Jerome T. Walsh, Style and Structure in Biblical Hebrew Narrative (Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 2001), Pp. xiv + 205. $19.95. ISBN 0-8146-5897
But the Israelites did not listen to me.
How will Pharaoh listen to me?
I am unrefined of lips."
This type of observation gives some idea of the author's approach, though he is not always so convincing. Overall, in fact, a crucial distinction needs to be made between word patterns within one line and patterns extending over several lines, and both types are on a different level from patterns involving content. So, for example, the pattern in Num 12:13 (p. 15) cannot be put on a par with the pattern in Lev 24:13-23 (pp. 16-18). Furthermore, patterns found over an entire book, for example the book of Ruth (pp. 88-89) are rather less convincing and in any case, we cannot be sure how much was due to later editing.
Some additions can be made to the rather short bibliography. To begin with, my own contribution (on chiasmus in Hebrew poetry) to the collective work Chiasmus in Antiquity, edited by John Welch (listed by Walsh, p. 198) was re-issued with many revisions and corrections in my Traditional Techniques in Classical Hebrew Verse (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1994) pp. 328-389. Note also G. Wenham, "The Coherence of the Flood Narrative," VT 28 (1978), 336-348, and Jack R. Lundbom, Jeremiah: A Study in Ancient Hebrew Rhetoric (SBLDS, 18; Missoula, MT: Scholars Press, 1975).
This book is not to be followed slavishly, then, but instead should be considered as providing helpful indications on how to read an ancient text, although the unanswered question remains: Was it always possible for the listeners of such texts to appreciate all these patterns without the written text in front of them? Finally, as there appear to be no comparisons with ancient Near Eastern material, the impression given is that biblical Hebrew narrative techniques evolved in isolation from neighbouring cultures.
Wilfred G. E. Watson
University of Newcastle upon Tyne