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Moreover, the whole of the Hebrew Bible excepting Daniel matches the twenty-three letters of the alphabet, as in an acrostic poem. This parallel strikes me as forced and uncon- vincing. Freedman's argument about the substantive intention of the Hebrew Bible is important and mainstream. It is that the whole of the literature concerns the sixth-century crisis and the issues of survival and revival. His way of arguing, however, proceeds by methods that are not persuasive.

He proposes patterns in the literature that are often forced and imprecise. His penchant for word counts yields little that is exact enough to have force. He himself acknowledges that he must be allowed a "modicum of ingenuity and adjustment" p. At the most, his specific proposals about the shape of the litera- ture are heuristic but offer little that scholarship is likely to follow. Beyond that, the book is a delight for watching this learned, inventive, uninhibited mind at work in fanciful and suggestive ways.

When finished, we know more than we did, which no doubt is Freedman's intention. New York: Oxford University Press, There has been a growing tendency in biblical scholarship, generally praisewor- thy, to produce scholarly studies that seek to utilize the narrative resources of the Bible in addressing complex moral and theological issues of ongoing significance.

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This book, an exemplar of this movement, explores the various ideas of war es- poused by the Hebrew Bible with an eye toward applying these ideas to a modern discussion of war and violence. Susan Niditch organizes her discussion by placing the vast array of biblical war narratives into a typology of different ways in which the Hebrew Bible attempts to understand and rationalize violence against the enemy at hand.

The first half of the book explores certain nuances in the ban tradition, the tradition that advo- cates the total annihilation of the enemy. Here Niditch does a good job of demon- strating that although the results might be the same, the rationale behind a partic- ular type of warfare can vary greatly. A narrative that depicts the ban as God's portion implies that the enemy is sacrificed because he is viewed as a human, humans being the most valuable sacrifice one could offer to God.

In contrast, a narrative that depicts the ban as an instrument of God's justice suggests that the enemy is profane and must be destroyed because he is no longer fully human.

Niditch utilizes this distinction in a fruitful manner, although her tendency to stress the tension between these sets of ideas leaves her hard-pressed to explain narratives like Joshua 7 and 1 Samuel 15 that affirm both ideologies of the ban simultaneously. Here it seems that she is forcing the biblical data into a Procrus- tean theoretical framework. The second half of the book covers other traditions of war in the Hebrew Bible, including the bardic tradition, the idea of tricksterism, the ideology of expedi- ency, and the notion of nonparticipation. Here Niditch is much more successful in exploring the variegated tapestry of war motifs in the Hebrew Bible than she is at placing these motifs into a larger survey of the ethics of violence.

Although Niditch brings intriguing ideas together in each of these chapters and clearly has a firm grasp on the biblical materials and the secondary literature in the field, the only linkage among these chapters seems to be her implicit condemnation of all forms of violence, offensive and defensive.

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As she correctly notes, the Chroniclers were not rejecting violence but attributing this violent activity to the Deity. The troubling element here is that Niditch highlights the positive elements of peace and nonparticipation in violence without ever exploring whether those who do not participate in violence against malevolent forces may, in fact, be acting in a morally questionable fashion. Although one might argue that the Bible often rationalizes forms of violence that are unacceptable today, one must acknowledge that there are certain times when it is morally imperative to use violent means against those who represent injustice.

Inasmuch as Niditch focuses almost exclusively on the immoral use of violence but fails to investigate what sets of circumstances morally justify the use of violence, her book would be better subtitled "an exploration of the ethics of nonviolence.

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In spite of any disagreements one might have with Niditch's argument, one must commend her for furthering the debate and for forcing biblical scholarship to look more seriously at the difficult ethical issues raised by the war traditions found in the Hebrew Bible. This, combined with its easily accessible writing style, makes this book essential reading for anyone interested in how biblical images might be mined and utilized in constructing a modern ethical approach to vio- lence and warfare.

New York: Basic Books, More than a decade has passed since Robert Alter's The Art of Biblical Narrative was published, followed by a work on biblical poetry and a coedited one-volume literary guide to the Bible.


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Niditch has written a most interesting book, full of excellent insights into the text and containing much stimulating and provocative discussion of difficult texts A superior piece of writing on a very difficult topic in the Bible and I look forward to seeing the discussion it generates in contemporary biblical studies. Niditch has written a work of engaged scholarship I heartily recommend it. Ramsaran, Emmanuel School of Religion "Intricately argued, scholarly and illuminating.

War in the Hebrew Bible

Help Centre. My Wishlist Sign In Join. Be the first to write a review. Add to Wishlist. Ships in 15 business days. Link Either by signing into your account or linking your membership details before your order is placed. Description Table of Contents Product Details Click on the cover image above to read some pages of this book! Industry Reviews "A very helpful study, ethically sensitive and methodologically sophisticated. Abbreviations Introduction p.

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Man's Search for Meaning Gift Edition. The ideology of the "ban," however, is only one among a range of attitudes towards war preserved in the ancient Israelite literary tradition. Applying insights from anthropology, comparative literature, and feminist studies, Niditch considers a wide spectrum of war ideologies in the Hebrew Bible, seeking in each case to discover why and how these views might have made sense to biblical writers, who themselves can be seen to wrestle with the ethics of violence.

The study of war thus also illuminates the social and cultural history of Israel, as war texts are found to map the world views of biblical writers from various periods and settings. Reviewing ways in which modern scholars have interpreted this controversial material, Niditch sheds further light on the normative assumptions that shape our understanding of ancient Israel.