Artaxerxes (398 bce, though to what extent we can trust such a specific date is a question), but in any case a mission to promulgate the newly compiled Pentateuch during the reign of Artaxerxes II fits what else we know about the situation. Ezra would

32   Lester L. Grabbe not have had the authority to appoint judges and magistrates to enforce this law on all the inhabitants of Transeuphrates (as Ezra 7:25–​26 seems to say). It is likely that he had only a teaching role, but this might have been confirmed in a written document from the Persian administration (which could lie behind the much edited Artaxerxes decree in Ezra 7). Whether Ezra had anything to do with the compilation or editing of the Pentateuch, we do not know, but the datum most likely to be true in the tradition is that he worked to teach it and spread knowledge of it.

Bibliography Blenkinsopp, Joseph. 1989. Ezra-​Nehemiah. OTL; London: SCM. Briant, Pierre. 2002. From Cyrus to Alexander: A History of the Persian Empire. Translated by Peter T. Daniels. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns. ET of Histoire de l’empire perse de Cyrus à Alexandre: Volumes I–​II. Achaemenid History 10; Leiden: Nederlands Instituut voor het Nabije Oosten, 1996. Grabbe, Lester L. 1992. Judaism from Cyrus to Hadrian: Vol. I: Persian and Greek Periods; Vol. II: Roman Period. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press. Grabbe, Lester L. 2004. A History of the Jews and Judaism in the Second Temple Period 1: Yehud: A History of the Persian Province of Judah. LSTS 47; London: T & T Clark International. Grabbe, Lester L. 2006. “The ‘Persian Documents’ in the Book of Ezra: Are They Authentic?” In Judah and the Judeans in the Persian Period, edited by Oded Lipschits and Manfred Oeming, 531–​570. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns. Grabbe, Lester L. 2015. “Penetrating the Legend: In Quest of the Historical Ezra.” In Open-​ Mindedness in the Bible and Beyond: A Volume of Studies in Honour of Bob Becking, edited by Marjo C. A. Korpel and Lester L. Grabbe, 97–​110. LHBOTS 616; London: Bloomsbury T & T Clark. Grabbe, Lester L. 2016. “The Last Days of Judah and the Roots of the Pentateuch: What Does History Tell Us?” In The Fall of Jerusalem and the Rise of the Torah, edited by Peter Dubovský, Dominik Markl, and Jean-​Pierre Sonnet, 19–​45. FAT 107. Tübingen, Germany:  Mohr Siebeck. Gräz, Sebastian. 2004. Das Edikt des Artaxerxes: Eine Untersuchung zum religionspolitischen und historischen Umfeld von Esra 7,12–​26. BZAW 337; Berlin: de Gruyter. Gunneweg, A. H. J. 1985. Esra. KAT 19.1; Gütersloh, Germany: Mohn. Gunneweg, A. H. J. 1987. Nehemiah. KAT 19.2; Gütersloh, Germany: Mohn. Porten, B. 1968. Archives from Elephantine:  The Life of an Ancient Jewish Military Colony. Berkeley: University of California. Reinmuth, Titus. 2002. Der Bericht Nehemias:  Zur literarischen Eigenart, traditionsgeschichtlichen Prägung und innerbiblischen Rezeption des Ich-​Berichts Nehemias. OBO 183; Fribourg, Germany:  University Press; Göttingen, Germany:  Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. Schwiderski, Dirk. 2000. Handbuch des nordwestsemitischen Briefformulars: Ein Beitrag zur Echtheitsfrage der aramäischen Briefe des Esrabuches. BZAW; Berlin: Walter de Gruyter. Williamson, H. G. M. 1983. “The Composition of Ezra i–​vi.” JTS 34:1–​30. Williamson, H. G. M. 1985. Ezra, Nehemiah. WBC 16; Waco, TX: Word Books.

Chapter 3

T he Writing s i n t h e Hellenisti c a nd Roman Peri od Timothy H. Lim

It is important from the outset to recognize that the present subject is not about the composition and date of individual books of the Writings, but the emergence of the third part of the traditional canon. When did the diverse books of the Writings coalesce into a collection? Did the Writings form only after the second part of the canon, “the Prophets,” closed? Was the book of Daniel placed in the third category because it could not be added to the second part that was no longer open? What process led to canonization of the tripartite Hebrew Bible, and in particular the third division? In the following, I will argue that in the Hellenistic-​Roman period (323 bce to 640 ce) the third part of the canon emerged. We do not know the process that led to the canonization of the third division, but we do have datable lists of the books of the Writings. These lists varied in their classification and ordering of the books of the Writings, and there was no one basic list. The classification and enumeration of the books of the Writings differed from one ancient source to another, but the content of the third canonical section remained stable, with the holy status of only a few books (notably Qohelet and Song of Songs) being questioned by some rabbis. I will also argue that the priests of the Temple did not serve as a “council” by another name to prescribe the books of the canon. Rather, the canonization of the Hebrew Bible emerged from the ground up as each community defined its own understanding of authoritative scriptures. The Pharisaic canon became the traditional canon of Judaism, because the Pharisaic sect formed the majority of those who refounded the religion, Rabbinic Judaism, after the destruction of the Temple in 70 ce. Finally, I will argue that the communities reflected in the Dead Sea Scrolls understood the psalms as authoritative scriptures. There is no evidence that the sectarians cited as authoritative the text type of the Great Psalm Scroll (11Q5), but they did consider “the psalms” as authoritative scriptures.

34   Timothy H. Lim

Yavneh and the Writings The traditional Jewish canon includes twenty-​four books: five of the Torah, eight of the Prophets, and eleven of the Writings. Between the late nineteenth and the latter half of the twentieth century, scholarly consensus held that the canon of the Hebrew Bible was closed in three stages, the Torah or Pentateuch in the fifth century bce, the books of the prophets in the third or fourth century bce, and the books of the Writings at Yavneh (alternately spelled “Javneh) or Jamnia in 90 ce (Ryle 1892). At the end of the first century ce, it was thought that a “synod” of Rabbis decided on the books of the canon. This gathering was labeled a “council,” even though the term is not used in Rabbinic literature. It describes the gathering as a beth din, beth ha-​ midrash, yeshiva, methivta, or kerem, but Rabbinic literature does not call it a “synod” (Lewis 1964, 2002). The label, suggested by Heinrich Graetz, was clearly modeled on the Christian “Synode” that considered, among others things, which books are to be included in the Old Testament (1871: 147–​173). Setting aside this anachronism, many scholars nonetheless considered the end of the first century an important moment in the eventual closing of the canon. It was at Yavneh that the first generation of Rabbis declared: “all holy scriptures defile the hands” (m.Yad 3:5). The meaning of the “defilement of the hands” is enigmatic and, not surprisingly, debated, for how could “holy scriptures” make the hands impure? The principle states that scriptures are holy because they cause defilement. Noncanonical books like the epics of Homer, the Gospels, other heretical compositions, and the Wisdom of Ben Sira do not impart impurity (m.Yad. 4:6; tYad 2:13). The principle has been variously understood to refer to the impurity caused by rodents (Leiman 1976:  115–​117), the safeguarding from misinterpretation of the religious practice of parading the Torah scroll in the synagogue (Goodman 1990), and the withdrawal of books that do not contain the Tetragrammaton (Barton 1986: 68–​7 1; 1997: 108–​121; and 2005: 1–​7). I have suggested that “holy scriptures” were considered sacred objects that had the ability to transmit a sacred contagion. A sepher or book that has the ability to make a person (symbolized by “hands”) impure is considered a ketav qodesh (“holy scripture”) (Lim 2010a). Notwithstanding the absence of an explanation of tum’at yadayim (“defilement of the hands”) in Rabbinic literature, it was thought that the formulation implies that a canon had been substantially defined, if not yet determined, since the Mishnah states that “all scriptures” make the hands impure. The ensuing debate is about the canonical status of just two books, the Song of Songs and Qohelet. The tradition about Yavneh is thought to have existed before 200 ce, the supposed date of the editing of the Mishnah by Rabbi Judah Ha-​Nasi. How far back the tradition of tum’at yadayim goes is a matter of debate. In the past, the dating was thought to depend on the interpretation of the saying of R. Simeon ben Azzai (135–​170): “I have heard a tradition from the seventy-​two elders on the day that they seated R. Eleazar b. Azariah

The Writings in the Hellenistic and Roman Period    35 (110–​135) in the academy (mYad 3.5).” This saying was understood to refer to Eleazar’s installment at the head of the academy at Yavneh. The historical context, so it was argued, was the temporary deposition of Gamaliel II by replacing him with Eleazar as institutional head (cf. yBerkhot 4.7). The phrase “on the day” seemingly referred to the session when this took place. Sid Leiman, however, has argued that “on the day” is not a historical reference, but a Rabbinic technique that introduces the sequential discussion of halakhot (Jewish laws) on the same day (1976: 122). Philip Alexander went further and questioned the historicity of the entire account, doubting any truth behind the deposition of Gamaliel. For him, the mishnah is redactionally composite, and the reference to the installment of Eleazar is tautological. Alexander argued that the “seventy-​two” refers to the Sanhedrin, and the whole tradition goes back to an unspecified occasion before 70 when the holiness of the Song of Songs and Qohelet was debated (2007: 64). If Alexander is correct, then most of the books of the Hebrew Bible were already considered “holy scriptures” before the destruction of the Second Temple. A decision was subsequently taken that the two books of the Song of Songs and Qohelet likewise defiled the hands. The decision, however, settled nothing as the Rabbis continued to dispute the holiness of not just these two books, but other books of the Writings as well (for example, Proverbs, Esther, and Ruth) for years to come. We do not know when the Rabbinic canon was finally closed, but a rough estimate of between 150 and 250 would not be far off the mark (see Lim 2013b: 180).

The Earliest Lists of the Books of the Writings Mishnah Yadayim does not enumerate the books of the canon. It assumes that the intended readers would have known what were the books of “holy scriptures.” In the first century ce, two canonical notices likewise lack the specificity of book names. 4 Ezra 14:45–​48 did not detail the twenty-​four books of its public canon. In Against Apion 1.38–​41, Josephus refers to the twenty-​two books of the canon, divided into five books of Moses, the thirteen books of the prophets, and the four remaining books. The books of the third category include hymns to God and moral instructions, but Josephus does not say what they are. There have been several attempts to correlate these four remaining books with the eleven books of the Writings, but they are no more than educated guesses. One of the difficulties lies in the fact that some of the books included in the traditional list of the Writings may have been considered “prophetic,” so the scholarly inclusion of a book, like Daniel or the Psalms, in the third category would be open to question (e.g., the sectarian communities considered Daniel prophetic in 4Q174 and 11QMelch, and David was thought to have composed numerous psalms and songs

36   Timothy H. Lim by prophetic inspiration according to 11Q5. The author of Luke-​Acts considered all scriptures to some extent prophetic; see later discussion and Lim 2010c, 2013a: 129–​131, 162–​167). The earliest list of the books of the Writings in Rabbinic literature is to be found in the Babylonian Talmud, Baba Bathra 14a–​15b, dating to around 200 ce. The Pentateuch is not mentioned, but assumed. The order of the books of the prophets agrees with the traditional order in the listing of Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings and the last three Minor Prophets, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. The other prophetic books differ in order or are not mentioned. The books of the Writings agree with the traditional list in content but not order (Lim 2013a: 35–​37). The Talmudic text mentions two principles of ordering the books, the chronological and the thematic criterion, but states that the latter has priority over the former. The baraita (a text cited in the Babylonian Talmud that is thought to be from the time of the Mishnah but not included in it) notes that Job lived in the days of Moses and therefore his book should have come first in the order, presumably along with the Torah of Moses. But the order of the books of the Writings is arranged thematically and does not begin with suffering. The book of Ruth, which is at the head of the list, is also a record of suffering, but it is a suffering that ends with happiness.

The Orders of the Books of the Writings A recent survey by Julius Steinberg and Timothy Stone has argued that the order of the Writings “was not arbitrary but meaningful” (Steinberg and Stone 2015: 37). The conclusions draw on the previous work of the two scholars. Julius Steinberg (2006: 444–​ 454) had argued that the Kethuvim as enumerated in Baba Bathra can be divided into two subcollections of Weisheitliche Reihe (Job, Proverbs, Qohelet, and Song of Songs) and National-​historische Reihe (Lamentations, Daniel, Esther, and Ezra-​Nehemiah). The MT order of the first series, it is claimed, is the same, but it admits several variations and exceptions. Specifically, the order of Ruth, Proverbs, Song of Songs, Qohelet, Job, and the Psalms attests to a limited variation. Likewise, the second series is the same in the Talmudic text and the Masoretic codices of Leningrad, Aleppo, and Cairo, framed by the books of Lamentation and Ezra-​Nehemiah. However, Daniel, Esther, the Psalms, and Chronicles vary in order. Timothy Stone built on Steinberg’s analysis and focused on the subcollection of the Megillot (Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Qohelet, and Esther) within the Writings (2013). He argued that the collection of Megillot stands between the wisdom and national-​historical series. These books were “purposefully arranged,” except for the book of Ruth that is variously located between Judges and Samuel in the LXX, after Proverbs in the MT, and after the Psalms in Baba Bathra.

The Writings in the Hellenistic and Roman Period    37 Most scholars understand the collection of the Writings as an anthology of miscellaneous texts. Steinberg and Stone have called attention to the possible significance of the order of the books of the Writings in the Talmudic and post-​Rabbinic period to the emergence of the great codices of the Masoretic tradition. Commenting on The Shape of the Writings, John Barton states: “The study of the arranging of the Writings belongs to the history of the reception of the biblical texts, mainly in the Middle Ages” (2015: 314).

The Evidence of the Wisdom of Ben Sira Steinberg and Stone, however, also want to argue that the one basic order (with limited variation) of the books of the Writings can be traced back to the Second Temple period when the canon was formed. Roger Beckwith previously suggested that the list of the order of the Prophets and Writings in Baba Bathra originated with Judas Maccabee (1985: 153, 165). According to Steinberg and Stone, the tripartite canon was closed in the second century bce, and they see great significance in the Prologue of the Wisdom of Ben Sira and its description of “the law,” “the prophets,” and “the other books.” They argue that “[t]‌he use of the definite article in reference to all three sections indicates that each group is considered to be part of the same whole” (2015: 12). But they do not discuss the Prologue in relation to the grandfather’s own description of the syllabus of the scribe. The Prologue was written by the grandson. The definiteness of the three divisions in the Prologue is required by the grammar and not indicative of a closed, tripartite canon. The grandson meant that his grandfather had studied the content of the books as specified in Sir 39:1–​3, and not that it indicated a closed tripartite canon. The definiteness is a reference to the books mentioned in the scribal syllabus. The link is explicit in the expression “having devoted himself ” in the Prologue and 39:1–​ 3. In the Prologue, “the other books of our ancestors” is a summary of everything else apart from the law and prophets, including Jesus ben Sira’s own book of wisdom (Lim 2013a: 97–​102). Moreover, the use of biblical sources in Ben Sira does not support the view that it is the same as the putative basic list of Steinberg and Stone. In Sir 44–​50 the scriptural basis of “the praise of the fathers of old” is broadly consistent with the books of the Pentateuch and prophets, but it is adapted for Ben Sira’s own purposes. The reprising of Enoch, Joseph, Shem, Seth, and Adam in Sir 49:14–​16b is a rhetorical strategy that prepares for Ben Sira’s own description of the Oniad Simon, whom he admires (50:1–​21). As for the books of the Writings, the scholarly consensus is that Ruth, the Song of Songs, Esther, and Daniel are unattested in the Wisdom of Ben Sira (Rüger 1984: 69; Beentjes 2003: 122–​133). Steinberg and Stone’s claim that the basic order of the Writings was already established in the second century bce in the Prologue of Ben Sira is open to question. It is curious that they do not discuss the earliest canonical lists preserved in Christian tradition that show that the books of the Writings had not been fixed in one order.

38   Timothy H. Lim

The Different Classifications and Orders of the Earliest Lists The church fathers defer to Jewish tradition in their enumeration of the books of the Old Testament. Origen, in his introduction to his commentary on the Psalms (dated some time before 232), states there are twenty-​two canonical books “according to the Hebrew tradition” and he lists them according to their Hebrew titles, Greek transliteration, and Greek translation (see Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 6.25). Absent in the list is the Twelve Minor Prophets, counted as one book, and it is likely that Origen omitted it by mistake (Hengel 2002: 63) or that Eusebius was using a defective manuscript. The Minor Prophets were subsequently reinstated by Rufinus (345–​410), who translated Origen’s works into Latin, and by Hilary of Poitiers (315–​367), who followed Origen closely in his commentary on the Psalms. Origen’s list agrees in content with Baba Bathra’s enumeration, where the books may be compared (since they are incomplete), but it does not section the books into a tripartite structure, and the books of the Writings are dispersed throughout the single list (Lim 2013a: 38–​39, 191–​192). Jerome (c. 342–​420), in his preface to the prologue to the books of Samuel and Kings, discusses the three ways of counting the books of the canon in relation to the characteristics of the Hebrew alphabet. He also mentions the books of the Apocrypha, but they are not to be included in the list. The count of twenty-​two books is related to the “elementary sounds” of the language. The count of twenty-​seven books is derived by an appeal to a distinctive feature of the Hebrew alphabet. Just as five letters of the Hebrew alphabet (Caph, Mem, Nun, Phe, Sade) “are double letters” (meaning that they are written differently in the final and medial positions), so too there are five books of the canon that may be reckoned as either single or double, namely 1–​2 Sam, 1–​2 Kgs, 1–​2 Chr, Ezra-​Nehemiah, and Jeremiah with Kinoth (or Lamentations). A third count of twenty-​four books separates Ruth and Lamentations from Judges and Jeremiah, respectively, and places them in the Hagiographa. The Jewish canon, whether it be counted as twenty-​two, twenty-​four, or twenty-​seven books, has the same books as Baba Bathra, so far as they may be compared. Like the list of Baba Bathra, Jerome’s canon is divided into a tripartite structure of the Law, the Prophets, and the Hagiographa. But the order of the books of the Hagiographa (Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Daniel, 1–​2 Chr, Ezra-​Nehemiah, and Esther) is not the same. The order of the books is a secondary feature; what counts as canonical is the book and not its putative place within the Writings (Lim 2013a: 39–​41, 180–​181, 191–​192). Melito (died c. 190) offers yet another order of the books of the Writings (see Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 4.26). It seems that the bishop of Sardis had investigated the canon in response to a query from “his brother” (perhaps a fellow bishop) Onesimus about the number (arithmos) and order (taxis) of the books of the Old Testament. Onesimus had asked Melito for extracts of passages from the Old Testament that testified to Jesus,

The Writings in the Hellenistic and Roman Period    39 but he also wanted to know “accurate facts about the ancient writings.” One infers that there must have been some doubt both about the books that make up the Old Testament canon, and the order in which they are enumerated, in the second century. Melito had “travelled east,” presumably to Palestine from Sardis, describing his destination as “the place where these things were preached and done.” He had “learnt accurately the books of the Old Testament” and wrote back to Onesimus, enumerating the list of books. He divided his list into two parts, distinguishing the Pentateuch as “the first five books of Moses” and “the prophets.” Absent from the list are Nehemiah, Lamentations, and Esther. It may be that he counted Nehemiah with Ezra and Lamentations with Jeremiah, but Esther is not mentioned. The order of the third and fourth books of the Pentateuch is Numbers-​Leviticus rather than the traditional order of Leviticus-​Numbers. The list of the books of the prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, The Twelve, Daniel, Ezekiel, Esdras [=Ezra]) is placed at the end. Between the law of Moses and the books of the prophets is an undifferentiated series of books that derive from the traditional sections of the Prophets and Writings (Joshua, Judges, Ruth, Reigns in four parts [= 1–​2 Sam, 1–​2 Kgs], Chronicles in two parts [= 1–​2 Chr], Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, and Job; see Lim 2013a: 37–​38, 191–​ 192). Melito’s list does not attest to a basic order of the Writings as argued by Steinberg and Stone. Finally, there is Bryennios’s list that is probably genuine and early. There is debate about the historical authenticity and dating of this canonical list written in Aramaic and Greek and inserted between the Second Epistle to Clement and the Didache in manuscript P.Bryennios. It enumerates the twenty-​seven books of the canon in one undifferentiated list with an order that has been described as “haphazard” (Audet 1950: 150–​151). The order of Joshua-​Deuteronomy-​Numbers could be explained by a scribal error of reading bidirectionally (boustrophedon). The scribe copied Genesis-​Exodus-​Leviticus, from left to right, and at the end of the line read the next line from right to left, thus mistakenly ordering the books as Joshua-​Deuteronomy-​Numbers rather than Numbers-​ Deuteronomy-​Joshua. The order of the books of the prophets is recognizable in part, but no other list agrees with the order of Jeremiah, the Twelve Minor Prophets, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and 1–​2 Esd. The order of the books of the Writings is anomalous, if it is heuristically compared to the MT order. The books of Ruth, Job, and Psalms come after Numbers and before the historical books (1–​4 Kgdms, 1–​2 Chr). Judges is found between Job and Psalms. Then Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Songs come after the historical books, but before Jeremiah. Daniel takes the twenty-​fourth position, between Ezekiel and 1 Esd or Ezra, and Esther is the last book of the list (see Lim 2013a: 41–​43, 193–​194). The order of the books of the Writings does not support the basic list argued by Steinberg and Stone. Jean-​Paul Audet dated the Bryennios list, which he calls “the Jerusalem manuscript,” to the second century ce (1950: 143–​144). Lee McDonald cautiously dates the list to the fourth century ce because of its similarity to Epiphanius’s list (2007: 203–​204). There is no doubt of the similarities between the two lists, but the scribal error in the

40   Timothy H. Lim transliteration of the Greek name of Leviticus is an error significativus (“a significant error”) in the text-​critical sense of the word and shows that the two lists likely derived from a common source, and that the Bryennios list is not dependent on the Epiphanius list (see Lim 2013a: 43). The earliest lists of the canonical books do not reflect one basic arrangement, but several orders of the books of the Writings. One can infer possible principles at work in the various arrangements, but there is no one basic order that can be discerned without also admitting numerous exceptions.

The Temple Was Not a “Council” The search for a basic order of the Writings is a scholarly reflex to understand the canonical process. There is no ancient account of how the canon was formed, so scholars often look to the Jerusalem Temple as the locus of the canonizing process (Lim 2013a: 21–​34). This tendency continues in Steinberg and Stone’s survey as they see the sacred archive in Jerusalem to have kept all the books of the Writings and of the canon as a whole. They point to the features of the Temple represented in synagogues as an example of the influence of the cultic center (2015: 39–​40). The symbol of the Temple is indeed used in synagogues today to represent sacred space. It was found in the Mishnaic principle that “holy scriptures defile the hands.” I have previously argued that the Song of the Ark in Num 10:35–​36, which is sung when the Torah scroll is brought out, was not only used as a halakhic (legal) minimum to define a “sepher” or scroll, but it also provided the clue to understanding the Rabbinic concept of tum’at yadayim. For the Rabbis, “holy scriptures” were considered objects of the Temple that had an ability to transmit sacred contagion (Lim 2010a). Al Baumgarten has recently interpreted the defilement of the hands from legal, historical, and anthropological perspectives, hypothesizing a scenario where the Pharisees took the Torah scroll out of its niche and beyond the sacred precincts of the Temple to the people. By doing so, they created an anomaly of the sacred in the profane, requiring a halakhic solution and the practice of washing the hands after touching the scripture (2016). The Temple of Jerusalem did not function as a council by another name to define the books of the Jewish canon. There was no “official canon” in the way that has been suggested by previous scholarship. The ark (‘aron) of synagogues housed just the Torah scroll, and not all the books of the Jewish canon. There were books kept at the Temple for liturgical purposes and a rudimentary form of textual criticism, but there was no “top-​ down” prescription of the list of books of the canon by the Jerusalem priesthood. There were, to be sure, books kept in the Temple store room. Josephus informs us that the books of the Torah and Psalms were kept at the Temple (cf. War 7.148, 150, 162; Life 418; Ant. 12.323), but there is no evidence that the archive served as the locus of canonization. Important books other than the biblical books (such as lists of priestly

The Writings in the Hellenistic and Roman Period    41 genealogies) were deposited at the Temple for consultation and safekeeping (Josephus, Apion 1.34–​36; cf. War 2.427; 6.354; Life 1.6). Conversely, holy books were deposited in the synagogues and not just at the Temple (Josephus, Ant. 16.164). The book discovered in the time of Josiah (2 Kgs 22) was not a collection of books of an incipient canon, but one book of reform, which is to be identified with a version of Deuteronomy (Urdeuteronomium) (Lim 2013a: 31–​34). The view that 2 Macc 2:13–​15 attests to a “library” under Judas Maccabeus is untenable and is based on a misinterpretation of v. 14. The verse is usually translated: “In the same way Judas also collected all the books that had been lost on account of the war which had come upon us.” This rendering compares Judas’s actions to v. 13, where it is stated that Nehemiah founded a library. The common way of understanding verse 14 overloads the comparative adverb “in the same way” (hōsautōs). The comparison should not be understood as Judas founding a library. Rather, it refers in a general way to Judas’s collection of books. Judas did not establish a library; he collected the books that had been damaged in the war of Antiochus Epiphanes whose messengers and soldiers tore the books of the law into pieces, cut them up, and burnt them (1 Macc 1:56). Verse 14 should read: Judas had also collected “all the books that had fallen to pieces (diapiptō) on account of the war.” It refers to Judas’s gathering of the partially destroyed books in order to give them back to the people (Lim 2013a: 113–​118).

The Theory of the Majority Canon The Jewish canon formed organically from the “bottom-​up” as each community constructed its own understanding of scriptures. Before the first century, and the appearance of the implied list in Josephus, it is better to describe these collections of writings as “authoritative scriptures” rather than “canon.” The exiles who returned to Yehud in the Persian period had a “torah” that was more or less consistent with the Pentateuch, but it also included the book of Joshua. The Israelite Samaritan community held the Pentateuch, and possibly Joshua, as their collection of authoritative scriptures (Lim 2017). In the Hellenistic period, the Alexandrian community, as evidenced by Philo’s retelling of the Letter of Aristeas in the Life of Moses, attributed to Ptolemy Philadelphus the project to translate from Hebrew to Greek the five rolls of Moses (Lim 2017b). The sectarian communities reflected in the Dead Sea Scrolls had a notion of authoritative scriptures that included the traditional writings of the books of Moses, different prophetic collections (the minor prophets, Samuel-​Kings, etc.), and the psalms. But they also considered other writings (the book of Jubilees, Enoch, pesharim, Hodayot, the Rules, etc.) authoritative. I have described the concept as a dual pattern of traditional writings and sectarian compositions, characterized by a graded authority on a sliding scale of importance (Lim 2013a: 146–​147).

42   Timothy H. Lim The traditional Jewish canon is identical with the canon of Rabbinic Judaism. This canon was the canon of the Pharisees, who were a sect or school of philosophy in the late Second Temple period. Their fortunes and influence ebbed and flowed over time and under various religious and secular authorities. By the end of the first century ce they had become influential and were the majority of the members who refounded Judaism after the destruction of the Second Temple by the Romans in 70. The Pharisaic canon is evidenced in Josephus’s twenty-​two-​book canon, 4 Ezra’s twenty-​four-​book public canon, and is consistent with Paul’s implied use of scriptures (Lim 2013a, 2013b).

The Psalms as Authoritative Writings There is one book of the Writings that stands out in the late Second Temple period literature. Luke 24:44 refers to “the psalms” along with “the law of Moses” and “the prophets.” The reference has been interpreted by many as another way of describing the tripartite canon, “the psalms” representing pars pro toto (“a part representing the whole”) of the Writings. A much debated passage, the verse does attest to at least a tripartite canon, but not in the way often thought. Verse 44 should be understood together with the previous verses 25 to 27 of the same chapter where the Lukan Jesus began to interpret all the scriptures to Cleopas and his companions concerning himself. “Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory? And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.” The participial clause (“beginning with” of v. 27) points to a third category beyond “Moses” and “the prophets.” It implies that there is at least a third division of scriptures beyond the books of the law of Moses and the prophets (Lim 2013a: 62–​65). A complicating factor is that the author of Luke-​Acts also considered all scriptures in some sense prophetic. In Luke 24:25–​26, he described “all the scriptures” synonymously with “all the prophets.” Acts 3:22 quotes Deut 18:15 and the raising up of a prophet like Moses. In Acts 3:11–​4:4, Peter speaks to the crowd and identifies Moses as a prophet. Elsewhere I have suggested that one way of reconciling the different uses of “prophet” and “prophetic” is to postulate that for the author of Luke-​Acts all scriptures were by nature prophetic, but they were not all included in the second division of the canon. That he maintained categories of the books of “Moses,” “the prophets,” and a third, unnamed category suggests that by the end of the first century the scriptural books had been differentiated into at least three canonical divisions (Lim 2013a: 162–​165).

The Psalms Scrolls Reconsidered The psalms were also regarded as authoritative Writings among the sectarian communities reflected in the Dead Sea Scrolls. In the context of a discussion of canon

The Writings in the Hellenistic and Roman Period    43 formation, it is important to differentiate the evidence of the Dead Sea Scrolls that attests to manuscripts containing one or more psalms from that which shows the sectarian’s regard for the authority of the psalms. The community’s understanding of the authority of a text is a sine qua non (“a necessary condition”) in canon research. It is essential, since the question of authoritative scriptures implies a community. Authority does not exist as a free-​floating concept, independent of community life. The question of authority must be qualified by “authoritative for whom?” It is often claimed that the book of psalms is one of the three most popular books among the heterogeneous collection of manuscripts known as the Dead Sea Scrolls. The other two books are Deuteronomy and Isaiah. There is a great variety among the forty odd scrolls classified under the rubric of “a psalms scroll”: some follow the MT-​order of a series of psalms (e.g., Pss 116–​118 in 4Q96); others contain just one psalm (e.g., Ps 119 in 4Q89, 4Q90, and 4Q5); yet others occur in non-​MT order (e.g., Pss 135→99 in 4Q92) and/​or include non-​MT psalms (e.g., 4Q88, 11Q11) (see Flint 1997, 2000). Recently, Eva Mroczek drew attention to the textual fluidity of the psalms scrolls to question “the primacy of the book of Psalms” (2016: 26–​33). Using the psalms scrolls as one of her case studies, she criticizes the bibliocentric nature of previous scholarship and questions the concept of “Bible” and “book,” which she incongruously calls “bibliographic,” in ancient Judaism. This is a good point, but it is overstated. Issues of textual fluidity and canon need to be clearly distinguished, and the centrality of the biblical texts in Second Temple literature is unquestionable. On virtually every page of ancient Jewish writing, with the possible exception of some Hellenistic Jewish compositions, the authority of the biblical narrative and traditions is evident. Ancient Jews did not have a term for “canon,” but they did have the concept. When Jews used titles such as “the book of Moses,” “the books of the prophets,” or “the psalms of David,” they implied a collection of writings, which is an essential feature of a canon. When the Rabbis proscribed “the outside books,” they must have known what were the inside books, but they did not call them “inside books.” They called them kitvey ha-​ qodesh or “holy scriptures.” When the Tannaitic rabbis debated whether Qohelet and the Song of Songs were holy writings, they must have known which books “defiled the hands.” It is important to reconsider whether all scrolls classified under the category are indeed “psalms scrolls.” Were they instead excerpts of psalms for liturgical purposes? Are they “psalms scrolls” in a non-​MT sense? The traditional psalter contains 150 psalms and is divided into five books: I (psalms 1–​41, most of the “Psalms of David” are in the section), II (42–​72, some psalms of Korah and Asaph), III (73–​89, primarily of Korah and Asaph), IV (90–​106, mostly untitled psalms), and V (107–​150, mostly liturgical psalms of pilgrimage). The division into five books was done to parallel the Pentateuch (“Moses gave the five books of the Torah to Israel and David gave the five books of Psalms to Israel”; Midrash Shoher Tov 1.2). It is an artificial division and a late development. The need to reconsider our categories is most acutely felt in the debate over the Great Psalms Scroll as a “true psalter” or liturgical collection. 11Q5 is a scroll approximately 5 meters long, paleographically dated between 30 and 50 ce, and included thirty-​nine

44   Timothy H. Lim psalms from books four and five of the traditional psalter, but in different order. Included within it are non-​MT psalms (e.g., Ps 151 LXX; Syriac Psalms), noncanonical psalms (e.g., hymn to the creator), and a prose composition in col. 27. James Sanders, the editor of the scroll, at first argued that there were several versions of the psalter, and the Great Psalms Scroll (11Q5) was one of them. 11Q5 was a true psalter that the Qumran community took with them when they separated from mainstream Judaism to live in the wilderness. The sectarians added Hasidic and proto-​Essene poems to this true psalter. Meanwhile the Jerusalem establishment stabilized this same third portion and promulgated the official version of the Psalter that eventually became the received MT-​Psalter (1968). There is some confusion about Sanders’s views, since he seems to have changed his mind (compare his views in 1968 and 1993). At first, he argued that 11Q5 was the Psalter of the Essenes. Arguing this way meant that he was in effect advocating a sectarian psalter. But he later clarified his views by suggesting that 11Q5 was a true psalter that the sectarians happened to have taken with them. The authenticity of the true psalter is shown by the emphasis on the Davidic authorship at the end of the scroll. His later view understands the features of 11Q5 not to be indicative of a secondary, sectarian collection. Rather, they attest to the fluidity of the last third of the psalter that had a different order in comparison to the MT-​Psalter and included noncanonical material. Sanders’s views, which Peter Flint calls “the Qumran Psalms Hypothesis” (1997: 202–​ 227), have been criticized by several scholars (including Moshe Goshen-​Gottstein, Shemaryahu Talmon, and Patrick Skehan). They objected to Sanders’s thesis on the assumption that the MT-​Psalter was the orthodox psalter that had already been compiled in the fourth century bce. For them, 11Q5 was not a “psalm scroll,” but a secondary liturgical collection, derived from the MT-​Psalter. These criticisms of the Qumran Psalms Hypothesis assume that the order of the MT-​Psalter was standard. Some of the arguments about the liturgical features of 11Q5 are puzzling, for what is a psalter if not a liturgical composition. The debate about the Psalms Scroll has moved away from the view that it was a sectarian collection. This change has weakened rather than strengthened the case for its authoritative status within the Essene communities. If 11Q5 had indeed been imported into the community and reflected a version of the psalter at the time, then its link to the community would appear to be more tenuous. The collection of manuscripts, known as the Dead Sea Scrolls, used to be considered a sectarian “library.” It is now widely recognized that the Dead Sea Scrolls is a heterogeneous collection of texts derived from different sources and deposited in the caves at different times (Lim and Collins 2010: 2–​3). The biblical scrolls, for instance, were not sectarian versions of the scriptural texts, but the authoritative scriptures of Judaism in general. Like the biblical texts, then, 11Q5 would be one version of the psalter in the late Second Temple period, and not necessarily the Psalter of the Essenes.

The Writings in the Hellenistic and Roman Period    45

The Authority of the Psalms in Sectarian Scrolls There is no evidence that the sectarian scrolls cited the 11Q5 version of the psalter, but they did cite the psalms as authoritative scriptures (Lim 2013a:  126). There are three pesharim to the Psalms (1QpPs, 4QpPsa, and 4QpPsb) that provide sectarian interpretations of verses from Pss 68, 37, 45, 60, and 129 (Lim 2002: 16). There is evidence that the authorship of the psalms was attributed to David and the psalms were considered a collection. There is much debate about the significance of a line found in the scroll 4QMMT or “some precepts of the torah.” As reconstructed by the editors Elisha Qimron and John Strugnell, the Composite Text, section C, line 10 reads: “We have [written] to you so that you may study (carefully) the book of Moses and the books of the Prophets and (the writings of) Dav[id]” (1994: 59, 93–​94; 111–​112). Most scholars accept the reconstruction, which is based on 4Q398, but there is debate over the gloss of “the writings of David.” The editors believed that this was evidence of the Kethuvim, but the phrase (be-​david) is ambiguous; literally, it reads “in David” or simply “David” (the preposition being required by the Hebrew verb, the hiphil of byn). The context of the Admonitions section of MMT suggests that it refers to the deeds of David or the example of David. The we-​ party is admonishing the you-​party to consider the books of Moses and the books of the prophets, where the story of the lives and deeds of Israel’s kings, and especially those of King David are found (Lim 2001: 35–​37; 2013a: 127–​128). Better is the evidence from 11QMelch, often described as a thematic pesher. In it, Ps 82:1 is cited with an introductory formula reserved for the biblical texts, “as it is written” (11Q13 1:10). By proof-​texting the scriptures, the author or redactor of 11QMelch wants to show that the psalms spoke of the enigmatic figure of Melchizedek, as it indeed does in Ps 110. Notable is the formulation, “concerning him [i.e. Melchizedek] in the psalms of David.” The Hebrew construct is best understood as a genitive of authorship, “the collection of songs written by David.” The plural “songs” (shirim) evidences the psalms as a collection. Finally, there may be a reference to “the book of psalms.” In 4Q491, a version of the War Scroll, it reads “sepher ha-​tehilim.” The immediate context has been lost, so it is uncertain as to what it refers. It is possible that it refers to the scriptural psalms or one of the nonbiblical songs and psalms that were sung in the eschatological battle (“hymn of return,” 14:2, or “the hymn of God,” 4:1; so Mroczek 2016: 33–​34). It could be both, of course. It is not inconceivable that the sectarians cited phrases from the biblical psalms on their banners as they prepared to go to war against the sons of darkness: “tehilim” is the term used by the Great Psalms Scroll in referring to David’s composition of 3,600 psalms (11Q5 27:4). There are numerous biblical psalms that could have been adopted as the rally cry of an eschatological war (e.g., Ps 27:3).

46   Timothy H. Lim

Conclusions By the end of the first or second century of the common era, the books of the Writings were included in a canon that was substantially defined, even if not finally closed. This canon was the canon of the Pharisaic sect, whose members constituted the majority of those who refounded Judaism after the destruction of the Temple. The Rabbinic canon was not the official canon of the Jerusalem Temple and the priesthood did not prescribe which books are to be included on a list. Rather the canon grew from the “bottom-​up” as each Jewish community conceived its own understanding of the collection of authoritative scriptures. The emergence of the Pharisaic canon to become the canon of Rabbinic Judaism was a historical accident. The books traditionally assigned to the canonical division of the Writings followed the arrangement of Baba Bathra, which was not unique. There were various orders of the books in the earliest lists and it is possible that they were arranged according to certain principles, but there was no basic order in the Hellenistic-​Roman period.

Suggested Reading A good place to study the topics covered in this chapter is my The Formation of the Jewish Canon. It offers critical reviews of scholarly opinion but also addresses numerous issues related to definition, method, and history. It proposes the theory of the majority canon advocated in the chapter. I have also referred to previous publications of mine that take up the various points in greater detail. A recent collected volume of essays edited by Julius Steinberg and Timothy Stone, The Shape of the Writings, offers useful discussions of various subjects related to the books of the Writings. The introductory survey article presents the views of the two editors that have the most relevance to this chapter on the Hellenistic-​ Roman period.

Bibliography Alexander, Philip S. 2007. “The Formation of the Biblical Canon in Rabbinic Judaism.” In The Canon of Scripture in Jewish and Christian Tradition. Le canon des Ecritures dans les traditions juive et chrétienne, edited by P. S. Alexander and J.-​D. Kaestli, 7–​80. Lausanne: Editions du Zèbre. Audet, Jean-​Paul. 1950. “A Hebrew-​Aramaic List of Books of the Old Testament in Greek Transcription.” JTS 1:52–​7 1. Barton, John. 1986. Oracles of God: Perceptions of Ancient Prophecy in Israel after the Exile. London: Darton, Longman and Todd. Barton, John. 1997. The Spirit and the Letter. Studies in the Biblical Canon. London: SPCK. Barton, John. 2005. “The Canonicity of the Song of Songs.” In Perspektiven der Hoheliedauslegung. Perspectives on the Song of Songs, edited by Anselm Hagedorm, 1–​7. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter.

The Writings in the Hellenistic and Roman Period    47 Barton, John. 2015. “Response.” In The Shape of the Writings, edited by J. Steinberg and T. Stone, 311–​327. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbruans. Baumgarten, Albert. 2016. “Sacred Scriptures Defile the Hands.” JJS 67, no. 1: 46–​67. Beckwith, Roger. 1985. The Old Testament Canon of the New Testament Church and Its Background in Early Judaism. London: SPCK. Beentjes, Pancratius C. 2003. The Book of Ben Sira in Hebrew. A Text Edition of All Hebrew Manuscripts and a Synopsis. Leiden, the Netherlands: Brill. Childs, Brevard. 1979. Introduction to the Old Testament as Scripture. Philadelphia:  Fortress Press. Flint, Peter. 1997. The Dead Sea Psalms Scrolls & the Book of Psalms. Leiden, the Netherlands:  Brill. Flint, Peter, ed. 2000. Qumran Cave 4. XI. Psalms to Chronicles. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Goodman, Martin. 1990. “Sacred Scripture and ‘Defiling the Hands.’” JTS 41, no. 1: 99–​107. Graetz, H. 1871. “Der alttestamentliche Kanon und sein Abschluss.” In Kohelet oder der Salomonische Prediger übersetz und kritisch erläutert, edited by H. Graetz, 147–​173. Leipzig, Germany: C.F. Winter. Hengel, Martin. 2002. The Septuagint as Christian Scripture. Its Prehistory and the Problem of Its Canon. ET. London: Continuum. Lawlor, H. J., and Oulton, J. E. L. (eds.). 1927–​1928. Eusebius: Ecclesiastical History; and the Martyrs of Palestine. 2 volumes. London: SPCK. Leiman, Sid. 1976. The Canonization of Hebrew Scripture: The Talmudic and Midrashic Evidence. Hamden, CT: Archon Books. Lewis, Jack P. 1964. “What Do We Mean by Jabneh?” JBR 32:125–​132. Lewis, Jack P. 2002. “Jamnia Revisited.” In The Canon Debate, edited by Lee M. McDonald and James A. Sanders, 146–​162. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson. Lim, Timothy H. 2001. “An Alleged Reference to the Tripartite Division of the Hebrew Bible.” RevQ 77:23–​37. Lim, Timothy H. 2002. Pesharim. London: T&T Clark. Lim, Timothy H. 2010a. “Defilement of the Hands as a Principle Determining the Holiness of Scriptures.” JTS 61, no. 2: 1–​15. Lim, Timothy H. 2010b. “All These He Composed through Prophecy.” In Prophecy after the Prophets? The Contribution of the Dead Sea Scrolls to the Understanding of Biblical and Extra-​ Biblical Prophecy, edited by K. de Troyer and A. Lange, 61–​76. Louvain, Belgium: Peeters. Lim, Timothy H. 2010c. “Authoritative Scriptures and the Dead Sea Scrolls.” In The Oxford Handbook of the Dead Sea Scrolls, edited by Timothy H. Lim and John J. Collins, 303–​322. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Lim, Timothy H. 2013a. The Formation of the Jewish Canon. New Haven, CT:  Yale University Press. Lim, Timothy H. 2013b. “A Theory of the Majority Canon.” Expository Times 124, no. 8: 365–​373. Lim, Timothy H. 2017a. “The Emergence of the Samaritan Pentateuch.” In Reading the Bible in Ancient Traditions and Modern Editions:  Studies in Textual and Reception History in Honour of Peter W. Flint, edited by Andrew Perrin, Kyung Baek, and Daniel Falk, 89–104. Atlanta: SBL Press. Lim, Timothy H. 2017b. “Rabbinic Concept of Holy Scriptures as Sacred Objects.” In Scribal Practices and the Social Construction of Knowledge in Antiquity, Late Antiquity and Medieval Islam, edited by Myriam Wissa, 127–142. Louvain, Belgium: Peeters.

48   Timothy H. Lim Lim, Timothy H. (Forthcoming). “The Idealization of the Ptolemaic Kingship in the Legend of the Origins of the Septuagint.” In Judah and the Judeans in “the Long Third Century,” edited by Sylvie Honigman, Oded Lipschits, Christoph Nihan, and Thomas Römer. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns. Lim, Timothy H., and Collins, John J. 2010. “Current Issues in Dead Sea Scrolls Research.” In The Oxford Handbook of the Dead Sea Scrolls, edited by Timothy H. Lim and John J. Collins, 1–​18. Oxford: Oxford University Press. McDonald, Lee Martin. 2007. The Biblical Canon. Its Origin, Transmission, and Authority. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2007. McDonald, Lee Martin, and Sanders, James A. (eds.). 2002. The Canon Debate. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson. Morgan, Donn F. 1990. Between Text & Community. The Writings in Canonical Interpretation. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press. Mroczek, Eva. 2016. The Literary Imagination in Jewish Antiquity. Oxford:  Oxford University Press. Pury, Albert de. 2007. “The Ketubim, A Canon within the Biblical Canon.” In The Canon of Scripture in Jewish and Christian Tradition. Le canon des Ecritures dans les traditions juive et chrétienne, 41–​56. Lausanne: Editions du Zèbre. Qimron, Elisha, and Strugnell, John et al., eds. 1994. Qumran Cave 4. V. Miqsat Ma’aseh Ha-​ Torah. Oxford: Clarendon. Rüger, Peter. 1984. “Le Siracide:  un livre à la frontière du canon.” In Le Canon de l’Ancien Testament. Sa formation et son histoire, edited by J.-​D. Kaestli and O. Wermelinger, 47–​69. Geneva: Labor et Fides. Ryle, H. E. 1892. The Canon of the Old Testament. London: MacMillan. Sanders, James. 1965. The Psalms Scroll of Qumran Cave 11 [11QPsa]. Oxford: Clarendon. Sanders, James. 1968. “Cave 11 Surprises and the Question of Canon.” Republished in The Canon and Masorah of the Hebrew Bible: An Introductory Reader, edited by S. Leiman, 37–​51. New York: KTAV, 1974. Sanders, James. 1993. “Psalm 154 Revisited.” In Biblische Theologie und gesellschaftlicher Wandel: für Norbert Lohfink, edited by G. Braulik, Walter Gross, and Sean McEvenue, 296–​ 306. Freiburg, Germany: Universitätsverlag. Steinberg, Julius. 2006. Die Ketuvim: Ihr Aufbau and ihre Botschaft. Hamburg, Germany: Philo. Steinberg, Julius, and Stone, Timothy J. 2015. “The Historical Formation of the Writings in Antiquity.” In The Shape of the Writings, 1–​58. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns. Stone, Timothy J. 2013. The Compilation History of the Megillot. Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck.

Chapter 4

A rchaeol o g y of the P ostexil i c Pe ri od and the Wri t i ng s Benjamin D. Gordon

Any investigation into the cultural disposition of the groups responsible for the Writings must reckon with the archaeology of the postexilic period, from the founding of the Second Commonwealth of Yehud in the late sixth century bce to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 ce. The latter centuries of this era might seem unimportant to a handbook on the Writings, particularly when compared to the Persian period (sixth–​fourth centuries bce), which is marked by the heightened composition, redaction, and dissemination of Hebrew literatures of the sort that would be canonized in the Writings. But as will be demonstrated here, the social and economic dynamics of the Hellenistic (late fourth–​mid-​first centuries bce) and the Early Roman/​Herodian periods (mid-​first century bce–​70 ce) are just as important for understanding the Writings’ continued dissemination, as well as their potential role, together with other sacred texts, in the Jerusalem pilgrimage festival and in the religious lives of Jews in Judea, Galilee, and the Diaspora. The precipitous rise of Jerusalem during King Herod’s reign in 37–​4 bce to a city of great regional significance, with its newly rebuilt temple now enjoying premier status as one of the magnificent sanctuaries in the world, was the result of a concerted effort by both the royal and priestly houses. And it would have a lasting impact on Jewish identity and on the continued importance of Hebrew scripture. This chapter will highlight some of the important archaeological discoveries relevant to postexilic life in Judea, with a special emphasis on more recent excavations or published finds. It seeks to acquaint the reader with these discoveries while relating them to Judean literatures more broadly. It also aims to address two enduring challenges to the study of the cultural history of the postexilic period. The first involves disciplinary fragmentation. Studies of the remains of the Persian province of Judea (Yehud) tend to be authored by scholars more oriented to the Near East in their interests and holding positions in Hebrew Bible/​Old Testament or Near Eastern Studies. Those on

50   Benjamin D. Gordon the Hellenistic and Early Roman periods are naturally undertaken by scholars with greater knowledge of the Mediterranean realm and often holding positions in New Testament or Classics. This is despite the continuity of Judea as a distinct polity ruled from a centralized place of worship, and of Judeans in the postexilic age as a relatively cohesive ethnos demonstrating a shared heritage and set of cultural markers. Indeed, recognizing the long-​term continuity of local cultures in microregions such as Judea is now commonplace, as the traditional divide in the eastern Mediterranean between East and West is blurred (Morris and Manning 2005). The enduring interest in Judean literature of the sort canonized in the Writings might offer us another instance of East-​West rapprochement, with these stories, poetry, and histories circulating in antiquity among communities who lived in various cultural and historical settings. A second challenge involves the embrace of a more scientific approach to archaeology in the late twentieth century, which was concomitant with accelerated excavation in the territories of modern Israel-​Palestine. The latter has led to an outpouring of archaeological data, from both scientific and salvage excavations, and a growing backlog of unpublished or partially published excavations of the last few decades. For the postexilic age, a couple of works have provided introductory overviews of the archaeological remains (Magness 2012; Meyers and Chancey 2012). The tendency of archaeologists to embrace descriptive analysis and typology, while maintaining a positivist stance toward the empirical method, is fully on display in the various archaeological reports on digs in the region. The application of theoretical approaches increasingly evidenced in the fields of Bronze and Iron Age archaeology for Syro-​ Palestine have had minimal impact on postexilic Judea. The results of that analysis can be data-​heavy, technical, and inaccessible to nonarchaeologists, making introductory overviews all the more necessary.

Governance and Demographics in Persian Yehud The rise of Achaemenid studies as a subfield of Iranology and ancient Near Eastern history (Briant 2002; Curtis and Tallis 2005; Waters 2014) has accompanied a growing awareness of the extent to which the Achaemenids ruled over local semiautonomous regimes, particularly in Egypt but also in provincial backwaters such as Judea. This has challenged older totalitarian models of Near Eastern rule, which were perhaps too indebted to a fascination with big government. Scholarship on Greek colonialization of the East has similarly underscored how Hellenistic kingdoms following Alexander the Great’s conquests appropriated power structures set in place by their Persian predecessors (Manning 2003: 3–​9; Aperghis 2004: 263–​267). For postexilic Judea, imperial reliance on local power structures is reflected in the missions of Ezra and Nehemiah (Heltzer 2008: 71–​94).

Archaeology of the Postexilic Period and the Writings    51 Elements of imperial control have also been the focus of archaeological investigation into the region in this era, with ruling cities and border fortresses central to scholarly inquiry, as well as artifacts reflective of government activity, such as official seals and coinage. Despite the steady growth of archaeological studies devoted entirely or in large part to daily life in Iron Age Israel and Judah (Dever 2012; Faust 2012), or in late Second Temple Judea (Magness 2011), there is currently a dearth of scholarship on matters of daily life for Persian Judea. A few reasons come to mind for the contrast. Foremost is the fact that Judea was a fairly impoverished territory in the Persian period, having left paltry remains on archaeological record. Coastal cities maintained a more vibrant economy than those of the Judean highlands in the wake of the Babylonian wars. The difference is reflected, among other things, in the representation of luxury items and household implements such as furniture, cosmetic vessels, jewelry, and religious paraphernalia in Ephraim Stern’s studies of the region in the Persian period (1982, 2007: 353–​ 582). And what does survive from the core of Judea can get lost in books with more eye-​catching artifacts to present from the broader region, its once-​thriving coastal cities included. Geopolitical factors may also favor excavation in the coastal areas of modern Israel over against the inland areas of the Jerusalem hinterland in the West Bank. The implications of a demographically small and economically challenged Jerusalem in the Persian period have resonated throughout the field of Hebrew Bible, calling into question among other things the degree to which this period should be pointed to as the main locus for Hebrew-​scripture formation. Israel Finkelstein (2009) has posited a population as low as 400–​500 individuals for the Persian period city, while the number of 1,000–​1,200 total inhabitants is agreed upon by a number of scholars (Lipschits 2009; Geva 2014: 141–​143). Of course, the prolific literary production in the postexilic period would not have taken place entirely in Jerusalem. Another center of Yahwistic worship was at Mount Gerizim, the capital of the Persian province of Samaria. The Israeli expedition that excavated the site concluded its major work there in 2003 (Magen et al. 2004; Magen 2008). The expedition uncovered a modestly sized residential quarter hugging the slopes next to a sanctuary precinct and likely inhabited by priests and other officials associated with the sanctuary. In addition to their service at the altar, the Yahwistic priests in the region likely worked to preserve and propagate old national histories, prophetic corpora, and liturgical texts, while continuing to produce new scrolls on the writings of the prophets and other texts, including those in the Writings. Whether the modest cultic centers of Persian Jerusalem and Gerizim, with their attendant literati, could be responsible for as many documents as some scholars have suggested will continue to be a matter of debate. What is more certain is the extent to which Yahwistic priests and other members of the urban elites of Mount Gerizim and Jerusalem used scripture as a rhetorical tool to shape society in the Persian period, and did so with the backing of the imperial government (Berquist 1995: 131–​146). These were essentially theocratic regimes, with high priests assuming great political authority but answering finally to the imperial governor. In one renowned theory explaining the authorship of the Torah, imperial administrators from Persia are said to have called for a

52   Benjamin D. Gordon kind of local constitution to be created to regulate everyday life in Judea and Samaria (Ska 2006: 217–​227). The Persian policy to remain at a distance, as it were, relying heavily on local officials who were ethnically Judean, finds physical expression in the distance between the holy city of Jerusalem and the center of foreign administration at Ramat Rachel. That site is located some 4 kilometers south of Jerusalem. Renewed Israeli-​German excavations there took place in 2004–​2010 (Lipschits et al. 2012). It was also a center for tax collection in kind, as evidenced by the large number of jar handles stamped with the provincial name Yehud that were found at the site (Lipschits and Vanderhooft 2011: 31–​41). Remnants of pollen from the plants in the palatial garden have been detected in wall plaster (having been deposited there by wind while the plaster was still wet; Langgut et  al. 2014:  42–​47). Careful analysis of the pollen revealed that Persian walnut trees, cedars of Lebanon, birch, and citron (etrog) were all cultivated there. Persian governors such as Nehemiah presumably would have lived at Ramat Rachel. During his governorship, Nehemiah is said to have restored Jerusalem’s walls (3:1–​38), enacted a large-​scale debt release for local farmers (5:1–​13), and reformed the Jerusalem temple’s administration and revenue stream (13:10–​14). All of this suggests a period of growth and positive economic change in the middle of the fifth century bce. Some archaeological studies have connected Nehemiah’s initiatives with a larger Persian campaign to tighten control over the Levant through militarization, while strengthening local economies and trade networks (Hoglund 1992: 165–​205, 241–​247; Carter 1999: 220–​ 233; cf. Lipschits 2006:  35–​40). Others have connected fortification remains discovered in the Silwan neighborhood of Jerusalem with Nehemiah’s wall (Mazar 2009; cf. Ussishkin 2012). Yet regardless of the circumstances behind the efforts of Nehemiah to stimulate growth, the meager Persian-​period archaeological remains in Jerusalem demonstrate that the results were modest at best.

Remodeling Judean Hellenization The arrival of Greek colonists in the wake of Alexander the Great’s conquests may not have shifted the cultural disposition of Judea as much as previously assumed. The classic model of the Hellenization process—​of an enlightened European civilization bestowing its full cultural accoutrement upon various provincial backwaters—​has been replaced by a more integrated model of broad Mediterraneanism (Horden and Purcell 2000: 9–​ 49). The emphasis is now more commonly placed on a confluence of, rather than a clash of, cultures in the period of Greek rule (Levine 1998: 6–​32; Gruen 1998). Martin Hengel’s Judaism and Hellenism (1974) had presented the arrival of Greek colonists as the catalyst behind a relatively swift cultural change in the region marked by a period of intellectual creativity and of burgeoning interest in Western ideas and philosophy (Hengel 1974: 310–​314; cf. Collins 2001). Progressive Jewish scholars had perhaps been eager also to prove that their ancient Jewish forebears regularly adopted foreign ideas and norms

Archaeology of the Postexilic Period and the Writings    53 (Levine 1998: 3–​6; Baumgarten 2010). But the swift cultural change once assumed to have occurred does not find expression on archaeological record. Oren Tal’s 2007 survey of the archaeology of Ptolemaic and Seleucid Palestine highlights copious instances of traditionalism and continuity in the local material culture. This fills a gap that Andrea Berlin’s 1997 article on the subject had worked earlier to remedy. Assimilation toward Hellenic customs is evidenced to a minimal degree and primarily among the urban elites. Otherwise, the populace is portrayed by Tal as having continued to live the way they had in the Persian period. Yahwistic sanctuaries in Samaria and Judea remained loci of political power, as well as repositories of significant wealth. The Mount Gerizim sacred precinct in the third and second centuries bce has yielded copious Aramaic dedicatory inscriptions commemorating offerings to the God of Israel (Gudme 2013). Exceptionally well-​ preserved remains of some of the houses of those who perhaps worked at the Gerizim temple have been excavated as well (Magen 2008: 3–​93). The Ptolemies and Seleucids positioned officials within sanctuaries in their realms to provide oversight in financial matters, to encourage productivity, and—​with sanctuaries functioning as taxation centers—​to ensure the proper collection of revenue due to the empire (Aperghis 2004: 287–​288). The inspection of temple treasuries, which was a matter of routine from the perspective of the imperial apparatus, is at the heart of a miraculous story in 2 Macc 3:4–​40. The story tells of the failed attempt of a Seleucid official named Heliodorus to take valuables from the temple in Jerusalem. Heliodorus is rebuffed by a golden warrior on horseback but comes to revere God and offer sacrifice to him. The so-​called Heliodorus stele of 178 bce, which was only recently discovered, sheds light on the account (Cotton and Wörrle 2007: 191–​205). The stele is a correspondence between King Seleucus IV (187–​175 bce) and his minister Heliodorus regarding the financial affairs of temples in the Seleucid provincial areas of Phoenicia and Syria. Judea would have fallen in the latter category, though it and its temple at Jerusalem are never explicitly mentioned in the inscription. Heliodorus is told to inspect the temples to assure that they are suited to the needs of the population and their gods. Heliodorus sends the letter on to “his brother” Dorymenes, who in turn writes to one Diophanes, telling him, “You will do well to take care that everything is carried out according to the instructions.” Presumably it is this Diophanes, rather than Heliodorus himself (as in the 2 Macc 3 account), who made the trip to Jerusalem. The local legend of 2 Macc 3 notwithstanding, the Heliodorus stele does suggest that Seleucid involvement in the Jerusalem temple administration was sporadic and ad hoc. According to 2 Macc 3:4, it was a local man—​a Judean by the name of Simon—​who was commissioned with the oversight of temple finances. The rise of the Hasmoneans and their Torah-​observant brand of Judaism in the wake of the revolt against the Seleucid kingdom in the mid-​second century bce would have a significant impact on the canon of Hebrew literature. Old national tales, among other types of local literature, helped mold Judean identities in this era of cultural change. Relevant to this process is the archaeological site of Umm el-‘Umdan. Situated in the heart of the Judean lowlands, the site has been identified with Modi‘in, which was the

54   Benjamin D. Gordon home village of the Maccabee family. It was excavated in 2000–​2003 (Onn and Weksler-​ Bdolah 2008). The remains include a Jewish ritual bath (miqveh) and a pillared structure, identified as a synagogue and dating to as early as the second century bce. It may have been used for communal readings of old Hebrew scriptures by the Judeans who lived there. Hasmonean historiography has this village at the center of the start of the conflict between the Seleucids and the Judeans (1 Macc 2:15). The archaeological remains from the region demonstrate that the dynamic in the Hasmonean sphere should not be reconstructed as a simple dichotomy between Hellenism and Judaism (Tal 2009; Meyers and Chancey 2012: 44–​46). Hasmonean coins, for example, carry royal Greek titles alongside Hebrew ones, signaling a desire of the Judean priestly dynasty to be internationally recognized and accepted in the broader Hellenistic world. The Hasmonean burial complex at Modi‘in draws on the iconography of Greek founding myths and employs visual elements, such as ships and military armor, taken directly from the Greek sphere. Their palaces, as at the desert oasis of Jericho, are exemplars of palatial Hellenistic architecture and would have signaled to foreign guests and dignitaries a certain willingness to participate in the larger cultural milieu. Nevertheless, there are only scant examples of major or minor art from Hasmonean Judea, and no single specimen of three-​dimensional sculptural art (Erlich 2009: 110–​112, 119–​120). As Erlich argues, there appear to have been no major schools of art in the region, nor was there much desire among the ruling classes to establish them. Local artistic tastes would mature only with King Herod—​that Romanophile Judean client-​king who overthrew the Hasmoneans and helped reposition Judea decidedly westward. These remains thus create a tension with regard to the historical conceptualization of the Hasmoneans. Were they Hellenizers or anti-​Hellenizers? In his study of the regime, Regev uses the phrase “power through piety” to resolve the tension (2013: 263–​ 265, 293–​296). He argues that the Hasmoneans were indeed pious priests, well versed in biblical religion, fashioning themselves as latter-​day Israelite kings and war heroes. Their rise also contributed to a society-​wide shift toward more scrupulous observance of Jewish ritual-​purity laws, if not religious conservatism in general in the home. Yet the Hasmoneans also followed the norms of the Hellenistic ruling classes, as reflected in the iconography on their coins and tombs, and in decorative elements in their residences. Alliances with foreign rulers were essential to their success, as were appearances of legitimacy in the broader region. The rule of the Hasmoneans would also solidify Jerusalem’s position as the center of local power. Archaeologically this finds expression in a late type of Judean seal impression on storage jars. The seal consists of a five-​pointed star and the inscribed word yršlm (“Jerusalem”) in Paleo-​Hebrew script. Hillel Geva has demonstrated a second-​century bce date for the type (2007: 98–​101). The jars themselves likely carried taxed goods such as wine and oil. It has been suggested that the Hasmoneans established a special tithe of Judean agricultural yields to fund military exploits and other civic matters; while their territorial expansion appears to have been paid for by a tax called the dekate, a holdover of older imperial tribute payments (Bar-​Kochkva 1977:  185–​191). The Jerusalem-​type seal impressions appear related to these reforms.

Archaeology of the Postexilic Period and the Writings    55

The Rise of Judea under the Herodians The revival of Hebrew literature under the Hasmoneans may have been short-​lived had their successor Herod the Great not turned Jerusalem into what Pliny the Elder called “by far the most illustrious city of the East” (Natural History 5.70). This swift growth would have a lasting impact on Jewish identity. As background to the rise of Jerusalem into a city of international importance, one must appreciate the economic growth and cultural shifts spurred by Herod. The lavishness of his building projects is amply evident on the archaeological record (Richardson 2004: 225–​308; Netzer 2006). Excavations at Herod’s palaces reveal the king to have been a skilled host and entertainer, a patron of the arts, and a lover of fine wine and Roman cuisine. He was a cultural benefactor and a client to architects using bold designs. He introduced to Judea the theater and amphitheater, the prostyle imperial cult temple, and the Vitruvian bathhouse caldarium with hypocaust. The Roman cultural institutions to which these structures attest are reflective of a ruling elite whose tastes were significantly more cosmopolitan and Western than those of their Hasmonean predecessors (Magness 2012: 133–​169; Berlin 2014). Central to this cultural shift was Herod’s main port city of Caesarea-​Maritima, which was extensively excavated in the 1990s. Its artificial harbor was built during Herod’s reign using casted volcanic concrete shipped in from Italy because of its special ability to harden underwater (Netzer 2006: 99–​101). Merchants, visitors, and pilgrims disembarking would have been greeted by the monumental façade of Herod’s temple to Rome and Augustus (Holum 2015). A  short walk northward through city streets hugging the coastline would have brought the visitor to Herod’s main entertainment facility for the city, which was an adaptable stadium used for athletics, chariot races, gladiatorial contests, and hunting events—​some having been brutal contests that incidentally were among the games inaugurated by Herod in Jerusalem in 28 bce (Weiss 2014: 16–​19, 24–​28, 40). His palace at Caesarea-​Maritima sits just beyond the stadium, perched dangerously on the rocky coast. There are similarities here to Herod’s precipitously terraced cliff-​side northern palace at Masada; or to his sprawling “third winter palace” at Jericho, with its domed entertainment wing and bathing suite accessible by footbridge; or to his hilltop palace at Herodium, whose living quarters, now unearthed, sit within the hilltop as if sunken into the mouth of a volcano (Gleason 2014). Herodium may not have had the economic or cultural significance of Caesarea-​ Maritima, but it was of special significance to Herod, who chose the site for his burial. After a decades-​long search, Netzer appears to have discovered Herod’s tomb on the slopes of the Herodium hill in 2007. The square podium is all that survives intact; the surrounding ruins indicate a round tholos-​like second story, its roof in the shape of a concave cone, with bulbous funerary urns adorning the upper entablature (Chachy 2013). This is among the finest ancient masonry work ever recovered from Judea (Peleg-​ Barkat 2013). A few sarcophagi found shattered on the premises must have been housed within the tomb structure, one of them likely for the king himself. Unfortunately, no

56   Benjamin D. Gordon epitaph survives, leaving open the possibility that the tomb was in fact for another member of the Judean ruling elite (Patrich and Arubas 2013). Before his death, Herod had spearheaded the largest architectural project ever endeavored in the region: the expansion and rebuilding of the Jerusalem temple and sacred precinct. The project spearheaded the growth of the city into a regional juggernaut and major pilgrimage destination for Jews from the Diaspora (Goodman 1999). This in turn helped in the dissemination of Hebrew scripture, whose texts would have been recited, interpreted, and studied during annual pilgrimage festivals. Beginning around 20 bce and lasting well into the next century, the expansion resulted in a precinct whose circumference measured 1557 meters (nearly 1 mile around). The most famous of the precinct’s walls is of course the Western Wall or Wailing Wall, but remains of all four enclosure walls still stand and are overlain by courses of stones from later periods in the history of the city. A photo-​documentation project led by Eilat Mazar visually recorded all phases of the walls by stitching photographs together digitally into continuous images of each wall, correcting for distortion issues, and then creating detailed stone-​by-​stone drawings to accompany the photographs (Mazar 2011). The result is an exhilarating tapestry in stone, bearing witness to Jerusalem’s rich history as a center of worship. Mazar’s study of the Temple Mount walls is joined by others on the architectural ornament of Herod’s sacred precinct (Peleg-​Barkat 2014, 2017); or on its chronological development, as suggested most unexpectedly by ancient cisterns extant within the Haram al-​Sharif, among other factors (Patrich and Edelcopp 2013). The basic architectural form of Herod’s temple precinct draws inspiration perhaps from temples to the Roman imperial cult, though its position on an elevated space recalls pilgrimage cities particularly of the Near East (Ball 2000: 256–​261; Richardson 2004: 271–​298). In Jerusalem there were likely processional routes leading to the temple from the north through the upper Tyropoeon Valley and from the west through the Transversal Valley. At Samaria-​Sebaste and Caesarea-​Maritima the remains allow for the reconstruction of similar kinds of thoroughfares leading toward their temples (Netzer 2006: 82–​84; Patrich 2011a: 38–​39). Nostalgia combined with national pride may have further popularized Hebrew literatures, such as those in the Writings, during the pilgrimage events. These events and the Jerusalem complex at their center were managed by a sizeable Jewish priesthood, who also enjoyed great influence in matters of legislation, scribal education, and the local economy (Goodblatt 2006:  75–​87; Himmelfarb 2006). Archaeological remains from Jerusalem and the surrounding region bear witness to broad diffusion of priestly purity regulations, particularly in the domestic sphere, into Judean society  in the Herodian period. This is seen foremost in hundreds of private domestic ritual baths and in the preference for chalkstone table vessels and chalkstone storage vessels, since chalkstone was impervious to ritual defilement according to ancient Jewish law (Reich 2013; Adler 2014). The use of stone vessels in the home, if not also the installation of private ritual baths, could have communicated to guests an attentiveness to Jewish custom and a sense of ethnic pride (Berlin 2005: 429–​434). A large assemblage of limestone scale weights has been uncovered over the years. They would have been used to measure

Archaeology of the Postexilic Period and the Writings    57 goods in the markets or in the home, and also would also have been impervious to ritual defilement. Reich (2006) suggests that they were used by Judean priests in the levying and redistribution of tithes, heave-​offerings, and other sacred dues. He also argues that the choice of stone for these weights may be a nostalgic embrace of an old custom of the late Iron Age monarchy, when a similar class of limestone scale weight was used in the kingdom of Judah. The burgeoning institution of the synagogue was a vital component in the circulation of Hebrew scripture in this period. The archaeological remains of the Herodian period include a smattering of public structures identified as synagogues, which were used primarily as places for public Bible readings and for communal gatherings (Levine 2005: 21–​173; Hachlili 2013: 23–​54). The buildings are of a rather generic architectural form, marked by a central open space with benches on the perimeter. Only in Late Antiquity do we find synagogues clearly oriented toward Jerusalem and fitted with a prominent Torah shrine, as well as the full panoply of Jewish symbolic decoration. The Herodian structures are so generic as to leave their identification as synagogues in some doubt. However, the recently uncovered synagogue at Magdala on the shores of the Sea of Galilee changes that picture. It included within it a carved stone block that may have served as a table for readings from scripture (Hachlili 2013: 33–​34, 37). The stone block is adorned in iconography suggestive of the Jerusalem temple cult, such as a candelabrum on one side and protrusions in its top four corners, the latter recalling the horns of sacrificial altars. The piece’s importance lies foremost in its ability to connect the rather simple architectural form of this late Second Temple period building type, which could theoretically have served more generic communal purpose, with activity befitting of the synagogue identification. The Magdala synagogue is also the earliest such building to be excavated in the Galilee. It joins a plethora of archaeological finds attesting to the cultural affinity between Galilean towns and their counterparts in the heartland of Judea to the south. Scholarship into the Herodian period has still maintained an interest in Galilean regionalism—​how to define the Galilee culturally vis-​à-​vis its neighbors, and how to chart its distinctive economic and social history (Reed 2000:  23–​61; Chancey 2005). Some of this effort has as its backdrop an interest in the figure of Jesus of Nazareth, specifically why his life mission was comparatively more successful in the Galilee than in the heartland of Judea. Yet the material remains of the two regions during his lifetime speak to a largely homogeneous culture of “greater Judea” extending throughout Galilee—​a “common Judaism,” as E. P. Sanders put it (1992), or a “household Judaism,” as Andrea Berlin has defined it (2005). When compared to the cultural disposition of the nearby Decapolis cities, for instance, the Galilee seems far less acculturated to Western mores (Chancey 2002: 11–​27; and see Leibner 2009). The question of Galilee’s regional distinction from Judea mirrors a central question in yet another important area of inquiry in the archaeology of the Second Temple period: Qumran studies. To what extent were the inhabitants of Qumran culturally distinct from the mainstream in Herodian Judea? The settlement on the Qumran plateau in the Judean desert, which lies just above the caves where most of the Dead Sea Scrolls

58   Benjamin D. Gordon were discovered, continues to be a conundrum. Do the behavioral patterns suggested by the remains of the site correspond with the ancient descriptions of the Essenes, that sect of early Judaism so many assume are responsible for the Dead Sea Scrolls? In many ways the material culture of Qumran is in line with that of the lower classes of Judean society in the Herodian period—​the simple inhumation burials, the dearth of luxury items and imported ceramics, the lack of architectural ornament, to name a few (Hirschfeld 2004: 102–​109). On the other hand, the site has numerous abnormally large ritual baths, given its modest size, as well as a series of animal-​bone deposits buried in jars outside buildings (Magness 2002: 73–​100, 147–​158). Since there is still no definitive proof that the Qumran scrolls were produced by those who lived on the plateau, some scholars have argued that the remains of that site have nothing to do with the Essenes or with the scrolls, positing instead that they were of a typical Judean estate (Hirschfeld 2004: 211–​ 243; and see summary of arguments in Meyers and Chancey 2012: 92–​100). Yet the alternate theories fail to explain the idiosyncratic features of the site, which strongly suggest Jewish sectarian activity. That activity is explainable along the lines of social resistance to a society that was experiencing rapid growth and diversification (Regev 2007). In other circles the local response turned belligerent, resulting in two wars with Rome.

Conclusion There is a marked chronological unevenness in the archaeological record of Judea during the Second Temple era (538 bce–​70 ce). The province was a relative backwater from its foundation under Achaemenid auspices through to an expansionist Hasmonean campaign in the second century bce. The last century of the period is far better represented in material remains than all earlier centuries. This unevenness in the archaeological rec­ ord notwithstanding, there has been sustained investigation into Persian Judea in the past few decades, even with the relatively limited focus on matters of imperial administration and demographic size. This still can provide valuable context for the missions of Ezra and Nehemiah, for example, as local leaders in a provincialized territory of a larger empire. As for Hellenistic Judea, whose texts and remains are relatively abundant when compared to other Near Eastern regions of the Hellenistic world, work on its material culture has taken place against the backdrop of pronounced scholarly interest in the dynamics of Western colonialization and local responses to it. With regard to Early Roman Judea, the past few decades are marked by the rise of “Herodian archaeology” as a full-​fledged subfield. Economic production increased significantly during the reign of King Herod and his successors in the Early Roman period. The ruins of Herod’s palaces are the most sensational of the subperiod, yet it has also left remains that can speak to early Jewish practice and belief, the nature of its religious groups and institutions, and questions of regional differences and identity politics in “greater Judea.” Scribal activity and continued literary production in Jerusalem and elsewhere in this period were essential to the diffusion of the Writings and other local literatures. By the Judean war with

Archaeology of the Postexilic Period and the Writings    59 Rome in the 60s ce, Jerusalem had become a regional juggernaut and one of the largest pilgrimage cities of the ancient world.

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Archaeology of the Postexilic Period and the Writings    61 Langgut, Dafna, Gadot, Yuval, and Lipschits, Oded. 2014. “ ‘Fruit of Goodly Trees’:  The Beginning of Citron Cultivation in Israel and Its Penetration into Jewish Tradition and Culture.” Beit Mikra 59, no. 1: 38–​55. Leibner, Uzi. 2009. Settlement and History in Hellenistic, Roman, and Byzantine Galilee: An Archaeological Survey of the Eastern Galilee. Texts and Studies in Ancient Judaism  127. Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck. Levine, Lee I. 1998. Judaism and Hellenism in Antiquity:  Conflict or Confluence. Seattle: University of Washington Press. Levine, Lee I. 2005. The Ancient Synagogue: The First Thousand Years. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. Lipschits, Oded. 2009. “Persian Period Finds from Jerusalem:  Facts and Interpretations.” Journal of Hebrew Scriptures 9:2–​30. Lipschits, Oded, and Vanderhooft, David S. 2011. The Yehud Stamp Impressions:  A Corpus of Inscribed Impressions from the Persian and Hellenistic Periods in Judah. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns. Lipschits, Oded, Gadot, Yuval, and Langgut, Dafna. 2012. “The Riddle of Ramat Raḥel: The Archaeology of a Royal Persian Period Edifice.” Transeuphratène 21:57–​79. Lipschitz, Oded. 2006. “Achaemenid Imperial Policy, Settlement Processes in Palestine, and the Status of Jerusalem in the Middle of the Fifth Century b.c.e.” In Judah and the Judeans in the Persian Period, edited by Oded Lipschitz and Manfred Oeming, 19–​53. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns. Long, Burke O. 1997. Planting and Reaping Albright: Politics, Ideology, and Interpreting the Bible. University Park: The Pennsylvania State University Press. Magen, Yitzhak. 2008. Mount Gerizim Excavations, Volume II:  A Temple City. Judea and Samaria Publications 8. Jerusalem: Staff Officer for Archaeology—​Civil Administration of Judea and Samaria. Magen, Yitzhak, Misgav, Haggai, and Tsfania, Levana. 2004. Mount Gerizim Excavations, Volume I: The Aramaic, Hebrew and Samaritan Inscriptions. Judea and Samaria Publications 2. Jerusalem: Staff Officer of Archaeology—​Civil Administration of Judea and Samaria. Magness, Jodi. 2002. The Archaeology of Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans. Magness, Jodi. 2011. Stone and Dung, Oil and Spit: Jewish Daily Life in the Time of Jesus. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans. Magness, Jodi. 2012. The Archaeology of the Holy Land:  From the Destruction of Solomon’s Temple to the Muslim Conquest. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Manning, J. G. 2003. Land and Power in Ptolemaic Egypt:  The Structure of Land Tenure. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Mazar, Eilat. 2009. “The Wall that Nehemiah Built.” Biblical Archaeology Review 35, no. 2: 24–​33, 66. Mazar, Eilat. 2011. The Walls of the Temple Mount. Jerusalem: Shoham. Meyers, Eric M., and Chancey, Mark A. 2012. Alexander to Constantine: Archaeology of the Land of the Bible, Vol. 3. The Anchor Yale Bible Reference Library. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. Morris, Ian, and Manning, J. G. 2005. “The Economic Sociology of the Ancient Mediterranean World.” In The Handbook of Economic Sociology (2nd ed.), edited by Neil J. Smelser and Richard Swedberg, 131–​159. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

62   Benjamin D. Gordon Netzer, Ehud. 2006. The Architecture of Herod, The Great Builder. Texts and Studies in Ancient Judaism 117. Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck. Netzer, Ehud, Porat, Roi, Kalman, Ya’akov, and Chachy, Rachel. 2013. “The Tomb Complex at Herodium.” In Herod the Great: The King’s Final Journey, edited by Silvia Rozenberg and David Mevorah, 240–​255. Jerusalem: The Israel Museum. Onn, Alexander, and Weksler-​Bdolah, Shlomit. 2008. “Umm el-‘Umdan, Khirbet (Modi‘in).” In The New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land. Vol. 5: Supplementary Volume, edited by Ephraim Stern, 2061–​2063. Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society. Patrich, Joseph. 2011a. Studies in the Archaeology and History of Caesarea Maritima: Caput Judaeae, Metropolis Palaestinae. Ancient Judaism and Early Christianity  77. Leiden, the Netherlands: Brill. Patrich, Joseph, and Arubas, Benjamin. 2013. “Herod’s Tomb Reexamined:  Guidelines for a Discussion and Conclusions.” In New Studies in the Archaeology of Jerusalem and Its Region, Collected Papers, Vol. VII, edited by Guy D. Stiebel et al., 287–​300. Jerusalem: Israel Antiquities Authority. Patrich, Joseph, and Edelcopp, Marcos. 2013. “Four Stages in the Evolution of the Temple Mount.” Revue Biblique 120, no. 3: 321–​361. Peleg-​Barkat, Orit. 2013. “The Architectural Decoration of Herod’s Tomb.” In Herod the Great: The King’s Final Journey, edited by Silvia Rozenberg and David Mevorah, 262–​265. Jerusalem: The Israel Museum. Peleg-​Barkat, Orit. 2014. “Fit for a King:  Architectural Decor in Judaea and Herod as Trendsetter.” Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 371:141–​161. Peleg-​Barkat, Orit. 2017. The Temple Mount Excavations in Jerusalem, 1968–​1978, Directed by Benjamin Mazar, Final Reports, Vol. V:  Herodian Architectural Decoration and King Herod’s Royal Portico. Qedem 57. Jerusalem: Institute of Archaeology, Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Reed, Jonathan. 2000. Archaeology and the Galilean Jesus. Harrisburg, PA:  Trinity Press International. Regev, Eyal. 2007. Sectarianism in Qumran: A Cross-​Cultural Perspective. Religion and Society. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter. Regev, Eyal. 2013. The Hasmoneans: Ideology, Archaeology, Identity. Journal of Ancient Judaism Supplements 10. Göttingen, Germany: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. Reich, Ronny. 2006. “Stone Scale Weights of the Late Second Temple Period from the Jewish Quarter.” In Jewish Quarter Excavations in the Old City of Jerusalem, edited by Hillel Geva, 329–​389. Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society. Reich, Ronny. 2013. Miqwa’ot (Jewish Ritual Baths) in the Second Temple, Mishnaic and Talmudic Periods. Jerusalem: Yad Ben-​Zvi; Israel Exploration Society. Richardson, Peter. 2004. Building Jewish in the Roman East. Waco, TX: Baylor University Press. Sanders, E. P. 1992. Judaism: Practice and Belief, 63 bce–​66 ce. London: SCM Press. Ska, Jean Louis. 2006. Introduction to Reading the Pentateuch. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns. Stern, Ephraim. 1982. Material Culture of the Land of the Bible in the Persian Period, 538–​332 b.c. Warminster, UK: Aris & Phillips; Israel Exploration Society. Stern, Ephraim. 2007. Archaeology of the Land of the Bible, Vol. 2: The Assyrian, Babylonian, and Persian Periods, 732–​332 b.c.e. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. Tal, Oren. 2007. The Archaeology of Hellenistic Palestine:  Between Tradition and Renewal. Jerusalem: The Bialik Institute. [Hebrew]

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Pa rt  I I


Chapter 5

Cultic Tradi t i ons i n the Writ i ng s Priests and Levites in the Postexilic Period Mark A. Leuchter

Despite the great antiquity of much material currently embedded in the Writings, the definitive shaping of these materials took place at the hands of scribes operating in the Persian and Early Hellenistic periods (ca. 515–​250 bce, the book of Daniel [ca. 160 bce] notwithstanding). These works took form under the shadow of foreign imperialism, which ultimately stands behind whatever choices the redactors made in compiling, reworking, and structuring their contents. Whatever purpose they once served in earlier times was replaced by the role they were to play within a culture that was no longer independent, no longer defined by geography or national borders, and that no longer possessed a native king. Any writer in Jerusalem involved in the transmission of (for example) ancient liturgies or historiographic/​narrative traditions from the pre-​exilic period carried a certain anxiety or insecurity about how traditions of such antiquity could remain relevant to audiences living under a Persian or Greek ruler. Yet the very existence of these texts confirms that the scribes who developed and transmitted them managed to elucidate and preserve what was relevant within them. The shape of the Writings reflects an attempt to carve out social, theological, and intellectual space that could both preserve a living connection to the past and rectify nascent Judaism’s place in a multiethnic, multinational, and multilingual imperial world. The confluence of texts that comprise the Writings tells us much about the sacerdotal groups—​the Aaronide priests and the Levites—​who stand behind their orchestration. In postexilic Judaism, these groups served as the trustees of ancient sacral traditions both oral and written. Recent scholarship has drawn increased attention to how pivotal was the role of these groups in solidifying and authorizing these traditions in written form. This all took place, for the most part, within the precincts of the Jerusalem temple that was rebuilt in ca. 515 bce following the return of various Jewish populations from exile. In the classical “myth” of Judaism (preserved especially in rabbinic sources)

68   Mark A. Leuchter the relationship between Aaronides, Levites, and other Jews in the postexilic age was fairly linear and hierarchical: YHWH gave the Aaronides total ritual and pedagogical hegemony, the Levites functioned as their assistants, and the laypeople followed the guidance and rulings imparted by the former.1 This, moreover, was viewed as a return to normative praxis, since the Pentateuch and other narrative sources in the biblical rec­ ord give the impression (at least upon first glance) that this hierarchy had been in place even before Israel entered the promised land and continued down to the period of the Babylonian Exile. The reality, of course, is far more complicated. The formation of the Writings and indeed of the entirety of the Hebrew Bible does attest to the dominance of the Aaronides who left their imprimatur across a wide spectrum of ancient Jewish texts. But this does not necessarily mean that the Aaronides had always held such a powerful position, or that Levites had always occupied a position as a clerus minor beneath them. Critical scrutiny of the sources both within and beyond the Writings make clear that Levites by and large had little to do with the Jerusalem temple or the Aaronides therein until the late monarchic period. Rather, they developed their own mythologies that operated independently of those characterizing the cultic institutions of Jerusalem in the pre-​exilic period.2 The Aaronides, too, possessed a more complex social orchestration during the time of the monarchy, with one Aaronide clan (the Zadokites) dominating Jerusalem, while other priestly families held power at other sanctuary sites within the Israelite kingdoms (Levite and otherwise).3 It is only in the Persian period that the Aaronides assumed a fully dominant position above the Levites, no doubt reinforced by the political and economic significance of the temple in this period.4 Indeed, there is evidence that as late as the end of the Persian period (ca. 350–​332 bce), Levites still sought outlets for their own authority beyond the cultic reach of the Aaronide priests even as they maintained places within it. It is only by the middle of the Hellenistic period (ca. 200 bce) that Levites appear to have been fully reconciled with the Aaronide-​led temple cult and culture.5 In what follows, we will attempt to identify the antecedents to this reconciliation, the development of cultic traditions that Aaronides and Levites claimed as their own and promoted (respectively), and the points of contact between these traditions as they manifested within Jerusalem temple cult especially in the Persian period. These by no means represent the only important priestly groups in the Persian period or in subsequent Second Temple Judaism; the Samaritan temple atop Mt. Gerizim represents a rival priesthood that persisted throughout the Second Temple period (and which, in its own way, persists even today). Though this priesthood had strong connections in its early days to the Aaronides of Jerusalem, they eventually came to embody a sacral tradition that diverged significantly from what obtained in Jerusalem, and a full consideration of this complex and rich history is beyond the scope of the present study.6 The priests at the Yahu temple at Elephantine in Egypt also constitute a Jewish cultic tradition that lived side by side with that of Jerusalem, though this tradition was characterized by very different theological standards.7 Neither the Samaritan nor the Elephantine cults, however, left notable impressions upon the formation of the Writings as a(n eventual)

Cultic Traditions in the Writings    69 canonical category in the formation of the Hebrew Bible or on the Writings in particular. Only the religious culture/​cultures of the Aaronides and Levites resonate within its pages, drawing from experiences and memories with roots in Israel’s pre-​exilic era.

Pre-​exilic Priestly Varieties In the Persian and Hellenistic periods, the priesthood appears to have understood itself as an extended kinship network, with different priestly clans all descending from a common ancestor—​Levi—​but eventually holding different offices and ranks within the cultic establishment of the Jerusalem temple. There are some monarchic-​era antecedents to such a view. Exod 2:1–​10 presents Moses as the son of parents who were both from the “house of Levi”; that is, a lineage group descending from this ostensible ancestor. Both the Pentateuch and the book of Chronicles contain priestly genealogies that contain a degree of antique information regarding certain priestly clans and family lines. Genealogies are fluid and unreliable in terms of historical veracity, but they suggest that by the late monarchic period, priestly groups did develop a sense of lineage-​based kinship. This probably occurred in stages:  early attempts to systematize priestly functionaries under David and Solomon in the tenth century bce must have forged some type of association expressed in terms of kinship, perhaps only for political purposes (as was not uncommon in the Late Bronze and Iron Age antiquity).8 A greater push to systematize the priesthood would have occurred during the reign of Hezekiah as part of that king’s efforts to create a “Greater Israel” in the last decade of the eighth century. As several scholars have noted, it was during this time that a vast network of ancestral traditions (urban, rural, northern, southern) were combined into a metanarrative regarding the common ancestry of all the Israelite populations of Hezekiah’s day (or later).9 A  similar ancestral recasting of different priestly groups makes sense against such a backdrop. Finally, the early edition of the book of Deuteronomy (composed ca. 622 bce) famously presents all priests as part of a single Levite tribe. While this text served primarily theoretical ideological purposes, it contributed to a body of literature reflecting priesthood as hereditary and kinship based. Upon considering the sources themselves, we encounter a variety of priestly groups—​ and priestly types—​that characterized Israelite religion before the Second Temple period. The earliest form of priestly leader was probably the chieftains who ruled over lineage networks in Emergent Israel (i.e., the Israel of the twelfth–​eleventh centuries bce). The biblical record preserves an abundance of early traditions that point to the heads of families and clans cultic authorities over festival observance, sacrifices, divination, and even sacral instruction.10 Family religion was the most accessible and common outlet for devotion in this period and persisted well into subsequent periods. Chieftains sat atop what amounted to extended family networks, and a chieftain’s sacral duties were fundamental to his social and administrative prerogatives.11 Beneath these chieftains, the leaders of individual families or clans held sacral roles as well (both

70   Mark A. Leuchter men and women), and their sons seemed to do the same beneath them. The ritual duty of Israelite sons receives mention in Judges 17:5, and the otherwise obscure traditions of Levites replacing children in “belonging” to YHWH (Num 3:11–​13, 8:17–​18) may have its origins in the memory of the early predominance of family-​based cultic praxes over pan-​tribal traditions and ideologies. In time—​especially as Israelite society aggregated into larger population centers in the decades before the rise of the monarchy—​a different priestly type rose in prominence. As Frank Moore Cross argued many years ago,12 the major priestly dynasties in early Israel revolved around the memory of patron saints such as Moses and Aaron. A variety of sanctuary sites in Israel (Shechem, Shiloh, Dan, Kiriath Yearim, Hebron) preserved cults where these saintly figures were venerated, and the priests who ministered therein were understood as their flesh-​and-​blood descendants. These priests inherited the holiness and numinous power of their ancestor, thereby commanding the devotion of the populations who frequented their sanctuaries. These priestly figures reaffirmed and even renewed the acts through which their ancestors secured divine favor, their ritual systems extending divine favor to the population they served and over whom they held authority.13 A third priestly type seems to have surfaced during this same era: the Levite. Despite the Pentateuchal narratives that envision Levites as descendants from an eponymous ancestor, the Hebrew word levi means “connected,” or “attached,” and many scholars see the Levites as originating among lay families, subsequently attached or dedicated to priestly service at major sanctuaries such as those noted earlier. One reason for this was to alleviate economic strain on poor families; devoting a child to priestly service ensured that he would find a livelihood that did not draw from the family’s limited resources.14 But the creation of a Levite caste at major sanctuaries also ensured a “check” on priestly power at those sites. Levites represented the interests of lay families from whence they came and established a mediating presence where the cult continued to serve the interests of the wider population. In some cases, Levites could supplant the priestly dynasts at these sanctuaries when those dynasts were viewed as having lost their numinous power; the narrative in 1 Sam 1–​7 presupposes these conditions.15 The Levites emerged mostly among the northern Israelite tribes. During the monarchic period they remained the bearers of old agrarian religious traditions over against the elite religion of the northern state.16 Their eventual presence in Judah is a result of the fall of the northern kingdom of Israel (721 bce) and the subsequent southbound flight of northern refugees. Once in Judah, their social role and religious ideologies eventually interfaced with the mythologies of David and Zion (the Deuteronomistic tradition, with its emphasis on the Davidic covenant and the centrality of Jerusalem, evidences this ideological Tendenz).17 Yet late-​monarchic and exilic texts such as Deuteronomy and Jeremiah preserve much of their worldviews and traditions, and highlight the role of Levites in brokering the relationship between YHWH and Israel.18 Other priestly types are attested (albeit more obliquely) in the biblical record as well. Regional holy men had the ability to mediate divine blessing and, in some cases, divine wrath (1 Kgs 13:1–​10; 2 Kgs 2:23–​25); successful warriors were able to establish

Cultic Traditions in the Writings    71 sanctuaries (Judg 8:27); even Israel’s kings are presented in priestly terms at various points, either serving as patrons of the cult or as actual ritual executors. Women also held sacerdotal roles beyond the level of the household or family. Evidence of the role of women in the cult is found in references to female functionaries at different sanctuaries (Judg 21:21; 1 Sam 2:22; 2 Kgs 23:7), the implications of ritual legislation (Lev 21:9), and narrative/​poetic sources regarding figures such as Miriam, Deborah, and Hannah (Exod 15:20–​21; Num 12; Judg 4–​5; 1 Sam 1:1–​2:10). A major indication of the cultic role played by women in the pre-​exilic period is found in Jer 44, where the prophet’s oracles are rebuked by the women of the Egyptian-​bound remnant community, who identify themselves as the ringleaders of a religious worldview different from that of the prophet (vv. 15–​19). Finally, we encounter in a few different biblical sources information regarding a quasi-​priestly type called the Nazirite, laypersons who take upon themselves a specific range of ritual responsibilities for the purposes of securing a state of holiness, ritual purity, and numinous power (see especially the legislation in Num 6:1–​21).

The Political and Social Background to Postexilic Priestly Authority The variety of cultic types noted earlier speaks to multiple types of sacerdotal function in the pre-​exilic period, rooted in long-​duration social institutions that endured throughout the Iron Age down to the era of the exile to Babylon (587–​538 bce). The circumstances following the return from exile, however, saw a major change. It was the amnesty decree of Cyrus the Great (reflected in biblical texts such as Ezra 1:1–​4; 2 Chr 36:22–​23; and in extrabiblical sources like the famous “Cyrus Cylinder” from Babylon) that enabled exiled Jews to return to their homeland. Thus, life in the homeland was predicated upon imperial fiat. Communal leaders were designated by the Persian royal court, with a Davidic descendant (Zerubabbel) and a priest of the Aaronide line (Joshua) representing the ordering authority of the empire for those who returned from the eastern Diaspora (Ezra 2:2; Hag 1:1; Zech 3:1). This community referred to themselves as the bene ha-​gola, “the community of exile,” and viewed the Persian policy of return as a divine act of restoration after years of repentance and purification served in exile. It was YHWH, working through the apparatus of the Persian court, who had selected Zerubabbel and Joshua to lead the people and reinaugurate the covenant with their god. Upon its completion in 515 bce, the (rebuilt) Jerusalem temple was the only sanctuary of note within Yehud that the gola community claimed as a symbol of their group identity. Consequently, the priestly faculty within the temple was the only sacral caste recognized by this gola community. Other Jewish communities who had not endured exile may have possessed their own priestly types, but there is little chance that these

72   Mark A. Leuchter other types were incorporated into the Jerusalem temple cult (some Levites notwithstanding; see further later), especially because the gola community saw themselves as the sole inheritors of pre-​exilic Israelite tradition.19 Whatever the range of cultic expressions characterizing pre-​exilic Israel (sacrifices, hymns, plenary ceremonies, jurisprudence, doctrines of holiness, personal vows of purity, etc.), those expressions were annexed and claimed by the gola community to the exclusion of other groups, most likely as a bid to solidify their repatriate status in a land from which they had been long separated. The Jerusalem temple was the great symbol of how YHWH had fulfilled his promises to this group, shepherding them through exile back to their homeland, reconnecting them to their sacred past, and establishing his presence in their midst.20 Ritual functions once distributed across a wide social spectrum were concentrated within and helmed by the Jerusalem temple’s priestly faculty. This should also be credited to the traditional roles of religious leadership these two priestly types played in the pre-​exilic past, as well as to the elite position that these priesthoods now played within Persian imperial culture.21 It was through priests that local religious traditions were set within a larger imperial system, where cosmic order and divine blessing were maintained through the benefits of ritual conduct and sacral instruction. Aaronide priests (and Levites beneath them) thus mediated not only the gola community’s relationship to YHWH and their sense of sacred history; they also stood in the breach between Jewish life and imperial culture.22

The Postexilic Aaronide Tradition The Aaronide tradition placed the Jerusalem temple cult at its core. This cult revolved around a mythology one finds in a wide spectrum of ancient Near Eastern sources: the patron deity (YHWH, in this case) ordered the cosmos by banishing agents of chaos, and established his people on earth to affirm and venerate this primordial act (and Actor). Consequently, this affirmation took place through ceremonial rehearsals, liturgical affirmations, the reading or performance of sacred texts in ritual contexts, and most importantly, sacrificial rites.23 To engage in this type of conduct meant that the cosmic balance was maintained and the lingering threats from chaos would be vanquished; to falter in any way was to invite dangerous and corrosive forces into the social reality of the people. In the reconstituted Jerusalem temple, it was the Aaronides alone who assumed the right and authority to make certain that this mythic-​cosmic balance was preserved and that the related ritual system remained intact. Only they possessed the expertise and resources to facilitate offerings in a manner that sustained holiness within the community, and they cultivated and promoted an ideology that constantly reinforced this view.24 The great body of ritual legislation in the Pentateuch bears witness to the complexity and efficacy of Aaronide ritual authority, much of which draws upon pre-​exilic Jerusalemite priestly practice. Material in the Priestly stratum of the Pentateuch shows

Cultic Traditions in the Writings    73 points of contact with Hittite, Canaanite, Syrian, and other ancient cultic systems from the Late Bronze and Iron Ages. There is broad scholarly consensus that major blocks of Priestly material in the Pentateuch (both narrative and legislative) derive from the late monarchic era in some form, but in the reconstituted temple, these older materials were orchestrated into a sort of cosmic drama with the memory of the Babylonian exile lingering in the background.25 Every sacrifice, every expiatory rite, every cleansing ritual, and every festival observance in the rebuilt temple cult was conducted with the awareness that YHWH had once punished Israel for transgressing against him and forsaking their ritual and ethical responsibilities. Likewise, every narrative read aloud regarding the origins of holiness, the maintenance of purity, or the structuring of time and history resonated with the recollection of the cosmic disruption that the exile caused. The return from exile represented a chance for the people to learn from their earlier errors. The empowerment of the Aaronides by Persia ensured that the earlier priestly rituals would have increased importance in maintaining the social and cosmic balance. The book of Leviticus provides the most comprehensive source for understanding the ornate and demanding nature of Aaronide cultic conduct. The first several chapters of the book focus on the variety of sacrifices that the sons of Aaron were to conduct in almost overwhelming detail (Lev 1–​7). This is followed by chapters offering a narrative of how Aaron and his sons were consecrated to perform these complicated ritual instructions and the dangers of departing from them (Lev 8–​10). All of this is transmitted by Moses at Sinai (Leviticus is the heart of the Sinai pericope), which presents both the Aaronide priestly office and the rituals they are charged with conducting as the very substance of revelation.26 Since the commissioning of Aaron and his sons occurs within this same Sinai-​centered text, the Aaronide priestly office becomes a sort of embodiment of revelation as well—​those who carry out the duties associated with it become revelation personified. We find some evidence for this understanding of the priesthood within the Writings:  Ezra 1–​6, redacted probably in the mid-​to-​late fourth century bce, strategically places the prophetic tradition under the auspices of the Aaronide priesthood. The narrative’s author (who was almost certainly an Aaronide priest) presents the divine words once spoken by prophets as the basis for the reconstruction of the Jerusalem temple.27 Prophecy is fulfilled through priestly leadership, and priests thus control prophetic revelation. The axiom that “classical prophecy” dwindled in the postexilic period is probably connected to this new understanding of priestly revelatory authority: the teachings and ritual activity of the priests replaced orally performed prophecy and subsumed existing prophetic texts within their paradigm of temple-​based revelation.28 The High Priest, in particular, became an earthly embodiment of this heavenly authority, charged with maintaining the strictest standards of holiness in every detail of his conduct (ritual and otherwise).29 The rulings of the High Priest were in essence YHWH’s own desires, his ceremonial duties reflections of how YHWH had structured the cosmos. The High Priest’s duties on the holiest day of the Jewish calendar year, Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement), were conducted to ensure that all impurities that might corrode the community were excised, just as YHWH had

74   Mark A. Leuchter excised chaos when establishing primordial order. Rabbinic tradition notes that on Yom Kippur, the High Priest was required to enter the temple’s Holy of Holies to stand in the presence of YHWH himself—​humanity in its entirety was represented by the High Priest and literally made to stand before their collective creator in the council of the divine, prepared to face judgment.30 It is no wonder that the Pentateuch begins with an account of humanity as a transubstantiated reflection of the divine (Gen 1:26–​27),31 or that the legislation for the priestly vestments extends the décor of the Tabernacle’s inner sanctum to priestly dress, making them equal bearers of the divine presence (Exod 28). The High Priest was to represent YHWH’s intentions for humanity, attesting to the deity’s own glory and splendor. The later words of Ben Sira (ca. 190 bce) support this view, heaping unparalleled praise upon the high priest of his own day far in excess of other heroes mentioned in the closing chapters of his book (Sir 50). The foundation for this understanding of priesthood was the Aaronide redaction of the Pentateuch itself in the mid-​fifth century bce. Scholars regularly observe that the Pentateuch was not redacted for narrative coherence; the source documents have been arranged in a manner that highlights their discrepancies and inconsistencies. But by the mid-​fifth century bce, Hebrew-​language traditions were no longer reproduced in Paleo-​Hebrew script but in the new script—​Aramaic script—​which was accompanied by a body of elite, sacred learning transmitted in the Aramaic language and standardized among the elite priestly classes throughout the Persian Empire. Ancient holy texts that were translated into the Aramaic language or retextualized in Aramaic script carried additional revelatory potential—​the gods spoke anew, as it were, through this new form of scribal activity. In Yehud, the Aaronides were the brokers of this intellectual innovation, training Jerusalem temple scribes in the vernacular of Aramaic scribal culture. This positioned the Aaronides as authorities who could ensure a place for local, ancient Hebrew traditions within this larger imperial intellectual network, irrespective of their literary contradictions or ideological conflicts between the different intellectual groups who preserved them. The retextualization of Hebrew-​language sources in Aramaic script and their subsequent redaction into the Pentateuch affirmed this Aaronide dynamic on the textual level:  the ancient sources were made cohesive and consistent through the common script binding them together and unleashing their new revelatory power.32 The Aaronide creation of the Pentateuch as an “Aramaic” document enabled YHWH to speak once again through its sources, positioning them (the Aaronides) as the spokespersons for the divine. Yet in the social reality of the Jerusalem temple, this transformed the Aaronide cult into a subset of a larger mythology cultivated throughout the Persian Empire. Like the Hebrew language traditions reproduced in a new script promoted by the Persian Empire, the rituals the Aaronides carried out within the temple were charged with a dual dimension. Rituals re-​enacting YHWH’s creation of the cosmos resonated with the grand accomplishments of the Persian emperor Darius in 522 bce, whose Bisitun Inscription of that year claims that he purified the empire of cosmic evil (known as “The Lie”) through his royal initiatives. Through the Aaronides,

Cultic Traditions in the Writings    75 ritual purgation of impurity and chaos venerated both YHWH as the master of the universe and the Persian court as the stewards of the divine.33 Glimpses into this Aaronide sacral paradigm are found within the Writings themselves. The Psalter contains numerous hymns that draw attention to the world-​making power of YHWH’s torah (i.e., the Pentateuch). Psalm 1 extolls the virtues of studying YHWH’s torah, which is presented as a source of life-​giving waters (Pss 1:2–​3), and Ps 19 associates the contents of the Pentateuch with awareness and understanding: The law of YHWH is perfect, restoring the soul; the testimony of YHWH is sure, making wise the simple. The precepts of YHWH are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of YHWH is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of YHWH is clean, enduring forever; the ordinances of YHWH are true, they are righteous altogether . . . (Pss 19:8–​10)

The final verse noted here is especially important, as it equates the contents of the Pentateuch with “the fear of YHWH.” This phrase appears in the book of Proverbs at two strategic points: The fear of YHWH is the beginning of knowledge . . . (Prov 1:7) The fear of YHWH is the beginning of wisdom . . . (Prov 9:10)

These verses connect directly back to Pss 19:10, which parallels the “fear of YHWH” with the Pentateuch (“the ordinances of YHWH”). They attest to the study of the Pentateuch as a basis for awareness, understanding, and righteousness, suggesting that Aaronide doctrines rooted in the Pentateuch became curricula for sapiential meditation. Psalm 119, the longest and most ornate of the Psalms, equates all the revelatory texts and traditions in the Aaronide cult with the Pentateuch; the righteous are faithful to all of these teachings in the face of the encroaching threats of wickedness. The passages noted earlier support Aaronide interests; others indirectly presuppose their influence. For example, portions of Ezra-​Nehemiah criticize the Aaronide priesthood, accusing them of compromising their own authority through illegitimate interaction with foreign populations in Yehud (Ezra 9–​10; Neh 13). But this critique is a protest against an entrenched power structure in which the Aaronides held a paramount position. Nehemiah 8, which depicts Ezra reading the Pentateuch outside of the temple, probably draws from conventions of Aaronide text-​reading within the temple precincts and attempts to appropriate those conventions for a competing ideological community.34 Moreover, late redactional layers within the work point to Aaronide reworking of older material. For example, as previously noted, Ezra 1–​6 is decidedly pro-​Aaronide in orientation, and various verses throughout Ezra 7–​8 glorify the temple and benefit priestly interests. Thus, despite the presence of challenges, Aaronide

76   Mark A. Leuchter traditions remained dominant. In time, dissenting voices were eventually adjusted to resonate at a more amenable frequency in the textual record.

The Postexilic Levite Tradition In a sociopolitical environment where the Aaronides’s ritual hegemony received imperial support, Levites could only function in secondary capacities. For Levites among the exiles this must have been a less than attractive prospect, which accounts for the low number of Levites reported to have been among the major wave of returnees in 522 bce (Ezra 2:40/​Neh 7:43). But ultimately Levites did take up positions in the temple; some came back from exile in Babylon, and others were among from the Jewish populations who had remained in the homeland during the era of the exile. The Levites of the homeland had developed their own liturgies, theology, and understanding of history that differed from those who had gone into exile, and there is evidence that some conflict emerged between these Levite groups upon the return of the gola community to Jerusalem in the late sixth century bce. That evidence is found in the prayer preserved in Neh 9, which most scholars view as a product of the homeland community, and the poem’s rhetoric strongly suggests that it was authored by that community’s Levites. The prayer subtly criticizes the gola community and lays claim to tradition on behalf of the homeland group alone. Nevertheless, the fact that this prayer was ultimately redacted into Neh 8–​10—​a collection of chapters that largely reflect a gola worldview—​reveals that at some point, Levites of both communities resolved their differences.35 Various textual witnesses point to the place of the Levites within the temple cult, the most prominent of which is the Pentateuch. The Aaronide redactors of the Pentateuch clearly regarded the Levites as an important part of the ritual space they controlled, and they rearranged older sources in order to include them into the cultic charter myth. For example, the brief notice regarding Moses’s consecration of the Levites as a priestly caste in Exod 32:26–​29 has been added secondarily to the Golden Calf tale. Originally connected to the Massah-​Meribah episode in Exod 17:1–​7, the consecration of the Levites was purposefully dislodged and placed within the events of Exod 32 to highlight that their consecration derived from the events at Sinai (Exod 32 takes place within the Sinai pericope).36 Later narrative moments in the Pentateuch also establish the place of the Levites in maintaining the cult (Num 1–​4) and serving underneath the Aaronides (Num 8, 18). Beyond the Pentateuch, we find affirmations of the connection between the Levites and the cult in the book of Chronicles, which repeatedly highlights the importance and theological orthodoxy of the Levites vis-​à-​vis the institution of the temple. Though Chronicles is probably a Levite-​penned work that espouses a worldview rather different from that of the Aaronides (see further later), the centrality of the temple to its narrative reveals that Levite identity could not be severed from it.

Cultic Traditions in the Writings    77 Rabbinic tradition similarly looks back upon the Levites as a ritual caste. The Mishnah (redacted ca. 200 ce) contains memories of cultic conduct from the Second Temple period, and it envisions the Levites as subordinates to the Aaronides in ritual contexts (m. Kiddushin 4.1; m. Sota 7.5; m. Shekalim 1.3; m. Bikkurim 3.4, etc.). Yet the Mishnah also contains a crucial passage that suggests that while Levites may have been second-​tier priests with regard to Aaronide sacrificial duties, they also possessed authority that transcended that of the sacrificial cult. The passage is found in m. Tamid 7.3, detailing how the Tamid ritual legislated in Lev 6:8–​13 was conducted in the Jerusalem temple: When the High Priest wished to make the offering he would go up the ramp with the Deputy on his right . . . When he bent down to make the libation . . . the Levites would break into song. When they reached the end of a section they would sound a teki’ah [trumpet blast] and the people would prostrate themselves. With each section a teki’ah and with each teki’ah a prostration. This was the order of the Tamid ritual . . .

It is significant that the pacing of the rite is governed in this account by the Levite performance of the accompanying daily ritual text (Pss 24, 48, 82, 94, 81, 93, and 92 according to m. Tamid 7.4). While Aaronides conduct the sacrifice, the Levite performance of the accompanying ritual texts determines how the sacrifice is conducted. This mishnaic episode may or may not provide accurate details regarding the Tamid rite, but it preserves a memory about the Levites that most scholars consider authentic: Levites here hold dominion over the ritual reading or chanting of texts.37 In m. Tamid 7, the texts in question happen to be selected Psalms, but this is consistent with what the critical study of the Writings have to say about the Levites. A scroll of Psalms, for example, was probably redacted by Levites from pre-​existing collections of hymns, laments, and other liturgical works that they had long claimed as their own.38 The collections known as the Psalms of Asaph (Pss 50, 73–​83) and the Psalms of Korah (Pss 42–​49) are often identified by scholars as earlier compilations of traditional liturgical poems once cultivated by Levite factions that initially had little to do with the cult in Jerusalem.39 During the Persian period, however, Levites were charged with reciting them in the Jerusalem temple cult, making these once-​independent theological expressions into components of a comprehensive liturgy. Other parts of the Writings bear further witness to the relationship between the Levites and the performance of sacred texts, especially the book of Chronicles (1–​2 Chr). Chronicles is one of the most potent sources for understanding Levite function in the Persian period, and it is often viewed as the work of a Levite scribe due to its recurring special interest in and privileging of Levites in its retelling of Israel’s history.40 The Levites in Chronicles play a central role in the organization of the Jerusalem temple under David, and the work contains a detailed discussion of Levites as singers of sacred verse (1 Chr 9:33; 15:16; 25:1–​6; 2 Chr 25:5), scribes (1 Chr 24:6; 2 Chr 34:13), and teachers of YHWH’s torah (2 Chr 17:7–​9; 35:3). Moreover, these duties somehow bestowed upon them the status of prophecy (1 Chr 25:1; 2

78   Mark A. Leuchter Chr 34:30, cf. 2 Kgs 23:2),41 a fact that deserves closer attention in light of the earlier discussion regarding the Aaronides’ attempt to supersede prophecy. Chronicles was composed with a Utopian bent—​its goal was to envision an ideal place for Levites within the temple, restructuring the way in which a sacrificial cult led by Aaronides might provide increased importance for text-​ based revelation mediated by Levites as scribes, teachers, and performers.42 Antecedents for this can be found in Deuteronomy and Jeremiah: both of these texts were composed or redacted by Levites, and both present prophecy as intimately bound up with Levite traditions of scribalism and textuality. Aaronide priests may have had esoteric knowledge of YHWH, but prophetic texts also contained the living divine word that YHWH had entrusted to Levite scribes. By identifying Levite text interaction as a form of prophecy, Chronicles presents a path to revelation beyond the strictures of the Aaronide priesthood or their ritual system. In one important narrative moment, the book of Chronicles even gives us a glimpse into how this may have functioned—​1 Chr 16 presents a prayer uttered by the Levite Asaph (on David’s behalf) that addresses events well beyond David’s time (the Babylonian Exile) through the exegetical combination of different Psalms (Pss 95 and 106). This composite prayer operates solely on the level of the text; there is no indication that the prayer was used in the realia of temple worship. Nevertheless, it presupposes that Levites could abstract different elements from their normative literary contexts and perform them in a manner that created new meaning or revealed additional dimensions of YHWH’s will. This type of Levite-​brokered revelation treats the subject matter not simply as ritual texts but as sapiential curricula: texts were to be studied and explored to unlock their additional revelatory meaning.43 The Levite study of these texts as sources for wisdom is what enables YHWH’s voice to continue to speak through them, and this dynamic surfaces in Ezra-​Nehemiah as well. Ezra 8 informs us that Ezra’s delegation of Jerusalem required the skills of Levite scribes trained in wisdom exegesis and teaching (vv. 15–​19), and the famous episode of Ezra’s reading of the Pentateuch in Neh 8 is intertwined with notices that Levite wisdom made its contents understandable, and even resulted in the securing of additional divine rulings (vv. 13–​18). This is a different type of wisdom than that which extolled Aaronide ideology. Aaronide wisdom places the Pentateuch at the center of sacral awareness, supporting the Aaronide cult itself as revelation. By contrast, the Levite wisdom tradition evident in the aforementioned passages appears to move those same texts away from a ceremonial/​ritual context, drawing revelation out of the texts themselves through consultation and study. To wit, prophetic oracles used to support the cult were restructured into a cohesive, single work to model how prophetic books were to be consulted, that is, the Book of the Twelve (Hosea–​Malachi). Most scholars place the redaction of the Book of the Twelve in the late Persian or early Hellenistic periods (the mid-​to-​late fourth century bce), and various lines of evidence identify it as a product of Levite scribes who held duties within the Aaronide-​led temple.44 It was a work that created a sort of alternative narrative or history of prophecy, one where prophetic texts critical of the cult were interspersed with passages possessing a liturgical/​cultic emphasis (e.g., Mic

Cultic Traditions in the Writings    79 7:18–​19; Hab 1; 3; Nah 1:2–​8; one might also include Hos 14:3–​9 and Mal 1:16–​2:9).45 The Book of the Twelve was to the Levites what the Pentateuch was to the Aaronides: it functioned as a charter myth for how prophecy could continue both under foreign imperialism and in relation to a functioning temple cult, but in a way that moved prophecy from a subsidiary role to a dominant one. It presents the titular prophets within it as readers and teachers of each other’s oracles through an ornate network of intertextuality and cross-​references, and it provides a hermeneutical model for how the Levites who redacted the work engaged its contents.

Conclusion: The Aaronide and Levite Traditions as a Binary Pair On first glance, it would appear that the Aaronide priests and the Levites of the Persian period worked at cross purposes; the former seem to focus on ritual/​sacrifice with texts playing only a supporting role, with the latter focusing on textual study and teaching as a form of direct connection to the divine beyond ritual settings. Yet it is also clear that a certain symbiosis existed between the two groups. Sacrifice was part of an ongoing, unbroken conversation between YHWH and his people that kept the Aaronides at the center of the religious world of Jerusalem and thus at the heart of Second Temple Judaism itself.46 Even Jewish groups beyond Jerusalem viewed the city and its cult as a sacred space and its priesthood as holding special authority, as an important document from Elephantine, the “Letter of Jedaniah,” demonstrates (AP30). But the discernment of YHWH’s will informing the conduct of the cult was contingent upon the Levites’ facility and expertise with the exegesis and teaching of text.47 Even in Neh 8, Levite textual and exegetical authority revolves around a Pentateuch that derived from the Aaronide priesthood and their temple cult. Likewise, the conduct of the sacrificial cult helmed by the Aaronides is never portrayed as functional without the presence of Levites, not only as a clerus minor but as guardians, administrators, explicators, and mediators between the public and the Aaronides themselves. The relationship between Aaronides and Levites formed the authoritative sacral backdrop to the compilation of the contents of the Writings (and, indeed, to the compilation and canonization of the Hebrew Scriptures more broadly) as Judaism persisted and evolved during subsequent eras.

Notes 1. Leuchter (2015). So also the implications of various texts in the Mishnah, which assume that religious authority was entrusted to the priesthood (m. Zebakhim 14.4) and in the Talmud, which viewed direct revelation as coterminous with the existence of the Jerusalem temple (b. Baba Batra 12a).

80   Mark A. Leuchter 2. The evidence from Deuteronomy (generally recognized to advocate a Levite worldview) is especially telling; the temple is assumed therein to be the people’s central sanctuary, but the specifics of temple worship or priestly ritual therein is downplayed in favor of an emphasis on social organization consequent ethnogenesis. See Crouch (2014) for a full discussion. 3. Leuchter (2017a: 99–​130). 4. Trotter (2001); Schaper (2000: 130–​161). 5. Leuchter (2017a: 218–​260). 6. A detailed treatment is that of Knoppers (2013). 7. See, e.g., Kratz (2007). 8. Halpern (1974); Olyan (1982). Both studies develop the theory of Cross (1973:  195–​ 215). Dimensions of this theory remain useful but require qualification; see Leuchter (2017a: 69–​130). 9. Schniedewind (2004:  81–​ 84); Finkelstein and Silberman (2006); Fleming (2013); Finkelstein and Römer (2014: 332–​334). 10. See van der Toorn (1996: 236–​265); Cooper and Goldstein (1997). 11. Miller (2005: 8–​12); see also Maeir and Shai (2016) for the persistence of local strongman/​ chieftain leadership in Judah throughout the monarchic era. 12. Cross (1973: 195–​215). 13. Leuchter (2017a: 69–​92). 14. Stager (1985). 15. Leuchter (2013: 30–​39). 16. Cook (2004: 231–​266). 17. The Levite authors of Deuteronomy are also responsible for the redaction of the Deuteronomistic literature; see Geoghegan (2006). 18. Leuchter (2017a: 155–​217). 19. For a full treatment of this matter, see Rom Shiloni (2013). 20. Bedford (2000: 76). 21. Though Levites were subordinate to the Aaronides, they nonetheless benefitted from high-​ranking status overall in Persian Yehud. See Schaper (1997); Nogalski (2010: 40–​46). 22. Watts (2007: 146–​150). 23. Levenson (1988: 121–​124). 24. Watts (2007). 25. Though P’s sources may be pre-​exilic in provenance, P itself probably derives from the exilic period, with some orchestration of material continuing into the early Persian period. On an exilic P, see Carr (2011: 294–​297); Smith (2009). On Persian period development, see Schmid (2011). 26. Leuchter (2010: 363). 27. On the priestly profile of Ezra 1–​6, see Williamson (1983). 28. Schniedewind (1995). See also van der Toorn (2007: 227–​231). 29. See y. Yoma 7.3; Leviticus Rabbah 21: 12. 30. M. Yoma 7.1; b. Rosh Hashanah 16b; b. Yoma 39b; b. Menachot 109b; t. Sotah 13.8. 31. Herring (2008). 32. The foregoing paragraph summarizes the more detailed discussion I provide in Leuchter (2017b). 33. Leuchter (2017b).

Cultic Traditions in the Writings    81 34. On the identity and boundaries of this alternate, quasi-​ sectarian community, see Blenkinsopp (2009: 196–​204). 35. Leuchter (2014). 36. On the original place of Exod 32: 26–​29 within the Massah-​Meribah episode, see Baden (2011). 37. Many scholars, however, do see historically valuable material in this mishnaic source; see Klawans (2006: 178). 38. One must draw a distinction between the canonical book of Psalms and a scroll of psalmic material we might assign to Levite redactors (Smith 1991). Though this scroll may well have contributed to the shape of the canonical Psalter, the fixedness of the latter is probably a feature of a much later era than the Persian or even the early Hellenistic period. See Mroczek (2016: 19–​50). 39. Nasuti (1988); Goulder (1982). 40. Kim (2014). 41. Schniedewind (1995: 170–​188, 231–​252). 42. Schweitzer (2007); Kim (2014). 43. On wisdom in the work of the Chronicler, see Blenkinsopp (1993: 19–​30). 44. On the late Persian or early Hellenistic dating of the Book of the Twelve, see the various essays in Nogalski et al. (ed.) (2012); van der Toorn (2007: 250–​252). On the Levite redaction of the work, see Leuchter (2014); Leuchter (2017a: 241–​247). 45. Nogalski (2010: 40–​46). 46. Watts (2007). 47. See earlier and also Gertner (1960).

Bibliography Albertz, Rainer, ed. 2012. Perspectives on the Formation of the Book of the Twelve. With James D. Nogalski and Jakob Wohrle. BZAW. Berlin: De Gruyter. Baden, Joel S. 2011. “The Violent Origins of the Levites: Text and Tradition.” In Levites and Priests in Biblical History and Tradition, edited by Mark A. Leuchter and Jeremy M. Hutton, 103–​116. Atlanta: SBL. Bedford, Peter R. 2001. Temple Restoration in Early Achaemenid Judah. VTSup. Leiden, the Netherlands: Brill. Blenkinsopp, Joseph P. 1993. “Wisdom in the Chronicler’s Work.” In Search of Wisdom, Fs. John G. Gammie, edited by Leo G. Perdue et al., 19–​30. Louisville, KY: Westminster/​John Knox. Blenkinsopp, Joseph P. 2009. Judaism: The First Phase. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans. Carr, David M. 2011. The Formation of the Hebrew Bible: A New Reconstruction. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Cohen, Shaye J.  D. 1987. From the Maccabees to the Mishnah. Louisville, KY:  Westminster John Knox. Cook, Stephen L. 2004. The Social Roots of Biblical Yahwism. Atlanta: SBL. Cooper, Alan. 1997. With Bernard M. Goldstein. “At the Entrance to the Tent: More Cultic Resonances in Biblical Narrative.” JBL 116:201–​215. Cross, Frank Moore, Jr. 1973. Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic. Cambridge, MA:  Harvard University Press. Crouch, Carly. 2014. The Making of Israel. VTSup. Leiden, the Netherlands: Brill.

82   Mark A. Leuchter Dietrich, Walter. 2007. The Early Monarchy in Israel: The Tenth Century b.c.e. Atlanta: SBL. Finkelstein, Israel. 2006. With Neil Asher Silberman. “Temple and Dynasty: Hezekiah, the Remaking of Judah, and the Rise of the Pan-​Israelite Ideology.” JSOT 30, no. 3:259–​285. Finkelstein, Israel. 2014. With Thomas Römer. “Comments on the Historical Background of the Jacob Narrative in Genesis.” ZAW 126:317–​338. Fleming, Daniel C. 2013. The Legacy of Israel in Judah’s Bible. New  York:  Cambridge University Press. Geoghegan, Jeffrey C. 2006. The Time, Place and Purpose of the Deuteronomistic History: The Evidence of “Until This Day.” BJS. Providence, RI: Brown University. Gertner, M. 1960. “The Masorah and the Levites: An Essay in the History of a Concept,” VT 10:241–​272. Goulder, Michael D. 1982. The Psalms of the Sons of Korah. JSOTSup. Sheffield, UK: JSOT Press. Halpern, Baruch. 1974. “Sectionalism and the Schism.” JBL 93:519–​532. Herring, Stephen L. 2008. “A ‘Transubstantiated’ Humanity:  The Relationship between the Divine Image and the Presence of God in Genesis i 26f.” VT 58:480–​494. Kim, Yeong Seon. 2014. The Temple Administration and the Levites in Chronicles. CBQMS, 51. Washington, DC: The Catholic Biblical Association of America. Klawans, Jonathan. 2006. Purity, Sacrifice and the Temple. New York: Oxford University Press. Knoppers, Gary N. 2013. Jews and Samaritans: The Origins and History of Their Early Relations. New York: Oxford University Press. Kratz, Reinhard G. 2007. “Temple and Torah: Reflections on the Legal Status of the Pentateuch between Elephantine and Qumran. In The Pentateuch as Torah, edited by Gary N. Knoppers and Bernard Levinson, 77–​103. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns. Leuchter, Mark. 2017a. The Levites and the Boundaries of Israelite Identity. New York: Oxford University Press. Leuchter, Mark. 2017b. “The Aramaic Transition and the Redaction of the Pentateuch.” JBL 136: 249–​268. Leuchter, Mark. 2015. “Finding Judaism’s Founders.” In Varieties of Religious Invention: Founders and Their Function in History, edited by Patrick Grey, 15–​ 38. New  York:  Oxford University Press. Leuchter, Mark. 2014. “Another Look at the Hosea/​Malachi Framework in The Twelve.” VT 64:249–​265. Leuchter, Mark. 2013. Samuel and the Shaping of Tradition. New York: Oxford University Press. Leuchter, Mark. 2010. “The Politics of Ritual Rhetoric: A Proposed Sociopolitical Context for the Redaction of Leviticus 1–​16.” VT 60:345–​365. Levenson, Jon D. 1988. Creation and the Persistence of Evil. Princeton, NJ:  Princeton University Press. Maeir, Aren. 2016. With I. Shai. “Reassessing the Character of the Judahite Kingdom: Archaeological Evidence for Non-​Centralized, Kinship-​Based Components.” In From Shaar Hagolan to Shaarayim, Fs. Yosef Garfinkle, edited by Saar Ganon et al., 323–​340. Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society. Miller, Robert D. 2005. Chieftains of the Highland Clans: A History of Israel in the 12th and 11th Centuries B.C. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans. Mroczek, Eva. 2016. The Literary Imagination in Jewish Antiquity. New  York:  Oxford University Press. Nasuti, Harry P. 1988. Tradition History and the Psalms of Asaph. Atlanta: Scholars Press.

Cultic Traditions in the Writings    83 Nogalski, James D. 2010. “One Book and Twelve Books: The Nature of the Redactional Work and the Implications of Cultic Source Material in the Book of the Twelve.” In Two Sides of a Coin, edited by Thomas Romer, 1–​46. Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias Press. Olyan, Saul M. 1982. “Zadok’s Origins and the Tribal Politics of David.” JBL 101:172–​193. Rom Shiloni, Dalit. 2013. Exclusive Inclusivity: Identity Conflicts Between the Exiles and the People Who Remained (6th–​5th Centuries bce). LHBOTS. New York: Bloomsbury. Schaper, Joachim. 2000. Priester und Leviten im achämenidischen Juda. FAT. Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck. Schmid, Konrad. 2011. “Judean Identity and Ecumenicity: The Political Theology of the Priestly Document.” In Judah and the Judeans in the Achaemenid Period, edited by Oded Lipschits et al., 3–​26. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns. Schniedewind, William M. 2004. How the Bible Became a Book: The Textualization of Ancient Israel. New York: Cambridge University Press. Schniedewind, William M. 1995. The Word of God in Transition: From Prophet to Exegete in the Second Temple Period. JSOTSup. Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Academic Press. Schweitzer, Steven James. 2007. Reading Utopia in Chronicles. London: T & T Clark. Smith, Mark S. 2009. The Priestly Vision of Genesis. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press. Stager, Lawrence E. 1985. “The Archaeology of the Family in Ancient Israel.” BASOR 285:1–​30. Schaper, Joachim. 1997. “The Temple Treasury Committee in the Times of Nehemiah and Ezra.” VT 47:200–​206. Schmid, Konrad. 2011. “Judean Identity and Ecumenicity: The Political Theology of the Priestly Document.” In Judah and the Judeans in the Achaemenid Period, edited by Oded Lipschits et al., 1–​26. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns. Smith, Mark. 1991. “The Levitical Compilation of the Psalter.” ZAW 103:258–​263. Trotter, James. 2001. “Was the Second Jerusalem Temple a Primarily Persian Project?” SJOT 15:276–​294. Van der Toorn, Karel. 2007. Scribal Culture and the Making of the Hebrew Bible. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Van der Toorn, Karel. 1996. Family Religion in Syria, Babylon and Israel. Leiden, the Netherlands: Brill. Watts, James D. 2007. Ritual and Rhetoric in Leviticus:  From Sacrifice to Scripture. New York: Cambridge University Press. Williamson, H. G. M. 1983. “The Composition of Ezra i–​vi.” JTS 34:1–​30.

Chapter 6

Wisd om Tr a di t i ons and the Wri t i ng s Sage and Scribe James L. Crenshaw

Terminology Wisdom In the early second century bce, Ben Sira distinguished between individuals who were skilled in various crafts and those who possessed wisdom about values that contributed to the shaping of character (Sir 38:24–​39:11). Although he considered day laborers essential to society, he believed scribes made a far greater contribution to its well-​being. A  comparable text from Egypt, The Satire of the Trades, also called The Instruction for Duauf, is less complimentary of occupations other than that of scribes (Lichtheim 1973: 184–​192). The present essay is restricted to Ben Sira’s second group because they left behind an intellectual tradition akin to the Greek philosophical one. In large part, this tradition, which scholars call wisdom literature, was composed by persons in pursuit of knowledge by reason alone. Its perspective was from below as opposed to divine decrees and prophetic revelation, but religious teachings coexisted with secular insights. For some representatives, religion trumped everything else, issuing in the claim that the fear of Yahweh was the beginning, and perhaps essence, of wisdom (Prov 1:7a). Even the exclusion of revelatory knowledge quickly gave way, first in the form of the personification of wisdom functioning as the voice of the deity (Prov 8:22–​31), and second in direct divine discourse, either during a dream or in speeches out of a whirlwind (Job 4:12–​21; 38:2–​39:30; 40:1–​2, 7–​41:34). Although Qoheleth was silent about both types of divine disclosure, Ben Sira linked the personification of wisdom with the

Wisdom Traditions and the Writings    85 Mosaic legislation (Sir 24:23) and introduced Israel’s special “history” into the universal tradition of the sages. The Alexandrian poet who wrote Wisdom of Solomon did likewise, even hellenizing both Jewish education into paidea and transforming the concept of the afterlife. Like Job in 14:7–​22, neither Qoheleth nor Ben Sira was willing to accept the emerging belief in immortality. This inconsistency within the five exemplars of canonical wisdom literature with respect to Yahweh’s role in the quest for knowledge is compounded when one notes that in none of the self-​declarations does Ben Sira ever mention torah (Sir 24:30–​34; 33:16–​18; 34:11–​12; 39:12–​16; 50:27–​29; and 51:13–​30). In these texts he says he resolved to live according to wisdom, fails to mention fear of God, and does not characterize his daily activity as obedience to the law. And yet the prologue twice mentions torah as the primary interest of Ben Sira, and the teachings also include torah along with wisdom. Moreover, the scribe who is praised in 39:1–​11 studies torah and glories in it. So did the epilogist who summed up Qoheleth’s teachings as follows:  “Fear God and keep the commandments” (Eccl 12:13b). Because Psalms consists of prayer and praise from below, it is natural to place this work alongside the aforementioned five books. Common themes, especially theodicy and life’s brevity, link a few psalms, primarily 39, 49, and 73, to Job and Ecclesiastes. Some interpreters think as many as thirty psalms belong to wisdom literature (Oeming 2008: 154–​162). Nevertheless, the paucity of prayer in wisdom literature and the overwhelming lament genre in Psalms discourage identifying it with the sapiential corpus. A prayer is attributed to Agur in Prov 30:7–​9, Job flirts with the language of prayer in Job 13:20–​14:22, and Ben Sira has preserved prayers in Sir 22:27–​23:6 and 36:1–​17. The wise seem more inclined to address humans than God, and when they utter laments like Job they do not conclude with an expression of trust in having been heard as is found in all psalms except Ps 88.

Sage Now if “wisdom” is ambiguous in the above title, how much more the terms “sage” and “scribe.” When does hakam indicate a professional teacher as opposed to an expert at setting gems, a skilled hunter, a fine seamstress, and other competences? When prophets condemned wise counselors, native and foreign, were they referring to professional sages in the royal court? Was the wise woman from Tekoa more than a superb actor, the plain sense of the anecdote? Presumably, students who acquired hokmah and binah became knowledgeable (knowing ones, yode’im) and wise (hakamim). In a word, their character was shaped in a desired manner, turning them into citizens who brought stability to society. Wisdom thus aided in the formation of a moral life. It applied to everyone, not just to an elect group. That conclusion seems to be required by the familial setting of teachings in Proverbs, unless parental language (father, mother, my son) is symbolic of teacher and student as in Egypt and Mesopotamia (Baines 1992: 333–​337; Civil 1992: 301–​305).

86   James L. Crenshaw Although the sayings and instructions in Prov 10–​31 may derive from the populace in general through oral tradition, the initial collection (Prov 1–​9) seems to come from teachers who were transforming the identity of a sage into a professional. The first epilogue in Eccl 12:9–​12 uses hakam in this technical sense. That is true regardless of how one translates the statement in 12:9 (“Because Qoheleth was a sage, he continually taught the people knowledge,” or “Additionally, Qoheleth was a sage and he also taught the people knowledge”). Like the teacher in Prov 1–​9, Qoheleth is said to have taught ordinary youth, not elite members of society. Ben Sira leaves no doubt about his position as a professional sage when inviting prospective students to draw near and lodge in his school (Sir 51:23), even describing such instruction as cost effective (Sir 51:28). The neologism, bet midrasi, the verb lun (to lodge, abide), and the uncertainty about actual schools in Yehud, complicate things, leaving open the possibility that Ben Sira uses bet midrasi as a code name for his collected teachings. He does not shrink from admitting to divine assistance (Sir 39:6–​7). In this concession he resembles both the author of Wisdom of Solomon, who is privy to mystical insights, and the learned instructor (maskil) at Qumran. In this respect, they are similar to Daniel, who is granted special insight that enables him to interpret dreams like Joseph. Although often called mantic wisdom, their ability has nothing to do with priestly manipulation of the livers of sacrificed animals or other means of seeing the future. That concern belongs to apocalyptic, not wisdom. The future was hidden from sages.

Scribe The term scribe (soper) is equally ambiguous. Surprisingly, it never occurs in wisdom literature prior to Ben Sira (Sir 39:24) or in Essene texts that exist as a result of prolific writing and copying at Qumran, but it is often found elsewhere in the canon. The word soper seems to have developed in stages, beginning with “a written message,” then “a writing,” and ultimately “a writer” (Saldarini 1992:  1012–​1016). In the ancient Near East, scribes served administrators in the courts and priests at temples. Their primary duties were to keep records of tax collections, forced labor, military activity, construction, and commodities. They were also responsible for diplomatic correspondence and for promoting royal interests through inscriptions, propaganda, and ideology. In Israel, after the collapse of the monarchy, a notable priest and scribe, Ezra, is described as a scholar of the Torah. Other scribes are mentioned in late postexilic texts (Zadok in Neh 12:12–​13; Alcimus and Eleazar in 1 Macc), and the traditions about Enoch refer to him as a scribe of righteousness. A scribe named Baruch is said to have copied Jeremiah’s prophetic oracles. Like Enoch, he became the subject of later legends. Most scribes would have been employed in low-​level activity involving contracts, divorces, letter writing, and the like. A few scribes probably copied proverbial sayings and transmitted them from one generation to another (Prov 25:1). They also edited canonical material, occasionally inserting clarifying glosses as in Pss 68:9 (zeh sinay,

Wisdom Traditions and the Writings    87 “this is Sinai”), although to what extent is not known. Texts were, after all, living documents that changed to reflect new ways of looking at reality. Did scribes compose literature in addition to copying texts, thus merging two distinct occupations, sage and scribe? Even if a careful distinction between them was observed at Ugarit, sages being members of the divine pantheon and scribes belonging to the human race (Rowe 2008: 95–​108), that does not seem to have been true elsewhere. Clearly, scribes in Egypt and Mesopotamia composed classic texts as well as satires for their own amusement. The same may have happened in postexilic Yehud. The poets who composed the books of Job and Ecclesiastes can rightly be designated sage and scribe. In Abot 1:1 the Men of the Great Assembly are called interpreters of the Torah like Ezra; this elevation of the scribe Ezra makes Ben Sira’s silence about him in the praise of heroes from the past incomprehensible.

Social Status Evidence from Egypt and Mesopotamia Much is known about scribal activity in Egypt and Mesopotamia. Because of the complicated script in both cultures, scribes spent many years in special schools under harsh supervision. The hieroglyph for “student” is a cane raised to strike a lazy or boisterous learner, and a text from Mesopotamia describes a typical day in the life of a student as one of frequent whippings. Successful graduates of the edubba were largely employed at temples and in the royal court. Scribes thus served either religious establishments or kings. Proximity to wielders of power gave some of them elevated status vis-​à-​vis ordinary peasants. From an Egyptian text, The Instruction for Duauf, we learn that scribes considered their profession superior to all other types of labor. Above all, they praised the scribal occupation for its freedom from demanding bosses. Moreover, scribes looked on their vocation as a means of attaining immortality like the pharaohs. In their mind, whenever a name was invoked by persons reading a text to which a particular scribe had affixed his name, it bestowed a kind of immortality. Memory, whether kept alive through food offerings or recitation of names, was considered a form of eternal life. Throughout the ancient Near East most people were peasants. They provided food for rulers and in return were protected from foreign invaders insofar as their patron was capable of doing so. Few people could read and write, perhaps 1 percent in Egypt and slightly more in Mesopotamia. In this setting, writing held a certain mystique. Even kings seem to have considered literacy something to be desired, else why did Shulgi, Lipit-​Ishtar, and Ashurbanipal claim to be able to read and write? Lowly soldiers, too, harbored such aspirations. A letter from Lachish in Judah has a commander of the outpost insist that he was able to read every dispatch sent to him.

88   James L. Crenshaw Not all scribal activity was carried out in religious or governmental establishments. Some wealthy citizens had libraries and may have sponsored schools. In Mesopotamia a text seems to imply that eighteen students and three teachers were meeting in a private dwelling, and at Ugarit at least thirty scribes are mentioned, chief of whom was a certain Ilimilku, the chronicler of the rise and fall of the city in epic. Briefly stated, scribes occupied a privileged place among Israel’s powerful neighbors. The status of female scribes is an exception to this statement. Naditu women of the cloister at Sippar served as scribes to women only, and the disclaimer, “Disregard that it is a mere woman who has written and submitted this to you” speaks volumes about the social status of women (Harris 1990: 3–​17). So does a passing comment in The Satire of the Trades that the miserable toil of a weaver makes him worse off than a woman.

The Situation in Israel Can one say sages and scribes in Israel belonged to a privileged class? Because of the invention of alphabetic writing in Phoenicia and its adoption by Israelite scribes, the main impediment to learning was overcome. Other obstacles remained, however, especially an agrarian economy, the high cost and paucity of writing materials, the overwhelming village life as opposed to the city, with its increased opportunities for learning, the lack of aids to reading, and the few incentives for a literate population (Lemaire 1992: 305–​ 312; Crenshaw 1998). Did schools exist in Israel? The silence about such an institution in Proverbs, Job, and Ecclesiastes is difficult to explain if schools actually existed. Epigraphic evidence is sparse prior to the sixth century, but that can be partly explained by the climate and perishable writing materials. Undoubtedly, royal scribes existed in Jerusalem during the eighth century, for the Siloam Inscription celebrating a remarkable feat of engineering was probably commissioned by the king. Did scribes persist after the destruction of Jerusalem and the exile of its leading citizens? The economic hardships faced by those who returned to Yehud after the edict of Cyrus would have reduced the demand for scribes, so that a single guild could have trained enough scribes to handle contracts, divorces, and small business transactions. The surviving hoard is small: the Lachish letters; ostraca from Samaria; graffitti from remote Kuntillet Azrud, Khirbet el-​Qom, and Khirbet Beit Lei; brief notes in ink on potsherds; labels on wine jars; stone seals bearing the owner’s name, often the father’s, sometimes a title; clay seals for papyrus documents; stone weights; an amulet containing Num 6:24–​27; and a few inscribed tombs and monuments (Millard 1992: 337–​340). Perhaps the strongest argument for schools is the quality of sapiential literature. Oral traditions and parental teachings have been clothed in refined rhetoric; foreign instructions, possibly mediated through Canaanite intelligentsia, have been preserved; and a complex acrostic concludes the collection of proverbial sayings. Beyond that, the books of Job and Ecclesiastes are akin to philosophical discourse. Such literature was produced for advanced thinkers. This judgment applies even more to Wisdom of

Wisdom Traditions and the Writings    89 Solomon, a product of a sophisticated education in Alexandria. Ben Sira, too, though more Hebraic than Hellenistic, was just as adept at composing an Encomia as at compiling traditional proverbs. Then were Israel’s sages, who were members of the upper crust and wealthy farmers, as has been suggested (Whybray 1974). Some things within Proverbs point to marginal existence that could easily take a downward turn if the right decisions are not made. In this context, the emphasis on diligence and warnings about the perils of laziness stand out. The prosperous wife who is praised in Prov 31:10–​31 may be more an aspiration than reality, a rarity often sought but seldom found. Now Job is depicted as prince-​like, at least before spending his days on a dung heap. The poet’s perspective is that of the wealthy; its less appealing side is shown when Job reminisces and reflects on the poor whom he considers not worthy to associate with his dogs (Job 30:1–​8). Qoheleth’s societal status is not known, but he assumes that his hearers have slaves and access to fine food, cosmetics, and choice attire. Ben Sira’s elevated status just below priests enables him to travel widely, participate in elaborate banquets, and offer counsel to rulers. As a scholar, he is a man of leisure; freedom from physically demanding work lets him think about intellectual pursuits, which he considers more important than tending sheep or looking after a vineyard. In the sectarian community at Qumran, scribal activity flourished. It involved the copying of canonical texts, the composition of commentaries on biblical books, and authoring communal documents. Rules for daily conduct, hymns, polemical treatises, and more were written down. A much respected teacher at the head of the hierarchy of learning was endowed with insight into proper halakah and the calendar, plus the moral character and spirits of individuals. Teachers generally did not have much prestige—​ in ancient Greece and Rome some instructors were slaves—​but at Qumran the teacher of righteousness surely did. In the New Testament, scribes are depicted as members of the upper class. The reluctance in the Hebrew Bible to describe Yahweh as teacher may suggest that teachers were not held in high esteem before the Common Era, although Yahweh is called teacher in a remarkable text (Isa 30:20–​21).

Authors By their very nature, proverbs lack authority. They depend on intellectual agreement from hearers. Advice is precisely that; it can be accepted and acted on or it can be rejected and ignored. The imperatives in instructions give the appearance of coming from an authority figure, but these teachings, too, rely on the will of the recipient of such counsel. One way to add weight to advice and to increase the authority of maxims gleaned from ordinary people was to attribute the sayings to kings, princes, and viziers. That was precisely what happened in Egypt in the Old and Middle Kingdoms. Didactic literature was attributed to Prince Hardjedef, to viziers such as Ptahhotep, to a pharaoh, Khety, who addressed his son Merikare, and to the king Amenemhet I.

90   James L. Crenshaw Not to be undone, Israel’s sages placed their teachings under the umbrella of King Solomon, reputed to be wiser than anyone else in the East and in Egypt (1 Kgs 5:9–​10). By this means, Solomon was linked to wisdom literature just as the Torah was ascribed to Moses and Psalms to David. Only two sapiential books, Job and Sirach, make no claim of a connection with Solomon. The origin of the tradition of authorship by Solomon probably goes back to the legendary account in Kings, despite the irreconcilable differences between the material attributed to Solomon there and the proverbs in the collections bearing his name (Prov 1:1; 10:1; 25–​29). Lists of flora and fauna are entirely missing in these collections; the closest thing to them comes in the divine speeches in the book of Job. The author who goes by the pen name Qoheleth is identified as David’s son, king in Jerusalem (Eccl 1:1, 12). Nevertheless, the royal fiction is quickly dropped once the egotistical activities of the monarch are judged to be futile, chasing the wind, and unprofitable (Eccl 2:11). Thereafter the authorial viewpoint is that of an individual who is subjected to royal whim and powerless to withstand oppression. There is almost complete agreement among scholars that the language alone rules out Solomon as the author of this late work. Among other things, language is a decisive factor in dismissing the claim that Solomon composed Wisdom of Solomon. Whereas Qoheleth’s language is close to rabbinic Hebrew, Wisdom of Solomon is written in an elevated style of Greek. The author of this provocative work is not known, but he must have lived in Alexandria in the first century bce or even as late as the first century ce. In the wisdom corpus only Jesus Ben Sira has removed the veil of secrecy surrounding authorship. His grandson translated the Hebrew book into Greek and added a beautiful prologue in which he gives the date of his arrival in Alexandria. On the basis of this date, 137 bce, together with Ben Sira’s eye witness account of a special holy day during which the High Priest Simon II officiated—​he died in 196 bce—​a probable date for Sirach between 190 and 180 seems reasonable. A later date than this would make it difficult to explain the absence of anything about the Maccabean revolt. A noncanonical collection of Aramaic proverbs is attributed to Ahikar, mistakenly said to be an adviser to King Nebuchadnezzar but to have fallen out of favor through the machinations of his nephew Nadin, only later to have been restored under a new ruler Ahasuerus. While imprisoned, Ahikar is said to have written proverbs on the clay dishes in which his food reached him. The sayings probably date from the eighth or seventh century. Ahikar makes a cameo appearance in the book of Tobit (14:10). Several wisdom texts have survived at Qumran. They consist of fragments of canonical Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Job, two Aramaic Targums of Job, and Sirach. The longest original text, 4Q Sapiential Work, links wisdom and torah. The 4Q Wiles of the Wicked Woman heightens the erotic tension already found in Proverbs and Sirach. Another text, 4Q Instruction, adds an apocalyptic dimension to wisdom with the concept of a mystery yet to be (raz nihyeh). The authors of these texts are not known.

Wisdom Traditions and the Writings    91 Brief sections of First Esdras and Tobit resemble sapiential wit and parental advice (I Esd 3:1–​4:41 and Tob 4:5–​19; 12:6–​9). The humorous approach to women in the contest of Darius’s guards differs greatly from Ben Sira’s misogyny, and the analysis of wine’s power lacks the pathos that Prov 23:29–​35 possesses. Tobit’s counsel to his son, while couched in the form of a testament, could easily have come from a teacher such as Ben Sira, and the angel Raphael’s parting advice fits nicely among some sayings in Proverbs. Unfortunately, misogyny was widespread in the ancient world. Examples from Greek and Roman writers abound, just as they do in Jewish literature of the era. One explanation for Ben Sira’s cruel remark in Sir 42:14 that a man’s wickedness is better than a woman’s goodness derives from the concept of honor and shame in his day. Daughters who brought shame to a family through sexual laxity introduced retributive acts that ended in societal chaos. Sons were not held to this high standard. According to Sir 25:24, the attribution of sin to Eve indicts the author of Gen 3.

Teachings Like torah, prophecy, and apocalyptic, wisdom literature is enormously complex. Its inconsistency is the result of several factors: multiple authors, the passage of time, different geographical locations, the encounter with new cultures, and a dialectical method. Nevertheless, a description of wisdom as a reasoned approach to the ordering of society along moral grounds and deep reflection on existential anomalies is useful so long as we remember that at least one sage considered reason worthless because of a perishable body (Wis 9:14). Clearly, a clash of two cultures, Greek and Hebraic, brought about this particular change in attitude toward wisdom. Ironically, the author who disparaged wisdom excelled in advanced thinking. Other contradictions arose from the dialectical approach to the quest for truth. In many instances, a simple answer is misleading, a point nicely illustrated by Prov 26:4–​5. Sometimes silence is the best response to a foolish remark, but at other times a sharp rejoinder sets the record straight. When serious issues are at stake, such as the reason for and proper response to innocent suffering, there is no satisfactory solution. One can only examine alternative ways of viewing the problem. Audiences vary, and so do the messages conveyed and the means of communicating them. Teachers do not burden children with existential angst about life’s absurdity and the inevitability of death; nor do sages insult adults with appeals to obey parental advice. Hence the difficulty of doing justice to diverse writings like Proverbs and Ecclesiastes.

Practical Wisdom for the Young: Proverbs and Sirach Perhaps the biggest contradiction concerns the acquisition of knowledge. The dominant view was that a person became wise through rigorous self-​discipline. Now and again,

92   James L. Crenshaw however, an alternative perspective vied for a respectable seat at the table of learning. Wisdom was bestowed by the deity, it insisted, and that generosity went beyond the fact that God created the eye and ear, agents of learning (Prov 20:12). If understanding depended on observing and listening, it can be argued that the divine gift necessitated human implementation. Now if, above all, wisdom literature is the attempt to gain a better life by means of the intellect, it is necessarily universal, for everyone is endowed with a brain. Accordingly, the book of Job states that it represents wisdom of foreign sages from Transjordan, and Proverbs has at least three sections that originated outside Israel (Prov 22:17–​24:22; 30:1–​ 14; and 31:1–​9). In addition, Eccl 9:7–​9 closely resembles Siduri’s advice in the Gilgamesh Epic, and Sirach’s description of the superiority of the scribal profession recalls The Satire of the Trades. In addition, Ben Sira quotes a Stoic motto indicating the universal rule of the deity (“He is the all”). The sages’ God is creator of the cosmos, although in Proverbs the focus falls on a creative act prior to the foundation of the universe. Wisdom claims to have existed before the establishment of heaven and earth (Prov 8:22–​31); in a sense, wisdom legitimates the act of creation. Job’s concentration on the creator is personal, an act like the making of cheese and as intimate as procreation. The deity who graces the whirlwind emphasizes the wide-​reaching aspects of creation beginning with cosmogony and extending to creatures in the wild. Qoheleth thinks Elohim made everything appropriate or beautiful in its time (Eccl 3:11), a view that is developed along Hellenistic lines in Sirach and Wisdom of Solomon. Both of them believed that God created opposites, good and evil, as instruments of reward and punishment. To what extent the creator also manifested a saving aspect in wisdom literature before Ben Sira is uncertain. At issue is the adequacy of wisdom to deliver the good life it promised in Proverbs. One might argue that personified wisdom adopted the role of prophet when claiming to bestow life and threatening those who failed to heed her call (cf. Amos 5:6, “Seek Yahweh and live”). While Elohim in Job and Ecclesiastes is more consternation than joy, the Lord in Sirach is merciful, and Wisdom of Solomon has a “mercy dialogue”(11:15–​ 12:27) that softens the picture of Yahweh in the story of the Exodus. The slaughter of the first born sons of the Egyptians, the plagues, and the drowning of Pharaoh’s army must have made living among descendants of these victims of divine anger difficult. Additionally, Yahweh’s mandate to eradicate the Canaanites required an explanation at a time when divine justice was on many minds, most notably that of the author of Second Esdras. Ordinarily, interpreters distinguish between practical and reflective wisdom. Such a distinction needs to be nuanced because even mundane sayings in Proverbs and Sirach are products of serious reflection and because the problems treated in Job and Ecclesiastes are intensely practical. What could be more practical than learning how to deal with life’s injustices or more reflective than discerning how to read body language and to grasp the intricacies of human psychology? Perhaps we should ask what the sages hoped to accomplish in their writings. A prologue to the collections in Proverbs appears to offer an answer: to give instructions to

Wisdom Traditions and the Writings    93 young people about how to live wisely and to aid adults in solving complex problems confronting them (Prov 1:2–​6). In short, the wise wished to build character in the young and to foster intellectual inquiry in adults. Creating a moral society was just as challenging as pondering the enigmas of daily existence (Lichtheim 1997). It required more than helping young boys master their sex drive and overcome the thirst for strong drink, although these topics captured considerable attention. Virtues had to be instilled in youth through habitual action. Chief among these were eloquence, timing, integrity, and restraint. Success depended on the ability to express thoughts convincingly, the intelligence to discern when to talk and when to listen, the courage to speak the truth regardless of the consequences, and the control of passions in volatile situations. Individuals who aspired to positions of responsibility in high places had to learn proper etiquette at meals and how to detect guise and all types of dissimulation. Everyone needed to develop a work ethic that would keep want at bay and a charitable spirit toward people who were impoverished through no fault of their own. Knowing how to cultivate true friends and to recognize hypocrisy was essential, especially in a society that had been greatly influenced by Greek culture and its concept of friendship. So was familiarity with the protocol of banquets: when to speak and how long, taking one’s proper place at the table, and more. These interests in Sirach indicate cultural changes of the second century that caused Ben Sira to rethink his attitude toward physicians. Indeed, he was open to changing his mind on other matters too, as when he thought about the essentials of life. In Sir 30:21 he names four essentials (bread, water, clothes, a house) but in 39:26 he increases the number to ten (water, fire, iron, salt, wheat flour, milk, honey, wine, oil, and clothes). A readiness to entertain new answers to old questions helped sages adjust to changing times. Because religion permeated almost everything in the ancient world, the young needed to know how to balance the sacred and the secular, to use modern language. Did Yahweh override human plans, discourage the study of mystery, and glory in the hidden? How active was this watcher of humans? Was Yahweh a kind of midwife assisting in the birth of reward and punishment, or was he directly involved? Answering these and similar questions required serious thought.

Reflective Wisdom for Adults: Job, Ecclesiastes, and Wisdom of Solomon People can tolerate a deity who dishes out good things to decent individuals, but a cruel God who crushes innocents for no reason (hinnam) or bestows gifts randomly on the righteous and wicked is troubling. Like the Babylonian Theodicy, the book of Job explores several responses to undeserved suffering. The prologue states that Yahweh brought evil on Job and his family, an offense that is lessened little if any by the restoration in the epilogue. The poetic dialogue exposes the raw emotions of individuals whose

94   James L. Crenshaw concept of Elohim has been thrown into question. Convinced that God has become his personal enemy, Job moves back and forth from attack to prayer, from hoping to be rescued by a redeemer to abandoning all hope. Irrationally, he demands a trial before his tormentor who will also be the judge. So desperate is he that he finds momentary comfort in the possibility that a crucial witness may come to his defense. Job’s friends understand the hubris of defining justice from a human standpoint, but they mistakenly reason from social isolation and physical affliction to moral character. In their view, Job’s torment proves that he is guilty of heinous conduct. They understand their task as leading Job to repentance and thus to restoration. The divine speeches underline the rashness of sitting in judgment on the Lord of the universe, undercut every vestige of hubris among humans, and arguably lead a chastened Job to accept a new concept of deity. Hearing, presumably through rumor, has given way to seeing, a more trustworthy way of knowing. To make certain that no reader thinks the answers found in the poetic dialogue settle the issue once and for all, a brief poem about the remoteness of wisdom reminds everyone that Yahweh alone has access to understanding. Still, the epilogue has Yahweh praise his servant Job for speaking rightly about deity. Where did Job speak rightly of Yahweh? When hurling sharp accusations or when acknowledging that he knew God could do all things and that no purpose of Yahweh could be thwarted (Job 42:2)? If Job’s suffering exposes a raw nerve in the concept of God, Qoheleth’s observations of reality on earth convinced him that Elohim had no favorite servant like Job. Qoheleth reasoned as follows. This indifferent God, except under certain circumstances pertaining to broken vows, determined the destiny of individuals without resort to moral character. Nothing anyone did could break the grip of fate. Wisdom, although superior to folly, had lost its power to guarantee the good life. If God chose to grant happiness, the recipient was fortunate. Unlucky people simply bore the brunt of divine arbitrariness. Chance ruled in all areas of life. A single fate awaited everyone. In death all distinctions vanished, even those between humans and animals. Moreover, death struck unexpectedly like a fisherman’s net. Life was brief, existence absurd. Human toil amounted to nothing in the end, and even those who showed a profit had no assurance that the inheritor would possess intelligence. Everything has its own time, but nothing new ever breaks the circularity of events. Humans spend their hours chasing the wind and death brings the race to an end. Old age and its accompanying terrors usher some people into the grave. Until then, whoever has the capacity to do so should enjoy life. Muting this disturbing message about life’s inequities required subtlety. To some degree, that was accomplished by the addition of two epilogues, the last of which reaffirmed traditional ideas. Readers are left to decide which voice spoke truthfully about existence under the sun. Alternatively, the narrator of the framing structure has presented the teachings of a certain Qoheleth in an unflattering manner, making sure that radical ideas are divested of all appeal to youth (Fox 1977: 83–​106). The problems addressed in Wisdom of Solomon arose from the conflict between two cultures. Chief of these was the proper object of worship. Rivalry among deities was rife

Wisdom Traditions and the Writings    95 in Alexandria. What can be said to justify limiting one’s loyalty to a single deity? The author traces the origin of idolatry to adulation of a distant ruler, the desire to memorialize a dead child, and artistic beauty. The worship of idols is mocked mercilessly as in Ps 115:4–​8, but the psychological angst in Wisdom of Solomon adds a new dimension to the discussion. Life in Alexandria introduced a special problem to Jews. Second-​class citizenship limited their opportunities and imposed burdens that did not exist for Egyptian neighbors. The attraction of things Greek threatened to extinguish cherished values. Small wonder the author traces God’s solicitous care of Jewish ancestors in such minute detail. The death of a child always brings consternation, above all to those who believe in providence. This author’s answer shows how believers are eager to find comfort in moments of grief; they are consoled by the belief that God has taken the child to prevent it from sinning later in life. More important, they think God grants immortality to the deceased. Although thoroughly immersed in Greek thought, this learned author was equally familiar with sacred narrative. His “midrashic” treatment of the exodus and many allusions to individuals and events within scripture prove that. Whereas Ben Sira gave the names of heroes he considered worthy of praise, this author tested the memory of readers by expecting them to know those alluded to in passing. Like the authors of Job and Ecclesiastes, he too challenged inquiring adults to ponder life’s mysteries. Teachings do not take place in a vacuum. Contrary to popular opinion, sages have never lived in ivory towers that isolated them from sweeping historical changes. In the centuries covering the time from the activity of the Men of Hezekiah mentioned in Prov 25:1 to that of the unknown author of Wisdom of Solomon, huge transformations occurred throughout the ancient Near East. For the residents of Judah, we may speak of at least four significant “moments” that necessitated adjustments by intellectuals trying to make sense of the changes and by ordinary citizens who were trying to survive under new and challenging realities. These “moments” are (1) the exile to Babylon and the return to Jerusalem about fifty years later by some people who longed for the homeland; (2) an attempt to restore normalcy under priestly leadership at a new temple; (3) the external control of the province of Yehud through executive appointment of both a religious and a secular leader; and (4) the seductive lure of a sophisticated culture that came in the wake of the conquest by Alexander the Great. The first of these changes has been viewed as a catalyst for the composition of the book of Job, largely because of the emphasis on undeserved suffering. Nothing in the poetic dialogue points to national calamity, however, and the identity of the main character as an Edomite and the three friends as residents in Transjordan suggests that universal misery was sufficient stimulus for the poet. Moreover, the scribes who were taken into exile probably found gainful employment in the bureaucracy of an urban setting. Their suffering, although real, was minimal because of the skill they possessed. Still, they could not have been blind to the misery occasioned by two long journeys, the experience

96   James L. Crenshaw as captives, and the harsh conditions when trying to take back their land from squatters who had occupied it during the absence of the former owners. The story of the attempt to restore normalcy fails to hide the disquietude over the disparity between present reality and the memory of past splendor. And yet nothing in canonical wisdom seems to reflect either the excitement or the sorrow associated with this event when priests began to assume some of the authority once relegated to chieftains who descended from David. The third “moment” appears to be more promising to those seeking historical catalysts for sapiential teachings. The controversy over foreign wives during the administrations of Ezra and Nehemiah may have given rise to the warnings in Prov 1–​9 about a “foreign woman.” Even here, however, one must be cautious, for fear of foreign women was not unique to sages in the Bible. Furthermore, the emphasis on observing torah under Ezra’s leadership may have influenced sages who composed a few teachings in the initial collection of instructions in Proverbs. His almost single-​minded concentration on observing torah may have influenced Ben Sira two centuries later, although he is almost completely silent about specifics of the Mosaic legislation. For Ben Sira, torah and wisdom are virtually identical. With the fourth “moment,” researchers hit pay dirt. The seductive power of Hellenism, particularly for young men attracted to athletic competition, was nearly irresistible. Sages therefore were forced to come to terms with a threat to traditional values. Even the temporary victory in battle under Judas Maccabeus and his sons, together with the brief Hasmonean dynasty, did little to lessen the attraction of Greek culture for many. Surprisingly, unlike the author of the Testament of Job, sages did not avail themselves of athletic imagery when describing moral development. A notable shift in the economy arrived with the minting of coins and vast mercantile ventures. Qoheleth’s reaction was a call to reality: money, he argued, is not the “be all and end all” of existence. It cannot be taken with one at death, and there is no assurance that God will let one enjoy it during the few days allotted him or her. In short, life has neither meaning nor profit. Both Ben Sira and the author of Wisdom of Solomon did their best to elevate Hebraic teaching without excluding insights from a rival culture. Even then, however, Ben Sira adopted a Greek rhetorical device to praise ancient heroes, resorted to a philosophical formula to speak of the universal sovereignty of the Lord, and showed preference for some Greek practices over traditional ones. For the author of Wisdom of Solomon, the task was primarily to salvage canonical teaching while remaining wholly immersed in an entirely different intellectual environment. Just like Ben Sira, he endeavored to magnify Yahweh as merciful, even the divine treatment of the Egyptians who had oppressed early Israelites. This author did not hesitate to accept the Stoic answer to the existence of evil, to promote the four cardinal virtues, and to endorse a concept of an inherited soul. The sages at Qumran introduced apocalyptic eschatology and the notion of mystery as the proper object of meditation, possibly as a reaction to corruption in the high priesthood and sectarian conflict that placed them at a disadvantage. In at least one

Wisdom Traditions and the Writings    97 way, they thought of themselves as special: Yahweh endowed their teacher with secret knowledge.

Significance In the middle of the twentieth century, prominent theologians seized the catchy phrase “mighty acts of God” to encapsulate a theory of saving history as an expression of biblical uniqueness. That approach dismissed wisdom literature as foreign to Yahwism because the special features of two divisions of the canon, Torah and Prophecy, were missing (e.g., Moses, the patriarchs, David, providential history). Above all, wisdom literature in the Protestant canon was silent about Yahweh’s choice of Israel for special destiny. This theology flourished just when discoveries of literature from Egypt and Mesopotamia very similar to the Bible exposed what has been called a common theology in the ancient Near East. In this situation, proponents of saving history were less and less convincing. Wisdom literature made no claims about God and the historical process that stretched credulity to the breaking point. It appealed to those who preferred a rational approach to things. In place of a theory of special providence directed at one nation, it introduced natural theology into the discussion. This type of thinking appealed to a radically changing ethos in higher education. The proliferation of departments of religious studies, the emphasis on classical texts in literature departments, and existential philosophy brought change in which books such as Job and Ecclesiastes were preferred to Torah and Prophecy. Historical events again and again have encouraged thinking people to look at the sages’ attempt to interpret the anomalies encountered almost daily. Tsunamis, earthquakes, genocide, and never-​ending wars have made theodicy the pressing concern of theists. For many, belief in God has become difficult; belief in meaning, almost impossible. Hence the Job-​like works by Goethe, Blake, MacLeish, Peretz, Wiesel, and countless others, plus the many expressions of admiration for Qoheleth among literati. The extraordinary appeal of “practical” wisdom in Proverbs and Sirach has not disappeared either. How else can one explain the popularity of Dale Carnegie’s advice on how to win friends and influence people and of newspaper columnists like Ann Landers and Dear Abby? Many people hunger for answers to simple problems of daily life just as they did in the ancient world. Wisdom literature has not lost its appeal to ordinary people and to intelligentsia, but what does it teach us? At a minimum, to test our notions of God in the light of new information, to open ourselves to cultural novelty while remaining faithful to core traditions, and to be content with provisional answers to life’s mysteries. In the end we may join the ancient sage in admitting that there are three things too wonderful for us, four we cannot comprehend: the flight of an eagle, a snake’s movement on a rock, a ship’s progress in the sea, and sexual desire and its fulfillment (Prov 30:18–​19). Like these four, God leaves no “footprints” enabling us to unravel divine activity, however much we try.

98   James L. Crenshaw The imaginative thinker who attempted to interpret this numerical proverb ends up by distorting it (Wis 5:9–​12). Mystery lingers, as does wonder.

Bibliography Baines, John. 1992. “Literacy.” ABD 4:333–​337. Carr. David M. 2006. Writing on the Tablet of the Heart. New York: Oxford University Press. Civil, Miguel. 1992. “Education.” ABD 2:301–​305. Collins, John J. 1997. Jewish Wisdom in the Hellenistic Age. OTL. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox. Crenshaw, James L. 1998. Education in Ancient Israel. ABRL. New York: Doubleday. Crenshaw, James L. 2010. Old Testament Wisdom. 3rd ed. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox. Davies, Philip R. 1998. Scribes and Schools. LAI. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox. Fox, Michael V. 1977. “Frame-​Narrative and Composition in the Book of Qohelet.” HUCA 48:83–​106. Harris, Rivkah. 1990. “The Female ‘Sage’ in Mesopotamian Literature (with an Appendix on Egypt).” In The Sage in Israel and the Ancient Near East, edited by L. G. Perdue and J. G. Gammie, 3–18. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns. Lemaire, Andre. 1992. “Education.” ABD 2:305–​312. Lichtheim, Miriam. 1973. Ancient Egyptian Literature. Berkeley: University of California Press. Lichtheim, Miriam. 1997. Moral Values in Ancient Egypt. OBO 155. Fribourg, Germany: University Press. Millard, A. R. 1992. “Literacy.” ABD 4:337–​340. Oeming, Manfred. 2008. “Wisdom as a Hermeneutical Key to the Book of Psalms.” In Scribes, Sages, and Seers, edited by L. G. Perdue, 154–​162. Göttingen, Germany:  Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. Perdue, Leo G., ed. 2008. Scribes, Sages, and Seers. FRLANT 219. Göttingen, Germany: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. Perdue, Leo G., and Gammie, John G., eds. 1990. The Sage in Israel and the Ancient Near East. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns. Rowe, Ignacio Marquez. 2008. “Scribes, Sages, and Seers in Ugarit.” In Scribes, Sages, and Seers, edited by L. G. Perdue, 95–​118. Göttingen, Germany: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. Saldarini, Anthony J. 1992. “Scribes.” ABD 5:1012–​1016. Shupak, Nili. 1993. Where Can Wisdom Be Found? OBO 130. Fribourg, Germany: University Press. Toorn, Karel van der. 2007. Scribal Culture and the Making of the Hebrew Bible. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Whybray, R. N. 1974. The Intellectual Tradition in the Old Testament. BZAW 135. Berlin: de Gruyter.

Chapter 7

Ap o caly p tic V i si ons a nd Revi sions of t h e E nd i n the Writ i ng s Bennie H. Reynolds III

Within the Writings (kĕtubim) of the Hebrew Bible one finds some of the earliest well-​developed evidence for a literary genre that modern scholars label “apocalypse.” Apocalypses are revelations that share a distinct set of formal and thematic features. The genre developed in Hellenistic times and the book of Daniel contains some of the best examples of it. While our knowledge of the genre has grown considerably in the last half-​century, we still know comparatively little about the writers and communities behind the texts. This chapter attempts to examine a religious practice that was important for those authors and communities. One of the most prominent features of apocalypses, both in terms of form and content, is a preoccupation with time. From a formal perspective, the transcendental realities revealed by apocalypses nearly always envision eschatological salvation (Collins 2016: 5). In other words, the “end times” are virtually always a formal component of the texts. But apocalypses also seek, in a variety of other ways, to impose organization and control on history. They often organize the history of the world (or a subset thereof) into a set of finite periods or epochs. For example, Dan 7 narrates the world’s history with a “four kingdoms” motif and the Apocalypse of Weeks (1 Enoch 93:1–​10; 91:11–​17) divides the world’s events into ten “weeks.” In doing so, these texts suggest that while this world might appear to be full of meaningless and/​or endless suffering for the righteous, history is both purposeful and under the complete control of the deity. Those suffering in present circumstances can take heart that there is a defined limit to their suffering. Apocalypses present literary accounts of human visionaries who have peered through the thin veil separating this world and the next and have seen that history is not chaos—​ it is carefully orchestrated. The apocalyptic obsession with controlling time brings with it some associated challenges for both the writers and the communities that read these texts. Since

100   Bennie H. Reynolds III apocalyptic writers often describe (and predict) the periods of the earth’s history—​and especially of the earth’s final events—​in such precise terms, they produce revelations that are often contradicted by the course of history known to the communities that read them. In other words, the apocalyptic obsession to control history inevitably provides the details that doom their histories. But rather than giving up on failed prophecies, ancient apocalyptic writers and communities, like their modern counterparts, often engaged in a process to revise and update them. This process of revision was sometimes accomplished through revelatory exegesis:  producing a new revelation through the interpretation of an older revelation. In this chapter, I highlight the process of revelatory exegesis in several ancient Jewish apocalypses. I suggest that this process provides us with critical information about the history of apocalypticism, because it not only informs us about the literary features of texts but also informs us about a concrete religious practice used by the writers and readers of apocalypses. Apocalypses present us with few opportunities to step into the world behind the text and learn about how apocalyptic communities actually practiced their religion. Examining the space between visions and revisions affords us such an opportunity. Before analyzing the relevant texts, however, it will be profitable to provide a more complete description of the genre and to better contextualize the Daniel apocalypses in their canonical and literary-​historical settings.

Apocalypse in Modern Scholarship At the beginning of this chapter, I indicated that apocalypses are revelations that share a distinct set of formal and thematic features. In this section I will define the distinctive features in greater detail. The modern, critical study of ancient apocalypses traces back to the work of German scholar Friedrich Lücke (1852). In the early nineteenth century, he analyzed the New Testament Apocalypse of John (book of Revelation) by comparing it to contemporary (mostly Jewish) compositions with which it shared major themes and motifs, for example, a pronounced eschatology. In other words, he made the first attempt to define an apocalyptic genre and to make a claim about which texts belong to it. Scholarly progress in refining Lücke’s model was slow in Europe and the United States until Klaus Koch put a finer point on the most crucial methodological considerations for understanding apocalypses: “If we are to succeed at all in the future in arriving at a binding definition of apocalyptic, a starting point in form criticism and literary and linguistic history is, in the nature of things, the only one possible” (1970:  23). More than anyone else during that time or since, John J. Collins has taken up Klaus Koch’s methodological imperatives and produced comparative literary work that has defined the field for his generation. Collins spearheaded a working group within the Society of Biblical Literature that spent several years comparing evidence from ancient Jewish and Christian texts. They established a working definition of apocalypse that enjoys

Apocalyptic Visions and Revisions of the End in the Writings    101 consensus support among scholars (DiTommaso 2007: 238–​247; Reynolds 2011: 31–​32). The definition is not, however, an end in itself. It represents a protocol for how to gather relevant evidence. It helps us to group data sets that are neither too small to be representative nor too large to maintain internal consistency. An apocalypse is: A genre of revelatory literature with a narrative framework, in which a revelation is mediated by an otherworldly being to a human recipient, disclosing a transcendent reality which is both temporal, insofar as it envisages eschatological salvation, and spatial, insofar as it involves another, supernatural world. (Collins 1998: 5)

In addition to this basic and formal definition, Collins and his group called attention to the fact that apocalypses generally appear in two basic types (or, two basic story plots): otherworldly journeys (in which a visionary is, for example, transported through the realms of heaven) and historical reviews (in which, for example, a prophecy recounts important events on earth from its beginnings until its end). More recently, Reynolds (2011) has argued that distinguishing between symbolic and nonsymbolic apocalypses provides additional insight into the poetics of the genre. In addition to their form, plot, and poetics, many apocalypses share a common set of themes and motifs. For example, the texts are often pseudepigraphic (written in the name or the voice of a famous figure from the past). In addition, they regularly describe history in neatly organized and distinctly labeled periods—​often within the context of ex-​eventu (after-​the-​fact) prophecies. Apocalypses feature robust angel/​demonologies and they devote considerable attention to eschatological events (accounts of how the world will end), especially concerning the judgment of the wicked and the resurrection (even angelification) of the righteous in the next world. In this respect, apocalypses are often characterized by thought that is both predestinarian and dualistic (in other words, apocalyptic views of the cosmos, of humans, and of ethics generally reflect a kind of binary thought that, in the words of Carol Newsom, “emphasizes clarity at the expense of nuance and ambiguity” (2014: 213). Examples are readily available in the contrasts between light and darkness, evil and righteousness, heaven and earth, and so on, found in apocalypses. Apocalypses always claim to disclose hidden knowledge and, in doing so, make special claims as authoritative literature. The genre also places special emphasis on scribes and books. Indeed, as Carol Newsom writes, “While all genres of writing were composed by scribes, it is largely only in apocalyptic literature that the figure of the scribe and his privileged access to knowledge is foregrounded” (2014: 212). These themes and motifs are important because they form a matrix by which we can compare the apocalyptic thought found in formal apocalypses to the apocalyptic thought that emerges from other contemporary literary genres. For example, while texts like the War Scroll (1Q33) and the Pesharim do not share the literary form of apocalypses, they espouse a worldview that is commensurate with the worldview found in literary apocalypses. They bear witness to apocalypticism in Hellenistic times.

102   Bennie H. Reynolds III

Context: Canonical, Literary-​Historical It might seem odd to discuss apocalyptic traditions in the context of the biblical Writings. In the Protestant and Catholic biblical canons, there are no apocalypses among the writings. Within those Christian traditions, the book of Daniel is placed alongside Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel in the Major Prophets. It is true that some Psalms feature language that describes the destruction of the wicked and the reward of the righteous. The language of retributive justice is certainly at home in apocalyptic texts, but it is not enough of a reason to describe those Psalms as “apocalyptic.” If that were the case, it would be necessary to categorize nearly every prophetic book as apocalyptic as well. In the Jewish (Hebrew) Bible (Tanakh), however, the book of Daniel is placed among the Kᵊtuḇim. The Rabbis did not include it among the Writings based on its apocalyptic content. It was grouped with Ezra, Nehemiah, and Chronicles based on its purported historical content. For this reason, those texts contribute little to our understanding of apocalyptic traditions in Hellenistic times. Other texts from among the Writings contain features that can contribute to our understanding of apocalyptic literature. Some scholars have called attention to the possible connections between Wisdom and Apocalypticism (Von Rad 1965). Books like Proverbs, Job, and Qoholet represent important Wisdom traditions in the Writings. But apocalypses are far closer to the mantic wisdom characteristic of Babylonian omen literature than to the inductive quest for wisdom that is characteristic of books like Proverbs or Qohelet (Müller 1969; Goff 2014). While it can be fruitful to compare apocalypses with the wisdom traditions of the Writings, it is more important to situate Daniel among other examples of apocalyptic literature from Hellenistic and Roman times. What follows is a succinct description of the particular texts that I compare herein.

Daniel 7 This is a symbolic, historical apocalypse produced between 167 and 164 bce. The pseudonymous Daniel describes a fantastic vision of vicious hybrid animals terrorizing the earth followed by a dramatic theophany and judgment scene. An angel interprets the vision for Daniel and provides a vague timetable for the eschaton (end of days).

Daniel 8 This is a symbolic, historical apocalypse produced between 167 and 164 bce. The pseudonymous Daniel describes a vision of animals representing earthly kingdoms. The

Apocalyptic Visions and Revisions of the End in the Writings    103 angel Gabriel interprets the vision as a description of the end of time and, unlike Dan 7, the angel makes specific correlations between beasts and kingdoms. The interpretation sets the vision far into the future from the pseudonymous Daniel, but right into the contemporary situation of the Hellenistic writer.

Daniel 9 This is a nonsymbolic, historical apocalypse produced between 167 and 164 bce. It includes a lengthy prayer that might have a separate literary history (Collins 1993: 347–​ 348). Unlike Dan 7 and 8, in which a vision provides the revelation that must be interpreted by an angel, Dan 9 describes a scenario in which a text (a previously recorded prophetic revelation) is interpreted to provide fresh revelations about the timing of God’s plans for the earth.

Daniel 10–​12 This is a long nonsymbolic, historical apocalypse produced between 167 and 164 bce (an epilogue was added in 163 bce). Unlike Dan 7 and 8, the pseudonymous Daniel gives report of a vision in which symbols are not used. Instead, Daniel sees and describes the world as known to the reader. This Daniel apocalypse offers the most detailed eschatology of them all, offering a specific time frame of the end, with an editorial correction added after the original date passed.

4QApocryphon of Jeremiah C This is a nonsymbolic, historical apocalypse similar in style to Dan 10–​12. Indeed, the book of Daniel is one of its source texts. Its literary setting appears to be in exilic times and it centers around revelations received by the prophet Jeremiah. It was probably produced in the late second century bce, during the reign of the Hasmonean king John Hyrcanus.

4th Ezra (2 Esdras 3–​14) A collection of nonsymbolic and symbolic apocalypses produced at the end of the first century ce. 4 Ezra forms a response to the national tragedy of the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in 70 ce. Ezra sees visions that are interpreted for him by the angel Uriel. Unlike other apocalypses, however, a greater emphasis is placed on Ezra’s dialogues with his angelic interpreter. By the end, Ezra becomes the interpreter of revelation for his people.

104   Bennie H. Reynolds III

4QPesher Habakkuk The first century bce Pesher Habakkuk is not an apocalypse, but it bears witness to the worldview that we call apocalypticism. Pesharim are the oldest examples of the commentary genre in Israelite/​Jewish literature, and they feature a pronounced apocalyptic eschatology (Lim 2002; Campbell 2004). The Pesher Habakkuk offers a line-​by-​line interpretation of much of the book of Habakkuk. The interpretations are grounded in the authority of a figure described as the Teacher of Righteousness (môreh haṣedek).

Is it Possible to Use Apocalypses to Reconstruct Religious Practices? I, Daniel, saw in my vision by night the four winds of heaven stirring up the great sea,3 and four great beasts came up out of the sea, different from one another. (Dan 7:2b–​3)

One of the most prominent features of Jewish apocalypses of the Hellenistic period is the use of visions (Flannery-​Dailey 2004). From Enoch’s journeys to Heaven and his tours of the celestial architecture to Daniel’s symbolic and nonsymbolic phantasms of earth’s looming upheavals, the use of visions in apocalypses is striking, especially when viewed against the books of the Jewish Bible (Niditch 1983; Perrin 2015). The signature prominence of visions within apocalypses helps to frame a critical question that I broached at the beginning of this chapter: Can we use apocalyptic visions as evidence for religious experiences/​performances in Hellenistic times? Indeed, a perennial question for scholars of ancient Jewish (and Christian) apocalypses has been this: Are the many recorded visions of Judahite literature in Hellenistic times primarily literary tropes, or are they reflections of contemporary psychoreligious performances and experiences? Can we use the apocalypses to learn something about the religious world behind the text? Renewed scholarly attention has recently been directed at this question (Stone 2011; Flannery 2014). Most recent critical scholarship has argued that apocalypses do not provide us with reliable information about the religious experiences or performances of Judeans in Hellenistic times. This view has not always been dominant. Indeed, a raft of twentieth-​century scholars, most of whom stood on the shoulders of Friedrich Schleiermacher, took great pains to emphasize the role of religious experience. Many of them found considerable evidence for religious experience/​performance in biblical books. Ann Taves describes the situation well: The idea of “religious experience” is deeply embedded in the study of religion and religions as it (religion) and they (religions) have come to be understood in the

Apocalyptic Visions and Revisions of the End in the Writings    105 modern West. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, many modernizers in the West and elsewhere advanced the idea that a certain kind of experience, whether characterized as religious, mystical, or spiritual, constituted the essence of “religion” and the common core of the world’s “religions.” This understanding of religion and the religions dominated the academic study of religion during the last century. Key twentieth century thinkers, such as Rudolph Otto, Gerardus van der Leeuw, Joachim Wach, Mircea Eliade, and Ninian Smart, located the essence of religion in a unique form of experience that they associated with distinctively religious concepts such as the sacred (Eliade 1957/​1987), the numinous (Otto 1914/​1958), or divine power (van der Leeuw 1933/​1986). (Taves 2009: 3)

Why are these approaches no longer widespread among religious studies scholars in general and biblical scholars in particular? After all, one presumes that in order for literature to have some purchase within a culture, it has to feature elements that are touchstones for readers’ ideas and experiences. In general, however, these approaches fail to account sufficiently for the literary conventions of the texts (Stone 2011: 95–​96). In what follows, I offer some examples of how the literary conventions of apocalypses make it difficult to regard them as accounts of real religious experiences and/​or performances. Apocalypses are intertextual creations. They often borrow directly and extensively from pre-​existing literary traditions. For example, the visions in Dan 7 and 8 borrow from the visions recorded in Ezek 1. In turn, the vision found in 2 Esd (4 Ezra) 12:11 alludes to Dan 7, “The eagle that you saw coming up from the sea is the fourth kingdom that appeared in a vision to your brother Daniel.” With the discovery of 4QPrayer of Nabonidus (4Q242) at Qumran, we find one of the literary sources used by the writer of Dan 4 to construct his text. And the Animal Apocalypse (1 Enoch 85–​90) presents an elaborate allegory of history that begins in the time of Adam and Eve and proceeds to retell stories of Noah and the flood, the time of the Patriarchs, the exodus, the entry into the promised land, and the building of the temple, and it eventually presents genuine apocalyptic prophecies for Hellenistic times. Virtually all of this material is sourced from pre-​existing literature. The many obvious examples of literary quotations and allusions within ancient Jewish apocalypses indicate that they are conscious, careful, and sophisticated literary creations—​not disinterested historical accounts of real religious experiences. In addition to their obvious intertextuality, the highly regimented form of apocalyptic visions indicates that they are intentional literary creations. One example of this regimented form is the way that each vision in Dan 7–​12 is introduced with the same literary formula: “In the _​_​_​year of the reign of King _​_​_​a word/​vision appeared to Daniel/​ me.” Apocalypses are also pseudepigraphic. They attribute their revelations to famous scribes and prophets of old: Daniel, Enoch, Ezra, Moses, Jeremiah, and so on. Since historical methods allow us to determine that, for example, Dan 10–​12 was produced after 167 bce and that 4 Ezra was produced after 70 ce, it is necessary to treat them as literary products created hundreds of years after the lives of the purported visionaries Daniel and Ezra.

106   Bennie H. Reynolds III Scholars can and should admit that some kernel of a writer’s own religious experience could be found in apocalyptic visions. But the highly stylized form and content of the texts provide few opportunities to distinguish these elements from the rest of the material. Of course, even if apocalypses were exclusively literary creations, reflecting no religious experiences or performances of their writers, we should expect that they nevertheless inspired religious experiences within the communities that produced and transmitted them. It is easy to observe examples of how life can imitate religious art in this way. For example, modern Pentecostal communities that practice glossolalia (“speaking in tongues”) experience powerful ecstatic states. They maintain that these ecstatic states are completely spontaneous and unique. But studies have shown how local patterns of speech and behavior within glossolalia produce learned performances. In others words, they begin as intentional creations (or learned behavior) but organically evolve into religious experiences/​performances (Tomlinson 2012).

Intertextuality as Evidence of Religious Practice in Apocalypses? In the last section, I indicated some of the literary considerations that prevent us from isolating religious experiences/​performances in apocalyptic visions. But it may be that in at least one case, the intertextualities that we find in apocalypses and apocalyptic texts may themselves be indicative of a religious practice that had special importance for apocalyptic writers: revelatory exegesis. History, and especially the end of history, is of crucial importance for apocalypses and apocalyptic texts. But what happened when the events and timelines of apocalypses and their source texts were ultimately demonstrated to be inaccurate? The writers claimed new revelations based on scriptural interpretation. In doing so, they revised their apocalyptic predictions of the end times. Apocalyptic literature, like most Jewish literature in Hellenistic times, interprets scripture prolifically (Jassen 2014). In the majority of cases, literary apocalypses creatively quote, allude to, rewrite, and allegorize scriptural narratives. In the case of Dan 9, however, we find an example of explicit exegesis that provides us with an important example of “revelatory exegesis” that is used to update a failed prophecy. Daniel 9 opens with Daniel giving a first-​person account of how he read the book of Jeremiah in order to determine the number of years of punishment that the deity had specified for Jerusalem: “In the first year of Darius son of Ahasuerus, by birth a Mede, who became king over the realm of the Chaldeans—​in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, perceived in the books the number of years that, according to the word of the LORD to the prophet Jeremiah, must be fulfilled for the devastation of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years” (Dan 9:1–​2). Undoubtedly, the pseudonymous Daniel (and the unknown Hellenistic writer) are interpreting Jer 25:11–​12 and Jer 29:10–​14. But these texts from Jeremiah could have presented significant challenges to a Jewish

Apocalyptic Visions and Revisions of the End in the Writings    107 reader in the time of the Seleucid empire. Jeremiah’s prophecy claims that after seventy years of exile, YHWH had “plans for your welfare and not for harm.” The deity would, after a limited period of punishment, “give you a future with hope” and “restore your fortunes.” For thus says the LORD: Only when Babylon’s seventy years are completed will I visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the LORD, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart, I will let you find me, says the LORD, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, says the LORD, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile. (Jer 29:10–​14)

It would have been readily evident to any Hellenistic-​era writer in Judea, and especially to those living during the reign of the Seleucid king Antiochus IV Epiphanes, that the promises of this prophecy had not materialized according to its proposed timeline. Evidence from other, contemporary texts indicates as much. The Apocalypse of Weeks ignores any notion of a postexilic restoration, and the Animal Apocalypse regards all of the offerings made in Second Temple times as unclean (Collins 1993: 359). The writer of Daniel solves the problem of Jeremiah’s inaccuracy in an ingenious way. Daniel receives a new revelation when the angel Gabriel helps him understand the hidden meaning of Jeremiah—​a meaning that even Jeremiah could not understand. Jeremiah received a prophecy that indicated a punishment of seventy years, but Gabriel reveals to Daniel that the true meaning of the phrase šibʿîm šānāh “seventy years” is actually šābuʿîm šibʿāh “seventy weeks (of years)” (Collins 1993: 352–​354). Thus, Gabriel reveals to Daniel that the true distance between the exile and the restoration would be seventy years times seven (490 years). If the prediction is calculated from the time of the Babylonian exile, it places the end of God’s judgment (and the coming of the “son of man”) in the late second or early first century bce. This date is far in the future from the perspective of the pseudonymous character Daniel. But it is in the relatively near future from the perspective of the Hellenistic-​era writer and readers of Dan 9. Importantly, the angel Gabriel expands the meaning of Jeremiah’s prophecies to include eschatological events, bringing the apocalypse within the potential lifespans of those who heard or read Dan 9: “Seventy weeks (of years) are decreed for your people and your holy city: to finish the transgression, to put an end to sin, and to atone for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness” (Dan 9:24). Gabriel even provides a brief ex-​eventu prophecy detailing the history of the seventy weeks of years (Dan 9:25–​27). This expansion of Jeremiah’s prophecy allows the writer to reorganize history into neat periods, which is a hallmark of apocalyptic time. Apocalyptic thought imbues the seemingly random and tragic flow of earthly events with an organization that gives them meaning.

108   Bennie H. Reynolds III In Dan 9 we do not find evidence for a vision experienced by the historical figure Daniel or by the book of Daniel’s Hellenistic-​era writer. We do, however, find evidence for a religious practice of the real Hellenistic-​era writer: revelatory exegesis. The writer took a prophecy, isolated one element of it, and reinterpreted it in order to produce a new and relevant revelation for his current context. He used revelatory exegesis to revise a failed prophecy. We very likely find another example of revelatory exegesis in Dan 12:11–​ 13, which also provides a further example of a revision for a failed prediction about the future. Daniel 12:11 makes a very precise claim about the end of days. According to the text, the number of days that would pass between the time that the abomination of desolation (a statue of Zeus Olympias) is installed in the Jerusalem temple by Antiochus IV Epiphanes and the coming of the “end of days” would be 1,290 days. Go your way, Daniel, for the words are to remain secret and sealed until the time of the end. Many shall be purified, cleansed, and refined, but the wicked shall continue to act wickedly. None of the wicked shall understand, but those who are wise shall understand. From the time that the regular burnt offering is taken away and the abomination that desolates is set up, there shall be one thousand two hundred ninety days. (Dan 12:9–​11)

But the writer of another of Daniel’s visions had already made a prediction about these same events. In Dan 8:13–​14, the visionary claims: Then I heard a holy one speaking, and another holy one said to the one that spoke, “For how long is this vision concerning the regular burnt offering, the transgression that makes desolate, and the giving over of the sanctuary and host to be trampled?” And he answered him, “For two thousand three hundred evenings and mornings; then the sanctuary shall be restored to its rightful state.”

Thus, Dan 12:11 appears to revise the apocalyptic prophecy of earth’s final days in Dan 8:4 from 1,150 to 1,290 days. But the revision process did not end there, as the earth obviously persisted more than 1,290 days after Antiochus’s abomination of desolation. It appears that an editor (or possibly the writer) recalculated the date once more after the prophecy failed again. Daniel 12:12–​13 claims, “Happy are those who persevere and attain the thousand three hundred thirty-​five days. But you, go your way, and rest; you shall rise for your reward at the end of the days.” In this passage we find a promise of resurrection for the visionary Daniel, but it comes 45 days after the initial prophecy in Dan 12:11 indicated. The final period of earth has been extended from 1,290 days to 1,335 days. It appears that the editor may have updated the prophecy through revelatory exegesis. In this case, the text that helps to provide the new revelation may be Hab 2:3. “For there is still a vision

Apocalyptic Visions and Revisions of the End in the Writings    109 for the appointed time; it speaks of the end, and does not lie. If it seems to tarry, wait for it; it will surely come, it will not delay.” In this passage, Habakkuk uses the word ḥākāh to encourage its reader to “wait” for the end. Daniel 12:12 uses the same root to describe the perseverance required by the righteous, “Happy are those who wait (hamḥakeh) and attain the thousand three hundred thirty-​five days. The frequent allusions to Hab 2:3 in Daniel’s apocalyptic prophecies (8:17, 11:27, 35) seem to indicate that it provides the matrix for interpreting the final gloss of Daniel’s apocalyptic prophecy in 12:12–​13 (Collins 1993: 401).

Revisionist History and Revelatory Exegesis in Other Apocalyptic Texts In the book of Daniel, the examples of revelatory exegesis that we examined allowed the writer to update failed prophecies. We find the same phenomenon in other apocalypses. The writer of the first century ce apocalypse 4 Ezra (2 Esd 3–​14) read the book of Daniel and found the need to update it in order to make it relevant for their later context. In the same way that the writer of Daniel isolated a single phrase from Jeremiah (“seventy years”), the writer of 4 Ezra isolates one feature of the prophecy from Dan 7: the fourth beast. An angel tells Ezra, “This is the interpretation of this vision that you have seen: The eagle that you saw coming up from the sea is the fourth kingdom that appeared in a vision to your brother Daniel. But it was not explained to him as I now explain to you or have explained it” (2 Esd 12:11–​12). In Dan 7, the fourth kingdom of earth, which appears as a sort of hybrid beast (or Mischwesen) represented the kingdom of Greece (Macedonia). For a writer like the author of 4 Ezra, living in the last half of the first century ce, such an interpretation would have been impossible. Daniel 7 was written at the beginning of the second century bce and its writer expected cataclysmic events to take place during the reign of a Seleucid (Macedonian) king. But the end of times did not follow the reign of a Seleucid king. The Seleucids disappeared and the world kept turning. The writer of 4 Ezra lived in Roman times and lived through the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in 70 ce. He would have surely expected that Rome would be the final earthly kingdom that was to be defeated once and for all by the forces of righteousness. So he reinterprets the fourth beast of Daniel as a representation of Rome instead of Greece. In other words, he revises the failed prophecy found in Dan 7 to make it relevant for his contemporary situation. The revision of the prophecy is made clear in the way that the angel’s interpretation of the vision recognizes specific historical figures. For example, it notes the long reign of Caesar Augustus (27 bce–​14 ce) in 12:15. It also describes one of the “large heads” of the eagle as dying in his bed in 12:26, a clear reference to Vespasian (69–​79 ce), who did die in his bed. 4 Ezra is not the only text to revise a prophecy of Daniel once it had failed.

110   Bennie H. Reynolds III The Apocryphon of Jeremiah is a nonsymbolic apocalypse found among the Dead Sea Scrolls. It is highly fragmentary and likely dates to the rule of the Hasmonean king John Hyrcanus (134–​104 bce). The Apocryphon of Jeremiah presents a prophecy that appears to renarrate a period of history described in Dan 10–​12 (especially 11:30–​35), including the persecutions of Antiochus IV Epiphanes and its aftermath. In doing so, it sometimes mirrors the language of Daniel quite closely. For example, it uses the same 490-​year scheme to organize the history of the world. It describes in the past tense (hanôplîm bĕḥereb “those felled by the sword”) a group that Dan 11:34 describes in the future tense: wĕnikšĕlū bĕḥereb “they will fall by the sword.” It describes mĕrîšîʿē bĕrît “those who have violated the covenant” in precisely the same terms as Dan 11:32. It also provides a similar description of maṣdîqē hārabîm “those who lead many to righteousness” in Dan 12:3 as hamaṣdiqim “those who lead to righteousness.” Of course, if the Apocryphon of Jeremiah was written between 134 and 104 bce, then Daniel’s prophecy of 490 years should have already come to fruition. This is why “those felled by the sword” transfers from future to past tense. The fact that the prophecy had expired and that the Apocryphon of Jeremiah nevertheless appears to pattern part of its apocalyptic prophecy on Dan 10–​12 seems to indicate that the writer of the Apocryphon arrives at a new and updated apocalyptic prophecy through revelatory exegesis of Daniel. The writer of the Apocryphon may be revising Daniel’s apocalyptic prophecy to allow for a fresh opportunity to point to the real end of times in (or near) his own lifetime. Literary apocalypses are not the only Hellenistic texts that use revelatory exegesis to revise prophetic predictions toward apocalyptic ends. A  noteworthy example of this phenomenon is the first-​century bce Pesher Habakkuk (1QpHab) found at Qumran. Pesharim employ interpretative and hermeneutical techniques already known from other ancient Near Eastern literature, especially the literature of divination, that is, omen lists (Lange 2005; Nissinen 2009). Pesharim present examples of deductive, rather than intuitive divination. Many Pesharim produce their commentaries line by line. The basic procedure they employ is to quote a portion of an authoritative text (often verbatim), isolate a word or phrase from the work, and then recontextualize that word into a new context (Lange 2003). Members of the Qumran community interpreted texts in a way that incorporated their meanings into the contemporary life of their community. In other words, they claimed that words spoken by the seventh-​century bce prophet Habakkuk did not actually pertain to seventh-​century Jerusalem, but to the first​century Qumran community. This is similar to how the writer of Daniel treated the book of Jeremiah or how the writer of 4 Ezra treated the book of Daniel. Unlike apocalypses, the authors of Pesharim did not claim angelic aid, but they claimed that their interpretive skill was a product of a special relationship with the deity, who inspired the interpreter to see hidden meanings within divine revelations from the past. Quite often, as is evident in the excerpt from the Pesher Habakkuk that follows, these old revelations made new are often treated as holding hidden information about the final days of the earth. And God told Habakkuk to write the things that are about to come upon the last generation, but he did not make the fulfillment of the period known to him. And when

Apocalyptic Visions and Revisions of the End in the Writings    111 it says, “so that he who runs can read it,” this refers to the Teacher of Righteousness to whom God made known all the mysterious revelations of his servants the prophets. “For a prophecy testifies of a specific period; it speaks of that time and does not deceive.” (2:3a) vacat This means that the Last Days will be long, much longer than the prophets had said; for God’s revelations are truly mysterious. (1QpHab 6:1–​8)

In this passage, the writer explicitly states that while divine words were revealed to the prophet Habakkuk, the prophet Habakkuk did not actually understand them. The writer of 4 Ezra claimed the same about Daniel. For the writer of the Pesher, Habakkuk functioned primarily as a human mouthpiece for the deity. The meaning of the revelation remained shrouded in mystery until the rise of a figure referred to by the Pesher Habakkuk as the Teacher of Righteousness (môreh haṣedek). In the passage quoted earlier, the writer quotes and then comments on two clauses from Hab 2:3. The first clause is introduced with an explicit quotation formula, wĕʾašer āmār (“And when it says”). Next, the writer isolates several words and recontextualizes them within the life of his contemporary community. This commentary procedure normally uses a formula to separate the base text from its interpretation: pišrô ʿal, roughly, “It’s meaning concerns . . .” Similar formulas (using identical terminology) are regularly used in ancient Near Eastern omen literature (Lange 2003, 2005). Indeed, it is noteworthy that this terminology is used several times within the book of Daniel. Both noun and verb forms of the root pšr are used to describe the interpretation of dreams (Dan 2 and 4) and visions (Dan 5) (Machiela 2012: 337). In the case of the Pesher Habakkuk, “he who runs” is recontextualized as the Teacher of Righteousness and the word read is endowed with implications that extend beyond the act of verbalization. While Habakkuk himself did not know it, the word read actually means “make known all the mysterious revelations of his servants the prophets.” The Pesher immediately moves to quote the next clause of Hab 2:3: “For a prophecy testifies of a specific period; it speaks of that time and does not deceive.” For a community committed to the imminent end of days, but which nevertheless experiences increased suffering and marginalization, it would be tempting to disregard promises of divine justice on a cosmic scale. The writer thus isolates the “time” reported in Hab 2:3 and recontextualizes it into the life of the Qumran community. It is no longer a vague or mysterious time. The “time” referred to by Habakkuk refers to the Last Days. Though it may seem delayed, it is not. The prophets themselves did not understand the timing, but readers can trust in the interpretation of the Teacher of Righteousness because that interpretation is no less a genuine revelation from the deity.

Apocalyptic (Re)Visions In this chapter we have encountered six examples of apocalyptic prophecies that were revised through revelatory exegesis. I  would suggest that revelatory exegesis had to

112   Bennie H. Reynolds III become an important feature of any apocalyptic worldview because of the way in which apocalyptic literature attempts to organize and control time. The specific descriptions of persons and events coupled with the clear, orderly, and sometimes audacious timetables offered within apocalyptic prophecies are often sufficiently specific that they can be disproved. In other words, apocalyptic visions have a built-​in need for revision. The same religious practice can be found extensively within modern apocalyptic movements and literature. The classic study of Leon Festinger et al (1956) documents how modern apocalyptic groups, when confronted with a failed prophecy, do not change their beliefs or their worldview. Instead, they become emboldened in their beliefs. They engage in proselytism. And they revise cataclysmic predictions in order to revitalize them. Evidence from the ancient Jewish apocalypses indicates that, just like their modern counterparts, ancient apocalyptic thinkers reacted to cognitive dissonance not by abandoning failed prophecies, but by revising the prophecies. Revisions are just as central to the apocalyptic worldview as visions. For the ancients at least, revelatory exegesis seems to have formed a key mechanism to revitalize prophecy. I suggest that it functions as more than just a literary strategy. It is a reflection of a concrete religious practice that was (and is) intrinsic to the apocalyptic worldview. We may conclude by observing how this practice is different from how other ancient Jewish writers and communities represented in the Writings reacted to cognitive dissonance. In the Wisdom literature, precious new knowledge is not gained through deductive means, but through inductive means. One observes the natural world in order to learn its patterns and to develop a certain savoir faire for living within those patterns. According to Prov 8:2–​3, Wisdom stands at every crossroads and on each hill crying out to all who will listen (i.e., to all who will pay close attention). In the books of Job and Qohelet, however, writers call into question the efficacy of the search for wisdom and, indeed, the natural order of the universe. For example, the reader of Job is confronted with a situation in which righteousness is not rewarded by the deity and Qohelet observes that the righteous and the wicked share the same eternal fate. Nevertheless, these writers appear ultimately to trust their inductive methods. Qohelet seems to actually abandon certain beliefs because they are contradicted by carefully observed evidence. For example, he never backs away from the depressing, ultimate conclusion that “all is absurdity” (Qoh 1:1). But Qohelet also recognizes that while there might not be an “ultimate” meaning or order to human life, purpose can be found in each individual moment of life. The writer concludes repeatedly: Go, eat your bread with enjoyment, and drink your wine with a merry heart; for God has long ago approved what you do. Let your garments always be white; do not let oil be lacking on your head. Enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the days of your vain life that are given you under the sun, because that is your portion in life and in your toil at which you toil under the sun. Whatever your hand finds to do, do with your might; for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going. (Qoh 9:7–​10)

Apocalyptic Visions and Revisions of the End in the Writings    113 In other words, the same careful search for wisdom that led Qohelet to question if Wisdom was efficacious in this world ultimately leads him to the conclusion that it is. The efficacy of wisdom simply functions on a moment-​by-​moment basis rather than on a universal scale. Wisdom works, as it were, on the quantum scale of life. This manner of circumspection is missing from the apocalyptic literature. Apocalypses are equally sophisticated works of literature, but their palpable sense of urgency reflects a considerably different worldview.

Bibliography Boustan, Ra’anan, and McCoullough, Patrick G. 2014. “Apocalyptic Literature and the Study of Early Jewish Mysticism.” In The Oxford Handbook of Apocalyptic Literature, edited by John J. Collins, 85–​103. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Campbell, Johnathan G. 2004. The Exegetical Texts. Companion to the Qumran Scrolls 6. London: Sheffield. Charles, R. H. 1913/​1963. Eschatology:  The Doctrine of a Future Life in Israel, Judaism and Christianity. New York: Schocken. Charles, R. H. 1920/​1975. A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Revelation of St. John. London: T&T Clark. Collins, John J. 1979. “Introduction: Towards the Morphology of a Genre.” In Semeia 14, edited by John J. Collins, 1–​19. Missoula, MO: Scholars Press. Collins, John J. 1987. “Prophecy and Fulfillment in the Qumran Scrolls.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 30:267–​278. Collins, John J. 1993. Daniel. Hermeneia. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press. Collins, John J. 1999. “Pseudepigraphy and Group Formation in Second Temple Judaism.” In Pseudepigraphic Perspectives: The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha in Light of the Dead Sea Scrolls, edited by Esther Chazon and Michael Stone, 43–​58. Studies on the Texts of the Desert of Judah 31. Leiden, the Netherlands: Brill. Collins, John J. 2002. “Temporality and Politics in Jewish Apocalyptic Literature.” In Apocalyptic in History and Tradition, edited by Christopher Rowland and John Barton, 26–​ 43. Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Academic Press. Collins, John J. 2015. Apocalypse, Prophecy, and Pseudepigraphy:  On Jewish Apocalyptic Literature. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans. Collins, John J. 2016. The Apocalyptic Imagination:  An Introduction to Jewish Apocalyptic Literature. 3rd rev. ed. Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans. Cook, Stephen. 2003. Prophecy & Apocalypticism. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press. DiTommaso, Lorenzo. 2007. “Apocalypses and Apocalypticism in Antiquity (Part 1).” Currents in Biblical Research 5:235–​286. Eddy, Samuel K. 1961. The King Is Dead: Studies in Near Eastern Resistance to Hellenism, 334–​31 b.c. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press. Festinger, Leon, Riecken, Henry, and Schachter, Stanley. 1956. When Prophecy Fails: A Social and Psychological Study of a Modern Group That Prevented the Destruction of the World. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota. Flannery, Frances. 2014. “Dreams and Visions in Jewish and Early Christian Apocalypses and Apocalypticism.” In The Oxford Handbook of Apocalyptic Literature, edited by John J. Collins, 104–​120. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

114   Bennie H. Reynolds III Flannery-​Dailey, Frances. 2004. Dreamers, Scribes, and Priests: Jewish Dreams in the Hellenistic and Greco-​Roman Eras. Journal for the Study of Judaism Supplements 90. Leiden, the Netherlands: Brill. Fletcher-​Lewis, Crispin. 2008. “Religious Experience and the Apocalypses.” In Experientia, edited by F. Flannery, R. Werline, and C. Shantz, vol. 1, 125–​145. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature. Goff, Matthew. 2014. “Wisdom and Apocalypticism.” In The Oxford Handbook of Apocalyptic Literature, edited by John J. Collins, 52–​68. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Hartman, Louis, and DiLella, Alexander. 1977. The Book of Daniel. Anchor Bible 23. Garden City, NJ: Doubleday. Horsley, Richard. 2007. Scribes, Visionaries and the Politics of Second Temple Judea. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox. Horsley, Richard. 2010. Revolt of the Scribes: Resistance and Apocalyptic Origins. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press. James, William. 2002/​1902. The Varieties of Religious Experience: A Study in Human Nature. Mineola, NY: Dover. Jassen, Alex P. 2014. “Scriptural Interpretation in Early Jewish Apocalypses.” In The Oxford Handbook of Apocalyptic Literature, edited by John J. Collins, 69–​84. Oxford:  Oxford University Press. Koch, Klaus. 1970. The Rediscovery of Apocalyptic: A Polemical Work on a Neglected Area of Biblical Studies and Its Damaging Effects on Theology and Philosophy. Studies in Biblical Theology 22. Naperville, IL: Alec Allenson. Kratz, Reinhard. 1990. Translatio Imperii. Untersuchungen zu den aramäischen Danielerzählungen und ihrem theologischtlichen Umfeld. Wissenschaftliche Monographien zum Alten und Neuen Testament 63. Neukirchen-​Vluyn, Germany: Neukirchener Verlag. Lange, Armin. 2003. “Interpretation als Offenbarung: Zum Verhältnis von Schriftauslegung und Offenbarung in apokalyptischer und nichtapokalyptischer Literatur.” In Wisdom and Apocalypticism in the Dead Sea Scrolls and in the Biblical Tradition, edited by Florentino García Martínez, 17–​ 33. Bibliotheca ephemeridum theologicarum lovaniensium 168. Leuven, Belgium: Peeters. Lange, Armin. 2005. “Reading the Decline of Prophecy.” In Reading the Present in the Qumran Library: The Perception of the Contemporary by Means of Scriptural Interpretations, edited by Kristin De Troyer and Armin Lange, 181–​191. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature. Lim, Timothy H. 2002. Pesharim. Companion to the Qumran Scrolls 3. London: Sheffield. Lücke, Friedrich. 1852. Versuch einer vollstaendingen Einleitung in die Offenbarung des Johannes. Bonn, Switzerland: Eduard Weber. Machiela, Daniel A. 2012. “The Qumran Pesharim as Biblical Commentaries. Historical Context and Lines of Development.” Dead Sea Discoveries 19:313–​362. Merkur, Dan. 2004. “The Visionary Practices of Jewish Apocalyptists.” In Psychology and the Bible Vol. 2, From Genesis to Apocalyptic Vision, edited by J. H. Ellens and W. G. Rollins, 317–​ 347. Westport, CT: Praeger. Müller, Hans Peter. 1969. “Magisch-​mantische Weisheit und die Gestalt Daniels.” Ugarit Forschungen 1:79–​94. Newsom, Carol. 2014. “The Rhetoric of Jewish Apocalyptic Literature.” In The Oxford Handbook of Apocalyptic Literature, edited by John J. Collins, 201–​217. Oxford:  Oxford University Press.

Apocalyptic Visions and Revisions of the End in the Writings    115 Niditch, Susan. 1983. The Symbolic Vision in Biblical Tradition. Harvard Semitic Monographs 30. Chico, California: Scholars Press. Nissinen, Martti. 2009. “Pesharim as Divination: Qumran Exegesis, Omen Interpretation, and Literary Prophecy.” In Prophecy after the Prophets? The Contribution of the Dead Sea Scrolls to the Understanding of Biblical and Extra-​Biblical Prophecy, edited by Kristin De Troyer and Armin Lange with assistance of Lucas Schulte, 43–​60. Contributions to Biblical Exegesis and Theology 52. Leuven, Belgium: Peeters. Perrin, Andrew B. 2015. The Dynamics of Dream Vision Revelation in the Aramaic Dead Sea Scrolls. Journal of Ancient Judaism Supplements 19. Göttingen, Germany: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. Portier-​Young, Anathea. 2011. Apocalypse against Empire:  Theologies of Resistance in Early Judaism. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans. Rad, Gerhard von. 1965. Old Testament Theology: The Theology of Israel’s Prophetic Tradition. Vol. II. New York: Harper & Row. Rad, Gerhard von. 2014. “Jewish Apocalyptic Literature as Resistance Literature.” In The Oxford Handbook of Apocalyptic Literature, edited by John J. Collins, 145–​162. Oxford:  Oxford University Press. Reynolds, Bennie H. III. 2011. Between Symbolism and Realism: The Use of Symbolic and Non-​ Symbolic Language in Ancient Jewish Apocalypses 333–​63 B.C.E. Journal of Ancient Judaism Supplements 8. Göttingen, Germany: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. Robbins, Thomas, and Palmer, Susan J. 1997. Millennium, Messiahs, and Mayhem: Contemporary Apocalyptic Movements. New York: Routledge. Segal, Alan. 2008. “The Afterlife as Mirror of the Self.” In Experientia, edited by F. Flannery, R. Werline, and C. Shantz, vol. 1, 19–​40. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature. Shantz, Colleen. 2008. “The Confluence of Trauma and Transcendence in the Pauline Corpus.” In Experientia, edited by F. Flannery, R. Werline, and C. Shantz, vol. 1, 193–​206. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature. Stone, Michael E. 2011. Ancient Judaism: New Visions and Views. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans. Sweeney, Marvin. 2005. Form and Intertextuality in Prophetic and Apocalyptic Literature. Forschungen zum Alten Testament 45. Tubingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck. Taves, Ann. 2009. Religious Experience Reconsidered: A Building-​Block Approach to the Study of Religion and Other Special Things. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Tomlinson, Matt. 2012. “God Speaking to God: Translation and Unintelligibility at a Fijian Pentecostal Crusade.” The Australian Journal of Anthropology 23:274–​289.

Chapter 8

P ostexili c Pro se Traditions i n t h e Writi ng s Novella Writers, Storytellers, and History Writers Thomas M. Bolin

To speak of prose traditions in the Writings at all raises a number of problems that I want to foreground in this chapter because they require me to reconfigure the texts in the Writings in order to speak about their different prose traditions. Such rearrangement is nothing new for anybody trying look at genre similarities among and between the books of the Hebrew Bible. The arrangers of the canon seem to have cared or known little about many of the things that we think about today. The category of “Writings” (kethuvim) is itself a sort of catch-​all for those books of the Hebrew Bible that are neither Law (torah) nor Prophets (nevi’im). The books of the Writings are traditionally arranged into three subgroups, each of which doesn’t track ideally with an investigation of their prose traditions. Job is grouped with Psalms and Proverbs as poetry, these books being distinctive with their own cantillation and page layout in ancient manuscripts (Dobbs-​ Allsopp 2015). But this overlooks the prose story that frames the poetic portions of Job and gives the poems in Job 3–​42 the book’s entire narrative rationale. Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Qohelet, and Esther are grouped together, apparently because of their liturgical use, each being read on a particular festival. This grouping also makes no distinction between prose texts (Esther, Ruth, and Qohelet) and poetry (Song of Songs, Lamentations). The remaining books in the writings, Daniel, Ezra-​Nehemiah, and 1–​2 Chr, are a mixture of genealogy, narrative, historical prose, and apocalyptic in Hebrew and Aramaic. Added to this literary thicket are the historical obstacles at work in our knowledge of the Persian period in Judah, one of the two historical eras that constitute the biblical postexilic epoch. For decades, the Persian period was largely ignored in both textual and archaeological studies because the biblical narrative’s historical material was

Postexilic Prose Traditions in the Writings    117 erroneously believed to accurately reflect the history of Iron Age Israel (Bolin 1996). For textual scholars, that meant that the Persian period was the denouement to Israelite history, when biblical books largely composed long before were given their final editorial touches, or when a handful of “late” (and hence, “less important”) biblical books were written, such as the ones discussed in this essay. Archaeologists, driven by their own religious and ideological predilections (or those of their financial backers), systematically and consistently ignored or outright destroyed Persian period evidence at sites in their desire to reach occupation levels from the so-​called Biblical period. It has only been in the last twenty-​five years that the Persian period has received sustained attention from biblical scholars and this is because of arguments that placed the composition of many biblical texts in the postexilic period (Davies 1992; Thompson 1992). Since then both biblical scholars (Grabbe 1992) and scholars of ancient Persia (Briant 2002; Kuhrt 2007) have written a great deal on the Achaemenids. Despite this increased scholarly attention, significant questions remain unanswered about much of Achaemenid rule, religion, and culture. To date, the longest Achaemenid text known is the Behistun inscription, and the overwhelming majority of extant official Persian documents (the Persepolis Fortification Tablets) are administrative. Answers to fundamental questions, such as when Zoroastrianism originated and the extent of its influence on Achaemenid religion, remain maddeningly opaque. Of necessity, scholars must rely on Greek sources for descriptions of Persian religion and culture. These texts must be read with great care, given that what they say about Persia is fraught with cultural and ideological bias. (See the essays by Harrison and Grabbe in Fitzpatrick-​McKinley 2015). With this in mind I will attempt in this chapter to navigate these shallows and obstacles in the hopes of saying something articulate and helpful about the prose traditions found in the Writings. While the bulk of my attention will be on those books that are mostly composed of prose (Ruth, Esther, Ezra-​Nehemiah, 1–​2 Chr), I will also mention briefly the prologue and epilogue of Job, which receives fuller treatment in Chapter 11 of this volume.

Writing Classes in the Postexilic Period As mentioned earlier, it was not until recently that archaeologists began sustained investigation into Persian-​era remains in Palestine. For years it was thought that there were no sizable settlements or administrative centers in Persian-​period Yehud, but the excavations at Ramat Raḥel have altered this once received opinion. What Oded Lipschits has called the “riddle” of Ramat Raḥel—​the presence of monumental remains believed to be pre-​exilic alongside many Persian-​period seals and stamped jar handles—​reveals in part some of the prior biases toward Persian-​period archaeological remains. Put simply, earlier excavators of Ramat Raḥel could not consider

118   Thomas M. Bolin the possibility that the site would have contained large, finely crafted buildings in the Persian period. The most recent excavations reveal that late monarchical-​ era structures were expanded upon in the Persian period to create a large administrative center overseeing agriculture in the Rephaim Valley just southwest of Jerusalem. This administrative center was also a palace complex with a large royal garden (Lipschits, Gadot, and Langgut 2012). Pollen analysis revealed the presence of imported trees from Persia, which the excavators use to support their claim that Ramat Raḥel was the Persian governor’s residence. If this is the case—​and it likely is—​it helps in part to explain the fact that Jerusalem itself was a relatively small site in the Persian period (Carter 1999), although later building in the city has most likely destroyed a good deal of Persian period remains (Lipschits 2009). With government administration only 4 kilometers away at Ramat Raḥel, Jerusalem would have only needed to function as a “religious” (I am aware of the anachronistic nature of this term) site. By this I mean that the scribes in Jerusalem would have been trained in writing texts that dealt specifically with temple functions. Some of these texts were certainly administrative because the temple functioned in part as a tribute site for the Achaemenids (Fried 2004; Knowles 2006). But other texts would have also have been written, read, and preserved in the Jerusalem temple, including ritual instructions and religious music. Here the heightened presence of the Levites in postexilic texts (Leuchter 2017) dovetails with the understanding of Jerusalem as a sacred city, an idea is emphasized in Ezra-​Nehemiah and 1–​2 Chr. The other postexilic prose texts under discussion in this chapter are more at home in the ambit of local cultural elites who both benefit from Persian economic policy yet also identify themselves as the cultural heirs of monarchic Judah. These cultural elites must be inferred from the presence of the Persian administrative structure found at Ramat Raḥel, the evidence of seals bearing the names of local governors, and analogous practice in other locales in the Persian Empire where more is known. The Hellenistic period is characterized by the growth of internationalism among local elites throughout the Greek oikoumene. In Yehud, Greek culture was widespread and encompassed both the wholesale adoption of Greek cultural features (language, architecture, drama, exercise) and the practice of hybridity—​the adoption of some aspects of a colonizing culture in order to resist it (Carr 2005). A parade example of the latter is the use of the Greek historiographical genre in 2 Macc to chronicle the revolt against Antiochus. David Carr describes the growth of textual culture and education among local elites in Jerusalem and environs in the Hellenistic period. The explosion of Jewish narrative writing in Greek is germane to this essay’s topic, because alternative versions of several texts in the Writings (Ezra-​Nehemiah, Esther, Daniel) exist in Greek, alongside other texts that greatly resemble texts in the Writings (e.g., Susanna, Tobit). It is no exaggeration to speak of a literary explosion in Jewish literature during the Hellenistic period, which requires us to keep two related things in mind when discussing the Writings. First, this increase in literary activity is in large part due to the growth in elite classes and their adoption of Hellenistic educational models. Second, the texts now in the Writings were not yet canonized at this time. Indeed, the idea of canonization may

Postexilic Prose Traditions in the Writings    119 itself very well be the result of Jewish adoption of Hellenistic models of textual authority (Carr 2005). Consequently, while my discussion will be limited to the books now currently in the Writings, I must necessarily refer to other literary works that date from the same period and doubtless come from the same social group.

Historiography: 1–​2 Chronicles, Ezra-​Nehemiah Insofar as ancient historiography is the use of the past to assert or reiterate views of the present, both Ezra-​Nehemiah and 1–​2 Chr qualify as history writing. Together they offer an extended, complex narrative covering an even longer temporal span (albeit shorter in written length) than the “epic” story recounted in Genesis through 2 Kgs. Both books overlap directly in that 1–​2 Chr ends with, and Ezra-​Nehemiah begins with, the decree of Cyrus to send the exiles back to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple. Whether both biblical books were written by the same author has been a matter of debate. While some still hold for a common author (Blenkinsopp 1988), the majority of scholarly opinions argue against it (Japhet 1993; Klein 2006). In this regard, Sara Japhet rightly notes that 1–​2 Chr follows in the historiographical tradition of the Deuteronomistic History, while Ezra-​Nehemiah is an attempt at a new kind of history writing in ancient Israel/​Yehud (1993: 4). 1–​2 Chronicles most likely draws on other biblical texts with the Pentateuch and 1–​ 2 Kgs being the most obvious, although some hold that the two books independently draw upon another source no longer extant (Person 2010). Discerning the motives behind the author’s retelling of these texts is an open question. It is not enough to assume that retelling means replacing (Klein 2012) or even that the retelling is a tacit critique of its source. 1–​2 Chronicles does whitewash the accounts of David in Solomon found in 1–​2 Kgs. This appears to be the beginning of a larger cultural movement beginning in the postexilic period, which will eventually give to both David and Solomon mythical and legendary qualities. The promise of an eternal Davidic kingship in 2 Sam 7/​ 1 Chr 17 eventually morphs into the hopes of a heavenly king of the Davidic house in the Dead Sea Scrolls, New Testament, and Rabbinic literature. Solomon’s wisdom and wealth in 1–​2 Kgs/​1–​2 Chr inspire the writing of pseudonymous works, such as Qohelet and the Song of Songs, as well as the creation of new stories that extol Solomon’s magical and occult powers. The glorification of kings in the distant past while retaining the Deuteronomistic History’s placement of blame for the loss of native kingship on infidelity to Yahweh is also a politically shrewd stance for the Jerusalem elites living under Persian rule to take. 1–​2 Chronicles does not soften the condemnation of false worship in 1–​2 Kgs. Sin and retribution are a major theme in them (Klein 2006). 1–​2 Chronicles adds to the necessity of worshiping Yahweh alone found in the Deuteronomistic History the additional requirement of proper worship carried out by proper personnel. It’s not

120   Thomas M. Bolin enough to worship the one God in the one temple, as Josiah did. Now worship must be done by specialists—​both priests and Levites—​whose lineage is certain. The question of lineage leads me to arguably the most distinctive feature of 1–​2 Chr: the genealogies that span 1 Chr 1–​9 and recount the lineages of the Twelve Tribes from Adam, the first person, to the return from Exile. Much scholarly attention is devoted to these genealogies, including an entire commentary in a major series (Knoppers 2003). Whether the emphasis of the genealogies is on cultic personnel (Sparks 2008) or the postexilic community (Japhet 1993) is perhaps too fine of a distinction to make, given the prevalence of both in the material. Focus on the genealogies introduces the reader to prominent features in the scholarship of the remainder of the book. The chiastic structure of the genealogy in the layout of the tribes, with Levi in the middle, clearly indicates the importance of the Levites in the remainder of the book. The presence of chiasm in the genealogies of 1 Chr 1–​9 is not distinctive to 1–​2 Chr. It is found in several other places and seems to be one of the major organizing structures in the book (Berger 2014). Attempts to date 1–​2 Chr on the basis of historical information focuses on the genealogies, with one reconstruction arguing for a Hasmonean date based on the correlation of place names in 1 Chr 1–​9 and known site settlement history (Finkelstein 2012). As is the case with 1–​2 Chr, Ezra-​Nehemiah is an amalgamation of numerous subgenres—​genealogy, folktale, archival documents in Aramaic, first-​person narrative, prayer—​arranged in a complex way so as to pair Ezra and Nehemiah as parallel figures of reform in postexilic Jerusalem. In both books, the protagonists come to Jerusalem as Persian imperial functionaries who face local opposition upon their arrival. Combined, the two men recreate Jerusalem as a holy city according to the standards of the Jerusalem temple priesthood. In the book of Ezra, Zerubbabel—​a mysterious figure who simply disappears from the narrative halfway through the book of Ezra—​rebuilds the temple and Ezra removes non-​Israelites from the Jerusalem citizenry in a “purifying” measure. Nehemiah, in the book that bears his name, is the Persian-​appointed governor who rebuilds the city wall, repopulates the city, and “purifies” economic relationships by the removal of debt slavery and time in the enforcement of the commercial bans on the Sabbath. In the same way as the rules in the Holiness Code of Lev 17–​26, holiness in Ezra-​Nehemiah is understood as a series of ever-​widening arenas in which spatial, temporal, and relational categories are defined and regulated (Douglas 1966). The temple makes the city holy. The city wall keeps out those who are not part of the community. The people who dwell in the holy city are to be themselves holy—​no intermarriage with outsiders, no commercial work on the Sabbath, no appropriation of ancestral lands from their coreligionists. These are not the only parallels between Ezra and Nehemiah. Each book is divided into two roughly equal parts. Ezra 1–​6 recounts the return of the exiles under Zerubbabel. Conflict with local elites leads to appeal to the Persian king, where archival searches reveal Cyrus’s endorsement of the Jerusalem temple. This first half of Ezra culminates in the dedication of the rebuilt temple and the celebration of Passover in Ezra 6. The remainder of the book, Ezra 7–​10, introduces Ezra, who is both “a priest and

Postexilic Prose Traditions in the Writings    121 scribe” and “learned in the words of the commandments of Yahweh and his ordinances for Israel” (Ezra 7:11). Ezra is not an appointed governor, but rather an official Persian functionary sent to enact indigenous religious laws for the returned exiles. In this respect Ezra resembles the Egyptian Udjaḥorresnet, who was physician to the Persian king Cambyses in the late sixth century bce but was sent back to Egypt by Cambyses to restore the “houses of life,” the scribal centers connected to temples in Egypt. Starting in Ezra 7:27, the narrative is in the first person, as Ezra recounts the preparations for the journey from Babylon. This return begins with a genealogy, imitating the genealogy in Ezra 1 that recounts the first return from Babylon under Zerubbabel. The remainder of the book of Ezra deals with Ezra’s identification and banishment of all foreign spouses and their offspring from the city. This banishment is performed on a day of cold winter rain, and the book ends with a list of the men who had to send away their wives and children. The book of Nehemiah begins with the widely used tale type of the faithful Jew in the court of a foreign king (more on this later). Nehemiah, the Persian king’s cupbearer, is named regional governor and sent to Jerusalem to rebuild the city wall. The first part of the book, Neh 1–​7, deals with the rebuilding of the wall in the face of potentially violent local opposition. As is the case in Ezra 1–​6 and the rebuilding of the temple, in Nehemiah the wall is successfully rebuilt and its completion marked with a liturgical procession. The parallel stories of Ezra and Nehemiah are tenuously linked by the author in just three places where mention is made of the two men being together. Each of these instances is most likely an editorial gloss. In Neh 8:9, Nehemiah is added in the list of those being present when Ezra reads the Torah to the assembled citizens in Jerusalem. Ezra’s reading of the Torah in Neh 8 has been displaced from the Ezra narrative and inserted as Neh 8–​10 for this purpose. Conversely, Ezra’s name is inserted in Neh 12:36 as leader of one of the liturgical groups during the rededication of the wall. That rededication narrative is itself a resumption of the story in Neh 7 that is interrupted by the insertion of Ezra’s reading of the Torah in Neh 8–​10 (Bolin 2012). This deliberate chronological rearrangement of two originally separate stories so as to make their protagonists parallel figures is part of the reason some of the more intractable historical puzzlers of the Bible surround Ezra-​Nehemiah and is the root of the “Who came first?” question that scholars have pondered for decades. Partial solutions involve assuming that multiple references to Artaxerxes in Ezra 7:7 and Neh 2:1 are to two different Persian kings of that name, thus reversing the order in which Ezra and Nehemiah came to Jerusalem or in emending the text of Ezra 7:7 to read “the [thirty]-​ seventh year of King Artaxerxes.” I call these solutions “partial” because they do not take into account the further problems introduced by the list of priests (especially high priests) in Neh 12. To add to these issues of what lies behind the Hebrew version of Ezra-​Nehemiah currently in the Writings are alternative and later traditions about Ezra and Nehemiah that seem to show a desire to separate the two figures. Nehemiah is mentioned in Ben Sira’s praise of the ancestors (Sir 49:13) which omits Ezra. On the other hand, the Greek 1

122   Thomas M. Bolin Esd contains parts of 2 Chr, all of the book of Ezra, and only the Ezra portions of the book of Nehemiah. There are also the apocalyptic visions attributed to Ezra in 4 Ezra, which makes him a figure similar to Daniel, another exile who is both the hero of stories and an apocalyptic visionary.

Novella and Short Story: Daniel, Esther, and Ruth The fictional narratives of the postexilic era, including those in the Writings, reflect the international world of the Persian Empire and Hellenistic oikumene. Legends, historical memories, and folk motifs are recast with a polemical edge in these stories for Diaspora readers. Before I discuss these narrative works, the term novella needs some explanation. As used by biblical scholars, novella was long a rather ill-​fitting generic designation for narratives that were longer and more tightly structured than texts that fit standard form-​critical designations. For example, exegetes disassembled the patriarchal stories in Gen 12–​36 into a group of component parts believed to have an oral or folkloristic background: place-​naming etiologies, birth announcements, trickster stories (e.g., wife-​ sister tales). By contrast, the Joseph story of Gen 37–​50 resisted being taken apart, given its long story arc of the hero lost far from home and its complex scenes of threat, rescue, deception, hidden identity, and revelation. It resembles Homer’s Odyssey more than the patriarchal tales that precede it in the book of Genesis, although there are significant differences between Gen 37–​50 and the Odyssey (Louden 2011). Consequently, by at least the middle of the twentieth century, scholars began to refer to the Joseph story as a novella (Fox 2001a). With the postexilic texts under discussion here, the designation “novella” fits a bit better because, first, there are a number of texts to place in this category (Esther, Tobit, Susanna, Joseph and Aseneth, among others) and, second, there are Greek and Latin novels that date from the Hellenistic period and later with which these postexilic Jewish narratives may be fruitfully compared. These Greco-​Roman texts use the larger cultural world of the Mediterranean oikumene as their backdrop and showcase as their heroes elites who are unwillingly thrust into the world of their Others. They are kidnapped and transferred great distances, and threatened by things that are usually beyond their social orbit: rape, murder, slavery. Gender inversion is also prevalent insofar as the protagonists are often female. In the Jewish variant of the novella, the “Other” is the larger non-​Jewish world which threatens the protagonist, also often a female (Wills 2011). Many of these Jewish novellas are set in the court of a non-​ Jewish king, where the protagonist must defend oneself and one’s Jewish identity from evil courtiers or the monarch (analysis in Wills 1990). This tale type is older than the Jewish novella. The Aramaic tale of Ahiqar recounts the tale of a wise counselor to the Assyrian king, Sennacherib, who is falsely slandered by his nephew and nearly dies after being condemned by another Assyrian king, Esharhaddon. Ahiqar’s tale is similar to

Postexilic Prose Traditions in the Writings    123 the Joseph story in Gen 37–​50, in that both heroes gain the trust of their jailer while imprisoned. Joseph too is a foreigner in the court of a powerful king. This trope gets heavy rotation in later Jewish storytelling, appearing in Daniel, Esther, Tobit, Job, and two otherwise unknown narratives partially preserved at Qumran (4Q550; Wechsler 2000). I will discuss these connections more later as I deal with Daniel, Esther, and Ruth, individually. The first half of the book of Daniel is a collection of six stories recounting the trials and triumphs of Daniel and three other Jewish exiles in the court of various foreign kings, ostensibly during the Babylonian exile. To understand how this cycle of stories comes together, I need to offer a brief summary of each. Chapter 1: Daniel, Hananiah, Azariah, and Mishael are Judean exiles brought into the royal court. They are given Babylonian names: Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. These four refuse the royal rations of Nebuchadnezzar—​not wanting to violate Jewish dietary laws—​yet they outperform all other courtiers in wisdom. Chapter 2: Nebuchadnezzar challenges his courtiers to interpret a dream. Only Daniel succeeds, with the help of Hananiah, Azariah, and Mishael, who pray and fast. The dream is similar to the series of empires described in the apocalypse of Dan 7. Nebuchadnezzar acknowledges Daniel’s god as the one high god, appoints Daniel chief of the courtiers and advances Hananiah, Azariah, and Mishael. Chapter 3: Nebuchadnezzar builds a giant golden statue of himself and commands all to worship it. Shadrach, Mesach, and Abednego (the Babylonian names of Hananiah, Azariah, and Mishael from Dan 1)  refuse to worship the statue. They are denounced by other courtiers and cast into the fiery furnace. There they are protected by an angel and Nebuchadnezzar publishes an edict decreeing death for anyone who blasphemes the Jewish god. Chapter 4: In a first-​person account, Nebuchadnezzar recounts a dream that is interpreted by Daniel (here called by his Babylonian name, Belteshazzar) in which the king is stricken mad for his pride. He repents and praises the god of Daniel. Chapter 5: Nebuchadnezzar’s son, Belshazzar is feasting and profanes the vessels of the Jerusalem temple which Nebuchadnezzar had taken. A  hand appears and writes a riddle on the wall of his palace. Of all the courtiers summoned to interpret the riddle, only Daniel succeeds and chastises Belshazzar for his pride. That night the king is killed and Darius the Persian assumes the kingship. Chapter 6: Darius’s satraps, jealous of Daniel, convince the king to decree that no one may pray to anyone except the king for thirty days. Daniel continues to pray to his god and is cast into the lion’s den. He is protected by God in the lion’s den, and the evil satraps and their families are thrown in to their deaths. Darius publishes a decree acknowledging the supreme power of Daniel’s god.

Each of these stories is an independent tale that has been edited to create this collection of stories in the first half of Daniel (Newsom 2014: 8), and they draw upon standard motifs and characters from other court stories. The tales of chapters, 2, 4, and 5 echo the Joseph novella in Gen 37–​50. There, Joseph successfully interprets dreams and is promoted to Pharaoh’s second in command. The evil courtiers in Dan 3 who scheme for the condemnation of

124   Thomas M. Bolin Shadrach, Mesach, and Abednego, as well as those satraps in Dan 6 who conspire to have Daniel condemned to the lion’s den, are parallel to the evil Haman in Esther. The stock character of the evil courtier who seeks to harm the protagonist is also at work in Ahiqar (where Ahiqar’s evil nephew conspires to have his uncle killed), in the role of the Accuser in Job 1, and by the figure of Bagosi/​Bagoas in 4Q450—​a figure who also appears in Judith (Wechsler 2000: 146–​152). Nebuchadnezzar in ­chapter 3 and Darius in ­chapter 6 are both kings who legislate apostasy and who are defied by the faithful Jewish courtiers. In c­ hapters 2, 3, 4, and 6, the king acknowledges the supreme power of the Jewish god. There are also oblique connections between the tales in Dan 1–​6 and Neo-​Babylonian and Achaemenid history. These connections lie beneath the surface of an untenable chronology in the stories—​a similar phenomenon in Ezra-​Nehemiah discussed earlier, despite the fact that Ezra-​Nehemiah is most widely understood as historiography. It should be stressed that the line between biblical historiography and storytelling is fuzzy at best. Here is the list of monarchs in Dan 1–​6: Nebuchadnezzar (Dan 1–​4) Belshazzar (Dan 5:1–​30) Darius (Dan 5:31–​6:27) Cyrus (Dan 6:28) Contrast that sequence with this historical reconstruction: Babylonian Nebuchadnezzar (604–​562 bce) Nabû-​kudurri-​uṣur Evil-​merodach (562–​560 bce) Nergal-​sherezer (560–​556 bce) Labashi-​marduk (556 bce) Nabonidus (555–​538 bce) Nabû-​naʾid whose son Bēl-​šarra-​uṣur (Belshazzar) was co-​regent. Achaemenid/​Persian Cyrus (539–​530 bce) Cambyses (530–​522 bce) Darius I (522–​486 bce) One solution to the muddled chronology in Dan 1–​6 is found in Papyrus 967, an Old Greek copy of Daniel, which rearranges ­chapters 1–​6 in order to resolve some of these inconsistencies (Collins 1993:  4–​5; McLay 2005). Modern scholarship argues convincingly that the Nebuchadnezzar in the stores of Dan 3–​5 originally had to do with Nabonidus. This is because Belshazzar, the son of Nebuchadnezzar in Dan 5, is Bēl-​šarra-​uṣur the son of Nabonidus who was his co-​regent. Also, the story of Nebuchadnezzar’s commanding worship of a blasphemous statue in Dan 3 tracks closely with The Verse Account of Nabonidus, an Akkadian text in which Babylonian

Postexilic Prose Traditions in the Writings    125 priests condemn as monstrous a temple and statue to the moon god, Šin, that Nabonidus had built in Teima. Finally, 4Q242, The Prayer of Nabonidus, is a fragmentary Aramaic text in which Nabonidus recounts being afflicted for seven years in Teima, driven from human society, and healed by a Jewish sage (summary and discussion in Beaulieu 2009). While the Babylonian names of Nebuchadnezzar (Nabû-​ kudurri-​uṣur) and Nabonidus (Nabû-​naʾid) both begin with the same theophoric element, namely the god of wisdom, Nabu, it is unlikely that stories about Nabonidus were mistakenly attributed to Nebuchadnezzar. This fluidity is further witnessed in the Old Greek of Daniel, which also contains the Prayer of Azariah, the Song of the Three Young Men, the story of Susanna, and Bel and the Dragon. Similar kinds of additions are found in the Greek text of Esther and do not only represent later “pious” attempts to make the heroes of these stories more overtly religious. They are first and foremost evidence of the irrepressible creativity of storytelling in early Judaism, a culture recycling, adapting, and creating stories about persecuted but faithful Jewish protagonists in foreign courts ruled over by a range of monarchs who fit into the role of an omnipotent ruler forced to submit to the true ruler of the universe, the god of Israel. And what is the purpose of these variant tales of faithful Jewish protagonists threatened in a foreign setting? For some, they are “finely crafted novelistic satires of resistance” (Valeta 2005: 309), straightforward stories of defiance that encourage readers to imitate the heroes and resist cultural assimilation and dominance. Postcolonial studies have taught biblical scholars to see more complexity in the relationship between conquerors and the conquered than the dichotomy between resistance and assimilation—​something that owes more to the rhetoric of 1–​2 Macc, despite the fact that the Maccabean revolutionaries themselves adopt Greek language and historiography in their revolt against “Hellenism.” The stories never outright deny the validity of empire, only of kings who do not respect the Jewish god. Carol Newsom is correct to say that the tales are only partially resistant to empire, serving to “negotiate the ideological double bind of life under Persian rule” (Newsom 2014: 17). Unlike Daniel, the remaining prose stories in the Writings do not have as complicated a prehistory. Esther is a long, complex narrative that uses and adapts the Jew in a foreign court tale type to create a compelling story with two protagonists which ends in an etiology for the Jewish festival of Purim, although some scholars think Esth 9–​10 to be a later addition (Clines 1984). 3 Maccabees tells a similar story, set in Egypt under the rule of Ptolemy Philopator (late third century bce), in which a royal decree to destroy Jews is thwarted by God and a religious festival enacted to commemorate the providential event (Hacham 2007). Later practice would place Esther and four of the other texts from the Writings—​Song of Songs, Lamentations, Ruth, and Qohelet—​in a group of liturgical texts. Of these five Festal Scrolls, however, only Esther mentions the religious festival with which it is later connected. This early grouping of scrolls is finally receiving attention from biblical scholars (Erickson and Davis 2016). On the one hand, the book of Esther is another variant tale of the faithful Jew in the foreign court who is attacked by an evil courtier. This story focuses on Ahasuerus, Mordechai, and Haman. Evil Haman plots to wipe out the entire Jewish people out of

126   Thomas M. Bolin his jealousy for Mordechai. A chance reference in an archival text reveals Mordechai’s value to the king, and Ahasuerus honors him over Haman. There are several points of contact between this plotline and those found in both Dan 1–​6 (the promotion of the Jewish courtier over an evil enemy) and Ezra-​Nehemiah (the archival search for imperial vindication and endorsement). It is unlikely that the version of this story as it stands in Esther existed as a separate tale. If it did, it has been so wholly adapted to its setting in the Esther story as to resist reconstruction. This larger setting is the domain of a second faithful Jewish hero, Esther. There are other Jewish novellas with female heroes: Judith, Ruth (see later), and the shorter tale of the mother and her seven sons in 2 Macc 7. The Susanna story is more similar to Esther, insofar that it also has a male hero, Daniel. On the other hand, Esther is not as passive as Susanna, who is accused by the wicked men but saved by the wise young Daniel. Esther’s story only partially resembles the standard court tale I have been describing. Like Daniel and the three young men, Esther is taken into the court and trained in the ways of the dominant empire. But unlike Daniel, Esther does not engage in defiant behavior, nor is her life directly threatened. Indeed, Mordechai points this out to Esther in what is almost a veiled threat: “Do not think that the king’s house will spare your life apart from the other Jews” (4:13). This verse is a significant turning point in the narrative and the roles of Esther and Mordechai. Esther responds with giving orders to Mordechai and the Jewish community to fast and pray. And then she takes matters into her own hands to save her people. From this point on in the narrative, it is Esther, and not Mordechai, who acts. Here the story of Esther parallels that of Susanna, except that in this case it is the female hero who saves the endangered male (see McGeough 2008 for discussion of Esther’s heroic qualities). Too much has been made by scholars over the fact that the Hebrew text of Esther does not mention the word “God.” The absence of a word in a narrative does not immediately imply that the word’s referent is unimportant to the storyteller. Several Hebrew novellas and stories have no direct action by God, including the Joseph Story in Gen 37–​50, Ruth, and Dan 1. Other aspects of Esther, for example, both Mordechai’s and Haman’s genealogies, put the story comfortably in the traditions of the Hebrew Bible (Wetter 2011). Esther’s plot is relatively complex, with multiple changes of scene and repetitions of banquets to move the plot forward. The overarching theme in the book is the reversal of fortune, from Haman to Mordechai and from the enemies of the Jews to the Jewish communities in the Diaspora. This reversal of fortune sits in tension with the idea of fate dictated by the lot (pur) that Haman casts in order to determine the best time to kill all of the Jews and functions as an unsubtle critique of divination and affirmation of divine favor for Jews, similar to what is found in a more overt way in Dan 1–​6 (Winitzer 2011). Thinking about the presence and absence of God in Esther and other early Jewish novellas allows me to transition to the book of Ruth. As in Esther and Gen 37–​50, God does not act directly or speak in Ruth. Instead, God is referred to in the book as an indirect source of blessing and curse, with emphasis on the former. The narrator describes the cessation of the famine as the result of Yahweh having “visited” his people in Bethlehem (1:6) and attributes Ruth’s conception of her son, Obed, to Yahweh’s grace

Postexilic Prose Traditions in the Writings    127 (4:13). Characters in the story bless each other in the name of Yahweh: Naomi blesses her daughters-​in-​law (1:9); Boaz and his reapers exchange blessings (2:4); Boaz blesses Ruth for her kindness to Naomi (2:12); Naomi blesses Boaz when she finds out that he allowed Ruth to glean in his field (2:20); Boaz blesses Ruth for her kindness to him (3:10); Boaz swears by Yahweh that he will act as redeemer for Ruth (3:13); the people and elders of Bethlehem bless Ruth when she is given to Boaz as wife (4:11–​12); the women of Bethlehem bless Yahweh in their praise of Naomi after Ruth has conceived (4:14). Only Ruth and Naomi use Yahweh’s name in terms of cursing. Naomi repeats both to her daughters-​in-​law and the women of Bethlehem that Yahweh has struck her with his hand (1:13) and given her over to bitterness (1:20). Ruth calls down Yahweh’s curse upon herself if she ever abandons Naomi (1:17). Naomi’s two affirmations of Yahweh’s curse includes two uses of the Hebrew verb “to be bitter” (mrr) in 1:13 and 1:20 which Naomi also famously tells the women of Bethlehem ought to also be her name. Naomi’s laments and her calamity at losing her husband and sons make her a counterpart to Job in terms of unjust suffering and complaint (Fewell 2015: 85). Ruth calls on Yahweh only once, and for a curse, as part of her oath of fidelity to Naomi. An interesting pattern emerges here: Yahweh as source of blessing only: the narrator, Boaz, the people of Bethlehem, and the women of Bethlehem Yahweh as source of both curse/​punishment and blessing: Naomi Yahweh as source of punishment: Ruth

The characters’ different social identities are mapped onto their understandings of Yahweh as source of blessing or curse. The “insiders” of Bethlehem have a wholly positive understanding of divine activity. Naomi, as a transgressive character who leaves Bethlehem for Moab and then returns, sees Yahweh as author of both embittering curse and final blessing. At the opposite end from the insiders is Ruth, the Moabite, for whom Yahweh is the punishing witness she appeals to in promising her fidelity to Naomi. More importantly is the fact that Ruth does not, like Naomi, move into a place where she sees Yahweh as a source of blessing, despite the “happy ending” of the story. This implies, alongside other features of Ruth 4, that the Moabite woman remains as much an outsider at the end of the book as she was at the beginning (Yee 2009). Ruth’s status as a foreigner has attracted the most attention from readers. The book can be read as a kind of inverted version of the Jewish hero in the foreign court, with the main character here being a foreigner in the land of Israel. It has long been a scholarly commonplace that it is a postexilic plea for tolerance against the demand to expel foreign women found in Ezra-​Nehemiah. Ruth is often placed alongside the book of Jonah as evidence for a group of postexilic intellectuals who represent a more tolerant, open understanding of Judaism than that represented in Ezra-​Nehemiah. This kind of reading is particular to Christians and functions as a means to divide texts in the Hebrew Bible and pit them against each other in such a way that the more “open” texts are valorized and assumed into a theological supersessionism which subsequently contrasts itself with allegedly “narrow” postexilic Judaism (Bolin 1997).

128   Thomas M. Bolin The role of gender in Ruth has also commanded a good deal of scholarly attention. Along with Esther, Ruth is the only other book in the Tanakh named after a woman, with female main characters. This does not imply that either book has anything particularly positive to say about women, as feminist readings of both books have made clear. In Ruth, ambiguity about the female characters extends even to the grammar. Several times in the book, masculine pronouns are used to refer to feminine characters. While scholars have surmised that these are vestiges of archaic Northwest Semitic endings, their presence also serves to heighten the highly ambiguous portrayals of both Naomi and Ruth (Davis 2013). Concerning Naomi, is her desire to “seek relief ” for Ruth (3:1) not really motivated by the need to secure her own future? At the end of the story, it is Naomi—​and not Ruth—​who nurses Ruth’s son and whom the women of Bethlehem acclaim as the baby’s mother (4:16–​17). And while the people and elders at the gate of Bethlehem bless Ruth (4:11–​12), the women of Bethlehem bless only Naomi, albeit while acknowledging that Ruth’s conception of a son is more valuable to Naomi than if she had seven of her own sons (4:15). Regarding the ambiguity surrounding Ruth, the most obvious example has to do with exactly what happens on the threshing floor in Ruth 3. The narrative is unclear because of the narrator’s likely deliberate choice to keep readers in the dark about whether or not the “feet” Ruth uncovers are Boaz’s genitals. “Feet” is a euphemism for genitals in Biblical Hebrew (e.g., Judg 3:24, 2 Kgs 18:27), and some commentators read that meaning for Boaz’s feet in Ruth 3 (e.g., Nielsen 1997). This gives the character of Ruth a more overt sexual agency than the stories of Esther or Judith, in which the beauty of both women plays a role. However, it is unclear whether Ruth’s advances on Boaz are acts of her own doing or whether she is acting as a proxy for Naomi. It is, after all, Naomi who directs Ruth to go down to the threshing floor and tells her what to do once she is there (3:3–​4), and it is Naomi whom the women of Bethlehem acclaim as the mother of the child Ruth bears with Boaz. This particular ambiguity was not lost on ancient readers, as another reading (the kethiv) of the Masoretic text in Ruth 3:3–​4 has two first-​person verbs instead of the expected second person. This makes the text read that Naomi herself will go down to the threshing floor and lie at Boaz’s “feet” (Irwin 2008) instead of her telling Ruth to do so. If Ruth is, in fact, Naomi’s sexual proxy, and the child she bears attributed to Naomi, then Ruth is as much an outsider at the end of the book as she is at the beginning.

Conclusion This brief overview of the prose traditions in the Writings brings into relief two important points that I want to emphasize by way of conclusion. First is that these texts are but a fraction of an incredibly creative and active culture in early Judaism that generated numerous narrative texts with a variety of fictional characters and historical figures already present in the literary tradition. Figures such as Ezra, Daniel, David, and Solomon appear and reappear in texts as they are given cultural biographies in early Judaism

Postexilic Prose Traditions in the Writings    129 (Mroczek 2016). Second is that the modern genre distinction between historiography and storytelling is anachronistic and must be used with caution when discussing ancient Jewish literature. The hero in the foreign court is clearly a folkloristic tale type that is used in highly fictional settings, such as those in Dan 1–​6, but it is also used in the opening scene of Neh 1–​2 in order to set the most likely historical figure of Nehemiah off on his return from Persia as governor of Yehud. Far from being a coda or denouement to a putative golden age of ancient Israelite literary culture, the postexilic period—​as the prose traditions in the Writings attest—​gave rise to rich, varied, and complex literary output.

Bibliography Avalos, H. 2014. “Nebuchadnezzar’s Affliction: New Mesopotamian Parallels for Daniel 4.” JBL 133:497–​507. Beaulieu, P-​A. 2009. “The Babylonian Background of the Motif of the Fiery Furnace in Daniel 3.” JBL 128:273–​290. Berger, Y. 2014. “Chiasm and Meaning in 1 Chronicles.” JSH 14:1–32. doi:10.5508/​jhs.2014.v14. a1. Blenkinsopp, J. 1988. Ezra-​Nehemiah. OTL. Philadelphia: Westminster Press. Bolin, T. 1996. “When the End Is the Beginning: The Persian Period and the Origins of the Biblical Tradition.” SJOT 10:3–​15. Bolin, T. 1997. Freedom Beyond Forgiveness: The Book of Jonah Re-​Examined. JSOTSup 236. Sheffield, UK: JSOT Press. Bolin, T. 2012. Ezra-​Nehemiah. New Collegeville Bible Commentary 11. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press. Briant, P. 2002. From Cyrus to Alexander:  A History of the Persian Empire. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns. Carr, D. 2005. Writing on the Tablet of the Heart:  Origins of Scripture and Literature. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Carter, C. 1999. The Emergence of Yehud in the Persian Period: A Social and Demographic Study. JSOTSup 294. Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Academic Press. Clines, D.J.A. 1984. The Esther Scroll:  The Story of the Story. JSOTSupp 30. Sheffield, UK: JSOT Press. Collins, J. 1993. Daniel. Hermeneia. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press. Davies, P.R. 1992. In Search of “Ancient Israel.” JSOTSup 148. Sheffield, UK:  Sheffield Academic Press. Davis, A. 2013. “The Literary Effect of Gender Discord in the Book of Ruth.” JBL 132:495–​513. Dobbs-​Allsopp, F. W. 2015. On Biblical Poetry. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Douglas, Mary. 1966. Purity and Danger:  An Analysis of Concepts of Pollution and Taboo. New York: Praeger. Douglas, Mary. 2001. Leviticus as Literature. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Edelman, D., Fitzpatrick-​McKinley, A., and Guillaume, P., eds. 2016. Religion in the Achaemenid Persian Empire. Orientalische Religionen in der Antike 17. Tübingen, Germany:  Mohr Siebeck. Erickson, A., and A. Davis. 2016. “Recent Research on the Megilloth (Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther).” Currents in Biblical Research 14: 298–​318.

130   Thomas M. Bolin Fewell, D. 2015. “Space for Moral Agency in the Book of Ruth.” JSOT 40: 79–​96. Finkelstein, I. 2012. “The Historical Reality behind the Genealogical Lists in 1 Chronicles.” JBL 131:65–​83. Fox, M. 2001a. “Wisdom in the Joseph Story.” VT 51:26–​41. Fox, M. 2001b. Character and Ideology in the Book of Esther. 2d ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans. Fried, L. 2004. The Priest and the Great King: Temple Palace Relations in the Persian Empire. Biblical and Judaic Studies from the University of California San Diego 10. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns. Grabbe, L. 1992. Judaism from Cyrus to Hadrian. 2 vols. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press. Grabbe, L. 2015. “The Use and Abuse of Herodotus by Biblical Scholars.” In Assessing Biblical and Classical Sources for the Reconstruction of Persian Influence, History, and Culture, edited by Anne Fitzpatrick-​McKinley, 49–​72. Classica et Orientalia 10. Wiesbaden, Germany: Harrassowitz Verlag. Hacham, N. 2007. “3 Maccabees and Esther: Parallels, Intertextuality, and Diaspora Identity.” JBL 126:765–​785. Harrison, T. 2015. “Herodotus on the Character of Persian Imperialism (7.5–​11).” In Assessing Biblical and Classical Sources for the Reconstruction of Persian Influence, History, and Culture, edited by Anne Fitzpatrick-​McKinley, 9–​48. Classica et Orientalia 10. Wiesbaden, Germany: Harrassowitz Verlag. Hays, C. 2007. “Chirps from the Dust: The Afflictions of Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 4:30 in Its Ancient Near Eastern Context.” JBL 126:305–​325. Irwin, B. 2008. “Removing Ruth: Tiqqune Sopherim in Ruth 3:3-​4?” JSOT 32:331–​338. Japhet, S. 1993. 1 & 2 Chronicles. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox. Johnson, S. 2005. “Novelistic Elements in Esther: Persian or Hellenistic, Jewish or Greek?” CBQ 67:571–​589. Klein, R. 2006. 1 Chronicles. Hermeneia. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press. Klein, R. 2012. 2 Chronicles. Hermeneia. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press. Knoppers, G. 2003. 1 Chronicles 1-​9. AB 12. New York: Doubleday. Knowles, M. 2006. Centrality Practiced: Jerusalem in the Religious Practice of Yehud and the Diaspora in the Persian Period. Archaeology and Biblical Studies. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2006. Kuhrt, A. 2007. The Persian Empire: A Corpus of Sources from the Achaemenid Period. New York: Routledge. Lenzi, A. 2009. “Secrecy, Textual Legitimation, and Intercultural Polemics in the Book of Daniel.” CBQ 71:330–​348. Leuchter, M. 2017. The Levites and the Boundaries of Israelite Identity. Oxford:  Oxford University Press. Lipschits, O. 2009. “Persian Period Finds from Jerusalem:  Facts and Interpretations.” JHS 9: doi:10.5508/​jhs.2009.v9.a20. Lipschits, O., and Manfred Oeming, eds. 2006. Judah and the Judeans in the Persian Period. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns. Lipschits, O., Gadot, Y., and Langgut, D. 2012. “The Riddle of Ramat Raḥel: The Archaeology of a Royal Persian Period Edifice.” Transeuphratène 41:57–​79. Louden, B. 2011. Homer’s Odyssey and the Ancient Near East. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Postexilic Prose Traditions in the Writings    131 McGeough, K. 2008. “Esther the ‘Hero’: Going Beyond Wisdom in Heroic Narratives.” CBQ 70:44–​65. McLay, R. Timothy. 2005. “The Old Greek Translation of Daniel IV-​VI and the Formation of the Book of Daniel.” VT 55:304–​323. Mroczek, E. 2016. The Literary Imagination in Jewish Antiquity. New  York:  Oxford University Press. Newsom, C. 2014. Daniel. OTL, Louisville, KY: Westminster/​John Knox. Nielsen, K. 1997. Ruth. OTL. Louisville, KY: Westminster/​John Knox. Person, R. 2010. The Deuteronomistic History and the Book of Chronicles: Scribal Works in an Oral World. SBL Ancient Israel and Its Literature, 6. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature. Sakenfeld, K. 1999. Ruth. Interpretation. Louisville, KY: Westminster/​John Knox. Sasson, J. 1989. Ruth:  A New Translation with a Philological Commentary and a Formalist-​ folklorist Interpretation. Biblical Seminar. Sheffield, UK: JSOT Press. Smith-​Christopher, D. 1996. Daniel. NIB 7. Nashville: Abingdon. Sparks, J. 2008. The Chronicler’s Genealogies: Towards an Understanding of 1 Chronicles 1-​9. SBL Academia Biblica 28. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature. Thompson, Thomas L. 1992. Early History of the Israelite People:  From the Written and Archeological Sources. Studies in the History of the Ancient Near East 4. Leiden: Brill. Valeta, D. 2005. “Court or Jester Tales? Resistance and Social Reality in Daniel 1-​6.” PRSt 32:309–​324. Wechsler, M. 2000. “Two Para-​Biblical Novellae from Qumran Cave 4:  A Reevaluation of 4Q550.” Dead Sea Discoveries 7:130–​172. Wetter, A.-​M. 2011. “How Jewish is Esther? Or:  How is Esther Jewish? Tracing Ethnic and Religious Identity in a Diaspora Narrative.” ZAW 123:596–​603. Wills, L. 1990. The Jew in the Court of the Foreign King: Ancient Jewish Court Legends. HDR 26. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press. Wills, L. 2011. “Jewish Novellas in a Greek and Roman Age: Fiction and Identity.” JSJ 42:141–​165. Winitzer, A. 2011. “The Reversal of Fortune Theme in Esther: Israelite Historiography in Its Ancient Near Eastern Context.” JANER 11:170–​218. Yee, G. 2009. “‘She Stood in Tears amid the Alien Corn’: Ruth, the Perpetual Foreigner and Model Minority.” In They Were All Together in One Place? Toward Minority Biblical Criticism, edited by R. Bailey et al., 119–​140, SemeiaSt 57. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature.

Chapter 9

P ostexilic P oet i c Traditions i n t h e Writi ng s Susan E. Gillingham

This chapter will focus on six of the eleven postexilic books. These six exemplify in different ways a poetic medium, each sharing several features of biblical poetry. They fall into three broad categories: liturgical poetry (Psalms, Lamentations); dramatic poetry (Job and Song); and didactic poetry (Proverbs and Ecclesiastes). Initially, however, two questions need to be answered. First, what are the particular features of Hebrew poetry? Given that biblical poetry is found throughout the Hebrew Bible, and given that selecting six poetic books out of the Writings is somewhat unusual, how do we establish any conventions about whether a text is a poetry or prose? Second, what do we mean by calling these six books “postexilic”? After all, the roots of biblical poetry are to be found in exilic and pre-​exilic literature and what we term “postexilic” may well be some scribal adaptation of an even earlier oral form, so is it appropriate to speak of “postexilic poetry” as a distinctive later phenomenon? Only when these two questions have been answered will it be possible to offer some reflections on our six books—​reflections that will focus only on poetic form and content, leaving aside issues of provenance, date, authorship, theology, and purpose to other authors.

What Comprises a Poetic Text? An appreciation of poetry in English can create assumptions that a conventional poem has to be set out in some form of meter and containing some aspect of rhyme. This is about the sound of poetry: Hebrew poems, by contrast, are more interested in the sense. The essence of Hebrew poetry is that it communicates a balanced expression of thought: this is what makes its remit quite broad, because some Hebrew prose also

Postexilic Poetic Traditions in the Writings    133 contains evidence of binary thinking. Hebrew poets were not oblivious to the sonority of a poem: although they did not conform to any strict meter or rhyme, they often adhered to some sort of rhythm, adapting the Hebrew stresses to a particular line form. Psalm 117:1 is a good example. Here there are three clear stresses in each of these two lines in Hebrew: they are emphasized in bold type in the transliteration that follows, and the same three stresses are emphasized in bold in the English (NRSV) translation. ha|lülû ´et-​´ädönäy Kol-​Gôyìm Praise the Lord, all you nations! šaBBüHûºhû Kol-​hä´ummîm Extol him, all you peoples!

The English translation shows that as well as the stress there is a “balanced expression of thought,” whereby the second line echoes the first. In addition, we see that although the Hebrew has no rhyme, there is some repetition of sounds and wordplay. Even without a knowledge of Hebrew, it is possible to see the repetition of -​ìm and -​îm at the end of each line above, and the use of -​û and -​Hûºhû in the first word of each line. So there is a repetition of sound as well as sense. From this basis we can also discern two distinctive features, namely style and structure. In terms of style, one frequent feature of biblical poetry is its terseness, whereby usually just three to four words create a complete clause. This is evident in Ps 117 earlier. In the first line, three words in Hebrew created six in English; and in the second line, in effect two words were presented in five in English. Hebrew poetry even omits certain words that would normally be present in prose—​for example, the definite article, the relative pronoun, and even the definite object. In addition to this compact style, the vocabulary is often also unusual and even archaic. There is an abundance of figurative language—​metaphors, analogies, mythical expressions, and frequent personifications of nature. These features are also found in prose, but they occur more in poetry.1 What of the structure of Hebrew poetry? One obvious example is its presentation in line forms. Usually these occur in two lines (“bicola”), sometimes in three (“tricola”). Psalm 27:14 is a good example of tricola: Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!

Given that a good deal of poetry is for performative purposes, especially for liturgy and teaching, the arrangement into manageable, short line forms, often with a regular stress, creates a phrase that can easily be remembered. Sometimes the stress is 3:3, as seen in Ps 117, a form used frequently in hymns (particularly in the Psalms and in Job) (Gillingham 1994: 58–​64). Another device is to set the first line in three stresses and the second line in two: this is used as a lament form, emulating grief as the second line ends more abruptly (see 1 Sam 1:19–​27; Jer 9:19–​21). Sometimes there are four

134   Susan E. Gillingham stresses to each line (as in Ps 46:6), sometimes two (used throughout most of Ps 29). Stress is not the same as meter: Hebrew poetry is much more flexible, and it is rare that a Hebrew poem adheres consistently to the same stress formula throughout.2 The balance of the two lines is frequently enhanced by word pairing, whereby the repetition or the contrasting use of a word intensifies the imagery and enhances the meaning. However, just as Hebrew poetry does not apply rigid metrical devices, neither does it apply rigid repetition. Three types are mainly used. The most obvious is when the same idea is repeated twice, and this has been termed “synonymous parallelism.” Take Prov 19:5: A false witness will not go unpunished, and a liar will not escape.

At other times the contents in each line is contrastive, and this has been called “antithetic parallelism.” Proverbs 19:12 provides a good example: A king’s anger is like the growling of a lion, but his favor is like dew on the grass.

There are many variations of this technique, and the term used to signify this wider diversity is “synthetic parallelism,” usually indicating that the second line encompasses a greater idea. Proverbs 19:20 is an example of this: Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom for the future.

Hence, within one single unit, as in Prov 19 earlier, “parallelism” can be applied with great creative freedom. Other examples are found in the Psalms. For example, Ps 31:10 offers an illustration of two uses of synonymous parallelism in the same verse, in what we might term AA/​BB: For my life is spent with sorrow, and my years with sighing; my strength fails because of my misery, and my bones waste away.

By contrast, verse 11 uses a more synthetic form, which might be termed AAA/​B: I am the scorn of all my adversaries, a horror to my neighbors, an object of dread to my acquaintances; those who see me in the street flee from me.

And then verse 13 develops this even more, so that we get a form which might be termed more as A/​B/​CC.

Postexilic Poetic Traditions in the Writings    135 For I hear the whispering of many —​terror all around!—​ as they scheme together against me, as they plot to take my life.

Some psalms have a very loose form of parallelism. Psalms 87 and 122 fall into this category, as also Ps 23, “The Lord Is My Shepherd,” which uses its “balance of ideas” so flexibly that parts of it could even be presented as prose.3 The aforementioned examples have all been based upon smaller units of poetry. If we were to take a larger unit, we would find other more complex devices. One is the use of a refrain. The beginning and ending of Ps 8 have a refrain (“O Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth!”) while Pss 49, 57, and 99 have two refrains at the beginning and in the middle of each psalm; Pss 42–​43 have three, and Pss 59 and 80, four. Another poetic device in a longer unit is the acrostic form, where a psalm has been composed with the Hebrew letter beginning each line following an alphabetic sequence. Sometimes this occurs in single line-​forms (for example, Pss 111 and 112, using the full alphabet of twenty-​two letters), sometimes over two lines (Pss 25 and 37), and sometimes they occur every three verses (Lam 3 has 66 verses in all). Psalm 119 has an intricate acrostic form: the same letter at the beginning of each line is repeated eight times, creating a stanza; the twenty-​two stanzas (176 verses) thus replicate the twenty-​ two letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Proverbs 31:10–​31 is an example outside liturgical poetry. Another device within a whole poetic unit is the use of chiasmus. This is a way of intensifying the meaning by building up a series of ideas to a climax, which is then inverted so the ideas follow each other in a reverse way, with the ending of a poem mirroring the beginning. Psalm 46 is a good example of this, with verses 5 and 6 at its heart. Job 32:6–​10 and Eccl 3:2–​8 might be cited as other examples. So, although word pairs, figurative language, repetition, and chiasmus are all evident in some prose as well as poetry, other features, such as bicola, tricola, rhythmic stress, parallelism, and acrostics, are more unique to poetry alone.

Can We Date Biblical Poetry? All six books under consideration are notoriously difficult to date. It is possible that the briefer, terser poetic units within them may be earlier, especially if they might have correspondences with early ancient Near Eastern poetry such as from Ugarit (Gillingham 1994:  38–​43). This is particularly the case with some of the poetry in Proverbs and Psalms. Conversely, later poetry is likely to be more expansive and discursive: examples include Prov 1–​9 and parts of Job 3–​41. But this gives us very general guidelines. Even if the poetry is earlier (some of it perhaps originally oral in form), it has

136   Susan E. Gillingham been incorporated into literature that has been edited at a much later date, so it could be argued that the final form of all six books is postexilic. Little is achieved in trying to probe for earlier layers. This is particularly the case with “poetic anthologies” such as Proverbs and Psalms, but it is also evident in Song and Lamentations.4 A more pertinent question, therefore, is how these books were composed and edited in the postexilic period. Who would have collated the complaints about the destruction of life such as we find in Lamentations and the celebrations of human love such as we find in the Song of Songs? And who would have organized the carefully structured anthologies, one more liturgical, one more didactic, of Psalms and Proverbs? Or who would have combined an earlier prose story with later dialogues, as in the book of Job? And who might have been responsible for a literary work with so many apparent contradictions as Ecclesiastes? There could hardly have been one single, coherent group called “The Hebrew Poets.” Some would undoubtedly have been involved with Temple worship: this is especially the case for Psalms and Lamentations, where the addressee is usually God, and the dominant praise and lament forms indicate liturgical use, and for the Psalms those responsible might well have been Levitical singers (Gillingham 2014). But Job, Song, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes are each more explicitly concerned with instruction away from the Temple. Here “scribes” might be an all-​inclusive term to use for the editors and compilers of these books, although they would have been innovators as well as preservers of past tradition. Biblical poets are as difficult to define as “wisdom writers” or “apocalypticists”: they had a wide range of literary and didactic skills, and their use of a poetic medium prevents any overclassification.

An Assessment of Six “Poetic Books” in the Postexilic Period The six books will be discussed under the aforementioned categories of liturgical poetry, dramatic poetry, and didactic poetry. We shall examine what poetic techniques they each display, both of sonority and balanced expressions of thought; what traditional influences are apparent, both from the ancient Near East and from earlier traditions from Israel; and, looking at the impact of the book as a whole, we shall see how each has been “universalized” in the history of its reception.

Liturgical Poetry The Psalms The psalms are not only connected with public or private prayer: some thirty psalms address the congregation rather than God (Pss 24 and 34 being good examples on the communal and individual level respectively). But four-​fifths of the Psalter has been

Postexilic Poetic Traditions in the Writings    137 composed for prayer and praise, either at Temple worship or at outlying sanctuaries and communities in the Diaspora. Some psalms became sufficiently well known to be used in later postexilic literature: for example, Ps 8 is used (critically) in Job 7:17–​18, and Ps 104 is used several times throughout Job, while the Chronicler also refers to Pss 105, 106, and 132. Because the Psalter is an anthology of new and old psalms, it exhibits a variety of poetic techniques. We have already noted its use of different rhythms, but because the dominant forms are praise and lament, the 3:3 and 3:2 stresses are most prominent. Sonority is important, suggesting the performative nature of psalmody.5 We have also noted the ways in which the psalmists employ parallelism, again for easier recall and performance.6 Psalmic language has many repeated formulaic expressions, used, for example, to describe the psalmist’s plight, or his trust in God.7 Many of these metaphors and similes are vivid and memorable:  God is seen as rock, fortress, dwelling place, shepherd, farmer, warrior, mother, and king; and the created order takes on animation, so the flood can clap its hands and the mountains can skip like rams (Gillingham 1994: 204–​205). The Psalter probably adapts ancient Near Eastern poetic traditions more than any other book. Correspondences have been found with ancient Sumerian hymns, and with Akkadian and Babylonian laments (Gerstenberger 2013: 29–​39). Canaanite influences abound, for example, in Pss 29, 48, and 68 and 110,8 while the motifs of creation, Temple, and kingship suggest borrowing from Babylonian hymnody, for example in Pss 19A, 47, and 96–​98. And psalms such as 104 reflect Egyptian as well as Canaanite influence (Day 2013: 211–​228). These older poetic traditions have been preserved and reused for the very different liturgy of the Second Temple. The impact of the Psalter as a book is an important issue in modern scholarship. Attention is now given to “concatenation,” or the linguistic links between psalms, and on the doxologies that demarcate the Psalter into five books (Pss 41, 72, 89, and 106). Each book seems to have its own mood and emphasis, as the five books of David mirror the five books of Moses, with Ps 89, about the dissolution of monarchy, at the end of Book Three, being at the heart of it (McCann 1993; de Claissé Walford 1997). The interest in music in the headings of psalms (“to the choirmaster”; “on the lyre”) and the musical references within the psalms suggest that the composition was not only a literary and didactic process, however, but was also intended for musical performance in Temple liturgy (Gillingham 2014: 201–​213). The final arrangement of the books has an increasingly future-​orientated emphasis, so that the poetry also serves a “prophetic” purpose—​a feature that is prominent in early Jewish and Christian reception of psalmody. The universal appeal of its contents has meant that the Psalter has the richest reception history of any biblical book. Whether liturgical, didactic, or prophetic, the use of the psalms in early Jewish and Christian translation, liturgy, and commentary is vast, and by the ninth century a tradition of visual exegesis emerged through illuminated Psalters, both in the Western churches in northern France and southern England and in the Byzantine churches in the East. By the fifteenth century onward, psalmody influenced countless musical arrangements, intended for cathedral, parish, or Jewish communities,

138   Susan E. Gillingham using Latin, English plainchant, metrical paraphrase, or Hebrew; and from the eighteenth century onward, composers such as Handel, Haydn, Mendelssohn, Elgar, and Grieg brought psalmody into use for the concert hall. All these forms of reception—​ as well as a prolific engagement with translation and poetic imitation—​are still prominent today (Gillingham 2008: 62–​68 and 95–​113 [illuminated Psalters]; 163–​166, 180–​191, 220–​228 [music]).

Lamentations These five poems, set overall in the 3:2 lament form, could have been part of mourning rituals on the site of the desecrated Temple (see Jer 41:5; Zech 7:3; 8:19), and they may well explain the later association of Lamentations with the mourning for the Temple on the ninth of Ab. The voices of a narrator, of Zion (personified as a woman lamenting her lost children), and of the people certainly suggest some dramatized liturgy (such as 1:1–​ 11/​ 12–​22; 2:1–​10/​ 11–​17/​ 18–​19/​ 20–​22; 3:1–​18/​ 19–​39/​ 40–​51/​ 52–​66; 4:1–​11/​ 12–​16/​ 17–​20/​ 21–​22; 5:1–​18/​19–​22). In part, this is protest poetry at the apparent lack of divine justice and power against the background of a belief in the inviolability of Zion (2:7, 17; 3:8, 18, 44–​45; 5:22), and in part it forms prayers of confession (1:18, 20, 22; 3:43; 4:6, 13; 5:7, 16), thus linking the author with Jeremiah’s confessions. The lament form is used in different ways. A good example of the uneven sound is in the second and third cola of Lam 2:1 (Salters 1994: 86). He has thrown down from heaven to earth the splendour of Israel; he has not remembered his footstool in the day of his anger.

Tricola are prominent in Lam 1, 2, and 3; bicola dominate Lam 4 and 5, giving the appearance of a 3:2 arrangement in the structure of the book itself (Shea 1979: 103–​107). Parallelism is used less consistently, although in Lam 4 there is evidence of synonymous (4:5) and antithetic (4:2) patterns, but most verses are more intricate and less predictable. The same is the case with the acrostic form: Lam 1, 2, and 4 use twenty-​ two letters in sequence (although 2 and 4 have the letters pe before ayin reversed). Lamentation 3 uses all twenty-​two letters over three repeated lines (making sixty-​six verses in all, again reversing the pe and ayin). Lamentations 5 has twenty-​two verses but is not alphabetical (nor does it follow a strict lament rhythm). Nevertheless, the acrostic form does structure the expressions of grief, and this, alongside the predictability of the lament form, seems to be about affirming order in a chaotic situation. This might explain why Lam 3 uses the same letter three times, at a point when grief is at its most intense. The experience of loss and bereavement gives the book a timeless appeal: it is “literature of survival” where the expression of pain in a structured form is a means of endurance (Linafelt 2000:  21). This serves not only communal grief but also individual protest (Joyce and Lipton 2013: 59–​62). Like the Psalms, Lamentations is used

Postexilic Poetic Traditions in the Writings    139 in the passion narratives, especially in Matthew, as a commentary on the sufferings of Christ (Joyce and Lipton 2013: 86–​88, citing Lam 2:15, 3:15, and 4:13), an interpretation adapted much later by Handel in his use of Lam 1:12 (“Look and see if there is any sorrow like my sorrow, which was brought upon me . . . ”) in The Messiah. As for communal use, examples include Palestrina’s Lamentations of Jeremiah for Holy Week at St Peter’s, Rome (1564) and Tallis’s motets on Lam 1:1–​2 and 1:3–​5 for Holy Week at the Chapel Royal (1570), each reflecting the turbulent state of the Catholic Church at the time (Joyce and Lipton 2013:  41–​43 and 33–​35). Leonard Bernstein’s Jeremiah Symphony (1942), Ernst Krenek’s Lamentatio Jeremiae prophetae (1940–​1942), and Igor Stravinsky’s Threni (1958) bring Lamentations into the context of World War II and its aftermath, thus again highlighting its universal applicability and its liturgical and performative potential (Salters 1994:68).

Dramatic Poetry Job It is impossible to know whether Job might have been used as a poetic drama, a didactic work, or an epic poem. Its plot and universal themes, its characterization and variety of voices, its dialectical discussion, and its repeated use of rhetorical questions suggest that the poetry had a dramatic potential. The 3:3 stress is pervasive in the book of Job. It is used in the hymnic speeches of Job’s friends (for example, Eliphaz [5:9–​16], Zophar [11:7–​11], Bildad [26:6–​14], and Elihu [36:24–​33; 37:1–​24]), although the hymnic forms are used in parody, as the friends utter praise with a wisdom they do not understand. The 3:2 stress occurs in Job’s laments—​for example, in Job 3:2–​26; 6:1–​12; 7:1–​10; 14:1–​15; and 16:1–​17:6. (The hymnic form is found in Job’s speeches, too—​for example, 9:5–​13, 10:8–​12, and 12:14—​ but these depict the destructive power of God, who seals up the stars, darkens the sun, overturns the mountains, and creates life in order to destroy it.) Hence, both hymns and laments provide a clever use of the paradoxical elements in Job. Laments speak of Job’s integrity, crying for divine justice from the reality of his experience, and hymns are used to highlight his genuine despair; hymns are also used to reveal the hypocrisy of the friends, concerned about God’s justice from an idealized theology outside human experience. Job utilizes traditional poetic devices in a similarly creative way. Bildad uses proverbs to cite an ancient source he does not fully comprehend, as in 8:8, 11–​13, 20, 22, and 18:5–​21. Job does the same in searching for a wisdom he cannot find, as in 12:5, 11, 12; 17:5; and 24:19. Poetic parallelism is also used in an innovative way. Synonymous parallelism is used to convey the rhetorical questions that pervade the book: for example, in 8:3, Bildad asks: “Does God pervert justice? Or does the Almighty pervert the right?”

140   Susan E. Gillingham Antithetic parallelism is also used sardonically by the poet, as in Job 8:7, when Bildad continues: “Though your beginning was small, your latter days will be very great.”

There are many examples of synthetic parallelism. In Job 5:19, Eliphaz speaks, with apparent (but unskilled) wisdom: “He will deliver you from six troubles; in seven no harm shall touch you.”

The speeches of Job are particularly rich in vivid metaphorical language: Job speaks of curdling milk (10:10), a sprouting stump (14:7–​9), rivers of curds and oil (29:6), and he likens words to raindrops (29:22–​23). The speeches of God are more lofty: we read of his swaddling the band of sea (38:9), of heavenly stores of snow and hail (38:22), of his binding stars in clusters (38:31) and his tilting water skins to give rain (38:37) (Eaton 1985: 62–​65). Earlier scholarship (“the Rome School”) tended to see ancient Near Eastern correspondences with Ugaritic poetry in much of Job, particularly in its binary thinking, in form and content. This enthusiasm is now more muted, although it shows that the poet(s) had a wide range of intercultural resources at their disposal (Craigie 1985: 28–​ 35). Correspondences with Mesopotamia and Egypt are also evident, albeit more in terms of subject matter and less in precise poetic forms (Eaton 1985: 52–​62). Job also creatively adapts poetic material from other books, not least from the Pss: 8, 107, 139, 1, and 73 are dealt with most creatively within the book (Kynes 2012: 63–​79 [Ps 8]; 80–​97 [Ps 107]; 101–​41 [Ps 139], 145–​60 [Ps 1], and 161–​79 [Ps 73]). Although the book is a composite work, it has a clear overall structure. Elihu’s speeches, for example, repeat arguments used by Job and so reflect some internal unity (see 33:9–​11/​13:24, 27; 34:5–​6/​27:2; 35:6–​7/​22:2–​4). The rhetorical questions in Job’s first speech mirror some of those in the first divine speech (for example, 3:16–​19/​38:16–​18, on Sheol; 3:20–​26/​38:12–​15, 19–​21, on light and darkness). Furthermore, the unusual phrase “the eyelids of the dawn” found in Job’s dark and inward-​looking first speech in 3:9 occurs again in God’s contrasting second speech in 41:18: here it serves to remind us that the universe contains not only chaos and pain but beauty and order as well.9 Because Job’s poetry reflects the universal human condition in dramatic form, the book has been used by Jews, Christians, and Muslims alike.10 It has been used by Christians suffering persecution during Arian controversies, by Jews at Yom Kippur and in Nazi Germany, and by Muslims, who, affirming the setting in Arabia, adopted Job as a hero of faith: the multicultural and interfaith possibilities are unlimited. The performative potential of Job, in both art and drama, is illustrated in artists such as Dürer, Cranach the Elder, Rubens, Rembrandt (Seow 2013: 220–​222), and, more recently, by William Blake, in his Illustrations from the Book of Job (1806, 1821, and 1826)  (Seow

Postexilic Poetic Traditions in the Writings    141 2013: 226), and Marc Chagall, in his Job in Despair (1960). Furthermore, the more recent dramatic representations of Job, such as Ralph Vaughan Williams’s Job, a Masque for Dancing (1931), Archibald MacLeish’s J.B. (1958), Joseph Stein’s The Fiddler on the Roof (1964), the Coen brothers’ film A Serious Man (2009), and Terrence Malick’s film The Tree of Life (2011), together testify to the potential of Job for concert hall, theatre, and cinema. This does suggest that Job had some potential for dramatic reading and edification even in postexilic times.

Song of Songs The Song of Songs consists of many poetic elements, mostly of an erotic and nonsacral nature. Because there is no demarcation between each poem, scholars see as many as thirty-​one or as few as six (Brenner 1989: 36). Most agree that there are three wasf songs, probably from Arabia, each glorifying the lover’s beauty. Song of Songs 4:1–​7, spoken by the male, extols the female from her head downward; Song 5:10–​16, spoken by the female, similarly extols the male from his head downward; and Song 7:1–​7, spoken by the male, extols the female’s body upwards (Falk 2000: 215–​224). Another novel form is dream sequences that express the woman’s longing for her partner (3:1–​4; 5:2–​7). The key performer is the woman: she may be a rural shepherdess or a foreign princess, but she is clearly a woman unafraid of breaking cultural norms, defying her siblings (1:6, 8:1, 8–​9) and roaming the streets at night (3:1–​3, 5:7). Like Job, the potential for performance is clear: poetry set to music and dance is often ascribed to women (Exod 15:20–​21; 1 Sam 18:7, 21:12; 29:5). The personae could consist of a female voice, male voice, male chorus, female chorus (noting the role of the “daughters of Jerusalem” in 2:7, 3:5; 5:8–​9, 16; and 6:1): some editions of Septuagint, in the fourth and fifth centuries ce, even assign verses to specific speakers. The composite nature of the collection means that no specific rhythm is dominant. Nevertheless, more general poetic techniques are used. An obvious one is repetition: 1:5 and 4:1a record, “You are fair my love . . .”; and 2:6 and 8:3 refer to the “left hand/​right hand”; 2:10 and 13 call out “arise . . . and go.” (Other examples include 2:7/​3:5/​8:4; 2:9/​ 8:14; 2:16/​6:3; 4:3b/​6:7; and 4:2/​6:6). Another poetic technique is a refrain, albeit used very differently from the Pss: 3:1–​4 contains “the one whom I love” in every verse, while “I searched for him, but did not find him” occurs twice, culminating in v.4: “I found him!” The usual form is the couplet, and the most common use of parallelism is synthetic, with the lovers communicating through a rich array of similes and metaphors, speaking of their love that fuses together landscape and bodyscape. Their love is akin to flora, such as shrubs, bushes, trees, pomegranates, and aromatic plants; and to fauna, such as gazelles, does, foxes, and doves; to wood, myrrh and incense, jewelry, gardens, vineyards, orchards, and fortifications. Sometimes the imagery seems bizarre: we read of a nose as high as a tower (7:4), of hair which smells of goats (4:1 and 6:5), and teeth like a flock of sheep (4:2 and 8:6). One possible influence from the ancient Near East is Egyptian love poetry. Despite the distance in time, language, and culture (the Egyptian poems date from the thirteenth to twelfth centuries bce), the woman is also a frequent speaker (Fox 1985: xxii;

142   Susan E. Gillingham also Vernus 2005: 150–​162). Such songs could have been brought to Canaan from Egypt a century later. Others have posited Mesopotamian influence (such as Sacred Marriage Songs and Tammuz/​Adonis fertility rites): the problem here is that there is no reference to actual fertility rituals (Fox 1985: 239–​243). In addition to the possible Arabic influence in the wasf songs, there could also be some Persian influence, suggested by Persian loan words (for example, pardes for orchard). The general consensus, however, is that Song is a Hebrew collection with a distinctive women’s voice. One issue is whether these poems were collected together as an anthology—​perhaps as “courting songs” collected from vineyards and streets—​or whether they were edited as a literary and theological sequence. The latter is more convincing: there is some linear continuity of meetings (or failed meetings) of the lovers at the end of various sections, for example in 1:7–​8; 2:8–​17; 4:8–​5:1; 6:1–​3; and 8:13–​14, and some progression toward consummation of their love in 5:1 and 7:12–​14. By the eighth century ce, we read of Song being incorporated into the Passover Festival (according to Soferim 14:18). This connected the poetry with the whole people, made possible by allegorizing it as the love between God and his people. A corresponding use in the monastic tradition, where Song was also allegorized, but as part of the soul’s struggle to reach God (a view propagated by Origen, Gregory of Nyssa and Cyril of Alexandria, and later by Luther). By the Middle Ages it had become part of Marian liturgy, with God as Lover and the Virgin as “the beloved.” This reading was popularized in Monteverdi’s Vespers (1610), which included two texts from Song: “Negra sum” from 1:5 (Latin 1:4) speaks of the Mary’s Levantine origins, and “Pulchra es” from 1:15 (Latin 1:14) speaks of her beauty as the bearer of God’s Son. Hence, in both Jewish and Christian liturgy the performative potential of Song is clear.

Didactic Poetry Proverbs Proverbs comprises two sorts of instruction:  short binary sayings, mainly found in ­chapters 10–​24 and 25–​29, with clear parallelism and a fairly regular 3:3 rhythm, and a propensity for discourse, found mainly in Prov 1–​9. Whereas the sayings suggest an ease of memorization, possibly repeated by teacher and students, the discourses suggest instruction more by reflection than through participation. Each type has been organized according to form or content: for example, in ­chapters 10–​15, 163 of the 183 verses use antithetic parallelism, with c­ hapters 10 and 12 on the theme of speaking and being silent; Prov 16 has a preponderance of specific “Yahweh sayings”; and Prov 28–​29 center on justice and poverty. In c­ hapters 1–​9 proverbs are again grouped together, probably for ease of learning: see, for example, 1:8–​19 on violence; 2:1–​22, on love for wisdom; 3:1–​12, 21–​26, 31–​35, on fear of Lord; 4:1–​9, 10–​19, 20–​27, 5:21–​23, on the two paths; 5:1–​14, 6:13–​18, 23–​35, on adultery; and 7:1–​27, on temptation. The longer poetic discourses, all on the theme of wisdom, are interspersed with these: Prov 1:20–​23 and 8:1–​36 reflect on

Postexilic Poetic Traditions in the Writings    143 the personification of wisdom while Prov 3:13–​18, 19–​20 praises wisdom per se, and Prov 9:1–​6, 10–​12 focuses on wisdom’s rewards. Like every book under discussion, Proverbs reflects ancient Near Eastern correspondences. Specific parallels have been found in Ugaritic literature (Whybray 1995:  16–​18). There are also similarities with Egyptian literature:  for example, the “strange woman” in 5:1–​8/​20–​23; 6:20–​35; 7:1–​27 is also found in The Instruction of Ani (eighteenth-​ or nineteenth-​century bce) and of the “thirty sayings” in Prov 22:17–​23:11 at least ten correspond with the “thirty sayings” found in The Instruction of Amenemope (tenth century to fifth century bce:  in 30, lines 539ff). More correspondences with Egypt include the female personification of wisdom in Prov 8 and the goddess Ma’at, and graded numerical sayings in Prov 30:15–​33 with an onomosticon in Amenemope 19 (Martin 1995: 18–​20). Furthermore, the headings in Prov 30:1 and 31:1 suggest North Arabian influence. Some of this material is obviously earlier than the postexilic period, and this strengthens the idea of Proverbs as an anthology. Older material would also have come from Israel’s own origins: much of Prov 10–​ 29 suggests the legacy of scribal groups attached to the royal court (e.g., 14:28, 34–​35; 16:10–​15; 19:12; 10:2, 8, 26; 21:1; 22:11; also 25:2–​7, 28:15–​16; 29:4,12,14), while other parts of a more rural and agricultural nature suggest tribal or familial origins. By postexilic times, wealthy, literate scribes would have assembled smaller collections and individual proverbs. We might ascertain their influence in Prov 31:10–​31 with its acrostic form of twenty-​two lines on the theme of the “good wife”: the form suggests a level of literacy, and the contents suggest a wealthy and high-​ranking readership, as the industrious and lucrative “good wife” is praised on account of what her husband gains from her virtue. Although underpinned with a faith in “the fear of the Lord” and a theology that God as Creator lies behind the right order of things, Proverbs is essentially a pragmatic work. Proverbs 8:22–​31 is exceptional, as it was seminal in early Arian controversies about whether Christ, as the wisdom of God, was “created” or “begotten” (8:22). Proverbs’ reception history is more in the reuse of individual proverbs scattered throughout the book. Take, for example, 5:3 (“a two-​edged sword”); 6:6 (“Go to the ant, you sluggard . . .”); 14:34 (“righteousness exalts a nation”); 16:18 (“pride comes before a fall . . .”]; 29:18 (“where there is no vision the people perish . . .).11 Its main thrust has consistently been didactic, and the impact of Proverbs is very different from the other four books, which have lent themselves to musical, artistic, and dramatic representations.

Ecclesiastes If the poetry in Proverbs is characterized by its repetitive nature, the more nuanced message of Ecclesiastes has more complex forms. Some of the so-​called poems are little more than rhythmic prose (for example, Eccl 1:4–​11; 7:1–​11; 10:1–​3; and 12:2–​7). Its propensity for soliloquy and monolog echoes the discourses in Prov 1–​9, but the compact nature of the Hebrew often seems inadequate for what the poet wants to say (Hobbins 2013: 163–​192). Nevertheless, the Greek translators clearly viewed Ecclesiastes

144   Susan E. Gillingham as partly poetic: they often attempted to imitate alliteration, wordplay, and even rhythm (Aitken 2005: 64 [on 1:17 and alliteration]; 68–​69 [on 3:4–​5 and rhyme]; and 71–​72 [on 1:2 and 8:11–​12 and rhythm]). Their interest in rhetorical forms and sonority is illustrated in the way they conveyed poetic techniques that were already there in the Hebrew (Aitken 2005: 73). Compared with Proverbs and Job, the rhythm is more subtle and free: the overall impact is “elevated prose” (Whybray 1989: 31). The stresses are often developed in an unusual way: for example, Eccl 3:21 starts with a 4:2 stress and ends in a 2:4 beat, and Eccl 4:2 starts in 3:2 and ends in 2:3 (Loader 1986: 13). Parallelism is used in a similarly creative way: we find synonymous parallelism (e.g., Eccl 1:15,18; 7:7; 10:8, 9, 18), antithetic parallelism (e.g., Eccl 2:14; 7:4), and synthetic parallelism (Eccl 4:5; 10:3, 15) but also some complex extended parallelism (e.g., Eccl 1:2–​11; 3:1–​9; 7:15–​22; 10:6–​11; and 11:1–​6, 9–​12a). Again, several examples of foreign influence might be proposed. These include some Egyptian correspondences in the interest in order (Ma’at)—​or lack of it—​in the world. There may be further correspondences with The Babylonian Theodicy and Gilgamesh (Loader 1986:  117–​121). But the main influence is Israel’s own poetic techniques. Proverbial sayings, for example, are found in 1:15, 18 and 4:9, 12. Comparisons and similes are found in 2:13; 7:6; 8:13; 9:12; and 11:9. The traditional “warning speech,” in couplet form, also in Proverbs and Job, is also used here in 5:1, 2, 4, 6, 7; 7:9, 10, 14, 16, 17, 21; 8:2, 3; 10:4, 20; and 11:1, 2, 6. The most we can say about the structure of the whole is that the prologue (1:1–​3) and epilogue (12:8–​14) are later (more orthodox) additions, linked with the rest in the repeated use of “hebel” (“vanity”) 1:2 and 12:8; 1:4–​11 and 12:1–​7 seem to offer an earlier expanded introduction and conclusion to the book. The work overall seems to be more anthological than sequential, with a predilection for chiasmus in some of the sections as a way of handling the tensions of thought in the book. Ecclesiastes also has a timeless appeal (Christianson 2006: 256). Like Proverbs, its impact has been more exegetical than artistic. It was certainly a seminal exegetical text for H/​humanists and R/​reformers in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, who enjoyed its scepticism and its interest in “vanity”: Francis Bacon, for example, thought it gave “dignity to learning” (Christianson 2006: 40 and 50–​51). A particularly telling appropriation is Voltaire’s Précis of Ecclesiastes (1759) (Christianson 2006:  62–​65). Musical arrangements developed later, emphasizing the bleakness of the poetry. In 1896 the first two of Johannes Brahms’s Vier ernste Gesänge, based on Eccl 3:19–​22 and 4:1–​3, used baritone and piano to echo the “sparseness” of the texts (Christianson 2006:  77). Ernest Bloch’s “Schelomo:  Hebraic Rhapsody for Cello and Orchestra” (1916) was a similarly poignant work, this time using a violoncello instead of a text to imitate the “voice of Solomon,” the purported author (Christianson 2006:  82). Pete Seeger’s “To Everything There Is a Season” was recorded in 1962, based on Eccl 3:1–​9, emphasizing again the determinism and pessimism in this text (Christianson 2006: 82). So despite it being more didactic in appeal, like Proverbs, Ecclesiastes has also some performative potential.

Postexilic Poetic Traditions in the Writings    145

What Might We Learn about Postexilic Poetic Traditions from All This? Despite our reservations at the beginning of this chapter, there is actually a “family likeness” between all six books under discussion, as they share a wide variety of poetic features both in form and in content. The similarities mean that there are also blurred boundaries between the categories that have been proposed here: between liturgical poetry, dramatic poetry, and didactic poetry. An important characteristic of postexilic poetry is that it is timeless: all six examples (except perhaps Lamentations) defy any specific temporal and spatial setting. Every work is a complex collection, evolving from oral and literary traditions over a long period of time; there are no references to any specific context in each work, and nothing which tells us how and why the editing process came to an end. I would argue that each book has been preserved (at different times and for different reasons) on account of its “performative” potential, whether giving voice to prayer in liturgy (Psalms and Lamentations), or enabling reflections about suffering and love through some dramatic enactment (Job and Song), or being a vehicle for instruction, both pragmatic and reflective (Proverbs and Ecclesiastes). Thus, each book was not only preserved because it was “good literature,” but because it was equally capable of being used for different sorts of public performance. The best example is Psalms. Contemporary scholarship has long debated whether this final collection served primarily as public liturgy or as private reflective literature. Literary concerns are clearly found in the poetic conventions and in the linguistic connections between one psalm and another, but the many musical headings over the psalms and the references to music and to the Temple within so many of them reflect that the collectors also had public liturgy in mind. Of course, the Psalter is good literature, even telling a sequential story: but it undoubtedly emerged as a book that was performed in liturgy as well, and its later reception history testifies so clearly to this (Gillingham 2014: 201–​213). The same may be said for Lamentations. Literary concerns are again evident in the linguistic connections between one poem and another, and the acrostic form further ratifies this. But its liturgical potential—​not only in the first instance at the site of the devastated Temple, but in later times of national and personal crisis—​and its later inclusion in the Megilloth suggest that literary and liturgical poetry can be two sides of the same coin. We have argued here that Job might also be performative poetry. Not only is it again excellent literature, skillfully constructed, but its poetic form and structure give it potential for a chorus of voices in which the key characters are the narrator, Job, his three friends, Elihu, and God. Its performative value is again especially clear in its reception history. Similarly, Song of Songs is a literary work, with the same use of intertextual references and a cleverly constructed format; and like Job, the variety of voices (here male and

146   Susan E. Gillingham female, both individual and a chorus) opens it up for public performance. This is not to exclude the private dimension, as a work to be read between lovers, but like Job its sequential structure and many voices make it ideal for public edification. Its later allegorization, when the book is seen to be about divine rather than human love, allowed such use to continue—​albeit now in the cultic sphere rather than a nonsacral one. Its eventual inclusion in the Megilloth for use at Passover is testimony to this. Proverbs is also a literary work, with repetitive and easily memorable smaller units organized thematically. Shorter parts may have been adapted as responsorial poetry between teacher and students, while the longer units (for example, on the Lady Wisdom and Dame Folly in c­ hapters 7–​9) suggest use for more public reflection than participation. Preserving a literary work and performing it for the purpose of instruction are not diametrically opposed. Even Ecclesiastes suggests some performative aspect: after all, the “Preacher” seems to be speaking and calls his audience to listen. This would correspond more to the use of the discursive material in Prov 1–​9, involving one figure rather than many, as in Job and Song. Such performance would have taken place first in a nonsacral and later in a sacral context, as its inclusion in the Megilloth illustrates well. Few would doubt that much of the poetry of the Law and the Prophets arose in part from an oral context: many of the prophets, for example, are represented as being in a constant dialogue between God and the people. This is also a type of performative poetry, and this type of transmission would probably have continued as the literature developed. I have argued here it is not too far-​fetched to see that the poetic traditions in the Writings were used as performative poetry as well: like a musical score, the poetic text provides the basis for many different kinds of performances. Whether for liturgy, the theatre, the church, the synagogue, or the schoolroom, these books have the potential for musical, artistic, and dramatic representations whose impact goes far beyond their words alone. This explains why all six books have also been so rich in reception through the centuries—​not just as good literature, but as performative art.

Notes 1. See Gillingham (1994: 23–​28), which also discusses some other more specific features of Hebrew poetry and its distinctions from prose. 2. See the discussion in Gillingham (1994: 51–​58), with particular reference to Kugel (1981) and Watson (2004). 3. See Kugel (1981) in Gillingham (1994: 75). It is the metrical adaptations of this psalm into English which makes us think of it having a clear meter: see, for example, “The King of Love My Shepherd Is” by H. W. Baker (1868). 4. On the possibility of dating psalmody from a pre-​exilic, exilic, or postexilic setting, see Gillingham (2016). 5. See Gillingham (1994: 192–​194), on the use of assonance and alliteration in both hymns and laments. 6. For a wider range of examples, see Gillingham (1994: 198–​199).

Postexilic Poetic Traditions in the Writings    147 7. Two seminal works are Tsevat (1955) and Culley (1967). 8. See Craigie and Tate (2004), who note Canaanite influences in many more psalms between 1 and 50. 9. See Alter (2011: 105–​138). 10. Seow (2013: 110–​248), which is a rich review of the “history of consequences” from Job. 11. A  useful check is Partington, The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations (1992), under “Bible: Proverbs,” 78–​79.

Bibliography Aitken, J. K. 2005. “Rhetorica and Poetry in Greek Ecclesiastes.” Bulletin of the International Organization for Septuagint and Cognate Studies 38:55–​77. Alter, R. 2011. The Art of Biblical Poetry. Rev. edn. New York: Basic Books. Brenner, A. 1989. The Song of Songs. Sheffield Old Testament Guides. Sheffield, UK: JSOT Press. Christianson, E. 2006. Ecclesiastes through the Centuries. Oxford: Wiley-​Blackwell. Craigie, P. C. 1985. “Job and Ugaritic Studies.” In Studies in the Book of Job, edited by W. E. Autrecht, 28–​35. SR Supplement 16. Ontario: Wilfred Laurien University Press. Craigie, P. C., and Tate, M. E. 2004. Psalms 1–​50. 2nd edn. Word Bible Commentary 21. Nashville, IN: Thomas Nelson. Culley, R. B. 1967. Oral Formulaic Language in the Biblical Psalms. Toronto:  University of Toronto Press. Day, J. 2013. “Psalm 104 and Akhenaten’s Hymn to the Sun.” In Jewish and Christian Approaches to the Psalms. Conflict and Convergence, edited by S. E. Gillingham, 211–​228. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Eaton, J. 1985. Job. JSOT Study Guide. Sheffield, UK: JSOT Press. Falk, M. 2000. “The wasf.” In The Song of Songs, edited by A. Brenner and C. R. Fontaine, 215–​ 224. A Feminist Companion to the Bible. Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Academic Press. Fox, M. V. 1985. The Song of Songs and the Ancient Egyptian Love Songs. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press. Gerstenberger, E. 2013. “The Psalms and Sumerian Hymns.” In Jewish and Christian Approaches to the Psalms. Conflict and Convergence, edited by S. Gillinghamm, 229–​239. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Gillingham, S. E. 1994. The Poems and Psalms of the Hebrew Bible. Oxford:  Oxford University Press. Gillingham, S. E. 2008. Psalms Through the Centuries.  Volume One. Blackwell Bible Commentaries. Oxford: Wiley Blackwell. Gillingham, S. E. 2014. “The Levites and the Editorial Composition of the Psalms.” In The Oxford Handbook of the Psalms, edited by W. P. Brown, 201–​213. New York/​Oxford: Oxford University Press. Gillingham, S. E. 2016. “The Psalms and Poems of the Hebrew Bible.” In The Hebrew Bible: A Critical Companion, edited by J. Barton, 206–​236. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Gillingham, S.E. 2018.   Psalms Through the Centuries.  A Reception History Commentary on Psalms 1-72.  Volume Two.  Wiley Blackwell Commentaries.  Oxford: John Wiley & Sons Ltd. Habel, N. C. 1985. The Book of Job: A Commentary. Old Testament Library. London: SCM. Hobbins, J. 2013. “The Poetry of Qohelet.” In The Words of the Wise Are Like Goads: Engaging Qohelet in the 21st Century, edited by M. J. Boda et al., 163–​192. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns.

148   Susan E. Gillingham Joyce, P. M., and Lipton, D. 2013. Lamentations through the Centuries. Blackwell Bible Commentaries. Chichester, UK: John Wiley & Sons. Kugel, J. L. 1981. The Idea of Biblical Poetry. London: John Hopkins University Press. Kynes, W. 2012. My Psalm Has Turned into Weeping. Job’s Dialogue with the Psalms. Beihefte zur Zeitschrift für die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 437. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter. Linafelt, T. 2000. Surviving Lamentations: Catastrophe, Lament and Protest in the Afterlife of a Biblical Book. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Loader, J. A. 1979. Polar Structures in the Book of Kohelet. Beihefte zur Zeitschrift für die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 152. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter. Martin, J. 1995. Proverbs. Sheffield Study Guide. Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Academic Press. McCann, J. C., ed. 1993. The Shape and Shaping of the Psalter. Sheffield, UK: JSOT Press. Newsom, A. 2009. The Book of Job:  A Contest of Moral Imaginations. New  York:  Oxford University Press. Partington, A., ed. 1992. The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Salters, R. B. 1994. Jonah and Lamentations. Old Testament guides. Sheffield, UK: JSOT Press. Seow, C. L. 2013. Job 1–​21:  Interpretation and Commentary. Illuminations. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans. Shea, W. H., 1979. “The Qinah Structure of the Book of Lamentations.” Biblica 60:103–​107. Steinberg, J., and Stone, T. J. 2015. “The Historical Formation of the Writings in Antiquity.” In The Shape of the Writings, edited by J. Steinberg and T. J. Stone, 1–​58. Siphrut 15. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns. Tsevat, M. 1955. A Study of the Language of the Biblical Psalms. Journal of Biblical literature Monograph series 9. Philadelphia: Society of Biblical Literature. Vernus, P., 2005. “La Cantique de Cantiques et L’Egypte pharaonique. État de la question.” In Perspectives on the Song of Songs, edited by A. C. Hagedorn, 150–​162. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter. de-​Claissé Walford, N. 1997. Reading from the Beginning: The Shaping of the Hebrew Psalter. Macon, GA: Mercer University Press. Watson, W. G.  E. 2004. Classical Hebrew Poetry:  A Guide to Its Techniques. Reprint edn. London: Bloomsbury T&T Clark. Whybray, R. N. 1989. Ecclesiastes. Sheffield Study Guide. Sheffield, UK: JSOT Press. Whybray, R. N. 1994. Proverbs. New Century Bible Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans. Whybray, R. N. 1995. The Book of Proverbs. A  Survey of Modern Study. History of Biblical Interpretation Series 1. Leiden, the Netherlands: E.J. Brill. Williams, J. G. 1981. Those who Ponder Proverbs. Aphoristic Thinking & Biblical Literature. Sheffield, UK: Almond.

Pa rt  I I I


Chapter 10

Reading P s a l ms Sa pientially i n t h e Writin g s William P. Brown

By far the lengthiest book in the Writings, indeed among all the books of the Hebrew Bible, the book of Psalms keeps close canonical company with the wisdom corpus. Followed by Job and Proverbs in the Jewish canon and bounded by both books in the Christian canon, the book of Psalms and the wisdom books seem set for rich dialogical exchange. Yet comparative studies have largely limited themselves to either identifying particular “wisdom psalms” or detecting the hand of the sages in the Psalter’s formation.1 But merely hunting for individual wisdom psalms and sleuthing for editorial fingerprints tend to overlook larger, more interesting issues, such as the Psalms’ didactic aims vis-​à-​vis those of, say, Proverbs. The central issue concerning how the psalmist and the sage keep company needs to be framed more broadly and heuristically, and this involves more than reading the Psalms for their own instructional worth, a task that has been, and continues to be, profitably undertaken (see, e.g., McCann 1992: 117–​128; McCann 1993; Owens 2014). Rather, I want to ask: What does the Psalter look like when read dialogically with the Wisdom corpus? Specifically, what would it mean to read the Psalms as a dialogue partner with Proverbs?2 To be sure, this is more an exercise in speculation than a rigorous exegetical investigation, but the payoff could be significant. It would involve identifying areas of potential dialogue between Psalms and Proverbs that would have taken place in the Persian period when both books were in the process of compositional and editorial formation, when issues of community and identity formation were paramount. As canonical criticism has long recognized, text and community are inextricably tied together dialogically:  communities shape and produce texts, and texts in turn help to shape communities (Sanders 1987; Morgan 1990). If biblical texts reflect the dialogue among and within communities seeking to understand God in the fray of living together, then the texts themselves can be regarded as partners in dialogue with each other, both

152   William P. Brown historically and canonically. This clearly includes Psalms and Proverbs. Sharing more than just a few words here and there, these two complex corpora feature similar compositional dynamics, parallel motifs and metaphors, and comparable didactic aims.3 It is precisely their rhetorical affinities that help delineate their respective emphases as differentiated partners engaged in an ongoing dialogue over what it means to be God’s people in the “new normal” of living under the Persian Empire.

Books of Conglomeration Why Psalms and Proverbs? Unlike other books among the Writings, Psalms and Proverbs are conglomerations:  collections that reflect a long, complicated history of growth. For example, the majority of individual psalms and many of the sayings and poems of Proverbs were not originally developed as constituent parts of their final arrangements. They were composed in and for other contexts, orally and literarily. Psalms and Proverbs, as books, feature previously existing psalms and sayings from previously existing collections that were further arranged and edited into their current, received forms. In the process, different psalms and myriad sayings were recontextualized to formalize and extend their rhetorical capacities across multiple contexts and settings. Many psalms were composed and collected by individuals and communities to shape and convey their prayers and praises in worship. Myriad proverbs, in comparable fashion, were collected and codified so that discerning readers could apply them as they saw fit. The cumulative effect of this application helped to shape moral character. Thus, in terms of their compositional and editorial dynamics, Psalms and Proverbs share certain affinities. Both books are conglomerations—​collections of collections and clusters accumulated over time. By incorporating previously existing materials, the books of Psalms and Proverbs have made such materials available for wider use and reference.

Distinctions Despite their compositional affinities, there is much to say about what is distinctive about the Psalms in contrast to Proverbs. The tradents behind these books collected different artifacts, with different content and form. The Psalter has been described, albeit simplistically, as the prayer book and hymnbook of the Second Temple. Some psalms, however, were composed before the Second Temple (pre-​520 bce) and later interpreted and preserved as messianic for the envisioned reestablishment of an indigenous monarchy. The traumatic experience of exile, moreover, inspired the composition of certain psalms (e.g., 44; 74; 79; 80; 137). But regardless of compositional dating, most psalms have worship as their setting. They are liturgical in style and substance. Several present the Jerusalem Temple as the destination of pilgrimage, the object of desire and religious

Reading Psalms Sapientially in the Writings    153 fervor (e.g., 23:6; 27:4; 84:2–​8[1–​7]; 122:1–​9). As festivals were celebrated on an annual basis, the community bore witness to God’s presence in the Temple in psalmic recitation and singing (17:15; 27:4; 42:3[2]‌, 5[4]; 63:3[2]). While some psalms feature Temple liturgy, others were composed or repurposed for dispersed communities, whose members oriented themselves toward the Temple from distant locations in prayer and praise (cf. 1 Kgs 8:35; Dan 6:10; 1 Esd 4:58).4 Some psalms, however, bear little connection to centralized liturgy. Certain individual prayers of lament, for example, do not presuppose a background of corporate worship. They are prayers to be heard by God, not by others. The presence of an officiating priest is not explicit, and the community’s presence is sometimes more a problem than a source of support. Other psalms, instead of presupposing worship, indicate a distinctly didactic usage. Psalm 1 commends the study of YHWH’s “law” or “instruction” (tôrâ). Other didactic psalms could include Pss 32 and 34, each of which refers to the importance of teaching (32:8–​9; 34:12[11]). Such psalms are sometimes referred to as “wisdom psalms.” These psalms, together with those that refer to divine instruction (1:2; 19:8–​11[7–​10]; 119:1–​ 176), claim the Psalter as a book of instruction or devotion—​a “textbook” of sorts—​in addition to being a book of prayer and praise. Hymnbook, prayer book, textbook: such are the three major dimensions of the Psalter. The Psalms rendered three dimensionally represent a convergence of complementary interests and functions. The book of Psalms, furthermore, makes repeated reference to certain foundational events featured in ancient Israel’s historiography, from the exodus to the choice of Zion and its king, David (e.g., Pss 78; 80; 81; 105; 106; 114; 135; 136). Moses is also given special attention (see 77; 99; 103; 105; 106). Such is not the case among the wisdom writings. Historiographic figures and events find little place in the Hebrew wisdom corpus, including Proverbs.5 Instead of a worship setting, much of Proverbs limns a distinctly familial context. Parental voices and the voice of Wisdom directly address the reader, cast in the cipher of the silent “son” or “sons” (1:8, 10, 15; 2:1; 3:1, 11, 21; 4:1, 10, 20; 5:1, 7; 6:1, 3, 20; 7:1, 24; 8:32). This dominant second-​person address is part of what makes sapiential discourse so didactic. Taking our cue from the sapiential address heavily featured in Proverbs, where do we find second-​person discourse in the Psalms? Though the Psalms, too, contain much second-​person address, such rhetoric is directed not to the reader so much as to God in the form of prayer, praise, thanksgiving, and complaint. To be sure, some psalms that direct their address to the community of listeners/​readers can be construed as didactic, and some of these have been labeled “wisdom psalms.” But such psalms are few in number. The object of direct address in Psalms and Proverbs (God and the reader, respectively) stands as a major difference between psalmic and sapiential discourse.

Rebuke and Complaint Yet even within this significant rhetorical divergence, there is an ostensible degree of comparative crossover. Frequently, the psalmist’s direct address to God lifts up

154   William P. Brown examples of injustice and abuse, including divine abuse, as well as the need for God to act on behalf of the speaker and/​or community. Such instances are commonly referred to by Psalms scholars as complaints or laments. From a sapiential perspective, however, such instances of strident address could be construed as rebukes, a staple of wisdom discourse—​a form of correction typically administered from a superior to an inferior for the purpose of eliciting action. In the psalmic complaint, as Brueggemann has pointed out (1995: 101–​104),6 the speaker rhetorically assumes the “superior” position of admonishing and motivating God to take corrective action, to teach God “a thing or two” about the speaker’s plight, and to articulate what should be done to rectify the situation. This dynamic of the sapiential rebuke is directed toward both the righteous and the fool, the wise and the simple. What would it look like functionally and theologically to regard psalmic complaints as rebukes? To do so would set in sharp relief God’s culpability in the speaker’s plight and God’s responsibility to take action to right the wrong. God requires rebuke in the face of the psalmist’s contrary experience. It would unite into a seamless whole the complaint and the plea or petition. It would also highlight God’s failures to uphold the standard of “faithful love” (ḥesed), ranging from negligence to unwarranted anger. In any case, the least that can be said is that the psalmic complaint and the sapiential rebuke are rhetorical counterparts, if not complements, in the broader discourse of accountability, both human and divine.7

Psalms and Sapientia In assessing Psalms and Proverbs, it is best to begin with the prologue of Proverbs to frame the discussion. The six verses following the superscription present a collage of virtues and values, setting the hermeneutical stage for the rest of the book. 1:2 To know wisdom and instruction; to understand insightful sayings; 1:3 To gain effective instruction, righteousness, justice, and equity. 1:4 To teach prudence to the simple, and knowledge in discretion to the young. 1:5 the wise attend and gain erudition, and the discerning acquire skill. 1:6 To understand a proverb, a figure, words of the wise, and their enigmas. 1:7 The fear of YHWH is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction. (Prov 1:2–​7)

Reading Psalms Sapientially in the Writings    155 These verses present an all-​embracing purpose statement for the book of Proverbs, arranged in systematic fashion. The prologue opens and concludes with reference to the comprehensive values of wisdom and instruction (vv. 2a and 7b), as well as to their literary conventions: “words of insight” (v. 2a) and their forms (v. 6). Sandwiched in between are particular distinctions in virtues. Effective instruction, skill, prudence, and discretion (vv. 3a and 5b) constitute practical or instrumental virtues that enable the person to successfully pursue certain goals or objectives. By definition, instrumental virtues are pragmatic and practical; they are skills for life. Strategically placed at the very center of this constellation are the distinctly moral traits of “righteousness, justice, and equity” (v. 3b). What happens if the prologue of Proverbs were used as a starting point for reading the Psalms? If we let Proverbs be our hermeneutical guide, our attention would be directed to the collage of practical and moral values, from prudence to righteousness, and how they are “fleshed out” in the Psalms. What we would see is a much narrower field of values and virtues. Nearly half of what Proverbs delineates as critical for proper conduct and good character simply does not apply in the Psalms. Specifically, little attention is given in the Psalms regarding the instrumental virtues highlighted in Proverbs. “Shrewdness” (‘ormāh) and “skill” or “guidance” (taḥbulôt), for example, are nowhere to be found. Furthermore, what is commonly translated as “discretion” or “prudence” in Prov 1:4 (mĕzimmâ) is in every case used negatively in the Psalms, typically referring to the machinations of the wicked (e.g., Pss 10:2, 4; 21:2; 37:7; 139:20). In short, practical values and virtues that are meant to ensure success in life are not a paramount concern in the Psalms. If we widen our hermeneutical net to find anything in the Psalms that makes reference to a successful life, we find only occasional references, beginning in the very first psalm: [The righteous one] is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever one does will prosper (yaṣlîaḥ). (1:3)

Symbolized by the tree, the prosperous (male) individual flourishes because he is rooted in torah piety rather than in wisdom, or by cultivating a particular virtue such as prudence or discretion. Beyond this opening psalm, Ps 37, a so-​called wisdom psalm, addresses the issue of prosperity most explicitly, but not as something earned or gained through the exercise of piety or virtue. Instead, prosperity is granted by God alone. Indeed, prosperity in and of itself is associated with the wicked rather than with the righteous: Be still before YHWH and wait patiently for him, Do not fret over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices. (37:7) Better is a little that the righteous person has than the abundance of many wicked. (v. 16)

156   William P. Brown As for the prosperity of the righteous, that is something to wait for: For the wicked shall be cut off, but those who wait for YHWH shall inherit the land. (37:9) But the poor shall inherit the land, and delight themselves in abundant prosperity. (37:11)

Contrary to Proverbs, prosperity in Ps 37 is more destiny than consequence; it is not a natural outgrowth derived from practice. Rather, it is something “inherited.” At most, righteousness in the Psalms marks the warrant or motivation for God to act on behalf of the righteous at the expense of the wicked. God in the Psalms holds a preferential option for the righteous (37:17b), who are referenced as “poor” in the psalm (cf. vv. 9, 11). In Proverbs, however, the righteous have their own preferred options. Much closer to Proverbs on the theme of righteousness and prosperity is Ps 112, which lauds the righteous who are prosperous. Wealth and riches are in their houses, and their righteousness endures forever. (v. 3) They rise in the darkness as a light for the upright, they are gracious, merciful, and righteous. (v. 4)

The psalm goes on to praise the generosity of the righteous toward the poor (v. 9). As Beth LaNeel Tanner has pointed out (2001: 141–​157), Ps 112 provides a fitting counterpart to the acrostic poem that concludes the book of Prov (31:10–​31), which profiles the matriarch of the household with comparable descriptors. However, nowhere is this “woman of resource” described as righteous in the poem, suggesting that righteousness is primarily associated with an androcentric construction of virtue. In any case, both the righteous man and the resourceful woman are profiled as generous, industrious, steadfast, and therefore prosperous characters, as are their respective households. But that is where the similarity ends.

Righteousness Psalm 112 has a counterpart that is unprecedented in Proverbs, let alone in the Hebrew wisdom corpus, and that, of course, is its literary “twin,” Ps 111. There, God is profiled as righteous, gracious, and merciful, in language identical to how the righteous person is profiled in the following psalm. Moreover, God’s wonderful deeds or great works are lifted up for praise:  YHWH gives the “heritage of the nations to” Israel (111:6b) and “provides food for those who fear him” (v. 5b). The theocentric focus of Ps 111 complements the androcentric orientation of Ps 112. Together, they fill out a profile of righteousness and prosperity in which God has an active, if not intervening hand.

Reading Psalms Sapientially in the Writings    157 Human righteousness, in other words, is modeled after divine righteousness, but the fact that Ps 111 appears first in the canonical sequence suggests that the divine–​human relationship also bears a causal relationship: God’s righteousness, evidenced in divine deed and covenant, enables the righteous and their prosperity. Whereas Ps 112 could easily find a home in Proverbs, its edited, if not compositional, link with Ps 111 cannot be severed, thereby ensuring that human righteousness does not stand on its own. In Proverbs, by contrast, righteousness does just that:  it exercises its own power, even salvific power. It “delivers from death” (Prov 10:2; 11:4), saves (11:6), and guards (13:6). Telling is Prov 14:32. The wicked are overthrown by their evildoing, but the righteous find refuge in their integrity.8

Proverbs 11:6 puts it even more pointedly: “The righteousness of the upright saves them, while the desire of the treacherous captures (them).” Such a salvific view of human righteousness is unprecedented in the Psalms, even among the wisdom psalms. Refuge in the Psalms is identified primarily with God, although this is not denied in Proverbs: The name of YHWH is a strong tower; the righteous run into it and are safe. (Prov 18:10)

Although references to righteousness generously populate both psalmic and sapiential rhetoric, not once is the noun “righteousness” (ṣĕdāqâ or ṣedeq) or the adjective ṣaddîk attributed to God in Proverbs, and only indirectly to Wisdom (Prov 8:18, 20). Conversely, while the adjective appears frequently throughout the Psalms, it is rare for righteousness the noun to be attributed to human beings: only one other instance outside of Ps 112 is attested, namely 106:3 (cf. v. 31). In the Psalms, righteousness (the noun) is predominantly associated with God’s deeds of wonder or salvation (e.g., 71:15–​16, 19, 24; 98:2). The psalmic speaker counts on God’s “righteousness,” much like on God’s ḥesed, as the primary motivation or reason for God to act on his or her behalf (e.g., 31:2[1]‌; 40:9[10]; 51:16[14]). Such a central theological attribute in the Psalms is nowhere present in Proverbs (cf. Prov 3:3; 11:17; 20:28; 31:26). In short, one marked distinction of the Psalter’s discourse vis-​à-​vis the book of Proverbs is found in the thoroughgoing theocentric orientation of the Psalms. This distinction becomes more nuanced, however, with respect to two particular psalms.

The Righteous Severed from its twin, Ps 112 offers a portrayal of the righteous that is seemingly unique among the Psalms and more at home in Proverbs. Nothing in the psalm is said of the righteous being dependent upon God. In Ps 34, it is the righteous in particular

158   William P. Brown who are saved by God: “When the righteous cry for help, YHWH hears, and rescues them from all their troubles” (v. 17). One wonders whether Ps 111, with its emphasis upon divine righteousness and agency, was crafted or at least placed in its final position in order to establish Ps 112’s theological home within the Psalter. In any case, Ps 111 nuances the profile of the righteous in Ps 112 by robbing human righteousness of any intrinsic agency. Read in light of Ps 111, righteousness in Ps 112 becomes derivative—​ derivative of God’s righteousness. God is more than simply a model for the righteous but the very source of righteousness. In the Psalms, the righteous are defined by their source of refuge and trust: And the righteous will see and fear; they will laugh at him. “See [this] man who did not make God his refuge, but instead trusted in his abundant riches, seeking refuge (in it) to his own ruin.”9 But as for me, I am like a verdant olive tree in the house of God; I trust in God’s faithful love forever and ever. (52:8–​10[6–​8])

Another distinction regarding the profile of the righteous is that the Psalms fully acknowledge the reality of suffering for the righteous: “many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD rescues them from them all” (34:19). Elsewhere, the righteous frequently find themselves caught in the crucible of conflict, targeted all too often by the wicked and praying to be rescued by God (31:19[18]; 34:16[15], 18[17]; 37:12, 32; 94:21). In short, the “righteous” in Proverbs fare much better than in the Psalms.10 In Psalms, the wicked represent a clear and present danger to the righteous, who are often paired with, or counted among, the destitute and the outcast (e.g., 37:14; 146:6–​8). In Proverbs, the wicked are more an object of contempt than a dire source of danger (11:18, 10; 12:3, 7, 21; 24:15–​16).

Justice As one of the three cardinal virtues in Proverbs (1:3b; 2:8b), justice also figures prominently in the Psalms. In Prov 1–​9, justice lacks specific content. It is a path (or paths) followed by the wise, including Wisdom (2:8–​9; 8:20), and a matter of understanding comparable to righteousness and equity (2:9; cf. 1:3), particularly by “those who seek YHWH” (28:5). Among the sayings beginning in Prov 10, injustice lies behind poverty (13:23), it is the root of ill-​gotten wealth (16:8), and it is evidenced in false witness (19:28). Justice, on the other hand, is a “joy to the righteous, but dismay to evildoers” (21:15). Justice is the critical responsibility of the king and fundamental to the well-​being of the kingdom: By justice a king gives stability to the land, but one who makes heavy exactions ruins it. (29:4)

Reading Psalms Sapientially in the Writings    159 National justice, the proverb acknowledges, is jeopardized by burdensome taxation and tribute. Only in one instance is God presented as the source of justice: Many seek the face of a ruler, but it is from YHWH that one obtains justice. (29:26)

As if building on this one saying from Proverbs, the Psalms claim God as the enduring source of justice, specifically when it comes to executing justice for the destitute and the oppressed (140:12; 146:7). Indeed, the divine courtroom episode in Ps 82, which pits God against the gods, turns entirely on who successfully implements justice on earth. The gods who fail in executing justice for the sake of the marginalized, including the orphan and the poor (82:3–​4), are themselves executed (“mortalized,” one might say) for the sake of justice (v. 7). Only the God of Israel remains, who in a subsequent psalm, “works vindication and justice for all who are oppressed” (103:6; cf. 99:4), although this is not a foregone conclusion in Ps 82. Righteousness and justice together constitute the foundation of God’s throne (89:15; 97:2b). The source of the king’s justice is God’s justice, granted entirely by God to the king (72:1–​2). In the Psalms, justice is a matter of both divine and human agency (106:3), with the scales tipped toward God. Here, again, the Psalms provide a greater theocentric focus to the matter of justice, its source and implementation, than what one finds in Proverbs. In addition, justice in the Psalms is directed more specifically to the marginalized, whereas in Proverbs it is a more a general matter of sustaining the land and maintaining the upper hand over the wicked.

The Fear of the LORD Often considered the “motto” of Proverbs, the seventh verse of the book exhibits an overarching character: the common phrase “the fear of YHWH” appears fourteen times in Proverbs. “The fear of YHWH” is “the beginning of knowledge” (1:7), “the beginning of wisdom” (9:10). It is a matter of moral choice (1:29) and an object of “understanding” (2:5). It is paired with “hatred of evil” and “knowledge” of God (8:13a [cf. 16:6]; 9:10b), as well as humility (15:33; 22:4). Such “fear” enhances and prolongs life (10:27; 14:27; 19:23) and is a source of strength and confidence (14:26). Its “reward” consists of “riches, honor, and life” (22:4). In short, a humble, chosen posture of reverence toward God is morally foundational and eminently salutary in all aspects of life, from conduct to circumstance. In the Psalms, the phrase appears only three times. As in Proverbs, such reverence is considered teachable and, hence, learnable (34:11[12]). And if Ps 34 is intended to outline the contours of fearful reverence, then such “fear” is evidenced in general ethical conduct and judicious speech (vv. 13–​14[14–​15]), resulting in the enhancement of one’s life (v. 12[13]). That all sounds fairly sapiential in character. But what follows in this so-​called wisdom psalm testifies to the saving efficacy of the divine on behalf of the righteous, namely those who take refuge in God (vv. 15–​21[16–​22]), a theme that lacks prominence in Proverbs.

160   William P. Brown Also distinctive in the Psalms, relative to Proverbs, is the connection between tôrâ and “fear,” as in Ps 19, which lists “fear” as one item among many associated with divine instruction and its life-​giving efficacy. The tôrâ of YHWH is complete, restoring the self. The testimony of YHWH is sure, imparting wisdom to the simple. The precepts of YHWH are straight, gladdening the heart. The commandment of YHWH is lucid, giving light to the eyes. The fear of YHWH is radiant, enduring forever. The ordinances of YHWH are firm, altogether righteous. (vv. 8–​10 [7–​9])

Here, as in Deuteronomy, the fear of God is akin to obedience, specifically adherence to torah. This is also the case in Ps 111: The fear of YHWH is the beginning of wisdom; comprehension of the good (śēkel ṭôb) is for all who perform them (‘ōśêhem).11 (v. 10)

While the first colon of this couplet appears in variant forms in Prov 1:7; 9:10; and Sir 1:14 (cf. Job 28:28), its association with torah is unprecedented from a sapiential perspective. Indeed, the second line serves to qualify the first. Nowhere in Proverbs is wisdom or reverence referred to as something specifically performed. Wisdom, rather, is primarily found and possessed; reverence is chosen and understood.12 They are primarily objects of attainment in Proverbs. The psalmist, however, offers a different nuance:  wisdom and reverence are more praxis oriented in psalmic rhetoric. Wisdom, for example, is evidenced in fulfilling the divine commandments (cf. Deut 4:5–​6). What’s more, wisdom in Ps 111 is contextually related to the capacity to praise and give thanks (vv. 1b, 10b). To “fear YHWH” is in the psalmist’s estimation to give due thanks and praise, an eminently wise thing to do. Praise and thanksgiving, however, do not fall within the sapiential orbit of Proverbs, even though they are central to the Psalter’s own ethos.

Seek and Find: The Rhetoric of Desire in Psalms and Proverbs Underlying the first seven verses of Proverbs and, indeed, the first nine chapters is the aim to arouse and direct desire toward the appropriation of certain virtues and values.13 This is particularly evident in the rhetoric of seeking and finding, language integral to the sapiential goal of gaining wisdom. Wisdom (ḥokmâ) is to be sought, discerned, appropriated, and in her personified profile, embraced and loved. The statements in 1:28 and 8:17 offer a didactic framing of Wisdom’s appeal. In the first instance, Wisdom

Reading Psalms Sapientially in the Writings    161 utters a scathing judgment against those who have already rejected her and now face calamity: Then they will call upon me, but I will not answer; they will seek me diligently, but will not find me. (1:28)

But in her eloquent appeal to those who welcome her, Wisdom proclaims I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently find me. (8:17)

Both pronouncements employ the verb šāḥar, “to seek diligently.” But other verbs of seeking and yearning are employed as well. if you indeed call out for insight, and raise your voice for understanding; if you seek it like silver, and search for it as for hidden treasures—​ then you will understand the fear of YHWH and find the knowledge of God. (2:3–​4)

This extended conditional sentence packs within it a collage of verbs that denote desire and goal-​oriented intentionality: “call out” (qr’), “seek” (bqš), and “search” (ḥpś), as well as “find” (mṣ’). The constellation of verbs is matched by a constellation of terms related to wisdom: insight, understanding, knowledge, and “fear.” A particularly pointed verb for seeking is rādap, “pursue,” whose object in Proverbs is “righteousness” (15:9; 21:21). Not dissimilarly, the language of “seeking” in the Psalms occasionally takes as its object such values as šālôm (34:15[14]) and the good (in 38:21[20]), including the good or well-​being of Jerusalem (122:9). In addition, Ps 119 employs such language to highlight the irresistible appeal of God’s law (“precepts” and “statutes”; vv. 45, 94, 155). But the primary object of seeking or desire in the Psalms is God. For God is reserved the language of seeking and searching at its most passionate level. O God, you are my God, I seek you (‘ăšaḥărekā) my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints (kāmah) for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. (63:2)

In an entrance psalm, those who “seek” (drš) God’s “face” or presence are admitted into the “holy place” by their moral qualifications (24:6). Similarly, we find in 11:7: For YHWH is righteous; he loves righteous deeds; the upright shall behold his face.

162   William P. Brown With God as the object, the language of seeking in the Psalms is inevitably found within the rhetoric of petition and praise. Here, YHWH, my voice as I call; grant me grace and answer me! “Come,”14 says my heart, “seek his face!”15 Your face, YHWH, do I seek. Do not hide your face from me. (27:7–​9a) I sought YHWH, and he answered me, and from all my fears he delivered me. (34:5[4]‌) May all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who love your salvation say continually, “Great is YHWH!” (40:17[16]; cf. 70:5[4]‌; 105:3)

Those who seek God also hope in God (69:7[6]‌). To seek God and God’s strength is to recall God’s works of wonder (105:4–​5). In 14:2, the one who seeks God is one who has understanding or is wise (maśkîl). And so we return full circle: as the Psalms occasionally infuse the language of seeking God with ethical terminology comparable to that found in Proverbs, so Proverbs, conversely, can cast Wisdom in terms typically reserved for God in the Psalms, as an ultimate object of seeking and even, at least in one clear case, petition. Then they will call upon me, but I will not answer; they will seek me diligently, but will not find me. (Prov 1:28)

Compare the words of assurance from Ps 91. When they call on me, I will answer them; I will be with them amid dire straits, I will deliver them16 and honor them. (v. 15; cf. 18:41)

The former passage sounds like divine judgment, but it is in fact Wisdom who is speaking, admonishing her listeners.

Seeking Salvation Psalms and Proverbs also share the rhetoric of salvation. To state the obvious, the language of salvation is written all over the Psalms, particularly in the genres of complaint and thanksgiving. The God of the Psalms, the God of ḥesed, is the God who saves, as expressed in the typical petition given in Ps 6.

Reading Psalms Sapientially in the Writings    163 Turn, YHWH; deliver me! Save me on account of your ḥesed! For in death there is no remembrance of you; in Sheol who can give you praise? (v. 5)

The speaker focuses exclusively on God’s character as the reason and precedent for salvation, not on anything the speaker has done. It is God’s ḥesed that makes salvation possible (see also 31:16; 109:26). The psalm is all about what has been done to the speaker. Even as God remains the active subject of salvation in the Psalms, a sapiential perspective directs attention toward the speaker, specifically on his or her character. God’s salvific work is directed toward a constellation of character profiles and modes of conduct: the “upright in heart” (7:11[10]), the faithful (ḥāsîd, 12:2[1]‌), the poor/​oppressed/​weak/​needy (12:6[5]; 34:7[6]; 72:4, 13; 76:10[9]; 82:4; 109:31), those who seek refuge from enemies (17:7; 18:3[2]; 37:40; 143:9), the humble (18:28[27]), the anointed (20:7[6]), those whose integrity allow them entrance into the temple (24:5), the brokenhearted and crushed in spirit (34:19[18]), “those who go the right way” (50:23), the “simple” (116:6), those who fear God (34:8[7]; 145:19), the righteous (34:18[17], 20[19]), those who hate evil (97:10), and, more broadly, whoever calls upon God (50:15; 91:15). Salvation, moreover, is not limited to humans; animals are also beneficiaries of God’s saving work (36:7[6]). In the Psalms, God’s salvific work is both discriminate and indiscriminate. Proverbs also employs the language of salvation, in a few instances quite comparable to what is found in the Psalms: Do not say, “I will repay evil.” Wait for YHWH, and he will deliver you. (20:22) YHWH is far from the wicked, but he hears the prayer of the righteous. (15:29) [God] is a shield to those who take refuge in him. (30:5b) In fearing YHWH one has strong confidence, for his children there will be a refuge. (14:26)

Nevertheless, Proverbs and Psalms part ways when it comes to the range of saving subjects. Whereas God is the sole source of salvation in the Psalms, that is not the case in Proverbs. The range of subjects that effect salvation in Proverbs include righteousness (Prov 10:2; 11:4, 6), knowledge (11:9), speech (12:6; 14:25), and discipline (23:14). In Prov 2 the attributes of wisdom are poetically imbued with salvific agency. . . . wisdom will come into your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul; prudence will watch over you; and understanding will guard you, to save you from the way of evil, from those who speak perversely. (2:10–​12)

164   William P. Brown Salvation comes through the appropriation of wisdom in all its facets, both intellectual and instrumental. Comparable personification in the Psalms is found only in Ps 43. Send forth your light and your truth; they will lead me. May they bring me to your holy mountain, to your dwelling. (v. 3)

The emphasis, however, is upon God’s “light” and “truth.” For Proverbs, by contrast, the verb “save” is frequently cast in the passive. You will be saved (nṣl) from the strange woman, from the adulteress with her smooth words. (2:16) The righteous are delivered (ḥlṣ) from dire straits. (11:8a) One who walks in integrity will be saved (yš’). (28:18a)

More striking is the reflexive, imperative use of the Niphal verbal stem in 6:3 and v. 5: So do this, my son, and save yourself (hinnāṣēl), for you have come into your neighbor’s power: go, hurry, and plead with your neighbor. (6:3) Save yourself (hinnāṣēl) like a gazelle from the hunter, like a bird from the hand of the fowler. (6:5)

In sum, one can easily see a pointed dialogue unfolding between the sages and the psalmists regarding the issue of salvation and the efficacy of moral character. The psalmist makes clear that if righteousness is to figure within the rhetoric of salvation, it is not human righteousness: In your righteousness deliver me and rescue me; incline your ear to me and save me. (71:2)

No psalm ventures to claim salvific power for the exercise of virtue, be it righteousness or something else. If there is one consistency, it is this: while the cultivation of right character has its place in the Psalms, it is God alone who effects salvation. The theocentric thrust of salvation in the Psalms, moreover, coheres well with the more vulnerable status that the righteous have within the Psalms. Human agency plays no role. For not in my bow do I trust, my sword does not save me (ys’). (44:7[6]‌) A king is not saved (ys’) by the magnitude of [his] might; a warrior is not delivered by the extent of [his] strength. The war horse is a vain hope for victory,

Reading Psalms Sapientially in the Writings    165 and by the magnitude of its might it cannot save (mlṭ). Look, YHWH’s eye is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his faithful love, to deliver (nṣl) them from death, and to preserve them in famine. (33:16–​19)

Wisdom and Worship With these points of contact and difference between Psalms and Proverbs kept in mind, where at the table do the psalmist and the sage sit to host a conversation? At opposite ends (shouting), next to each other (commiserating), or somewhere in between? Put another way, where does each corpus find its home, its “refuge,” in relation to each other within the variegated landscape of ancient Israel’s life? We begin with the obvious. While the wisdom literature contains a trove of instructional material spanning centuries of ethical and theological reflection, the Psalter provides a wide sampling of Israel’s rich cultic life, whether in centralized worship or in more informal, small-​scale cultic contexts in which God is addressed in prayer and praise. As most psalms have their home in worship in some form or another, wisdom in Proverbs operates within the home, as well as in the court, the city gate, and the marketplace—​the various places that lie outside cultic contexts and activities (Prov 1:20–​21; 8:2–​3). But nowhere in Proverbs does Wisdom gain entrance to the Temple (contra Sir 24:8–​11).17 Nowhere does she play a role in the history of salvation (contra Wisdom 10:1–​ 21). National history and cult are not her primary domains. It is in the domains of the city square and marketplace, of day-​to-​day living that the sages found Wisdom to be theologically significant. Her realm lies apart from the sanctuary of praise and petition and embodies something akin to a “public theology.” While Wisdom’s reach extends beyond the realm of worship, the God of the Psalms reaches beyond the realm of the everyday by claiming both the Temple and the limits of life itself where death looms large within its purview. Psalms addresses crisis and cult, life in extremis and life in worship. These psalmic domains of life—​the center and the periphery, one might say—​affirm the radical dependence of human well-​being on God. Wisdom, on the other hand, fills the gap by staking her claim beyond the hallowed walls of the Temple and wherever life is more a matter of negotiation, mediation, and balancing, wherever self-​reliance through the cultivation of virtue becomes a significant factor—​areas of human conduct that are certainly not without their challenges but certainly lacking the contexts of persecution, disease, grief, and mortal combat. There is, in other words, not much room for complaint in Proverbs, and the only prayer to be found in the book is one that asks for a moderation of provision from God, not too much and not too little, a balance of sustenance (Prov 30:7–​9). Whereas the Psalms deals with life at the edges, Proverbs covers life in the middle. For all their differences, is there still space for discerning some degree of complementarity between Proverbs and Psalms? This is certainly possible when comparing their respective goals. As indicated in the Hebrew title of the Psalter, the psalms collectively

166   William P. Brown point toward praise of God. With few exceptions, the lament psalms typically conclude with thanksgiving or a vow to praise. In Proverbs, however, the resounding note of divine praise is never played. Rather, as the prologue indicates, gaining instruction is the goal (Prov 1:5).18 Throughout the first nine chapters of Proverbs, the reader is repeatedly exhorted to appropriate wise counsel and discipline,19 and such appropriation is heightened by Wisdom’s erotic appeal,20 a rhetorical feature lacking in the Psalms. And yet the psalms of the Psalter are filled with passionate desire, with desire for God. Wisdom in Proverbs is lover and intimate friend who enables her partner to navigate the complexities of life with integrity. God in the Psalms is deliverer and protector who enables those who trust in God to hold firm and sustain their hope amid crisis. Praise of God in the Psalms is matched by assent to Wisdom in Proverbs. Sapientially speaking, praise can be seen as a form of assent to God, of trust in God, of casting one’s allegiance to YHWH in the face of conflict and threat. Praise, in turn, is not entirely alien to wisdom. Like the Psalter, Proverbs ends on a note of praise, but not of God (Prov 31:28–​31). Despite their theological divergences, the psalmist and the sage are canonically engaged in constructive dialogue over what constitutes a true vision of life coram deo. The canonical conjoining of Proverbs and Psalms, of the “resourceful woman” and the “righteous man,” of the household and the sanctuary, of the public square and sacred space, of Wisdom and Torah, covers well the bases of life from the center to the periphery, perhaps matching in some attenuated way the social landscape of postexilic Israel, from Yehud to the Diaspora. Furthermore, the boundary between worship and wisdom becomes a porous one, with much overlap between these domains. And yet they remain distinct. Throughout the city, God is more distant while Wisdom roams the streets and inhabits households. Within the sanctuary, God’s presence is directly felt, and Wisdom takes a backseat to Torah. In the end, this is more a division of influence than a competition for allegiance, as the psalmist and the sage continue their dialogue directly across from each other at the table.

Notes 1. The scholarly literature on the so-​called wisdom psalms is voluminous but need not be cited here. For a recent review of the history of research in this area, see Jacobson (2014: 147–​157). See also my own initial foray into this contested issue in Brown (2005: 85–​ 102), which this chapter builds on. 2. This chapter will focus on Psalms in dialogue with Proverbs. Much can and has been said about the interconnections between Psalms and Job, particularly in light of the common lament genre. See most recently Kynes (2012) and Frevel (2013: 157–​168). 3. By “didactic,” I simply mean anything meant for instruction as indicated by form and/​ or language. Didactic literature is by no means limited to certain psalms and the wisdom literature. It can also include, for example, the summons to pay attention (see, e.g., Deut 31:12–​13; Isa 1:2–​3; 28:23–​29; Jer 9:20; Joel 1:2–​3; Amos 3:3–​8). For an overview of biblical and other ancient Near Eastern witnesses to instruction, see Crenshaw (1998: 51–​220). 4. See Clifford (2014: 326–​337).

Reading Psalms Sapientially in the Writings    167 5. Of course, with the exception of Solomon and Hezekiah as subjects of attribution (Prov 1:1; 10:1; 25:1; cf. Eccl 1:1, 12; Ps 127:1). 6. Brueggemann unpacks this with the help of “object-​relations theory” in personality development. 7. For more detailed argumentation of this form-​critical point, see Brown (2018). 8. Read bĕtûmmô in place of MT’s bĕmôtô (“in his death”), which probably arose accidentally through metathesis of the taw and mem. See Fox (2009: 585–​586). Contra Clifford, who finds the meaning of the emendation “insipid.” Clifford wrongly assumes that “refuge” in this case naturally takes God as the subject, as in the Psalms (1999: 142–​143, 148). 9. BHS, in accordance with Peshitta and Targum, reads bĕhônô (in his wealth”), against MT bĕhawwātô, which also makes good sense. The verb in v. 7 is likely derived from ‘wz rather than yzz (“grow strong”), although a wordplay cannot be ruled out. 10. The most comprehensive profile of the righteous in the Psalms is offered by Creach (2008). 11. The antecedent of the masculine plural suffix in the MT is a crux. LXX and Peshitta feature a feminine singular, presupposing “wisdom.” The MT, however, bears the more difficult reading, whose antecedent is “precepts” in v. 7b. 12. The “fear of YHWH” is chosen (bḥr, Prov 1:29) and understood (byn, 2:5); a person is “in” reverence of God (14:26; 23:17). “Wisdom,” similarly, is something chosen, received, found, bought, loved, and possessed or appropriated (e.g., 2:2a, 10; 3:13; 4:5, 7; 10:13; 16:16; 19:20; 23:23; 29:3), as well as understood and communicated (2:2b; 10:31). Only Prov 28:26 contains the expression “walk in wisdom.” 13. On the language of desire throughout Proverbs, see Stewart (2016: 130–​169). 14. Hebrew lĕkâ is best taken as an emphatic imperative of hlk and not as a prepositional phrase. 15. Read baqqēš panayw for MT baqqĕšû pānāy (“seek [pl] my face”). 16. Literally “pull them out” (ḥlṣ). 17. To be sure, the sage in Proverbs gives a deferential nod to the cult (Prov 3:9–​10). For an important, albeit one-​sided, analysis, see Perdue (1977: 142–​155). 18. For a general discussion of the pedagogical aims of Proverbs, see Estes (1996: 63–​87). 19. For example, Prov 1:8a; 2:1, 2; 4:1a; 5:1; 7:1, 2, 24; 8:32–​33; 9:4–​6. 20. Proverbs 4:6–​8; 8:34–​36; cf. 5:15–​19.

Bibliography Brown, William P. 2005. “‘Come, O Children . . . I Will Teach You the Fear of the LORD’ (Psalm 34:12): Comparing Psalms and Proverbs.” In Seeking Out the Wisdom of the Ancients: Essays Offered to Honor Michael V. Fox on the Occasion of His Sixty-​Fifth Birthday, edited by R. L. Troxel, K. G. Freibel, and D. R. Magary, 85–​102. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns. Brown, William P. 2012. “Happiness and Its Discontents in the Psalms.” In The Bible and the Pursuit of Happiness: What the Old and New Testaments Teach Us about the Good Life, edited by B. A. Strawn, 95–​115. New York: Oxford University Press. Brown, William P. 2014. Wisdom’s Wonder: Character, Creation, and Crisis in the Bible’s Wisdom Literature. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans. Brown, William P. Forthcoming. “Rebuke, Complaint, Lament, and Praise: Reading Psalms and Proverbs Together.” In Reading Proverbs Intertextually, edited by K. Dell and W. Kynes. LHBOTS. London: Bloomsbury T&T Clark.

168   William P. Brown Brueggemann, Walter. 1995. “The Costly Loss of Lament.” In The Psalms and the Life of Faith, edited by P. D. Miller, 98–​111. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress. Clifford, Richard J. 1999. Proverbs:  A Commentary. OTL. Louisville, KY:  Westminster John Knox. Clifford, Richard J. 2014. “Psalms of the Temple.” In The Oxford Handbook of the Psalms, edited by W. P. Brown, 326–​337. New York: Oxford University Press. Creach, Jerome F.  D. 2008. The Destiny of the Righteous in the Psalms. St. Louis, MO: Chalice Press. Crenshaw, James L. 1995. “Clanging Symbols.” In J. L. Crenshaw, Urgent Advice and Probing Questions:  Collected Writings on Old Testament Wisdom, 371–​382. Macon, GA:  Mercer University Press. Crenshaw, James L. 1998. Education in Ancient Israel:  Across the Deadening Silence. New York: Doubleday. Estes, Daniel J. 1996. Hear, My Son: Teaching and Learning in Proverbs 1–​9. New Studies in Biblical Theology. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans. Fox, Michael V. 2009. Proverbs 10-​31. Anchor Yale Bible 18B. New Haven, CT:  Yale University Press. Frevel, Christian. 2013. “Telling the Secrets of Wisdom: The Use of Psalm 104 in the Book of Job.” In Reading Job Intertextually, edited by K. Dell and W. Kynes, 157–​168. LHB/​OTS 574. New York: Bloomsbury T & T Clark. Gillingham, Susan E. 2014. “The Levites and the Editorial Composition of the Psalms.” In The Oxford Handbook of the Psalms, edited by W. P. Brown, 201–​213. New  York:  Oxford University Press. Jacobson, Diane. 2014. “Wisdom Language in the Psalms.” In The Oxford Handbook of the Psalms, edited by W. P. Brown, 147–​157. New York: Oxford University Press. Kynes, Will. 2012. My Psalm Has Turned into Weeping: Job’s Dialogue with the Psalms. BZAW 473. Berlin: de Gruyter. McCann, J. Clinton, Jr. 1992. “The Psalms as Instruction.” Interpretation 46:117–​128. McCann, J. Clinton, Jr. 1993. A Theological Introduction to the Book of Psalms: The Psalms as Torah. Nashville, TN: Abingdon. Morgan, Donn F. 1990. Between Text and Community:  The “Writings” in Canonical Interpretation. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress. Newsom, Carol A. 1989. “Woman and the Discourse of Patriarchal Wisdom:  A Study of Proverbs 1–​9.” In Gender and Difference in Ancient Israel, edited by Peggy L. Day, 142–​160. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress. Owens, Daniel C. 2014. Portraits of the Righteous in the Psalms: An Exploration of the Ethics of Book I. Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock. Perdue, Leo G. 1977. Wisdom and Cult: A Critical Analysis of the Views of Cult in the Wisdom Literature of Israel and the Ancient Near East. SBLDS 30. Missoula, MT: Scholars Press. Sanders, James A. 1987. From Sacred Story to Sacred Text. Philadelphia: Fortress. Stewart, Anne W. 2016. Poetic Ethics in Proverbs: Wisdom Literature and the Shaping of the Moral Self. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Tanner, Beth LaNeel. 2001. The Book of Psalms through the Lens of Intertextuality. Studies in Biblical Literature 26. New York: Peter Lang. Yoder, Christine Roy. 2009a. Proverbs. AOTC. Nashville, TN: Abingdon. Yoder, Christine Roy. 2009b. “On the Threshold of Kingship: A Study of Agur (Proverbs 30).” Interpretation 3:254–​263.

Chapter 11

The B o ok of J ob i n t h e C ontext of th e W ri t i ng s Katharine J. Dell

The book of Job is widely acclaimed as a literary masterpiece. It is a profound exploration of the problem of innocent suffering and a deep engagement with the God–​human relationship. It consists of both prose story and poetic dialogue. The prose story gives the context of a “man from the land of Uz” called Job who is “blameless and upright,” a God fearer and truly worthy person (Job 1:1). The second main scene introduces us to the heavenly realm where God and the Satan are having a discussion as to the motivation of human beings in their relationship with God. Are human beings in the relationship essentially for what they can gain from it? As the Satan asks God, “Does Job fear God for nothing?” (Job 1:9). This opens up the question of disinterested piety—​is a person good for the sake of being so and for the desire to be in a good relationship with God alone? Or is a person hoping to gain wealth, respect, many descendants as a direct result of doing good deeds (Dell 1991)? In order to test this proposition, God allows “the Satan” (he has the definite article in this book, to signify “the accuser/​adversary”) to afflict Job in two ways. First, he is afflicted by the loss of his children and, second, when he does not lose faith after that terrible calamity, he is afflicted in his body by a loathsome skin disease. His wife advises him to “Curse God and die” (Job 1:9), but he doggedly holds on to his faith and seemingly passes the test that God and the Satan devised for him. His response “Shall we receive the good at the hand of God, and not receive the bad?” (Job 1:10) indicates acceptance and piety on Job’s part. Three friends come to comfort him in his affliction and at this point the prose story breaks off. This is where the dialogue comes in (­chapter 3) with a very different character for Job emerging from this point onward. The dialogue between Job and his three friends (­chapters 4–​31), Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, begins with Job’s lament over the fact that he was even born, let alone allowed to suffer in this way, and then continues with arguments over whether the righteous are really rewarded by God and the wicked punished. Job maintains that because of his present afflictions the “system” has gone wrong and that his case has

170   Katharine J. Dell proved that God allows the wicked to flourish and does not reward goodness as expected. The friends maintain the traditional line that Job has indeed sinned, even if the nature of the sin is not yet obvious, and that he is being rightly punished by God. The opposing positions get more entrenched—​and the insults stronger—​as the dialogue continues. The dialogue section is long—​the bulk of the book. At the end of the dialogue a fourth younger friend, Elihu, appears (­chapters 32–​37) and adds his views to the mix before the climactic appearance of God in a whirlwind (­chapters 38–​ 41). Throughout the dialogue Job had argued that only God could right the wrong done to him and explain the punishment inflicted upon him. Job had not sinned in contrast to what the friends maintained. When God appears, the reader might expect God to justify Job or at least to answer his questions. But God thunders from heaven with a series of rhetorical questions, beginning with asking Job where he was at creation and why he thinks that he has all the answers: “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?. . . Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding” (Job 38:1–​2). The God speeches focus on God’s role in creation and in the creation of the world, especially wild animals and great monsters (Behemoth and Leviathan) and in many ways they bypass the issue of unjust suffering. The book ends with a final capitulation by Job in which he acknowledges that there is much that he does not understand—​he appears to be overawed by God’s response. There is then a prose epilogue which, ironically, sees Job restored to his former position, but twofold in that all his possessions are doubled and he has a new set of children followed by grandchildren and great-​grandchildren, “four generations” (Job 42:16).

Structure The structure of the book in the prose/​poetry formation and with the change in genre between the two sections has led to much speculation as to the book’s provenance. Was there an early prose story that existed independently of the dialogue? Could the dialogue then have been added by an author in an attempt to make a more profound statement about the problem of innocent suffering? What would be the contents of the prose story, because, as it stands, it lacks a center and so it would need to be reconstructed (as by Snaith [1968]). Would this mean that the God speeches were also added? Or could a dialogue have existed prior to a prose story being placed around it later, in order to put the dialogue into context? These questions were particularly prevalent in the heyday of source and redaction criticism and have less prominence nowadays, when the tendency is to read books in their final form (first pursued seriously in a commentary by Habel [1985]). However, the structural questions persist because there does seem to be more than simply a genre difference—​the whole character of Job changes in the dialogue section and the material resembles psalmic material more closely than traditional wisdom in many ways.

The Book of Job in the Context of the Writings    171 One piece of external evidence to the book is the mention of Job in Ezek 14:14, 20. Here Job is mentioned as a righteous person alongside Noah and Daniel (or Dan’el), who could only save themselves by their righteousness, rather than saving others as well. This mention suggests that at least the character of Job was known by the time of Ezekiel (sixth century bce) and that he already had a reputation for righteousness. In the light of this evidence, an older story of the righteous, unwavering Job, who did not flinch when suffering came, probably existed before the dialogue section was added by an author after the Exile, and possibly in the light of that suffering (Dell 1991). This author saw the tale as offering an opportunity for a more profound engagement with the issues. Whether Job actually existed is unverifiable, but reputations do not spring out of nothing, so there may be a distant historical reminiscence here. The structure of the rest of the book is disjointed to say the least. In the third cycle of speeches between Job and his three friends, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, there is no third speech by Zophar and the one by Bildad is unusually short (Job 25:1–​6). Job in this section seems to be saying the wrong things, that is, praising the validity of the “righteous are rewarded” system when he has spent most of the dialogue denying it. This has led to the suggestion that the third cycle of speeches has been lost through scribal error, or to many attempts to reconstruct it. There is also the problem of the introduction of a previously unannounced fourth friend, Elihu. His speeches run for four chapters and are quite repetitive of what has come before and anticipatory of what comes after in the speeches of God. They too could be a later addition. The hymn to Wisdom also, in c­ hapter 28, could be an independent poem, added later. It does not easily belong in Job’s mouth and seems to contradict sentiments held beforehand. However, some have argued that it can be accommodated in the mouth of Job as part of a parody of traditional ideas, refuting the “wisdom” claims of the friends (Egan [2002] argues that ­chapters 24–​ 28 are a unit, largely characterized by poetry). The speeches of God, too, have come under scrutiny from source critics—​could the second speech be later? It describes the great beasts Behemoth and Leviathan and has a different character to the first. That too could be a later addition. Could the Satan passages in the Prologue also be later, the original story containing no wager but simply a story of Job’s testing by God (Batten 1933)? The problem with all these suggestions is that, though plausible, they tend to be subjective, relying on individual scholars’ opinions of what “makes sense” for the book. There has been a move in recent times toward taking the book in its final form and, more than that, in seeing a planned structure to the whole (Habel 1985). As I will show, the concept of parody can be a uniting principle for the whole book (Zuckerman 1991).

Literary Forms and Rhetoric The literary forms in Job can be part of a wider discussion of genre. In the decision as to what makes up a genre, the elements of form, content, and context are decisive. Job displays use of a wide range of genres. There is the main prose narrative in storytelling

172   Katharine J. Dell style but with the unusual item of a scene taking place in heaven between God and his adversary. However, even more diverse are the genres used in the dialogue. The dialogue is itself an overarching genre that accommodates the speeches of the different protagonists, that is, of Job and the friends (Crenshaw 1969), but within that there are many smaller genres from the thought-​worlds predominantly of psalmic lament and proverbial wisdom. Although the book of Job is traditionally classified as a wisdom book because of the discussion of the wisdom theme of the prosperity of the righteous versus the punishment of the wicked, I have argued that the diversity of its genres places it outside that easy categorization (Dell 1991, 2000). Rather, with its use of psalmic genres and regular citation of psalms it belongs very much to the genre of lament (as argued by Westermann [1981]). One difference with Job though is that, especially in the mouth of Job, traditional sentiments are reworked—​forms are reused or even misused to convey surprising messages, to parody existing ideas (e.g., Job 7:17–​18 and its parody of Ps 8:4, using the same phrase “What is man?”). The author is using this new context to say something fresh and often challenging. This links up with the “rhetoric” of the book. How does the author of Job achieve his effects? What impact does the rhetoric have on the listener or reader? The author achieves his effects, in my view, in the use of various disjunctions—​the disjunctions: • between prose and poetry, • between the characters of Job the pious and Job the rebel, • between the desperate call to God by Job and his apparent hiddenness and the sudden appearance of God in the whirlwind, • and between the dialogue, which attempts to overturn the doctrine of retribution, and the epilogue with its seeming return to the very same doctrine. In a similar vein, Zuckerman (1991) describes the relationship of what he calls the poem of Job (the dialogue) to the legend of Job (the prose narrative) as “a contrapuntal relationship between a parody and its conventional tradition” (49) or as a “parody of Job the Impatient” (49). There are also disjunctions on the level of smaller forms—​psalmic laments are turned on their head. The author sharply parodies the tradition in order to push the boundaries and achieve a rhetorical flourish, as I will explain next.

Intention/​Audience The question is raised, what kind of author could have written this material? It must have been someone versed in the wisdom of the educated, someone with the time and leisure to think through deeper issues of the human condition, of suffering and its cause and of relationship with God. If this was a sage, it was a renegade sage, someone prepared to challenge the orthodoxy of the approach taken in Proverbs, for example, where the appropriate punishments for good and wicked people being meted out in expected

The Book of Job in the Context of the Writings    173 ways is a major point of challenge for this author. And yet I would argue that he was not necessarily limited by the “wisdom” context. One wonders what the audience was for this writer. It was a postexilic one, no doubt, the book being dateable to the postexilic period (sixth–​fourth century bce) with its emphasis on individualism and with its high view of God. Clearly written as a challenge to the binary system of Proverbs, it was also a challenge to the quest for set patterns that had characterized the earlier wisdom book (Schmid 1966: 171–​186). However, I think that this author had a wider remit than simply seeking to attack former wisdom ideas. The use of very new forms such as the narrative prologue and epilogue, extended dialogue consisting of long speeches, complaints, and laments and the speeches of God suggests that inspiration was coming from a broader range of genres than simply the wisdom one, including psalmic and legal genres (Dell 1991). This also differentiates Job from Ecclesiastes with which it is commonly paired (Dell 2016a). This is where the link-​up with psalmic and other laments is so interesting (see Kynes [2012] on intertextual links between Job and specific psalms such as Pss 1, 8, 39, 73, 107, 139). Could the author have intended to make a broader contribution to the “writings” than from simply within a social context of being a sage? Was he simply an “author” influenced by many genres, and particularly that of the lament, putting his work into the public domain in order to appeal to the broadest possible audience? Rather than simply challenging a specific tradition, was he not also presenting a fresh synthesis of genres to his audience of the educated? This leads us to contemplate the place of Job within the Writings where I will follow up some of these genre issues.

Job’s Place in the Writings Brevard Childs in his Introduction to the Old Testament as Scripture famously wrote of the Writings: “the third division of the Hebrew canon appears to be a catch-​all which lacks coherence” (501). This clarifies the point that there is no particular significance to be drawn from the order of presentation of the Writings in the canon, with so many different variants having existed. However, Steinberg and Stone [2015] do find some meaningful orderings in both Jewish and Christian tradition. A division into two, largely on thematic grounds, is what we have inherited in the scholarship, for example, national history or politics versus wisdom material and concern with the individual (Steinberg 2006). It is noted by Steinberg that if one adopts the order Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Songs for the first subcollection, then it begins with suffering and ends with joy; the same for the second collection of Lamentations, Daniel, Esther, and Ezra/​Nehemiah. He sees Psalms and Chronicles as large framing works around these subcollections, with Ruth as an introduction to the whole. There are also other arrangements of the material, for example, on Jewish liturgical grounds the grouping of the “Megilloth” (Stone 2013). Also, in Jewish tradition Job has sometimes been placed on a chronological pattern with the more historical books, seen in the context of the Exile with Job as a possible returnee. At other times it has been located between the Psalms

174   Katharine J. Dell and Proverbs (following the order in Baba Batra 14b) on the grounds that some of the Rabbis believed that Job was a contemporary of the Queen of Sheba. It has even occasionally been placed with apocryphal texts such as Judith and Tobit in wider canonical sequences (see discussion in Brandt 2015). The classification of Job as “wisdom literature” has probably been the most significant for interpretation of the book of Job, although interestingly this book is not attributed to Solomon (this being the obvious reason for classifying Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Songs together, and influential upon the canonical tendency to keep these Solomonic books in a group together). It seems that the classification “wisdom literature” was a nineteenth-​century phenomenon that we have inherited and that has perhaps constrained us too much (Kynes 2015b). A more appropriate description of Job is in terms of “wisdom influence,” a broader category that enables a wider family of wisdom-​ related works to be included under the “wisdom” umbrella (Morgan [1981] in relation to many parts of the canon; Cheung [2015] in reference to wisdom psalms). An appreciation of Job’s place in the Writings helps us to break down further such walls of categorization, largely dictated for scholars by the influence of the “genre classifications” of the Gunkelian era of interpretation. Job has been particularly placed beside Ecclesiastes as the two books of “protest” within the development of wisdom (Whybray 2005). The optimism of Proverbs seems to be overturned by the skepticism, even pessimism of these writers. However, they are very different in their approach, in their genres and in their mood. Perhaps the closest intertextual link between the two books is Job 1:21 and Eccl 5:14; and others in Job 3:16 and Eccl 6:3b–​5; Job 9:12/​Eccl 8:4 and Job 34:14–​15 and Eccl 12:7 and 3:20 (see discussion in Schultz [2012]). There are then surprisingly few strong intertextual links between the two books given the usual claims about their interrelationship. On the basis of genre, too, most of the genres of Ecclesiastes are wisdom ones, whereas this is not the case in Job (see Dell 2016a). While both books air the subjects of wisdom and folly and the limitations of wisdom, they approach them in such different ways that no close parallels exist on a textual level. This leads me to the conclusion that Proverbs and Ecclesiastes are more strongly “wisdom books” than Job if one employs a narrow definition of Job’s genre. On a broader definition of “wisdom,” which is largely thematic, though, all these books can be ranged together, and as far as the Writings are concerned, they, with the Song of Songs, make a logical subgroup. Song of Songs can be read, as in Baba Bathra 15a, as an early Solomonic writing, when he was in the flush of young love, or it can be read as a kind of canonical follow-​up to Ecclesiastes via the call to enjoy life (Steinberg 2015). However, arguably too much concentration has been placed on this wisdom “subgroup” to the detriment of the possible wider links across the Writings. What I want to draw out here is the link of Job’s varied genres with other books in the Writings than simply the “wisdom” ones—​a link that shows its full integration within this division of the canon. In particular, I am interested in the evaluation of the nature of Job as a lament, and the links that this makes with the other Writings. My approach,

The Book of Job in the Context of the Writings    175 then is to look at the major genres in the different sections of Job and to look for their parallels in the Writings section. The narrative section of Job is unusual within the “wisdom” context, only paralleled in short “story vignettes” in Proverbs and Ecclesiastes (e.g., Prov 1:20–​21; 7:6–​9; 31:10–​31; Eccl 9:13–​16). This has added to the unease in seeing Job as a “wisdom” book. But once we broaden our remit to look at its place amongst the Writings that contain narrative, a new picture emerges. Esther and Dan 1–​6, for example, although often placed with the “histories,” can be classified less as historical tales and more as “novellas” or short stories (there is a link with Ezra too in the context of an exiled Jew in a foreign court, especially Ezra 1–​6). One might think that Job has less in common with Esther with its nationalistic focus, but Esther can be designated a historicized wisdom tale (Talmon 1963). Reasons for such a classification include the author’s knowledge of court etiquette and administration and a general flavor of the wisdom literature in applied form in the book. Talmon didn’t find formal literary parallels to Esther, except perhaps in the ancient Near Eastern parallel, the Wisdom of Ahiqar. For Talmon the links are more in the nature of the characters, and, of course, character development is a key wisdom theme. However, character is also a key element of narrative too, so that does not make a story a wisdom story. In some ways it is as narratives within the Writings that Job and Esther show links, just as much as within a wisdom classification. Daniel is the same—​it has also been suggested for the wisdom genre, especially ­chapters 1–​6, the narratives (von Rad 1966; Whybray 1975). The evidence is perhaps stronger here, with passages such as 1:20 and 2:21; 5:11–​12; 8:15 and 10:1. This is partly influenced by how one defines wisdom and includes the “mantic wisdom” aspect that includes interpretation of dreams and visions. It is also influenced by one’s opinion on the link between wisdom and apocalyptic, since much of Daniel is classified as the latter. This does not preclude the use of wisdom in apocalyptic circles, of course (Morgan 1981; recently Johnson [2009] who has argued for Job as a proto-​apocalyptic work). The narrative setting is the court, which links up with the kind of wisdom associated with Solomon and Joseph (that story having been suggested for the wisdom genre by von Rad [1966]). Instead, though, of seeing these links as necessarily to wisdom, we can see a narrative link across these Writings and frame it in those terms—​again an interest in character and in telling a good story seem to predominate as well as a view of God working behind the scenes (even when God is not explicitly mentioned, as in Esther). The Writings of Ezra, Nehemiah, and Chronicles do seem out of place with books such as Job—​although they contain many narratives and their historical context after the Exile parallels Job’s, their style and concerns are very different to Job and so I shall leave them out of account in this chapter. I find it hard to believe that Chronicles in some way provides a theological summary of the entire canon (Koorevaar 2015), given that it does not engage with Job or the other wisdom books or with their concerns (with the exception perhaps of 2 Chr 2:11, where a foreigner [King Hiram of Tyre] when writing to Solomon praises Yahweh as “God of Israel who has made the heavens and the earth” and an emphasis on retribution).

176   Katharine J. Dell While the dialogue of Job seems to air the wisdom issue, known from Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, of the righteous and wicked and their appropriate rewards or not, there are many other features of the dialogue that one might note. The one I wish to draw out here is the nature of the dialogue as a lament, largely a lament about illness and social isolation (see Dell 2016b). Job is tormented both mentally and physically and this manifests itself in his expressions of lament. It is also the case that the author of Job deliberately parodies traditional sentiments in order deliberately to overturn them (Dell 2016b). Let us look at some examples. One manifestation of Job’s despair is in his desire for death. In 3:21–​22 he longs for death but later he realizes that if he was indeed dead then he would not be able to carry on his conversation with God. So in 7:8, 19, 21 he longs for God’s presence again in the same way as Ps 39:13. This fluctuation of arguments is a symptom of mental torment. Another contradiction is that he wishes for death but then complains that the days of his life are all too short (Job 7:16/​Ps 39:6). Using the same imagery as Ps 102:11, he bewails the fact that nothing is lasting (cf. Job 14:5/​Ps 39:4). And in 9:27 he asks God to “look away,” such is the oppression of his presence for Job, cf. 10:20–​22; 14:6 and Ps 39:13. Psalm 39 then can be seen as an important lament psalm drawn on by the author of Job to express Job’s torment (Kynes 2012)—​there are both lexical and thematic links, especially between Job 10:20–​22 and Ps 39:13. There is a major difference, though, thematically between the texts—​the psalmist is in constant hope despite bewailing the transience of his existence and wishing to be left alone, but Job is more gloomy and so intensifies the lament aspect. Furthermore, ultimately Job maintains his innocence, but the Psalmist, in this case, confesses that he has sinned. Job’s physical torment is expressed in his “sighing and groaning” (3:24). We might compare this to Ps 22:1 or 102:4–​5. Psalm 102 is another lament psalm regularly alluded to by this author. Job’s bones are burning (30:30, cf. Ps 102:3). When Job complains that his disease is eating away at him in 13:28, Pss 39 (v 11) and 102 (v 26) are again echoed. When Job suggests in 16:6 that his pain is never assuaged, whether he speaks or not, he recalls Ps 39:2. Job also feels socially excluded with not only God as his enemy but also other people. Rather, as the “enemies” are described in the psalms, Job describes how former friends and recipients of his kindness have turned against him, for example, Job 6:20/​Ps 35:3, 25. People mock him and spit at him (Job 17:6, cf. Ps 69:7, 11) and he feels estranged from family and friends (cf. Ps 69:8). Psalm 69 is another lament psalm that is being engaged with here. Job feels the pity of others (Job 19:21; cf. Ps 69:20) but receives little comfort from it—​“mock on” he chastises in Job 21:3 (cf. 30:9; Ps 69:12). Again in the context of the Writings, the lament genre is prominent in the psalms (see Mandolfo [2007] for a dialogic reading of both lament psalms and Job positing a suppliant voice and a didactic voice) and it is strong in Lamentations. The lament is in poetic form and has certain characteristic types of complaint, notably a focus on issues of justice, especially divine justice, that do not align with current human experience (see

The Book of Job in the Context of the Writings    177 Janowski 2013), hence the links across these books in genre terms. The lament genre crosses the boundaries of our traditional categories linking the Writings up also with the prophets (especially Jeremiah whose confessions have been likened to the laments of Job and to whom Lamentations is traditionally ascribed). Although Job conforms in part to lament genres, it is clear that Job transgresses the usual boundaries of genre in his less than polite engagement with God and in his refusal to capitulate to the accusation that he must have sinned. There are links between Job and other types of psalm and there are not simply connections with Job’s own speeches, but often with those of the friends as well in a rich pattern of intertextuality (see Kynes 2012, 2015a). There are links for example with didactic “wisdom” psalms such as Ps 1 and with those that concern retribution such as Ps 73. Psalms that praise God for deliverance (e.g., Ps 139) or glorify God’s creative activity (e.g., Ps 8) are also echoed and sometimes parodied (Dell 1991). Indeed, like the Psalter, Job can be seen as a progression from obedience, to questioning, to ultimate praise (Brueggemann 1995). In Lamentations a link is made by the Rabbis between the desolate Job and the forsaken and besieged city of Jerusalem (in Pesiqta de Rab Kahana, in particular—​see Aitken, 2012), for example both the city and Job sit on the ground in mourning (Lam 2:10; Job 2:13) with churning stomachs (Lam 1:20; 2:11; Job 30:27). Lamentations 3 with its figure of a suffering man is a particular point of comparison, both the city and Job expressing their bitterness (Lam 3:15a; Job 9:18), and both become a laughingstock in front of others (Lam 3:14; Job 12:4). Thematic links occur around human experience and divine action. The wilderness is dangerous for Lam 4:3, 18 and Job 38:26, and joy is turned to mourning in Lam 5:15 and Job 30:31. God sends his arrows (Lam 3:12–​15 and Job 6:4) and vents his anger on the day of wrath (Lam 2:1; Job 4:9) in the form of a rod (Lam 3:1; Job 9:34–​35). There is extensive siege imagery linking Lam 3 and Job 16, 19 (Léveque 1970) as well as psalmic lament in Job 16 to be likened to Lam 2:7 and Job 19:7–​ 12 to Lam 3:7–​9 (see Clines 1989, 2006, 2011). There is a deliberate subversion of lament images in Job 16 in my view (Dell 1991). For example, 16:7–​17 is a parody of passages where God strengthens a person as in Ps 95:18–​19. Aitken (2012) argues for a deliberate link of the roles of mourning and comfort in both books. The books clearly have intense suffering and mourning in common. There is, however, a key difference between the two works: while Lamentations accepts the punishment as a judgement for sin, Job entirely rejects that conclusion. While sin is usually the answer to communal punishment, the test case of Job shows that this is not necessarily the case in reference to an individual. The hymn to Wisdom in Job 28 seems to link us back to the wisdom literature, and yet there is really nothing like it in Proverbs or Ecclesiastes. In Prov 1:20–​33; 3:13–​18 and ­chapter 8 we have the references to Woman Wisdom to which this can be compared, but the description of mining and emphasis on the hiddenness of Wisdom make it very different from Proverbs, where wisdom is readily available to all. Perhaps it should be likened to other hymns—​for example, those psalms that concern creation in the Psalter. One example might be Job 28:9–​11, where the human actions of overturning mountains

178   Katharine J. Dell and cleaving rocks parallel the action of God in creation (Job 9:5; Ps 78:5)—​in fact, once again, the image is turned on its head in Job. No obvious parallel within the Writings exists to the dialogue/​discourses of the friends in the Writings and no real parallel to the God speeches and descriptions of animals. There are some links to the “creation” theme as in Prov 1–​9 and Eccl 1:4–​11, but also perhaps closer links to hymnic descriptions in the Psalms. Psalm 104 can be seen as a particular parallel (Frevel 2012), especially to the God speeches in c­ hapters 38 and 40. There is some allusion to Ps 104 in the speeches of both Job (in ­chapters 7 and 9; 23–​24) and Elihu (in ­chapters 34 and 36) suggesting the Psalm as a backdrop for Job (Frevel 2012). The positioning of Psalms before Job in many “orderings” opens up the possibility of the Psalter as a whole as a backdrop to Job (Kynes 2015a). It is clear, then, that the links of Job with other books in the Writings are extensive, especially when regarded through the lenses of genre associations and intertextual links. It is the very varied nature of the genres of Job that opens up the possibility of comparison with not only other “wisdom” books but with many others in this division of the canon. The link with other narrative books within the Writings is instructive. But perhaps most striking is the link with lament, both with the book of Lamentations and with the lament genre in the Psalter. However, other interesting links have been seen, often opened up through the intertextual method, connections ripe for future investigation.

Significance and Role as Scripture The significance of Job as a canonical book of scripture is immense in culture and wider thought. Job complements other answers to the problem of suffering and arguably raises the issues on a more profound level than most other biblical literature. There are no easy answers to the problem of innocent suffering. There is also a profundity about the book on the level of the contemplation on the God–​human relationship and the problem of theodicy (Crenshaw 2005). How we order our wider canon is important in the Christian Protestant canon, the ordering is different because Ezra/​Nehemiah/​Chronicles are ranged with other historical books, and Daniel is classified as a prophet (see Warhurst [2015] for a discussion of these different canonical groupings for Daniel and for the logic of its placement in the Writings). This leaves Job simply with the “wisdom” books of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, together with the Song of Songs and Psalms in this Protestant canon. In the Catholic and Orthodox canons, the increased number of books places a fresh angle on the grouping of material. There is nothing like the book of Job in the New Testament. Attempts have been made to find “wisdom” in its pages and in the teachings of Jesus and Paul, but this again shows how different Job is in that the links are entirely with proverbial wisdom. Of course, Jesus suffered innocently and therein lies an obvious parallel, and yet his suffering was uncomplaining. Parallels were more naturally made with the servant songs of Deutero-​Isaiah, notably with Isa 52:13–​53:12. This is then what makes Job the most profound treatment of individual suffering (on the level

The Book of Job in the Context of the Writings    179 of everyman) in the Bible. Job’s role as scripture is assisted by seeing the canonical/​intertextual links that ground Job in a wider set of genres and ideas.

Bibliography Aitken, James K. 2012. “The Inevitability of Reading Job through Lamentations.” In Reading Job Intertextually, edited by K. Dell and W. Kynes, 204–​215. LHBOTS 574. London: Bloomsbury. Batten, L. W. 1933. “The Epilogue to the Book of Job.” Anglican Theological Review 15:125–​128. Brandt, Peter. 2015. “Final Forms of the Writings: The Jewish and Christian Traditions.” In The Shape of the Writings, edited by J. Steinberg and T. J. Stone, 59–​86. Siphrut 16. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns. Brueggemann, Walter. 1995. “Bounded by Obedience and Praise: The Psalms as Canon.” In The Psalms and the Life of Faith, edited by P. D. Miller, 189–​213. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press. Cheung, Simon Chi-​Chung. 2015. Wisdom Intoned:  A Reappraisal of the Genre “Wisdom Psalms.” LHBOTS 613. London: Bloomsbury. Childs, Brevard. 1979. Introduction to the Old Testament as Scripture. London: SCM Press. Clines, David. 1989. Job 1–​20. Word Biblical Commentary 17. Nashville: Thomas Nelson. Clines, David. 2006. Job 21–​37. Word Biblical Commentary 18A. Nashville: Thomas Nelson. Clines, David. 2011. Job 38–​41. Word Biblical Commentary 18B. Nashville: Thomas Nelson. Crenshaw, James L. 1969. “Method in Determining Wisdom Influence upon ‘Historical’ Literature.” Journal of Biblical Literature 88:129–​142. Crenshaw, James L. 2005. Defending God:  Biblical Responses to the Problem of Evil. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Dell, Katharine J. 1991. The Book of Job as Sceptical Literature. BZAW 197. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter. Dell, Katharine J. 2000. Get Wisdom, Get Insight: An Introduction to Israel’s Wisdom Literature. London: Darton, Longman and Todd. Dell, Katharine J. 2016a. “Ecclesiastes as Mainstream Wisdom (without Job).” In Goochem in Mokum: Papers on Biblical and Related Wisdom Read at the Fifteenth Joint Meeting of The Society of Old Testament Study and the Oudtestamentisch Werkgezelschap, Amsterdam July 2012, edited by George J. Brooke and Pierre Van Hecke, 43–​52. Oudtestamentische Stüdien 62. Leiden, the Netherlands: Brill. Dell, Katharine J. 2016b. “What Was Job’s Malady?” Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 41:61–​77. Dell, Katharine, and Kynes, Will, eds. 2012. Reading Job Intertextually. LHBOTS 574. London: Bloomsbury. Egan, Claire. 2002. The Integrity of Job: A Contextual Study of Job Chapters 24–​28. Unpublished PhD dissertation. Birmingham University. Frevel, Christian. 2012. “Telling the Secrets of Wisdom: The Use of Psalm 104 in the Book of Job.” In Reading Job Intertextually, edited by K. Dell and W. Kynes, 157–​168. LHBOTS 574. London: Bloomsbury. Habel, Norman C. 1985. The Book of Job. Old Testament Library. London: SCM Press. Janowski, Bernd. 2013. Arguing with God: A Theological Anthropology of the Psalms. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press. Johnson, Timothy J. 2009. Now My Eye Sees You: Unveiling an Apocalyptic Job. Hebrew Bible Monographs 24. Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Phoenix Press.

180   Katharine J. Dell Koorevaar, Hendrik J. 2015. “Chronicles as the Intended Conclusion to the Old Testament.” In The Shape of the Writings, edited by J. Steinberg and T. J. Stone, 207–​235. Siphrut 16. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns. Kynes, Will. 2012. My Psalm Has Turned into Weeping: Job’s Dialogue with the Psalms. BZAW 437. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter. Kynes, Will. 2015a. “Reading Job after the Psalms.” In The Shape of the Writings, edited by J. Steinberg and T. J. Stone, 131–​145. Siphrut 16. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns. Kynes, Will. 2015b. “The Modern Scholarly Wisdom Tradition and the Threat of Pan-​ Sapientialism: A Case Report.” In Was There a Wisdom Tradition? New Prospects in Israelite Wisdom Studies, edited by Mark Sneed, 11–​38. Atlanta: SBL. Léveque, Jean. 1970. Job et son Dieu: essai d’exegese et de theologie biblique. Études bibliques. Paris: Gabalda.. Mandolfo, Carleen. 2007. “A Generic Renegade:  A Dialogic Reading of Job and Lament Psalms.” In Diachronic and Synchronic: Reading the Psalms in Real Time, edited by Joel S. Burnett, W. H Bellinger, and W. Dennis Tucker, 45–​63. New York: T & T Clark International. Morgan, Donn. 1981. Wisdom in the Old Testament Traditions. Atlanta: John Knox Press. Rad, von G. 1966. “The Joseph Narrative and Ancient Wisdom.” In The Problem of the Hexateuch and Other Essays, 292–​ 300. Edinburgh:  Oliver and Boyd. Reprinted London:  SCM Press, 1984. Rad, von G. 1972. Wisdom in Israel. London: SCM Press. Schmid, H. H. 1966. Wesen und Geschichte der Weisheit. BZAW 101. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter. Schultz, Richard. 2012. “Job and Ecclesiastes:  Intertextuality and a Protesting Pair.” In Reading Job Intertextually, edited by K. Dell and W. Kynes, 190–​ 203. LHBOTS 574. London: Bloomsbury. Snaith, Norman H. 1968. The Book of Job: Its Origin and Purpose. London: SCM Press. Steinberg, Julius. 2006. Die Ketuvim: Ihr Aufbau und ihre Botschaft. Hamburg, Germany: Philo. Steinberg, Julius. 2015. “The Place of Wisdom Literature in an Old Testament Theology:  A Thematic and Structural-​Canonical Approach.” In The Shape of the Writings, edited by J. Steinberg and T. J. Stone, 147–​173. Siphrut 16. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns. Steinberg, Julius, and Stone, Timothy J., eds. 2015. The Shape of the Writings. Siphrut 16. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns (see also their introductory article, “The Historical Formation of the Writings in Antiquity,” 1–​58). Stone, Timothy J. 2013. The Compositional History of the Megilloth:  Canon, Contoured Intertextuality and Meaning in the Writings. FAT 2/​59. Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck. Talmon, S. 1963. “Wisdom in the Book of Esther.” Vetus Testamentum XIII:419–​455. Warhurst, Amber. 2015. “The Associative Effects of Daniel in the Writings.” In J The Shape of the Writings, edited by J. Steinberg and T. J. Stone, 187–​205. Siphrut 16. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns. Westermann, C. 1981. The Structure of the Book of Job: A Form-​Critical Analysis. Philadelphia: Fortress Press. Whybray, R. Norman. 1975. The Intellectual Tradition in the Old Testament. BZAW 135. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter. Whybray, R. Norman. 2005. “Two Jewish Theologies: Job and Ecclesiastes” [Inaugural lecture, University of Hull]. Reprinted in Katharine J. Dell and Margaret Barker, eds., Wisdom: The Collected Articles of Norman Whybray. SOTS Monograph Series. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate. Zuckerman, Bruce. 1991. Job the Silent: A Study of Historical Counterpoint. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Chapter 12

Reading Prove rbs as a B o ok in the W ri t i ng s Julius Steinberg

In the Hebrew canon, the book of Proverbs functions as an introductory course for biblical wisdom. The book contains a wealth of practical advices, it introduces the reader into the main concepts of wisdom thinking, and it reflects on the relationship between worldly wisdom and belief in God. This chapter approaches Proverbs as a book. It expects Proverbs to be a conceptual unit with an overall communicative purpose. The chapter begins with a consideration of the book’s built-​in seven-​part heading structure, analyzing each of its main parts and reflecting on literary forms, contents, and message. At some points, the analysis gives rise to thematic issues, regarding theology, addressees, purpose, and the formation of the book. Finally, issues of canon and practical application will be approached.

The “Seven Pillars” of Proverbial Wisdom The Hebrew Text1 of the book of Proverbs contains seven superscriptions that divide the book into seven main parts. I II III IV V

1:1–​9:18 10:1–​22:16 22:17–​24:22 24:23–​34 25:1–​29:27


30:1–​33 31:1–​31

“The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel” “The proverbs of Solomon” “Incline your ear, and hear the words of the wise” “These also are sayings of the wise” “These also are proverbs of Solomon which the men of Hezekiah king of Judah copied.” “The words of Agur son of Jakeh of Massa” “The words of Lemuel, king of Massa, which his mother taught him”

182   Julius Steinberg Many commentators of the book of Proverbs propose outlines that deviate from this system of headings. For example, the “praise of the capable woman” in 31:10–​31 is often detached from the rest of ­chapter 31, because it seems to deal with a different topic (e.g., Meinhold 1991, 1998). However, assuming that the final redaction of the book was deliberate, we should not skip the book’s internal heading system too readily. As metatexts and “orienters” to the content that follows, the headings are strong indicators of structural divisions in the book. Therefore, we should expect that the built-​in system of headings provides guidance for an overall understanding of the book. What kind of guidance does the system of headings provide? First, it can be noted that the number of seven main parts may have been chosen deliberately to numerically express the notion of completeness. For example, some scholars see 9:1 as an allusion to the book’s overall structure (Hurowitz 2001: 218), when it is said that wisdom’s house has “seven pillars.” Second, the specific nature of the first heading (1:1–​7) has to be considered. The heading differs significantly from the others by its comprehensiveness. In its position at the beginning of the book, it has the function of introducing the book as a whole, rather than just covering the first main part, Prov 1:8–​9:18. As a consequence, the first main part actually goes without its own particular heading. Third, the specific nature of the first heading is matched by the specific character of the first main part, Prov 1–​9. While the main parts II to VII mainly consist of proverbial collections, the first main part presents more complex thoughts and even a coherent overall argument. These particularities make it plausible to understand Prov 1:1–​9:18 altogether as a theological and hermeneutical foundation upon which the following parts are to be understood (Childs 1979: 553; Preuß 1987: 31; Meinhold 1991: 39). Fourth, is there a rationale lying behind the titles of the main parts? One could argue, for example, for an A-​B-​B-​A-​B-​B arrangement, two times beginning with a Solomonic section (A) followed by two sections of other authors (B), respectively. Alternatively, the superscriptions of the sections II to V could be interpreted as an A-​B-​B-​A pattern, where two Solomonic sections (A) serve as a frame around the two sections of the anonymous “wise” (B). But the themes and topics dealt with in the respective sections do not particularly correlate to the alleged patterns. Therefore, it seems best to understand the main parts II to VII as just standing next to each other sequentially. The superscriptions define the beginnings of literary unities each with their own characteristics that should be considered carefully. Fifth, several scholars point to relationships between “woman Wisdom” of ­chapters 1–​ 9 and the “wise woman” in 31:10–​31, the last verses of the book (e.g., Whybray 1994: 159). Since framing is a common literary device, the poem 31:10–​31 may have been deliberately placed at the end, giving the book a fitting conclusion.

The First Section: Theological Foundation (1:1–​9:18) Approaching ­chapters 1–​9 for the first time, we find it to be a rather huge block of text dealing with several topics in no apparent order. However, a closer analysis of contents

Reading Proverbs as a Book in the Writings    183 and forms helps to distinguish logical subsections within the blook. R.  Whybray (1994: 12–​13) marked out ten “instructions,” defined by the following formal elements: an address (“my son,” referring to the pupil), a general appeal to accept wisdom, a main section dealing with an individual topic, and (not always) a concluding proverb-​like statement. For example, the third “instruction” (Proverbs 3:1–​12) can be analyzed as follows: address


My son,

general appeal to accept wisdom


do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments; for length of days and years of life and abundant welfare will they give you. . . .

topic of the instruction: “fear the Lord”


Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil. . . .

concluding proverb


for the LORD reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.

Analyzing the forms and structure of Prov 1–​9 is particularly helpful for discerning the logic of the larger text and for distinguishing the individual topics of each of the “instructions” from the more general and sometimes repetitious appeals to accept wisdom. In addition to the ten instructions (1:8–​19, 2:1–​22, 3:1–​12, 3:21–​35, 4:1–​9, 4:10–​19, 4:20–​27, 5:1–​23, 6:20–​35, 7:1–​27), ­chapters 1–​9 comprise two speeches of “lady Wisdom” (1:20–​33, 8:1–​36) and two poems about wisdom (3:13–​20, 9:1–​18). The only text section that cannot be classified along these lines is 6:1–​19, a collection of miscellaneous proverbial advice. Arndt Meinhold (1991: 43–​47) asks the question of how the individual building blocks of ­chapters 1–​9 relate to each other, forming an overarching whole. According to his analysis, the second instruction, 2:1–​22, contains the “teaching program” of Proverbs 1–​9. It invites the reader to apply to wisdom and describes two positive effects (“then you will understand . . . ” in 2:5, 9) as well as two protective effects (“in order to save you from . . .” in 2:12, 16) of gaining wisdom: address


“My son,”

appeal to accept wisdom the benefits of wisdom


call to wisdom

2:5–​8 2:9–​11

a. wisdom leads to a proper relationship to God b. wisdom leads to uprightness in dealing with the neighbor c. wisdom protects from seduction by sinful men


concluding proverb


d. wisdom protects from seduction by the foreign woman


being upright and inhabiting the land

184   Julius Steinberg The four benefits of wisdom laid out in the “teaching program” are explained in more detail in the other instructions of Prov 1–​9. The first topic, the “Fear of the Lord,” is unfolded in instruction No. 3 (3:1–​12). The second topic, the good path in dealing with other people, is unfolded in instruction No. 4 (3:21–​35). The third and the fourth topic are dealt with in three instructions, respectively. The third topic, the warning against “sinful men,” is elaborated in instructions Nos. 1, 6, and 7 (1:8–​19, 4:10–​19, 4:20–​27), and the fourth topic, the “foreign woman,” is dealt with in instructions Nos. 8, 9, and 10 (5:1–​ 23, 6:20–​35, 7:1–​27). Interpreted in this way, a rather complex but consistent overall structure of Prov 1–​9 emerges. There is, however, a peculiarity regarding the attribution of instruction No. 1. You would expect the third topic to be explained in instructions 5, 6, and 7, not in 1, 6, and 7. The present arrangement can be explained from rhetorical considerations: It is not a good idea to begin the lesson with the teaching program right away. Rather, the reader should be introduced to an example that attracts his attention, raising his awareness of the issue. In order to achieve this, one of the instructions regarding the “sinful men” has been put in front. Nevertheless, there is also an instruction No. 5. It deals with wisdom generally and is not connected to the topics of the teaching program. Altogether, the number of ten instructions may allude to the Ten Commandments, being the “ten commandments of wisdom.” Regarding the remaining sections in Prov 1–​9, the first speech of Wisdom in 1:20–​ 33 warns those who continually ignore her that there will be a “too late.” The speech is part of the motivational introduction and leads to the “teaching program” in 2:1–​22. The poem about wisdom in 3:13–​20 praises the inestimable value of wisdom for life and its relation to creation. In a sense, it lays the path for the second speech of Wisdom in 8:1–​36, which can be said to be the climax and the theological cornerstone of Prov 1–​9. The speech describes wisdom as the first of God’s works of creation and as his “muse” or “craftsman” (the exact meaning of the phrase is unclear) when creating the world. Therefore, the first main part Prov 1–​9 opens with an introductory example, leading over to its teaching program, which is first presented and then explained topic by topic. Only after that is the foundation for the topic given. The section ends with the poem about wisdom and folly in 9:1–​18 appealing urgently to draw the right conclusions for one’s own life.

The Theology of Proverbial Wisdom As we have seen earlier, the first section of the book of Proverbs is meant to give some kind of theological introduction to what proverbial wisdom is all about. In reflecting on the theological concepts developed in Prov 1–​9, a thematic approach will be used, complementing the literary approach taken in the foregoing section (Steinberg 2012).

Reading Proverbs as a Book in the Writings    185

“The Fear of the Lord as the Beginning of Wisdom” This statement can be seen as a motto of the book of Proverbs—​and even of biblical wisdom as a whole. In Proverbs, it is placed at prominent positions: as the last sentence of the book’s superscription (1:7) and toward the conclusion of the first main part (9:10). The poem about the “capable woman” culminates in a statement about the “fear of the LORD” (31:30). Therefore, the book is closed by another reference to this concept. The fear of the Lord is also given as the first objective (2:5–​8) of the “teaching program” in 2:1–​22. At this place, two reasons are named, why the fear of the LORD plays such an overarching role. The first is that all wisdom comes, ultimately, from God (2:6). Already from creation, the human striving for knowledge is limited. The attempt to achieve wisdom neglecting God must fail (eating from the tree of knowledge, Gen 3). Only God has comprehensive knowledge; therefore, only “in him” wisdom is to be found. In addition, the orders of nature and of society, which the wise observe to gain wisdom, are given by God. Therefore, studying creation leads one back to God. The second reason is that all successful life comes, ultimately, from God (2:7f). Only by turning to YHWH, will the tree of life be accessible. The pattern of act and consequence, for example, is not a mechanism that functions independent of the will of God. Therefore, the third instruction reads:  “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil” (Prov 3:5–​7). In general, the book of Proverbs has a very positive stance on the possibilities of acquiring wisdom and on managing one’s life successfully. Nevertheless, with the principle of the “fear of the LORD” the authors also mark the boundaries of this pursuit. This is the point that the books of Job and of Ecclesiastes affirm from a theological point of view. The phrase “fear of YHWH” includes different aspects, being both multifocal and multivalent. It is not so much about literal fear, but rather awe and respect before God and, in result, loyalty, faithfulness, and covenant obedience (Murphy 1998:  254–​258, based on Becker 1965).

Acquiring Wisdom and Being Successful in Life The book of Proverbs is optimistic that it is possible to acquire wisdom. It is the declared aim to “give prudence to the simple” (Prov 1:1–​9). This is not secret knowledge for some esoteric circles. To the contrary: “Wisdom cries aloud in the street; in the markets she raises her voice; on the top of the walls she cries out; at the entrance of the city gates she speaks” (Prov 1:20f). The shadowy city gates were places of public life and of public jurisdiction.

186   Julius Steinberg The purpose of acquiring wisdom is not just to accumulate knowledge, but rather to be successful in life. This is expressed, for example, in the second instruction, the “teaching program” (2:1–​22). There, wisdom leads to a proper relationship to God, it leads to righteousness in dealing with the neighbor, and it protects oneself from entering the wrong path. To the question “How can wisdom be acquired” the text gives a double answer. The first is: You become wise if you are willing to learn. Nine of the ten instructions (with the exception of instruction No. 4) begin with a call to obedience toward the instruction of the parents. Traditional wisdom is passed on from one generation to the next (esp. chap. 4:1–​4). The second answer is an empirical approach that is typical for wisdom. While the prophet announces: “thus says the Lord,” and the scribe argues: “it is written,” the wise says: “I have observed.” The tenth instruction (chap. 7) is a good example. Here in masterly fashion the wisdom teacher describes himself watching from the window and observing a “fool” walking along the street in the twilight getting involved with a peculiar woman, not recognizing that he is rushing headlong into disaster. In the description, the teacher reveals typical patterns of human behavior, training his readers to observe and understand the situation so that they may draw the right conclusions for their own conduct. The empirical approach is fundamental also for other wisdom books in the Hebrew Bible. In Ecclesiastes, individual observations are sometimes even juxtaposed against received wisdom. In the book of Job, although God speaks directly in Job 38–​4 1, his speeches nevertheless deal with observing the works of creation throughout.

Learning from a Creation Wisely Ordered Why is it possible to acquire wisdom by observing nature and society? The answer of the book of Proverbs is that God created the world by means of wisdom. The creational order is permeated by wisdom. This is expressed in the poem about wisdom (3:19–​ 20) and particularly in the second speech of Lady Wisdom (8:1–​36). Therefore, when human beings observe, research, and experiment, they ultimately learn about the divine creational order and therefore acquire divine wisdom. A precondition for this is, however, that striving for understanding is embedded into the frame of the “fear of the LORD” (Prov 1:7).

Living in a Creation Wisely Ordered The catchword of creational order also sets the direction regarding the contents of wisdom education. It is not so much gaining shrewdness or cunning, but rather developing an ethical stance, learning about patterns of social behavior, and integrating oneself into these orders in a sustainable way. The most important pattern described

Reading Proverbs as a Book in the Writings    187 in Proverbs is the relationship of act and consequence, described in more detail later. Basically, wisdom manifests itself in a lifestyle that corresponds to the orders God has put into his creation. Ignoring or resisting those orders is folly and will ultimately lead to failure in life (8:35f).

The Second Section: Proverbs of Solomon (10:1–​22:16) Proverbs 10:1–​22:16 is a collection of 375 individual sayings. The number corresponds to the numerical value of the name “Solomon” (‫ש‬ = 300, ‫ל‬ = 30, ‫מ‬ = 40, ‫ה‬ = 5). While the number is surely intentional, the rationale for the sequence and structure of the section is difficult to see. A new in-​depth study of this topic utilizes the concept of “proverbial clusters” (Heim 2001). It starts with the assumption that proverbial sayings are normally used in an oral context, where a generally recognized truth is applied to a specific situation (“performance context”). When proverbs are written down in a collection, however, this function ceases. Instead, the reader has to think about possible applications of each proverb on his own, which can become tedious and banal. Therefore, in order to facilitate access, the sayings were arranged into groups of “proverbial clusters,” in effect creating a literary context that compensates for the loss of performance context of the oral setting. An example: The message of 14:20: The poor is disliked even by his neighbor, but the rich has many friends.

is in itself ambivalent. Does it advertise the benefits of wealth? The following verse counters: He who despises his neighbor is a sinner, but happy is he who is kind to the poor.

Therefore, verse 20 describes something that is typical but not desirable. In addition, 14:19 and 14:22 give this pair of sayings a frame stating generally that what counts in the end is not wealth but justice and loyalty. In this way, Heim understands 14:19–​22 as a “proverbial cluster.” The concept of “cluster” contains a certain ambiguity of evidence. For some proposed clusters, a strong formal or textual cohesion can be found, leading to the formulation of a core message. In other sections, sayings seem to be rather loosely collected. Sometimes two topics seem to have been intertwined with each other. An important aspect of the wisdom enterprise was to collect items (1 Kgs 5:12f). As Job 38–​41 collects observations about weather phenomenon and about animals, and the Song of Solomon collects

188   Julius Steinberg imagery of love, Prov 10–​22 collects sayings that exemplify patterns of social behav­ior. Therefore, we should be careful not to force literary structures on Prov 10–​22. For approaching the message of Prov 10–​22, it is therefore appropriate to employ a classical topical method, enhanced, however, in the way that observations are being made not only on verse level but also where discernible on the cluster level. The principle that undergirds the collection 10:1–​22:16, which is reflected in almost every saying or cluster, is the relation of act and consequence. The relationship is expressed in an antithetical way: the one who does good will get on well; the one who does bad things will suffer. The collection portrays two contrasting groups of persons: the faithful versus the wicked on the moral level, and the wise versus the fool on the intellectual level. The concepts are used co-​referentially; that is, faithfulness and wisdom belong together as do wickedness and foolishness (Heim 2001:  81). The contrasting groups are characterized by contrasting attitudes, as, for example, diligence versus laziness, honesty versus lie, generosity versus greed, godliness versus godlessness, and so on. The consequences of good or bad deeds are expressed as blessing versus curse, deliverance versus destruction, life versus death. Often act and consequence correspond in a very concrete manner: the one who is ready to give will be given; the one who deceives will be deceived. The relationship of act and consequence is, in the first place, a social mechanism. For example, people behaving in a way that contributes to the well-​being of their community will acquire a good reputation in the community. In contrast, those who cause harm to the community by acting selfishly will lose the support of the community. The relationship of act and consequence is secondarily understood as a divine means to achieve justice, based on the conviction that in God’s world order justice will eventually prevail. However, the sovereignty of God also marks the limit of all human attempts to calculate the future (see, e.g., 10:22, 16:1.9.33, 19:21, 20:24, 21:1, 30f). This relationship is developed in the individual sayings and clusters of Prov 10–​22 and applied to a number of topics. Some sections deal with the pattern of act and consequence on a basic moral and religious level. For example, the cluster 10:22–​32 says that for the faithful their hopes will be fulfilled as well as for the wicked their fears. In 11:2–​14, justice is connected to salvation and life, while godlessness leads to failure and death. Proverbs 14:1–​3 connects the fear of the LORD with wisdom and the contempt of God with foolishness, while in 15:20–​24 the opposite consequences of wisdom and foolishness are described. Economic topics play an important role. In several of the clusters, the wealth achieved by diligence and honest work is contrasted with the treacherous profit of the criminal and to laziness that results in poverty (10:1–​5, 11:15–​21, 12:8–​12, 12:24–​28, 13:1–​11, 14:23–​ 26, 15:25–​27, 21:5–​8). A  second group of sayings warns against putting one’s trust in wealth and shows that true happiness does not rely on material goods (11:22–​31, 13:1–​11, 15:13–​17, 18:10–​15, 19:1–​10, 22:1–​5). Third, some clusters reflect on the relation between rich and poor. Typically, the rich are favored and the poor are disadvantaged. This needs to be counteracted; blessed is the one who uses his properties to help the other (11:22–​31, 14:19–​22, 19:1–​10, 22:1–​5, 22:7–​9).

Reading Proverbs as a Book in the Writings    189 Another emphasis is put on the use of words. The wise/​faithful is mastering his tongue. When he speaks, it means wisdom, truth, friendliness, and peace. The fool/​wicked, on the other hand, is unrestrained; his words bring lies, discord, hate, and violence (10:6–​11, 10:12–​18, 10:19–​21, 10:31f, 12:13–​25, 14:4–​9, 15:1–​4, 15:28–​33, 16:16–​30, 18:20–​24, 22:10–​14). Connected to the use of words is the topic of dispute and court trial (14:4–​9, 18:16–​ 19). Also in some sections about the fool (17:1–​18:9), conflicts and court proceedings are touched upon. Proverbs 19:1–​10 addresses the problem that rich people are given undue preference in court. Another area is education and discipline. You are wise if you accept admonitions, and you are foolish if you ignore it. Parents are called to educate their children in wisdom and decency (13:12–​19, 13:20–​25, 15:5–​12, 15:20–​24, 19:11–​20:4, 22:6–​16). Ultimately, the whole collection is an appeal to learn the ways of wisdom and justice.

The Paradigmatic Character and the Persuasive Purpose of Proverbial Wisdom While the reader of Prov 10–​22 will probably agree to the theological explanations given herein, he or she might still feel some dissatisfaction with the proverbs. Working through the collection of 375 proverbs, the theological outcome seems to be rather meager, and overall, the worldview of the proverbs gives a somehow naïve and simplistic impression. In order to fully appreciate proverbial wisdom, we should not restrict our analysis to theological questions but also reflect on communicative contexts and rhetorical purposes of the collection. Tomáš Frydrych (2002: 18–​23) argues that the alleged simplicity of the proverbs is not a sign of a general naivety of the authors, but rather has to do with the purpose of the book. The wisdom enterprise chooses a paradigmatic approach to reality. The wise do not want to attain knowledge about a lot of facts and details. Rather, they are looking for patterns and structures—​paradigms—​that help the reader in seeing through a situation, gaining a moral stance, and making the right decisions in everyday life. The intended addressees of the book have to be considered seriously. The book directs itself to the petî “simple,” or the “youth,” the one “without sense” (1:4, 9:4.16). This is not to be confused with the fool. The “simple” has not yet decided for wisdom or folly. The wisdom teacher courts him to enter wisdom’s house in order to take his first steps in gaining wisdom. Therefore, as in school today, the book of Proverbs starts with the basics. It is appropriate to characterize it as a basic course for biblical wisdom. There are secondary addressees as well—​for example, “the wise may hear and increase in learning” (1:5). Another student of Proverbs argues that the persuasive force of the saying has to be considered (Luchsinger 2010:  316–​333). The proverbs don’t just want to inform; they

190   Julius Steinberg want to convince. In engaging with the topic, Luchsinger compares the proverbial sayings with aspects of advertising language today. Techniques common to both include: to attract attention, to be easily comprehensible, to have an active imagination, to be likeable, to generate acceptance, to be easily remembered, to distract from the persuasive purpose (by using humor or the like). According to Luchsinger (2010: 68–​80), each saying is a poetic jewel. In the Hebrew, many of the sayings consist of eight “units” (words or short phrases), being split into two poetical lines of four units each. In each line, the four units are structured according to a 2 + 2 scheme. In other instances, one line consists only of three units. Various kinds of parallelism are applied, which is typical of the ancient Hebrew poetry. All these aspects have to be recognized in order to truly appreciate proverbial wisdom.

The Third Section: Words of the Wise (22:17–​2 4:22) The third main section has a strong to an Egyptian wisdom book, the “instruction of Amenope” (see Römheld 1989). Especially in Prov 22:17–​23:11, almost every verse has a parallel in Amenope’s work. In addition, there is an analogy in form:  the instruction of Amenope consists of thirty chapters, whereas in Prov 22:20, thirty sayings are announced that can consequently be demarcated in 22:22 to 24:22. A direct literary dependence between the Egyptian instruction and the book of Proverbs is, however, unlikely. Rather, the biblical text is based loosely on Amenope. It may be assumed that the text is influenced by an Egyptian scribe employed as an official at the Israelite court. The biblical lists of Solomon’s officials, for example, contain a number of non-​Israelite names. The affinity between the two texts illustrate that wisdom was a common ancient Near Eastern phenomenon. The religious aspects of Amenope’s teachings, however, are not incorporated into the biblical text. Readers who are aware of typical patterns of literary arrangement in the Bible will encounter some striking repetitions in the thirty sayings. Further study of parallels in forms and contents of the sayings reveals that the thirty sayings are not arranged arbitrarily. Rather, they form three groups of ten sayings each. In each of the groups, a concentric structure can be determined (Steinberg 2006: 305–​309), the first of which shall be given as an example here. In the first group (22:22 to 23:11), a concentric structure stretches from the fourth to the tenth saying, as follows: 22:28 22:29

4. 5.





do not remove the ancient landmark the skilled man will serve before kings, not before common people be cautious when dining with a ruler

Reading Proverbs as a Book in the Writings    191 23:4–​5



23:6–​8 23:9 23:10–​11

8. 9. 10.

C’ B’ A’

do not wear yourself out to get rich such riches will be gone suddenly do not dine with the stingy man as a wise, do not waste your words to a fool do not remove the ancient landmark . . . their redeemer will plead their cause

Sayings 4 and 10 both warn against removing ancient landmarks. Sayings 6 and 8 are very similar to each other, dealing with an invitation to dinner that cannot be enjoyed unclouded. Sayings 5 and 9 resemble each other in warning against “throwing pearls before swine.” The following “story” emerges: An official who has made his career (5 + 9) is being invited by persons of the higher circles of society, who have, however, ulterior motives (6 + 8). Our official will be tempted to bend the law (4 + 10) for money. But ill-​gotten goods will suddenly disappear (7), and, ultimately, God himself will protect the disadvantaged (10). In this way, literary patterning has been utilized in order to create a thematic context for the individual sayings.

The Fourth Section: Further Sayings of the Wise (24:23–​3 4) This short section opens with the maxim “Partiality in judging is not good.” On the one hand, don’t declare the guilty innocent but rather convict him (vv. 23–​25). On the other hand, don’t testify against the innocent neighbor with the intention to pay him back for personal reasons (vv. 28–​29). The advice is intermingled with another topic—​the order in which work should be done: first get your fields ready, and then build your house (or: enjoy your family life) (V. 27). If you do otherwise, that is, relaxing first, poverty will come (vv. 30–​34). What unites both topics is the question of setting the right priorities regarding values and interests.

The Fifth Section: Further Proverbs of Solomon (25:1–​29:27) The second collection of Solomonic Proverbs is structured much more clearly than the first one (Steinberg 2006: 309–​312). In Prov 25–​26, a number of issues are dealt with consecutively: the king (25:2–​7a), conduct at court (25:7b–​10), use of words (25:11–​28),

192   Julius Steinberg the fool (26:1–​12), the lazy (26:13–​16), the quarrelsome (26:17–​21), and the flatterer (26:22–​28). Of these, the section about the use of words is the most beautiful. It is shaped in a concentric manner and is rich in imagery. 11f A 13f B 15 C 16f D 18–​20 E 21f D’ 23f C’ 25f B’ 27f A’

apples of gold—​a word fitly spoken; an earring of gold—​a wise rebuke the refreshing coolness of snow on a hot day—​a trustworthy messenger; clouds without the hoped-​for rain—​a falsely boast of giving the subversive power of the tongue don’t eat too much honey—​don’t visit your neighbor too often club or sword—​the false witness; bad tooth or slipping foot—​trusting in a faithless person; vinegar poured on soda—​an inappropriate song for a heavy heart if your invidious neighbor is hungry, give him food to eat the backbiting tongue and the contentious woman refreshing cold water—​the good news from a far place; a polluted well—​a righteous giving way before the wicked too much honey—​too many flatteries; a city whose walls are broken—​a man talking without any self-​control

The framing sayings in A and A’ contrast appropriate and unappropriate use of words, thus stating the overall topic for the section. B and B’ compare different use of words to different appearances of water (snow, clouds without water, refreshing water, polluted well). C and C’ reflect on the power of words. D and D’ are about visiting the neighbor—​ putting the use of words into the larger context of encountering people. In this pair of sayings, verse 21f is remarkable since it contains one of the Hebrew Bible’s calls to love one’s enemies. The central section E deals with the most severe context for the use of words: the court hearing. Proverbs 28 and 29 contrast the dominion of the faithful to the dominion of the wicked.

The Formation of the Book of Proverbs The heading of the fifth main section reads “These also are proverbs of Solomon which the men of Hezekiah king of Judah copied” (25:1). Next to Jer 51:64 and Ps 72:20, Prov 25:1 is the most explicit reference to editorial activity in the Bible. It invites us to reflect on the historical formation of Proverbs. The collections of sayings in the second (10:1–​22:16) and the fifth main section (25:1–​ 29:27) are attributed to Solomon (around 971–​931 bce). Whether a scholar trusts or questions the historicity of this information depends on his or her overall approach to the history of Israel. Regarding names and reigns of the Hebrew kings, we have

Reading Proverbs as a Book in the Writings    193 considerable extra-​biblical evidence from the ninth century onward, but not much from the tenth century, that is, the time of David and Solomon. Many scholars understand Solomon as being a rather legendary figure, used by later writers for authorizing their own thoughts (e.g., Meinhold 1991: 21–​22). Others, however, point to the fact that the biblical portrayal of the circumstances is by no means implausible (e.g., Kidner 1964:  25–​27). The international relations of Solomon regarding trade, architecture, and culture could well have led to a reception of the ancient Near Eastern wisdom traditions at the Solomonic court and to establishing its specific Israelite form. The list of Solomon’s officials in 1 Kgs 4, which gives a highly historical impression, includes several non-​Israelite names. In the later years of Hezekiah’s reign (around 715–​686 bce), Judah and Jerusalem experienced a flourishing period. It is not improbable that during this time the written traditions were fostered and updated, as 25:1 hints at. The royal court seemed to have been one of the places to transmit and maintain the national corpus of literature. Agur (sixth section, Prov 30) and Lemuel (seventh section, Prov 31) are not known to us otherwise. The Egyptian “instruction of Amenope,” reflected in the third section of Proverbs (22:17–​24:22), is normally dated around 1100 bce. Therefore, this section in Proverbs could have originated even back in the time of Solomon. One peculiarity of the superscriptions in Proverbs is that Prov 1:1 seems to assign the whole book to Solomon, whereas the following superscriptions name other authors as well. This can be explained best by admitting an expanded concept of authorship as it was customary in ancient times. According to Brevard Childs (1979: 551–​552), Solomon can be called the father of biblical wisdom. Also, he is said to have authored a considerable part of the book. Therefore, it was legitimate to assign him a kind of patronage over the whole book. As argued earlier, Prov 1:1–​7 is best read as a superscription to the whole book of Proverbs. As a consequence, the first main part actually goes without its own particular heading. That 10:1 announces the “proverbs of Solomon” again raises the question who then wrote the proverbs of ­chapters 1–​9. Therefore, it is at least possible to assume that c­ hapters  1–​9 are anonymous (Kidner 1964:  22). This allows the hypothesis that ­chapters 1–​9 originated last in order to give the received wisdom tradition a theological preparation and foundation and to unify the transmitted collections into a literary whole. When this took place, we cannot determine with certainty. This rather modest model of literary history is in accord with the information given in the book itself. There are, of course, other possibilities. For example, assume that the book was continually reworked and extended in the process of its transmission. However, such a process would not be accessible for us today. Some scholars have tried to distinguish an original, “moral” form of proverbial wisdom from later, “religious,” editorial layers. In my opinion, Katharine Dell (2006) convincingly demonstrates that the references to YHWH and to the “Fear of the LORD” are constitutive for the text and must have been there already in the formative period of the book.

194   Julius Steinberg

The Sixth Section: The Words of Agur (30:1–​32) Agur displays a predilection for lists and numerical sayings. He is dealing with the subject of pride and humility, modesty and greatness. Verses 1–​9 address the relationship to God, while verses 10–​32 deal with social relationships. Agur calls to a lifestyle of modesty and balance. The order of “low” and “high” in society has to be maintained. The “low” shall respect the “high” (man–​God, child–​parents) but also the “high” shall respect the “low” (master–​slave, rich–​poor, examples of small animals deserving respect).

The Seventh Section: The Words of Lemuel (31:1–​31) The instruction to the king is a widespread genre in the ancient Near East. In Prov 31:1–​9, King Lemuel is exhorted by his mother not to dedicate his life to love affairs and drinking sessions. Rather, he should to fulfill his responsibilities and act on behalf of the just case of the ones who cannot help themselves. Many interpreters treat the chapter as two separate units: the “Words of Lemuel” in verses 1–​9 and the poem on the “capable woman” in verses 10–​31. Although this can be convincingly argued in terms of content, from a structural point of view, the sections seem to have been connected structurally, as Victor Hurowitz (2001: 216) argues: 3 4–​5






give not your strength (‫ ָ)ךֶליֵח‬to women (‫)םיִׁשָּנַל‬ as king, you should not drink wine and forget the poor depriving the oppressed of their rights The poor may drink wine and forget their misery—​but you: open your mouth and defend the oppressed a strong woman (‫​—)לִיַח־תֶׁשֵא‬far more precious than jewels

Proverbs 31:10–​31 describes the ideal of a strong, capable woman. The poem’s tone is that of thankful admiration. Unlike a modern cliché of patriarchalism suggests, the woman depicted is not a housewife in the sense of being restricted to domestic issues. Rather, she produces different kinds of handicraft items, managing even her own manufacture. She is active in business life, buying land, trading, and so on, as well as engaging in social activities. In a number of aspects, the “capable woman” resembles woman Wisdom of Prov 1–​9. As the woman Wisdom, the capable wife has to be “found” (comp. 31:10 to 1:28, 3:13,

Reading Proverbs as a Book in the Writings    195 4:22, 8:17.35); both are far more “precious than corals” (comp. 31:10b to 3:15, 8:11); both care for their house (comp. 31:21 to 9:1f); both are strongly connected to the “fear of the LORD” (1:7, 31:30). Therefore, many others (e.g., Hausmann 1992)  argue that the poem has a double meaning, making the capable woman a metaphor for expressing all the options and opportunities of a lifestyle based on wisdom and on the “fear of the LORD.”

The Book of Proverbs in the Canon of the Hebrew Bible The main problem of arguing for a canonical synthesis of the biblical wisdom books is the discrepancy between the “positive” attitude of Proverbs and the “negative” approach of Job and Ecclesiastes, especially regarding their differences concerning the principle of retribution. Some scholars develop the explanatory model of an older, naïve wisdom as found in Proverbs that eventually was thrown into crisis, which resulted in the critical works of Job and Ecclesiastes. This model seems implausible. First, the literary findings of the ancient Near Eastern cultures show that more positive and more skeptical works existed side by side for lengthy periods of time, long before Proverbs came into existence. Obviously, there was no linear historical development. Second, it is difficult to believe that people in the first millennium bce could attain to a simple retribution dogma while facing unexplainable illness or early death anymore than we do today. In any case, the canon of the Bible, preserving both attitudes, invites us to understand them not as being contradictory but complementary. Therefore, for a thematic approach to the wisdom books, I suggest the following structure comprising the “positive” and the “skeptical” attitude as well (Steinberg 2015):

a. b. c. d. e.

the Fear of the Lord (as the beginning of wisdom) the possibilities of knowledge and of life the limits of knowledge and of life the Fear of the Lord (as the end of wisdom) the joy of life given by God

Wisdom concerns practical knowledge that helps one lead a good life. Therefore, “knowledge” and “life” are basic categories of the wisdom approach. The wisdom books reflect on the possibilities as well as the limits of knowledge and life (b and c). The “Fear of the Lord” forms a sort of framework around wisdom, standing at the beginning of wisdom as well as at its end (a and d). While wisdom generally encourages one to lead one’s life in a proactive way in order to be successful, it also concedes that true happiness is a gift of God and not the result of one’s shrewdness (e).

196   Julius Steinberg Job, in a way, moves along all phases of the structure. After the happy beginning of the God-​fearing and successful man (a, b), Job is confronted with his limits regarding life and understanding (c). In the end, he turns to an even deeper fear of the Lord who stands above all dogmas (d) and finally experiences new joy of life (e). Proverbs basically moves from the Fear of the Lord (a) to understanding and managing life successfully (b). Ecclesiastes, in turn, reflects on the limits of life and of knowl­ edge (c) and deduces two key instructions: “Fear the Lord” (d) and “Enjoy your life” since God has given it to you (e).2 This thematic approach can be complemented by a structural-​canonical approach. In particular, I want to refer to the order of the Writings as it is given in the Talmud, tractate Baba Bathra 14b. Here we find the four books of the Hebrew Bible that don’t deal with Israel’s history standing together sequentially: Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon. What happens if we read the four books in this order? When we start with Job, setting foot on the path of wisdom, the first thing we have to learn is to respect God. This is according to the motto of the biblical wisdom, “The Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” In the beginning, Job was so righteous and even zealous that he thought he could even tell God what was right or wrong. In the end he learned a deeper way of respecting that God is God. Only after that, with Proverbs, the “basic course” in wisdom is approached: how to attain knowledge and master one’s life. As argued earlier, Proverbs presents a simplified reality due to its paradigmatic approach and didactic purpose. Placing Job in front of it averts the danger of misunderstanding it as an apology for a prosperity religion or the like. After the basic course of Proverbs follows the “advanced course” of Ecclesiastes. Whereas Proverbs deals with the rules, Ecclesiastes focuses on the exceptions. Therefore, the reader is gaining a deeper, more reflective understanding of reality. (I am not saying that Ecclesiastes was necessarily written with that specific purpose in mind, but I am describing the function it takes when placed in this canonical position.) At the end is the Song of Solomon, which in a sense takes up Qohelet’s call to “enjoy life with the wife whom you love” (Eccl 9:9) and developing it. A happy love partnership is the highlight and prime example of leading one’s life successfully as God has arranged it in creation; therefore, the Song forms a fitting conclusion to the wisdom series. The sometimes stony path of wisdom leads to happiness in the end.

Issues for Application Important for any application of the proverbial wisdom in the life of the believer is to consider its theological frame. There is no “works righteousness” or prosperity religion in Proverbs. Rather, the covenant relationship, the “fear of the LORD,” forms the foundation for living everyday life wisely.

Reading Proverbs as a Book in the Writings    197 Other than an exaggerated individualism, self-​realization, and self-​optimization, biblical wisdom puts its focus on participating: in family, in the social community, and so on. It is about living your own life successfully and at the same time fitting into the group of people to which you belong. Therefore, wisdom means to develop an ethical stance toward issues. A concrete rule of wise conduct is to think about possible consequences before you start acting. Even more relevant than the concrete contents of proverbial wisdom is their empirical approach. Today, the human sciences can be seen as a prolongation of the ancient wisdom approach. This has practical consequences, for example, for the use of psychology in pastoral ministry, for applying sociological insights to church planting, and so on. While some religious communities are reluctant to accept or even repelled by the findings of modern science, others may be too fast in replacing the spiritual with the scientific. For both, the book of Proverbs can serve as a model. Obviously, there is nothing “unbiblical” about empirical studies. Even Amenope’s wisdom could become part of the Jewish-​Christian Bible. However, the material is not incorporated uncritically. The “fear of the LORD,” that is, the framework of ancient Israelite religion, has been set as the guiding principle for determining whether a “secular” insight could be adopted or not. For a Christian approach to wisdom, the saying of Col 2:3 is vital: in Christ “are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” The sending of Jesus is a divine act of wisdom; Jesus Christ himself is the wisdom of God (1 Cor 1:24, 2:6f). These statements do not mean, however, that faith in Christ replaces the necessity of living out one’s life wisely. Rather, trusting in Christ is the new “beginning of wisdom,” in a sense redefining the “fear of the LORD” of the Old Testament. “Teach and admonish each other in all wisdom” (Col 3:16, see also James 1:5, 3:3–​7, Luke 16:8).

Notes 1. The following analysis relates to the Masoretic text of Proverbs. The Septuagint tradition deviates considerably and cannot be dealt with here. 2. Regarding this interpretation of Ecclesiastes, see Steinberg (2006: 319–​342).

Bibliography Becker, Joachim. 1965. Gottesfurcht im Alten Testament. Analecta Biblica. Rome:  Pontifical Biblical Institute. Childs, Brevard S. 1979. Introduction to the Old Testament as Scripture. Philadelphia: Fortress Press. Dell, Katharine J. 2006. The Book of Proverbs in Social and Theological Context Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Frydrych,Tomáš. 2002. Living under the Sun:  Examination of Proverbs and Qoheleth. Vetus Testamentum Supplement 90. Leiden, the Netherlands: Brill.

198   Julius Steinberg Garrett, Duane A. 1993. Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs. New American Commentary 14. Nashville: Broadman. Hausmann, Jutta. 1992. “Beobachtungen zu Spr 31, 10–​31.” In Alttestamentlicher Glaube und Biblische Theologie. Festschrift H. Preuß, edited by Jutta Hausmann and Hans-​Jürgen Zobel, 261–​266. Stuttgart, Germany: Kohlhammer. Heim, Knut M. 2001. Like Grapes of Gold Set in Silver: An Interpretation of Proverbial Clusters in Proverbs 10:1–​22:16. Berlin: de Gruyter. Hurowitz, Victor A. 2001. “The Seventh Pillar: Reconsidering the Literary Structure and Unity of Proverbs 31,” ZAW 113:209–​218. Kidner, Derek. 1964. Proverbs:  An Introduction and Commentary. Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries. Leicester, England: Intervarsity. Luchsinger, Jürg. 2010. Poetik der alttestamentlichen Spruchweisheit. Poetologische Studien zum Alten Testament 3. Stuttgart, Germany: Kohlhammer. Meinhold, Arndt. 1991. Die Sprüche. Zürcher Bibelkommentare AT. 16. Zürich: Theologischer Verlag. Murphy, Roland E. 1998. Proverbs. Word Biblical Commentary 22. Nashville: Nelson. Perdue, Leo G. 2000. Proverbs. Interpretation. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox. . Perdue, Leo G. 2007. Wisdom Literature: A Theological History. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox. Preuß, Horst Dietrich. 1987. Einführung in die alttestamentliche Weisheitsliteratur. Stuttgart, Germany: Kohlhammer. Römheld, Diethard. 1989. Wege der Weisheit: Die Lehren Amenemopes und Proverbien 22,17–​ 24,22. BZAW 184. Berlin: de Gruyter. Saur, Markus. 2012. Einführung in die alttestamentliche Weisheitsliteratur. Darmstadt, Germany: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft. Steinberg, Julius. 2006. Die Ketuvim: Ihr Aufbau und ihre Botschaft. Bonner Biblische Beiträge 152. Hamburg, Germany. Steinberg, Julius. 2012. “Gottes Ordnungen verstehen und leben:  Eine Theologie der alttestamentlichen Weisheit.” In Freude an Gottes Weisung:  Themenbuch zur Theologie des Alten Testaments, edited by Herbert H. Klement and Julius Steinberg, 211–​237. 2. Aufl. Riehen/​Basel: arteMedia. Steinberg, Julius. 2015. “The Place of Wisdom Literature in an Old Testament Theology:  A Thematic and Structural-​ Canonical Approach.” In The Shape of the Writings, with the Assistance of Rachel Stone, edited by Julius Steinberg and Timothy J. Stone, 147–​ 173. Siphrut:  Literature and Theology of the Hebrew Scriptures 16. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns. Waltke, Bruce K. 2008. “Fundamentals for Preaching the Book of Proverbs.” Parts 1–​4. Bibliotheca Sacra 165, no. 3–​12: 131–​144, 259–​267, 387–​396. Whybray, Roger N. 1994. “The Composition of the Book of Proverbs.” Journal for the Study of the Old Testament. Supplement Series 168. Sheffield, UK: JSOT Press. Whybray, Roger N. 1995. The Book of Proverbs: A Survey of Modern Study. History of Biblical Interpretation Series 1. Leiden, the Netherlands: Brill.

Chapter 13

L am entations a nd  C a non Conversations in the Dark Scott Ellington

Suffering is hard to witness. Raw pain, sharp cries, and unrestrained tears can be acutely uncomfortable, even alarming for the onlooker who does not share them. But for the person acquainted with suffering, such outpourings can also invite a kinship and somber communion. The book of Lamentations thrusts on the reader a cry of desolation and invites her to consider the prospect of utter loss; the loss of home, of loved ones, and of freedom. Ultimately, though, it is the possibility of losing God that the poet of Lamentations calls the reader to consider. Lamentations invites the reader to listen to and to participate in a conversation amid the bleak ruins of a once beautiful, prosperous, and vibrant city of Zion, and it is this dialogue that bears the book’s message. The reader’s role in determining the meaning of a biblical book will continue to shape biblical theology in the coming decades. Scripture interpretation was transformed by the insight that reading is less a straightforward act of recovery and more essentially a creative process. Reading a text, any text, is not about passively watching a set meaning unfold from an insular seat in the audience, but it is more akin to the reader stepping up on stage and actively participating to shape the play, helping to bring final form to the script. Meaning results from the interaction of author and reader, or to put it differently, it is necessarily dialogical, so that interpreting a text requires that the reader be a responsible conversation partner (Linafelt 2000; Lee 2002; Mandolfo 2007; Nguyen 2013). When reading Lamentations, a sensitivity to dialogical exchanges is particularly helpful and four addition layers of dialogue must be considered: (1) the multiple voices that together shape its message; (2) the place of God in the conversation; (3) the ways in which the message of the book is shaped by its placement in and relationship to both the Writings and the Prophets of the Old Testament canon; and (4) the history of its reception by various communities of faith. The book of Lamentations is cast as a conversation between diverse and at times divergent voices. The reader is invited to enter a discussion, perhaps an argument, already in progress and become involved in adjudicating a tension already present in the text.

200   Scott Ellington The first task in studying the book, then, is to consider the polyvalent form in which its diological message is cast. In attending to the dialogical nature of the book, scholars have focused on the lack of clear resolution or a consistent message (Dobbs-​Allsopp 1997:  24–​26). The writer faithfully considers the apparent contradiction between experiences of profound loss and the belief that Yahweh actively intervenes to protect and deliver. Lamentations embodies faith by standing in the gap between Israel’s foundational belief in God’s justice and experiences that call that belief into question, so that identifying the divergent voices of the text and making decisions as to which voice(s) should be privileged are key to interpreting its message. By standing in the gap, the writer joins the great debate that dominates the wisdom tradition in the Writings. On the one hand, Proverbs and many of the wisdom psalms affirm the active justice and mercy of God, rewarding the righteous and punishing the wicked. On the other hand, Job, Ecclesiastes, and other wisdom psalms explore the tension between what is believed about God’s justice and how that justice is actually experienced. Prophetic texts such as Jeremiah and Habakkuk also explore this essential tension. When the text being read by the reading community is considered to be sacred scripture, an additional conversation partner must be considered, namely, God as the writer renders him or her.1 Whether God is thought of as speaking directly, or as being indirectly revealed through human response to divine revelation, or as simply being offered as a literary construct in scripture, the reader is invited by the writer to consider the particulars of divine–​human interaction. In the case of Lamentations, God remains silent with only the echo of his remembered speech in 3:57 (O’Connor 2008: 28). Nevertheless, it is also the case that the poet presses for a response from God. There can be no resolution as long as God remains silent. The challenge for the reader is to find a vantage point within the tense exchange fueled by that silence. Though voiceless, God is nevertheless “present” in the conversation in at least two ways. First, the casting of portions of the book as prayer addressed to God indicates that even in muteness God influences the shape of the conversation. Second, Lamentations does not stand alone, but is part of an ongoing exchange in other canonical writings that both precede and follow God’s poignant silence in these poems. The prayers of lament in Lamentations, for example, draw much of their language from similar laments found in the Psalms. Both theologically and structurally, there are also a number of parallels with the exilic prophets, particularly Jeremiah, Isaiah, and Ezekiel. The book’s location and function within the larger canon suggests an additional layer of discourse. The different placements of Lamentations within the Jewish and Christian canons shape the reading and focus of the book, coloring the perception of Lamentations as either an essentially prophetic or a liturgical conversation partner. This prompts such questions as who the poet’s principal dialogue partners should be and how an intertextual reading of Lamentations might advance our understanding of its message and the faith community’s appropriations of it. The dialogical nature of Lamentations, both within the book itself and in its intertextual relation to other parts of the canon, provides the focus for the brief discussion that

Lamentations and Canon   201 follows. First, a consideration of the genre and structure of the book sets the parameters for the writer’s reflections on Israel’s plight. Second is a consideration of the individual voices in the book and the way in which they map out the theological themes addressed there. Third, we will explore the relationship and interaction of Lamentations with the larger biblical canon, noting that its theological message is influenced and at times determined by the choice of dialogue partners for an intertextual reading of the book. Fourth, we will consider the reception history of Lamentations and the ways in which it continues to engage contemporary dialogue partners.

Structuring the Conversation Structure plays a guiding role in hearing Lamentation’s message. The book contains five poems, each with a closely crafted configuration that lends shape to its message. Each of the first four chapters is an acrostic, with each line of the poem starting with a successive letter in the in twenty-​two-​letter Hebrew alphabet. The fifth chapter, though not an acrostic, also contains twenty-​two verses.2 Such careful structuring lends order and direction to what might otherwise be a jumbled, haphazard torrent of emotion, encouraging reader and speaker alike to persevere in exploring the depth of Zion’s suffering (Peterson 1980: 97; O’Connor 2001: 1018; Allen 2011: 8). With sixty-​six verses, chapter three is the longest of the poems and forms a triple acrostic: the first three lines beginning with alepha, the next three with beth, and so on. Chapter five, which drops the acrostic, is the shortest of the poems. The deterioration of this careful structuring in chapters four and five, with the progressive shortening and loss of acrostic construction in the final chapter, spoils the “frame” around chapter three, challenging the assumption of many interpreters that the third chapter, with its more hopeful message, is the theological center of the book (O’Connor 2003: 45). With a seeming abandonment of this earlier hope, the poet ends the book with a question implied but left unasked in the NRSV’s rendering: “unless you have utterly rejected us, and are angry with us beyond measure.”3 Rather than allowing chapter three to dominate or even eclipse the chapters that frame it, then, a more appropriate course would be to consider how the accenting of chapter three affects the trajectory of the book as a whole. The genre of the poetry is mixed, containing elements of dirge and city lament together with individual and communal laments. Dirges mourn loss with little expressed hope of restoration or renewal. They do not seek change or relief from the current circumstances, focusing instead on conveying the poet’s anguish. How lonely sits the city that once was full of people! How like a widow she has become, she that was great among the nations! She that was a princess among the provinces

202   Scott Ellington has become a vassal. She weeps bitterly in the night, with tears on her cheeks; among all her lovers She has no one to comfort her; All her friends have dealt treacherously with her, They have become her enemies. (Lam 1:1–​2)

Prayers of lament, on the other hand, are addressed to God and while they give full vent to the speaker’s pain, they also entertain the possibility of divine response and an end to grieving. Laments seek to move God. But you, O LORD, reign forever:

your throne endures to all generations. Why have you forgotten us completely? Why have you forsaken us these many days? Restore us to yourself, O LORD, that we may be restored; renew our days as of old—​ (Lam 5:19–​21)

Chapters one, two, and four are dominated by dirges which see little prospect for future hope, but which give voice to the anguish of those who have survived the loss of home, livelihood, and loved ones. These prayers are, nevertheless, punctuated in chapters one and two by lament cries made by Daughter Zion and marked by direct address to Yahweh. Chapter three more closely approximates an individual lament, and chapter five, the clearest example of the five poems, is a community lament. There is, then, a general move from dirge to lament as the book unfolds, though the forms are regularly intermingled (Lee 2002: 37). Pain and despair are at first simply voiced, but as the poems develop, they find a focal point and stir up the hope, perhaps even the expectation of change. This juxtapositioning of various genres in Lamentations serves to underscore the divergent voices in the book. The book contains a diversity of voices, each with its own view of Zion’s desolation and none by itself able to offer a comprehensive picture. Daughter Zion’s grief is focused on the present moment and is predominantly taken up with the articulation of her misery: My eyes are spent with weeping; My stomach churns; My bile is poured out on the ground Because of the destruction of my people, because infants and babes faint in the streets of the city. (Lam 2:11)

Lamentations and Canon   203 By contrast, the male refugee in chapter three shares in Zion’s grief, but still sees a future hope in God: But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases, his mercies never come to an end. (Lam 3:21–​22)

Zion’s sorrow can be neither adequately expressed nor fully comprehended, and the interplay of voices reflects something of the experiential exhaustion and theological bewilderment resulting from Judah’s loss of home and freedom. Attending to this polyvalence is essential; otherwise the privileging of one voice while others are diminished or ignored will distort the message of the book. By introducing distinct voices, the poet(s) of Lamentations has extended a device common to the prayers of lament, namely, a sharp vacillation between complaint and plea, confidence and hope, trust and renewed uncertainty. By casting these diverse and even opposing perspectives as distinct voices within the book, the author of Lamentations has underscored the turmoil created by the destruction of Zion as once stable theological commitments must be either re-​envisioned or dismissed in light of disastrous loss. By creating distinct personae the poet can draw the reader more fully into the destabilized world of the refugee community.

Overhearing the Conversation The first chapter of Lamentations records two voices, that of the Prophet (Jeremiah) as he describes the ravaging of Judah in language of dirge (1–​9a, 10–​11a, 17) and that of Daughter Zion as she calls out to Yahweh in lament (9b, 11b–​16, 18–​22). The Prophet talks about Daughter Zion, “The roads to Zion mourn, for no one comes to the festivals; all her gates are desolate, her priests groan; her young girls grieve, and her lot is bitter” (1:4). At the same time, Daughter Zion addresses an unresponsive God calling on him repeatedly to “look” and “see” in language drawn from Israel’s prayers of lament. “See, O LORD, how distressed I am; my stomach churns, my heart is wrung within me, because I have been very rebellious” (1:20). In this first chapter the poet sets the trajectory for the entire book as the two voices initially talk past one another, one describing the disaster that has befallen the city as an agitated but largely impassive observer, while the other is concerned not with responding to the Prophet, but with breaking through God’s silence in prayer. The reader, should she wish, can access the poem initially at a safe distance from the raw emotion expressed by Daughter Zion by identifying with the concerned but somewhat unreceptive voice of the Prophet.

204   Scott Ellington In chapter two the exchange shifts as the two voices are drawn together as the Prophet finds common cause with Daughter Zion. The Prophet initially continues the third-​ person description from chapter one (2:1–​10), but this dirge is interrupted abruptly by a cry of lament “for my people” in 11–​12. “My eyes are spent with weeping; my stomach churns; my bile is poured out on the ground because of the destruction of my people.” Beginning with verse 13, the Prophet shifts from talking about Daughter Zion in the third person to directly addressing her in the second person. With that, the focus of his words change as he seeks to “comfort,” “heal,” and “restore.” In verse 18 the Prophet urges her to renewed prayer, “Cry aloud to the Lord! O wall of daughter Zion! Let tears stream down like a torrent day and night! Give yourself no rest, your eyes no respite.” This she does in the closing verses of the chapter (20–​22). There she resumes lament as she calls on the LORD to “look” and “consider” the result of his handiwork. By the close of the chapter, the Prophet has taken up Zion’s suffering and, abandoning descriptions of her pain, has joined in her conviction that in God alone can be found a way forward. Chapter three offers a new voice, one that contrasts sharply with the despair of those in chapters one and two. Much scholarly speculation has been offered concerning the identity of the speaker in chapter three. His identity, though, is less important than the contrasting voice that he offers to that of the Prophet’s and Daughter Zion’s. He is a Refugee who is representative of Judah just as Daughter Zion is. By saying of God “against me alone he turns his hand, again and again, all day long,” the speaker calls attention to his representational role as an archetypal survivor rather than offering mere hyperbole. He personifies the defeated remnant of Judah, just as Daughter Zion does, but with a different perspective to offer. Hope is manifested alongside of despair, rather than simply eclipsing it. Chapter three is the hub of Lamentations in that it introduces several themes that stand in direct tension with the testimony of the other voices in the book. In so doing, it underscores the theological themes that the poet explores throughout. Among these is the use that the speaker makes of memory. Remembrance plays an important role in Israel’s prayers of lament as the psalmist will frequently call to mind memories of God’s creation, of the Exodus, and of his saving presence in the psalm writer’s own past.4 But remembrance has a less certain function in Lamentations and has not figured in the laments of Daughter Zion. Jerusalem remembers not her relationship with Yahweh in the past, but only “all the precious things that were hers in days of old” (1:7), while Yahweh has “not remembered his footstool” (2:1). As long as the Refugee in chapter three forgets happiness (3:17) and thinks on his affliction (3:19), his lament continues, but then he remembers. The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is his faithfulness . . . . Although he causes grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love (Lam 3:21–​22, 32)

Lamentations and Canon   205 He calls to mind not specific experiences or divine actions, but the permanence of Yahweh’s steadfast love (hesed; vv. 22, 32), faithfulness (emunah; 23) and his mercy/​ compassion (racham; 22, râcham; 32), forming an inclusio (vv. 22–​23, 32)  around this new act of remembrance and this assertion of optimism that stands at the book’s heart. This central section with its repeated references to God’s compassion and steadfast love parallels the affirmation of the divine name and character in Exod 34:6–​7; The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful (râcham) and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love (hesed) and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love (hesed) for the thousandth generation, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, yet by no means clearing the guilty, but visiting the iniquity of the parents upon the children and the children’s children, to the third and fourth generation.

This declaration of the divine name and nature provides the climax for the story of Israel’s sin of making the Golden Calf and more specifically is offered in response to Moses’s negotiations with God in Exod 33, seeking his continued presence with his people. Lamentations also explores the crisis of presence precipitated by Israel’s sin. Lamentations 3:21–​42 remember God’s goodness in general terms, but without the kind of specific national or personal memories that are typical of many lament psalms. Verses 55–​57 offer the one occasion in Lamentations of remembering directly God’s response to distress in the past. I called on your name, O LORD, from the depths of the pit; you heard my plea, “Do not close your ear to my cry for help, but be my relief!” You came near when I called on you; you said, “Do not fear!”

But this is a feeble memory, devoid of specificity and short lived. The Refugee also incorporates a second common feature of lament prayer that Lady Zion does not, an assurance of being heard. “You have taken up my cause, O Lord, you have redeemed my life,” spoken even though deliverance is still unrealized. This sets up the conflict that persists through the remainder of the book. The Refugee’s affirmation that “the Lord will not reject for ever” is directly echoed in the faltering note of the book’s final verse, “unless you have utterly rejected us, and are angry with us beyond measure.” Uncertainty regarding Yahweh’s continued presence and relationship with the nation supplies the theological heart of Lamentations.

206   Scott Ellington Chapter four shifts the direction of the conversation once again. The Prophet returns to the loss and desolation of daughter Zion, only this time her voice has fallen silent (Lee 2002: 190). Far from regressing, though, a new element of lament is drawn in as the Congregation joins in the lament. “Our eyes failed, ever watching vainly for help; we were watching eagerly for a nation that could not save” (4:17). Community laments are common in the Psalter.5 So too is the offering of praise for deliverance before the “great congregation.”6 In the presence of the assembly and echoing the prophetic words of deliverance in Isa 40:1, the Prophet declares a new note of hope, “The punishment of our iniquity, O daughter Zion, is accomplished, he will keep you in exile no longer” (4:22a). And, in the tradition of lament prayer and echoing chapters one and three, the Prophet also pronounces a curse on the enemy, on daughter Edom. Chapter four, then, has prepared the way for the community prayer that marks the culmination of the book. Chapter five is a communal lament and, echoing Daughter Zion, the Congregation now calls on God to “look” and “see.” The assembly describes in agonizing detail the ongoing suffering of its members, concluding “Because of this our hearts are sick, because of these things our eyes have grown dim: because of Mount Zion, which lies desolate; jackals prowl over it” (5:17–​18). Remembrance is again significant to the structure of the poem, but this time it is Yahweh’s memory that is stirred. “Remember, O Lord,” the poet begins (v. 1), and as the poem closes Yahweh is accused of willful forgetfulness: “Why have you forgotten us completely? Why have you forsaken us these many days?”(v. 20). The ending of the poem is thematically tied to the book’s center, identifying the principal tension of Lamentations. Once again the theme of Yahweh’s permanence is raised, “But you, O LORD, reign for ever, your throne endures to all generations,” as it was in the framing words in 3:22–​23, 31, with its claim of Yahweh’s unfailing hesed, emunah, and racham/​râcham. But just as in the book as a whole, the rhythm falters and comes to a stop at the end of the chapter; as ultimately the declaration of Yahweh’s certain fidelity is stillborn on the lips of the Congregation. The “not reject forever” in chapter three which is followed by the assurance that “he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love” is left dangling and the poem ends in uncertainty with a halting “unless you have utterly rejected us, and are angry with us beyond measure.” The Congregation faces the very real prospect of losing its memory, its identity, and its confidence that Yahweh will respond to his name.

Voices within the Canon Lamentations does not speak in isolation but draws on the language and theological themes of Israel’s prayers.7 The poetry of Lamentations shares close connections with the Psalter, particularly those psalms that explore the possibility that Yahweh’s covenant relationship has finally come to an end. There are a number of parallels, for example, with Ps 77. Like Lady Zion, the psalmist “refuses to be comforted.” And like the

Lamentations and Canon   207 community in Lam 5, the one praying questions God’s memory and considers the prospect of a final end to their relationship with Yahweh. “Will the Lord spurn forever, and never again be favorable? Has his steadfast love (hesed) ceased forever? Are his promises at an end for all time? Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has he in anger shut up his compassion (raham)?” Selah And I say, “It is my grief that the right hand of the Most High has changed.”

But unlike the poet of Lamentations, the psalmist embeds this dangerous suggestion within acts of remembrance. In the preceding verses, just as in Lam 5:21, the writer “considers the days of old.” But then goes on to “remember years long ago,” “commune,” “meditate,” and “search.” And immediately after considering the unthinkable, that “the right hand of the Most High has changed,” the psalmist will “call to mind the deeds,” “remember your wonders,” “meditate on all your works,” and “muse on your mighty deeds.” The lack of connection with Israel’s key memories sets the poetry of Lamentations apart from lament poetry in the Psalter. Psalm 89 considers the possible loss of the Davidic covenant. Much of the first half of the psalm is an act of remembering God’s promised fidelity to David, preparing the reader for the abrupt shift from assurance to threatened loss beginning with verse 38: But now you have spurned and rejected him; You are full of wrath against your anointed. You have renounced the covenant with your servant; You have defiled his crown in the dust.

Psalm 89 appeals both to Yahweh’s steadfast love (hesed; 1–​2, 14, 24, 28, 33, 49) and his faithfulness (emunah; 1–​2, 14, 24, 28, 33, 49) throughout the poem, so that both psalms evidence a shared vocabulary of hope with Lam 3. Again, though, it is the threat to community memory that sets the poetry of Lamentations apart from the prayer tradition of Israel in the Psalter. In the Hebrew canon the placement of Lamentations underscores its meaning and points to its continued appropriation by the community of faith, as it serves, first, to call to mind the great disaster that changed forever Israel’s means of relating to Yahweh and, second, to draw that fundamental experience into the present. The Masoretic text of the Hebrew Bible places Lamentation among the Writings and more specifically among the five festival books of the Megilloth (Ruth, Song of Solomon, Ecclesiastes, Lamentations, and Esther). Lamentations is read on the ninth of Ab, the fifth month in the liturgical calendar, to commemorate the two destructions of the temple. Memory is key for the continued Jewish use of the book. Lamentations is a vehicle by which the destruction

208   Scott Ellington of the temple and the raising of Jerusalem are not simply kept alive, but by which that event encroaches on and gives meaning to the present. Lamentations commemorates what Emil Fackenheim has called a “root experience” for Israel. Root experiences are not primarily or even particularly about the events themselves, but rather call attention to the ways that those events attest to experiences of God’s presence. “Thus the pious Jew remembering the Exodus and the salvation at the Red Sea does not call to mind events now dead and gone. He reenacts these events as a present reality: only thus is he assured that the past saving God saves still, and that He will finally bring ultimate salvation” (Fackenheim 1970: 11). Lamentation, then, keeps alive the experience that challenged most profoundly the belief that God will continue to be present and to temper his justice with mercy. In this canonical setting Lamentations has been loosened from its moorings and has become a liturgical resource for commemorating other experiences of loss and exile for the Jewish people, including the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, the failure of the Bar Kokhba uprising, the expulsion of the Jews from Spain and England, and in modern times, the Holocaust. By placing Lamentations among books used in Jewish worship, the emphasis is on the dialogue between remembered past and present experience. The voices of Lamentations, then, speak in the context of a fractured relationship and, just as Moses had done in the face of God’s anger before them (Num 14:17–​ 19), remind God of his name. With its placement in the Septuagint, by contrast, Lamentations follows the prophet Jeremiah, inviting the reader to consider in both the function of prophetic lament. In Jeremiah it is God who suffers as a result of his relationship with Judah and the prophet’s task is to share in and to articulate that suffering, while in Lamentations the Prophet identifies with the suffering of Daughter Zion. In Jeremiah the prophet takes on the suffering of one covenant partner; in Lamentations, the other. Closely akin to Lamentations theologically are the prophecies of Second Isaiah in which that prophet “answers” the voices of Lamentations. This association has a long tradition, beginning with the Jewish Midrash Lamentations Rabbah, in which Isaiah is seen as providing the ending that Lamentations lacks (Parry 2010: 162) This association with exilic prophecy, specifically Jeremiah, Isaiah, and, to a lesser extent, Ezekiel, places Lamentations at the epicenter of the movement from judgment and destruction to restoration and rebuilding that runs through the prophetic writings. Lamentations stands at the turning of the tide, at its lowest ebb, before the exiles turn toward renewal. The message of Lamentations, then, is in part shaped by the canonical company that it keeps, bearing as it does ties with the Psalter and the Writings, and the Major Prophets. Reading one or another of these canonical partners alongside its dialogues will tend to highlight certain of its voices and accent certain themes.

Hearing Voices Interpreting a biblical passage requires attention both to the world of the text and to that of the reader. Central to the interpretation of Lamentations is how one chooses to hear

Lamentations and Canon   209 its voices. Interpretation is a conversation with the text and to hold a conversation, that is, to participate in a dialogue rather than simply to engage in a monologue, requires that the interpreter first listen to and honor the voices of the text. In Lamentations five voices must be heard. There is the Prophet who, though shocked by Zion’s devastation, is nonetheless distanced from her suffering so that full realization of that suffering is a journey of identification in the first two chapters. Initially the Prophet offers dirge, but not lament. Daughter Zion’s focus is on change. She addresses God, acknowledging sin and seeking deliverance, and in the course of her lament she draws the Prophet into the immediacy of her experience. The Refugee shares Daughter Zion’s status as an exile but is able to transcend the moment, remembering the past and imagining a hoped-​for future. In so doing, the Refugee prepares the way for the Congregation’s more active participation pressing Yahweh for a response. Daughter Zion’s focus is resolutely in the present, while the Refugee’s broader perspective underscores the distance between the community’s belief and their experience of exile. Put differently, the Refugee’s contribution is not to diminish or negate Zion’s suffering, but rather to add to its depth by placing in the starkest contrast “what is” with “what was” and “what should be.” The Congregation comes late to the conversation, providing the authorizing voice for the climactic question of divine presence. And then there is the voice that doesn’t speak, that of God. Such silence in the face of Zion’s devastation and pleading is acutely uncomfortable, often inciting interpreters to speak for God, filling the silence and, in so doing, often hijacking the conversation. To listen patiently and faithfully to the voices of Lamentations, though, means also to endure God’s silence and to refuse all attempts by those who would speak for God. Joining the interpreter’s voice to those already present in the text has been an ongoing practice for the faith communities that value it and biblical scholars are giving renewed attention to the history of Lamentations’ reception (Linafelt 2000; Joyce and Lipton 2013). The reception historian’s first task is simply to describe what is; that is, to report on the myriad ways in which Lamentations has been engaged with in literature, music, and art. In so doing, they create what Joyce and Lipton have described as a “virtual reading room in which their own contemporary readers enter into dialogue with readers throughout the centuries and from every corner of the globe” (2013: 195). The first task of the reception historian, then, is simply to explore the ways in which the text has been interpreted and applied, and in that sense there is no right or wrong interpretation. The emphasis on dialogue found in Lamentations, though, calls on the student of its reception not simply to report on how the book has been accessed and reapplied, but to take some initial steps toward categorizing and critiquing those receptions, and to consider whether the interpreters of Lamentations have taken part in the dialogue it embodies. The centrality in Lamentations of diverse voicing suggests five questions to consider in evaluating the effectiveness with which a particular reception of the book hears, acknowledges, and shares in the conversation found there. First of all, there is the question of the interpreter’s entry point into the conversation. Through whose eyes is the text re-​envisioned? With which character should the reader identify? For much of its history of interpretation the prophet Jeremiah was accepted as the book’s author,

210   Scott Ellington lending the Prophet’s voice the weight of a narrator and suggesting that Lamentations be read as a partner piece with that prophetic book. In considering the central message of Lamentations, the Refugee, with his hopeful note, lengthy discourse, and prominent position at the center of the book, has also been long favored as the best perspective from which to view the book as a whole. Tod Linafelt, though, has argued that many scholars, both ancient and modern, in choosing to focus on the speaker in chapter three, have misunderstood the essence of the conversation being overheard in Lamentations, which is not, he suggests, the interpretation or meaning of pain, but simply its presentation (2000:43). Linafelt asserts, though, that this is to ask the wrong question, with the result that the hegemony is granted to one voice at the expense of others (2000: 3–​5). Carleen Mandolfo maintains that it is precisely in its offering of a diversity of voices that scripture’s authority is to be found, so that a privileging of the dominant voice in Lamentations results in a distorted message (2008: 53–​54). She champions a “reading in favor of the ‘lesser parties’ ” in the text and in so doing deconstructs the dominant ideology of God expressed in the prophetic tradition (Mandolfo 2008: 55). For Mandolfo it is Daughter Zion’s challenge to this ideology that is crucial to the book’s message, a message that looks very different when viewed through Daughter Zion’s eyes. To a great extent, then, the meaning of Lamentations is shaped or given color by the interpreter’s choice of entry point into the text. Second, and closely related to the first question, does the particular reception of Lamentations attend to and seek to sustain the inherent tension between the dissonant voices of the text? If one character is seen as providing the interpretive lens through which the text is viewed, are those voices that are at odds with that entry character permitted a hearing in order to shape and be shaped by the dominant voice, or are those secondary voices reduced to mere foils, sapping their ability to shape the book’s message? Christian Brady, for example, has called attention to the tendency in one of the earliest commentaries on the book, Targum Lamentations, to defuse the tension between Zion and God. Where the Book of Lamentations is an expression of grief and an outpouring of pain with little concern for maintaining systematic theology, Targum Lamentations (TgLam) is concerned with vindicating God, acquitting the Lord of any perceived guilt, and bringing Lamentations into line with contemporary rabbinic theological beliefs. (2011: 72)

The result of such a reading is to dismiss any questioning or note of protest, affectively disabling the dissonance between Yahweh and Zion. Kathleen O’Connor, in seeking to read “against the grain” of the text denies that any one voice should dominate in considering meaning (2003: 14). But whereas some interpreters have dismissed any element of conflict by protecting God’s reputation or by assuring his response to save (House 2011: 40), there has also been the tendency among more recent commentators, including O’Connor, to devalue the confessions of guilt that

Lamentations and Canon   211 run through the book. O’Connor identifies God with an abusing husband, so that any confession of sin on Zion’s part is at best insincere and at worst a confirmation of divine abuse. “Like a woman in an abusive relationship, she agrees that YHWH is justified in his treatment of her because she has ‘rebelled against his word’ (1:18a)” (O’Connor, 2003: 27). To deny the full legitimacy of either partner’s perspective and attestation in the relationship, though, is to deflate the narrative and flatten the dialogue. If God’s treatment of Israel has remained within the bounds of a faithful covenant partner and is in no danger of becoming extreme, what basis is there to question his choices or protest his excesses? But, on the other hand, if Daughter Zion is truly innocent, why seek to return to an abusing husband where she is certain to be humiliated and battered again? The challenge for interpreters of Lamentations is precisely in the tension between the reality of Israel’s sin and the prospect that her covenant partner has overreacted and contemplated a final end to the relationship. Third, how is the community present to provide identify, stir up memory, and offer meaning as the text is reimagined? Even in the case of individual prayers of lament, the community lends shape to a relationship under threat. The efficacy of individual lament comes in large part from the relationship of the one praying with God, and that relationship centers both in Lamentations and in lament prayers generally, not simply on the individual, but on the community that gives it context. The exploration of the interplay of text and community is a particular strength of the study of the text’s reception history. So, for example, Lam 4:20, “The breath of our life, the LORD’s anointed, was taken in their pits—​the one of whom we said ‘Under his shadow we shall live among the nations,’ ” together with 5:16, “The crown has fallen from our head; woe to us that we have sinned!,” anchored sermons decrying the beheading of King Charles I by the English parliament in 1649 (Joyce and Lipton 2013: 168–​170). The film Eicha explores the intersection of two communities in modern Israel, that of conservative orthodoxy and the surrounding secular society. Orthodox parents have named their daughter Eicha (literally “how”), the Hebrew title for Lamentations. On her eighteenth birthday and against her parents’ wishes, Eicha seeks to have her name legally changed, but she finds herself trapped between the conflicting interpretations placed on that name by two divergent cultures within a single society (Joyce and Lipton 2013: 147–​150). Interpretation does not take place in a vacuum, and the message of Lamentations is in part created by the communities that read it. Fourth, is God still present in the dialogue, silent and yet addressed? For God to be truly absent from the conversation is to transform fundamentally the nature of the dialogue into which the poet invites the reader. Lamentations blends dirge and lament, but whereas dirge articulates pain, lament goes a step further to express that pain to the one who can affect change. Were God to be simply excluded from the reception of the book, lament would wither and fall silent, changing pleas addressed to God into over-​ the-​shoulder remarks to other partners who are powerless to respond and transform the situation. Mandolfo argues that God is simply a “literary construct,” a character in the text that may or may not point beyond itself to certain ontological truths, but which

212   Scott Ellington is not an active participant in the conversation (2007: 7). Prayer in reality, then, is for Mandolfo ideological argument set on persuading and changing not God, but the community that hears the text. The focus of Lamentations, for Mandalfo, shifts from seeking Israel’s restoration to attempting to reform the theology of her destruction. Without the prospect of addressing a silent God, prayers of lament with such a reading would be little more than rhetorical devices for challenging dominant ideologies, and it would be fair to ask if Lady Zion seeks for nothing more than to change people’s thinking. The fifth question is drawn from and is implicit in the other four. Does a reception and fresh rendering of Lamentations pose a question, leaving open the tension at the book’s heart, or does it move directly to making a declarative statement, resolving and closing off that which remains open and as yet unanswered in the book itself? Tod Linafelt has argued for the open-​endedness of Lamentations, punctuated by translating the closing verse as an if/​then statement. But whereas the if clause is stated, “For if truly you have rejected us, raging against us—​,” the then clause is left unstated, being merely implied. “By leaving the conditional clause dangling, the final verse leaves open the future of the ones lamenting . . . By arresting the movement from an if to a then, the incomplete clause allows the reader, for a moment, to imagine the possibility of a different then, and therefore a different future” (Linafelt 2001: 343). Open-​endedness is uncomfortable and perhaps unwelcome in times of settled stability, but it has the ring of truth and honest communication in times of crisis and loss when the future looks bleak and uncertain. The temptation, then, is to look to Lamentations for answers rather than for the articulation of a question. So, for example, the declaration in Lam 2:3–​4 that “he has burned like a flaming fire in Jacob, consuming on all sides . . . . he poured out his fury like fire” was a favorite text for sermons that sought to give meaning to the great London fire of 1666 that destroyed some 13,000 homes, along with eighty-​seven parish churches and St. Paul’s Cathedral (Joyce and Lipton 2013: 71). But such an approach neither asks a question nor stops to wonder if God’s judgment, for those committed to seeing God’s hand in the tragedy, may not have been extreme. Whereas Israel’s destruction at the hands of her enemies may be justified in light of her unfaithfulness to her covenant partner, the question remains whether that partner would now be justified in abandoning her altogether. A faithful rendering and reception of Lamentations should attend to the multiple voices of the text, should respect and provide a place for their varied perspectives and contributions, should identify and engage with the community they address and of which they are a part, should maintain space for an unspeaking God, and should guard the open-​ended question which is at the heart of this troubling exchange. Hearings of the text that do not honor these central features of the dialogue offer if not an illegitimate hearing, then at least an impoverished one.

Notes 1. The English language provides no adequate pronoun that captures both the reality that God is not adequately rendered either as simply female or male and the emphasis on personal

Lamentations and Canon   213 relatedness central to a dialogical approach to scripture. I have therefore settled reluctantly on the problematic masculine pronoun for God simply because it is the dominant choice of biblical writers, recognizing the shortcomings of such a choice. 2. The inversion of two letters in the second, third, and fourth acrostic poems has led to scholar conjecture, but without any clear resolution (Lee 2011: 560). 3. Unless otherwise indicated, all translations are drawn from the New Revised Standard Version. 4. There are frequent references in the lament psalms to God’s power and saving acts in the past, including references to his power in creation, to the Exodus, and to personal experiences of the psalm writer; Pss 3:4–​5; 9; 22:4–​5, 9–​10; 25:6; 31:5–​8; 40:1–​5; 42:4–​5; 44:1–​ 3, 4–​8; 71:5–​6, 20; 74:12–​17; 77:5–​6, 11–​20; 80:8–​13; 83:9–​12 85:1–​3; 86:12–​13; 89:9–​12, 19–​37; 94:16–​19; 102:18–​20, 25–​26; 106; 126:1–​3; and 143:5–​6. 5. Psalms 10; 12; 15; 44; 60; 74; 79; 80; 83; 85; 90; 106; 108; 126; and 137. 6. Psalms 18; 22; 26; 35; 40; 109; and 116. 7. Joyce and Lipton have also noted parallels between Lam 5 and the language used in the communal laments; Pss 44, 74, 79, 80, and 83 (176).

Bibliography Albrektson, Bertil. 1963. Studies in the Text and Theology of the Book of Lamentations. Lund, Sweden: CWK Gleerup. Allen, Leslie. 2011. A Liturgy of Grief: A Pastoral Commentary on Lamentations. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic. Blumenthal, David R. 1993. Facing the Abusing God:  A Theology of Protest. Louisville, KY: Westminster/​John Knox Press. Boda, Mark J. 2008. “Lamentations 1, Book of.” In Dictionary of the Old Testament: Wisdom, Poetry & Writings, edited by Tremper Longman and Peter Enns, 399–​410. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic. Brady, Christian M. M. 2011. “Targum Lamentations.” In Great is Thy Faithfulness? Reading Lamentations as Sacred Scripture, edited by Robin A. Parry and Heath A. Thomas, 70–​76. Eugene, OR: Pickwick. Braiterman, Zachary. 2011. “Lamentations in Modern Jewish Thought.” In Great Is Thy Faithfulness? Reading Lamentations as Sacred Scripture, edited by Robin A. Parry and Heath A. Thomas, 92–​97. Eugene, OR: Pickwick. Dobbs-​Allsopp, F. W. 1997. “Tragedy, Tradition, and Theology in the Book of Lamentations.” Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 74:29–​60. Dobbs-​Allsopp, F. W. 2002. Lamentations. Louisville, KY: John Knox Press. Fackenheim, Emil L. 1970. God’s Presence in History:  Jewish Affirmations and Philosophical Reflections. New York: Harper & Row. Garrett, Duane, and House, Paul R. 2004. Song of Songs/​Lamentations. Nashville:  Thomas Nelson. Hobbins, John F. 2012. “Zion’s Plea That God See Her as She Sees Herself: Unanswered Prayer in Lamentations 1–​2.” In Daughter Zion: Her Portrait, Her Response, edited by Mark J. Boda, Carol J. Dempsey, and LeAnn Snow Flesher, 149–​176. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature. House, Paul R. 2011. “Outrageous Demonstrations of Grace: The Theology of Lamentations.” In Great is Thy Faithfulness? Reading Lamentations as Sacred Scripture, edited by Robin A Parry and Heath A. Thomas, 26–​54. Eugene, OR: Pickwick.

214   Scott Ellington Joyce, Paul M., and Lipton, Diana. 2013. Lamentations through the Centuries. Chichester, West Sussex: Wiley-​Blackwell. Lanahan, William F. 1974. “The Speaking Voice in the Book of Lamentations.” Journal of Biblical Literature 93, no. 1: 41–​49. Lee, Nancy C. 2002. The Singers of Lamentations: Cities under Siege, from Ur to Jerusalem to Sarahevo . . . Leiden, the Netherlands: Brill. Lee, Nancy C. 2011. The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Books of the Bible, vol. 1, Acts—​LXX, edited by Michael D. Coogan, 557–​562. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Lee, Nancy C. 2013 “Lament and Polemic:  The Rejection/​Reception History of Women’s Laments . . . and Syria.” Interpretation 67, no. 2: 155–​183. Linafelt, Tod. 1995. “Surviving Lamentations.” Horizons in Biblical Theology 17:45–​61. Linafelt, Tod. 1998. “The Impossibility of Mourning: Lamentations after the Holocaust.” In God in the Fray: A Tribute to Walter Brueggemann, edited by Tod Linafelt and Timothy K. Beal, 279–​289. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press. Linafelt, Tod. 2000. Surviving Lamentations: Catastrophe, Lament, and Protest in the Afterlife of a Biblical Book. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Linafelt, Tod. 2001. “The Refusal of a Conclusion in the Book of Lamentations.” Journal of Biblical Literature 120, no. 2: 340–​343. Mandolfo, Carleen R. 2007. Daughter Zion Talks Back to the Prophets: A Dialogic Theology of the Book of Lamentations. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature. Mandolfo, Carleen R. 2008. “Talking Back: The Perseverance of Justice in Lamentation.” In Lamentations in Ancient and Contemporary Cultural Contexts, edited by Nancy C. Lee and Carleen Mandolfo, 47–​56. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature. Nguyen, Kim Lan. 2013. Chorus in the Dark: The Voices of the Book of Lamentations. Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Phoenix Press. O’Connor, Kathleen M. 2001. “The Book of Lamentations: Introduction, Commentary, and Reflections.” In The New Interpreter’s Bible: A Commentary in Twelve Volumes, vol. 6, 1011–​ 1072. Nashville: Abingdon Press. O’Connor, Kathleen M. 2003. Lamentations & The Tears of the World. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books. O’Connor, Kathleen M. 2008. “Voices Arguing about Meaning.” In Lamentations in Ancient and Contemporary Cultural Contexts, edited by Nancy C. Lee and Carleen Mandolfo, 27–​32. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature. Parry, Robin A. 2010. Lamentations. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdman’s. Peterson, Eugene H. 1980. Five Smooth Stones for Pastoral Work. Atlanta: John Knox Press. Wright, Christopher J.  H. 2015. The Message of Lamentations. Downers Grove, IL:  IVP Academic. Yerushalmi, Yosef Hayim. 1982. Zakhor: Jewish History and Jewish Memory. Seattle: University of Washington Press.

Chapter 14

Ru t h A Reading of Scripture? A. Graeme Auld

This chapter explores the story of Ruth in terms of the usages it shares, often uniquely, with single verses or discrete contexts elsewhere in the canons of the Hebrew Bible/​Old Testament. A review of its broadly symmetrical structure precedes a listing of more than a dozen such links, mostly with Genesis, Samuel, and Job. Wider allusions follow an interim balance: to the ideal woman of Prov 31, the scandal at Gibeah (Judg 19) and the levirate law (Deut 25), and the daughters of Zelophehad (Num 27 and 36). In seeming tension with this deep indebtedness to other “biblical” books, it is argued that the meaning of Hebrew g’l, conventionally “redeem,” must be recovered within the story rather than imported from other texts. While in some senses Ruth is obviously a women’s book (the female cast is particularly strong), the role of Boaz as a fine exemplar of biblical tradition should not be underplayed. Comparing and contrasting the book of Ruth with Judges 19–​21 helps focus on different canonical options. Translations are my own, except where noted.

Structure The biblical book called Ruth is a very finely crafted short story. Although there are good reasons for the traditional title of the book, Ruth herself is named only twelve times over the course of the story, while the two senior characters are mentioned more often:  Naomi, twenty-​one times, and Boaz, twenty times. A  case could be made for renaming it “Naomi.” Naomi features even more widely throughout the narrative, from beginning (1:2) to end (4:14–​17), while Ruth is mentioned first in 1:4 and last in 4:13. Ruth as title focuses on the means, while Naomi would direct our attention to the end—​the restoration of a devastated Bethlehem family. It is now very widely recognized that the medieval chapter divisions correspond to four natural stages in the story. These stages are underscored by verbal links at the end

216   A. Graeme Auld of these “chapters” (Korpel 2001: 222): “at the start of the barley harvest” (1:22), “until the end of the barley harvest” (2:23), and “unless he has ended the matter today” (3:18). In the traditional Hebrew text (MT), as represented in both the most ancient codices, only one major break is noted: by leaving a space at the end of 4:17. This comes at the end of the narrative, and it marks off the closing genealogy (4:18–​22) as separate material. Critics are divided over whether this genealogy of ten names (nine generations) from Perez to David (the details agree with 1 Chr 2:4–​15) is original and integral to the book. Be that as it may, Perez is already mentioned in 4:12, and David is the last word of 4:17. Chapter 1 reports a family forced out of Bethlehem by famine and taking up residence in Moab. Father Elimelech dies there; his sons both marry Moabite women, but within ten years of leaving home both also die, still childless. On hearing that the famine is over, their mother Naomi starts home to Judah. On the way, she asks her daughters-​in-​law to return to their mothers’ homes: Orpah eventually leaves, but Ruth insists on continuing with Naomi. When they reach Bethlehem at the start of the barley harvest, the townswomen recognize Naomi, but they ignore her companion (Gitay 1993: 182–​183). Chapter 2 informs us before we meet him that Boaz is a man of substance who is related to Elimelech. Ruth proposes, supported by Naomi, to glean in the harvest fields; and she “just happens” (v. 3) on Boaz’s field. When Boaz arrives and is told that the stranger in his field is the Moabite who has come back to Bethlehem with Naomi, he treats her generously; and Naomi understands the significance of Ruth’s report to her. Naomi prompts Ruth (ch. 3) to offer herself at night to a relaxed Boaz at his threshing floor. He accepts Ruth’s challenge to act as redeemer. However, pointing out that he is not the closest relative, he insists that their tryst remain secret. Naomi again understands Ruth’s report of what Boaz has said and the meaning of the barley she brings from him. At the city gate next morning (ch. 4), Boaz asks the unnamed potential redeemer to join him, recruits a quorum of elders, and announces that Naomi is selling her late husband’s land. The redeemer is willing to buy till he learns that a future claim on this land may come from Ruth’s offspring. Boaz is left free both to redeem the field and marry Ruth. Their son Obed is credited to Naomi by her neighbors, who are now loud in their praise of Ruth; and Obed turns out to be grandfather to the future king David. The narrative has often been characterized as broadly symmetrical. Balanced structure is more obvious in the two central chapters: each features talk between Ruth and Naomi (2:2; 3:1–​5) that leads to an encounter between Ruth and Boaz (2:3–​16; 3:6–​15), then Ruth’s report back to Naomi (2:17–​22; 3:16–​18). Boaz expresses a wish for Yahweh’s intervention in both 2:12 and 3:10. The earlier wish ends by noting that Ruth has come seeking refuge under Yahweh’s “wings” (knp); and Ruth uses exactly this word (which literally means an “edge” or “extremity”) when she asks Boaz to spread over her the “skirt/​ edge” of his garment (3:9). Boaz demonstrates complete understanding of Ruth’s situation, and he functions as representative of Yahweh. He also speaks like a king or prophet in Samuel-​Kings when he emphasizes what he says both directly to her (2:11) and to his staff about her (2:16) by using the cognate infinitive absolute. There are several links between the outer chapters, too. The story opens in the period of the judges and closes with mention of David. It starts with the death of all the men in an Ephrathite family (1:2) and finishes first with a wish for children in Ephrath

Ruth: A Reading of Scripture?    217 (4:11) and then the report of a birth and a (short) genealogy (4:13–​17). Yahweh intervenes explicitly only twice in the book: to return food to Bethlehem (1:6) and to ensure conception for Ruth (4:13). And the women of Bethlehem, rather like a Greek chorus, greet both Naomi’s return from Moab (1:19) and the birth of Ruth’s (or Naomi’s!) child (4:14–​ 17). These similarities between first and last chapters throw into relief one principal difference: all the speaking in the first is done by women, while in the last it is almost all by men with the women’s chorus as sole exception. Korpel has offered the most sustained account of the structure of the book of Ruth, which she describes as a narrative text in poetic form. In the main, the cola in Ruth are shorter than in classical Hebrew prose, and “parallelism accounts for many of the seemingly superfluous repetitions” (Korpel 2001: 223). She notes, however, that still greater balance can be achieved in the structure she has detected if both 1:12b–​13a and 1:16b are recognized as later supplements, and it is agreed that a report of Ruth naming her child was suppressed (after 4:13) when the fuller ten-​name genealogy (4:18–​22) was added. She bases her analysis on the full resources of the Masoretic text—​not just its consonants and their vocalization but also the traditional accentuation that defines phrasing. And she finds wide ancient support for the implied paragraphs (or Subcantos) in other ancient versions:  not only the Aramaic Targum and Syriac Peshitta (both close to the Hebrew tradition) but also the Greek LXX. On the latter point, it is true that the start of each of her thirteen “Subcantos” does correspond to the start of one of the forty-​eight divisions in our earliest Greek manuscript (LXXB) marked by the scribe with a negative indent; but the same is not always the case at her lesser levels of “canticle” or “strophe.” Ruth taking the initiative with Boaz at his threshing-​floor (ch. 3) recalls two stories in the book of Genesis. First, Ruth’s own forefather Moab had been produced by Lot’s elder daughter getting him drunk and lying with him (Gen 19). Then, second, Tamar, who tricked Judah into performing his family duty by her (Gen 38), is explicitly mentioned (4:12), and Perez, her son, was an ancestor of Boaz. And Ruth’s grandson David would send “[his] father and mother” to her land for safety (1 Sam 22:3–​4). Such “genetic” links in the storyline encourage further probes of the book’s lexical DNA.

Unique Links The first probe is of the several words or phrases that occur just once within this short story and once (or rarely) elsewhere in the Hebrew Bible. Some of these individual links appear significant as soon as they are mentioned. Considered together, their force is all the more compelling. 1. The opening words, “in the days when the judges judged,” resonate in different directions, giving an early indication of what we may expect of other significant words and phrases. First, the cognate subject and verb (“judges judged”) appear together again only once: in the report of Josiah’s reformed Passover (but only as reported in 2 Kgs 23:22, and not in the parallel passage in 2 Chr 35:18). And Passover was

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celebrated at the time of barley harvest (1:22; 2:23). Then the final chapters of the book called Judges (17–​21) deal with scandalous events related to Bethlehem. 2. As the story of Ruth begins to unfold, it may appear unremarkable that two refugees from Judah in Moab should marry “Moabite wives.” However, only two other “biblical” contexts mention “Moabite wives”: each within a larger list of “foreign wives,” because of whom first Solomon (1 Kgs 11:1) and later men from Judah (Neh 13:23) are blamed. 3. Only Job (27:2) and Naomi (1:20) make “the Almighty” (šadday) subject of “brought bitterness.” This divine title is used almost twice as often in Job (thirty-​ one times) as elsewhere in HB together (seventeen times); and it is only in Job (nine times) and Ruth (twice) that we find šadday as subject of a verb. Naomi names God “the Almighty” again in 1:21, blaming him for causing her evil. 4. Rizpah was another remarkably strong woman, courageous in support of her family. After David had seven members of Saul’s family killed, Rizpah protected their exposed corpses, action that shamed David into granting them burial. The story in which she features also started in a grievous famine (2 Sam 21:1), and it was at “the beginning of the barley harvest” (only 21:9 and Ruth 1:22) that her relatives were killed. 5. Apart from Ruth 2:2, the only biblical passage in which the words for “glean” and “ears of grain” are linked is Isa 17:5, within an oracle about the diminished glory of Jacob. There the harvest scene is set in the valley of Rephaim, which has Jerusalem at its head and Bethlehem nearby. 6. “Native land” (or “land of [your] birth”) is a phrase used only in 2:11 and Gen 24:7, where Abraham recalls he had been taken by Yahweh from “his father’s house and his native land,” and instructs his servant to return there and find a wife for his son. 7. The only close parallel to Boaz’s wish for Ruth (2:12), that “Yahweh may repay your deed,” is spoken in Job 34:11—​“deed” (pa‘al) is object of “pay” (šlm, piel) only in these two verses. In Job, the implied subject of “repay your deed” must be El or Shaddai, as both divine names are used in the two adjacent verses (34:10, 12). Naomi had cited Job himself in Ruth 1:20 (3 earlier), and Boaz now responds to Ruth using words of Elihu. 8. The next key term in Boaz’s wish for Ruth (2:12) takes us back to the book of Genesis. The Hebrew word for “wage” is found again only in the reports about the bargain struck by Jacob and Laban in Gen 29:15, where their deal is made; and in 31:7, 41, where Jacob complains about Laban’s trickery. The last of these Genesis parallels provides yet another link with Ruth. Had God not intervened against his father-​in-​law who was always changing his “wage” (31:41–​42), Jacob would have been sent away “empty[-​handed].” Naomi had used the same word when she complained against Yahweh (1:21) that he had “brought her back empty” to Bethlehem (Beyer 2014: 153). And Boaz will acknowledge the problem when he counts out six measures of barley, telling Ruth that she should not return to her mother-​in-​law “empty[-​handed]” (3:17). The adjective šlm, meaning “full/​complete,” nowhere else in HB modifies a term for payment; but its use in 2:12 alongside “wage” effects a nice juxtaposition with the piel form of the verb šlm in the previous clause (7 earlier).

Ruth: A Reading of Scripture?    219 9. We have already noted the play on kanap, introduced by Boaz in 2:12, when he mentions that Ruth has “come to shelter under [Yahweh’s] wings.” “Shelter under his wings” is found only once more (Ps 91:4), early in a psalm whose opening verse ends “will lodge in the shade of the Almighty (šadday).” Only one other psalm uses that divine title (68:15), and we shall discuss later (18) the significance of “lodge” in Ruth 1:16; 3:13. But we can add here that the only two occurrences in Ezekiel (1:24; 10:5) of “the Almighty” (3 and 7 earlier) are also associated with the “wings” [of the cherubim]. 10. “. . . who has not abandoned his ḥesed” is said only of Yahweh in Gen 24:27 and again in Ruth 2:20, though verb and noun are also linked in Jonah 2:9. (At 6 earlier, another link with Gen 24 was noted.) 11. Outside Ruth 4:9–​11, Josh 24:22 provides the only example of the challenge “you are witnesses” being met by the one-​word response “[we are] witnesses.”

Wider Links Other relevant links are with words or phrases which occur in Ruth and more often elsewhere, but just in one or two contexts. 12. When Ruth swears “So may [God] do” in 1:17, she uses an oath formula found elsewhere in HB only in Samuel-​Kings (eleven times). It is in fact uttered by her grandson David more than any other character. Normally “God” is the subject: only one more time (1 Sam 20:13) is “Yahweh” the subject, and there as here it introduces a pledge of commitment (Campbell 1975: 74–​75). 13. The noun “chance” (miqrēh) is found outside Ruth 2:3 only in 1 Sam 6:9; 20:26 and in Qoh 2:14, 15; 3:19; 9:2, 3. In Qoh 2:14, 15, the cognate verb “happen” (qrh) is also used; and this verb is found on its own in Esth 4:7; 6:13. The Philistine diviners propose a test (1 Sam 6:9) for deciding whether the plagues that had afflicted them after they captured the ark were a matter of chance or were caused by Yahweh. However, a reader of Ruth within the biblical tradition will not readily accept that binary choice: what appeared to Ruth at the time to be pure chance was in fact divine guidance. 14. Only three women are described in HB as washing (rḥṣ); two of them are certainly foreign, the daughter of Pharaoh (Exod 2:5) and Ruth the Moabite (3:3), while Bathsheba (2 Sam 11–​12) is wife to Hittite Uriah. Washing is only one of several similarities between the stories of Ruth, grandmother of David, and Bathsheba, mother of Solomon. Naomi instructs Ruth to wash and anoint herself and then, after Boaz has eaten and drunk and lain down, to uncover his “legs” and herself “lie down” (3:3–​4). David instructs Uriah to go to his house and wash his “legs” (2 Sam 11:8); and Uriah’s seemingly knowing refusal (11:11) includes the words “shall I go to my house, to eat and to drink, and to lie down with my wife?” 15. A daughter-​in-​law “better for you than seven sons” (4:15) may have double resonance in 1 Sam: echoing both Elkanah claiming to Hannah (1:10) he is better for her than ten sons, and also David chosen by Samuel in preference to seven elder brothers (16:6–​13).

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Preliminary Assessment If we assume that that these links represent conscious borrowing or allusion, then the following intertextual reading may be sketched of the book of Ruth in its biblical context. Ruth’s risqué approach at night to a Boaz who had been celebrating harvest-​home risked evoking national[ist] memories of the provocative sexuality of Moabite women (Num 25) and even the DNA of their foremother, who had encouraged her sister to join with her in sleeping with Lot, their father (Gen 19). However, by means of a dense series of deliberate allusions to portions of Genesis (6, 8, 10), Joshua (11), Samuel-​Kings (1, 2, 4, 12, 13, 14, 15), Isaiah (5), Psalms (9), Job (3, 7), Qohelet (13), and Nehemiah (2), Ruth’s behavior is warmly supported. And we are also reminded that Boaz’s own ancestor, Perez, had similar origins in Tamar’s entrapment of a similarly celebrating Judah, and that David, his descendant, would make a similar attempt to entrap Uriah. The story of Ruth may be set “in the days when the judges judged”; but it is with Samuel (and Kings) that the closest word links exist: not only the two indicators of time (1, 4) but also the oath-​formula Ruth uses (12), the happenstance of her choice of Boaz’s harvest field (13), and the claim of Bethlehem’s women that Ruth was better for Naomi than seven sons (15). The opening time reference deftly evokes both days of old and the precise season of Passover at barley harvest (1). When this is reinforced by a specific mention of barley harvest, the wording also recalls Rizpah and her courageous care of the corpses of her dead menfolk throughout a hot summer (4). Abraham following divine promise and guidance from a distant land (as well as the hope that Rebekah will follow suit) are recalled from Gen 24 (6 and 10). Naomi has protested against the Almighty like Job himself (3), and Boaz answers Ruth in Elihu’s words from the same book (7).

Clustered Links Of the fifteen close links in wording noted earlier, almost all seemed immediately relevant to Ruth’s story. We move next to identify cases where the same cluster of features occurs in Ruth and in one (exceptionally two) other biblical context(s). 16. There are several echoes through Ruth of the end of Gen 2 (“Therefore a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked . . .”) • Naomi tries to send both women back to their mother’s homes (1:8) • Ruth instead “clings to her” (1:14) • “and you left your father and mother” (2:11)—​the verb “leave” governs this double object (father and mother) elsewhere only in Gen 2:24 • Ruth requests covering from Boaz (3:9)

Ruth: A Reading of Scripture?    221 17. “A woman of substance” (’ēšet ḥayil) is found in HB only in Ruth 3:11 and Prov 31:10; and this phrase is only one of several links between our short story and the acrostic poem that concludes the book of Proverbs (31:10–​31). (a) Each uses šll (normally “spoil” or “plunder”) in a striking way. The woman’s husband (31:11) will not lack šll (NRSV softens the noun to “gain”). And a literal translation of Boaz’s instruction to his servants (2:16) would be “and also really plunder for her from the sheaves.” (b) “Her husband is known at the gates, taking his seat with the elders of the land” (31:23) is richly echoed in Ruth 4:1–​2, where Boaz goes up “to the gate,” “sits down” there, and gathers ten men of the “elders” of the city. (c) “The teaching of ḥesed is on her lips” (31:26); and, while Naomi attributes this quality to Yahweh (1:8; 2:20), Boaz attributes it to Ruth (3:10). (d) The closing words of Proverbs, “and let her works praise her in the gates” (31:31), resonate with Boaz’s words to Ruth (3:11): “the whole gate of my people knows that you are a woman of substance.” 18. The verb “spend the night” (lîn) is used twice at key points in Ruth: first within Ruth’s solemn declaration to Naomi in 1:16 (“where you lodge, I  will lodge”), and then within Boaz’s response to Ruth on the threshing floor in 3:13 (“stay here tonight”). The biblical story is which this verb is most densely used (as often as eleven times in seventeen verses) concerns the Levite whose partner would be grossly abused in Gibeah (Judg 19); and it also features in contexts already discussed earlier: Gen 19 and 24 (6 and 10) and Ps 91 (9). The tale told in Judg 19 also starts in Bethlehem: the Levite returns there to “speak to the heart of ” the woman (19:3), words used by Ruth in appreciation of Boaz (2:13). And eating, drinking, and making merry (like Boaz in 3:3, 7) was the entertainment offered to the Levite both by the woman’s father in Bethlehem (Judg 19:4, 9) and by their host in Gibeah (19:21–​22). The idiom “speak to the heart of ” is used eight times more in HB, and the situation is generally a fraught one. In three of these, a man is making overtures to a woman: Hamor to Dinah, whom he has just raped (Gen 34:3); the Levite to his partner, who has run away from him (Judg 19:3); and Yahweh to Israel, his wife who has committed adultery (Hos 2:16). In three more, Joseph, now viceroy in Egypt, reassures the brothers who had earlier got rid of him (Gen 50:21), King David is urged to win over the troops he has insulted (2 Sam 19:8), and Yahweh comforts banished Jerusalem (Isa 40:1–​2). In 1 Sam 1:13, a distraught Hannah is speaking to her own heart; and it is unclear what is intended in Hezekiah speaking to the heart of the Levites (2 Chr 30:22). In two of these passages (Gen 50:21 and Isa 40:1–​2), as also in Ruth 2:13, the idiom “speak to the heart of ” follows and intensifies the verb “console”; but only in the book of Ruth (in 4:15) does it go on to share with Gen 50:21 the verb “provide for.” And the linkage between Ruth and the Joseph story is even closer: in Ruth, the provision is precisely for Naomi’s old age (literally “gray hair”),

222   A. Graeme Auld while Jacob’s other sons had earlier (Gen 44:31) begged Joseph not to imperil their father’s gray hair by insisting on seeing Benjamin. The four verbal links between Ruth and Judg 19 serve to underline how different the Moabite woman’s treatment by Boaz just outside the town of Bethlehem was from the Bethlehemite woman’s fate at the hands of Gibeathites inside the “protection” of their own town. 19. When Boaz declares that he is taking Ruth as wife (4:10) “to raise the name of the deceased over his property, so that the name of the deceased be not cut off from his brothers,” his language seems to draw on two sources. The most obvious link is with the law in Deut (25:5–​10) about levirate marriage: (a) The terms “wife of the deceased” and “name of the deceased” are found only in Ruth 4 and Deut 25. (b) The eldest son of a levirate union of widow with brother-​in-​law “should rise over the name of his deceased brother, so that his name is not blotted out from Israel” (25:6). Just as English “raise” and “rise” are linked in both sound and sense, so too Hebrew hāqîm (“raise”) is a causative form of the verb qûm (“rise”). But there is one interesting change: Boaz replaces “not blotted out” with “not cut off.” The latter verb is a key component of the divine promise relating to the house of David: “a man of yours shall not be cut off from before me, seated on Israel’s throne” (1 Kgs 8:25||2 Chr 6:16; and similarly 1 Kgs 9:5). This royal man of promise is called (Yahweh’s) “servant” (‘ebed) in almost every verse of the whole paragraph in 1 Kgs (8:23–​30); and the name Obed (‘ôbēd) that will be given to Boaz’s son (4:17) is cognate and means “Server.” In the very same breath as Boaz declares he is doing his duty as (stand-​in) brother-​in-​ law, he is also anticipating the divine promise to David. 20. The legal problem relating to the property of Zelophehad, who died having fathered daughters only and no sons, is treated twice in Numbers: first in Num 27:1–​11 near the end of an earlier version of that book, and then in Num 36, which closes the canonical version. The noun naḥalâ, meaning “[heritable] property,” and often translated “inheritance,” is used very widely in these chapters (six times in Num 27:1–​11, and eighteen times in Num 36); and the same term features in Ruth 4:5, 6, 10. A second linguistic similarity is the use seven times in Ruth (1:82, 9, 11, 13, 19; 4:11) and twice in Num 27:7–​8 (though never in Num 36) of apparently masculine plural forms in contexts where feminine would be expected (Embry 2016: 38). I am not aware of a grammatical explanation that works well in both books; but it is interesting that the same oddity is part of both principal biblical contexts where, in the absence of sons, women play a central role relating to property.

Redemption? The story of Ruth is also unique in drawing together levirate responsibility (ybm) and “redemption” (g’l). Apart from the legal paragraph in Deut 25:5–​10, only Gen 38 uses the verb ybm, which means “perform the duty of the brother-​in-​ law”: Onan refuses to “brother-​in-​law” Tamar, widow of his elder brother (38:8).

Ruth: A Reading of Scripture?    223 The story of Tamar is recalled in the way the story of Ruth is told, from beginning to end. When Naomi urges Ruth to follow Orpah back to her mother’s house (1:15), she describes Orpah as ybmtk (“your sister-​in-​law”)—​outside Deut 25 that noun is used nowhere else. When she declares she is too old (even if she had a husband) to produce further sons for the widows to wait for (1:11–​12), she implicitly recalls Judah asking Tamar to wait (in her father’s house!) for Shelah, his youngest son (Gen 38:11). Then, at the end of the book (4:12), Judah and Tamar are finally named along with Perez their son. And yet, despite hinting at levirate (ybm) in 1:15, the solution that Naomi actually voices to Ruth is “a redeemer” (g’l). “Redeem” (g’l), with “redeemer” and “redemption,” does not receive a mention until the middle of the story; but, once introduced (2:20), usage of this group of related words multiplies. When Ruth finishes reporting to Naomi on her generous reception in the harvest field, Naomi utters a brief blessing on the one who had paid attention to her (2:19). When Ruth goes on to name this benefactor, Naomi’s blessing becomes much more profuse; and the older woman adds that Boaz is “near to us” and (hence) among those with the right and responsibility to “redeem” them (2:20). Accordingly, when the woman Boaz discovers with him at night on the threshing floor identifies herself as Ruth, she asks him to spread the skirt of his garment over her “because you are redeemer” (3:9). It may just be that her prosecution of this key theme (g’l) is already (3:7) hinted at in the words describing her approach: wtgl mrgltyw wtškb (“and she uncovered [the place of] his legs and lay down”)—​each of the first two Hebrew words contains the first and last letters of g’l together. In any case, after praising her and accepting her challenge (3:10–​11), he points out that there is another redeemer still closer (3:12). “If he will redeem you, good—​let him redeem; and, if he is not willing to redeem you, I myself will redeem you, as Yahweh lives” (3:13). After this proliferation of the term (six times in Ruth 3), the usage of g’l becomes still more intensive: fourteen times in 4:1–​8, as the two potential redeemers meet in front of ten elders. Finally, in rather clumsy wording, the women of Bethlehem address Naomi with a blessing of Yahweh “who has not stopped for you a redeemer today” (4:14). Both Boaz and Yahweh himself could be discerned as intended in these strange words (the implied double negative has a possible parallel in Lev 2:13); but the women go on to make clear (4:15) that Ruth’s baby will be Naomi’s redeemer. Boaz had “comforted” Ruth and “spoken to her heart”; but it will be Obed who “provides for” Naomi’s old age, so completing the parallel with Joseph’s declaration at the end of Genesis (end of 18 earlier). The prevalence of words related to g’l in the second half of the story would appear to support the claim (Bronner 1993: 167) that Ruth is about redemption (g’l), not levirate (ybm). And yet it also presses the question whether “redeem” is after all the right way to translate this most common term in the book. Elsewhere, it is used in a relatively small number of quite different biblical contexts. Common to most (but not all) of the literal usages is action taken in family solidarity by a near relative:

224   A. Graeme Auld • In Lev 25, g’l is one of several terms used for the support necessary within a wider family to recover the well-​being of impoverished members who have had to sell their land, their children, or themselves. • Leviticus 27 uses g’l for the recovery of property “vowed” or “consecrated” to Yahweh—​what we might now call “mortgaged. “ Such property made over to the deity (for safekeeping) could be reclaimed for a percentage fee. • Numbers 35, Deut 19, and Josh 20 are all concerned with temporary sanctuary for an alleged homicide in flight from the “blood-​avenger” (g’l hdm). • Many Psalms and the second half of Isaiah apply g’l metaphorically to Yahweh, who acts in support of Israel as if recovering his kinsfolk. Pinpointing the meaning of the term g’l within Ruth is important for understanding the development of the plot of this short story. Naomi is the first to use it. When she says of Boaz: “He is related to us, he is one of our gō’ēls,” presumably her second remark develops the first—​but precisely how:  (a) as a relative, he has certain family responsibilities toward us? Or (b)  as a relative, he could make a move specifically towards recovering our land? Similarly, when Ruth takes up the issue with Boaz at night, and says “Spread your skirt over me for you are gō’ēl,” has she offspring in mind, or is she talking about Naomi’s land, or both? When Boaz takes the issue to the more closely related gō’ēl, he first raises the matter of Naomi selling her field; only later does he mention the claim on this property that a son of Ruth would have. By approaching the discussion this way, is he confirming for us that “[property] redeemer” is the basic sense of gō’ēl, or is he somewhat deviously persuading an even closer relative that it is not in his interest to undertake this particular “family duty”? And when the townswomen assure Naomi that Obed as gō’ēl will provide for her old age, do they mean simply that he will be a willing and responsible family member, or do they assume that he will have available to him the resources accruing from the land she once owned? This overview of the story suggests that, at each stage, offspring and land are integrally linked. It appears that Naomi sends Ruth to Boaz at night to offer sex with the aim of encouraging him to act over the family land. Her uncovering of his legs is integral to what Naomi has called “redemption.” And yet the priority for Boaz is that she stays with him all night—​the land question can wait till morning. Naomi seems conscious of the story of Judah and Tamar in her dealings with her daughters-​in-​law. She ends the first chapter complaining like Job of bitterness brought by the Almighty (3 earlier), but by the end of the second she is recalling Yahweh’s loyalty in the words of Abraham’s servant (10). Ruth’s oath to Naomi will often be uttered by David (12); and she tells Boaz he has given her reassurance like Joseph to his brothers (18). But it is Boaz himself whose language is most “biblical.” He compares Ruth’s journey to Abraham’s (6) and borrows Elihu’s words to call for a reward fairer than Jacob received from Laban (7). She should enjoy the divine shelter promised in Ps 91 (9), for she is the epitome of the fine woman praised in Prov 31 (17). Though he both speaks to Ruth’s heart and also eats, drinks, and is merry, Boaz behaves wholly differently from all the men in Gibeah that fateful night (18). When he declares the significance of his marriage to Ruth, he splices together the levirate law and the divine promise

Ruth: A Reading of Scripture?    225 to David (19). And at the gate he calls for witness corroboration like Joshua at Shechem (11). In short, this Bethlehemite, this ancestor of David, is an exemplar of biblical tradition at its best (Wetter 2015: 93–​94).

A Women’s Book? Despite this prominent role played by Boaz, the book has been called after Ruth since ancient times. The story starts with a couple and their two sons being forced by famine out of Bethlehem. It finishes with the birth of a boy who will both complete the restoration of his grandmother’s well-​being and be grandfather of king David. And it has at its core the steady, generous, presence of Boaz, affirming in practice the values that much of the biblical tradition holds dear. And yet—​and surprising within that tradition—​the female cast is even stronger. There are not only the two central characters of Naomi and Ruth; but, among the minor figures, Orpah and the women of Bethlehem play as large a role as Boaz’s steward together with the unnamed gō’ēl and the elder witnesses. Some readers have discerned a homosexual component in the relationship between Ruth and Naomi: in the younger woman “clinging/​cleaving” to the older (1:14), in Ruth’s marriage-​like declaration of loyalty till and through death (1:16–​17), and in the realization among Naomi’s neighbors that Ruth “loved” her mother-​in-​law (4:15). Leaving father and mother (2:11) and cleaving to a wife is part of heterosexual marriage as envisaged in Gen 2:24. However, if the opening chapter depicts the younger woman as something of a husband to the elder, by the end (at least as viewed by the neighbors) she has become surrogate mother, for the child she has produced is reckoned as Naomi’s (4:17). Certainly the roles of Ruth and Boaz do not conform to patriarchal stereotypes. Yet, on the other side, their roles and Naomi’s too are repeatedly compared to other biblical characters.

Canonical Function and Placing We have noted a large number of links between Ruth and other “biblical” books. Several of these resonate with end-​pieces in other books. (a) The empathetic concern and practical care in Ruth 2:13 and 4:15 are expressed in the same terms as Joseph’s declaration near the end of Gen (50:21)—​and it is of course famine that has also driven Joseph’s brothers to Egypt. (b) Women’s rights to land where a father dies without sons are legislated for in Num 27 (possibly an earlier conclusion of Numbers) and again in Num 36 (which certainly now ends that book). (c) The exchange about witnesses (Ruth 4:9–​11) has its only analogue in the final chapter of Joshua (24:22).

226   A. Graeme Auld (d) The narrative about the Levite and his concubine occupies the final chapters of Judges (19–​21). (e) Rizpah’s care for her brothers’ corpses is recounted as the start of the coda to the book of Samuel (2 Sam 21–​24). (f) And it is in the final chapter of Proverbs that we find the virtuous woman with whom Ruth is implicitly compared. Final chapters by no means always contain the latest additions to a biblical book. Yet, at the very least, this set of associations suggests that the author of the book called Ruth knew Genesis, Numbers, Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Proverbs as separate entities. Given that all three elements of Joseph’s reassurance to his brothers (Gen 50:21) are echoed in Ruth (two by Ruth talking about Boaz and the third by Naomi’s neighbors talking about Obed) and that Joseph’s next words to his brothers (50:24–​25) concern taking his body home from Egypt, it will be no accident that Josh 24:32 reports his burial in Shechem just after Joshua has called Israel as witnesses (24:22). Comparing and contrasting Ruth with Judg 19–​2 1 may permit greater precision. Edenburg, in a careful and detailed study, has proposed that the end of Judges was drafted in two main stages: the first included all of Judg 19 and an earlier version of 20–​21; the second comprised a substantial rewriting of Judg 20–​21. She explores the first draft in relation to Abraham and Lot (Gen 18–​19), the battle at Ai (Josh 7–​8), the Saul narratives, the laws of Deuteronomy, the rape of Tamar (2 Sam 13:11–​ 17), several isolated parallels, and the earlier outer structure of Judges (1 and 17–​ 18), and finds at almost every point of connection that the authors of Judg 19–​21 were the borrowers. She “view[s]‌the story as a reflection of conflicting interests between rival groups within Yehud—​those who advanced the restoration of Jerusalem against those who backed the relatively new pre-​eminence of Benjaminite towns” (Edenburg 2016: 330). The author of Ruth has drawn on a similarly wide range of “biblical” materials, including several links with Judg 19. Ruth, accordingly, must have been written later than the first draft of the final appendix to the book of Judges. (Similarly the linguistic link with Zelophehad’s daughters was with the earlier Num 27:1–​11 and not the later Num 36.) Another observation points in the same direction. The Ruth narrative might itself have been included within the book of Judges, had the tale of the outrage at Gibeah and its consequences not already been there. If the purpose of that narrative was to besmirch the reputation of Benjamin’s towns, and especially Saul’s birthplace at Gibeah, a key aim of Ruth had been to revive the reputation of Bethlehem. In Judg 17, Bethlehem had been home to a Levite who had shown himself prepared to become priest at an impromptu and irregular shrine in the north. In Judg 19, by contrast, Bethlehem (that would be home to David) featured as a town where hospitality was more generous than in Gibeah (that would be home to Saul). And this rehabilitation of David’s town is further and vigorously promoted in the book of Ruth.

Ruth: A Reading of Scripture?    227 In the Christian Bible, and at least since the earliest bound Greek codices available to us from the fifth century ce, the story called “Ruth” is found between Judges and (what the Greek Bible calls) Kingdoms (Samuel-​Kings in Hebrew or English). The situation in Jewish tradition is more complex, and for two reasons: the earliest book-​like codices we possess of the “Hebrew Bible” are much more recent, from around 1000 ce; and liturgical reading in synagogue was and is from scrolls. The relationships between individual scrolls are more flexible. Only when bound in a large volume does a biblical “book” receive a fixed location between prescribed neighbors. Most often, Ruth is reckoned one of the five Megillôt or “Scrolls,” each read in its entirety once a year at a major festival; and these Megillôt are a subgroup within the “Writings” (the collection of varied books that are neither “Torah” nor “Prophets”). In Sephardi tradition, Ruth comes first, as related to the earliest historical period of the five, and is followed by Song of Songs and Qohelet both related to Solomon. In Ashkenazi tradition, the order follows their use in the liturgical year: Ruth, read at the feast of Weeks, follows the Song of Songs at Passover. Jonah (within the Prophets) is also read once a year, during the Day of Atonement. It is suggested that the five Megillôt were selected from the six scrolls read at festivals to correspond to the five “fifths” of the Torah, which are also read in their entirety in the course of each year. Within codices or large volumes, Ruth can also be neighbor to other books. Ruth is ancestress of David, and her book can be found before the Psalms. The several links between her and the fine woman at the end of Proverbs (17 earlier) led to her book being set immediately after Proverbs. It has been argued (Stone 2015: 180–​181), in support of its position in ancient Greek and continuing Christian Bibles, that Ruth was deliberately written to link at its start with the end of Judges (“lift” rather than normal “take” a wife in Judg 21:23 and Ruth 1:4), and at its end with the beginning of Samuel (“better than n sons” in Ruth 4:15 and 1 Sam 1:8). However, we have noted so many unique and apparently significant intertextual links with several other biblical books that it seems unwise to concentrate on these two.

Bibliography Beyer, A. 2014. Hoffnung in Bethlehem. Innerbiblische Querbezüge als Deutungshorizonte im Ruthbuch. BZAW 463. Berlin: de Gruyter. Brenner, A. 2011. “Ruth:  The Art of Memorizing Territory and Religion.” In A Critical Engagement. Essays on the Hebrew Bible in Honour of J. Cheryl Exum, edited by D. J. A. Clines and E. van Wolde, 82–​89. HBM 38. Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Phoenix Press. Bronner, L. L. 1993. “A Thematic Approach to Ruth in Rabbinic Literature.” In A Feminist Companion to Ruth, edited by A. Brenner, 146–​169. Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Academic Press. Campbell, E. F. 1975. Ruth. AB 7. New York: Doubleday. Edenburg, C. 2016. Dismembering the Whole. Composition and Purpose of Judges 19–​21. AIL 24. Atlanta: SBL. Embry, B. 2016. “Legalities in the Book of Ruth: A Renewed Look.” JSOT 41:31–​44.

228   A. Graeme Auld Gitay, Z. 1993. “Ruth and the Women of Bethlehem.” In A Feminist Companion to Ruth, edited by A. Brenner, 178–​190. Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Academic Press. Korpel, M. 2001. The Structure of the Book of Ruth. Pericope 2. Assen, the Netherlands: Van Gorcum. Stone, T. J. 2015. “The Search for Order: The Compilational History of Ruth.” In The Shape of the Writings, edited by J. Steinberg and T. J. Stone, 175–​185. Siphrut 16. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns. Wetter, A.-​M. 2015. “On Her Account.” Reconfiguring Israel in Ruth, Esther, and Judith. LHBOTS 623. London: T&T Clark.

Further Reading Bush, F. W. 1996. Ruth, Esther. Waco, TX: Word Books. Eskenazi, T. C., and Frymer-​Kensky, T. 2011. Ruth. Philadelphia: Jewish Publishing Society. Exum, J. C. 1996. Plotted, Shot, and Painted: Cultural Representations of Biblical Women. JSOTS 215. Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Academic Press. Green, B. 1982. “The Plot of the Biblical Story of Ruth.” JSOT 23:55–​68. Jackson, B. S. 2015. “Ruth, the Pentateuch, and the Nature of Biblical Law in Conversation with Jean Louis Ska.” In The Post-​Priestly Pentateuch, edited by F. Giuntoli and K. Schmid, 75–112. FAT. Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck. McKeown, J. 2015. Ruth. The Two Horizons. OT Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans. Sasson, J. M. 1989. Ruth. A New Translation with a Philological Commentary and a Formalist-​ Folklorist Interpretation. The Biblical Seminar. Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Academic Press. Sharp, C. J. 2014. “Feminist Queries for Ruth and Joshua.” SJOT 28:229–​252. Wolde, E. van. 1997a. Ruth and Naomi. London: SCM. Wolde, E. van. 1997b. “Texts in Dialogue with Texts: Intertextuality in the Ruth and Tamar Narratives.” Biblical Interpretation 5:1–​28. Zakovitch, Y. 1999. Das Buch Rut. Ein jüdischer Kommentar. Stuttgart, Germany:  Verlag Katholisches Bibelwerk.

Chapter 15

Est her’s Frame w i t h i n the Writ i ng s Timothy J. Stone

This chapter examines Esther’s message as it is framed within the context of the collection of the Writings. First, various readings of the book will be briefly set out in order to set my particular approach within others. Second, I will present Esther’s connections to, and larger context provided by, its inclusion among the books of the Writings. Then, I  will evaluate the crucial function of Esther and Mordecai’s character in relation to the role of God in the story. I conclude that Esther’s context in the Writings provides a larger literary horizon in which to frame the book’s many oddities. This context clarifies the abstruse and confusing actions of Esther and Mordecai who are not heroes of faith, as is so commonly argued, but rather nominal Jews living in the Diaspora. Esther and Mordecai have forgotten their covenant obligations, but God has not. Though hidden, God rules, and through the many coincidences in the story, God remains faithful to the covenant promises to the Jews.

On Reading Esther Throughout Esther’s reception history, readers have struggled to explain the book’s oddities. Both the many Greek additions to Esther and the two Targums significantly alter the text by erasing its peculiarities. Every recent scholarly treatment of the Scroll attends to the book’s abnormalities. Interpretations of Esther “can be seen as a catalogue of attempts to redeem this strange and difficult book,” notes Carruthers (2008: 7). The Scroll has elicited both praise and condemnation. Some praise Esther and Mordecai for their wisdom, courage, and determination. The book models Jewry’s inner strength and ability to deliver themselves—​sometimes with God’s help—​in the difficult world of the Diaspora. Others condemn Mordecai and Esther for their lack of piety and, like Martin Luther, declare the book to be full of “much heathen naughtiness” (Paton 1908: 96).

230   Timothy J. Stone Each of these polarized approaches depends on the context within which one frames the Scroll since, in their various attempts to interpret the book, readers have “always been dependent upon explanations extraneous” to the book of Esther (Carruthers 2008: 3). How is one to contextualize and thus understand the lack of religious piety since there is, for example, no mention of prayer, Jerusalem, or the Torah? In connection to this, how should Esther’s and Mordecai’s characters be evaluated? Some interpret them as loathsome; others, as models worthy of emulation. What is to be done with the series of unlikely events that coalesce at the story’s turning point or, most important, the lack of any mention of God by any name? The way one resolves these questions is crucial to any reading of the book. This chapter examines various ways readers have answered these questions and outlines my particular approach. I will first investigate the apparent lack of piety in the book, then, its chief characters, the function of coincidences, and finally the role, if any, of God in the story.

Crucial Issues The first crucial issue is the lack of explicitly religious content, or what is sometimes labeled the “secular” character of the book. What religious signs are missing from the book and why has this troubled readers? First, there is no mention of the land of Israel or Jerusalem. This is problematic because the book is set after Cyrus’s decree in 539 bce, which allowed Jews to return to Israel. According to Jon Levenson, a Zion-​centered theology, which can be clearly seen in Isaiah, Haggai, Zechariah, Ezra-​Nehemiah, and especially Daniel, indicates that to choose to freely stay in exile—​as the characters in Esther appear to do—​is “absurd” (1976: 446). When, in exile, Nehemiah learns of Jerusalem’s state, he mourns, fasts, prays, and asks Artaxerxes if he can return to rebuild its walls (Neh 1:1–​2:8). Likewise Daniel prays facing Jerusalem and petitions God to rebuild Jerusalem and its temple (Dan 6:10; 9:17–​18). This is not a recent concern. Targum Sheni indicates this by covering over this problem, positing that Mordecai volunteered to return and rebuild the temple, but then was forced into a second exile in order to care for Esther (Grossfeld 1991: 135). Second, there is no direct reference in Esther to Moses or the Prophets or even to some scriptural tradition. While Esther was likely written around the same period as Daniel (at least c­ hapters 1–​6), Ezra-​Nehemiah, and 1 and 2 Chr, it does not contain direct references to a scriptural tradition in which the Law of Moses and the Prophets are prominently featured as they are in these books. With the exception of fasting, which I will discuss later, there are no signs of religious practices in the book. Neither Mordecai nor Esther prays, which one would expect; when other heroes of the Diaspora (Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, Judith) encounter a crisis, they cry out to God in prayer. Moreover, Esther’s name sounds like Ishtar, the Babylonian goddess of love and war, possibly summarizing her main activities in the book. Mordecai’s name sounds like Marduk, the chief deity of the Babylonian pantheon. Finally, the most conspicuous indication of the

Esther’s Frame within the Writings    231 book’s lack of religion is the lack of any reference to God. These features, and others, have always troubled interpreters (Carruthers 2008). How have interpreters addressed these issues? The most ancient solution is to change the book. The Greek additions, the two Targums and the Midrashim, all drastically alter the story and add religious practices throughout. The two Targums use no fewer than twenty-​six different epithets for God. In the Greek additions, God gives Mordecai dreams and he and Esther have long pious prayers and concludes in 10:9b, “The Lord has saved his people; the Lord has delivered them from all these evils.” These alterations conform Esther to the scriptural pattern of the hero, especially one like Daniel, but they also recontextualize the story within a Hellenistic worldview (Berlin 2001:  1). Along with other changes, discussed later, these alterations strongly suggest that they are compensating for their concerns about the book’s lack of religious character. Other interpreters do not alter the text to solve these issues but conclude that the lack of religion indicates that the book is “secular” or theologically and morally problematic. Lewis Paton, in an oft-​echoed approach, concludes that Mordecai sacrifices his cousin and is motivated by pride in his refusal to bow to Haman while Esther only succeeds by her beauty and is unmerciful even killing her enemies’ wives and children. The book’s irreligious character renders it unfit to be included in Old Testament canon (1908: 96–​97). Still other scholars take a very different approach. Fox, for example, dismisses the idea of the book’s secular quality as anachronistic, regarding Mordecai as a figure both wise and virtuous. For him, Esther exemplifies courage, loyalty, and cunning. Mordecai’s refusal to bow to Haman does not arise from arrogance, but from the “pride of self-​esteem” (Fox 2001: 187). The book’s supposed lack of piety is imputed to the Scroll from the canonical context, as is the presence of God in the story. Freed from scriptural constraints, the characters emerge as heroes worthy of emulation. The coincidences create a “carefully crafted indeterminacy” that “conveys uncertainty about God’s role in history” (Fox 2001: 245). In the dangerous world of the Diaspora, the Jews are delivered by their own wits and strength. Some argue that Esther and Mordecai are heroes but do not abandon the traditional view that the series of unlikely events, which are often labeled coincidences, indicate God’s involvement in the story. The Scroll addresses the “reliability” rather than the “causality” of God’s providence, rendering God’s appearance in the story superfluous (Clines 1984: 155–​ 156). Or the genre can be shifted from “novella” to wisdom literature, attenuating the book’s anomalous character and explaining the absence of any mention of the divine (Levenson 1977: 18). God is not absent—​only hidden. The three-​day fast tacitly calls on God to intervene; since the Jews are delivered, this intervention surely comes to pass. To summarize, there are, broadly conceived, two primary and polarized views: those considering the book to be full of heathen naughtiness including the characters of Mordecai and Esther, and those who consider Mordecai and Esther to be heroes whose plans turn out so well because of their wisdom and courage, and, in the view of some, because God aids them in their endeavors. The earliest interpretations in the Greek additions and the Jewish tradition fall into the first camp because they so drastically “fix” the book. And, while the second approach is currently dominant, both approaches have adherents throughout the book’s reception history (Stone 2013: 140–​147; Carruthers 2008).

232   Timothy J. Stone

Evaluating Approaches There is much both to approve and to reject in each of these camps. Regarding the first approach, it does not follow that if Esther and Mordecai are unvirtuous that the story is then morally reprehensible. The primary message of the book need not align so exactly with the characters in the book. Greater nuance is necessary. As to the second approach, the conclusions that it is “anachronistic” to force the book into the scriptural tradition—​ opting instead for a reading of the book free from God, where the coincidences in the Scroll have no theological significance—​is itself anachronistic since it lacks ancient historical parallels (Levenson 1997: 19). The traditional view—​that the coincidences refer to God’s handiwork—​remains the best historical reading of the text, but the problem of God’s absence from the surface of the story is intensified by this conclusion. The appeal to switch the genre from novella to wisdom literature, if granted, does not explain why the text never refers to God. Proverbs and Ecclesiastes refer to the divine constantly. Religious practices, likewise, are a consistent feature of wisdom literature. The pinpointing of parallels between Proverbs and Esther is significant, but these connections do not weaken the much stronger connections Esther has with Dan 1–​6 and the Joseph story. There is no reason to make this switch, nor, if granted, does it diminish Esther’s anomalies (Levenson 1997). The division between causality and reliability is artificial and unnecessary. Why would the author of Esther desire or need to make this point or posit such a division? This solution does more to explain away the problem than to shed light on its contours. It should be granted, however, that readings of the coincidences as the handiwork of the God of Israel fit the historical context and the book’s literary shape. The absence of God and all but one religious practice—​fasting—​would seem to be by design, since it is so complete. To sum up, there is validity in the views of both those who are troubled by the characters of Mordecai and Esther and those who see God at work in the story. The canonical context of the Writings frames the story in such a way that the impasse between these two very different readings can be overcome. In order to support this approach, it is vital to look closely at a few crucial scenes regarding the character of Esther and Mordecai and then examine God’s role in the book. Before examining these scenes, however, it is vital to explore the book’s larger context in the Writings.

Esther in the Writings My thesis is that Esther was deliberately placed and possibly authored or redacted to fit into its location in the collection of the Writings in order to expand its literary horizon through associations with the books surrounding it. This provides a specific frame to the story by foregrounding Esther’s relationships with Lamentations and Daniel in

Esther’s Frame within the Writings    233 particular. Though scholars have come to similar conclusions regarding the books in the Torah, Former Prophets, Twelve Minor Prophets, and the Psalter, this is a novel idea when applied to Esther. Research into the compilation of subcollections within the canon reveals that books are often connected through the repetition of a catchwords or phrases at the very end of one book and again at the beginning of the next. This functions like canonical stitches, linking contiguous books together at their seams. For example, the statement “The Lord roars from Zion and utters his voice from Jerusalem” occurs in Joel 3:13 and again in Amos 1:2. Another common practice is to juxtapose the same unusual theme in a contrastive manner. Such an approach does not abandon any of the tenets of historical criticism for some supposed “literary” approach; rather, it is built on the foundation of historical criticism, especially redaction and form criticism.1 Likely the oldest arrangement of the Writings is as follows: Chronicles, Psalms, Job, Proverbs, Ruth, Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes, Lamentations, Esther, Daniel, and Ezra/​ Nehemiah. The last four books in the Writings form a subcollection that tells the story from the destruction of Zion in Lamentations to life in exile in Esther and Daniel to the return to rebuild Zion in Ezra/​Nehemiah (Stone 2013: 140–​207). More specifically, Lam 5 connects the book to Esther. In this final prayer, Israel’s status in exile is described as an orphan who has lost her father. This is the only time in the Hebrew canon that the exile is described in this manner and it is immediately followed by Esther—​the only book whose main character is an orphan in exile. Lam 5:15 says, “The joy of our hearts has ceased; our dancing has been turned to mourning.” Esther 9:22, which may be a redactional section, sums up the great reversal of fortunes in Esther in language reversing the situation Lamentations described, “as the month that had been turned for them from sorrow into gladness and from mourning into a holiday; that they should make them days of feasting and gladness.” Lamentation ends on a strange note. It affirms the Lord’s rule and asks for the exile to come to an end; then it says in verse 22, “unless you have utterly rejected us, and are angry with us beyond measure.” This haunting possibility would mean that God failed to keep the covenant promises and that the book’s central exultation of the LORD’s faithfulness is false (Lam 3:22–​23). Ending the book in this way opens up the possibility that the issue of the LORD rejecting Israel will be addressed in the following books, which is exactly what occurs in Esther, Daniel, and Ezra/​Nehemiah. Scholars have long recognized that Dan 1–​6 exhibits even stronger connections to Esther (Berlin 2001: xl); ancient readers saw this too. Greek additions alter Esther by pressing it into the mold of Dan 1–​6. There are a number of general areas of thematic correspondence between Daniel and Esther: raging, insomniac kings and unalterable laws as well as other, stronger connections, especially with Dan 1. Daniel and his three friends are taken, in large part due to their beautiful appearance, to serve in the king’s court, undergoing three years of training, finding favor in the eyes of the leader of the eunuchs, and then succeeding in their interview with the king. Esther, too, is taken for the beauty of her appearance, finds favor with the chief of the women, prepares for twelve months, and then succeeds with the king. The Hebrew construction of the phrase to “find favor with” is highly unusual, occurring only in Esth 2:9, 17, Dan 1:9, and

234   Timothy J. Stone Ezra 7:28. Moreover, Daniel and his friends are the only men in the Hebrew canon to be described in the same way Esther is: as “beautiful in appearance.” Outside of these two books this phrase only occurs three times (see Gen 24:16; 26:7; 2 Sam 11:2). “This type scene, of a Jew’s summons, preparation and exultation in a foreign court, is anchored by unusual and identical language at the key” moment of the characters’ introduction to the reader (Stone 2013: 155). Daniel 1 functions like canonical glue, binding Esther to it. The following interpretation of Esther does not depend on the thesis that Esther is located in the Writings by design, but it does enhance it and increase its probability. With the canonical frame of Lamentations and Daniel flanking Esther on either side, it is now appropriate to examine two crucial scenes regarding the character of Mordecai and Esther.

The Character of Esther and Mordecai Scene One The first crucial scene is Mordecai’s refusal to bow to Haman: After these things King Ahasuerus promoted Haman son of Hammedatha the Agagite, and advanced him and set his seat above all the officials who were with him. And all the king’s servants who were at the king’s gate bowed down and did obeisance to Haman; for the king had so commanded concerning him. But Mordecai did not bow down or do obeisance. Then the king’s servants who were at the king’s gate said to Mordecai, “Why do you disobey the king’s command?” When they spoke to him day after day and he would not listen to them, they told Haman, in order to see whether Mordecai’s words would avail; for he had told them that he was a Jew. When Haman saw that Mordecai did not bow down or do obeisance to him, Haman was infuriated. But he thought it beneath him to lay hands on Mordecai alone. So, having been told who Mordecai’s people were, Haman plotted to destroy all the Jews, the people of Mordecai, throughout the whole kingdom of Ahasuerus. (Esth 3:1–​7, NRSV)

The Greek additions are the earliest interpretation of this text. In them, Mordecai prays, saying it was not “in insolence or pride or for the any love of glory that I did this, and refuse to bow down to this proud Haman” (13:12). Mordecai continues, “I did this, that I might not set the glory of man above the glory of God” (13:14). This emphatic denial and nonsensical excuse strongly imply that in the Hebrew text, Mordecai’s motives are suspect. They need to be defended precisely because the author of this portion of the Greek interprets Mordecai’s actions in Hebrew as springing from pride. Excusing Mordecai’s pride as well as condemning it is a consistent feature of the history of

Esther’s Frame within the Writings    235 interpretation (Carruthers 2008). Michael Fox, however, argues that it is a misreading to interpret Mordecai’s refusal as a sign of arrogance (2001:7–​7, 43, 139–​143). Mordecai declares his Jewishness as his reason for the refusal, which means that tribal enmity must be behind Mordecai’s behavior (Fox 2001:  44). Mordecai is from the tribe of Benjamin in the line of Kish, which likely places him in the family of Saul, while Haman is an Agagite: a descendant of King Agag whom Saul should have killed in 1 Sam 15. Fox concludes that Mordecai’s attitude is one of “national pride” and the “pride of self-​ esteem” rather than of arrogance (2001: 187). It is not clear, if tribal enmity stands behind Mordecai’s refusal, why he mentions his ethnicity rather than his tribe. Moreover, if tribal enmity is the motive for his actions here, why does it play no role whatsoever in Mordecai’s decree at the end of the book? (Fox 2001: 223). Since Agag is an Amalekite and Haman is a descendant of Agag, he and his sons are also Amalekite. This past history does not motivate Mordecai’s decree, making it unlikely that something so vital to Mordecai in ­chapter 3 would then be of no significance to him in ­chapters 8 and 9. Mordecai’s behavior has been scrutinized because it is acceptable to bow down to another person in the Hebrew Bible in order to recognize his authority (e.g., Gen 42:6; 1 Sam 28:14; 1 Kgs 1:16). Abraham, Moses, and David all bow down to others to show their respect (Gen 23:7; Exod 18:7; 1 Sam 24:8). By declining to bow, Mordecai is not showing proper respect to the king since twice it mentions that the king gave the command. In response to the king’s servant’s question, if Mordecai’s reason for refusal would literally “stand,” he says he is a Jew. With no religious reason apparent, it seems Mordecai’s motivation is ethnic pride.2 During this period in history, the term “Jew” was in flux, but while Israel was in exile, the “ethnic component is paramount” (Cohen 2001: 75). This reading is confirmed by two textual connections to this text that highlight the lack of piety in Mordecai’s response. The phrase “When they spoke to him day after day and he would not listen to them” (Esth 3:4) alludes to Gen 39:10, where Joseph in Potiphar’s house says, “And although she spoke to Joseph day after day, he would not consent to lie beside her or to be with her.” Noting this comparison and many other textual allusions in Esther to the Joseph story, Jon Levenson concludes that an analogy is implied between these two episodes, which indicates that Mordecai is “motivated by a desire to maintain his ethnicity as a Jew—​by refusing to accommodate an Amalekite, to engage in idolatry, or whatever” (1997: 68). As in the Jewish tradition that places an idol on Haman’s clothes, so here Levenson has added idolatry and then closes with a noncommittal “whatever.” There is no sign of idolatry in this text. Moreover, when framed by narrative analogy with Joseph in Potiphar’s house there is a striking dissimilarity between Joseph’s pious answer: “How then could I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” (Gen 39:9) and Mordecai’s statement. Joseph’s reasons are explicitly religious, which makes the lack of any religious sentiment in Mordecai’s response all the more conspicuous. The canonical location of Esther highlights its relationship with Dan 1–​6. The connections between these two texts enhance this reading further. In particular, the refusal of Daniel’s three friends in Dan 3, through narrative analogy, provides indirect commentary on Esth 3. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, serving in a foreign court in exile, refuse to bow down at the king’s command to the great image that he

236   Timothy J. Stone has erected because they will not serve or worship the king’s gods (Dan 3: 18). The issue is clearly religious and they remain faithful to the LORD. The similarities between these two episodes link them, but the stark differences highlight Mordecai’s ethnic pride rather than his religious commitments. The contiguous canonical location of these books highlights the allusions between these two texts and reinforces the reading of Mordecai as a nominal Jew living in the Diaspora who has retained his ethnic but not his religious identity. In this key scene he refuses to bow because of his ethnic pride. For some scholars, this interpretation of this episode contradicts a positive portrayal of Mordecai elsewhere in the book (Fox 2001: 43). If my approach to this episode is a poor reading of the text, then surely the positive characteristics of Mordecai will be on display in ­chapter 4, where he convinces Esther to go before the king and plead for her people.

Scene Two The exchange between Esther and Mordecai in ­chapter 4 is the second crucial scene in the book. Before examining it, however, a brief sketch of Esther is necessary. As noted earlier, some recent treatments of the Scroll consider Esther to be a hero who displays courage and cunning even if she may become harsh by the end of the story with her request for a second day of bloodshed (Fox 2001: 31, 203). However, interpreters consistently find her portrait problematic since she marries a Gentile, never calls on God, and appears completely assimilated into the Persian court so that she is entirely able to hide her Jewish identity (Crawford 1999: 866). These concerns are magnified when compared to Dan 1. The primary connections have been mentioned earlier; they set in relief the character of Esther when compared to Daniel who limits his assimilation as he refuses to eat the food of the court and succeeds because God gives him favor. Esther eats the food of the court and the reason for her favor is not described. In Daniel, religious issues are always at the forefront; in Esther, they are almost completely absent. The Greek additions describe a long and pious prayer of Esther in which she declares her hatred for the bed of the uncircumcised, abhorrence for her finery and crown, vows that she has not eaten at the Haman’s table or honored the king’s feasts or drunk his wine (C 14: 15–​18). In this interpretation the same issues that many consider problematic today are clearly covered over. Again, this reveals that the author reads the character of Esther in the Hebrew as someone assimilated into the Persian court whose religious commitment is weak or nonexistent. With this background in place we now examine the crucial exchange between Mordecai and Esther in c­ hapter 4. Mordecai’s first appeal to Esther is to “go to the king to make supplication to him and entreat him for her people” (4:8b). In response, Esther tells Mordecai that, according to the law, if someone comes to the king without being summoned, then they will be put to death unless the king holds out his golden scepter. This leads to a key scene. When they told Mordecai what Esther had said, Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, “Do not think that in the king’s palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews.

Esther’s Frame within the Writings    237 For if you keep silence at such a time as this, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another quarter, but you and your father’s family will perish. Who knows? Perhaps you have come to royal dignity for just such a time as this.” Then Esther said in reply to Mordecai, “Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day. I and my maids will also fast as you do. After that I will go to the king, though it is against the law; and if I perish, I perish.” Mordecai then went away and did everything as Esther had ordered him. (Esth 4:12–​17)

There are four key issues in this scene. The first is the logic of Mordecai’s appeal and the nature of Esther’s response. No longer seeking to motivate Esther by an appeal to “her people,” Mordecai tells her that she will perish if she does not act. Some scholars state that the danger is as great in approaching the king as in refusing to do so (Fox 2001: 62). Mordecai’s tactics, however, do not make the danger equal regardless of Esther’s choice. Instead, the logic runs thus:  if Esther goes before the king, she may succeed; if she refuses, she will die. That is: she has a chance if she approaches the king and none if she does not. How Mordecai knows this is unclear, but what is clear, though many readers have not come to this conclusion, is that Mordecai’s rhetoric is a threat to force Esther’s action.

Esther’s Courage? Esther decides to go before the king with the statement “if I perish, I perish.” Is Fox, among many others, right that in so doing “she takes her fate in her own hands with a courageous declaration”? (2001: 200). Or is Levenson correct that here, like Jacob before her, she takes on her role, at considerable risk, in the “larger drama of Jewish salvation” (1997: 82). Levenson’s view is partly based on the striking similarity between Jacob’s words in Gen 43:14, where he says, “if I am bereaved of my children, I am bereaved.” Judah has just convinced Jacob to allow him to return to Egypt with Benjamin, which Jacob has been loathe to do. There is no food and so they must return to Egypt and they cannot return without Benjamin as Judah forcefully explains to Jacob. Far from framing Esther’s actions in a positive light, it indicates that she, just like Jacob, is giving in to what she must do because it is his last resort. Esther’s words are a capitulation to the course of action that gives her a chance of surviving. The allusion to Genesis connects this scene, not to courageous action, but to desperate action.

Help from Another Quarter The second issue to examine is Mordecai’s appeal to help coming from another quarter. Traditionally this has been interpreted as an oblique reference to God, but this does not seem to be the point. “Another” quarter probably is a reference to another person, but this reading in no way excludes the divine from the story. The main point is that the Jews’

238   Timothy J. Stone deliverance is certain and in no way altered by the individual choice of Esther. Since the threat is to the Jews everywhere, God’s covenant faithfulness is at stake; based on God’s covenant promises, the Jews will survive. This is key for the theology of the book and will be discussed later. Since this phrase, so laden with theological promise, is found on the lips of Mordecai, why, then, does it not indicate his belief that God will save the Jews according to his covenant obligations? In my view, the narrator places the book’s key idea on the lips of Mordecai, even though he is not aware of its theological foundations in God’s covenant faithfulness. At first, this may seem like a bizarre supposition, but there are no other indications of any religious awareness on Mordecai’s part in the rest of the book: its presence here would be the sole indication of this religious awareness. More important, in Esth 6:13, Zeresh and Haman’s wise men say that if Mordecai is of the Jewish people, which is abundantly clear to everyone, then he will surely fall before him. How can a Gentile hold to such a view? Fox, among many others, concludes, “wisdom is placed in the mouth of gentiles to show that the truth about Israel and its God is so certain and obvious that even neutral and hostile people recognize it” (2001: 79). Mordecai shows no more awareness of the divine than Zeresh, so there is no reason to suppose that in 4:14 Mordecai vaguely refers to his theological convictions.

Fasting and Passover Fasting and Passover are the last two crucial issues to address. One way of reading the three-​day fast is as a penitential rite that elicits God’s merciful response to their terrible plight, which triggers, through a series of coincidences, the reversal that leads to the Jew’s deliverance (Levenson 1997: 78, 81). This singular fast in a story filled with feasting sets Esther and Mordecai apart. Is this solitary religious rite supposed to signal Esther and Mordecai’s religious character? Another approach asserts that the fast implies intercession to God, citing Ezra 8:21, 23 and Neh 1:9 and 9:1 in support (Clines 1984: 302). In these four texts, fasting is always explicitly accompanied by prayer or seeking God, which highlights the incongruous nature of Esther’s fast. Based on these comparisons alone, one would expect to find prayer mentioned in Esther, and this is exactly what the tradition has done from its earliest moments up to today (Carruthers 2008: 178–​ 180). Targum Rishon says, “not to eat or drink for three days and pray before the Lord of the Universe day and night” (Grossfeld 1991: 61). The tradition has consistently added these features because fasting prepares for the moment of appeal (Lambert 2003: 480). Fasting is always accompanied with prayer or seeking God in the rest of the Hebrew Bible because prayer, not fasting, is intercessory. The rite of fasting does not indirectly address the religious convictions of Esther and Mordecai; instead, its use without the accompanying prayer demonstrates their lack of religious understanding. The fast, for three days and nights without drink, is unprecedented in its extremity; this may also reveal their unfamiliarity with the rite. Moreover, the fast occurs at an odd time because it takes place on Passover, as Targum Rishon notes when it says that the fast “transgressed the joy of the festival of Passover”

Esther’s Frame within the Writings    239 (Grossfeld 1991: 61). Esther 3:12 states that Haman sent out his edict on the thirteenth day of the first month, which means that Esther calls a three-​day fast on the eve of Passover (Lev 23:4–​8). This fast, then, violates both Passover and the feast of Unleavened Bread. In view of the many other parallels between Purim and Passover—​and Exod 1–​12—​it appears that the conflict between the fast and Passover is deliberate (Gerleman 1973: 12–​ 23). If the author’s goal is to signal obliquely the inner convictions or piety of the book’s two main characters, it is an extremely odd way to accomplish this. The conspicuous absence of prayer and the severe fast on Passover cannot be a mistake by the author or due to clumsiness since there are no signs of this in the rest of this masterfully told story. It must be deliberate, and, as a result, it seems unlikely that the author attempts to paint Esther and Mordecai as heroes of wisdom and courage. If the author were attempting to redefine the idea of a hero for the Diaspora in contrast to other accounts like Daniel, then he has gone about it in a manner that leaves them few heroic or virtuous qualities. Neither Esther nor Mordecai demonstrates religious awareness in this scene as Mordecai bullies Esther and she reluctantly agrees to go before the king, but not before calling a fast on Passover that is not accompanied by prayer. Esther is certainly cunning, but this does not distinguish her from Haman (Fox 2001: 201–​202). Instead, the author plays on the traditional roles of heroes like Daniel, Joseph, and even Ezra and Nehemiah, at the same time consistently subverting expectations in order to portray them as pseudo-​heroes with no religious commitments who are assimilated into the Persian court and culture. If this conclusion is correct, then what possible reason could the author have for subverting the traditional role of the hero?

God’s Role Before answering this question it is necessary to discuss God’s role in the Scroll. Traditionally, the book’s many coincidences are interpreted as the unseen hand of God in the story. The vital coincidences are the opportune removal of Queen Vashti, Esther’s decision to hide her Jewish identity, Esther’s amazing rise to queenship, Mordecai overhearing the plot to assassinate the king, Esther’s invitation to the king to a second banquet, the king’s well-​timed insomnia and choice to read the portion of the chron­ icles pertaining to Mordecai, Haman’s arrival in the court and conceited plan for his personal honor ironically given to Mordecai, and Haman’s clumsy plea for mercy at Esther’s feet. Ancient readers were not satisfied to leave God behind the scenes, but brought God explicitly into the story’s pages. For example, Targum Rishon adds in ­chapter 6 that an angel sent by God disturbed the king’s sleep and while the scribe did not wish to read the portion of the chronicle about Mordecai yet due to God’s intervention the “pages unfolded before the king” (Grossfeld 1991:  69–​70). Modern readers often conclude that the heroes succeed through their own wisdom and courage in combination with the help of divine coincidence (Berg 1979; Clines 1984; Bush 1996; Levenson 1997). This approach directly contradicts the reading of 4:14 explored earlier and is problematic for

240   Timothy J. Stone other reasons to be discussed next. Fox, however, argues that the coincidences may signify God’s handiwork “only for the interpreter” since they “are not so far-​fetched as to be incredible as natural occurrences” (2001: 241–​243). In this reading, the author does not use coincidences to point to divine control, but the opposite: reality is capricious and unreliable, and thus the Jews must courageously stand up for themselves (Fox 2001: 242). Freeing Esther from its canonical context supposedly achieves this reading, since the book was not written to be included in the Bible (Fox 2001: 238). Fox has not only jettisoned the scriptural context but also the ancient historical context of the author, which surely leads to an anachronistic dismissal of the coincidences as evidence for the divine since the concept of “natural occurrences” is not an ancient idea. Within the logic of the story itself, however, this reading is problematic. The primary obstacle facing Esther and Mordecai is Haman’s edict, but this is not the result of erratic coincidence; instead every coincidence listed earlier works in their favor. Both Mordecai’s words in 4:14 and Zeresh’s in 6:13 reveal that the Jews will survive irrespective of any individual choices they make whether they arise from pride, courage, fear, or wisdom. Simply listing the many coincidences, however, does not register their full force in the narrative. The coincidences are interconnected like a spider web, so that each strand is linked to another. The center of this web is chapter six, which has long been seen as the structural center of the book and the turning point (or peripety) of the story. The chapter begins Haman’s downfall and sets in motion the Jews’ deliverance (Fox 2001: 162). Each coincidence in this pivotal chapter is linked to other coincidences. The king’s insomnia leads him to read from a portion of the chronicle concerning Mordecai, where the king learns that he failed to reward Mordecai for saving his life—​which is inexplicable since rewarding those who foil plots on the king’s life are usually greatly rewarded. Mordecai is only able to inform the king through Esther, who had just become Queen from all the virgins of Persia through a series of very unlikely occurrences and only because Queen Vashti, for reasons that are not clear, refused to come to the king when summoned and then, inexplicably, lost her position as Queen. It is not only the large number of coincidences but also their interconnectedness, which strongly point to the orchestration of the story as the handiwork of God.

The Turning Point How does this relate to my evaluation of the characters of Esther and Mordecai? This web of coincidence converges on chapter six, where Mordecai is passive and Esther does not appear. Structurally and within the narrative, chapter six is positioned between the two banquets of Esther. Esther’s request for a second banquet has long puzzled interpreters. Her actions have been variously understood as springing from fear, indecision, or from wisdom and cunning. Fox, following Clines, argues that the request for a second banquet is not merely a ploy by the author to build suspense, but rather a subtle way for Esther to obligate the king to grant her request at the second banquet. By phrasing her request in 5:8 as a conditional sentence, “Esther is making the king virtually

Esther’s Frame within the Writings    241 commit himself in advance, signifying by his presence at the second banquet that he has already granted her wish” (Clines 1984: 37; Fox 2001: 73). There are three major problems with this reading. First, if Esther had subtly bound the king to grant her request at the second banquet through her cunning conditional clause, then it makes no difference at all at the second banquet both in terms of the king’s attitude and words (7:2), which are almost exactly what he said from his throne (5:3). Second, the king has already agreed to grant her request from his throne (Esth 5:3), so there is no need for such a rhetorical strategy. Third, the king is a drunk, raging fool and incapable of making his own decisions; therefore, such a subtle strategy would be lost on him. Esther realizes this and her cunning rhetoric with the king at the second banquet is extremely direct. Despite the tradition’s persistent search for a satisfactory explanation for Esther’s actions, none has arisen. In my view, this is because her actions lack any logical reason, which is precisely what the author wants to convey. Haman’s downfall and Mordecai’s rise occur in ­chapter 6, through a cluster of related coincidences beyond the control of the individuals in the story. Again the text subverts the heroic roles of the characters by excluding logic from Esther’s request for a second banquet and by presenting Mordecai as a completely passive character in the scene where coincidences converge on the crucial turning point of the story. It is the decisive events between the first and second banquet, in which neither Mordecai nor Esther plays a direct role, which result in the downfall of Haman and the exaltation of Esther and Mordecai. This reinforces the idea that the two main characters are pseudo-​heroes whose plans succeed, not from wisdom or courage, but due to a preponderance of coincidences outside of their control that they could not have foreseen.

God versus Xerxes Xerxes’s bombastic and foolish rule is a foil to God’s hidden and wise rule. The opening feast exemplifies Xerxes’s rule: it is grandiose and pompous in the extreme. In response to the shame of Vashti’s disobedience in refusing the summons of the king, Xerxes, while enraged and drunk, inquires from his supposed wise men what should be done. They come up with a plan to spread throughout his whole kingdom that Vashti is never to come before the king again so that all women everywhere will honor their husbands. The king, who never makes a decision on his own, and says yes to any advice that he is given, agrees. This scene is saturated with satirical humor. It not only reveals to the entire kingdom that Vashti refused to obey the king but also that the king believes that through a law he can control the actions of all his subjects in their own homes. This ridiculous attempt to gain control of all the marriages in his kingdom is laughable and reveals him to be a megalomaniac. In contrast to Xerxes’s ostentatiousness stands God whose rule is just and wise but not domineering since his subject are free to make their own choices, as seen in Esth 4:14. Xerxes’s folly and God’s justice reach their climax as Haman begs for his life from Esth in 7:7–​10. Once again the king is in a rage and drunk. When he sees Haman falling on the couch of Esther, where the reader knows he is pleading for mercy,

242   Timothy J. Stone the king says, ‘Will he even assault the queen in my presence, in my own house?’ (7:8). The king ludicrously interprets Haman’s actions as an assault on the queen—​probably rape is in view—​and for this reason has him executed. Poetic justice is served since Haman suffers the fate he maliciously planned for the Jews, but the king’s actions are not wise or just because he does not condemn Haman for his evil schemes, but for his only commendable act in the entire book. In this same act God justly executes Haman for his diabolical schemes according to God’s ancient oath (Exod 17:14–​16; Deut 25:17–​19). This theological stance echoes Gen 50:20, where God accomplishes his purpose though the evil actions of others.

Conclusion It is now possible to bring together the lines of this investigation of the book of Esther concerning the central theological question of God’s role in the story. First, the absence of any mention of God by any name cannot be by chance; it must be a deliberate and thus understandable move integral to the author’s purposes. Second, the nature of the coincidences make it very likely that God is working behind the scenes to change the story from one of Jewish annihilation to survival. Thus, God remains faithful to the Abrahamic covenant with Israel since the threat is to the Jews living throughout Persia. This threat is very similar to the one in Gen 37–​50, where Joseph, living in a foreign land, saves his family from a worldwide famine. Third, Haman and his family are descendants of the Amalekites, whom God has sworn to war against continually based on how they treated Israel when they came out of Egypt (Exod 17:14–​16; Deut 25:17–​19). He is justly killed in the book of Esther according to God’s ancient oath (Stone 2013: 174–​175). Fourth, the Diaspora is a dangerous place. The king is a raging, drunken fool who is incompetent and unable to make wise and just decisions. Fifth, there are no indications in Esther that its two main characters have any religious commitments; Mordecai is marked by pride, Esther, by her assimilation into the Persian court. If the author, as some contend, was trying to create a different kind of hero for the realities of life in the Diaspora, one would expect the story to be told very differently since careful comparisons with Joseph, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, and later Judith all reveal the shortcomings of the book’s two protagonists. Nor does the structure and narration of the book alter this portrait. Esther and Mordecai have no religious commitments and appear to have forgotten the God of Israel. They are passive instruments in the larger purpose of God. Nor is God’s faithfulness bound by human choices since he will deliver his people through Esther and Mordecai or by other means. When these factors are brought together, one can conclude that God is not mentioned because the main character in the story forgot him. The book’s main purpose is to communicate God’s covenant faithfulness to the Jews throughout the Diaspora even when they have forgotten him. The canonical context of Esther within the subcollection of Lamentations, Esther, Daniel, and Ezra/​Nehemiah brings this picture into greater focus.

Esther’s Frame within the Writings    243 Lamentations’ troubling conclusion—​in which it appears that God may have abandoned Israel—​receives a canonical answer in Esther. God’s faithfulness remains great even if his own people forget him. Both Daniel and Lamentations strongly affirm God’s providential control over history, and that he ultimately rules over the realm of humankind. This theme reverberates throughout Esther, albeit in a very different way since God’s actions are not miraculous, but hidden. Esther’s frame in the Writings gives nuance to God’s role and provides a context in which the confusing actions of Mordecai and Esther come into focus. This reading takes observations and conclusions from the rich history of Esther’s interpretation and incorporates elements from drastically different readings into a synthesis that differentiates between an evaluation of the characters in the book and the message of the book. In sum, though unseen on the surface of the story and in the lives of the main characters, God rules. God uses Esther’s assimilation, Mordecai’s pride, Haman’s evil schemes, and the king’s rage and folly to orchestrate his wise rule by preserving the Jews based on his covenant obligations and destroying his enemies according to his ancient oath.

Notes 1. This is a large and complex topic. For more on it, see Stone (2013); Stone et al. (2015). 2. Regarding the complexity of the term Jew in Esther in the Second Temple period, see Stone (2013: 163). See also the discussion of anti-​Semitism in Stone (2013: 146–​147).

Bibliography Berg, Sandra B. 1979. The Book of Esther: Motifs, Themes, and Structure. Society of Biblical Literature Dissertation Series 44. Missoula, MT: Scholars Press. Berlin, Adele. 2001. Esther: The Traditional Hebrew Text With the New JPS Translation. JPS Bible Commentary. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society. Bush, Frederic W. 1996. Ruth, Esther. Word Biblical Commentary 9. Waco, TX: Word Books. Carruthers, Jo. 2008. Esther through the Centuries. Blackwell Bible Commentaries. Boston: Blackwell. Clines, David J. A. 1984. The Esther Scroll: The Story of the Story. The Library of Hebrew Bible/​ Old Testament Studies. Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Academic Press. Cohen, Shaye. 2001. The Beginnings of Jewishness:  Boundaries, Varieties, Uncertainties. Oakland: University of California Press. Crawford, Sidnie W. 1999. The Book of Esther, Introduction, Commentary, and Reflections. The New Interpreter’s Bible 3. Edited by Leander E. Keck et al. Nashville: Abingdon. Fox, Michael V. 2001. Character and Ideology in the Book of Esther. 2nd edition. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans. Gerleman, Gilles. 1973. Esther. Biblischer Kommentar: Altes Testament. Edited by Martin Noth. Neukirchen-​Vluyn, Germany: Neukirchener Verlag. Grossfeld, Bernard. 1991. The Two Targums of Esther. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press.

244   Timothy J. Stone Jobes, Karen H. Esther. 1999. The NIV Application Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan. Lambert, David. 2003. “Fasting as a Penitential Rite:  A Biblical Phenomenon?” Harvard Theological Review 96:477–​512. Levenson, Jon D. 1976. “The Scroll of Esther in Ecumenical Perspective.” Journal of Ecumenical Studies 13:440–​451. Levenson, Jon D. 1997. Esther. Old Testament Library. London: SCM. Paton, Lewis B. 1908. A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Book of Esther. New York: Scribner. Stone, Timothy. 2013. The Compilational History of the Megilloth:  Canon, Contoured Intertextuality and Meaning in the Writings. FAT II/​59. Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck. Stone, Timothy, and Steinberg, Julius, with Stone, Rachel M., eds. 2015. The Shape of the Writings. Winona Lake, MN: Eisenbrauns.

Chapter 16

Q oheleth in th e W ri t i ng s Erhard S. Gerstenberger

Long before the Old Testament book of Qohelet came into being, there was already a kindred tradition in Mesopotamian and other cultures and literatures (Loretz 1964; Uehlinger 1997). Thus, the Sumerians left us many wisdom compositions, “some of them certainly represent a critical attitude toward existing values, which may be considered an unmistakable sign of ancient Near Eastern ‘wisdom’ literature” (Alster 2005: 9). This author dedicates the full third chapter of his work to “The Vanity Theme in Sumerian Literature” (2005: 265–​341): not only themes, motifs, metaphors carrying skeptical messages permeate those oldest sapiential texts, but whole literary collections fit under the topic of “skepticism.” Alster re-​edits, for example, four Sumerian versions of a collection n í g -​ n a m n u -​ k a l, “Nothing is of value” (2005: 266–​287), which show remarkable coincidences of thinking and formulations with Qohelet. A  “Ballade of Early Rulers” accuses rulers of the vanity of earthly power (2005:  288–​322). “Enlil and Namzitarra” is a high-​level dialogue on transiency and values (2005:  327–​338). Evidence of literary collections in the Qohelet and Jobian vein are well known from later Babylonian tablets (cf. Lambert 1996; Hallo 2003: 485–​496) and from the ancient Levant (cf. Dietrich, 1992). Sumero-​Akkadian epics reflect discrepancies and antagonisms of life, thus heralding individual topics of Qohelet: Gilgamesh looses the plant of life (Tabl. XI), Atrahasis decries endless toil (“drudgery,” “forced labor,” etc., cf. Hallo 2003: 450–​ 451), Enuma elish tells how chaos gods were slaughtered and made into world and mankind (Tabl. IV–​VI; cf. Atrahasis I: 204–​218), Etana, founder of the prehistoric dynasty of Kish faces much treachery in his search for the birth plant (cf. Hallo 2003: 453–​457), Erra usurps the kingship of Marduk threatening to annihilate mankind and let evil govern (cf. Hallo 2003: 404–​416), and Adapa forfeits by tragic error his chance to become immortal (cf. Hallo 2003: 449). Thus, Sumero-​Akkadian epic literature betrays the strong desires for wholeness and bliss before the background of real confusions, transiencies, and corruptions. The critical/​skeptical tradition came up also in ancient Egypt and Greek cultures (cf. Braun 1973; Schwienhorst-​Schönberger 1996; Uehlinger 1997). Ancient Near Eastern pragmatic and religious reflections always engaged in critical questionings concerning the basics of human, divine, and natural existence.

246   Erhard S. Gerstenberger Traditional, that is, institutionalized and “revolutionary” worldviews go hand in hand, promoted or hindered by political, economic, or religious states of affairs. On the other hand, experiences of precarious and endangered life always need to be reflected on existentially. Plain proverbial sentences may take on a rather frustrated mood. For example, “Nothing at all is to be valued, but life should be sweet” (Shuruppag, lines 242–​243 in Alster 2005), where a proverbial saying is intertwined with skeptical teaching. Various motifs of life’s precariousness also permeate Old Testament sayings, for example, Prov 10:15; 13:7; 14:12–​13, 20; 16:25–​26; 17:8, 28; 18:11, 16–​17, 23; 19:3–​4, 6–​7; 20:6, 14, 17, 24; 21:14; 22:2–​3, 7; 26:4–​5; 27:19–​20, 23–​24; 28:15; 29:9, 13; 30:1–​4, 11–​14, 18–​23. All Biblical quotations are according to NRSV. Considering the depth and width of wisdom traditions in the Ancient Near East, including skeptical and critical insights, one has to conclude that Old Testament reflections on life are an integral part of the wide international and intercultural stream of musings and cannot be evaluated separately. This fact does not diminish the importance and significance of local and regional peculiarities. Equally, we should count on historical developments in form and contents of the common Israelite sapiential tradition.

Book, Title, Commentaries External evidence witnessing to the book of Qohelet is scarce. Jesus Ben Sira may have engaged Qohelet’s stances (Krüger 2000:53–​55). The Qumran findings include fragments of Qoh 1:10–​14; 5:13–​17; 6:3–​8; 6:12–​7:6; 7:7–​10, 19–​20 (Krüger 2000: 65–​66; Barthélemy 2016)  probably dating to the second century bce. The LXX translation, equally presumed to have originated since the third century bce includes Qohelet. Mishnah and Babylonian Talmud discuss the book’s canonical status (Köhlmoos 2015: 17–​18; Weeks 2016). Thus, its existence in Hellenistic times and later canonicity is well attested. But all questions of authorship, purpose, composition, communal use, and oral and written tradition are wide open for discussion. Qohelet research has produced innumerable works and theories (cf. bibliographies in Crenshaw 1987; Michel 1990; Schellenberg 2003; Schwienhorst-​Schönberger 2004; Krüger 2004; Witte 2006; Freuling 2008; Weeks 2014; Steinberg and Stone 2015). As with all biblical wisdom, modern exegetes have to be aware of ancient patterns of thinking and speaking as well as of concurrent social conditions and be self-​critical about their own preferred presuppositions, which all too often are projected into the textual witnesses of old.

The Title Line of the Book Almost all scholars agree that this constitutes a later interpretation and first commentary. “The words of the Teacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem” (Qoh 1:1; cf. Qoh 12:9–​13) represents “Solomonizing” of wisdom literature (cf. Proverbs; Song of Songs;

Qoheleth in the Writings    247 Psalms and Wisdom of Solomon [Reinert 2010; Weeks 2016]). This is perhaps in parallelism to the “Davidization” of the Psalms and was a mode of adapting ancient traditions for contemporary use, triggered or accompanied by references to Scripture as in Qoh 2:1–​8 (cf. 1 Kgs 10:11–​11:6). The fiction of royal authorship, however, does not carry the whole book (against Köhlmoos 2015:  37–​49; Weeks 2016). Some claim Solomon to be a recognizable, fictive, reused figure, invented by literary tradition. For example, Köhlmoos maintains: “Words are put into the mouth of an ancient ‘author’, guarantee of a symbolic figure, which he could have or should have said in order to implement them in the contemporary audience” (2015: 48; cf. also Fox 1999b). This is clearly a constructionist literary approach. Another interpretation of the headline focuses on “teaching a community” (qoheleth from the root “to gather” cf. Fabry, Hossfeld, and Kindle 1989; Crenshaw 1987; Krüger 2000:  95–​99). Solomon is taking on the role of “convener” (and liturgical leader?) of the congregation prefigured in 1 Kgs 8:1 (cf. 1 Chr 5:2). In the Chronicler bringing together the (ideal) “whole assembly of Israel,” particularly at the occasion of seasonal festivals (cf. 1 Chr 13:2–​4; 2 Chr 30), was a prime concern. The qahal in postexilic times was the living body of all cultic and educational activities (cf. Fabry et al. 1989). “Teachers of Wisdom,” handling ethical traditions, have been well known in the Ancient Near East and in Egypt (cf. Shuruppag; Amenemope). Their royal and sapiential features merge in the understanding of Qohelet. Ancient Jewish and Christian interpretations tried to cope with Qohelet’s deviations from Torah and salvation piety. A pivotal exegesis seems to have been the commentary of St. Jerome (347–​420 ce) teaching a moral and spiritual progression through the books of Proverbs, Qohelet, and Song of Songs from a Christological perspective (cf. Krüger 2000: 51–​62; Köhlmoos 2015: 23–​24). Reformation exegesis valued most of all the futility of human endeavors in relation to God’s bountiful and undeserved grace. Scholarly work begun in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries ce produced an enormous harvest of insights and speculations (cf., e.g., Moses Mendelssohn 1771 in Michel 1990: 353). Before that time, interesting comments of Jewish scholars are preserved, for example, in Mishnah and Talmud. Hugo Grotius, a European rebellious thinker, already proposed a postexilic origin of the book in 1644 (cf. Fox 1999a: 346; Krüger 2000: 56–​62; Weeks 2016). Scholarly opinions until today oscillate between assuming one or more authors and redactors of Qohelet, with either a loose or systematic composition of the text, identifying many main topics and purposes of this piece of literature (cf., e.g., Loader 1986; Michel 1990; Schwienhorst-​Schönberger 1994; Fox 1999a; Krüger 2000). Most of available Western literature on Qohelet, however, presupposes a personal focus on the author, taking seriously the biographical affirmations throughout the twelve chapters. This means that Jewish and Christian fixed patterns of thinking in regard to literary authorship, ego identities, dialogue, and diatribe are fully operative, directing the course of research. Such concentration on personal experience instead of communal practice, on doctrinal and philosophical logic instead of practical piety, scholarly literary and academic activity instead of communitarian institutions and participation sometimes hides original patterns of thought, faith, and ritual.

248   Erhard S. Gerstenberger

Text, Grammar, Style, Genre Evidence has to be gathered from the text itself if we want to make any assertions about Qohelet. Its language is late classical Hebrew with Aramaic influences (cf. Schoors 1992; Seow 1997; Krüger 2000:62–​64); two Persian loanwords pardes (“paradisic garden”; Qoh 2:5) and pitgām (“message,” “verdict”; Qoh 8:11) are pivotal for recognizing postexilic linguistic usage. Strangely, possible old Persian affinities (e.g., to Avesta) remain beyond the horizon of all investigators. Greek or Egyptian jargon is wanting or unlikely. Could this be an argument against Qohelet’s origin in Hellenistic times? Theories about an Aramaic original translated into Hebrew (cf. Ginsberg 1950; Zimmermann 1973) have not been convincing. Linguistic analyses thus point to elite circles of transmitters, since plain Jewish people did not understand classical Hebrew any more (Neh 8:5–​8). Possibly, the language also reflects local idioms spoken around Jerusalem in the Achaemenid period (cf. Polak 2006). Neither linguistic nor stylistic particularities can be taken as a proof of individual authorship, however. There is not enough text material to identify “unmistakably personal” (Köhlmoos 2015: 63) styles. The book stylistically is far from uniform, as all commentators agree. Poetic and narrative language interchange. Imagery, metaphors, speech figures, and argumentation vary to make for a confused impression, at least on first sight. Discourse often is short, abruptly going over into different modes (observing; affirming; questioning; contesting; ironizing; negating; etc.). There are factual, proverbial sayings in the third person (cf. Qoh 7:1–​8, 11–​12; 10:1–​4, 8–​15; e.g., “Through sloth the roof sinks in, and through indolence the house leaks”: 10:18) and ethical propositions (prohibitions; commandments; admonitions; advice) all in second-​person singular (cf. Qoh 7:9–​10, 13–​14, 16–​21; 9:7–​10; 11:5–​6, 9–​10; e.g., “Do not be quick to anger, for anger lodges in the bosom of fools”: 7:9). Quite prominent are, however, the I-​experiences and musings (“I saw . . . under the sun”). See Qoh 1:12–​17; 2:1–​20, 24; 3:10–​22; 4:1–​16; 5:12–​19; 6:1–​5; 7:15, 23–​29; 8:2–​4, 9–​17; 9:1, 11–​12, 13–​16; 10:5–​7. For example: There is an evil that I  have seen under the sun, and it lies heavy upon humankind: those to whom God gives wealth, possessions, and honor, so that they lack nothing of all that they desire, yet God does not enable them to enjoy these things, but a stranger enjoys them. This is vanity; it is a grievous ill. (6:1–​2)

From Qoh 10:8 to 12:14, there is no more “I” discourse! This “internal dialogue” is perhaps the main stimulus to take Qohelet as a biographical witness. But such modern individualistic interpretation is not compelling. There are “fictive” first persons in many ancient Near Eastern writings. They give inherited paternal advice, to emphasize moral authority (wisdom speech; cf. Sumerian Akkadian Wisdom, Egyptian counsels, and Old Testament Proverbs (cf. Prov 4:1–​11; 22:19–​20, Jer 35:1–​7). Wisdom herself calls her followers: Prov 1:22–​33; 8:4–​9, 12–​36; 9:5. The I-​Form in ancient Near Eastern literature does not necessarily indicate an historical person but represents a wise

Qoheleth in the Writings    249 authority. The variety of speech forms in Qohelet, then, is due to the conglomerate of sapiential traditions, not to individual, contemporary authorship. Generic considerations at this point must be tentative. Qohelet seems to be a collection of sayings and reflections in the line of Sumerian-​Akkadian and Egyptian instructions on the pursuit of a successful or worthwhile life. Skepticism obviously is stronger than in comparable writings of the Old Testament, leaving aside Job, but this would be only a difference in degree. Do Greek philosophical treatises with their dialogical and contest style (diatribe) offer formal analogies (cf. Braun 1973; Schwienhorst-​ Schönberger 1994)? We should not forget that there is no explicit dialogical structure in Qohelet aside from traditional internal deliberations of anguished and doubting believers (cf. Ps 13; 42/​43; 73; 139, etc.). Exegetes since Saint Jerome constructed an external debate between Qohelet and opponents leading to that famous quotation theory (see later). A driving force could be the desire for a more homogeneous teaching of the protagonist and a cleaner warding off of wrong doctrines. Ancient wisdom, however, acknowledges different, even opposing views to stand side by side.

Motifs and Composition The topics treated in Qohelet include the fragility and transiency of human life and endeavors (cf. Qoh 1:2–​11; 3:1–​8), the precarious value of knowledge and wisdom (1:12–​ 18), the inscrutability of God (8:10–​17), the incalculable “rewards” of sincere endeavors (7:15–​18), the joys of a well-​provided, God-​given life with good food and drink, pleasure, and power (5:17–​19). Humans are asked to carefully use their God-​given opportunities and remain humble under the mighty hand of the Divine, remembering their own limitations. Thus, typically, c­ hapter 1 commences with the vehement denial of any sustainable goodness (“Vanity of vanities, says the Teacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity!” [hebel, “wind, void, nonsense”]). The complex concluding section c­hapter  11:7–​12:8 counsels everybody to take advantage of young and blissful years before old age, grippingly portrayed by ever-​new metaphors, and sets an end to happiness (cf. Qoh 12:3–​7). The end of all equally amounts to: “Vanity of vanities, says the Teacher, all is vanity” (v. 8). The chapters in between treat all kind of aspects of this troubled life, often explicitly referring to the reflecting “I,” so stunned by bad conditions and actions, frustrated by futility, injustice, incapacity, and arbitrariness, also of God. The string of existential themes and inquiries is there. How to evaluate it? What is Qohelet’s message? Basically, there are two options in the history of interpretation (mostly presupposing biographical experiences of the ancient authors): First, the present reader may visualize a skeptical thinker, an incisive critique of contemporary religious and intellectual reasoning, perhaps even a psychopath near depression and suicide (cf. Fox 1999a:  350–​352:  he briefly sketches the opinions of H. L. Ginsberg, N. Lohfink, R. E. Murphy, and C. L. Seow, among others). Second, the author of old (or the redactors) is (are) struggling through those serious challenges of his (their) life(s) finally embracing a liberating

250   Erhard S. Gerstenberger carpe diem under the auspices of a benign God (cf. Zimmerli 1980; Crenshaw 1987; Schwienhorst-​Schönberger 2004; Fischer 1997; Krüger 2000; Köhlmoos 2015). There may be a third, modified option:  refraining from biographical-​individualistic (that is: modern) presuppositions and taking seriously the ancient situation of education, the text may be understood as a loosely assembled textbook that a “teacher” freely used to instruct (young) people, perhaps preparing them for office in community service or administration (cf. Lohfink 1999). If this be (partially) true, we should not be too much concerned to discover logical order, compositional sense, authorial homogeneity, individual contingency, or dramatical setup.1 Unfortunately, Western minds in the wake of utmost esteem for individual authorship and certain literary theories call for literary organization, logical progress, and compositional design as most of the commentaries and monographs do. Literary schemes are legion. Successive growth by redactional activity (e.g., Lauha, 1978; Fischer, 1997) and systematic composition by author or collector (e.g., Lohfink, 1980, 1993; Loader, 1986; Ogden, 1987)  are dominant schemes of interpretation. Schwienhorst-​Schönberger (2004), for instance, considers a holistic literary view the most appealing in present times and himself suggests a framed, four-​partite exposition (Qoh 1:3–​3:22 /​4:1–​6:9 /​6:10–​8:17 /​9:1–​12:7). Krüger (2000: 19) recognizes only a gross literary architecture (Qoh 1:1: Superscription, corresponding to 12:9–​11 in the Epilogue; the motto in 1:2 corresponding to the final sentence in 12:8. The rest, 1:3–​12:7, simply is the “corpus of the book.” After discussing several other proposals of subdivision, Krüger concludes: “The question of an overall literary structure in the book of Qohelet is of little exegetical relevance” (2000: 24). Some older interpreters insist we may be faced with a rather arbitrary collection of sayings (e.g., Galling 1940; Loretz 1964). The question is tightly intertwined with assumptions of the perusal of the text and the professional figure of the “teacher.” Questions are invariably raised in regard to the above imagined scenery as well as the traditional biographical view: If we take seriously the teaching situation of ancient wisdom literatures, we should postulate educative institutions where this teaching actually was performed. In the case of Qohelet, basic problems of human life are treated: vanity of life; frustration; bliss and despair; momentary joy; reward and punishment; passage of time; success and failure; death. “What is the jitron (“outcome”; “validity”; “result”) of a toilsome life (ʽamal, ʽinyan, etc)? Does transient trouble, unresolved questioning, arbitrary fatefulness make a worthy pilgrimage to the end? But how can Qohelet even try to find answers without referring to Yahweh, the covenant, the community of faith, the Torah? Shallow references to ʼelohim (“deity,” see Qoh 1:13; 2:24, 26; 3:13, 18; 4:17; 5:1, 3, 18, plus thirty-​one other instances) do not substitute for the narrative of salvation in the rest of the Old Testament.2 Perhaps the salvation story in the Old Testament community was not as all inclusive as Torah and Prophets would suggest. And perhaps there have been groups and opportunities in emerging Judaism where even dissident ideas were discussed habitually under the leadership of an acknowledged teacher.

Qoheleth in the Writings    251 Are skepticism and frustration the result of determined historical or social conditions? Do they testify to cultural burnouts or religious frustration? Some modern commentators speculate about periods of acute social oppression (cf., e.g., Crüsemann 1987) or particular epochs when customary concepts of “just retribution for good and evil deeds” entered into crisis.3 Taking into account the extended history of “vanity” reflections in the ancient Near East and the depersonalized nature of all wisdom literature, we hardly may assume specific historical or social episodes to have brought forth this collection of musings. Much more likely is the hypothesis of gradual accumulation of critical observations in plain instructional contexts. Stimulated perhaps by recurring situations of social and mental distress, for example, the Sumerian laments over destroyed cities, temples, and countries, these accumulations eventually led to particular text collections for classroom use.

Qohelet and “Sitz im Leben” Authorship A “biographical” origin of the book of Qohelet, then, may be discarded. Instead, the seeds of wisdom collections lie in the continuous need of well-​organized, spiritually oriented groups of people grappling with basic problems of their lives. In the case of Qohelet, an official of the Jewish community of the Second Temple is taking care of these longings, obviously within a setup of regulated, habitual procedures. The term qohelet4 is significant. An official of the community convenes the assembly5 and presents his cobelievers with the treasures of tradition, in our case the challenging observations of “wise” men and (former) “teachers.” To use the personal “I”-​form is nothing unusual. This feature demonstrates the teacher’s engagement and identification with authoritative forbears. The sayings of the “wise” demand respect but certainly also solicit discussion, because human wisdom in itself always remains in the dark. The teacher as well more than once does confess his incapacities in understanding God and the world (cf. Qoh 2:12–​23; 3:10–​11; 6:1–​2; 8:16–​17; 9:1–​3). Under these circumstances (postulating an educational life situation) the task would be to scrutinize the book for participation of and interaction with the audience (cf. Krüger 2000:38) rather than looking for a logical literary order imposed by an author, redactor, or individual partners in dialogue. Modern concepts of “book,” “readership,” “literary logic,” and so on must not mislead our judgment. Of course, literary activity also is involved when the book of Qohelet was in the making and in use, but it probably was of secondary import. Michel and others who espouse quotation and disputation theories may be modified in this direction: Are there interferences from the listeners? Does the presenter of wise sayings involve the audience? There are no formal interjections, no quoted words of the opposition (which is quite normal for handbooks;

252   Erhard S. Gerstenberger but cf. “enemy-​quotations” in the Psalms!). The text is not a protocol of a study session. But the openness of the transmitted words to listeners is remarkable. They, the Words!, explicate, question, doubt, ordain, exhort freely. The “I saw” sentences invite comments and disapproval. The verdicts on “bad” conditions and deeds call for consent or disapproval. Doubts in the validity of traditional wisdom or even in the trustworthiness of God are like thorns in the flesh of good-​natured orthodox believers. Thus, to name but a few examples, Qoh 1:2–​11 sounds like a watchman’s cry, arousing a sleeping community (cf. Isa 40:1–​11; Jer 4:5–​31). Using an age-​old concept of “all is in vain,” the text, in powerful, artistic formulations full of word-​plays, taking in metaphorically sun and waters and wind, proclaims at the same time utter want of durability (Qoh 1:8) and lack of “newness” (v. 9–​10). Skeptic wisdom lives from contradictions! A string of “I” reports within Qoh 1:12–​10:5, redactional modifications notwithstanding, gives examples of existential observing, evaluating, and criticizing the existing world order (1:12–​18; 2:1–​11, 12–​26; 3:9–​22; 4:1–​8; 5:12–​19 [NRSV 13–​20]; 6:1–​6; 7:15, 23–​29; 8:9–​17; 9:1–​2, 11–​16; 10:5–​7; different subdivisions of teaching units are possible). The exemplary wise man exposes his experiences pleading for followership and corrective comments. The texts cited are not a logical treatise like we expect from today’s writers and speakers. Rather, they constitute specimens of debatable insights taken from tradition and put to the fore by an official instructor. He engages himself and his listeners in a search for basic meanings, confronting everyone with hard-​core facts of real life, constantly challenging popular beliefs, even asking (rhetorical?) questions or summoning checks of basic assumptions (cf. Qoh 2:1, 12, 15, 16, 19, 22; 3:9, 17, 18, 21, etc.). For the rest of the book there is a predominance of plain sentential statements, prohibitions, and exhortations, of types also found in the book of Proverbs (which, on the other hand, contains also some “I” narrative, cf. Prov 1:22–​28; 2:1; 3:1, 21; 30:1–​3; 31:2). Prohibitions with ʼal and jussive (cf. Qoh 5:1, 3, 5, 7 [NRSV 2, 4, 6, 8]; 7:9–​10, 16–​17 [note the tongue-​in-​cheek attitude with the last pair], 21; 8:3; 10:20) belong into the realm of family or clan instruction for youngsters (cf. Gerstenberger 2009); they are balanced by positive orientations, often in the “better than” mode (cf. Qoh 4:17 [NRSV 5:1]; 5:4 [NRSV 5:5]; 7:13–​14; 8:2; 9:7–​10; 10:16–​17; 11:1–​2, 5–​6, 9–​10; 12:1). Direct counseling in exhortations and prohibitions was the preferred way to instruct one’s children, the father (mother)–​son paradigm offering a model for wisdom discourse. This speech form has been substituted in Qohelet by the image of the “Teacher” and, apparently, his assembly. Instructional guidance appears in particular in the mentioned direct-​address words. There are, finally, those affirmations that seem to keep aloft of personal relationships and emotive emphases. They radiate cool distance, resigned or hopeful knowledge, and they seem to serve as general rules of life. Perhaps such sentences were memorized in classes on the teacher’s command. Qohelet 3:1–​8 to this day is a precious appraisal of surprisingly different shades of time (cf. Thomas Mann, Der Zauberberg; in English, The Magic Mountain). In the shortest possible diction (“time for . . .”: ʽet + infinitive) the poem unfolds life’s experience in fourteen antagonistic couplets, from “time to be born, time to die” (v. 2a) to “time to love, time to hate; time for war, time for peace” (v. 8). Equally, the “better than” sayings of Qoh 7:1–​8 and 10:1–​4, 8–​15 are customary

Qoheleth in the Writings    253 proverbial statements (with some redactional comments?) to be remembered by heart. And the spirited, somewhat ironic description of old age (Qoh 12:3–​7) is full of metaphorical and maybe euphemistic allusions. (Interpretations differ widely, however:  From “allegories of old age” to “deconstruction of eschatological expectations” (Fischer [1997: 177] has a Sumerian analogy). Was it a popular song at that time? In any case, the book of Qohelet very probably came into being (like most other Old Testament writings) as a collection of texts accumulated and used, orally and in written form, in the context of some not “scholarly” but educative effort of the early Jewish community. Did this happen in Juda or in the Diaspora? We really do not know.

Growth of Tradition Questions concerning the production and collection of the components of the book Qohelet such as historical time, place, and techniques of writing need to be studied in more detail. The textual heritage of ancient Near Eastern people reflects cultural and religious patterns of thinking. It was, by and large, composed by anonymous experts in direct contact with public performance and handed down by professionals, groups of transmitters, and the general populace. How can it happen that determined currents of thinking become condensed in scrolls or small booklets? In this case skeptical views about the validity of human life, used in community assemblies, were collected, written down, and transposed into a piece of literature What were the motifs? Which necessities prompted the fixation in writing and when? Who was entrusted with the scribal work?

From Orality to Literacy At the beginning, sacred texts were transmitted orally, learned by heart, and kept secret by the “owner,” that is, the professional user. Literate societies of the Ancient Near East since the third millennium developed a desire for fixation in writing. These societies exchanged the advantages of secrecy for the civilizational progress of durable transmission. Since learning the art of reading and writing was a very extensive and costly process, use of lettered-​down texts was restricted to a thin layer of population and to reciting texts for (illiterate) listeners (cf. Neh 8:2–​3). Even if the Hellenistic period (331–​ 129 bce cf. Bohlen 1997b; Krüger 2000: 39–​42) saw some progress of literacy (private creation and reading of texts) in the ancient world, we may assume that still few people were able to learn the art of writing and reading. Plain folks could not afford to invest time and money for acquiring literary skills and keep a library in their homes for their own pleasure and edification. Qohelet, then, in the wake of growing literacy in Judah in the postexilic period because of Torah composition and fixation (cf. Ezra 7:12–​26) represents the literary stage of that age-​old tradition of “skeptical” (challenging; self-​ critical; reality-​oriented) wisdom prevalent in Israelite tradition. Some Hebrew Bible texts may be older antecedents of this line of thinking (cf. Pss 39; 49; 73; 88; 90; 139; et al.). The “teacher” would be in need of a professional handbook from which to choose pericopes for presentation in actual gatherings of the believers. The genre “handbook”

254   Erhard S. Gerstenberger for practitioners of religious rites has a long history in Mesopotamia (cf. Maul 1994; Heeßel 2000). Asaph and Korach, in Psalms and Chronicles, originally may have been “masters of ceremony” with their own collections of sacred texts.

Practical Performance The Teacher would convene his co-​religionists of the Jewish community and stage a joint rehearsal of critical wisdom texts for contemplation and comment. There are no direct testimonies to this imagined procedure. Modern commentators prefer another vision: Qohelet was debated in scribal schools or wise-​men conventions (Michel 1990), possibly in analogy to Greek popular forms of contest discourse (“diatribe,” cf. Krüger 2000: 29–​30). Qohelet’s opinions are not formulated in authoritarian ways, like Torah instruction was, so that straight reading of the ordinances would suffice (cf. Neh 8:2–​8). In contrast, the Teacher’s presentation communicates old heritage, but it is constantly open for opposing views. Additional insights or queries are welcome and essential in this process of clarification (or continued guesswork), which, on the whole, became also the way of rabbinic exegesis in Mishnah and Talmud. In principle, when Qohelet was first written, the text presented in this school for thoughtful and critical believers also could be augmented and modified. There was no sacred text yet to be meticulously preserved.

International Equivalents The question of foreign influence on Qohelet is invariably raised in modern scholarship. Quite likely, a preconception of “truly Israelite writings” is lurking behind this inquiry. Contemporary neighboring cultures and religions are being investigated for possible literary and intellectual affinities:  Sumero-​Akkadian, Egyptian, Canaanaen, and, of course, Greek influences are being discussed (cf. Braun 1973; Kaiser 1985; Michel 1990: 349; Lange 1991; Loretz 1993; Dietrich 1992; Bohlen 1997b; Uehlinger 1997; Schwienhorst-​Schönberger 2004). Persian parallels apparently remain unsearched for, in spite of two loanwords from that language. Taking a more form-​critical and cultural-​ historic view, one would refrain from too much looking for or borrowings or copying. The patterns of thought and concepts of faith found in Qohelet are present in many human cultures and religions. The Ancient Near East, including border areas Egypt, Greece, and Persia, was a very lively, huge “globalized” zone; trading routes, armies on the warpath, and migrations of different types made for thorough exchanges of ideas and conceptions of world and life. If we knew more about the places where Qohelet was copied and treated (Jerusalem? Babylon? Alexandria? Cf., e.g., Krüger 2000: 39–​42), we might take a firmer stand in regard to those cultural affinities. Suffice it to say, skeptical wisdom belonged in some way to all ancient Near Eastern civilizations.

Canonical Role and Reception History How did Qohelet make it into the Hebrew canon of Scripture? The question is particularly delicate since the booklet seems to contradict much of Covenant and Faith

Qoheleth in the Writings    255 relations with JHWH, so prominent in Torah and Prophets. The long process of canonization (between 500 bce to 100 ce?) is fairly unknown in its details and must not be reconstructed as a homogenous and unilateral development. When Qohelet was written, probably in the third century bce, apparently the Torah itself still was in some flux and the transmitters of Qohelet were applying quite liberal rules to its interpretation (cf. Krüger 2000: 47–​48). The Pentateuch surely was well on its way to become JHWH’s unfailing guide for his people (cf. Neh 8:1–​12). But it certainly had not reached yet that superior degree of saintliness making it the epitome of the “Word of JHWH.” Still more important: what would become the “Writings” were part and parcel of practical life and cult! To what extent does Qohelet mirror the very life and cult situations of postexilic Jewish communities, which constituted themselves by Torah, Shabbat, circumcision, purity laws, and annual pilgrimages (cf. Gerstenberger 2002: 207–​272)? Within this diverse religious context educational institutions, either connected with Torah services or independent of them, must have harbored wisdom traditions, including the critical or skeptical variants. The growth of Hebrew Scriptures thus for some time seems to have been a pluralistic gathering of materials for practical use in community life, not a collection of an orthodox handbook of faith and cult. This means that the practical spirituality of Jewish communities was the driving force and determined the guidelines of assembling Hebrew Scriptures. Later on, in Christian times, the doctrinal and ethical aspects of Qohelet became all-​important. Jewish and Christian scholars noticed apparent discrepancies between the “words of Salomo” and prevailing theologies of covenant, expiation, and justification. It was only then that challenging customary beliefs and denouncing deviant behavior or reasoning (cf. Isa 65:2–​5, 11–​15; 66:2–​6; 1 Kgs 18:16–​40) became real, ideological issues. The problems of orthopraxis and orthodoxy were born (cf. Holm-​ Nielsen 1975/​76; Hirshman 1988; Bons 1997). The book of Qohelet questioned popular beliefs in the just retribution of God on the basis of good or evil deeds. Negative approaches to Qohelet brought up that vexatious preoccupation with seemingly incoherent Scriptures. Kruger (2000: 60) states: “In rabbinical discussions the ‘secular’ character, inner contradictions and ‘heretical’ tendencies of Qohelet were the main points of contention” (between the schools of Shammai and Hillel; cf. also Japhet and Salters 1985; Rottzoll 1999). Various solutions were tried to reconcile opposing views. Qohelet was portrayed in one way or another (including narratives of Solomon’s repentance) as the counterimage of staunch faithfulness to JHWH that needed to be corrected. “Under the sun” in Qohelet signified purely human experience, while the Torah taught celestial realities. Christian interpreters followed by and large St. Jerome’s lead, declaring Qohelet’s frustrations as typical for the premessianic age, which would of course be overcome through trust in Jesus Christ (cf. Theodor of Mopsuestia, who also authored a commentary on Qohelet, ca. 400 ce). “Among the reformers Johannes Brenz (1528), Martin Luther (1532) and Philipp Melanchthon (1550) wrote commentaries on Qohelet. Theologically, they interpret the book as a treatise against human free will (Luther), doctrine about divine predestination (Melanchthon) and illustration of Pauline teachings about justification” (on Brenz, see Krüger 2000: 61).

256   Erhard S. Gerstenberger Granted even such endeavors to integrate Qohelet into an orthodox system, we are still far from a consensual acceptance today of the “Preachers’ ” diverging insights. To postulate uniform standards of doctrine, ethics, and customs in regard to Scripture is a modern prejudice and therefore unrealistic (cf. the richness of different theologies in the OT and the deviations, e.g., of Elephantine community; Gerstenberger 2002). Instead, it may be sound to look at three larger conglomerations of theologies in the Old Testament: Torah and covenant system, cultic and purity ceremonialism, and wisdom traditions, all of which remain partially in tension within Jewish and Christian faith communities to this day. Qohelet and the book of Job most openly address the theological and ethical problems involved.

Theology of Pessimism? We cannot help but probe into the overall message of a book like Qohelet from our own contextual perspectives. Does it radiate a spirit of depression over against the imponderables of world and life or disseminate hope for at least momentary joy and happiness? Or does it perhaps present both and more options? Possibly, Western modes of theologizing obstruct our understanding. Western theologies demand clear-​cut doctrinal affirmations establishing truth in opposition to falseness. Probably in the wake of Zoroastrianism, binary, as much as possible antithetic, patterns of thinking came to be used also in emerging Judaism (cf. 1 Kgs 18:21–​40; Deut 4–​6; Isa 43:11–​13; 44:6–​20). More ancient Israelite conceptualizations of God do not juxtapose so absolutely “right” and “wrong”; cf. Mic 4:5; Ps 82; Deut 32). But even in orthodox circles there always remained the (futile) reality of “other Gods,” and Old Testament believers everywhere experienced the ambiguities of life and responded to them. In consequence, admittance of more than two mutually exclusive options and creedal statements still lurks behind apparent clear-​cut choices. The dichotomies of “true and false” and “good and evil” are constructs of human minds; they are not congruent to experienced reality. This becomes particularly clear in liturgical texts like the Psalms or in popular wisdom like Proverbs. In the Psalter and in the book of Job we meet personal and communal despair over life’s ambiguities (cf. Pss 6; 13; 17; 22; 44; 66; 69; 88; 130 et al.). Justice and mercy of God are at stake (cf. Pss 9/​10; 49; 73; Job). There are meditations on human transience, the incomprehensibility of divine rule, the ambiguities of existence (Pss 39; 90; 139; Prov 19:21, 28; 20:9; 21:30; 22:2, 7; 23:5; 25:3; 26:4–​5). In short, practical experiences and religious customs in that ancient Jewish ambit valued old traditions and created new outlooks on life, world, and God that shaped coming faiths and cultures. Critical reflections were ingredients of responsible faith and ethics. To recognize the futility of everything and the special inefficiency of human endeavors to grasp and maintain a hold of all passing-​by events is a great theological or philosophical insight. Qohelet reminds us forever that the destiny of the planet for one

Qoheleth in the Writings    257 is dependent on outward forces and secondly on human activities (although ecological consequences of human industry were not known yet). The transmitters of Qohelet are consciously questioning some popular theological concepts, like that of “Tun-​Ergehen-​ Zusammenhang” (“deed-​consequence nexus”; “retribution”). Is this a destructive attitude? Are they aware of the “God who led Israel out of Egypt,” the “God of the fathers,” the “God of heavenly hosts,” the protective deities of family and settlement, and so on? Instead, they appear to think in terms of a “God who created everything,” who freely but uncontrollably grants happiness but is not approachable for individuals (Krüger 2000: 13–​14; Schwienhorst-​Schönberger 2004; Köhlmoos 2015: 57–​59). Nobody should marvel at the diversity of faiths in one and the same community. Always and everywhere there have been parallel modes of construing theological visions within and without any given churches, denominations, even individual believers (cf. debates about “official,” “popular,” and “idiosyncratic” religions). Why is it that Qohelet is receiving, so it seems, renewed attention in modern times (Bohlen 1997a; Krüger 2000:62)? Does skepticism always belong to faith or negation to positive affirmation? Denial (as absence) of substance, success, duration, and validity seems part of human experience in a transitory world (Pss 39; 49; 90). In certain periods of history (like ours), uncertainties of life and threats to stability get more disturbing, with dreary consequences. Opinion polls in all nations quite often reveal astonishing degrees of uncertainties, anxieties, distrust, lack of satisfying perspectives, hopelessness, and so on. Modern literature, as well as fine and performing arts, takes up the deep-​ rooted fears and longings of populations, and here and there the depth of despair and helplessness escalates to imaginations of final catastrophes. Remarkably so, Qohelet does not promote any apocalyptic speculations; the eschatological outlook is never voiced. But the roots of its propagated worldview are pretty much comparable to much of modern critical pessimism. Norbert Lohfink rightly calls Qohelet “the last bridge for modern skeptics to the Bible” (cf. Kaiser 1985; Brown 2000; Marti 2002).

Notes 1. For the last instance, cf. Diethelm Michel’s “Quotation theory” (1988). 2. Cf. Köhlmoos 2015: 58: “The God of Qohelet is not a personal one. . . . He is not a ‘You’ . . . He does not engage in action, but his actions forever happened in the past. At the most he is an object to be recognized from afar.” 3. Cf. von Rad (1970: 292–​306), who emphasizes the personal crisis of a forlorn thinker in an alienated world; see Brown (1996). 4. It occurs seven times in the OT: Qoh 1:1, 2, 12; 7:27; 12:8, 9, 10. Cf. Lauha (1978: 1–​4); Krüger (2000:  95–​99); Köhlmoos (2015:  61–​64). Qohelet, the feminine participle  =  “she, who convenes,” remains “enigmatic” as a name for a male teacher (Krüger 2000: 98). 5. Hebrew qahal; cf. Fabry et al. (1989); Michel (1990: 345f). Both stress the high importance of the popular gathering. Qahal is, in late OT writings, predominantly the faith community.

258   Erhard S. Gerstenberger

Bibliography Alster, Bendt. 2005. Wisdom of Ancient Sumer. Bethesda, MD: SDL-​Press. Barthélemy, Dominique. 2016. Critique textuelle de l’Ancien Testament. Tome 5: Job, Proverbes, Qohélet et Cantique des Cantiques. OBO 50/​5. Göttingen, Germany: Fribourg. Bohlen, Reinhold. 1997a. “Kritische Individualität und wache Skepsis: Auf dem Weg zu einer religiösen Grunderfahrung im Buch Kohelet.” TThZ 106:22–​38. Bohlen, Reinhold. 1997b. “Kohelet im Kontext hellenistischer Kultur.” In Das Buch Kohelet:  Studien zur Struktur, Geschichte, Rezeption und Theologie, edited by L. Schwienhorst-​Schönberger, 249–​273. BZAW 254. Berlin: de Gruyter. Bons, Eberhard. 1997. Das Buch Kohelet in jüdischer und Christlicher Interpretation.  In Das Buch Kohelet: Studien zur Struktur, Geschichte, Rezeption und Theologie, edited by L. Schwienhorst-​Schönberger, 327–​361. BZAW 254. Berlin: de Gruyter. Braun, Rainer. 1973. Kohelet und die frühhellenistische Popularphilosophie. BZAW 130. Berlin: de Gruyter. Brown, William P. 1996. Character in Crisis: A Fresh Approach to the Wisdom Literature of the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans. Brown, William P. 2000. Ecclesiastes. St. Louis, MO: Westminster John Knox. Crenshaw, James L. 1987. Ecclesiastes. OTL. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox. Crüsemann, Frank. 1987. “Die unveränderbare Welt. Überlegungen zur ‘Krisis der Weisheit’ beim Prediger (Kohelet).” In Der Gott der kleinen Leute, edited by Willy Schottroff, vol. 1, 80–​104. München: Chr. Kaiser. Dell, Katharine, and Kynes, Will, eds. 2014. Reading Ecclesiastes Intertextually. Library of Hebrew Bible/​OT Studies 587. London: T&T Clark. Dietrich, Manfred. 1992. “Ein Leben ohne Freude. Studien über eine Weisheitskomposition aus den Gelehrtenbibliotheken von Emar und Ugarit.” UF 24:9–​29. Fabry, H.-​J., Hossfeld, F.-​L., Kindl, E.-​M. 1989. “qahal.” ThWAT 7:1204–​1222. Fischer, Alexander A. 1997. Skepsis oder Furcht Gottes? Studien zur Komposition und Theologie des Buches Kohelet. BZAW 247. Berlin: de Gruyter. Fox, M. V. 1999a. “Qohelet.” In Dictionary of Biblical Interpretation, edited by John H. Hayes. Vol. II. Nashville: Abingdon Press. Fox, M. V. 1999b. A Time to Tear Down and a Time to Build Up. A Rereading of Ecclesiastes. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans. Freuling, Georg. 2008. “Tun-​ Ergehen-​ Zusammenhang.” Available at http://​www.​wibilex Galling, Kurt. 1969. Die fünf Megilloth. HAT 1:18. Tübingen, Germany: Mohr. Gerstenberger, Erhard S. 1997. “Proverbia.” TRE 27:583–​590. Berlin: de Gruyter. Gerstenberger, Erhard S. 2002. Theologies in the Old Testament. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress. Gerstenberger, Erhard S. 2009. Wesen und Herkunft des “apodiktischen” Rechts. Neukirchen-​ Vluyn, Germany: Neukirchener Verlag. (reprint Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock). Ginsberg, H. Louis. 1950. Studies in Koheleth. New York: Jewish Theological Seminary. Hallo, William W., ed. 2003. The Context of Scripture. Vol. I. Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World. Leiden, the Netherlands: Brill. Heeßel, Nils P. 2000. Babylonisch-​assyrische Diagnostik. AOAT 43. Münster: Ugarit-​Verlag. Hirshman, Marc. 1988. “The Greek Fathers and the Aggada on Ecclesiastes: Formats of Exegesis in Late Antiquity.” HUCA 59:137–​165.

Qoheleth in the Writings    259 Holm-​Nielsen, Svend. 1975/​76. “The Book of Ecclesiastes and the Interpretation of It in Jewish and Christian Theology.” ASTI 10:38–​96. Japhet, Sarah, and Salters, Robert B., eds. 1985. The Commentary of R.  Samuel ben Meir, Rashbam, on Qoheleth. Jerusalem: Magnes Press. Kaiser, Otto. 1985. Der Mensch unter dem Schicksal:  Studien zur Geschichte, Theologie und Gegenwartsbedeutung der Weisheit. BZAW 161. Berlin: de Gruyter. Köhlmoos, Melanie. 2015. Kohelet. Der Prediger Salomo. ATD 16,5. Göttingen, Germany: Vandenhoeck. Krüger, Thomas. 2000. Kohelet (Prediger). BKAT XIX (Sonderband). Neukirchen-​Vluyn, Germany: Neukirchener Verlagsgesellschaft. Krüger, Thomas. 2004. Qoheleth: A Commentary. Translated by O. C. Dean Jr. Hermeneia. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress. Lambert, Wilfred G. 1996. Babylonian Wisdom Literature. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Lange, Armin. 1991. Weisheit und Torheit bei Kohelet und in seiner Umwelt. EHS 23/​433. Frankfurt, Germany: Lang. Lauha, Aarre. 1978. Kohelet. BKAT XIX. Neukirchen-​Vluyn, Germany: Neukirchener Verlag. Loader, James Alfred. 1986. Ecclesiastes. A  Practical Commentary, Text and Interpretation. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans. Lohfink, Norbert. 1993. Kohelet. Die neue Echterbibel. Würzburg: Echter Verlag. Lohfink, Norbert, ed. 1998. Studien zu Kohelet. SBAB 26. Stuttgart, Germany: Katholisches Bibelwerk. Lohfink, Norbert. 1999. Kohelet. Würzburg, Germany: Echter Verlag. Loretz, Oskar. 1964. Qohelet und der Alte Orient. Untersuchungen zu Stil und theologischer Thematik des Buches Qohelet. Freiburg, Germany: Herder. Loretz, Oskar. 1993. “Poetry and Prose in the Book of Qohelet.” In Verse in Ancient Near Eastern Prose, edited by Johannes C. de Moor and Wilfred G. E. Watson, 155–​189. AOAT 42. Neukirchen-​Vluyn: Neukirchener Verlag. Marti, Kurt. 2002. Prediger Salomo. Weisheit inmitten der Globalisierung. Stuttgart, Germany: Radius. Maul, Stefan M. 1994. Zukunftsbewältigung. Eine Untersuchung altorientalischen Denkens anhand der babylonisch-​assyrischen Lösungsrituale (Namburbi). Mainz, Germany: Zabern. Michel, Diethelm. 1988. Qohelet. EdF 258. Darmstadt, Germany:  Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft. Michel, Diethelm. 1989. Untersuchungen zur Eigenart des Buches Qohelet. BZAW 183. Berlin: de Gruyter. Michel, Diethelm. 1990. “Koheletbuch.” TRE 19:345–​356. Murphy, Roland. 1992. Ecclesiastes. Word Biblical Commentary 23A. Cumbria, UK: Paternoster Press. Ogden, Graham S. 1987. Qohelet. Sheffield, UK: JSOT Press. Polak, Frank H. 2006. “Sociolinguistics and the Judean Speech Community in the Achaemenid Empire.” In Judah and the Judeans in the Persian Period, edited by Oded Lipschits and Manfred Oeming, 589–​628. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns. Rad, Gerhard von. 1970. Weisheit in Israel. Neukirchen-​Vluyn, Germany:  Neukirchener Verlag. Reinert, Andreas. 2010. Die Salomofiktion. Studien zur Struktur und Komposition des Koheletbuches. WMANT 126. Neukirchen-​ Vluyn, Germany:  Neukirchener Verlagsgesellschaft.

260   Erhard S. Gerstenberger Rottzoll, Dirk U. 1999. Abraham Ibn Esras Kommentar zu den Büchern Kohelet, Ester und Rut. SJ 15. Berlin: de Gruyter. Schellenberg, Annette. 2003. Erkenntnis als Problem. Qohelet und die alttestamentliche Diskussion um das menschliche Erkennen. OBO 188. Göttingen, Germany: Vandenhoeck. Schellenberg, Annette. 2013. Kohelet—​Prediger. Zürich: Theologischer Verlag. Schoors, Anton. 1992/​2004. The Preacher Sought to Find Pleasing Words. A  Study of the Language of Qohelet. Part 1: Grammar. Leuven, Belgium: Peeters 1992. Part 2: Vocabulary. Leuven: Peeters 2004. Schwienhorst-​Schönberger, Ludger. 1994. “Nicht im Menschen gründet das Glück” (Koh 2,24): Kohelet im Spannungsfeld jüdischer Weisheit und hellenistischer Philosophie. HBS 2. Freiburg, Germany: Herder. Schwienhorst-​ Schönberger, Ludger, ed. 1997. Das Buch Kohelet:  Studien zur Struktur, Geschichte, Rezeption und Theologie. BZAW 254. Berlin: de Gruyter. Schwienhorst-​Schönberger, Ludger. 2004. Kohelet. (HThKAT). Freiburg, Germany: Herder. Schwienhorst-​Schönberger, Ludger. 2012. Das Buch Kohelet. Stuttgart, Germany: Katholisches Bibelwerk. Seow, Choon-​Leong. 1997. Ecclesiastes. Anchor Yale Bible Commentaries. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. Steinberg, Julius, and Timothy J. Stone, eds. 2015. The Shape of the Writings. Siphrut: Literature and Theology of the Hebrew Scriptures 16. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns. Uehlinger, Christoph. 1997. “Qohelet im Horizont mesopotamischer, levantischer und ägyptischer Weisheitsliteratur der persischen und hellenistischen Zeit.” In Das Buch Kohelet: Studien zur Struktur, Geschichte, Rezeption und Theologie, edited by L. Schwienhorst-​ Schönberger, 155–​248. BZAW 254. Berlin: de Gruyter. Weeks, Stuart. 2014. The Making of Many Books: Printed Works on Ecclesiastes from 1523–​1875. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns. Weeks, Stuart. 2016. “Solomon and Qoheleth.” In Megilloth Studies. The Shape of Contemporary Scholarship, edited by Brad Embry, 71–​ 86. Hebrew Bible Monographs 78. Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Phoenix Press. Willmes, Bernd. 2000. Menschliches Schicksal und ironische Weisheitskritik im Koheletbuch. Neukirchen-​Vluyn, Germany: Neukirchener Verlagsgesellschaft. Witte, Markus. 2006. “Prediger/​Predigerbuch.” Available at http://​​ wibilex Zimmerli, Walther. 1980. Das Buch des Predigers Salomo. ATD 16/​1. Göttingen, Germany: Vandenhoeck. Zimmermann, Frank. 1973. The Inner World of Qohelet. New York: KTAV.

Chapter 17

T he Wisd om of De si re i n the Song of S ong s Carey Walsh

The Song of Songs has long vexed and enticed interpreters because of its unabashed celebration of desire and playful use of sexual innuendo and imagery (Fox 1985: 298). It would seem to be an anomaly from the otherwise proscriptive and prescriptive biblical material dealing with sex. Yet the tradition of first the rabbis and then early Christians deemed the Song worthy of inclusion and therefore holy scripture. My canonical approach uses a hermeneutic of trust for the Song’s inclusion and final form (Walsh 2000: 187). It then probes not whether but how the Song fits into the canon and what enduring testimony on human longing, sex, joy, and biodiversity is vouchsafed by its inclusion. A second facet of my approach concerns the dominant structural feature of the Song, namely the use of dialogue. The Song of Songs and the book of Job are the only two biblical books whose structure is almost entirely dialogue. These postexilic texts employ dialogue to represent a diversity of perspectives, so characteristic of the Writings. And, since the canon itself is a collection of disparate materials, it quite naturally affirms the textual polyphony of testimony. Dialogue enables a diversity of viewpoints to coexist, even if it could be established that one author has created them, which thus far it cannot. By presenting perspectival diversity, the Song thwarts any monolithic systematizing about desire (LaCocque 1998: 13). There is in the Song no omniscient narrator controlling the speech or actions of the lovers. Instead, their expressions are varied and mutual, thereby yielding a multivocal testimony on desire. The Song of Songs offers a unique and lengthy discussion of the experience of sexual longing through the voices of an unnamed woman and man. While its attention to the human experience of love and longing is otherwise unattested in the Bible, it nevertheless responds to the Torah and Prophets, a characteristic of the Writings through its use of allusions, namely, in the images of a garden inhabited by a couple, a journey through the desert, and the mention of Solomon and Jerusalem. These allusions summon memories of familiar biblical traditions put in the service of descriptions of human love. Further, because of its mention of Solomon and its attention to everyday human

262   Carey Walsh experience and the natural world, it is my contention that the Song best fits in with Wisdom Literature (contra LaCocque 1998: 8). My focus in this chapter is on how dialogic structure affirms a polyphonic view on human desire that celebrates the difference in the embodied experience of the male and female voice.1 The Writings are a collection of disparate materials comprising thirteen books (eleven in Jewish Bible versions, as 1 and 2 Chr and Ezra-​Nehemiah count each as one book) of varying lengths and time periods. As a whole, the Writings are distinctive from the Torah and Prophets divisions of the Bible in their attention to human experiential knowledge of the world, in particular through emotion and individual reflection. The interior life of thoughts and feelings is portrayed more frequently in the Writings than anywhere else in the Bible. Biblical character description, elsewhere, is typically cryptic, so that readers must imagine the motivations behind protagonist actions. But the Song as well as other materials in the Writings give textual space to the inner worlds of their characters. The Psalms, for instance, give ample expression to a full range of human emotions—​sorrow, anger, joy, despair—​in response to God and life circumstances. Lamentations and Job, for their part, depict the affective dimension of painful human experiences in searing detail, while Ecclesiastes and Esther include descriptions of the inner reflections of their main protagonists. Since emotion and individual reflection are central components in the Song of Songs, it rightly belongs in the Writings corpus. In recent years, philosophers have become interested in the role of emotions in how we experience and interpret the world. This Affective Turn explores how emotions influence our cognitive understanding of experience, as did the ancient sages behind some of these biblical Writings. For the Hebrew Bible, which throughout eschews dualisms, the heart has need of instruction equally as much as the mind. These affective strands of the Writings, then, offer another kind of torah, an instruction in what we might today term “emotional intelligence.” The two protagonists of the Song, a woman and her lover, spend the entire eight chapters of the book describing their experience of sexual desire for each other. This is presented through a series of dialogues, in antiphonal contrast (Murphy 1990: 65–​67; Exum 2005: 38). For example: 2:1, 3–​7, the woman speaks, with the male voice in v. 2; 2:8–​ 10 and 15–​17, the woman speaks, with the male voice responding in vv. 11–​14; 3:1–​5, the woman, with 4:1–​7, the man; 6:4–​10, the man, vv. 11–​12, the woman; 7:2–​10a, the man, 7:10b–​8:4, the woman; 8:6–​10, the woman, v. 13, the man, and v. 14, the woman again. The voices alternate and interrupt each other throughout the Song’s eight chapters. Dialogue, as noted earlier, is more than stylistic convention in that it allows a plurality of consciousness to exist, at least with the purported voices represented in the Song. Dialogue makes claims on truth, that it is inherently multiple, involving always differing perspectives, and insisting on embodied voices. Bakhtin’s notion of textual heteroglossalia is evident here in three facets. First, the voices reflect differing perspectives on the experience of desire; second, the author’s position is present, but nowhere privileged; and third, the text ends without closure: we do not know if the lovers unite as the Song ends with the woman calling again for her absent lover (8:14).2

The Wisdom of Desire in the Song of Songs    263 Multiple voices are presented through direct speech. They coexist and mutually reinforce with one another and third-​person recollection. The male, the female speaking of the other and each to themselves, the daughters of Jerusalem, the recollections of the watchmen, the brothers. And these coexist in an ongoing back and forth quite natural to expressions of love (Carr 2000: 243). The perspectives of the man and woman contrast, complement, intensify, repeat. The woman’s voice is given through direct speech, indirect speech, internal reflection, and the recitation of memory or dream sequences. In fact, the rhetorical type of speech is blurred between direct and indirect, as the voice itself dominates. In addition, the woman speaks about other voices and produces their hearsay or imagined voice, for example, her brothers, who fret over their sister’s marriageability; the other maidens, who agree that her lover is fine; the city watchman, who shout orders at her while she searches the city for her beloved; the daughters of Jerusalem, who chime in at points, but mainly listen. In all, there are at least five different perspectives evident in the Song:  the man, the woman (through direct speech), the daughters of Jerusalem (through direct speech), the brothers, and the watchmen, whose perspectives are presented as recollection. It is a complex layering of perspectives surrounding the couple’s experience of desire. It supports a dialogic idea about truth always involving polyphonic testimony (Pfenninger 2010: 335). The Song is unique among the Writings in its unremitting focus on one emotion (Exum 2005: 42). It is a lyric poem devoted to sustained reflection on the phenomenology of desire, a reflection given by female and male discrete voices with intimate, delicious care. The Song’s wholesale attention to the affective domain of love and desire stands in sharp contrast with the descriptive restraint of the Torah and Prophets.

Historical Setting and Reception of the Song In the Christian Old Testament, the Song of Songs comes after Ecclesiastes and before the books of the prophets. It is variously called Song of Songs, Canticle of Canticles (from the Latin), or Song of Solomon, all based on the Song’s beginning line: “the Song of Songs, which is Solomon’s” (1:1). This line does not signal authorship, but rather reflects the custom of attributing biblical traditions to Israel’s important kings. It was a way to legitimize biblical materials coming well after the kings’ lives. Hence, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Songs, all wisdom books, are accredited to Solomon, based on the tradition in I Kgs 4:29–​30 [5:9–​10] that he was Israel’s wisest king. David, for his part, was credited with roughly half of the psalms, since he was known to play the lyre. In the Jewish biblical canon, the Tanak, the Song falls before Qoheleth (Ecclesiastes) and after Ruth in the final third division, the Writings. In the Jewish liturgical year, it is one of the five scrolls read during specific holy days. The Song is traditionally recited each year on the Sabbath of Passover.

264   Carey Walsh There is a lot about the Song that we do not know, though this need not be a hindrance to grasping its riches. The Song’s origins, its date of composition, its precise situation, the identity of its characters, and the location of their putative meetings remain obscure. The date of the poem is commonly given as postexilic, though some commentaries still argue for the earlier period of actual Solomonic authorship (Gordis 1974: 23; Garrett 2004: 16–​21; Noegel and Rendsburg 2009:167–​169; contra Pope 1977: 27). The combination of several features of the Song seems to best argue for the postexilic Persian era. There is a Persian loanword, pardes (“garden,” “paradise”) in 4:13 as well as a number of Aramaisms, Aramaic being the lingua franca of the Persian Empire. The proclitic particle sh-​, attested mostly in postexilic Hebrew books, occurs thirty-​two times, a frequency only surpassed by Ecclesiastes’s sixty-​seven times. In addition, the literary feature of individual reflection, shared with other late materials, viz., Ecclesiastes, Job, and Esther, supports a postexilic time frame for the Song. It could be one complete song, based on its own descriptive heading, “the Song of Songs” (1:1), or an anthology of discrete love songs or poems. Scholarly opinion is divided on whether the book is a unity (Fox 1985: 217; Murphy 1990: 62–​67; Exum 2005: 34) or composite (Gordis 1974: 29; Longman 2001: 15). The sustained theme, desire, and the sequence of dialogues, though, provide the continuity for the book’s final canonical form, and this is true whether these elements were inserted by a redactor or simply evident in the materials before him. There are abrupt scene shifts and obscure passages, which hinder any clear progression of plot in the Song. For Exum, the poem surges forth and circles back upon itself in a “meandering structure” (2005: 11). In addition, there are possible dreams or reminiscences (3:1; 5:2–​6) that complicate the Song’s depiction of time. But poetry, we should remember, need not follow a sequential development of action, and neither does the Song’s topic, desire. Authorship is also unknown. LaCocque argues for a female author based on the positive depiction of the woman (1998: 39–​53). But this assumes an essentialist position, that is, that the gender of a literary figure must be based in authorial experience. Since the central focus is on a man and woman expressing their love for each other, the Song was early on thought to be from a marriage setting. Origen was the first to suggest that the book originated as a marriage song. Marriage is mentioned in 3:11 and the man refers to the woman as “my bride” (4:8–​12; 5:1). However, “bride” here (as also in ancient Egyptian love literature) functions as a term of endearment and need not refer to a contractual marriage (Fox 1985: 229–​243; Carr 2000: 240). Indeed, as Carr has argued, the nonreproductively focused sexuality provides an “alternative discourse” to the marriage matrix concerns that are so pronounced in the Torah and Prophets. LaCocque concurs, stressing the subversive power of this unmarried woman who stands outside the institutions of social control (1998: 51). At other points, the male lover refers to his beloved as “sister” (4:9–​10, 12), which is also meant as a term of endearment and not a reference to actual kin relatedness. The woman elsewhere mentions her actual kin, her brothers, and they are utterly clueless of her desires (8:8). Ancient Near Eastern parallels of love poetry are useful but not determinative of the Song’s origins. Most promising are ancient Egyptian love poems that also

The Wisdom of Desire in the Song of Songs    265 employ two voices in antiphonal contrast and describe the physical charms of the beloved and lover. In fact, the Song’s use of natural imagery is so similar that it is widely assumed that Egyptian influence must have played a role in composition (Fox 1985: 7–​29).3 Mesopotamian parallels are less instructive since their tales portray love and sex between the gods and not humans. Another useful parallel is the Arabic wasf-​poem that also describes a beloved’s body in detail with imagery drawn from the natural world. This type of poem may reflect a long tradition of singing about one’s beloved. As oral village sonnets, these might well have been sung during times of betrothal, but they need not require it (Noegel and Rendsburg 2009: 129–​ 185). Verbal expressions of sexual desire, we should remember, are types of flirting, often occurring spontaneously, without rules for composition and design or concern for appropriate venue. Among works of biblical literature, the Song is without peer, like the woman of superlative beauty whose experiences of love it describes. (Murphy 1990: 91)

Roland Murphy was right to highlight the uniqueness of this Song beyond ancient paralells. The Song deserves to be recognized for its uniqueness. It is sexual throughout to a degree unprecedented in the Bible. It is an eight-​chapter book given to describing love, lust, and yearning for the beloved, as well as describing the physical charms of the lovers. She is “a rose of Sharon, a lily of the valleys” (2:1); while her beloved is “all radiant and ruddy, distinguished among ten thousand” (5:10). Desire floods poetic description with earnest liveliness. A woman and a man speak of their excitement about the restless search for each other. As such, the Song has taxed the interpretive skills of Jewish and Christian readers over the centuries. Its canonicity or authoritative sacredness was disputed early on by the rabbis (Mishnah Yadayim 3:5), who argued over whether the Song’s lack of the divine name meant that it could not “defile the hands” and so was not holy. But the book of Esther also lacks the divine name and was deemed canonical. A further complicating factor for the Song was that it was unclear what specifically religious, legal, or wisdom material it contained. There is indeed no mention of God (Yhwh) in the Song’s eight chapters, nor is there clear moral instruction or much about Israel’s history.4 In other words, the Song lacked much of what was characteristically “biblical” about the other scripture books. And, just as important, it contained much that was not in those other scriptures as well, namely, detailed sexual desire, fantasies of copulation, and descriptions of male and female bodily arousal. For most of its postbiblical history the Song was read not as a book of erotica—​which it is—​but as an allegory, for Jews, of Israel’s love for God, and for Christians, of Christ’s love for the church. The sexual excitement was read, then, as metaphor for spiritual anticipation. Yet spiritual allegory does not domesticate the Song or reduce it to a merely pious devotional. For the vivid, explicit metaphors of desire still provoke the reader, who then has to remind himself or herself that all this fevered lust is really about God and us.

266   Carey Walsh

Poetic Style Besides the prominence of the dialogue convention, the Song of Songs uses a variety of other stylistic devices to convey desire’s power, in particular, metaphoricity (LaCocque 1998: 24). It is rhetorically forceful, invoking, and involving the reader from its beginning. It begins without introduction in media res, with second-​person pronouns that convey urgency and directness: O that you would kiss me with the kisses of your mouth! For your love is better than wine, your anointing oils are fragrant, your name is oil poured out; therefore the maidens love you. (1:2–​3)

Rhetorically, the reader is being summoned and enticed as the additional “you” who is present, while the lover is not. The dialogue convention maintains this level of intensity since the reader remains caught up in the couple’s direct address. Other people are mentioned, such as the woman’s brothers, mother, and the city watchmen, but they remain in the background. Only “the daughters of Jerusalem” play a bigger, though largely silent role as a foil for the woman’s reflections. The skillful use of dialogue has led interpreters of the Song to suggest its origins as some kind of drama.5 The additional evidence is the daughters of Jerusalem, who are specifically addressed in refrains, just as a chorus might be in a Greek play (1:5; 2:7; 3:5, 10; 5:8, 16; 8:4). The drawback to this suggestion is that the drama is of Greek origin, an influence not otherwise discerned in the Song. Gender is another feature in the Song used to great effect (Exum 2005: 14–​17). As we noted, the female and male voice are presented antiphonally. For instance, “I am a flower of Sharon, a lily of the valleys” (woman’s voice); “Like a lily among thorns, so is my friend among women” (man’s voice) (2:1–​2). Each depicts their experience of longing in different ways, as we shall see. And, since the reader is de facto addressed by the use of second-​person pronouns (“You”) in the lovers’ dialogues, we undergo a gender shifting, voyeuristic pleasure in gazing on both the male and female body from a lover’s viewpoint. Hence, when the man states, “Your breasts are like two fawns” (4:5) and “Your curving thighs like jewels,” the reader experiences an erotic jolt, whether she has breasts and curving thighs, or he has loved someone with such attributes. And when the woman says, “His arms are rods of gold adorned with gems; His loins a work of ivory . . . His legs, pillars of alabaster” (5:14–​15), the male reader gazes on male beauty as does the female, who may additionally experience an erotic recollection of a strong, athletic lover. Further, though the reader’s own gender might be stable, the reading experience occasions a gender shifting through being directly addressed by male and female lover. The reader is subjected to polymorphic desire, responding at once to descriptions of

The Wisdom of Desire in the Song of Songs    267 desire, two gendered voices, and the explicit delights of sexually aroused bodies, which because both male and female, carry a latent homoerotic tension as well. Reading the Song and viewing the luscious, aroused bodies of both male and female elicits a gender fluidity that seems also constitutive of desire’s power. When in 5:2, the male cries “Open to me . . . for my head is wet with dew” and the woman says, “I rose to open for my lover, my hand dripping with myrrh . . . upon the lock” (5:5), gender gets mingled up along with body fluids. Both lovers become overwhelmed and intoxicated by desire, in a totalizing way that finally subsumes their gender differences. In addition, and what is wholly unprecedented for biblical material, the woman speaks more than the man and with a startling candor. As such, the Song offers the potential for feminist retrievals of female, biblical voices as counterpoint to other patriarchal depictions of women (LaCocque 1998: 33–​39). At the same time, caution is needed since this could be the artifice of a male author about women’s desire, which then forces the reader into a “voyeuristic gaze” (Exum 2005: 24). I do not think that it does, since both the male and female voice evoke empathy from the reader, and the gender of an unknown author does not change the rhetorical effect of the voices. The use of dialogue, direct address, and in medias res, all give the Song a vividness and immediacy that invite reader, first, to ponder what is going on in the scene that is already in progress and, second, to summon his or her own experience with love and sexual yearning. The use of the second-​person pronoun, you, and imperative verbs draw the reader in to the immediacy of love’s action: “Let us run!” (1:4); “Tell me!” (1:7); “See!” (2:9); “Come!” (2:10, 13; 7:12). We can recall or imagine being that impatient, that admiring of another’s body, of love “better than wine” (1:2). We too can remember emotional exhaustion: “I am sick with love” (2:5) and the sweet memory of embrace: “His left hand is under my head, and his right arm embraces me” (2:6; 8:3). Sexual longing is a universal experience, so memory and longing are yoked together for the lovers, the Daughters of Jerusalem, and for the readers of the Song. Exum argues that since the lovers go unnamed, they function as types, representing all lovers (2005:8). If so, then the Song occasions a solidarity and empathy for the ardent longing of the two lovers. Vocatives are a pronounced feature in the Song: “my sister, my bride” (4:9–​10, 12; 5:1); “my friend” (1:15; 2:10, 13; 4:1, 7; 5:2; 6:4); “my bride” (4:8, 11); “my sister” (5:2); “my dove” (2:14; 6:9); “you whom I love” (1:7); “Most beautiful among women” (1:8); “O noble daughter” (7:2). We see the ease with which the couple enlists a variety of terms of endearment to express their love. As we noted earlier, the man calls the woman bride (six times) and sister (five times). The most frequent epithet is “my friend” (nine times) and it is surprising that the commentaries do not make more of this. The term conveys mutuality and respect, even an equality between the two lovers. It connotes as well the companionship the two share in desire’s journey. In Gen 2:18, the woman was to be the man’s helper, someone close to him, “bone of my bones” but also “his” helper. Mutuality might have been intended, but it remains unclear. And, later with the curses, Eve and her desire are expressly made subordinate to the man (Gen 3:16). The use of so many epithets in the Song showcases the couple’s intimacy, and also reflects desire’s excess, as

268   Carey Walsh no one term will ever do. Vocatives function to convey obvious affection, and, since they substitute for proper names, a kind of anonymity, giving the Song a universal appeal. In addition to epithets, comparatives are frequent: for example, the man is better than all other men (1:2; 2:3; 5:9); love is better than wine (4:10); the woman’s scent better than spices (4:10–​11; 7:8). And of course the book’s name, the Song of Songs, is another comparative, in the superlative form, which Hebrew denotes with a substantive noun in construct state before the plural noun. Other examples include the holy of holies, king of kings, and so on. This is, then, a Song surpassing all others. The superlative construction also intimates an indescribable surplus, that is, that this is not just the best song, but a song beyond all songs ever known. In order for the Song to be an extended reflection on sexual yearning rather than its consummation, the couple must be kept apart. It uses perspectival contrast via imagery to maintain their separation. And here, interestingly, the manner of separation differs by gender. The man’s distance from the woman is achieved by his viewing the woman as inaccessible: she is in a foreign country, Lebanon, in a lions’ den, in a locked garden (4:8, 12, 15). She is not actually in these places, but he views her to be so. In addition, he describes her neck as well guarded, as a tower, with a necklace of a thousand shields hanging from it (4:4). To him, then, she is distant, out of reach, and heavily guarded. It is clear from his invitation to sex that military armor, foreign lands, and wild animals render the woman inaccessible and, given the images of strength, somewhat intimidating. By contrast, the woman’s sustained yearning is born of something else, namely, the man’s absence (1:7, 8:14). When she asks where he will be, he teases that she must try and find him (2:8). Later, she wants to redirect his absenting journeys toward her: “turn, my beloved, be like a gazelle, or a young stag upon rugged mountains” (2:17; 8:14). The woman (unlike the man) is proactive in trying to resolve the reason for their separation. He is absent and so she goes out actively looking for her lover. Twice she looks for him in the streets and only finds the city guards (3:2–​4; 5:6–​7). In a dream sequence, he vanishes before she can open the door and let him in, that is, before they can unite (5:6). Indeed, the couple’s separation and focus on the affective experience of longing, rather than sex, is what qualifies the Song as erotic, rather than pornographic. As erotic literature, it excites the reader’s own memories, stirring awake the heart’s desires. It invokes empathy for feelings of arousal. There is even opportunity to relish the empathy, as readers may start to root for the lovers. Lastly, a word about the literary setting for the dialogues. Most of the Song occurs outside in nature. The indoors is only mentioned in 2:9, where the lover is portrayed outside peaking in the window like a gazelle, and in 8:2, where the woman imagines bringing him home to her mother’s house. The rest of the time, the action moves from vineyard to garden to shepherd field, desert, foreign lands, and wild animal dens. The context for the Song, then, is creation itself, the natural world. The animals roam freely and are mostly wild. The creatures and the couple are largely unconstrained by culture and are left to enjoy life’s delights. Creation is here a garden with abundant fruit and various species coexisting out of doors. Indeed, the woman’s physical beauty itself is indelibly marked

The Wisdom of Desire in the Song of Songs    269 by the outdoors, as she describes herself as darkened from having spent so much time in the sun: “I am very dark and lovely, like the tents of Kedar, like the curtains of Solomon (1:5).” Her skin pigmentation, it should be noted, reflects only the woman’s sustained time outdoors. She is not a foreigner and so there can be no racial sense indicated here. Nor is mention of her dark skin in any sense pejorative, intimating, for instance, poverty or day labor, as the woman is praising her beauty and has a healthy dose of self-​esteem throughout the book. In her own voice, then, she is “dark and lovely.” In addition, the Song celebrates the outdoor natural world without fear of its hazards to skin or otherwise. However, English translators do continue to impose a criticism when they render the Hebrew connective particle vav, meaning “and”/​”but” with “but.” In English there is a significant semantic difference between “I am dark and lovely” and “I am dark, but lovely.” Translations should reflect the woman’s self-​praise and avoid any unwarranted racial overtones. The Song is lush with outdoor detail: apple and palm trees, grapes, raisins, vines, lilies, roses, grass, and the various scents of cinnamon, saffron, nard, myrrh. A diverse array of wildlife appears: horses (1:9); doves and gazelles (1:15; 2:9, etc.); turtledoves (2:15); ravens (5:11); stags (2:9, etc.) foxes (2:15); goats (4:1–​2); fawns (4:5); lions and leopards (4:8). This fullness of life is more than a literal description of an oasis. Instead, creation is presented teeming with life and interaction as if the landscape itself is excited by desire (Exum 2005: 13). For, from the perspective of lust, all the senses are heightened, with fragrances, touch, sights, and sounds all noticed.

Languages of Desire The Song is replete with descriptions of love’s potency: “Your love is better than wine” (1:2; 4:10); “I am sick with love” (2:5, 5:8); “You have ravished my heart” (4:9); “My innermost being trembled because of him” (5:4); “Turn your eyes away from me, for they stir me up” (6:5); “love is strong as death, longing as fierce as Sheol” (8:6). These descriptions of desire in the Song bear closer scrutiny, as they reveal a sophisticated, nuanced probe into desire’s phenomenology. Overall, there are three prominent discourses of desire in the Song. The first is descriptive of the object of desire, namely, the other, the lover. This type of discourse expresses an aesthetic valuation of the lover’s physical charms (Walsh 2000: 57–​59). The focal point in aesthetic description remains outward, on desire’s object, the beloved, and so physical features are praised. In particular, her eyes, cheeks, breasts, receive attention, while his eyes, hair, thighs, and abdomen do, too. Her eyes are like doves (4:1), her cheeks, pomegranate halves (4:3; 6:7), her breasts, fawns (4:5; 7:4), her curving thighs like jewels” (7:2), and more generally, he adds, “your voice is sweet, and your face is lovely” (2:14). His eyes too are “like doves . . . bathing in milk” (5:12), that is clear-​eyed, and his hair “black as a raven” (5:11). His body too receives high praise from her: “His arms are rods of gold adorned with gems; His loins a work of ivory . . . His legs, pillars of

270   Carey Walsh alabaster” (5:14–​15). These are essentially aesthetic descriptions, focusing on the physical attributes of the lover. These aesthetic depictions, while complementary of the lover’s physical attributes, also show an adeptness with the multilayered meanings in metaphor. For instance, there is a significant difference between the statements: “your eyes are pretty” and “your eyes are doves behind your veil” (4:1). The first statement is a compliment, while the second, a metaphor and a compliment, includes as well ambiguity, allusion, and mystery. The image of eyes being like doves resists a literal meaning about how her eyes look just like birds, and instead is suggestive of a host of meanings: fluttering eyelashes, peace, an oval shape, softness, and the unusual gray irises amid the whites of the eye. There is a sloppy accuracy to metaphor because ambiguity insists on the presence of multiple meanings. It is the poetic effort in such an image, for example, “your eyes are doves behind your veil,” that signals the lover’s interest and want within the compliment. Aesthetic appreciation by itself is not a sufficient expression of desire, since the eyes and smile of a beloved are not, in the end, desire’s object at all. They are only the physical attributes of a mystifying whole creature under love’s gaze.. After all, he wants her, not her eyes. Aesthetic appreciation of a lover’s physical attributes is really hindsight, where desire doubles back to the scene of its awakening. These compliments, nevertheless, are intimate. They express appreciation at close range, imagined or experienced: the scent of a woman (4:10), the honeyed taste of her tongue (4:11), his cheeks are “like beds of spices” (5:13), “his mouth is sweetness itself ” (5:16), the woman’s belly and thighs (7:2–​3), the man’s as well (5:14–​15). Intimacy of some sort is indicated in these images: “My lover is to me a sachet of myrrh; between my breasts he lies” (1:13); “His left hand is under my head and his right arm embraces me” (2:6). The lovers have either been intimate and know one another’s bodies well beneath all clothing, or their desire has made them vividly imagine such knowledge. Another, second discourse of desire in the Song (Walsh 2000:  69–​86) shifts from complimenting the object of desire, to describing the felt experience of the subject, which is an affective depiction. Here, the lover’s internal state of mind is portrayed. For instance, the male says, “you have ravished my heart with one glance of your eyes, with one bead of your necklace” (4:9). He strikes a note of desire, and its ferocity. He is ravished, which is more violent an effect than the appreciation of her physical attributes. The woman’s eyes are no longer simply dove-​like or veiled but have now been weaponized, igniting his lust, his inner turmoil. He is well past appreciating those eyes. Instead, he is undone by them, spent by the woman’s mere glance. He has to ask her to look away, “turn your eyes away from me, for they stir me up” (6:5). The focus in affective description has turned from the object of his desire, an attribute of her beauty, to the effect her whole person is having on him. This discourse differs from aesthetic description first, in its being subjective. It details the condition of yearning in the beholder rather than its object, and second, it includes an element of pain along with the pleasure of desire. When the man declares that he is ravished, his statement is at once a compliment to the woman’s formidable presence and suggestive of the painful turmoil desire inflicts. The lover’s heart has been

The Wisdom of Desire in the Song of Songs    271 ravished—​that is, jolted, pushed around, and taken without his consent. The couple is undone by this love, drunk with it, pining in pain, and aching with it. The language of intoxication reflects both joy and a loss of control (2:3; 5:1; 7:3, 10; 8:2). Elsewhere the danger is external, as the woman gets beaten by the watchmen during one of her searches for him (5:7). The recognition of desire’s painful dimension reveals an emotional maturity about lust that truly prevents the Song from being hedonistic bacchanal. It is not a paean to the joys of love, but rather a treatise on its full human experience. The woman directly addresses the “daughters of Jerusalem” with the warning: “I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, by the gazelles or the hinds of the field, that you stir not up nor awaken love until it please” (2:7). Her warning offers a cautionary realism to the Song’s understanding of desire. Sexual longing is both frightening and joyful, and so not something to awaken until ready. Further, this adjuration, with some variation, is repeated as a refrain through the Song (2:7; 3:5; 8:4) to underscore its importance. Indeed, it is only now that we are in a position to really appreciate the Song’s well-​known verse: love is strong as death, longing is fierce as Sheol. Its arrows are arrows of fire, flames of the divine. (8:6)

Love is potent; it burns and stings like arrows. In the realm of human experience, it is an existential extreme. Like death, its power is fearsome. In this verse, love and death are equated. Love is death’s match, not its victor. The image of fire connotes intensity and purity, of course, but to an ancient people it meant also terror, as there was never sufficient water to stop a blaze. In fact, that fear is conveyed in the very next verse: “Deep waters cannot quench love, nor rivers sweep it away” (8:7). The poet is aware of desire’s power and proffers a kind of prudence with it. A third discourse continues this affective strand by tracing further the phenomenology of subjective want (Walsh 2000:  105–​14). As desire intensifies and its reverberations break down the boundaries of the self, the experience is at once thrilling and destabilizing. This discourse is easily the most sexually explicit of the Song. The intensification is caught by a sequence of actions and so passages, rather than single verses, are used, particularly 5:2–​6; 3:1–​4; and 4:12–​16; 5:1; 6:2–​3; 7:9–​13. Here in 5:2–​6, we see the woman undone by desire. She narrates a dreamy state of arousal through a sequence of actions that persists to the Song’s scene-​scape of (near?) female orgasm. I was sleeping, but my heart was awake. The sound of my lover knocking! “Open to me, my sister, my friend, my dove, my perfect one; for my head is wet with dew, my hair with the moisture of the night.” I have taken off my robe, am I then to put it on? I have bathed my feet, am I to soil them? My lover put his hand in through the opening;

272   Carey Walsh my innermost being trembled because of him. I rose to open for my lover, my hands dripping myrrh: my fingers, flowing myrrh upon the handles of the lock. I opened for my lover, but my lover had turned and gone. (5:2–​6)

As titillation, the rhetoric in this passage indisputably succeeds, without need of much analysis. I could add that “feet” is a euphemism in Hebrew for genitals, that “open” is repeated four times, and that moisture is overdetermined. Myrrh, for instance, is dried, ground tree resin, so if even it has gone liquid, then sexual excitement is totalizing and desire truly has flooded the stage. What interests me is less the metaphoric skill that can connect a woman’s arousal with scented lamp oil or the sexual maturity of an author, but rather why is this passage in the Song, in the Bible? It well summons excitement from the reader but also likely discomfort. Is this passage prurient, or am I for pointing to it? Reader response would seem to be inescapable at this point, as we are drawn into the subject matter on a visceral level. The languages of desire in the Song, aesthetic appreciation, affective depiction, and overt descriptions of sexual arousal have an emotional effect on most readers. The passage just cited as well as the others likely elicits a host of reactions from the reader: titillation, identification, self-​consciousness, judgment, shame, joy, relief, and so on. In the experience of reading about such lusty desire, what do we do with all the responses? Perhaps we are meant to simply experience our active engagement with this scripture. We contemplate the mixture of emotion inside us and acknowledge that this ancient Song is awakening or stirring elements within us. We permit the Bible to discomfort us in unexpected ways. Maybe that discomfort provides a new lens to see the casual, daily prurience of the consumer culture surrounding us. The Song of Songs does not lend itself to easy application for today. But perhaps it reminds us that neither should the Bible. It is not a manual, but a rich collection that somehow can encounter and change us. At the very least, a mixed emotional response to the Song’s explicitness tells us that we care enough to be conflicted, that our own phenomenology, life experience, is caught up across the centuries with these experiences. It also implies that there are truths to be learned through the experiences of even titillation. This ancient Song is daring in that it awakens readers to their own embodied experience. It is somewhat surprising to be caught out by such poetic power and a little destabilizing too (Myers 2011:139–​160). The eroticism in the Song zeroes in on an experienced desire that does not get relieved. It has the blunt, annoying force of shaking a reader awake, compelling us to feel our own desires, risk inviting them, and use caution in doing so. The reader is included with the Daughters of Jerusalem to heed wisdoms on the concoction of feelings aroused by desire. It is a rhetorical text at its finest, since it is meant to persuade and to elicit a response. The Song is emotionally tantalizing of its readers. In the end, the reader loses the leisure to merely sympathize with the lovers. Instead, when the Song is finished with us (and not we with it), we have come to empathize with these ancient lovers caught by

The Wisdom of Desire in the Song of Songs    273 want. We maybe even come to empathize with ourselves and the myriad reactions we have to the song, and come to accept that our emotional range, too, is a part of creation without need of judgment or repression. The “other” within us is included in creation. The song is not pornography, but is instead instructive about desire’s power. It asks us to examine desire in all its dimensions. The Song of Songs is clearly innovating in biblical descriptions of sexual desire. It is mapping out a new domain, where excitement replaces sexual consummation and reproduction. Seed metaphors and procreative goals give way to images of ripening, engorgement, and liquid. The lovers do not say, for example, “let him plow me” or “may the seed take root in our love.” Instead, they use the intoxicating, wet, lugubrious command: “let us be drunk with love” (5:1). The lovers want each other as they want to be overwhelmed, pulled out of control, made drunk by their lovemaking. They want to be inundated by love’s gushing excitement in wine, sweet fruits (2:3), and lips “distilling liquid myrrh” (5:13); all descriptions, at least, of the increased secretions of arousal. At this point it should be clear how bold the woman’s voice is, for she claims herself as the wine, the vineyard, the garden of fruits. The ubiquity of fruit liquid with musky scents signify her physiological readiness, her embodied longing. She is so ready for sex with her beloved that she herself is wine enough to drink, and delectable, enchanting and rare as spiced wine.

The Song’s Wisdom for Today The themes of the Song are certainly universal—​love, desire, sexual longing—​and so its lessons continue to instruct. They are enigmatic, confusing, and experienced in their riches. We return again and again to the Bible for this reason. Desire, the experience of a felt yearning for something not there, is lifelong. It includes sexual want but is not restricted to it. We are the creature that experiences dissatisfaction and is aware of it, so we yearn with intermittent satisfactions. Desire, then, is not incidental, still less contrary, to religious faith; it is its catalyst. With the waning of prophecy in postexilic Israel, the Writings show persons in religious experience, of prayer, questioning, discernment, for example, Psalms, Ecclesiastes, Job. Here, it is inchoate in the experience of desire. No one said it clearer than Augustine: “Our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee, Oh God” (Augustine, Confessions, 1:1). For that reason alone, the wisdoms in the Song, remember above all songs, are worth listening to. But there are many others. The Song offers a countertestimony to the other, terse biblical descriptions of sex. Like the Writings in general, it reflects a postexilic interpretive dialogue with those authoritative texts. The Song too borders on the subversive, offering a dissonant voice in the canon, that of a woman in command of and clearly enjoying her own sexuality. The Writings offer a diversity of viewpoints, so that even the dissonant voice is included. As such, the Song has applications for constructive, feminist approaches to faith and sexuality. It too can help correct the distorting influence of an anti-​body tradition in

274   Carey Walsh Christian thinking. The portrayal of a couple in the Song is one of mutual love between the sexes, which can stand in corrective tension to Gen 2–​3. In fact, Phyllis Trible suggested that the Song is a kind of midrash on the Garden of Eden, without the taint that punishment and shame bring (Trible 1978:  47). There are certainly intertextual connections between the Song and Gen 2–​3, with the focus on one couple, an attention to the woman’s desire, the world of nature in abundance, and the presence of gardens and their trees. In the Song, the woman and man, their sexuality, their sense of being embodied are undisturbed in the Song. There is freedom and an utter lack of shame. The Song espouses a strong creation theology that places a value on being embodied. Being embodied is fundamentally what a creature is, as gender and species differentiations come later. While both sexes are celebrated for their beauty and experience, so too are all the animals that roam freely through the scenes of their love. Life’s exuberant diversity is everywhere championed. Creaturely activities abound and neither wisdom nor God even merits a mention. The features of animals and the lovers are juxtaposed. Eyes are doves, breasts are gazelles, hair is ravens or, alternately, a flock of goats. These are compliments and they are also equivalences. Doves are just as valuable as the woman’s eyes, ravens as the man’s hair. Both lovers and animals are mutually cherished in love’s poetry. Being attuned to nature clearly benefits the couple, which is compatible with today’s holistic wisdoms encouraging a zest for life amid the environment. The sources of instruction in the Writings are multiple and here include the natural, lively world itself. The Song sings a fairly dazzling spectacle of ecological harmony, of a world chockfull of variety and delight: gazelle; flocks; foxes; mare; gazelle; stag; dove; hinds; fawns; ewes. All of these beasts roam freely amid abundant flora, fragrances, and fruits. The Song is a paean to the outdoors, to a creation wholly lit up. The love for creation and all of its bustling life is an obvious reminder to take care of our world, protect biodiversity, and prevent ecological harm. The natural world is no backdrop in the Song or in our life experience. We are creatures intimately connected in ways we cannot see, and other creatures remind us of that. The gazelle who playfully peers in the window and then bounces away is, for the waiting lover, a symbol of desire (2:9). Like desire it darts around. It is fleeting, light-​footed, and endearing. At the same time, it is also communication, a trans-​species invitation—​from gazelle to human—​to come out and play. Play itself is valorized in the Wisdom tradition: Lady Wisdom had played with God at the world’s creation (Prov 8:30); and Yhwh plays with the leashed Leviathan (Job 41:5). Losing an anthropocentric perspective, for the Song, gives way to more, not less for humans and for animals. There is joy and the zest of “going for it,” the delights of life: lust; love; wine; fruits. There is unguarded joy among domesticated and wild beasts and humans and a peaceful coexistence among all species, not unlike the messianic idyllic of Isa 11. The animals of the Song of Songs have offered their own wisdom to readers about play and frolic and a reminder to risk going beyond speech, to risk what the other can be telling us, viz., that being embodied itself is joy-​filled even without the heady surpluses of sex and language.

The Wisdom of Desire in the Song of Songs    275

Notes 1. And here I am indebted to Mikhail Bakhtin’s ideas about heteroglossalia of texts (1981: 272–​ 300) and its fruitful application to biblical texts, particularly, Newsom (2009: 3–​32). 2. Bakhtin (1981: 272–​300); see also Newsom (2009: 21–​31) and LaCocque (1998: 57). 3. For an extended discussion, see Patmore (2006: 239–​250). 4. Though a general Semitic historical context might be evident. See Wilson-​Wright (2015). 5. For a helpful discussion of modern options for the Song as literary drama, see Johnston (2009).

Bibliography Bakhtin, Mikhail M. 1981. The Dialogic Imagination. Translated by Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist. Austin: University of Texas Press. David Carr. 2000. “Gender and the Shaping of Desire in the Song of Songs and Its Interpretation.” Journal of Biblical Literature 119:233–​248. Exum, Cheryl. 2005. The Song of Songs: A Commentary. Old Testament Library. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox. Fox, Michael V. 1985. The Song of Songs and the Ancient Egyptian Love Songs. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press. Garrett, Duane. 2004. Song of Songs. WBC 23B. Nashville: Word. Gordis, Robert. 1974. The Song of Songs and Lamentations: A Study, Modern Translation and Commentary. New York: KTAV, 1974. Johnston, Gordon H. 2009. “The Enigmatic Genre and Structure of the Song of Songs.” BSac 166:36–​52. LaCocque, Andre. 1998. Romance, She Wrote:  A Hermeneutical Essay on Song of Songs. Harrisburg, PA: Trinity. Longman, Tremper. 2001. Song of Songs. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans. Murphy, Roland E. 1990. The Song of Songs: A Commentary on the Book of Canticles or the Song of Songs. Hermeneia. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress. Myers, Jacob D. 2011. “Before the Gaze Ineffable.” Theology & Sexuality 17:139–​160. Newsom, Carol. 2009. The Book of Job: A Contest of Moral Imaginations. New York: Oxford University Press. Noegel, Scott B., and Rendsburg, Gary A. 2009. Solomon’s Vineyard: Literary and Linguistic Studies in the Song of Songs. Atlanta: SBL. Patmore, Hector. 2006. “‘The Plain and Literal Sense’: On Contemporary Assumptions about the Song of Songs.” Vetus Testamentum 56:239–​250. Pfenniger, Jennifer. 2010. “Bakhtin Reads the Song of Songs.” Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 34:331–​349. Pope, Marvin H. Song of Songs. 1977. Anchor Bible. Garden City, NY: Doubleday. Trible, Phyllis. 1978. God and the Rhetoric of Sexuality. Philadelphia: Fortress. Walsh, Carey E. 2000. Exquisite Desire: Religion, Erotics, and the Song of Songs. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress. Wilson-​Wright, Aren. 2015. “Love Conquers All:  Song of Songs 8:6b–​7a as a Reflex of the Northwest Semitic Combat Myth.” Journal of Biblical Literature 134:333–​345.

Chapter 18

Re im agining C ommu ni t y Past and Prese nt i n E z ra and Neh e mia h Melody D. Knowles

In the postexilic period, the context of many of the Writings, the traditional components of communal identity for Yahwists—​land, temple, and monarchy—​were all dismantled. This trauma lies behind all biblical books written or edited in this period, but it is especially central and explicit in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah.1 In their representations of the nation’s past, the texts reimagine these three strategic components of identity. Beginning with Cyrus’s decree to return and rebuild, the book of Ezra relates the reconstruction and dedication of the Second Temple (538–​515 bce; Ezra 1–​6), as well as the deeds of Ezra and Nehemiah in the rule of Artaxerxes I (464–​424 bce; Ezra 7–​10, and cf. 4:7–​23). The book of Nehemiah recounts Nehemiah’s rebuilding of the wall (445 bce following the traditional dating; Neh 1:1–​7:72a) and his second mission to Jerusalem (end of the fifth century bce; Neh 13:4–​31). In their presentation of key moments in the nation’s past, these texts balance the centrality of the renewed Jerusalem city and cult with the promotion of the ongoing value of the Diaspora as a resource for Jerusalem. They also depict a supportive Persian imperium even as they promote local autonomy in establishing legal practices and norms. In the contemporary context of increasing scholarly interest in these books (and the rapidly amassing body of literature), this chapter aims to represent the central but varied lines of current inquiry by analyzing the ideological function of the various literary forms as they are marshaled in the narrative. Given that accounts of the past support specific agendas for the use of later communities, this chapter seeks to address the following questions: What vision does the books of Ezra and Nehemiah promote? In what ways do the various literary genres and modes in these accounts of the past act as a “network of discursive devices” (Zizek 1994: 11) to support this vision? What is the internal argument of the texts, what are the discernible tensions and options in identity construction, and how does the rhetoric embedded in the various genres manifest this?2

Reimagining Community Past and Present in Ezra and Nehemiah    277 The texts are largely narrative, but the author(s) employ(s) a variety of genres and modes that perform many different functions to make key claims. Thus, for example, the mode of direct narrative (i.e., a description of events in the first-​or third-​person voice, often in the genre of memoir or historical account) can advance the plot as well as provide sympathetic insight into specific characters. The mode of dramatic narrative (i.e., a representation of the action, often in the genre of speeches, dialogues, prayers, etc., in the first-​person voice) can also advance the plot even while giving the reader a sense of intimacy with the characters whose speech is recorded, or, especially in the case of prayers, a “link to the transcendent” (Ballentine 1993: 30). The mode of documentary narrative (i.e., an account with quotations of “official” lists, letters, proclamations, genealogies, etc.) promotes a sense of trustworthiness and authenticity to the record of events even as it might provide a rationale for subsequent action (Boda 2012: 270–​271). Although the aforementioned list of modes, genres, and functions is not exhaustive, it points to the underlying intricacy and ideological messaging of texts like Ezra and Nehemiah. Even while the texts adopt a variety of methods to move forward a plot, they also promote specific attitudes. In addition, the relatively short texts contain an impressive variety of genres (penitential prayer, list, liturgical hymn, etc.) with some that are rare or unique within the biblical canon (memoir, official letters and rescripts, etc.), so genre analysis is critical for these books. This chapter will work through the major sections of both books sequentially, highlighting the different modes and genres embedded in the major sections while assessing their function. The goal is to see how the various pieces support and further the narrative arc even as they reimagine and promulgate key claims about the role of the temple and torah in the context of empire and diaspora.

Ezra 1–​6 The first major section of the book of Ezra moves through approximately twenty-​four years, from Cyrus’s announcement that YHWH has “commanded me to build him a house at Jerusalem” (1:2; ca. 539 bce) to the dedication of the rebuilt temple and the first celebration of Passover back in the land (ca. 515 bce). The dominant mode is third-​ person direct narrative consisting of a historical account of the return and rebuilding process, interspersed at key places with some documentary narrative containing two lists and several official announcements and documents. Read together, the various modes and genres support one overarching purpose, namely, to construct a specific vision of the re-​engagement of the temple cult in the context of the Persian period Diaspora. The primary placement of Cyrus’s announcement in 1:2–​4 signals the central role of official documents throughout the book. In addition to initiating the action (1:2–​4), the genre appears in the Aramaic section of 4:6–​6:22 to account for the key moments of both delay and eventual completion of the temple. At times, the various documents actually

278   Melody D. Knowles postdate the storyline, with later interchanges between Ahasuerus and Artaxerxes I and various entities opposed to the building of the city’s walls appearing in 4:6–​23. Thwarted by “the people of the land” (4:4), the building program stopped until it was reignited by the prophecies of Haggai and Zechariah and the leadership of Zerubbabel and Jeshua (5:1–​2). But in the text’s presentation these efforts were not enough to complete the rebuilding. When Tattenai (governor of the larger region of which Yehud was a part) sent a letter asking Darius to confirm Cyrus’s original declaration, the archives are searched, and Cyrus’s decree is quoted alongside Darius’s own recapitulation: “Now you, Tattenai . . . keep away; let the work on this house of God alone” (6:6–​7). With the royal decree and notice of funding, the temple is completed. Fittingly, the section closes with a final acknowledgement of official royal support: “They finished their building by command of the God of Israel and by the decree of Cyrus, Darius, and King Artaxerxes of Persia” (6:14). Much of the contemporary study of the official documents throughout books of Ezra and Nehemiah is concerned with the historical veracity of the texts (e.g., Grabbe 2006: 531–​570), but there is also room to consider how the texts work on literary and ideological levels. Besides providing satisfying bookends to Ezra 1–​6, the documentary narrative conveys the significance of a rebuilt and functioning Jerusalem temple to the larger Persian Empire. Although the careful reader can calculate that, as presented in the narrative, the project took over twenty years to complete in fits and starts (539–​515 bce), the narrative is so riddled with references to official documentation that it seems as if the Jerusalem temple was always a central concern. In addition to quoting several letters and reports verbatim (1:2–​4; 4:11–​16; 17–​22; 5:7–​17), the documents themselves refer to searches for other documents (4:19), the public reading of documents (4:18, cf. 4:23), and translations of documents (4:18). Within the narrative, such documents are produced throughout the empire, including Samaria and the larger province Beyond the River (4:7–​10; 5:6) as well as by several generations of the royal court (1:2–​4; 4:17; 5:13; 6:1–​3). The intrusive shift into Aramaic for a significant portion of this section (4:6–​6:22) rhetorically makes the same point—​the Jerusalem temple is not simply the concern of a small ethnic minority but an ongoing part of the official business of the empire. Even in the context of opposition, generations of Persian court officials actively supported the temple and agitated for its revival. The same emphasis on a rebuilt temple and revived cult appears in the other genre that features prominently in this section, namely, lists. The first is an inventory of vessels bound for the temple with the first group of returnees, originally brought from Jerusalem into exile (1:9–​11). Highlighting the restored cultic accoutrements prioritizes the role of worship and signals the continuity of the renewed cult with the past (Ackroyd 1972:166–​ 181). In addition, the central role of the emperor in the release of the vessels (“King Cyrus brought out the equipment of YHWH’s house . . . Persia’s King Cyrus of Persia handed them over . . .” [1:7, 8]) again points to imperial concern for the Jerusalem cult. The long list of names in Ezra 2:1–​70 emphasizes similar points. In its literary context, the reader is initially tempted to understand the text as a roster of those who travelled in the first wave of return to the land since it follows the report that Sheshbazzar brought

Reimagining Community Past and Present in Ezra and Nehemiah    279 exiles back to Jerusalem in 1:11. However, this reading is quickly confused by the mention not of Sheshbazzar but of leaders who appear in later narratives: “They came with Zerubbabel, Jeshua, Nehemiah . . .” (2:2). In addition, the grouping of names first by clans, then place of origin, then role in temple service is similarly disruptive, as is the discrepancy in the totals (29,818 when the various numbers are added together, yet stated as 42,360 plus additional servants and singers in 2:64–​65). The appearance of this same list in Neh 7 in a very different context, with different numbers (although the same total), raises even more questions. The various disjunctions and evident seams indicate that the list was cobbled together from several different sources—​the genre of “list” breaks down into the genre of “lists.” As it happens, both genres develop the author’s themes. The initial reading (a list of “first-​wave” returnees) and the one that soon emerges (a list of those who returned over a longer period of time) emphasize the centrality of the temple cult to the returnees in the context of restoration. This is seen in the fact that Jerusalem and the temple bracket the list as the people’s ultimate destination: “they returned to Jerusalem and Judah, all to their own towns. . . . When they arrived at YHWH’s house in Jerusalem . . .” (2:1, 68). In addition, their first communal act as a returned community is to offer up gifts for the temple’s rebuilding (2:68–​69), and they very quickly restore temple worship (“the people gathered together in Jerusalem . . . and they celebrated the Festival of Booths” [3:1, 4]). And even as they hire masons and carpenters and secure building materials, the community initiates the traditional sacrificial cult with the regular round of offerings (3:5–​7). As a list of “first-​wave” returnees, then, the roster signals the immediate goal of restoring the temple cult. And as a compilation of those who returned over several decades, the list highlights the long-​lasting commitment of scores of exiles to return and support the Jerusalem cult. Name after name after name, the text highlights the exiles returning to restore temple worship even as they reclaim their family land in the context of the Persian Empire. While the book of Haggai blasts the returnees for neglecting their true duty in search of material gain, Ezra 1–​6 presents a commendatory account of the people who prioritize the Jerusalem cult in the context of the full favor and material support of the empire. Under the all-​powerful hand of God and with the backing of Persia, the text presents a compelling picture of the people returning wave after wave to rebuild a community centered in Jerusalem.

Ezra 7–​10 With the temple built, the second major part of the book of Ezra tells the story of the ongoing restoration in Yehud. It includes some of the same modes and genres as the first section (i.e., documentary narrative incorporating lists and official documents such as letters), even as it introduces others (i.e., documentary narrative incorporating the genre of genealogy, direct narrative incorporating the genre of memoir, and dramatic

280   Melody D. Knowles narrative incorporating the genre of prayer). Common to both sections are the themes of temple, empire, and diaspora, with a new emphasis on the role of the law. The section begins by introducing the character of Ezra via a genealogy that traces his heritage back to the family of Aaron (Ezra 7:1–​5; see also 1 Chr 5:27–​41  [EV 6:1–15]). The list is not entirely complete—​when compared to 1 Chr 5, there are six generations omitted between Azariah and Meraioth—​yet Ezra’s position in a family of high priests is clearly emphasized. Coming before his description as scribe in the following section (and in the high-​trust genre of genealogy), this initial introduction sets the stage for the reader to understand that Ezra’s qualification to teach and interpret the law stems both from his current position of scribe as well as his family’s lineage of priests. The presentation of Ezra’s identity and role expands via the official letter that follows (Ezra 7:12–​26). Written in Aramaic, the text has Artaxerxes sending Ezra and his retinue to deliver gifts to Jerusalem for use in the temple. In addition, Artaxerxes commissions Ezra “to regulate (lbqr’) Judah and Jerusalem according to the law of your God . . .” and “to appoint supervisors and judges to adjudicate all the people in the province Beyond the River who know the laws of your God and to teach those who do not know them” (7:14, 25). Similar to the use of official documents in the earlier part of the book, this rescript signals the significance of the rebuilt temple and imperial support of the Jerusalem cult. As in Ezra 1 and 2, the destination of the returnees is Jerusalem. This is clear in Artaxerxes’s invitation to return (“I decree that any of the people of Israel . . . who volunteer to go to Jerusalem with you may go” [7:13]), as well as in the silver and gold which is to be used to buy sacrifices for the temple (7:15–​17), and the transport of vessels “to the God of Jerusalem” (7:19). What is new in this rescript is the extraordinary generosity of the entire empire for the temple cult, and for the imperial support of the legal traditions of the Yahwistic community headed by Ezra. The financial support of the court is supplemented by donations from “the entire province of Babylonia” (7:16). In addition, supplemental support is requested from “treasurers in the province Beyond the River” in staggering amounts—​ 100 kikkars of silver alone is approximately 7,500 pounds, to which is added gifts of wheat, wine, oil, and salt (7:21–​22). The temptation to attribute this amazing total to textual corruption is quickly supplanted by the equally surprising declaration of a tax exemption for temple personnel. Parallels for such funding within the Persian imperium are rare (Dandamaev and Lukonin 1989: 360–​366), and the text seems to be highlighting both the scope and largess of the empire for Jerusalem’s temple. Artaxerxes’s generous support of the Jerusalem cult is supplemented by his authorization of Ezra and his law. Ezra is instructed to appoint judges and to mete out punishment on those who disobey (7:25–​26). The document clearly presents the law of the empire and of the Yahwistic community as parallel and working in harmony: “Let anyone who does not obey the law of your God and the law of the king be punished . . . ” (7:26). From an ideological perspective, the official document (with the genre’s attendant claims of veracity) clearly presents the Jerusalem temple and Ezra’s law as having the fullest support of the empire. In contrast to Josiah’s earlier reforms, which are presented

Reimagining Community Past and Present in Ezra and Nehemiah    281 as needing only divine support, the new geopolitical context requires also the support of the Persian Empire (Hagedorn 2007: 73). Such a report raises the possibility of a reciprocal relationship, namely that temple and torah also support the empire. This positioning of reciprocity with the empire is solidified by the striking change of genre that immediately follows Artaxerxes’s rescript. Suddenly, the text breaks into a thanksgiving proclaimed by Ezra himself: “Blessed be YHWH . . . who put such a thing as this into the heart of the king to glorify the house of YHWH in Jerusalem and who extended to me steadfast love . . . ” (7:27–​28). The so-​called Ezra Memoir in 7:27–​9:15 is a first-​person direct narrative that sets out the public deeds and inner dialogues of Ezra. (The genre of memoir also occurs in greater length in the book of Nehemiah, and it will be described in more depth in that section.) With the distinct intimacy and immediacy of the first-​person voice, the genre presents an almost overwhelming perspective for the reader. As we read Ezra’s prayer of gratitude for the divine influence on Artaxerxes that opens his account, we are directed to take up his words and give thanks. Any lingering doubt that the account of generosity is overblown, or suspicion that the empire may not be fully supportive of YHWH and Yahwistic practices in Jerusalem, is drowned out in the full-​throated prayer sung in the first-​person voice. Ezra’s memoir also closes with a prayer, this time repenting of the community’s misdeeds even while clarifying communal boundaries (9:6–​15). After arriving in Jerusalem, Ezra receives news that men in the community have married outsiders. According to their report, the danger of such marriages relates to the resultant impurity of the community: “the holy seed has mixed itself with the peoples of the lands” (9:2; cf. 9:11). In response, Ezra recounts to God a history of divine forbearance even as he reasserts the support of the imperium and primacy of Jerusalem: “Yet our God . . . has extended to us his favor before Persia’s kings by reviving us to rebuild the house of our God . . . and to give us a wall in Judah and Jerusalem” (9:9). The prayer also warns the community of the danger that they are in. Given the divine injunction against intermarriage in the tradition, Ezra rhetorically asks, “Would you not be angry with us until you destroy us without remnant or survivor?” (9:14). Morphing from a prayer directed to God to a sermon directed to the reader, Ezra’s supplications promote a very specific vision for the community. After Ezra’s prayer, the historical account in the third-​person voice resumes to tell of the people making a solemn oath to send away the foreign wives and their children (10:1–​17; Nykolaishen 2015: 371–​389). A roster of those who had married foreign women (10:18–​43) and a summary statement (10:44) conclude the account. All of the genres in this final section shape communal boundaries by elevating the gravity of exogamy while also clarifying what it means to be “foreign.” Prior to Ezra’s arrival, part of the community clearly tolerated marriage with “the peoples of the land,” a group which probably included Yahwists who remained in the land during the exile (Smith-​Christopher 1994: 255–​258). But as Ezra interprets the tradition in his prayer, such intermarriage is now to be considered a violation and a grave sin, and the passion of his prayer attempts to shape subsequent interpretation of others to understand it likewise. As he concludes his prayer, the following narrative clarifies that the larger

282   Melody D. Knowles community (represented by the voice of Shecaniah) now consider it a sin to marry “foreign women of the peoples of the land” (10:2), and that “hope for Israel” can be found in “send[ing] away all these wives and their children” (10:3). Both assertions are actually creative reinterpretations of legal traditions now found in texts such as Deut 7 and Exod 34, which condemn intermarriage with both men and women, and which do not specify a punishment (Knowles 2014: 264–​268). To solidify the sense of the community’s support of the boundaries voiced in Ezra’s prayer and Shecaniah’s response, the account ends with a list of over one hundred names of those who “promised to send their wives away” (10:19). This elevated anxiety over intermarriage likely relates to the precariousness of the community in Yehud during this period. The archaeological record reveals a small and impoverished population (Lipschits 2011: 187–​211). But even as the rhetorical force of the account in Ezra aims to redefine foreignness and sin, the details betray a reluctance to engage this stance fully, and implicitly leaves options open. The actual expulsion is not explicitly narrated in the text (Japhet 2007: 143–​144). In addition, the same issue emerges in the account of Nehemiah as well. Although this repetition might be explained by source criticism, the literary effect of the texts as they now stand emphasizes that such intermarriage was a regular feature of communal life. Thus, the crisis that concludes the book of Ezra moves the community to exclude the “peoples of the land” from the communal definition, even as the account also maintains a certain flexibility in the construction of sociopolitical boundaries. Read as a whole, the book of Ezra promotes a clear vision for the shape of the community. As the text represents key moments in the story of the return to the land, it reinterprets the tradition to promote a vision of a community that prioritizes the Jerusalem cult and obeys torah. Employing various modes and genres to portray the community resettling in Yehud, the text promotes the significance of the temple and torah, as well as an openness to ongoing support from the Diaspora and the imperium.

Nehemiah 1–​7:72a “These are the words of Nehemiah . . .” (1:1). So begins the story of Nehemiah’s tenure as governor of Yehud from the time that he returned to the city through the completion of the city’s walls, told as a direct narrative in the first person. The autobiographical tone has given rise to the title “Nehemiah Memoir” for the material in this section, although which parts (if any) were actually written by the historical Nehemiah is disputed (Williamson 1985:  xxiv–​xxviii; Wright 2004). The genre celebrates the achievements and struggles of the narrator in episodic periods with a sympathetic portrait. The reader is drawn into the retelling via moving details such as his grief over the ruined state of Jerusalem’s walls (1:4), his courageous answer to the Persian king (2:2–​3), and his refusal to leverage his position for personal gain at the expense of the poor (5:15). As the reader enters into the presentation of Nehemiah’s interior thoughts and exterior deeds, she is

Reimagining Community Past and Present in Ezra and Nehemiah    283 also drawn into the larger enterprise of translating a “self ” into a text—​participating in the existential project of representing human experience in narrative (Brakke et al. 2005: 1–​5). This representation of Nehemiah’s experience develops many themes similar to those in the book of Ezra, including the construction of communal boundaries, the centrality of temple and torah, and the support of the imperium. The book also includes many of the same genres and modes although with different nuances. As the walls of Jerusalem are built, so the text also builds (and projects) a vision of the entire community spread throughout the world working together with the support of God and the empire. From the initial report that opens the narrative and triggers the action, the community and city play a central role in the narrative. According to the contingent from Yehud speaking to Nehemiah in the royal court at Susa, “Those in the province who survived the captivity are in great trouble and shame! The wall around Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been destroyed by fire!” (1:3). After Nehemiah arrives in Jerusalem to repair both the walls and the people, the act of rebuilding is clearly the act of the entire community. This is most clearly seen in the long list in c­ hapter 3 that names the builders (or financial supporters, Lipschits 2012: 73–​99) alongside the specific area for which that they were responsible: “Eliashib the high priest set to work with his fellow priests and built the Sheep Gate. . . . The people of Jericho built next to them, and Zaccur, Imri’s son, built next to them . . .” (3:1–​2). Even as the people build the gates and walls, the list builds the community—​name after name, the people work together to construct a wall that will bind them together. Although the book of Nehemiah does not quote the long letters from the imperium as does the book of Ezra, the direct narrative still clearly indicates that Jerusalem and the community in Yehud have the support of the empire. That is, in Nehemiah the genre of memoir within the mode of direct narrative communicates a similar message to that in the book of Ezra using the genre of official documentation in the mode of documentary narrative. The king who immediately notices that Nehemiah is sad upon hearing the dire news of the walls (2:2) also immediately grants Nehemiah’s request to journey to Jerusalem (2:6). The king also sends official letters with Nehemiah requesting building materials for the gates, the wall, and Nehemiah’s residence (2:7–​8). Even in the face of opposition from neighboring officials, Jerusalem’s wall is built with imperial support. As the narrative continues, the genre of prayer appears frequently and at key moments. The first direct quote of Nehemiah in the text is a penitential prayer (1:5–​11), and his prayers continue to erupt throughout the narrative and aim to provide a unique insight into the character of Nehemiah. And even as his prayers construct a portrait of Nehemiah, they also define the character of God. At almost every point in the narrative, Nehemiah presents as a man of prayer, one who repeatedly turns to God at key moments. While many of his prayers occur in public contexts, the text also includes those that Nehemiah voices only to God. When Nehemiah recounts the taunts of Sanballat, he privately addresses the divine world to make things right: “Hear, O our God, for we are despised; turn their taunt back on their own heads, and give them over as plunder in a land of captivity . . .” (4:4–​5). And

284   Melody D. Knowles when he is later intimidated again by the same cohort, he prays “O God, strengthen my hands” (6:9). Not only does the text include these private prayers, it also emphasizes that they are answered. Nehemiah returns to Jerusalem with the support of the king, and he overcomes enemies to lead the community in the rebuilding of the wall. Nehemiah’s prayers portray God as powerful and in control: “You are the one who keeps covenant and is truly faithful to those who keep covenant with you . . .” (1:5). According to the text, God’s efficacious power often works in concert with the human community. When enemies threaten, Nehemiah acts defensively even as he depends on God: “we prayed to our God, and set a guard as protection . . .” (2:9); and later he instructs the frightened people building the wall to “Rally to us whenever you hear the sound of the trumpet. Our God will fight for us” (4:20). When Nehemiah finally reports news of the wall’s completion to the nations, he notes that “they perceived that this work had been accomplished with the help of our God” (6:16). In the context of the Persian Period, when the recently exiled community are putting together a new version of God’s power, this vision of God as able, present, and active is particularly affecting. Even as the prayers in Nehemiah are addressed to God, they have a didactic function, emphasizing that prayer works. In his first prayer, Nehemiah asks that God grant him success and that the king be merciful (1:11). And this is exactly what happens: “The king gave me what I asked, for the gracious power of my God was with me” (2:8). This emphasis continues throughout the book, as, for example, in 4:4–6: “Hear our God...Do not cover their guilt...So we built the wall.” Although the entreaties are explicitly directed to the divine, the human audience is also clearly in view. Throughout the text, Nehemiah appears as a model of piety that the reader would do well to emulate. The first-​person narrative then moves into a list of those who settled in Jerusalem and Judah (7:6–​68 [EV 7:6–​69] cf. Ezra 2), an effective capstone to Nehemiah’s story of rebuilding the wall and restoring the people.

Nehemiah 7:72b–​13 The direct narrative in the first-​person “memoir” genre in the first part of the book changes into the third-​person historical account in the next major section. Here the people gather to hear Ezra read the “book of the law of Moses,” with Nehemiah in attendance (7:73b–​8:12). After the people celebrate the Festival of Booths (8:13–​18), they reassemble for penitential rites and a covenant renewal ceremony in which the people vow “we will not neglect our God’s house!” (9:1–​10:40 [EV 9:1–​10:39]). The book concludes with the community enacting the several stipulations of the vow by repopulating Jerusalem, restoring the temple and supporting the priests, keeping the sabbath, and dealing with exogamy (chs. 11–​13). In the context of a communal assembly on the twenty-​fourth day (9:1), the Levites recite a penitential prayer that recalls God’s past acts of power and forgiveness even

Reimagining Community Past and Present in Ezra and Nehemiah    285 as it petitions on behalf of the present community (9:5–​37; to smooth out the text, the LXX has Ezra saying the prayer). Beginning with the initial act of creation, the prayer retells God’s graciousness to the ancestors in the distant past as a story of the divine reaching out to the “they” and the “them” (vv. 5–​31). Then, in a striking move, the text then incorporates the present community and their sufferings into the prayer. With an abrupt adverb, the prayer moves into the current time to make a petition for the “us” and the “our”: “But now, our God . . . do not treat lightly all of the hardship that has come upon us . . . ” (9:32). With distressing repetition, the text emphasizes that both the suffering as well as the blame encompasses all of the people: the distress “has come upon us, upon our kings, our officials, our priests, our prophets, our ancestors, and all your people . . . ” (9:32), as it is “our kings, our officials, our priests, and our ancestors” who neglected God’s law (9:34). And at the end, the prayer announces that all of the distinctive social roles in the community have been brought to the lowest rank: “So now today we are slaves . . .” (9:36). As the prayer moves through the nation’s story, it inscribes a present reality in several ways. By emphasizing God’s graciousness in the past, the text emphasizes the likelihood of present forgiveness for the truly penitent. The prayer also motivates penitence by setting out the pervasive effects of sin: disobedience infects the entire community (“distress has come upon us, upon on kings, our officials . . .”) on the spiritual as well as the material level (“so now today we are slaves . . .”). And seen in its larger literary context, the prayer is part of the emerging spirituality of the larger group. That is, by placing penitential prayers first in the mouths of solitary heroes (Ezra in Ezra 9:6–​15; Nehemiah in Neh 1:5–​11), then the choir of Levites (Neh 9:5ff.), the text models a growing outpouring of piety—​“the devotion of these protagonists now pervades the community” (Duggan 2001: 298). Although prayers are usually thought to be private utterances meant to direct the divine will, they also promote the piety of those who overhear them, and texts such as Neh 9:5–​37 demonstrate this functionality at the level of the larger human community. As outlined earlier, the text motivates contrition and promotes devotion using a variety of literary and rhetorical devices. As the prayer aims to rehearse the community’s concerns to God, it also norms the community and shapes the reader. That is, the prayer portrays the community as possessing a long heritage with God, a people who respond to their sin by turning to God for forgiveness, and a people who are vulnerable without God to support them. As the reader takes on these words for herself, encompassed by the “we” and the “our” of the prayer, she is shaped into taking on a similar stance of total dependence upon God. Immediately following the penitential prayer in ­chapter  9, the community makes a vow to adhere to God’s law (10:1–​40 [EV 9:38–​10:39]). On the explicit level, the vow pertains only to those who were present to hear the prayer in the context of the serv­ice on the twenty-​fourth day (Neh 9:1) and who signed their name to the pledge (Neh 10:2–​28 [EV 10:1–​27]. Yet the vow also strategically embraces the larger community in the Diaspora. That is, all of the stipulations can be enacted by those living outside Yehud:  avoiding economic exchange on the Sabbath day, forgiving debts in

286   Melody D. Knowles the seventh year, eschewing exogamy, and making annual contributions of funds and offerings-​in-​kind to the temple (Neh 10:31–​40 [EV 10:30–​39]). In the postexilic context, where some form of Yahwism was practiced in Mesopotamia and Egypt (Porten 1968; Stolper 1985; Johannes and Lemaire 1999:  16–​33; Grabbe 2000:  316–​319; Pearce and Wunsch 2014), this vow envisions and embraces an international community. Just as Ezra negotiated imperial support for the temple as well as local legal autonomy, and Nehemiah was able to use his influence in Susa to secure supplies for the city walls, the vow in Neh 10 leverages external resources and directs them to the center (Knoppers 2011:  52–​53). Concluding with the impassioned cry “We will not neglect our God’s house!” (Neh 10:40 [EV 10:39]), the vow extends communal membership to an international community via practices that are not geographically exclusive. The book ends with examples of the community enacting their vows (chs. 11–​13), manifesting the effectiveness of the community’s great prayer. Similar to the way that Nehemiah’s prayer in the first chapter triggered the events that resulted in the wall, so here a prayer results in community-​defining reforms. As the history of the people and the law of Moses are reinterpreted in the genre of prayer (as well as other in genres such as memoir, list, and vow), the text reshapes the definition of community in the context of the Persian period.

Conclusion In their retelling of past, the books of Ezra and Nehemiah strategically employ a variety of modes and genres to reimagine and promote a vision of community for Yahwists in the Persian period. Focusing on only a few events in a period of over one hundred years, the texts construct a network of devices that serve literary goals such as plot development as well as ideological ones such as the promulgation of new versions of the most important markers of social identity—​temple, land, and king. Admittedly, the books have their own distinctive emphases (the temple for Ezra, and the walls for Nehemiah) and include distinctive literary genres (official documents in Ezra, and a vow in Nehemiah). Yet together they underwrite key assumptions in the ordering of a faithful community, assumptions not always shared by other biblical books from this period or other texts in the Writings. Thus, the traditional role of the king in Israel and Judah is replaced by regional leaders in Yehud, with Persian emperors who work as YHWH’s instruments to support the community. The autobiographical sections as well as the official documents announce that both Ezra and Nehemiah were commissioned by the Persian monarchs, and their prayers of thanksgiving move the reader to understand this as a very welcome act of divine grace. With the financial support of the imperium also announced in official documents for both the temple and the walls, any incredulity of such unusual generosity is suppressed by the assumptions of veracity that such

Reimagining Community Past and Present in Ezra and Nehemiah    287 documents generate. And literary frames for the major narrative sections reinforce the point: God is now actively using the king in Persia to support the work of the community in Yehud. Distinct from the account in Haggai (where the delay in the temple rebuilding is due to the people’s concern for personal gain), Ezra highlights the role of the emperor in bringing the rebuilding to completion, and the book of Nehemiah continues to emphasize the critical function of the foreign king in the rebuilding of Yehud. As for the temple and its worship, in distinct ways both books work to make this central. In Ezra, the narrative has the people returning not simply to the land, but to the city of Jerusalem in order to rebuild or worship at the temple. This is reinforced via the several lists incorporated into the book—​line by line and name by name, the reader sees the temple vessels and the people restored to the city of YHWH’s house. In the book of Nehemiah, the significance of the temple is dramatically emphasized with the people’s response to the long penitential prayer in Neh 9. In their vow of commitment to God’s law, the people conclude with the stirring summary promise: “We will not neglect our God’s house!” (Neh 10:40 [EV 10:39]). The vow in Neh 10 also points to and enables a reformulation of assumptions about the land that is scattered through the books. Prior to the exile, Yahwism was largely confined to the borders of Israel and Judah. But these borders expand in the context of the Diaspora, and it is significant that all of the stipulations named in Neh 10 (sabbath keeping, exogamy, and temple tithe) can be kept by those outside the land. The tithe system is particularly relevant in this context as it leverages foreign resources for the support of Jerusalem while providing a regular and concrete vehicle for an ongoing connection to the city of YHWH for those outside the land. Somewhat ironically, this very openness to the Diaspora seems narrow in regards to exogamy, especially when compared to the more flexible stance in other parts of the Writings such as the books of Ruth and Chronicles. Constructions of the land vis-​à-​vis the Diaspora are also propounded in the “memoir” sections of Ezra and Nehemiah, where the intimate tone of the genre portrays both protagonists in a sympathetic light. In this context, the Diaspora is not a cause for censure but rather a source of effective leaders at critical moments in Yehud. Finally, the long prayers of penitence link the reader (whatever her current geographic context) to the story of the ancestors even as such prayers ask for forgiveness and motivate contrition in the present. As the books of Ezra and Nehemiah reconstruct the past as a divinely ordered narrative of rebuilding in Yehud, they also construct and promote a definition of community for their present international context. The variety of modes and genres employed perform not only literary functions such as characterization and plot development but also ideological ones by promoting specific attitudes about key social markers. In direct, dramatic, and documentary narratives, as well as in prayers, lists, genealogies, and autobiographical “memoirs,” the books aim to construe their religion and their community anew, and to promote this construal to the reader.

288   Melody D. Knowles

Notes 1. Contemporary commentators often consider these books as one literary work, that is, the book of Ezra-​Nehemiah. However, in order to ensure that each book is properly considered on its own terms, this chapter will treat the texts as separate (though related) entities. 2. Although distinct, the approach in this chapter rests on the pioneering literary/​rhetorical analysis of Eskenzai (1988) and Clines (1990: 124–​164). For contemporary analyses of the rhetorical/​ideological function of texts, see Balentine (1993), Greenberg (1983), Ackroyd (1972: 166–​181), Becking (2010: 273–​286), Boda (2012: 267–​284), and Dyck (2000: 129–​145).

Bibliography Ackroyd, P. R. 1972. “The Temple Vessels—​A Continuity Theme.” In Studies in the Religion of Ancient Israel, 166–​181. VTSupp 23. Leiden, the Netherlands: Brill. Balentine, Samuel E. 1993. Prayer in the Hebrew Bible: The Drama of Divine-​Human Dialogue. OBT. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress. Becking, Bob. 2010. “The Idea of Torah in Ezra 7–​10: A Functional Analysis.” ZABR 7:273–​286. Blenkinsopp, Joseph. 1988. Ezra-​Nehemiah: A Commentary. OTL. Philadelphia: Westminster. Blenkinsopp, Joseph. 1994. “The Nehemiah Autobiographical Memoir.” In Language, Theology, and the Bible, edited by Samuel E. Balentine and John Barton, 199–​212. Oxford: Clarendon. Boda, Mark J. 2012. “Prayer as Rhetoric in the Book of Nehemiah.” In New Perspectives on Ezra-​ Nehemiah: History and Historiography, Text, Literature, and Interpretation, edited by Isaac Kalimi, 267–​284. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns. Brakke, David, Satlow, Michael L., and Weitzman, Steven. 2005. “Introduction.” In Religion and Self in Antiquity, edited by D. Brakke, M. L. Satlow, and S. Weitzman, 1–​14. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press. Clines, David J. A. 1990. “The Nehemiah Memoir: The Perils of Autobiography.” In What Does Eve Do to Help? and Other Readerly Questions to the Old Testament, edited by David J. A. Clines, 124–​164. JSOTSupp 94. Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Academic Press. Dandamaev, Muhammad A., and Lukonin, Vladimir G. 1989. The Culture and Social Institutions of Ancient Iran. Phillip L. Kohl, trans. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Duggan, Michael W. 2001. The Covenant Renewal in Ezra-​Nehemiah (Neh 7:72b–​10:40): An Exegetical, Literary, and Theological Study. SBLDS 164. Atlanta: SBL. Dyck, Jonathan, E. 2000. “Ezra 2 in Ideological Critical Perspective.” In Rethinking Contexts, Rereading Texts: Contributions from the Social Sciences to Biblical Interpretation, edited by R. Carroll and M. Daniel, 129–​145. JSOTSup 299. Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Academic Press. Eskenzai, Tamara Cohn. 1988. In an Age of Prose:  A Literary Approach to Ezra-​Nehemiah. SBLMS 36. Altanta: Scholars Press. Grabbe, Lester L. 2000. Judaic Religion in the Second Temple Period: Belief and Practice from the Exile to Yavneh. London: Routledge. Grabbe, Lester L. 2006. “The ‘Persian Documents’ in the Book of Ezra: Are They Authentic?” In Judah and the Judeans in the Persian Period, edited by Oded Lipschits and Manfred Oeming, 531–​570. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns. Greenberg, Moshe. 1983. Biblical Prose Prayer as a Window to the Popular Religion of Ancient Israel. Berkeley: University of California Press. Hagedorn, Anselm C. 2007. “Local Law in an Imperial Context:  The Role of Torah in the (Imagined) Persian Period.” The Pentateuch as Torah:  New Models for Understanding its

Reimagining Community Past and Present in Ezra and Nehemiah    289 Promulgation and Acceptance, edited by Gary N. Knoppers and Bernard M. Levinson, 57–​ 76. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns. Japhet, Sara. 2007. “The Expulsion of the Foreign Women (Ezra 9–​10):  The Legal Basis, Precedents, and Consequences for the Definition of Jewish Identity.” In“Sieben Augen auf einem Stein” (Sach 3, 9), edited F. Hartenstein and M. Pietsch, 141–​161. Neukirchen-​Vluyn, Germany: Neukirchener Verlag. Joannes, F., and Lemaire, A. 1999. “Trois tablets cuneiform a onomastique ouestsemitique.” Transeu 17:16–​33. Knoppers, Gary. 2011. “Exile, Return and Diaspora:  Expatriates and Repatriates in Late Biblical Literature.” In Texts, Contexts and Readings in Postexilic Literature: Explorations into Historiography and Identity Negotiation in Hebrew Bible and Related Texts, edited by Louis Jonker, 29–​61. FAT 2.53. Tubingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck. Knowles, Melody, D. 2014. “Ezra and Nehemiah.” In The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Bible and Ethics, edited by Robert Brawley, 164–​168. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Kratz, Reinhard G. 2005 [2000]. The Composition of the Narrative Books of the Old Testament. Trans. John Bowden. London: T&T Clark. Lipschits, Oded. 2011. “Persian-​Period Judah:  A New Perspective.” In Texts, Contexts and Readings in Postexilic Literature: Explorations into Historiography and Identity Negotiation in Hebrew Bible and Related Texts, edited by Louis Jonker, 187–​211. FAT 2.53. Tubingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck. Lipschits, Oded. 2012. “Nehemiah 3: Sources, Composition and Purpose.” In New Perspectives on Ezra-​Nehemiah: History and Historiography, Text, Literature, and Interpretation, edited by Isaac Kalimi, 73–​99. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns. Nykolaishen, Douglas J.  E. 2015. “Ezra 10:3:  Solemn Oath? Renewed Covenant? New Covenant?” In Covenant in the Persian Period: From Genesis to Chronicles, edited by Richard J. Bautch and Gary N. Knoppers, 371–​389. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns. Pakkala, Jehu. 2004. Ezra the Scribe: The Development of Ezra 7–​10 and Nehemia 8. BZAW 347. Berlin: de Gruyter. Pearce, Laurie E., and Wunsch, Cornelia. 2014. Documents of Judean Exiles and West Semites in Babylonia in the Collection of David Sofer. CUSAS 28. New York: Capital Decisions. Porten, Bezalel. 1968. Archives from Elephantine: The Life of an Ancient Jewish Military Colony. Berkeley: University of California Press. Redditt, Paul L. 2012. “The Census List in Ezra 2 and Nehemiah 7:  A Suggestion.” In New Perspectives on Ezra-​Nehemiah:  History and Historiography, Text, Literature, and Interpretation, edited by Isaac Kalimi, 223–​240. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns. Smith-​Christopher, Daniel. 1994. “The Mixed Marriage Crisis in Ezra.” In Second Temple Studies. 2, Temple and Community in the Persian Period, edited by Tamara C. Eskenazi and Kent H. Richards, 243–​265. Sheffield, UK: JSOT Press. Stolper, Matthew W. 1985. Entrepreneurs and Empire: The Murasu Archive, the Murasu Firm, and Persian Rule in Babylonia. UNHAII 54. Leiden, the Netherlands: Nederlands Historisch-​ Archaeologisch Instituut te Istanbul. Williamson, H. G. M. 1983. “The Composition of Ezra i–​vi.” JTS 34:1–​30. Williamson, H. G. M. 1985. Ezra, Nehemiah. WBC 16. Nashville: Thomas Nelson. Wright, Jacob L. 2004. Rebuilding Identity:  The Nehemiah-​Memoir and its Earliest Readers. BZAW 348. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter. Zizek, Slavoj. 1994. “The Spectre of Ideology.” In Mapping Ideology, edited by Slavoj Zizek, 1–​33. London: Verso.

Chapter 19

Chronicl e s a nd the Wri t i ng s John C. Endres

1–​2 Chronicles provides a narrative of the life and times of monarchic Israel, from Saul and David and Solomon up to the return from Exile in Babylon as a result of Cyrus’s edict (1 Chr 10–​2, Chr 36). The genealogical section in 1 Chr 1–​9 moves the vantage point back to the creation of the world, represented through a series of genealogies that contain many names of persons known otherwise from the Torah and the Former Prophets (especially the books of Joshua, Judges, and 1–​2 Sam). Although no stories are recounted in these chapters, one can make connections between these names and narratives that strive to cover the same time frame. For example, Abigail the Carmelite (1 Chr 3:1) relates to narratives in 1 Sam 25:2–​42; 27:3; 30:5.

Structure 1 Chronicles contains a lengthy section of genealogies (­chapters 1–​9) followed by an historical narrative that begins with a brief account of Saul (­chapter 10) and then continues with an extended “history” of David (­chapters  11–​29). 1 Chronicles 21:1–​29:19 contain David’s preparations for the temple expressed in many lists before Solomon is made king and David dies. 2 Chronicles recounts the history of Solomon (1–​9), mentions the revolt of Israel in the North (10:1–​11:4), then gives an account of the kings of Judah up to the Babylonian captivity (2 Chr 11:5–​36:21). It concludes with the proclamation of King Cyrus of Persia, which initiated the return of Jewish exiles from Babylon to Judah and Jerusalem (2 Chr 36:22–​23).

Chronicles and the Writings    291

Literary Forms and Rhetoric As mentioned, c­ hapters 1–​9 constitute a series of genealogies. The historical narratives in 1 Chr 10–​2 Chr 36 contain speeches, prayers, letters, texts (psalmic) for liturgical ceremonies, lists of personnel, and many additional small genre units (DeVries 1989: 426–​ 439). Much of this text appears to follow closely the contents of 2 Sam and 1–​2 Kgs. The parallels are so striking that scholarly attention to Chronicles in the last century has devoted an overwhelming amount of attention to the way that the Chronicler has “rewritten” the accounts in the Deuteronomistic History with significant deletions, additions, and reworkings. As a result, some have considered the book to resemble a Jewish Midrash, but this description is not completely helpful. This process of writing the text (rewritten Bible), although not precisely a literary form, is surely one of the most important factors for those who would interpret this book. From a different perspective, other recent studies of Chronicles focus attention on the literary forms of the text, occasionally applying criteria learned in the study of ancient rhetoric and applying that study in contemporary literary contexts. Among the first was Rodney Duke’s monograph, The Persuasive Appeal of the Chronicler (1990) utilizing Aristotelian rhetoric to analyze 1–​2 Chr. Another example would be Raymond Dillard’s commentary, with its literary outline of the Solomon narrative (2 Chr 1–​9). He views this literary unit synchronically, discerning inclusios and an emerging literary structure from the repetitions of words and concepts. He considers this structure to be central for the entire narrative: Solomon speaking to the people (2 Chr 5:1–​11) and speaking to God (2 Chr 5:12–​42) (Dillard 1987). These works eschew attention to the editing and redacting procedures that have dominated the field for decades, rather asking questions about the literary artistry in the work and the shaping of various parts of the text, the particularity of its various sections. The perspective in these studies may be described as synchronic, since they approach the text as a continuous composition of an enlightened author. This approach may prove appealing to those who bring aesthetic interests to the text. As another example of this synchronic literary approach on a micro level, I  have discerned a chiasm in the text leading to the Prayer of David (1 Chr 29:10–​20) in 1 Chr 29:9. In the NRSV translation the words fit well into the chiastic pattern. Then the people rejoiced A because these had given willingly,  B for with single mind  C they had offered freely to the LORD;


King David also rejoiced greatly. A’

292   John C. Endres The centerpiece of this chiasm, where the text focuses on great generosity, is the notion of a “single mind,” leb shalem, a whole heart, or total devotion (to God). This verse begins with “popular rejoicing over the generosity of those who act with ‘whole heart’ and then builds up to joyful rejoicing of the king” (Endres 2007: 19). The hoped-​for spiritual response, of king as well as the people, was a joyful and wholehearted generosity. The aesthetic appeal of this chiastic structure may also render the message more memorable. Kalimi devotes an entire chapter to Chiastic Structures in Chronicles (2005: 215–​231). Finally, although the Chronicler’s Hymn (1 Chr 16:8–​36) has attracted much attention in recent decades, I want to mention Throntveit’s study that specifically devotes attention to the psalmic and poetic structure, theology, and significance of this hymn, rather than issues of text, unity, and authorship (2003: 153–​170). This study concludes that a poetic analysis of the hymn in his day offers “a model of worship in which the proclamation leads to prayer and culminates in praise” (Throntveit 2003:  170). He concludes that paying attention to this psalm in its context can lead all to be thankful to God, even readers in our day.

Intention, Audience, and Date of Composition The plain sense of the text, and scholarly discussion of it, universally considers it a postexilic composition. Although the precise date of composition remains a topic of discussion (approximately from sixth to third century), a growing number of scholars posit authorship in the late Persian era, late fourth to early third century bce. Composed in Hebrew, it seems to address the population in the Persian province of Yehud, or Judaea (as it was known in the Hellenistic era).1 How to describe the intention of the text depends on the answer to a number of somewhat elusive questions. First, why does this writer produce a newer version of Israel’s history, even though most of the events and information it includes could be discovered in the Torah/​Pentateuch and the Former Prophets? There must be some reason to present all this previously known material anew, along with some new material. Typically this question leads to an examination of the ways in which the author both changes the central narrative of Israel’s history and also preserves its basic features. All the alterations and changes of the Chronicler presumably offer indications of what this text was intended to convey to its audience. This procedure looks at the text from a diachronic perspective, demonstrating the way in which the basic account has been edited, developed, and redacted through the centuries.2 Study and analysis of these changes may open windows to observe ideological and theological perspectives of the Chronicler whose way of redacting and editing the sources presumably offers insight into the core values and intentions that motivated the composition of the text.

Chronicles and the Writings    293 These books present the history of all the peoples from the time of Adam to the return of Judahites from the Babylonian Exile. The writers focus specifically on the people’s relationship with God throughout these events and years, particularly through the lens of leadership: of Judean kings (especially David and Solomon) and priestly groups (especially the Levites). The location of the most significant encounters between God and the people of Israel is clearly the temple of Solomon in Jerusalem. The Chronicler narrates the temple’s planning stage by David and the establishment of its personnel, and its construction by Solomon. Various events that occur in that locale and its purification and restoration at critical junctures are described, especially concerning sinful kings who have allowed vestiges of foreign worship to creep into the holy site. Clearly this is the site and the institution chosen by God for the people of Israel’s encounter with God. This history of Israel focuses far less on the theological problem of sinful kings and on the consequences of their actions (as, for example, in the Deuteronomistic History) than on the possibility of a future engagement of king and people with God, following sincere repentance and engagement with God.

Placement in the Canon When considering interaction with other books in the Scriptures, the issue of the position or placement of Chronicles within the collection must be considered. For instance, the book of Chronicles is located within the “historical books” in all Christian Bibles, whether they be Protestant, Catholic, or Orthodox. All of them seem to adopt the ordering found in the LXX, and then continued in the Vulgate. Favoring the canonical organization of the LXX and Vulgate involves a slight incongruity, since Reformation Christians favor the Masoretic text and generally resist the witness of the Greek and Latin texts for the texts used in their churches (Seitz 2015: 348). Thus, on the question of the organization and structure of the Old Testament, however, there seems to be gen­eral agreement among Christian bodies: both Kings and Chronicles are part of the “histories.” This fact raises the question of why two sets of books (Kings and Chronicles) presenting very similar material appear in the same section of the Old Testament, that is, the Histories. In Jewish Bibles, however, for example, JPS Hebrew-​English TANAKH, the books of Chronicles are found in the third major section, the Ketuvim/​the Writings. That is the reason for a discussion of Chronicles in this current volume. Already we must consider the fact that Chronicles appears in a different section of the canon than the books of Samuel and Kings, even though these two collections are closely related. Where in the Ketuvim was the book of Chronicles located? Most contemporary students of the Hebrew Scriptures, who use the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia (BHS), know it as the last book in the Masoretic text; and they often formulate ideological/​theological reflections based on that point. But evidence for this positioning is not universal. When one examines the witness and history of the Masoretic tradition, for

294   John C. Endres example, in important medieval codices (the Aleppo Codex and the Leningrad Codex 19A), Chronicles occurs first among the Writings (Knoppers 2003:  136). There is a second option based on talmudic rabbinic traditions, which places Ezra-​Nehemiah and Chronicles as the last two books of the Ketuvim. This order is found in the Babylonian Talmud (B. Bat. 14b), a text that predates either of the medieval codices just cited (Knoppers 2003: 1–​9, 75, 136). Thus, the notion that Chronicles comes at the end of the Ketuvim is not the only revered opinion in Jewish circles. Oddly, this fact is not always made clear in published versions of the Scriptures. It would seem useful to indicate the different possible positions of Chronicles in published versions. Although such questions may seem pedantic, these differing traditions give rise to speculation and a variety of theories about editorial intention within the collection called the Writings/​ Ketuvim. For example, when Chronicles comes first in this collection, it might signal the importance of the Davidic kingdom, which concludes the Former Prophets, that is, 2 Kgs. With that consideration, the placement of the figure of David at the beginning of the Ketuvim can be seen as quite significant. But if Chronicles comes last in the collection, what stands out? Is it the final two verses (36:23–​24) that recount the proclamation of Cyrus about the return to Jerusalem? Or might it be that the opening of 1 Chr (the genealogy in cc. 1–​9) should serve as a type of conclusion to Torah and Former Prophets, which began with highly significant genealogies in Gen 11? In that case one could argue that the “redactor” of the Ketuvim provided an argument for Jewish identity based on critically important genealogical sections. Alternatively, it is possible that these differing locations of Chronicles within the Ketuvim do not reflect editorial or authorial intentions, but rather suggest the way these differences were interpreted in later generations. Then these reflections would contribute to a Reception History of the book of Chronicles. This is the position recently argued by John Barton (2015: 314). Ultimately it is uncertain whether the ordering of the books in the Ketuvim, especially Chronicles, represents “authorial intention” or later reflections on the position of Chronicles within the Writings. A recent volume of essays The Shape of the Writings (2015), edited by J. Steinberg and T.  Stone, addresses the issues of structure and the Writings. In the introductory article, “The Historical Formation of the Writings in Antiquity,” Steinberg and Stone discuss issues of canon, canonical process, the witness of Ben Sira, the Dead Sea Scrolls, the New Testament, Josephus, and 4 Ezra (2015: 1–​58). They follow up this discussion with comments on the shape of the Writings. Two essays (Koorevaar 2015; Steinberg and Stone 2015) deal specifically with Chronicles as a “canon closer” (that it is the final book), though each adduces different evidence and views the matter from alternate perspectives. Steinberg and Stone’s chapter comes from their contemporary editorial work on the essays to bind them together as a collection. Koorevaar, in contrast, surveys a great number of earlier texts, especially the witness of several different ancient “canons” and he then reflects on a universal, world horizon (e.g., Adam to Cyrus). His view goes “beyond” the Jewish canon, so he speaks occasionally of Old Testament, which aligns with a broader canon, dealing with Christian as well as Jewish issues (2015: 207–​235). Steins, on

Chronicles and the Writings    295 the other hand, develops his thesis about the decisive role of Chronicles in the formation only of the third part of the Hebrew canon, the Ketuvim (2015: 237–​280). His argument covers a wide range of issues, from his rejection of the thesis of a Chronicler’s History (including Ezra and Nehemiah by the same author) to the importance of Torah as the epitome of God’s will for Israel, and also as a canonical entity. For Steins, Chronicles closes the Hebrew canon, and it recapitulates the whole history of Israel, from Adam to Cyrus.

The Chronicler’s “Experience of the Scriptures” The question of the Chronicler’s awareness of other books in the Ketuvim requires a bit of imagination and the suspension of demand for certain data, because it is simply not possible today to know the “experience” of the writer nor the exact extent or shape of these writings in his time. Still, taking a diachronic approach to this text for one part of this chapter may help one to form an idea of the sacred texts and traditions which the Chronicler might have known, read, and considered. Here the question concerns not only the sources available to and used by the historian but also the wider world of texts that formed the author’s religious and intellectual viewpoint. In other words, what could have been the operative collection of normative texts, that is, the collection of writings, that affected the writer’s thought world? Surely the writers who quote, cite, or allude to so many “biblical texts” as are found in Chronicles have grown intellectually and religiously through mature interaction with all these different texts, and presumably with their adherents or communities. Much of that interaction, of course, comes from texts in the Torah/​Pentateuch or Former Prophets. In this chapter, however, we will study the texts with which 1–​2 Chr interrelates that are found in the Ketuvim/​the Writings. Scholarly opinion considers most of the books in that collection to have been composed earlier than Chronicles (with the exception of Daniel), so it is possible to use a diachronic lens for the comparisons. Some texts could even be considered as source materials for 1–​2 Chr. In other cases, historical or theological/​ideological issues might form the point of comparison.

Intertextual Examples There are examples of some clear intertextual connections between Chronicles and other texts in the Writings, including Ezra-​Nehemiah, Daniel, Ruth, and Esther. These connections demonstrate multiple kinds of relationships, reflecting the richness of this part of the Hebrew canon. The book of Psalms may witness to the most substantial interaction with 1–​2 Chr, so we will turn to it in the final section, considering how and

296   John C. Endres if the Chronicler utilized some of these texts in his composition. But first we mention some observable connections between Chronicles and other books in the Writings.

The Book of Ezra-​Nehemiah The book of Ezra-​Nehemiah would be the most likely prospect for connections, since it has often been read as a read as a continuation of the “history” in 1–​2 Chr. The parallel expression in 2 Chr 36:22–​23 and Ezra 1:1–​4 surely invites such thought (Knoppers 2003: 75–​89). Not only that, there has long been a discussion about the “Chronicler” as a common author of all these books. This position encounters challenges. In particular, it appears that the two works view the issues of intermarriage (exogamy) and the position of the former northern Israelites quite differently. We agree with Knoppers that the cumulative weight of all the comparisons makes it unlikely that one person served as author of both of them (2003: 89).

The Book of Daniel The book of Daniel contains several clear connections with the book of Chronicles. Dan 1:1–​2 draws on 2 Chr 36:6–​7 when establishing the opening historical context for its events. The opening verse of Dan (1:1) corresponds much better to 2 Chr 36:6 than to 2 Kgs 24:1. Nebuchadnezzar King of Babylon came up [to Jerusalem] and Jehoiakim “became his servant for three years.” This note of Jehoiakim’s servitude is missing from both Chronicles and Daniel. In 2 Chr 36:6b–​7 and Dan 1:2, Jehoiakim was handed over to Nebuchadnezzar, who took him and some of the temple vessels to Babylon, the land of Shinar, and deposited them in a temple (of his god) in Babylon. Basically, Daniel agrees with Chronicles in terms of content and details, but not with 2 Kgs (Kalimi 1998: 9–​10). Moreover, the notion that Nebuchadnezzar had taken these vessels from the Jerusalem temple to Babylon is well reflected in a later story in Dan 5:1–​31, Belshazzar’s feast. In this story the king holds a great festival, and under the influence of wine, he commanded his servants to bring “the vessels of gold and silver that his father Nebuchadnezzar had taken out of the temple in Jerusalem” so that the king, his lords and wives and concubines might drink from them at this party (Dan 5:2–​3, 23). Clearly the author of the stories in Dan 1–​6 knew 2 Chr 36 in detail. In this case, the interaction between Chronicles and Daniel—​both located in the Writings—​suggests that the Chronicles text served as a source for the book of Daniel. Additionally, since the author of Daniel recounted some details found in Chronicles but not in 2 Kgs, one can judge that he considered the 2 Chr account to be more acceptable or useful than the one in 2 Kgs.

The Book of Ruth The book of Ruth presents some intriguing connections with Chronicles; we will comment on three issues. First, whether or not one text influenced the other, the viewpoint on relations with foreigners seems to favor a connection between Chronicles and Ruth rather than with Ezra-​Nehemiah, where exogamous marriages are strongly prohibited. In the book of Ruth, a Moabite widow named Ruth (who had been married to

Chronicles and the Writings    297 a son of Naomi from Bethlehem) returns with her mother-​in-​law to Bethlehem and eventually marries Boaz, a kinsman of Naomi’s husband. It is noteworthy that both Naomi and Boaz are Ephrathites from Bethlehem in Judah, so one can speak of Ruth as one of the “texts which discuss uncensored Judahite exogamy, particularly associated with Bethlehem” (Schipper 2016: 39). Chronicles also contains memories of Judahites who married into Moab: “Joash and Saraph married into Moab” and the Chronicler claims that “these records are ancient” (1 Chr 4:22). Although it may not be correct to interpret Ruth as ideologically contradicting texts which oppose “Judahite exogamy” (including Ezra 9:1–​2; and Neh 13:1–​2), both Ruth and Chronicles seem unconcerned by certain clear cases of it, especially when the Judahites are from Bethlehem (Schipper 2016: 39). Additionally, the child of Ruth and Boaz is named Obed, who fathers Jesse, who eventually fathers David. So part of David’s ancestry is Moabite. He also married outside of Israel (2 Sam 3:3/​1 Chr 3:1–​2), and some traditions indicate that his sister Abigail was married to an Ishmaelite (1 Chr 2:17), while it is well known that his son Solomon had an Egyptian wife (1 Kgs 3:1). These examples demonstrate a certain level of acceptance of exogamy in various texts, particularly in Chronicles, and they demonstrate the book of Ruth’s closer correspondence with the thought-​world of Chronicles than with that of Ezra-​Nehemiah. Sara Japhet also explores the issue of mixed marriage in a study of 1 Chr 2:34–​41, noting that the marriage of an Israelite woman with a non-​Israelite slave is another case where Chronicles and the book of Ruth are “at variance with the atmosphere prevalent in Deuteronomistic circles and Ezra-​Nehemiah” (2006: 244). Second, the story of Ruth has attracted numerous feminist interpretations (Lee 2012). They usually demonstrate a relationship of hesed between Naomi and Ruth, which extended later to Boaz; in this book the covenant quality hesed pushes outward, toward inclusivity, rather than to a restrictive stance, such as found in Ezra-​Nehemiah. Additionally, in this short book the prime actors of “covenant loyalty” are women, one of whom demonstrates this quality by her allegiance to Naomi, which she demonstrates before she pursues a new marital alignment for herself. Ruth’s marriage to Boaz also brings fulfillment, in the form of a child, to Naomi (raising up a child for her deceased son is not mentioned). These realities have attracted well-​deserved attention from feminist biblical interpreters (Petermann [Batmartha] 2012:  128–​139; Lee 2012:  142–​ 149). Although Chronicles presents relatively few developed narratives with female characters, the interests of feminist scholarship do extend to the book, especially to the genealogies (Japhet 2014: 33–​53; Lőwisch 2015). A third notable connection between these Chronicles and Ruth is derived from examination of genealogical matters. Clear interaction between the genealogical section in Ruth 4:18–​22 and various strands of information in the genealogies of Chronicles seems evident.3 In both texts one finds “the sequence Boaz/​Ruth-​Obed-​Jesse-​David.” Klein summarizes the information, “the genealogy from Perez to David has been borrowed from Ruth 4:18–​22.” David’s genealogy, therefore, which includes at least one Moabite woman named Ruth, also suggests sharing of viewpoints between these two books. As

298   John C. Endres expected, after mentioning the genealogical similarities, the person of David has a position of great significance in each of these books.

The Book of Esther The discussion of the book of Ruth as an intertextual partner with Chronicles also suggests attention to the book of Esther, another scroll in the Megillot section of the Ketuvim with a woman as a central character. The relationships between Chronicles and Esther, however, would likely manifest more negative points of comparison than positive ones. In Esther there is no trace of geographical attachment to Judah/​Israel, as in Ruth, since Esther is a story of Jews in living in the Diaspora. The focus on hope for the Jewish people is quite different in each book. Chronicles seems to focus hope for salvation on the Jerusalem temple and the worship and spirituality effected there, while Esther seems not to mention the deity (at least in the Hebrew version of the book). Divine interaction and intervention may be implied in a very subtle way (“from another quarter” Esth 4:14; quarter could be understood as divine providence [Moore 1971: xxxiii; White Crawford 2012: 203]). Careful attention to the later Greek Additions to Esther, with their enhanced narrative and prayer texts, certainly points to a trajectory which expected or desired the presence of God in this narrative. In Esther, moreover, exogamy seems not to be an explicit concern; on this point it would seem that the book of Esther aligns well with the books of Ruth and Chronicles. What they do share is concern for the people of Israel, the Jews. Of course, the characterization of an outstanding woman connects closely with the book of Ruth. With the book of Chronicles, however, the comparable data point more to the presence of women and their roles than on the characters of the women (as in Ruth).

The Book of Psalms The most obvious interaction of Chronicles with other books in the Ketuvim is with the book of Psalms. Even casual readers recognize some particular psalm texts in 1 Chr 16, 2 Chr 6, and David’s final prayer in 1 Chr 29. These connections between Chronicles and Psalms raise the specter of theological “conversation” or dispute between these books and their authors. We will point out three distinct moments in the reflection on Psalms and Chronicles. First, we consider Psalms and worship styles in the Second Temple era. The citation of psalm texts in worship and prayer sections of Chronicles broadens and deepens our view of worship in postexilic Judah, especially during the Persian era. John Kleinig’s study, The Lord’s Song (1993), demonstrated the vitality and the particularity of worship and cult in the vision of the Chronicler, who utilized texts from the book of Psalms to characterize the style of worship in the Temple. This presentation of temple worship by the Chronicler means that we enjoy deeper insight into the cult of postexilic Israel than we do regarding the rituals and life of pre-​exilic Israel, especially as presented in narratives about David and Solomon. Kleinig’s study (1993) demonstrated the central role of the Levites in the choral-​ worship of the Second Temple, a view quite different from earlier scholarship with

Chronicles and the Writings    299 its focus on the identity and social struggles between priests and Levites. He uncovered a distinct theology of worship seen through practices of worship described in Chronicles. This view of the postexilic religious life of Judah differed from that proposed by Wellhausen and the many who followed his lead. The knowledge and citation of the Psalms in Chronicles work against the notion that the Chronicler was simply concerned with dry adherence to the Law, a view that paralleled closely Wellhausen’s view of the Priestly source/​tradition in his Prolegomena (Endres 2007: 2–​3). Finally, these citations in Chronicles offer intertextual witness to the significance of later Psalm texts (books IV and V) in the literary development of the book of Psalms. They also imply the importance of these Psalm texts in the cult of Temple worship, that is, the worship of the postexilic Second Temple. One of the scholars who agrees with Kleinig on this main point is Gary Knoppers (2003, 2004). As he concludes a discussion of 1 Chr 16, he notes that ongoing offering of sacrifices (morning and evening) happened at the sanctuary in Gibeon, not in Jerusalem. Sacrifice, moreover, is not the “sole function of the officiants assigned to this cultic site” (Knoppers 2004: 660). In addition, there could be a number of sites for Yahwistic worship, “but only one legitimate place of (animal) sacrifice” (Knoppers 2003:  661). Finally, after commenting on the song itself (1 Chr 16:4–​43), the narrator indicates that although animal sacrifices can be offered only at Gibeon, other types of worship—​especially involving music and song—​can be held at various sites. The attention given to thanksgiving, song, and music demonstrates their great importance in the Chronicler’s view of worship of YHWH. Second, recent canonical approaches to the study of Psalms and comparing them to Chronicles raises some interesting theories. Consider Gerald Wilson’s canonical study of the editing processes observable in the book of Psalms (Tiňo 2010:108–​119; Wilson 1985). For Wilson, book IV, following on the disappointing lament of the (Davidic) king and its dire view of the fate of the monarchy in Ps 89, shifts suddenly and inexplicably to Ps 90, the only psalm with a superscription referring to Moses. A small collection of YHWH-​kingship psalms follow. It seems that David as an effective king has been abandoned—​as signaled in Ps 89—​and all hope finally lodges in the one true king of Israel, YHWH. Perhaps a new focus in Israel’s worship was represented in the historical development of the Psalter, which occurred during the postexilic era before the work of the Chronicler. This would emphasize the sovereignty of God (“YHWH as king!”) and the worship of the temple. Canonical approaches in recent Psalms scholarship may have given too much credence to the evidence yielded by the major Psalms scroll from Qumran Cave 11. The beautifully preserved scroll, 11QPsa, has perplexed scholars. They have wondered why it contains some texts not found in the MT Psalter, and also has a different ordering of the Psalms than the one known from traditional Jewish and Christian textual traditions (MT and LXX). Did this scroll reflect a type of worship manual or hymnbook of the community that preserved it, or could it represent an earlier stage of the collection, one still in process of development (Flint 2014)? Scrolls scholars have debated these questions, but there is a further issue pertinent to our present discussion: none of the biblical psalms in

300   John C. Endres the scroll comes from what we know as books I–​III. Does this “Qumran scroll” give evidence of a collection that was “less Davidic”? It would be fascinating to compare such a psalter tradition with the practices of the Chronicler, who utilized only psalms from the latter part of the Psalter. Attractive as such theories might seem, there are two cautions against such speculation. First, the non-​Davidic character of these Qumran psalms and of book IV and V in the Psalter seems challenged by the colophon in col. 26 of 11QPsa that exuberantly praises David as composer of psalms and prayers and other wisdom-​like texts. This notion seems difficult to connect with a seemingly anti-​David collection of psalms. Second, other collections of Psalms found at Qumran (especially manuscripts from Cave IV) contain psalms from other parts of the Psalter, as we now know it from the MT and LXX. So it seems preferable to consider the Cave 11 scroll as comprised mostly of the latter part of the Psalter, without claiming that it signals a general tendency or even the dominant view of the Jewish population at this site. With that scenario and assumption, a relationship between the Davidic Psalter and the book of Chronicles seems more understandable and defensible. Third, the Chronicler used Psalms verses when composing liturgical prayer texts in his narratives:  1 Chr  16:8–​34; 2 Chr 6:1—​7:10; 1 Chr 29:10–​20. He incorporates psalm texts in 1 Chr 16:8–​34, but he has not cited them exactly. How significant are his changes? Careful analysis of these changes may be traced to the sociohistorical situation faced by the people of Judah at the time of composition of Chronicles in the late Persian era. These subtle changes may have sent messages to Second Temple audiences. The Chronicler has rewritten psalms language in the Chronicler’s Hymn (also known as the Levites Hymn or the Song of Asaph; 1 Chr 16:8–​34). The “author” altered the text of the Psalms in several ways that changed the orientation of the speaker (Beentjes 2008:  141–​175). When addressing his audience, “O offspring of his servant Israel” (1 Chr 16:13 NRSV), the Chronicler changed the Psalm text, “O offspring of his servant Abraham” (Ps 105:6 NRSV). When the Chronicler addresses “Israel,” he focused on “the faithful community, Israel,” instead of genealogical descent from “two different ancestors,” as in the Psalms text (Klein 2006: 365). Note also that this is the only hint in Chronicles to “the election” of Israel (Knoppers 2003: 646). When the community, expecting to hear Abraham addressed, heard Israel instead, they may have heard themselves addressed in such a way as to invite some audience participation. The imperative addressing them as “offspring of Israel” offered a way of inviting the audience into prayer (Doan and Giles 2008: 36). Here the Chronicler cited a Psalm text, then altered it in such a way that listeners of his era could experience it as an important invitation to prayer. Another revealing change appears in v.  15:  “Remember his covenant forever” (1 Chr 16:15 NRSV) is an imperative addressed to the hearers, rather than a confident statement about YHWH as in Ps 105 (v. 8; “He is mindful of [remembers] his covenant forever”). Doan and Giles describe it as creating another opportunity for

Chronicles and the Writings    301 “audience participation.” For the audience of his era, endangered in some way, the Chronicler gives encouragement to recall God’s covenant with them forever. A few more changes by the Chronicler orient the psalm to his contemporary, Second Temple audience. Where the psalm illustrates the impact of the covenant by describing the people “When they were few in number, of little account, and strangers in it” (Ps 105:12), the Chronicler personalizes it: “When you were few in number” (1 Chr 16:19 TNK).4 This writer implicitly addresses the (Israelite) audience. The next Psalm adapted to the prayer by the Chronicler is Ps 96. In two places the Chronicler tones down the specificity of the Psalm text, presumably because the referents (“in his sanctuary” [Ps 96:6] becomes “in his place” v. 27; and “into his courts” [Ps 96:8] becomes “before him” in v. 29) in the psalm make more sense if the listeners are imagining the First Temple (of Solomon).5 In the third psalm quoted in this prayer, another change by the Chronicler has the effect of engaging the audience at hand rather than recounting what happened in the past. The end of the Asaph Psalm (1 Chr 16:34–​36) incorporates three verses from Ps 106 (1, 47, 48). The Psalm begins with words of gratitude (“O give thanks to the LORD for he is good;” Ps 106: 1) and so does the Chronicles text: “O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;” 1 Chr 16:34). In vv. 1 and 47 the psalmist addresses an audience with plural imperatives, which is normal for most hymns of praise in the Psalter. In the second-​ to-​last line, however, the Chronicler adds one significant verb to the psalm verse: “Say also: ‘Save us, O God of our salvation” (1 Chr 16:35). Doan and Giles comment that this appeal for deliverance seems quite out of place in the context of the prayer in Chronicles, that is, a ceremony for bringing the ark to its place in Jerusalem (by David). But the imperative, “say also” could engage the audience of the Chronicler’s day, when “surrounded by powerful and menacing nations that threatened to impose on their way of life, the Chronicler’s audience of postexilic Jerusalem would have found the plea for deliverance appropriate” (Doan and Giles 2008: 38).6 The Chronicler introduces another Psalm text into the liturgy for Solomon’s dedication of the temple (2 Chr 6:1–​7:10). This ceremony and the prayer of the king (2 Chr 6:14–​42) follow the text in 1 Kgs 8 quite closely, until the final three verses; there the Chronicler draws on Ps 132:1, 8–​10 for his conclusion. Psalm 132 may be described as a processional hymn, which glorifies David bringing the ark to Jerusalem and celebrates God’s choice of the ark, of David, and of Jerusalem. In the verses chosen for this prayer, the singers chant while the ark enters the temple: “Arise, O YHWH, to your resting place, you and the ark of your might” (Ps 132:8). Perhaps the most intriguing change occurs in the verse about God’s priests: the psalmist prays “that they may be clothed with righteousness, and your loyal faithful ones, let them sing out.” The Chronicler changes the text in minor ways: “Your priests, YHWH God, may they be clothed with salvation, and your loyal faithful ones, let them rejoice in goodness.” The shift to salvation in v. 41 suggests a desire, a yearning for rescue from some danger, perhaps from some kind of oppression by the nations during the Persian era. The hope that they rejoice in goodness may signal a yearning for cosmic and political peace and restitution.

302   John C. Endres A third type of interaction between Chronicles and Psalms shows up in David’s final prayer (1 Chr 29:10–​20). It seems that the piety contained in this prayer closely resembles that of “the pious Israelite in the author’s own day” (Braun 1986: 283). But the reason Braun adduces for this claim interests us more: in “a comparison of the vocabulary of this prayer with the Psalms . . . almost every item in the opening verses has numerous counterparts in the psalms, in the manner of Hannah’s song in 1 Samuel 2 or Mary’s song in Luke 1” (Braun 1986: 283–​284). David “blessed the LORD in the presence of all the assembly” (1 Chr 29:10a) by using the formula “Blessed are you, O LORD, the God of our ancestor Israel” (1 Chr 29:10b). It is rare to find this blessing-​God formula in the second person; the only other biblical example is Ps 119:12a (Knoppers 2003: 953). A third-​person expression, “Blessed be Yahweh,” is much more common and seems to be a developing liturgical practice. A form of this blessing closes four of the five books of the Psalter (Ps 41:13; 72:18–​19; 89:52; 106:48). Only the fifth book, which concludes with the Hallelu-​jah Ps 150, lacks this closing formula. Braun concludes his comments on these parallels with a list of terms which magnify God in this prayer (greatness, might, splendor, and majesty) and the term “in the heaven and on earth” with a listing of more than twenty-​five parallels from the book of Psalms. These connections between the Psalms and the Chronicler suffice to argue that these two “books” in the Ketuvim have significant interaction with each other. Often the Psalms provided vocabulary, patterns, and expressions for the Chronicler to describe and compose prayer and liturgical texts. This subtle rewriting manifests the Chronicler’s preferred way of bringing a postexilic liturgical and prayer piety into the presentation of Israel’s history. The Chronicler’s incorporation of these Psalm texts in narratives also gives hints about the liturgical life and usage of the Psalms in Israel’s postexilic life. They were closely intertwined.

Conclusion This study of 1–​2 Chr has focused on its context in the Ketuvim, third section of the Hebrew Bible (the Writings), asking how it relates to other books in that collection, particularly Daniel, Ruth, Esther, Ezra-​ Nehemiah, and Psalms. Some significant relationships were found by utilizing a diachronic perspective, considering issues of source and redaction: for example, the genealogy in Ruth, historical details in Daniel, historical materials shared with Ezra-​Nehemiah, psalms texts in liturgical sections of Chronicles. Since it has been studied quite thoroughly elsewhere, the most obvious way of studying the relationship with other texts—​by examination of parallels in Samuel, Kings, and the Torah, and how the Chronicler has created an ideology and theology by the process of redaction—​does not appear in this study. Synchronic perspectives prove to be rich and productive in the study of Chronicles, and this study has sampled only a few of them. Recent literary studies demonstrate

Chronicles and the Writings    303 the possible significance of aesthetics, rhetoric, and literary structures. Considering the place of Chronicles within the Ketuvim moves that question to a broader level. What does the ordering and the shape of the Ketuvim contribute to interpretation of Chronicles? And what can be gained from reading Chronicles in the context of other books in this collection? The views on intermarriage with other peoples (exogamy) stand out more sharply when compared with other books (e.g., Ruth and Esther, on one hand; Ezra-​Nehemiah, on the other). Considering a notion like hesed in different books proves instructive. In Ruth hesed describes a quality of relationship between persons, especially women characters, whereas Chronicles adverts to the notion in source texts, referring to a quality of God’s relationship with Israel. The centrality of worship in Jerusalem of the Second Temple era (viewed through the actions of Davidic kings) characterizes Chronicles. This also provides a point for comparison with the Deuteronomistic history in Samuel and Kings. The worship setting does not appear in Ruth, nor is it envisioned in the foreign setting of Esther. The inclusion of music and singers and liturgical worship sets the Chronicles’s presentation apart from the worship notions in Ezra-​Nehemiah, which was more focused on Torah reading and reception by the community. Genealogies in Chronicles remind the community of their past, memory of narratives designating relationships with God, and they also assist people to reflect on their identity. Elsewhere the genealogy may amplify the historical context and significance of a family, for example, in Ruth. When reading Psalms texts incorporated into Chronicles, it is no longer sufficient to mention “x is the source of y in the Chronicles text.” Some contemporary studies ask: “How does this retold text function in Chronicles? How is the audience invited to respond? Or to perform?” Scholarship on Chronicles from these canonical and synchronic perspectives has moved beyond its infancy, but it may be still in its adolescent stages. If this is true, then students and scholars of Chronicles have much to look forward to in our future, and some motivation to apply themselves to the task.

Notes 1. Mark A. Leuchter and David T. Lamb suggest that composition around 350 bce would make the Chronicler “a keen observer of Jewish national history and international politics,” while dating it a bit later “ (to 330–​300 bce, for example) makes the Chronicler an advocate for the endurance of Jewish social and religious institutions even with the new Greek regime under Alexander the Great and his successors” (2016: 478–​479). Cf. also the date suggested by Isaac Kalimi: “the presumable date of the book of Chronicles in the first quarter of the fourth century bce” (1998: 9, n. 10). Ralph Klein (2006: 16) suggests a date in the first half of the fourth century. 2. This approach has characterized most of my work on Chronicles (Endres 2012). This type of work is facilitated by use of a synoptic parallels book (e.g., Endres & Millar 1998). 3. A detailed comparison is presented in the Anchor Bible volume, Ruth (Campbell 1975: 171–​ 173), as well as various notes in the Hermeneia commentary, 1 Chronicles (Klein 2004: 88, 94 fn. 46 and 95, fn. 54, 96).

304   John C. Endres 4. The MT and “many Heb. MSS” of 1 Chr 16:12 read the second-​plural suffix, instead of third-​plural suffix in the Psalm text. In this case it seems that the Chronicler addresses his audience as former exiles and sojourners, remembering their situation. There is textual evidence affirming the second-​plural reading in this text (Knoppers 2003: 637; Klein 2006: 365–​366). 5. Doan and Giles comment that these changes were necessary “if the Chronicler’s audience was to feel part of the song and to have the ability to ‘enter’ the song as participants” (Doan and Giles 2008: 37). 6. Doan and Giles 2008:  38. For this remark they refer to John C.  Endres, “Theology of Worship in Chronicles” (Endres 2003: 171–​172).

Bibliography Barton, John. 2015. “Response.” In The Shape of the Writings, edited by J. Steinberg and T. J. Stone, with the assistance of Rachel Stone, 314. Siphrut:  Literature and Theology of the Hebrew Scriptures 16. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns. Beentjes, Pancratius C. 2008. “‘Give Thanks to YHWH: Truly He Is Good’: Psalms and Prayers in the Book of Chronicles.” In Tradition and Transformation in the Book of Chronicles, 141–​ 175. Leiden, the Netherlands: Brill. Braun, Roddy. 1986. 1 Chronicles. WBC 14. Waco, TX: Word Books. Campbell, Edward F. 1975. Ruth. A  New Translation with Introduction and Commentary. Anchor Bible 7. New York: Doubleday. Crawford, Sidnie White. 2012. “Esther.” In Women’s Bible Commentary: 3rd Edition, Revised and Updated; 20th Anniversary edition, edited by C. A. Newsom, Sharon H. Ringe, and Jacqueline E. Lapsley, 201–​207. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press. DeVries, Simon J. 1989. 1 and 2 Chronicles. FOTL XI. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans. Dillard, Raymond. 1987. 2 Chronicles. WBC 15. Waco, TX: Word Books. Doan, William, and Giles, Terry. 2008. “The Song of Asaph: A Performance-​Critical Analysis of 1 Chronicles 16:8–​36.” CBQ 70:29–​43. Duke, Rodney K. 1990. The Persuasive Appeal of the Chronicler: A Rhetorical Analysis. Sheffield, UK: Almond Press. Duke, Rodney K. 1999. “A Rhetorical Approach to Appreciating the Books of Chronicles.” In The Chronicler as Author: Studies in Text and Texture, edited by M. Patrick Graham and Steven L. McKenzie, 100–​135. JSOTSup 263. Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Academic Press. Endres, John C., Millar, William R., and Burns, John Barclay, eds. 1998. Chronicles and Its Synoptic Parallels in Samuel, Kings, and Related Biblical Texts. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press. Endres, John C. 2003. “Theology of Worship in Chronicles.” In The Chronicler as Theologian:  Essays in Honor of Ralph W.  Klein, edited by M. Patrick Graham, Steven L. McKenzie, and Gary N. Knoppers, 165–​188. JSOTSup 371. New  York:  T & T Clark International. Endres, John C. 2007. “The Spiritual Vision of Chronicles: Wholehearted, Joy-​filled Worship of God.” CBQ 69:1:1–​21. Endres, John C. 2012. First and Second Chronicles. New Collegeville Bible Commentary. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press. Flint, Peter W. 2014. “Unrolling the Dead Sea Psalms Scrolls.” In The Oxford Handbook of the Psalms, edited by William P. Brown, 229–​250. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Chronicles and the Writings    305 Japhet, Sara. 2006. “The Israelite Legal and Social Reality as Reflected in Chronicles: A Case Study.” In From the Rivers of Babylon to the Highlands of Judah:  Collected Studies on the Restoration Period, 233–​244. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns. Japhet, Sara. 2014. “Female Names and Gender Perspectives in Chronicles.” In The Writings and Later Wisdom Books, edited by Christl M. Maier and Nuria Calduch-​Benages, 33–​53. Atlanta: SBL Press. Kalimi, Isaac. 1998. “History of Interpretation: The Book of Chronicles in Jewish Tradition—​ From Daniel to Spinoza.” Revue Biblique 105:5–​41. Kalimi, Isaac. 2005. The Reshaping of Ancient Israelite History in Chronicles. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns. Klein, Ralph W. 2006. 1 Chronicles: A Commentary. Edited by Thomas Krüger. Hermeneia. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress. Kleinig, John W. 1993. The LORD’s Song: The Basis, Function and Significance of Choral Music in Chronicles. JSOTSup 156. Sheffield, UK: JSOT Press. Knoppers, Gary N. 2003. 1 Chronicles 1-​ 9. A  New Translation with Introduction and Commentary. Anchor Bible 12. New York.: Doubleday. Knoppers, Gary N. 2004. 1 Chronicles 10–​29. A  New Translation with Introduction and Commentary. Anchor Bible 12A. New York: Doubleday. Koorevaar, Hendrik J. 2015. “Chronicles as the Intended Conclusion to the Old Testament Canon.” In The Shape of the Writings, edited by J. Steinberg and T. J. Stone, with the assistance of Rachel Stone, 207–​235. Siphrut: Literature and Theology of the Hebrew Scriptures 16. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns. Lee, Eunny. 2012. “Ruth.” In The Women’s Bible Commentary: 3rd Edition, Revised and Updated, edited by Carol A. Newsom, Sharon H. Ringe, and Jacqueline E. Lapsley, 142–​149. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press. 20th Anniversary edition. Leuchter, Mark A., and Lamb, David T. 2016. The Historical Writings:  Introducing Israel’s Historical Literature. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press. Löwisch, Ingeborg. 2015. Trauma Begets Genealogy: Gender and Memory in Chronicles. The Bible in the Modern World 66. Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Phoenix Press. Moore, Carey A. 1971. Esther. Anchor Bible 7B. Garden City, NY: Doubleday. Petermann (Batmartha), Ina Johanne. 2012. “Ruth:  Border Crossings of Two Women in Patriarchal Society.” In Feminist Biblical Interpretation:  A Compendium of Critical Commentary on the Books of the Bible and Related Literature, edited by Luise Schottroff and Marie-​Theres Wacker, with the cooperation of Claudia Janssen and Beate Wehn; Martin Rumscheidt, editor of the American edition, 128–​139. Translated by Lisa E. Dahill. Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans. Schipper, Jeremy. 2016. Ruth:  A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary. The Anchor Yale Bible 7D. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. Seitz, Christopher R. 2015. “Response.” In The Shape of the Writings, edited by J. Steinberg and T. J. Stone, with the assistance of Rachel Stone, 329–​352. Siphrut: Literature and Theology of the Hebrew Scriptures 16. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns. Sparks, James. 2008. The Chronicler’s Genealogies: Towards an Understanding of 1 Chronicles 1–​9. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature. Steinberg, Julius, and Stone, Timothy J. eds., with the assistance of Rachel Stone. 2015. The Shape of the Writings. Siphrut: Literature and Theology of the Hebrew Scriptures 16. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns. Steinberg, Julius, and Stone, Timothy J. eds., with the assistance of Rachel Stone. 2015. “The Historical Formation of the Writings in Antiquity.” In The Shape of the Writings,

306   John C. Endres 1–​ 58. Siphrut:  Literature and Theology of the Hebrew Scriptures 16. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns. Steins, Georg. 2015. “Torah-​binding and Canon Closure:  On the Origin and Canonical Function of the Book of Chronicles.” In The Shape of the Writings, edited by J. Steinberg and T. J. Stone, with the assistance of Rachel Stone, 237–​280. Siphrut: Literature and Theology of the Hebrew Scriptures 16. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns. Stone, Timothy J. 2015. “The Search for Order: The Compilational History of Ruth.” In The Shape of the Writings, edited by J. Steinberg and T. J. Stone, with the assistance of Rachel Stone, 175–​186. Siphrut: Literature and Theology of the Hebrew Scriptures 16. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns. Throntveit, Mark A. 2003. “Songs in a New Key: The Psalmic Structure of the Chronicler’s Hymn (1 Chronicles 16:8–​36).” In A God So Near: Essays on Old Testament Theology in Honor of Patrick D. Miller, edited by Brent A. Strawn and Nancy R. Bowen, 153–​170. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns. Tiňo, Jozef. 2010. “’The Book of Chronicles’ King-​Temple Relations in the Context of the Shaping of the Psalter.” In King and Temple in Chronicles: A Contextual Approach to their Relations, 108–​119. FRLANT 234. Göttingen, Germany: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. Wilson, Gerald. 1985. The Editing of the Hebrew Psalter. SBLDS 76. Chico, CA: Scholars Press.

Chapter 20

Readi ng Daniel as Pa rt of the Writ i ng s Ralph W. Klein

To understand the book of Daniel, one must be aware of the historical and social context when it achieved its final form and the centuries-​long postexilic challenges Jews faced while living under a series of Babylonian, Persian, and Hellenistic empires. These challenges included the loss of independence and freedom and the threats to the faith of Judaism itself. The book of Daniel is one of the last books composed in the Old Testament canon. It is written in Hebrew and Aramaic and consists of court tales in c­ hapters 1–​6 and apocalyptic visions in ­chapters 7–​12. Readers of Daniel knew the history of living under foreign rulers and faced direct religious persecution under the Syrian king Antiochus IV (175–​164 bce). The book stresses the need for faithfulness and the hope for divine deliverance. While the character Daniel purportedly lived in the sixth century bce, the book presupposes the life of the Jews in the Persian and Hellenistic periods. There are twelve chapters in the canonical book of Daniel. In addition, there are additional Daniel stories preserved only in the Greek Septuagint, but presumably written originally in a Semitic language. They are considered Deutero-​Canonical in Roman Catholic tradition and as Apocryphal in Protestant and Jewish tradition. These works are as follows:  Susanna (located as the introduction to Daniel in the translation of Theodotion and as ­chapter 13 in the Old Greek), Bel and the Dragon (located as ­chapter 13 in Theodotion and as c­ hapter 14 in the Old Greek), and The Prayer of Azariah and the Song of the Three Jews (located after Dan 3:23 in the Old Greek and Theodotion). The Prayer of Azariah refers to an unjust king (v. 9) and to the absence of a place to make a sacrifice (v. 25), suggesting that it was composed during the persecutions of Antiochus IV Epiphanes (Collins 1993: 195–​207, 405–​439; Newsom 2014: 5–​6). This chapter will treat only the canonical book itself. The two Greek translations of the Daniel materials are discussed later under “Text and Canon.”

308   Ralph W. Klein

Hebrew and Aramaic Languages Daniel is preserved in two languages: Hebrew and Aramaic. The book begins in Hebrew but changes to Aramaic at Dan 2:4b. The Aramaic language continues through Dan 7:28, but ­chapters 8 through 12 revert to the Hebrew language. This does not conform to the literary structure of the book, which has court tales in ­chapters 1–​6 and apocalyptic visions in ­chapters 7–​12. There may once have been an Aramaic book of Daniel, consisting of c­ hapter 1 as introduction, c­ hapters 2–​6 as court tales, and concluding with ­chapter 7, the earliest of the apocalyptic visions. When further and later apocalyptic visions were added in c­ hapters 8–​12, they were written in Hebrew, perhaps reflecting the revival of Hebrew itself and a more nationalistic spirit as a result of the oppression of the Jews by Antiochus IV Epiphanes. Hebrew is also the language of the Pentateuch/​ the Torah, the heart of the biblical canon, and the vast majority of the rest of the canon, and Hebrew appears on many coins of the Hasmonean dynasty. After Dan 1:1–​2:4a was translated from its original Aramaic into Hebrew, the book as we now have it forms a linguistic inclusio, beginning and ending in Hebrew. The text of the book itself provides no interpretation of the switch from Hebrew to Aramaic at Dan 2:4b and back to Hebrew at Dan 8:1. The use of Hebrew at the beginning and the ending of the book may reflect the importance of the Jewish covenant with God in a time of crisis (Collins 1993: 12–​24 and Newsom 2014: 6–​12).

Text and Place in the Canon There are eight copies of Daniel among the Dead Sea Scrolls at Qumran, dating from the late second century bce to the first century ce. Daniel 11:32 and 12:10 are also cited in 4QFlorilegium, another of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Portions of all twelve chapters of the canonical book are attested at Qumran, and the division between Hebrew and Greek is the same as in the Masoretic Text. There are only a few minor textual variants. In medieval manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible, Daniel appears in the Writings after the Megilloth (Ruth, Song of Solomon, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, and Esther) and is followed only by Ezra-​Nehemiah and 1 and 2 Chr. In the ancient versions and in modern Christian editions, Daniel is placed among the prophets. The final version of Daniel emerged after the closing of the prophetic canon in Judaism about 200 bce. There are two Greek versions of Daniel: the Old Greek and a version called Theodotion. The Old Greek is the older of the two, but it virtually disappeared by the second half of the third century ce. The Theodotion translation was already known by the writers of the New Testament. In most chapters Theodotion represents an attempt to align the Old Greek more closely with the MT. In ­chapters 4–​6, however, the Old Greek represents a literary edition considerably different from MT, and Theodotion in these chapters is a fresh translation. Chapters 4–​6 may once have circulated originally as a separate booklet. The doxology

Reading Daniel as Part of the Writings    309 at Dan 3:31–​33 (in English versions 4:1–​3) forms an inclusio with the doxology at Dan 6:26–​27.

Dates of Composition While the characters Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego interact with figures of the sixth century bce in ­chapters 1–​6 (Nebuchadnezzar in c­ hapters 1–​4; Belshazzar in ­chapter 5; and the fictitious character Darius the Mede in c­ hapter 6), critical scholarship has concluded that the stories in the present form of Dan 1–​6 are much later than the sixth century but antedate the reign of Antiochus IV. This is in part due to the multitude of historical errors regarding the sixth century (many of these were noted already by Porphyry 234–​305 ce): the alleged attack on Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar in 604 bce and the exiling of Jehoiakim did not take place (the first capture of Jerusalem took place in 597 bce and Jehoiakim died and was not exiled); there is no evidence that Darius the Mede existed (Dan 6:1, 9:1, and 11:1); Belshazzar was not the son or even a descendant of Nebuchadnezzar, and he never served as king of Babylon; the sequence of kingdoms in which the Medes succeeded the Babylonians is wrong. On the other hand, Daniel shows quite accurate knowledge of the Hellenistic, Ptolemaic, and Seleucid periods, at least before the death of Antiochus IV. See also the metaphorical reference to intermarriage between the royal houses of the Ptolemies and Seleucids in Dan 2:43 (the feet and toes of the statue in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream—​iron mixed with clay, as the Ptolemies and the Seleucids mix with one another in marriage). The date of the apocalyptic visions in Dan 7–​12 presupposes the oppression of the Jews by Antiochus IV Epiphanes that began in 167 bce (Dan 7:8 and 8:9, the little horn; Dan 8:13 the transgression that makes desolate; Dan 9:26, the prince who is to come), but these visions are unaware of the death of Antiochus toward the end of 164 bce since his death is mistakenly located in Palestine rather than in Mesopotamia (Dan 11:40–​45; Seow 2003: 12–​14). There are updates to the visions of ­chapters 7–​12 in Dan 12:5–​12 that extend the time of the end beyond the three and one-​half years presupposed in Dan 7:25; 8:14 (2,350 evenings and mornings or 1,150 days); and 9:27 (a half week). The time is lengthened to 1,290 days in Dan 12:11 and to 1,335 days in Dan 12:12 (Collins 1993: 322, 336, 357, and 400).

Court Tales and a Lifestyle for the Diaspora Daniel 1–​6 consists of court tales, featuring Daniel himself in ­chapters 1, 2, 4–​6, and Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, who are given Babylonian names Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in ­chapter 3. These three appear in a minor role in ­chapters 1–​2, but they are major characters in ­chapter 3, where Daniel is not mentioned. The anonymous author of the book of Daniel refers to the character Daniel, also called by the Babylonian name Belteshazzar (Dan 1:7; 2:26; 4:5, 15, 16; 5:12), in the third person.

310   Ralph W. Klein As an introduction to the book, ­chapter 1 anticipates items in the following five chapters. Daniel had insight into all visions and dreams (v. 17), as ­chapters  2 and 4 attest. The Babylonian names given to Daniel and his friends—​Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (Dan 1:7)—​foreshadow the appearance of these names in c­ hapters 2–​4, 5, and 10. The temple vessels captured by Nebuchadnezzar in Dan 1:12 are used in the idolatrous drinking party hosted by Belshazzar in Dan 5:1–​3. The fact that Daniel’s service in Babylon continued until the first year of Cyrus (Dan 1:21) is echoed in Dan 6:28. There are stories of court conflict in Dan 3 and 6, where the Jewish characters face religious problems and are saved by miraculous divine intervention. In c­hapter  3, Nebuchadnezzar decrees that at the sound of a group of musical instruments everyone is to worship the golden statue that he has set up and that whoever disobeys this decree will be thrown into a fiery furnace. The Chaldeans reported to Nebuchadnezzar that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego did not serve his gods or worship the golden statue he had set up. The three gave a spirited defense of their actions in Dan 3:16–​19 that led the Babylonian king to heat the furnace seven times more that was customary and to throw them into this fiery furnace. When Nebuchadnezzar noticed the three walking about in the furnace, accompanied by a fourth figure with the appearance of a god, he brought them out of the fiery furnace, blessed their God who had sent his angel to deliver them, and decreed that anyone who utters blasphemy against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego should be executed and their houses ruined. He also promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Another conflict between courtiers takes place in ­chapter  6. This time the court rivals attempted to find corruption in Daniel, but without success. They persuaded King Darius the Mede to decree that anyone who prays to any god except the king in the next thirty days would be thrown into a den of lions. The king complied, and Daniel continued his practice of praying in front of an open window toward Jerusalem. His opponents reported him to the king, who reluctantly carried out his threat and threw Daniel into the lions’ den. After a restless night the king hurried to the lions’ den and discovered that Daniel had been saved by angelic intervention. Darius threw Daniel’s accusers and their families into the lions’ den, where they were immediately eaten up. In the stories of court contest in ­chapters 2, 4, and 5, the courtier Daniel succeeds where other advisors to the foreign king have failed. In ­chapter 2, Nebuchadnezzar had a disturbing dream and asked his advisors both to tell him what he had dreamed and what the dream meant. They failed miserably, but Daniel disclosed that Nebuchadnezzar had seen a statue with a head of gold, its chest and arms of silver, its middle and thighs of bronze, its legs of iron, and its feet partly of iron and partly ceramic. Nebuchadnezzar was the head of gold but would be followed by an inferior kingdom of the Medes. The Medes in turn would be followed by a third kingdom of the Persians who would rule the whole earth. The fourth kingdom represents the rule of Alexander, and his Ptolemaic and Seleucid successors. The mixed makeup of the feet of the statue—​iron and pottery—​ indicated at once its brittleness and was a metaphor that referred to the intermarriages within the Ptolemaic and Seleucid dynasties. The whole statue was destroyed by a stone that had not been cut out by human hands. This meant that the God of heaven would set up a kingdom of the Jews that would never be destroyed.

Reading Daniel as Part of the Writings    311 A second court contest, in Dan 4, again has Nebuchadnezzar having a disturbing dream that his attendants cannot interpret. Once again Daniel successfully interprets the king’s dream and indicates that Nebuchadnezzar is the giant tree that will be chopped down and that he will live with the wild animals until he recognizes that the Most High has sovereignty over the kingdom of mortals. Nebuchadnezzar was driven from human society and lived with the wild animals, eating grass like oxen. At the end of his ordeal, Nebuchadnezzar recognized the sovereignty of the Most High, was restored to power, and praised and honored the king of heaven. Many scholars believe that the story about Nebuchadnezzar in c­ hapter 4 originally referred to Nabonidus, the last king of the Neo-​Babylonian empire. Belshazzar who is mentioned in ­chapter 5 as the son of Nebuchadnezzar was actually the son of Nabonidus. Nabonidus absented himself from the capital of Babylon for ten years, perhaps to attend to trading issues at the desert city of Teima, but his absence did not allow the akitu festival to be held and there was great hostility toward him from the Babylonian priests. The strange behavior of Nebuchadnezzar in ­chapter 4 comports quite well with what we know about the historical Nabonidus. This theory that Nabonidus was once behind some of the Nebuchadnezzar traditions has been bolstered by the discovery of the fragmentary Prayer of Nabonidus at Qumran, in which Nabonidus recovers from a bad disease and receives instruction from an unnamed Jewish diviner. In ­chapter 5, Belshazzar held a feast in which his guests drank from the temple vessels that had been captured from Jerusalem and praised the idols. A hand wrote a mysterious writing on the wall, which the king’s attendants could not interpret. The queen mother informed Belshazzar that Daniel has the ability to interpret this text, which he promptly does, thus triumphing in a contest with the king’s attendants. In Daniel’s interpretation of the handwriting on the wall, God has numbered the days of Belshazzar’s kingdom and brought them to an end, Belshazzar has been weighed in the balances and found wanting, and his kingdom is to be divided and given to the Medes and the Persians. Belshazzar promoted Daniel, but he was killed that very night. Scholars have noted that Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, and Darius are not nearly as cruel as Antiochus IV and in most cases come to their senses by the end of each story. These court tales are therefore probably much older than the apocalypses (Collins 1993: 38; Newsom 2014: 12–​15). One common understanding of these tales is that they had their origin in the postexilic Diaspora and present a lifestyle for the Diaspora Jew that affirms that such a Jew can remain loyal to the heritage of the God of Israel and therefore can live a creative, rewarding, and fulfilled life within a foreign setting (Humphreys 1973: 223).

The Court Tales as Critique of Empire: A Postcolonial Perspective A quite different and more illuminating reading of these stories builds on postcolonial studies and underlines the sharp criticism of the kings in these court tales (Portier-​ Young 2011: 223–​279; Klein 2014: 216–​224). In Dan 1, we read that Nebuchadnezzar’s

312   Ralph W. Klein conquest of Jerusalem was done only with the permission of the God of Israel and not by his own authority (Dan 1:2). Daniel and his friends refused to accept the daily portion of food and wine offered by the king because they did not want to accept food provided by the empire. The oppressed status of Daniel and his three friends is indicated by their status as eunuchs since their supervisor is Ashpenaz, chief of the king’s eunuchs (Dan 1:3; NRSV the king’s palace master). In ­chapter 2, Nebuchadnezzar lost sleep because of the dream he had; his claim to power was unmasked by insomnia. Nebuchadnezzar made an absurd demand that his attendants tell him what he dreamed and threatened them with execution and destruction of their houses. Daniel told the king what he had dreamed and interpreted it: the Babylonian empire would not last forever, but it would be followed by three subsequent empires, each one of lesser value than its predecessor—​gold, silver, bronze, and iron. Daniel exposed the violent traits of Nebuchadnezzar by ordering the executioner Arioch not to carry out the king’s threat of capital punishment. All pretensions of power by Nebuchadnezzar collapse when he falls on his face and worships Daniel (Dan 2:46). The king’s favorable attitude toward Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego proves to be a mirage in the very next chapter. The statue Nebuchadnezzar made in Dan 3 was of ridiculous proportions—​ninety feet high and nine feet wide—​and was bound to be unstable. Nebuchadnezzar lost his temper when he heard that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego would not worship the golden statue. The three Jewish resisters answered the king defiantly and felt no need to make a defense before Nebuchadnezzar. Again, Nebuchadnezzar had trouble with anger management. His face was distorted and he ordered the fiery furnace to be heated seven times more than usual. When the three Jews were spared by divine intervention, the fickle king decreed that anyone who would utter blasphemy against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego would be executed. His threat to punish brutally any who did not worship the Jewish God says much about the character of emperors. The dream of Nebuchadnezzar in Dan 4 about a gigantic tree that would be cut down and about a person who would live with the animals of the field had a clear purpose: that the king learn that the God of Israel has sovereignty over human rule. Daniel urged the king to atone for his sins. If he would reverse his sinful imperial policies, he could escape divine punishment. A whole year later Nebuchadnezzar had not gotten the point, but paraded on the roof of his palace and said, “Is this not magnificent Babylon I have built by my mighty power?” In his praise for God after his recovery, Nebuchadnezzar did acknowledge God’s sovereignty and his freedom to do whatever he chooses. In other words, Nebuchadnezzar regained his kingdom when he admitted he himself had no kingdom. In his final doxology Nebuchadnezzar admitted that God is able to bring low those who walk in pride (Dan 4:37)—​like emperors, for example. When Belshazzar saw the handwriting on the wall in c­ hapter 5, his “limbs” gave way. This euphemism seems to mean that the king lost sphincter control of his bowels and suffered humiliation before the royal court (Wolters 1991). The queen mother had to remind Belshazzar about the abilities of Daniel to interpret dreams. Belshazzar had praised the gods of silver, gold, bronze, iron, wood, and stone, but the God in whose

Reading Daniel as Part of the Writings    313 power was his very breath he had not honored. That night Belshazzar was killed despite the queen mother’s wish earlier in the day that he live forever. In ­chapter 6, Darius was tricked into issuing a degree suggested by his attendants that was designed to do away with Daniel: for the next month anyone who would pray to anyone but the king would be thrown into a den of lions. When the attendants caught Daniel praying toward Jerusalem three times a day, they reminded the king of his decree, and the king in his moral weakness threw Daniel to the lions and said to Daniel, “May your God whom you faithfully serve deliver you!” In the morning, after a night of insomnia, the king called out anxiously: “O Daniel, has your God whom you faithfully serve been able to deliver you from the lions?” The king was very glad about the happy fate of Daniel in the morning, but he cruelly ordered that the conspirators, their wives, and children be thrown into the lions’ den. This chapter portrays a king who is easily fooled by his staff, and as a ruler who fails to act for the safety of Daniel even when he knew Daniel was in the right. The same mockery of royal power is found in the two main stories of the apocryphal Bel and the Dragon.

The Court Tales as Part of the Final Form of the Book of Daniel These two cultural interpretations of the court tales—​as lifestyle for the Diaspora and as critique of empire—​are quite common today, and both of them may be legitimate. On the one hand, the tales outline a faithful lifestyle for Jews living in the Diaspora. The political stance of the tales is loyalty to the empire and optimism about the possibility of living faithfully in the Diaspora. The tales follow the advice of Jer 29:7 to seek the peace of the city where God had sent the Jews into exile. The sovereignty of the Most High God is compatible with gentile rule for the time being. The other interpretation of the tales draws on postcolonial studies. In this reading, rulers like Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, and Darius the Mede are megalomaniacs and treat their subjects brutally. Nebuchadnezzar demands that his staff not only interpret his dream but tell him what he dreamed (­chapter 2). Nebuchadnezzar builds a statue of absurd proportions and threatens death in a fiery furnace to those who refuse to worship it. At the end of c­ hapters 1–​4, the Babylonian king promotes the Jews and praises their God, but at the beginning of the next chapter the next fickle king falls back into his hostile ways toward the Jews. But there is a third way of reading these tales as well. Whatever their precanonical shape and meaning, they are now an intricate part of the final form of the book. Daniel, the wise interpreter of dreams in c­ hapters 2 and 4, who can also read the mysterious handwriting on the wall in c­ hapter 5, is himself the recipient of visions in c­ hapters 7–​12 and speaks there in the first person. Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego risked martyrdom and were not willing to deny their faith in their God. That is, the earlier chapters enhance the legitimacy of Daniel and his Jewish friends, and they make Daniel

314   Ralph W. Klein himself the credible recipient of dreams and visions. The postcolonial emphases in the somewhat benign world of Dan 1–​6 turn out to be trumped by the wicked empire of Antiochus IV. The happy endings that come so easily in Dan 1–​6 are delayed until the eschaton in Dan 7–​12 and may not have seemed sure to the original readers or hearers of Daniel.

The Apocalypses in Daniel 7–​12 By common agreement, the visions of Dan 7–​12 are apocalyptic. This type of literature has been defined as follows: An apocalypse is “a genre of revelatory literature with a narrative framework, in which a revelation is mediated by an otherworldly being to a human recipient, disclosing a transcendent reality which is both temporal, insofar as it envisages eschatological salvation, and spatial insofar as it involves another supernatural world.” The genre normally serves “to interpret present, earthly circumstances in light of the supernatural world and of the future, and to influence both the understanding and the behavior of the audience by means of divine authority” (Collins 1993: 54). These apocalypses describe the threats to the Jewish community in metaphors (wild beasts of various kinds) that let the reader recognize foreign powers like Babylon, Persia, Media, Greece, and the Hellenistic rivals in Egypt and Syria that fought to gain control over the land of Israel. The worst part of the foreign threat is linked to Antiochus IV, whose words and actions are mocked. Much of this apocalyptic description is prophecy after the fact, attributed to Daniel and angelic interpreters, especially in ­chapters  7–​ 11, but the atrocities perpetrated by Antiochus IV were current events to the original readers. Faithfulness to some second-​century readers meant joining the military resistance of the Maccabees. The book of Daniel does not explicitly criticize such activities, but its apocalyptic genre underlines the depth of the Syrian threat and concedes that only divine intervention can effectively deal with that threat. Daniel had prophesied about the fall of the kingdoms of Babylon, Media, and Persia and those events had occurred. His vision of the last days is beginning to come true with the appearance of the little horn. Chapters 7–​12 extend the vision of ­chapter 2 into the Maccabean period and encourage the faithful of Israel. Even when the demise of Antiochus took place in different ways than those outlined in Daniel, later tradents reinterpreted the fourth kingdom as referring to Rome rather than Syria (2 Esds 12; Matt 24 and Mark 13). The book of Daniel challenges the faithful to be ready for the intervention of God in human history (Childs 1979: 608–​623). Portier-​Young (2011: 219) links apocalyptic more closely to resistance: “The writer(s) of Daniel, a book that dates to the early years of the persecution . . . advocated a stance of faithful waiting for God to act. They believed that angels would wage a decisive war on behalf of God’s holy people; there would be no need to take up arms. Emphasizing nonviolent resistance and covenant obedience, they envisage a role for the wise as teachers who would suffer martyrdom to preserve the covenant.”

Reading Daniel as Part of the Writings    315 The four apocalypses in Dan 7, 8, 9, and 10–​12 are dated to the first and third years of Belshazzar (cf. Dan 5), the first year of the fictitious Darius the Mede (cf. Dan 6), and the first year of Cyrus the Persian, respectively, all dating to the sixth century bce. All four apocalypses, in fact, presuppose the actions of the Seleucid king Antiochus IV (175–​164 bce), but they do not yet know of his death in Elam in late 164 (see the discussion of Dan 11:40–​45 later).

The Apocalypse in Daniel 7 In the vision of Dan 7, Daniel sees four fearsome beasts that came out of the sea: a lion with eagles’ wings; a second beast that looked like a bear and who was told to devour many bodies; a third beast that was like a leopard, with four wings and four heads; and a fourth unspecified beast that had great iron teeth and ten horns. These kingdoms are to be identified with the dominions of Babylon, Persia, Media, and Greece, the same four-​ nation sequence that is found in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in Dan 2, with four beasts replacing the four metals. The successor to this sequence of kingdoms, as in Dan 2, will be the Jewish people themselves. From the ten horns emerged a little horn that had eyes and a mouth that spoke arrogantly. The heavenly court room was presided over by the “Ancient of Days,” the God of Israel, whose fiery throne resembles elements from the call vision of the prophet in Ezek 1. The Ancient of Days had a million or even a hundred million attendants (v. 10). Because of the arrogant words the little horn was speaking, the fourth beast was put to death and burned with fire. The other beasts lost their dominion, but their lives were prolonged for an unspecified time. Then one like a human being (literally, the Son of Man) came with the clouds of heaven and was presented before the Ancient of Days and was given dominion and kingship so that all persons should serve his everlasting kingship. Daniel was troubled by what he saw and asked one of the heavenly attendants for further information. This attendant informed Daniel that the four beasts were four kings or kingdoms and that eventually the holy ones of the Most High would receive the kingdom. Daniel was also told that the little horn was speaking words against the Most High, was wearing out the Holy Ones, and was attempting to change the sacred seasons and the law. When the court sat in judgment, the dominion of the little horn was taken away and dominion was given to the people of the Holy Ones of the Most High. Modern interpreters identify the Ancient of Days with the God of Israel, the Son of Man possibly with the archangel Michael (cf. Dan 12:1), and the Holy Ones as the angelic protectors of Israel. The heavenly execution of the fourth beast, who represents the kingdom of Antiochus IV, is followed by its dominion being given to Michael and the Holy Ones, and ultimately to Israel (the people of the Holy Ones, v. 27), whom the Holy Ones represent in the heavenly court scene. The little horn’s attempt to change sacred seasons and the law may refer to attempts by Antiochus IV to cancel observance of Sabbaths and other feasts, his changing from a solar to a lunar calendar, or his intent to change the time set for his exercise of sovereignty (Newsom 2014: 241). Daniel’s message

316   Ralph W. Klein to his second-​century contemporaries is the assurance that the power of Antiochus has already been taken away de jure and given to the angelic representatives of Israel and to Israel itself. It only remains to be seen when that de jure reality will become de facto on earth. This vision deals with Antiochus before he had desecrated the temple in Jerusalem and is the oldest of the apocalypses. Newsom (2014: 216–​217), like several earlier scholars, makes a diachronic division within the chapter, assigning all the references to the little horn to a later hand (7:8, 11a, 20–​21, 24–​25). If she and the other scholars are correct, this chapter antedates the rise of Antiochus IV and could be dated earlier in the Hellenistic period when there was opposition to the Hellenistic kingdoms even before persecutions began.

The Apocalypse in Daniel 8 In Dan 8, the language changes from Aramaic back to Hebrew, perhaps as an act of defiance and nationalism, and, as we noted earlier, this leads to a linguistic inclusio, with the book beginning and ending in Hebrew. Daniel in a vision sees a ram with two horns, representing the Medes and the Persians. The ram charges in all directions, but it is soon confronted by a male goat which comes from the west at the speed of lightning. The goat has a horn, a sign of warfare, between its eyes. The goat broke the two horns of the ram, but at the height of its power the goat’s horn was also broken, representing the death of Alexander the Great, and was replaced by four prominent horns, the successors of Alexander the Great. Out of these horns came a little horn that grew great to the south, east, and the beautiful land (Judea, v. 9; cf. Dan 11:16, 41). The little horn threw down some of the host and the stars (the angels). It acted arrogantly toward the prince of the host (God), took away the burnt offering, and overthrew the place of God’s sanctuary. The Holy Ones talk to each other and ask how long the regular burnt offering and the “transgression that makes desolate” will continue. The answer: 2,300 evenings and mornings or 1,150 days. Gabriel explains to Daniel that the ram with two horns is Media and Persia while the male goat is the king of Greece. The great horn between the goat’s eyes is the first Greek king (Dan 8:21), whom we know as Alexander the Great. When this first Greek king is broken, he is replaced by four other horns (Dan 8:22), that is, by the diadochoi, Alexander’s immediate four successors, who do not match Alexander in strength. When the transgressions of the diadochoi have reached full measure, a king of bold countenance arises, whom we identify as Antiochus IV. Antiochus was great in his own eyes. This horn rises up against the prince of princes (God), but he will be broken but not by human hands (a clear but indirect reference to divine intervention). Daniel is told to seal up this vision for it refers to something many days in the future, that is, in the second century bce. Modern scholars note that this vision is later than the first one, in c­ hapter 7, since it is dated to the third year (Dan 8:1) rather than the first year of Belshazzar (Dan 7:1)

Reading Daniel as Part of the Writings    317 and because it makes reference to the violation of the temple in Dan 8:13 that had not yet taken place in ­chapter 7. This vision continues the image of Antiochus IV as a little horn from the final form of ­chapter 7 and reports his taking away the burnt offering and overthrowing the place of the Jerusalem sanctuary, actions taken against the cult that had not occurred when ­chapter 7 was written. The transgression that makes desolate in v. 13 is the same as the abomination that desolates in Dan 9:27; 11:31, and 12:11. Josephus (Antiquities 12.153; cf. 2 Macc 6:5) reports that an alien altar was built on top of the burnt offering altar by Antiochus IV, and other sources identify this change as the introduction of Zeus Olympios in the Jerusalem temple, probably a reference to the Syrian deity Baal Shamem. According to this apocalypse, the temple would be made right after a set time of 1,150 days. Other texts (Dan 7:24 and 12:7) expect a change after three and one-​half years or 1,260 days. According to 1 Macc, the desecration of the sanctuary in fact lasted for about three years. The time of the end, v. 17, refers to the end of the persecutions. After his first campaign in Egypt in 169 bce, Antiochus systematically plundered the Jerusalem temple. After his second Egyptian campaign in 168, when his advance in Egypt was stopped by the Kittim/​Romans, a rumor arose that Antiochus had died, and the former high priest Jason tried to use this opportunity to oust his successor as high priest, Menelaus, though this attack did not succeed. It is not clear what Antiochus himself did to Jerusalem after this campaign, but he did send Apollonius, who killed and enslaved many people. Apollonius also established a permanent military colony in Jerusalem known as the akra (Portier-​Young 2011: 158–​168). The apocalypse in ­chapter 8 does not know of the recapture of Jerusalem and rededication of the temple in 164 bce. Antiochus, who grew great to the host of heaven (Dan 8:10), is portrayed as a rebellious subordinate deity much like the rebellious divine figure in Isa 14:12–​15.

Daniel’s Penitential Prayer and the Apocalypse in Daniel 9 In the third apocalypse, Dan 9, Daniel puzzles over a passage in Jer 25:11, 12; 29:10 that seventy years must be fulfilled for the devastation of Jerusalem. According to Jer 29:10, after seventy years God would bring Israel back to the land. More than four centuries later that promise seemed unfulfilled to the writer of this chapter. In vv. 4–​19, Daniel confesses that the troubles Israel is experiencing are due to sin, his own and the sin of Israel (v. 20). Daniel notes that Israel has not listened to God’s servants, the prophets. The calamity has come upon Israel according to what is written in the law of Moses. God’s judgment therefore is part of his righteousness while shame belongs to Israel. Daniel prays that God’s anger and wrath turn away from Jerusalem because of its sins and the iniquities of its ancestors. Daniel prays not on the basis of human righteousness but on the basis of God’s great mercies. Many scholars believe that the

318   Ralph W. Klein author or a secondary hand has incorporated a prayer from another context because of the excellent Hebrew in the prayer while the Hebrew language in the rest of the chapter leaves much to be desired (Collins 1993: 347; Werline 1998: 67–​82). At the end of Daniel’s prayer, Gabriel, whom Daniel had seen before in a vision (Dan 8:15–​18), came to give Daniel wisdom and understanding. Already when Daniel had just begun to pray, a word had gone forth from God. Hence, God’s response was to the act of praying and not to the specific content of the prayer itself. The punishment of the desolator (Antiochus IV) is decreed (v. 27) and is not affected by human actions. God is in control of history. Gabriel interprets Jeremiah’s seventy years as seventy weeks of years. From the time of the promise in Jeremiah to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the time of an anointed prince (Zerubbabel, the Davidide governor, or Joshua the first high priest after the exile [Ezra 2:2; 3:2; Hag 1:1–​14; Zech 6:9–​14]) would be seven weeks of years or forty-​nine years, that is, one jubilee. Thereafter Jerusalem would be built again in a troubled time for sixty-​two weeks of years or 434 years. At least some of the troubles in this time are the battles between the Seleucids and the Ptolemies outlined in Dan 11. These sixty-​two weeks roughly bridge the gap between the early postexile and the time of the author of Dan 9, but the numbers sixty-​two and four hundred thirty-​four are symbolic, not exact. Verse 26 refers to the cutting off of an anointed prince, a reference to the assassination of the high priest Onias III in 171 bce. The troops of the prince who is to come (Antiochus IV) will destroy the city of Jerusalem and the sanctuary. This probably refers to the attack on Jerusalem by Apollonius the Mysarch whom Antiochus sent against Jerusalem (1 Macc 1:33–​40; 2 Macc 5:22–​26). The final week refers to the time of Antiochus IV, who made a strong covenant with Hellenizing Jews. For half the week, roughly 167–​164, Antiochus will make sacrifice and offering cease and he will install the “abomination that desolates” in the temple. Then will come the end that is decreed for this desolator.

The Apocalypse in Daniel 10:1–​12:4 The fourth apocalypse, Dan 10:1–​12:4, is by far the longest one. Daniel had been mourning and fasting for three weeks, and he alone saw the vision of a man clothed in linen. Daniel fell into a trance, with his face to the ground. An angel, who turns out to be Gabriel, touched Daniel and called him “greatly beloved” (Dan 10:11, 19) Gabriel explained that he had been delayed because of his struggle for three weeks with the prince of the kingdom of Persia, that is, the angel in charge of that country. Gabriel has now come to help Daniel understand what is to happen to his people at the end of days. But first Gabriel must return to oppose the prince of Persia, who will be followed by the angelic prince of Greece. Gabriel is joined in opposition to these angelic princes by Michael, who is the angelic prince of Israel. In the first year of Darius the Mede, Gabriel had stood up to support and strengthen this Median king. Daniel is now told by Gabriel an extensive history of the Hellenistic

Reading Daniel as Part of the Writings    319 kingdoms in Dan 11:2–​36, predictions of the future after the fact (Neujahr 2012: 131–​134). Since God determined these events and revealed them to Daniel, supposedly in the sixth century, before they happened, the audience of this chapter might expect that the final events described in Dan 11:40–​12:4 will also occur as described. Gabriel announces that four more kings will rule over the Persian Empire, with the fourth attacking Greece (Dan 11:2). Verses 3–​4 describe metaphorically the rise of Alexander, his unexpected death when his power was still on the rise, and the division of his empire into four parts, whose leaders are known elsewhere as the diadochoi. In vv. 5–​35, the battles between the Egyptian Ptolemies and the Syrian Seleucids in the third and second centuries are described so explicitly that almost every Egyptian and Syrian king can be identified (see the commentaries). According to Dan 11:13–​16, Antiochus III defeated Ptolemy V at the battle of Panion and brought Judea under Syrian control after a century of Ptolemaic rule. Gabriel refers to Antiochus IV as a contemptible person, who replaced his brother Seleucus IV as king by intrigue. From other sources we know that Antiochus IV married Laodice, his brother’s widow and his own sister, and killed another Antiochus, who was the son of Seleucus IV and therefore his own nephew (Dan 11:21). The prince of the covenant who was swept away is the high priest Onias III, who was killed when a rival high priest Menelaus persuaded a Seleucid official Andronicus to murder Onias (v. 22; see also Dan 9:26 and 2 Macc 4:33–​34). Antiochus IV made an alliance with radical Hellenizers among the Jews in Jerusalem (Dan 11:23). Verses 25–​28 describe the successful invasion of Egypt by Antiochus IV in 167 bce. In vv. 29–​35, Gabriel describes to Daniel the second campaign by Antiochus IV in Egypt. This time the Romans (the Kittim) defeated Antiochus IV. Antiochus IV paid attention to those who forsook the holy covenant, presumably referring to the high priest Menelaus and his supporters. Antiochus IV abolished the regular burnt offering and set up the abomination that makes desolate (see the discussion of Dan 8:13 earlier). It is not clear that Antiochus IV himself came to Jerusalem at this time, but his hostile intentions were carried out by Apollonius (1 Macc 1:30–​32; 2 Macc 5:25–​26; see the references to Apollonius in the discussion of c­ hapter 8 earlier). The verses from Daniel 11:29–​35 also describe the division among the Jews in Jerusalem, namely, those who violate the covenant and those who are loyal to their God. The wise (maskilim) among the people, Daniel’s support group, cause many to understand the divinely ordained pattern in the history recounted in this chapter. Some of the wise die in the struggle. The “little help” they receive (Dan 11:34) is probably not a dismissive comment about the Maccabees, but rather a reference to the inability of the wise to develop a strong following. Verses 36–​39 are a direct criticism of the behavior of Antiochus IV. He considered himself greater than any god, and he spoke horrendous things against the God of Israel. He ignored the gods of his ancestors and paid no attention to Tammuz, the god beloved by women. Those who acknowledged Antiochus obtained great financial advantages. With vv. 40–​45 Gabriel describes the eschatological fate of Antiochus IV, which is decreed by the same God who caused the events between the Ptolemies and Seleucids described in vv. 2–​36. Antiochus is predicted to pitch his tent between the Mediterranean

320   Ralph W. Klein Sea and the beautiful holy mountain of Jerusalem, where he will come to an end with no one to help him. The author of this chapter does not know about the final campaign of Antiochus IV in the east in 165, the rededication of the temple in 164, or the death of Antiochus in Elam and not in Judea. These factors indicate that vv. 40–​45 were written before these events. They also present a theological problem since the blasphemous behavior of Antiochus IV did not bring about the end of history. This errant historical prediction is followed in Dan 12:1–​4 by a description of eschatological deliverance. Michael has in the meantime defeated the angelic prince of Greece. Now the text describes how those who have died because of the Antiochan persecution will be vindicated postmortem by resurrection from the dead. Another unspecified but evil group, apparently the one persecuting the Jews, will rise to shame and everlasting contempt. Daniel 12 is the first clear affirmation of resurrection from the dead in the Hebrew Bible (Nickelsburg 1972: 11–​27). The groups mentioned in v. 3 are in poetic parallelism: those who are wise and those who lead many to righteousness are one and the same. Daniel, who supposedly lived in the sixth century, is urged to keep these words secret until the time of the end. The author of Dan 10:1–​12:4 thought that the time of the end had come. Daniel 12:4 was originally followed by Dan 12:13, which assures Daniel he too will rise for his reward at the end of days.

Daniel 12:5–​12 These verses are considered an epilogue by a vast majority of scholars and are attempts to explain the fact that the eschatological events described in Dan 11:40–​12:4 did not occur on the expected schedule (Collins 1993: 371; Newsom 2014: 365). One of the angelic intermediaries asked the man clothed in linen, “How long shall it be until the end of these wonders?” This person (Gabriel?) responds: “It would be for a time, two times, and half a time” and then all these things would be accomplished. This is usually explained as three and one-​half years (cf. Dan 7:25). In Dan 8:14 the desolation is to last 2,300 mornings and evenings, that is, 1,150 days, or just 110 days short of three and one-​half years. In Dan 9:27 the desolation lasts half a week. Forty–​two months make up three and one-​half years, or 1,260 days. That time is lengthened in Dan 12:11 to 1,290 or forty-​three months. Verse 13 lengthens that time to 1,335 days or forty-​three and one-​half months. The first extension is by one time, and the second by two and one-​half times, echoing “a time, two times, and half a time,” from v. 7.

Conclusion The persecution of the Jews by Antiochus IV led to three main reactions among the Jews. The first was by the Hellenistic collaborators who became unfaithful to their

Reading Daniel as Part of the Writings    321 Jewish heritage in order to get personal gain. The second was the successful military option led by the Maccabees that held off the Seleucids and resulted in the restoration and rededication of the temple in December 164 bce. The third response is presented by the canonical form of the book of Daniel. It offered strong resistance to Antiochus IV and searing critique of all imperial power in Dan 1–​6. The apocalypses in Dan 7–​12 offered commentary on the activities of Antiochus IV and expected divine intervention that would destroy Antiochus IV himself and provide postmortem vindication for the wise and postmortem shame and contempt for those who were not faithful. This response proposed by the book of Daniel is sometimes falsely labeled as quietism. Believers in every age face similar crises. If they successfully resist collaboration with the oppressor, they must choose between violent and nonviolent resistance. The wise, according to Daniel, ought to know how to choose between the two.

Bibliography Commentaries Collins, John J. 1993. Daniel. Hermeneia. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press. Goldingay, John E. 1989. Daniel. Word Biblical Commentary 30. Dallas, TX: Word Books. Montgomery, James A. 1927. A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Book of Daniel. ICC. Edinburgh: Clark. Newsom, Carol A., with Brennan W. Breed. 2014. Daniel. The Old Testament Library. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox. Pace, Sharon. 2008. Daniel. Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary. Macon, GA: Smyth & Helwys. Seow, Choon-​ Leong. 2003. Daniel. Westminster Bible Commentary. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox. Smith-​ Christopher, Daniel L. 1996. “Daniel.” In New Interpreter’s Bible, vol. 7, 19–​ 152. Nashville: Abingdon.

Monographs and Articles Related to Daniel Childs, Brevard S. 1979. Introduction to the Old Testament as Scripture. Philadelphia: Fortress Press. Collins, John J. and Peter W. Flint, eds. 2