Journal of Hebrew Scriptures - Volume 7 (2007) - Review

Oded Lipschits and Manfred Oeming, eds. Judah and the Judeans in the Persian Period (Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 2006). Pp. xxii + 721. Cloth, US$59.50. ISBN 978-1-57506-104-7.

This volume is a collection of articles presented at the similarly titled symposium “Judah and the Judeans in the Achaemenid Period,” held in Heidelberg on July 15–18, 2003, and sponsored by the University of Heidelberg, the Hochschule für Jüdische Studien Heidelberg, and Tel Aviv University. The symposium and the volume are the second in a series of three, being preceded by Judah and the Judeans in the Neo-Babylonian Period and followed by the yet-to-be published Judah and the Judeans in the 4th Century BCE.

The volume is organized in two parts. The first part, entitled “Historical, Epigraphical and Archaeological Perspectives,” features eighteen articles: “‘We All Returned as One!’: Critical Notes on the Myth of the Mass Return” by Bob Becking (pp. 3-18), “Achaemenid Imperial Policy, Settlement Processes in Palestine, and the Status of Jerusalem in the Middle of the Fifth Century B.C.E.” by Oded Lipschits (pp. 19-52), “Constructions of Identity in Postcolonial Yehud” by Jon L. Berquist (pp. 53-66), “Remapping Yehud: The Borders of Yehud and the Genealogies of Chronicles” by John W. Wright (pp. 67-90), “Persia’s Loyal Yahwists: Power Identity and Ethnicity in Achaemenid Yehud” by John Kessler (pp. 91-122), “The ʿam hāʾāreṣ in Ezra 4:4 and Persian Imperial Administration” by Lisbeth S. Fried (pp. 123-146), “The Borders and De Facto Size of Jerusalem in the Persian Period” by David Ussishkin (pp. 147-166), “Redating Lachish Level I: Identifying Achaemenid Imperial Policy at the Southern Frontier of the Fifth Satrapy” by Alexander Fantalkin and Oren Tal (pp. 167-198), “The Religious Revolution in Persian-Period Judah” by Ephraim Stern (pp. 199-206), “Tyrian Trade in Yehud under Artaxerxes I: Real or Fictional? Independent or Crown Endorsed?” by Diana Edelman (pp. 207-246), “The Second Temple of Jeb and of Jerusalem” by Reinhard G. Kratz (pp. 247-264), “Revisiting the Samarian Question in the Persian Period” by Gary N. Knoppers (pp. 265-290), “Bethel: The Israelite Impact on Judean Language and Literature” by Ernst Axel Knauf (pp. 291-350), “Cyrus II, Liberator or Conqueror? Ancient Historiography Concerning Cyrus in Babylon” by David Vanderhooft (pp. 351-372), “Neo-Babylonian and Achaemenid State Administration in Mesopotamia” by M. A. Dandamayev (pp. 373-398), “New Evidence for Judeans in Babylonia” by Laurie E. Pearce (pp. 399-412), “New Aramaic Ostraca from Idumea and Their Historical Interpretation” by AndrĂ© Lemaire (pp. 413-456), and “Social Economic and Onomastic Issues in the Aramaic Ostraca of the Fourth Century BCE” by Bezalel Porten and Ada Yardeni (pp. 457-488).

Most of the articles in part one contribute significantly to ongoing scholarship with new evidence or new perspectives. Most notably, the articles by Pearce, and Lemaire provide new textual evidence for Persian period studies. Pearce’s contribution is a “preliminary report” of the TAYN, or Texts from āl-Yāhūdu and Našar, Corpus, which she is preparing for publication. Lemaire has provided an introduction to a large corpus of Aramaic ostraca from Idumea as well as a very valuable description, transcription, translation, paleographical notes, commentary, and interpretation of thirty previously unpublished ostraca. These two articles are complemented by three important (re-)interpretations of relevant material and archaeological remains. Ussishkin has re-analyzed the archaeological evidence for the walls of Jerusalem in the Persian period and attempted to revive a theory that the walls circumvallated the western hill, repairing the lines of the Iron II walls; Fantalkin and Tal have provided an excellent synopsis and dating of the Persian period level at Lachish; and Porten and Yardeni have drawn attention to several important issues in the analysis of fourth century Aramaic Ostraca, making an excellent companion article to Lemaire’s. The rest of the articles in part one provide proficient historical analysis of select issues. The articles by Becking, Kessler, Edelman, and Knoppers are especially insightful and, whatever the relative merits of the conclusions of each, they illustrate a skillful wedding of exegesis with archaeological, historical, and also theoretical analysis.

The second part of this volume, entitled “Biblical Perspectives,” features an additional eight articles: “Periodization between History and Ideology II: Chronology and Ideology in Ezra-Nehemiah” by Sara Japhet (pp. 491-508), “The Missions of Ezra and Nehemiah” by Tamara Cohn Eskenazi (pp. 509-530), “The ‘Persian Documents’ in the Book of Ezra: Are They Authentic?” by Lester L. Grabbe (pp. 531-570), “‘See, We Are Serving Today’ (Nehemiah 9:36): Nehemiah 9 as a Theological Interpretation of the Persian Period” by Manfred Oeming (pp. 571-588), “Sociolinguistics and the Judean Speech Community in the Achaemenid Empire” by Frank H. Polak (pp. 589-628), “Benjamin Traditions Read in the Early Persian Period” by J. Blenkinsopp (pp. 629-646), “The Saul Polemic in the Persian Period” by Yairah Amit (pp. 647-662), and “The Imaginary Sanctuary: The Priestly Code as an Example of Fictional Literature in the Hebrew Bible” by Hanna Liss (pp. 663-689).

Part two contains a significantly smaller selection of articles, less than half the number in part one, and unfortunately feels like something of an afterthought in this volume. Still, most of the articles are excellent. The articles range in methodology from a traditional exegetical paper, exemplified by Oeming’s article on Neh 9:36, and studies of ideology and historicity, such as the articles by Japhet and Grabbe, to a fascinating sociolinguistic study by Polak and a short yet excellent comparative analysis by Eskenazi. The papers by Blenkinsopp and Amit highlight some of the literary tension in the post-exilic texts, especially as reflected in the Benjamite and Saulide traditions. In doing so, the authors draw attention to the under-investigated problem of potential or even likely political and social controversies between Judah and Benjamin. Finally, Liss contributes an analysis of the Priestly literary traditions that claims P fictionalizes and spiritualizes Israel’s cult in order to move focus away from “a God ‘wrapped up’ by events” towards a god who meets Israel through the word and liturgy (pp. 688-689). Despite the generally excellent quality of all the articles, it is very surprising that there are no articles on Haggai, Zechariah, and Chronicles. This seems to me a glaring and unfortunate omission in the volume.

In addition to the articles, the volume includes the contents table (pp. v-vii), an introduction by the editors that brings together and reflects on the articles (pp. ix-xvii), and a list of abbreviations (pp. xviii-xxii) as front matter and, as back matter, three helpful indices: “Index of Authors” (pp. 691-700), “Index of Scripture” (pp. 701-715), and “Index of Sites and Place-Names” (pp. 716-721). The volume would have benefited from abstracts of the papers either at the front or back or simply at the outset of each article, but this is a minor grievance. On the whole, the binding, editing, and presentation is excellent and the volume, like its predecessor on the Neo-Babylonian period, is an outstanding and necessary collection for scholars and students of the Persian period.

Ken Ristau, Penn State University