Moses in the Koberger Bible (1483)

Ralph W. Klein, who is the curator of the Gruber Rare Books Collection and Other Rare Books at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, led a 90 minute tour of the English Bible and the collection of Luther of the rare book room at March 26, 2010. For detailed information please visit the website of the Gruber Rare Books Collection and Other Rare Book.

Moses in Koberger Bible (1483)

During the tour, I was so impressed by an illustration of the Koberger Bible (1483) which is one of the pre-Reformation Bibles in the rare book room. The illustration describes Moses’ figure presented in Josephus: (1) the mother of Moses places Moses in a basket in the Nile; (2) Pharaoh’s daughter saves him and rears him; and (3) at right, based on the tale from the historian Josephus, the infant Moses takes the crown from Pharaoh’s head (Exod 2:1-10).

Josephus narrates the story of the infant Moses being brought to Pharaoh by Pharaoh’s daughter and trampling upon his crown:

She [Pharaoh’s daughter] put him [the infant Moses] into her father’s hands; so he took him, and hugged him close to his breast; and on his daughter?�s account, in a pleasant way, put his diadem upon his head; but Moses threw it down to the ground, and, in a puerile mood he wreathed it round, and trod upon it with his feet (Ant. 2:234).

The rabbinic midrashic tradition recounts the similar tale (Tanhuma Exodus 8; Midrash Exodus Rabbah 1.26; Midrash Deuteronomy Rabbah 11.10; Yashar Exodus 131b-132b). In the midrash, it is Moses who takes the crown from Pharaoh’s head and places it upon his own as a clear intimation that he would some day displace Pharaoh. The infant Moses in the rabbinic tradition is an anti-imperialist. In Josephus, however, it is Pharaoh himself who proceeds to place the crown upon Moses’ head. Josephus may particularly sensitive to the charge of Jewish aggressiveness that such a presentation, like the tale of the infant Moses, would suggest. Hence, when Moses removes from his head the crown that Pharaoh had placed upon it, Josephus is careful to add that he does so out of mere childishness (νη?ι??η?α) (Feldman 1998, 383).

Reference List

Feldman, Louis H. Josephus’ Interpretation on the Bible. Berkeley: University of California, 1998.

 Josephus, Flavius ; Whiston, William: The Works of Josephus : Complete and Unabridged. electronic ed. of the new updated ed. Peabody : Hendrickson, 1996, c1987.

When and Why was the Second Temple Rebuilt?

In his current article, Dr. Ralph W. Klein responds to Diana Edelman’s proposal (The Origins of the ‘Second’ Temple: Persian Imperial Policy and the Rebuilding of Jerusalem, Equinox Publishing, 2006) that the Second Temple was actually built during the reign of Artaxerxes I (465-425 B.C.E.) rather than Darius I (516 B.C.E.). Edelman asks the question: “What benefit would have accrued from rebuilding the temple under the reign of Darius while Jerusalem remained unoccupied and in ruins?” By answering the question, Edelman proposes a prominent hypothesis that “Artaxerxes I initiated a single project to rebuild the temple and to fortify Jerusalem at the same time” [my emphasis]. Klein summarizes Edelman’s evidences for her attempt to a late date of the Second Temple as follows:

In support of her hypothesis she discounts the eight dates in the prophets Haggai and Zechariah that link them to the reign of Darius I (Hag 1:1, 15; 2:1, 10, 20; Zech 1:1, 7; 7:1), arguing that they were calculated secondarily, based on the prophecy in Jeremiah of restoration after seventy years (Edelman, ch. 2). She also calls into question the historicity of the account of the building of the temple in Ezra 1-6, arguing that it is based only on what could be learned from a series of biblical passages (Ezekiel 40-48; Second Isaiah; Haggai and Zechariah, including their dates; and 1 Chronicles 22-2 Chronicles 7; Edelman, ch. 3). Two additional chapters investigate the size of Yehud in the fifth century (ch. 4) and the archaeological data that support her hypothesis (ch. 5). Chapter 6 contains her description of the pragmatic issues that led Artaxerxes to fortify Jerusalem and rebuild the temple at the beginning of his reign (Klein 697-98).

Klein argues that Edelman’s “late date for the Second Temple is not plausible” (Klein, 701). He explains the chronological problems with Joshua and Zerubbabel, and clearly states that Joshua, Zerubbabel, and Nehemiah are not contemporaries at all. Thus, Klein’s disagreement with Edelman’s hypothesis is based on his literary analysis of the chronological account for Joshua and Zerubbabel. I also think that Edelman “must resolve the chronological problems with Joshua and Zerubbabel” (Klein 701).

But I’m interested in the social context for rebuilding of the Second Temple. It is reasonable to go back to her initial quesitons: “How would either king (Cyrus or Darius) have benefited from a pilgrimage site in a destroyed city in an underdeveloped? Why was the Second Temple rebuilt?

In chapter 5, Edelman discusses the archaelogical data for her hypothesis. She argues that “the settlement patterns within its boundaries in the Persian period at large shows that a series of administrative sites were established on S-N and W-E lines leading from the coastal plain and Beersheba Valley to Jerusalem, the new provincial seat.” In chapter 6, Edelman also discusses the pragmatic issues that the rebuilding of Jerusalem as the provincial seat should have included the rebuilding of the temple so that the local population could honor their native deity and pay their taxes in annual festivals at the site.

If the provincial seat as the Persian policy, which was taken under Artaxerxes I, is the reason why the Second Temple was rebuilt, then her proposal for a late date for the Second Temple is plausible. For the review of Edelman’s book click here

Reference List

Klein, Ralph W. “Were Joshua, Zerubbabel, and Nehemiah Contemporaries? A Response to Diana Edelman’s Proposed Late Date for the Second Temple.” JBL 127/4 (2008): 691-702.

The Story of Cain and Abel: Why did God Reject Cain’s Sacrifice?

Cain the elder becomes a farmer and Abel the younger becomes a shepherd (Gen 4:2). Each brings an offering: Cain brings to the LORD an offering of the fruit of the ground (Gen 4:3); and Abel brings the firstlings of his flock (Gen 4:4). But God accepts Abel’s offering. Accordingly, Cain is troubled (Gen 4:5-7), and kills his brother Abel (Gen 4:8). The story ends with God’s punishment of Cain (Gen 4:9-15). Why did God reject Cain’s sacrifice? Does God love a meat sarifice rather than a vegetable offering?

The text does not tell us the reason why God prefers to Abel’s offering. Thus, there have been several inferential attempts to answer the question:

  1. Both Luther and Calvin explained that Cain did not present his gift by faith. Their interpretation was based on Heb 11:4 (cf. 1 John 3:12; Matt 23:35). C. Westermann suggests that the opinion of New Testament writers is based on the Rabbinic traditions of late Judaism: “Abel is ‘the just one’ his sacrifice is offered ;out of faith” (Westermann, 319).
  2. The offering itself was insufficient, either becuase Cain was stingy or becuase he violated some implicit liturgical regulation (Skinner, 105).
  3. There is a cultural conflict between farmers and shepherds. R. de Vaux argues that Cain’s story affirms pastoralism of the patriarchs (de Vaux, 13-14).
  4. The story reflects that YHWH prefers a younger to an older sibling (Goldin, 32).

The first suggestion seems to be totally out of context since the text never metions the word “faith”; thus, this is an interpretation of the story. The second suggestion is plausible. The text says that Abel’s sacrifice was accepted becuase he offered “the firstlings of his flock, their fat portions” (Gen 4:4), while Cain brought “fruit of the ground.” Cain is being condemned for failing to bring first fruits (Deut 26:1-11). But it is also a conjecture. The third suggestion needs to be reconsidered in light of recent studies of nomadisim and its relationship to settled zones in the ancient Near East. It scarcely seems so. The fourth suggestion is restated by Joel S. Kaminsky who suggests that it is about divine favoritism and the exclusivism which repeats in the cases of Ishmael and Isacc, Jacob and Esau, and Joseph and his ten older brothers (Kaminsky, 23). He argues that “the Genesis narratives are well-suited as an introduction to biblical election theology.” He focuses on the divine favoritisim rather than the issue of offering:

Cain’s failure is not in relation to the offering he brought, but in his reaction to God’s mysterious favoritism of Abel. He allows his jealousy to get out of control, even after God has warned him of this danger. Rather than accept God’s choice of Abel, he tries to overcome Abel’s election by killing him (25).

But I’m convinced by F. A. Spina’s suggestion (“The Ground for Cain’s Rejection [Gen 4]: יadāmāh in the Context of Genesis 1-11″ ZAW 104/3 [1992]) that we need to consider the issue of the text in the larger context of Genesis 1-11. Cain’s offering has to do with its source: the ground which had been coursed by God (Gen 3:17-19) so that Cain’s offering is unacceptable. Indeed, the term “ground” is the key word in Genesis 1-11. Cain was a farmer who followed in the footsteps of his father Adam, the first farmer (Gen 2:5, 15). Spina further argues that human beings continued to to sin even after the flood that is the main theme of Genesis 1-11. But the cursed “ground” became the source of blessing and and a suitable offering to God (Deut 7:12-16). 

Reference List

De Vaux, R. Ancient Israel: Social Institutions I. 1965.

Goldin, J. “The Youngest Son or Where Does Genesis 38 Belong,” JBL 96/1 (1977).

Kaminsky, Joel S. Yet I Loved Jacob: Reclaiming the Biblical Concept of Election. Nashville: Abingdom Press, 2007.

Skinner, J. Genesis. ICC. 2nd. 1930.

Spina, F. A. “The Ground for Cain’s Rejection (Gen 4): יadāmāh in the Context of Genesis 1-11″ ZAW 104/3 (1992): 319-32.

Westermann, C. Genesis 1-11. Trans. John J. Sculion S. J. Minneapolis: Augusburg Publishing House, 1984.

Gustave Doré

Gustave Doré, 1866

The Formation of Ancient Israel

Who were the Israelites and where did they come from? The biblical archaeologist William Dever also asked those qustions in his recent book as reflected in the title of his book: Who Were the Israelites and Where Did They Come From? (2003). In recent decades, one of the most debated issues among both biblical scholars and archaeologists is the origin of ancient Israel. The Bible tells us that Abraham’s descendants escaped from the slavery in Egypt and crossed the Jordan River conquering the Canaanite cities. But there is a contradiction between the two books, Joshua and Judges. The book of Joshua reports the complete conquest (Josh 11:16-17) listing the conquered kings and cities; Jerusalem (Jebus), Hebron, and Taanach, whereas the book of Judges does not support the book of Joshua’s claim of an “all-at-once” military conquest of Canaan listing the unconquered territory (Judg 1:9); Jerusalem (Jebus), Hebron, and Taanach. How do we deal with this contradiction? In his book, What are They Saying About the Formation of Israel? (1998), John J. McDermott offers an excellent discussion on the contradiction of the two biblical accounts in which he discusses the “Three Classic Models.” It is well written, in my view, this is one of the best books on the issue of the formation of ancient Israel. I will summarize the “Three Classic Models” based on McDermott’s discussion on the models and then move to the recent scholarly view that the early Israelites were indigenous to Canaan.

The Three Classic Models

1. The Conquest Model

(1) Evidences

W. F. Albright and his students are mainly responsible for articulating the Conquest Model. Albright insisted that the Israelites were a people religiously and ethnically distinct from the Canaanites. This model most follows the biblical story: the Israelites came out of slavery in Egypt and invaded Canaan. The main process of the conquest was a successful military invasion by a unified people distinct from the Canaanites as the book of Joshua describes.

Albright cited archaeological evidences to support the historicity of the conquest. In the 13th century B.C.E., a pattern of city destructions, such as Debir, Bethel, Hazor, and Lachish, supports the conquest model. Albright attributed the destruction of those cities to the Israelites’ invasion.

W. F. Albright

W. F. Albright

(2) Evaluation of the Model

As I stated above, the literary evidence of Joshua and Judges contradict each other. Also, this model does not explain the similarlity and continuity between the Canaanites and the early Israelites because this model views the Israelites as a group distinct from the Canaanites. It is clear that the earliest written expressions of Israelite religion had much in common with Canaanite religion. The location of the new settlements (Israelite highland settlement) is difficult for this model to explain. If a group of people came in from the outside and successfully defeated the previous inhabitants, they would be expected to take over the best land.

2. The Peaceful Infiltration Model

(1) Evidences

Albrecht Alt and Martin Noth were responsible for the peaceful infiltration. According to Alt, the stories in Genesis about Abraham, Isaac and Jacob preserve some genuine historical memories of the nomadic people who became the Israelites. These nomads or semi-nomads had migrated into Canaan. They had previously worshiped different gods, who are reflected in the different titles used for the divine name in the stories of the patriarchs. At first they settled in the empty spaces away from the Canaanite cities, that is, in the highlands. With the decline of the Canaanite city-state system, they were able to occupy the lowlands as well. According to Noth, Israelites could not have been indigenous to Canaan because the location of their settlements, the hill country away from the Canaanite cities (Israelite highland settlement) and their way of living clearly indicate patterns of peaceful migration and the preservation of desert tribal traditions as reflected in the patriarchal stories (M. Noth, The History of Israel, 2nd ed. [New York: Harper & Row, 1960], 53, 68). The peaceful infiltration model appealed to people who were convinced that a more gradual process and it is also more compatible with the idea that the Israelites came from mixed background. A significant piece of evidence for this model is the presence of the shasu in the region who were mentioned frequently in Egyptian documents. The stories of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob having a similar lifestyle to the shasu, may support this model.

Martin Noth

Martin Noth

(2) Evaluation of the Model

The location of the new settlements (the highland settlements) is consistent with this model. Nomadic people setting down in new villages would prefer taking unoccupied land. Like the conquest model, however, this model must explain the similarities in culture and religion between the Israelites and the Canaanites because the materials of the new settlements show clear continuity with Canaanite material culture.

3. The Social Revolution

(1) Evidences

George Mendenhall and Norman Gottwald were responsible for the social revolution model. According the Mendenhall, the lower-class Canaanites were heavily taxed by the Canaanite kings, so they rose up in a violent revolt. The revolt was successful, and these people then established a new decentralized, egalitarian society in the highlands. Mendenhall attested that the Amarna letters, written by Canaanite kings to their Egyptian rulers during the 14th century B.C.E., mention a group of people called the hapiru. These hapiru had politically separated themselves from the city-state society and lived as outlaws in the countryside. Thus, there was a precedent for some form of social upheaval occurring in Canaan shortly before the beginnings of Israel. When the Israelites of the Exodus entered Canaan, Canaanites dissatisfied with the rule of the cities did what the hapiru had done earlier- they withdrew, except that this time they joined forces with the Israelites.

Goerge Mendenhall

Goerge Mendenhall

(2) Evaluation of the Model

This model says that the Israelites did not come in from the outside but were Canaanites themselves. Therefore, the evidence of continuity supports this model. Like the conquest model, however, this model does not explain why the new settlements were located in the poorer land. If these people successfully defeated the Canaanite kings, why did they not take over the best land? This model also need to explain why the Bible tells such a different story.

After the analysis of the three classic models, McDermott asks two major questions on which they differ: (1) Were the early Israelites indigenous to Canaan, or were they people who came from elsewhere? Both the conquest and peaceful infiltration models maintain that they came from elsewhere, while the social revolution model holds that they were Canaanites; and (2) Was the beginning of Israel mainly a violent or a peaceful process? Both the conquest and social revolution models say that it was violent, whereas the peaceful infiltration model says that it was mainly peaceful. I think that these two questions lead us to new theory that the indigenous origins of the early Israelites.

The View that the First Israelites Were Canaanites

Regarding the identity of the Israelites’ ancestors, there is a basic agreement among some scholars that the early Israelites were Canaanites. McDermott divides the scholars of this view into three groups: (1) the views of William Dever, Niels Peter Lemche, and Gösta Ahlström; (2) the view of N. Gottwald; and (3) the view of R. Coote. Among these three categories, I will summarize the views of scholars in the first category who describe a complex resettlement of Canaanites from the cities and rural areas into the new settlements of the highlands.

1. William Dever

William Dever maintains that the conquest model should be ruled out (William Dever, Recent Archaeological Discoveries and Biblical Research [Seattle: University of Washington, 1990], 56-61). He also disagree with the peaceful infiltration model because the material culture of the new settlements shows clear continuity with the Canaanite material culture.

William Dever

William Dever

Dever agrees with Volkmar Fritz (“the symbiosis model”) that many of the early Israelites (“the proto-Israelites”) could have been people who lived near the Canaanites for a long period of time (William Dever, “How to Tell a Canaanite from an Israelite,” in The Rise of Ancient Israel: Lectures presented at a symposium sponsored by the Resident Associate Program, Smithsonian Institution October 26, 1991 [Biblical Archaeology Society, 1992], 30). Based on Fritz’s argument, Dever concludes that it is best to see Israel as emerging from various backgrounds, namely, those of urban and rural Canaanites, some nomadic people, and a small number of escaped slaves from Egypt. Thus, the emergence of the Israelites should be seen as part of a transformation within the Canaanite society.

2. Niels Peter Lemche

Niels Peter Lemche

Niels Peter Lemche

Niels Peter Lemche sees that the beginning of Israel as an internal change within the Canaanite society (Niels Peter Lemche, Early Israel: Anthropological and Historical Studies on the Israelite Society Before the Monarchy [Leiden, Netherlands: E. J. Brill, 1985]; Ancient Israel: A New History of Israelite Society  [Shefield, England: Sheffield Academic Press, 1990]). He discusses the social and economic situation of Late Bronze Age Canaanites in the cities and on the farmland controlled by the cities. Like Dever, Lemche uses an internal process to explain the origin of the Israelites showing the continuity in material culture. According to Lemche, apart from the Sea Peoples on the coast, there is no direct evidence of waves of immigrants coming into Canaan. Lemche argues that the new settlements that became Israel as consisting mainly of the peasant farmers around the cities, who would have made up 90 percent of the population of Canaan.

3. Gösta Ahlström

Gösta Ahlström discussed the identity of the first Israelites in his 1986 book, Who Were the Israelites? and in The History of Ancient Palestine (1993). Ahlström rejected the three classic models, maintaining that the first Israelites were mostly Canaanites from the cities and rural lowlands. He drew information from the Merneptah Stele (See Ralph W. Klein’s (my teacher) explanation on The Merneptah Stele).

He pointed out that the names of the defeated peoples listed on the mounment are arranged in a ring structure. The first and last places are large regions; the next ring inside includes Canaan and Israel, representing smaller territories; at the center of the structure, individual city-states are mentioned- Ashkelon. Gezer and Yeno’am. Canaan and Israel, therefore, represent the two parts of Palestine. The word Canaan normally refers to the urban lowlands, then the use of the term Israel must be a designation for the highlands. Additionally, Israel is written with the sign for a people rather than a city or nation, meaning that this group of people was seen by Egypt as more loosely organized. Robert Coote also argues that the reference of Israel is the indication of people rather than a state. Coote discusses that Israel must have been a tribal organization that existed alongside the city-state of Canaan. Ahlström concluded that the pottery and architecture of the Israelites is in continuity with Canaanite material culture. The following chart shows the ring structure (chiastic structure) of the Merneptah Stele as Ahlström argued:

Ring Structure of the Merneptah suggested by Ahlstrom

Ring Structure of the Merneptah suggested by Ahlstrom

 Reference List

Callaway, Joseph A. Callaway and J. Maxwell Miller, “The Settlement in Canaan: The Period of the Judges,” in  Ancient Israel From Abraham to the Roman Destruction of the Temple. Revised and Expanded Edition  (Biblical Archaeology Society, 1999).

McDermott, What are They Saying About the Formation of Israel? (New York, Mahwah: Paulist Press, 1998).

Joseph’s Bones as the Fulfillment of Promise

Both the book of Genesis and the book of Joshua end with the reference of Joseph’s bones. What does this fact signify? In his book, Joseph’s Bones, Jerome M. Segal insists that the first six books of the Hebrew Bible opens with a promise about Joseph’s bones and ends with the fulfillment of that promise.  

Joseph’s bones are mentioned three times in the Hebrew Bible.Josseph's Bones

So Joseph made the Israelites swear, saying, “When God comes to you, you shall carry up my bones from here.” And Joseph died, being one hundred ten years old; he was embalmed and placed in a coffin in Egypt (Gen 50:25-26).

And Moses took with him the bones of Joseph who had required a solemn oath of the Israelites, saying, “God will surely take notice of you, and then you must carry my bones with you from here” (Exo 13:19)

The bones of Joseph, which the Israelites had brought up from Egypt, were buried at Shechem, in the portion of ground that Jacob had bought from the children of Hamor, the father of Shechem, for one hundred pieces of money; it became an inheritance of the descendants of Joseph (Joshua 24:32).

 According to those passages, Joseph died four hundred years before the Exodus, and was embalmed and placed in a coffin (Gen 50:26). In the Exodus, the Israelites took Joseph’s bones with them through the forty years in the wilderness. Eventually, the passage of Joshua tells us that Joseph’s bones were buried in the Promised Land.

It is interesting to note that the references of Joseph’s bones are related to the theme of “fulfillment of the promise,” demonstrating the compilation of Hexateuch. According to G. von Rad, the historical credos found in Josh 24:2-13 and Deut 6:20-24 and 26:5-9 are the confessions of faith, comprising Genesis through Joshua. The structure of the Hexateuch shows a problem not only in the position of the Sinai traditions within the framework of the whole, but also in the relationship between the patriarchal theme and the Exodus theme. So George Coats asked the prominent quesiton: “What kind of relationship did the patriarchal traditions, with their focus on strife/promise have with the exodus tradition, with its focus on redemption from oppression?” (Coats, 981). He states that the references of Joseph’s bones answer the question. The three references of Joseph’s bones link the patriarchal traditions with the exodus tradition.  

Reference List

Coats, George W. “Joseph, Son of Jacob.” ABD III (1992): 977-82.  

Segal, Jerome M. Joseph’s Bones: Understanding the Struggle between God and Mankind in the Bible. New York: Riverhead Books, 2007.

Bamot in Kings and Chronicles

The Hebrew בָּמוֹת (bāmôt) means “high places” appeared, as a cultic context, 97 times in the Hebrew Bible. But what’s basic meaning of bāmôt? They were local sanctuaries. In the Hebrew Bible, the local sanctuaries were once legitimate cultic sites. They are often perceived as the site of Canaanite rituals, but they are local sanctuaries for the worship of YHWH before the centralization of Jerusalem Temple (1 Sam 9:12). The Moabite Stone (Mesha Inscription) contains the reference to the term bāmôt. The following map shows bāmôt sites. These sites contain religious sanctuaries that reflect a variety meanings of bāmôt, including platform for rituals, an altar, and a temple (Nakhai 1994, 21).


These sites were “torn down” (2 Kgs 23:8; 2 Chr 33:3), “burned” (2 Kgs 23:15), and “removed” (1 Kgs 15:14; 2 Kgs 17:29; 2 Kgs 23:19) mostly by the reforms of Hezekiah and Josiah. Beside the issue of centralization of the DrtH, it is interesting to compare bāmôt of the books of Kings with those of the books of Chronicles during the time of the United Monarchy:

  • 1 Kgs 3:2-4: people sacrificed at high places since temple was not yet built. Solomon walked in the statues of David though he sacrificed at high places. Solomon sacrificed 1,000 animals at high places at Gibeon.
  • 1 Kgs 11:7: Solomon built a high place for Chemosh.
  • 1 Chr 16:39: David stationed Zadok before the tabernacle of YHWH in high place of Gibeon.
  • 1 Chr 21:29: The Tabernacle Moses had made and the altar of burn offering were at the high place of Gibeon.
  • 2 Chr 1:3: Solomon went to the high place at Gibeon for there was the tent of meeting that Moses had made.

There is no doubt that both Kings and Chronicles see bāmôt as legitimate cultic sites during the time of the United Monarchy, but the ways how both books describe are different.

In the books of Kings, the ancient people of Israel continued to offer sacrifices at bāmôt before Solomon built the Jerusalem Temple (1 Kgs 3:2). For example, Solomon also offered sacrifices at the bāmôt of Gibeon (1 Kgs 3:3).

In the books of Chronicles, the Chronicler mentions that the tabernacle was located at Gibeon (1 Chr 16:39). Solomon visited the cult site at Gibeon in 2 Chr 1:3-13 and sacrificed a thousand burnt offerings on its bronze altar. After Solomon had completed the building of the temple, the priests and Levites brought up the ark, the tent of meeting, and all the holy vessels that were in “the tent” to the new building. The ark was already in the city of David; the tabernacle was brought from Gibeon. Why does the Chronicles mention the tabernacle at Gibeon? Ralph W. Klein states that “locating the tabernacle at Gibeon may be an attempt to justify Solomon’s pilgrimage to the high place at Gibeon” (Klein 2006, 368). The Chronicler depicts Solomon as the ideal king so that the tabernacle should be there at the bāmôt in Gibeon.

Reference List

Fried, Lisbeth. S. “The High Places (bāmôt) and and the Reforms of Hezekiah and Josiah: An Archaeological Investigation.” JAOS 122/3 (2002): 437-65.

Klein, Ralph W. 1 Chronicles: A Commentary. Hermeneia. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2006.

Nakhai, Beth A. “What’s a Bamah? How Sacred Space Functioned in Ancient Israel.” BAR 20/3 (1994): 18-29.

Megillot: What do These Five Stories Make?

BHQThe Biblia Hebraica Quinta is the fifth version of the Biblia Hebraica. The first volume was published in 2004. As the first volume of the BHQ series, it is a collection of the five Jewish storeis entitled Biblia Hebraica Quinta: General Introduction And Megilloth. I asked myself: “Why?”

The five stories (Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, and Esther) are scattered around in English translatons: Ruth after Judges, Esther after Nehemiah, Ecclesiastes and Song of Songs after Proverbs, and Lamentations after Jeremiah. But in the Hebrew Bible, the five books were gathered together as a separate collection. It is also attested in the Babylonian Talmud in Baba Bathra 14b. 

The five scrolls tell us the deeper issues of life: love, loyalty, freedom, destiny, and death. Some of these stories are delighful whereas some are utterly depress. What do these five stories reveal? The five stories reveal the human conditions; but they have little form and content in common. The Song of Songs (Solomon) is love poetry, Ruth is a romantic story, Lamentations is a collection of dirges, Ecclesiastes is a philosophical treatise, and Esther is an historical novella. Why were they gether together into one collection? In his introductory book, Barry L. Bandstra answer the question as follows:

(1) The collection of five books may imitate the five books of the Torah and the five books of the Psalter; (2) The collection is attested in the Babylonian Talmud (Baba Bathra 14b); (3) Each book of the books was used by the Jewish community in connection with a yearly commemoration; and (4) These five books should be intepreted in light of the theological and sociological issues of the age, which is either the post-exilic (6th century B.C.E) or thereafter, specifically the reconstruction of a Jewish community and the emergance of religious Judaism (Bandstra 2004, 472).

Thus, the Megilloth offers distinct windows to understand the postexilic Jewish community which is different community, such as inclusive community and exclusive community.


Bandstra, Barry L. 2004. Reading the Old Testament: An Introduction to the Hebrew Bible. 3rd Edition. Thomas Wadsworth.