Journal of Hebrew Scriptures - Volume 4 (2002-2003) - Review

Z. Talshir, S. Yona and D. Sivan (eds.) Homage to Shmuel. Studies in the World of the Bible (Jerusalem: Bialik Institute/Ben-Gurion University Press, 2001). Pp. 436. Hardback. ISBN 965-342-824-1 $ 50.

This collection of articles is a tribute to Prof. Shmuel Ahituv, Dept. of Bible and Ancient Near Eastern Studies, Ben Gurion University. As expected in these cases, the volume opens with a short biographical note. The heart of the book consists of thirty-two articles on a wide range of topics:   

  1. Amnon Altman, “The Refugee Who Seeks Livehood in Ancient Near Eastern International Law,” pp. 3-20.
  2. Yairah Amit, “Gradation as a Rhetorical Device in the Biblical Literature,” pp. 21-48.
  3. Israel Gutman, “Manasseh – Was He the Worst Kings of Judah?,” pp. 49-66.
  4. Gershon Galil, The Royal Aramaic Inscription from Tel Dan,” pp. 67-74.
  5. David Gilad, “The Double Conclusion to the Book of Joshua,” pp. 75-80.
  6. Mayer Gruber, “What Is ‘In the image of God’?,” pp. 81-87.
  7. Eliezer (Ed) Greenstein, “Lamentation Over the Destruction of City and Temple in Early Israelite Literature,” pp. 88-97.
  8. Aaron Demsky, “The Confrontation Between Samuel and Saul and the Question of the Juridical Authority of the King,” pp. 98-111.
  9. Yair Hoffman, “The Fasts in the Book of Zechariah (7: 1-7, 18-19) and the Shaping of the National Memory,” pp. 112-45.
  10. Avigdor Victor Hurowitz, “Thirty (?) of Admonition and Knowledge.” Structural and Exegetical Notes To “The Words of the Wise" (Proverbs 22: 17-24; 22), pp. 146-60.
  11. Michael Heltzer, “Two Ancient West-Semitic Seals,” pp. 161-62.
  12. Menahem Haran, “Isaiah’s Walk ‘Naked and Barefoot for Three Years’” (Isaiah 20), pp. 163-66.
  13. Joel Weinberg, “‘Authorship’ in Ancient Near Eastern literature and in the Bible,” pp. 167-77.
  14. Moshe Weinfeld, “The Meaning of Political "Covenants of Friendship" in Israel and in the Ancient Near East,” pp. 178-83.
  15. Yair Zakovitz,  “ ‘By the Rivers of Babylon’: Psalms 137 - Memory in the Shadow of Trauma,” pp. 184-204.
  16. Luba Charlap, The Understanding of the Gender of Biblical Nouns in the Middle Ages,” pp. 205-15.
  17. Zipora and David Talshir, “The Non-canonical Books: Reconstruction or Translation? (With Examples from the books of Tobit and the Testament of Naphtali),” pp 216-33.
  18. Shamir Yona, “Who is Afraid of Repetitions? On A Pattern of Repetition in Biblical Rhetorics,” pp. 234-44.
  19. Chaim Cohen and Jacob Klein, “Hermeš (scythe) and magal (sickle) in the Bible and their parallels Ugaritic hrmtt  and Akkadian niggallu,” pp. 245-68.
  20. Mordechai Cogan, “ ‘Because in him There is Found Something Pleasing to YHWH, the God of Israel’ (1 Kings 14: 13) On the Metamorphoses of Interpretations,” pp. 269-72.
  21. Rimon Kasher, “‘The ‘Private’ Prophecies in the Book of Ezekiel: Their Extent, Function and their Relation to the ‘Public’ Prophecies, pp. 273-82.
  22. Abraham Malamat, “ ‘A Faraway Land’ as a Specific Category in International Relations in the Bible and the Ancient Near East,” pp. 283-86.
  23. Daniel Sivan, “The status of Ugaritic Among the Northwest Semitic Languages in the Wake of a New Study,” pp. 287-97.
  24. Bustenai Oded, “Guidelines of the Deportation Policy of the Empires of Assyria and Babylonia and Their Relevance to the Study of the Israelite and Judean Deportees in Mesopotamia,” pp. 298-318.
  25. Tova Forti, “The Image of the Moth – A Window into a Sapiential Psalm (Ps 39),” pp. 319-31.
  26. Bezalel Porten, “Paponymy among Elephantine Jews,” pp. 332-61.
  27. Elisha Qimron, “Waw as a marker for a Glide,” pp. 362-75.
  28. Zechariah Kallai, “Punishment and Sin in Biblical Historiography,” pp. 376-81.
  29. Alexander Rofe, “ ‘A virtuous wife’ (אשת חיל), γυνή συνετή, and the Redaction of the Book of Proverbs,” pp. 382-90.
  30. Anson F Rainey, “The el-Amarna Tablets - A Cultural Phenomenon in the Late Bronze Period,” pp. 391-408.
  31. Nili Shupak, “The God who Came from Teman and the Egyptian Solar God: a New Study of Habakkuk 3: 3-7,” pp. 409-432.
  32. Hayim Tadmor, “Chronological Notes Concerning the Conquest of Samaria,” pp. 433-36.

Obviously, it is impossible to even summarize in a fair manner the positions advanced in each of these contributions within the frame of a review, never mind, advance any reasonable critique of them.  It is feasible, however, to characterize the volume as a whole.

Unlike some similar Festschrifts, this one is not organized around a narrowly defined topic or set of topics. Rather it follows a metaphor of a sea dotted by islands. The sea represents the vast areas in which S. Ahituv has worked and the islands, studies on particular issues. These islands are of irregular shape and each has its own landscape. Voyagers will be attracted to different islands, according to their own interests. Although, as expected, not all will find every island completely to their liking, few visitors would regret their voyage.

Moreover, on occasion, the visitor would find more than what the “name” of the island might have led him or her to anticipate. For instance, Rofe’s contribution raises the issue of the structural role of female metaphors in the final shape of the book of Proverbs. Another example, Hoffman’s chapter directly addresses historical and historiographical matters regarding Persian Yehud and discusses the heuristic potential of comparisons between the processes of shaping national memory in Persian Yehud and in modern day Israel—both before and after the creation of the state of Israel.

All the articles are in Hebrew and no English summaries are provided. The book makes a contribution to present-day Israeli Hebrew culture, but language barriers will prevent many in the guild, outside Israel, from reading the contributions. A full bibliography of Ahituv’s work and some indices (e.g., scripture index) would have been helpful.

All in all, this is an impressive collection and a suitable homage to Prof. Ahituv.

Ehud Ben Zvi, University of Alberta