vrijdag 25 januari 2013

Review of: Moshe Weinfeld, Deuteronomy 1-11: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary (AB 5), Doubleday, 1991; door Matthews

Moshe Weinfeld, Deuteronomy 1-11: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary (AB 5), Doubleday, 1991.

Review in: Hebrew Studies Journal

DEUTERONOMY 1-11: ANEW TRANSLATION WITH INTRODUCTION AND COMMENTARY. By Moshe Weinfeld. AB 5. Pp. xiv + 458. New York: Doubleday, 1991. Cloth, $34.00.

With the large number of commentaries that are currently appearing on Deuteronomy (P. Miller [Interpretation], D. Christensen [WBC], G. Braulik [DNEB], J. Tigay [JPS]), it seems that this seminal book is at last getting the attention it deserves from modern scholars. However, the temptation among most of these commentators, including Weinfeld, is to analyze nearly every point so completely that many readers will simply become lost in the flood of information. The Anchor Bible's intent to attract a more popular audience than the Hermeneia series, for instance, has again been set aside in this volume in the interests of scholarly apparatus and analysis (122 pages are devoted to the introduction and bibliography).

Although it is appropriate to divide the commentary into separate volumes (chaps. 1-11, 12-34), it is also frustrating to have to wait for the second volume to appear in order to check and compare comments and linguistic analysis. In any case, Weinfeld's contribution to this group of commentaries on Deuteronomy is among the best and reflects his close reading of the text as well as his attention to parallels from ancient Near Eastern legal materials (as well as the vassal treaty forms), the Targumim, the Qumran archive, and the medieval rabbinic commentators.

It is interesting to note Weinfeld's views on the relationship between the Deuteronomic code and the other biblical legal codes. He contends that the Deuteronomist made little use of the priestly legislation, which Weinfeld calls "esoteric" in its emphasis on sacral legislation and the effects of impurity. Where priestly matters are dealt with in Deuteronomy (for example, on lepers, impure animals, and hybrid species), he advocates the primacy of Leviticus as the original source. In contrast, the JE (Covenant Code) and Deuteronomic code reflect "the general national milieu" of legal traditions (p. 19), with primary attention to the civil-secular sphere. Deuteronomy's dependence on the Covenant Code, however, is more in the nature of an updated revising of that earlier set of laws, based on the ideology of the seventh century. Among these new, more "humanitarian" concerns are the "protection of the family and family dignity" (see a list of changes on pp. 20-24 and the list of linguistic variations on p. 36).

Particularly stimulating in the introductory section is Weinfeld's discussion of Deuteronomy as a "turning point in Israelite religion" (pp. 37-44). He traces the maturing of the concept of Yahweh's presence separate from the Temple complex and the transformation of sacrificial practice. He emphasizes the greater importance placed on confession and prayer and the sharing of the offerings with the traditionally powerless groups (widows, orphans, and resident aliens) as well as the Levites. The centralization of worship, as part of the Josianic reform, is also put forward as a motivating force in the shaping of these laws.

In the commentary section, Weinfeld follows the traditional style of translation, textual notes, stylistic notes, and general comments. The layout of the book, with large print titles, helps break up the pages of closely packed script as well as the numerous abbreviations and transliterations. The inset of comparative texts is also helpful (see pp. 380-381 for a comparison of Exodus 23 and Deuteronomy 7).

Since he has more freedom to expound on particular texts in a two volume format, Weinfeld has written an extensive excursus on the Decalogue, which covers pages 236-327. In this remarkable section, he examines the history of its analysis by scholars, the relation between the text of Deuteronomy 5 and that of Exodus 20 as well as other legal collections, its use in worship, and the basic structure and meaning of each of the legal pronouncements. Textual and stylistic variants are skillfully outlined on pages 279-284, with attention given to massoretic vocabulary ("remember" vs. "observe" the Sabbath) as well as the Septuagint, papyri, Qumran, and Samaritan versions. In doing this, Weinfeld rejects the view of F. L. Hossfeld (Der Dekalog, Freiburg and Gattingen, 1982) that the Exodus material is a later, secondary development of the code (see pp. 290-291, 297, 305, and 312).

Much more attention is also given in this section to the first pentad, which is seen particularly as a reflection of the Deuteronomic ideology. One example of this new emphasis is the revision of the principle of familial solidarity. Weinfeld points to a rejection of the idea of communal punishment in the omission of the phrase concerning "visiting the father's sins on their descendants" (p. 299). In another case, the change in viewpoint is seen in the formulation of the fourth commandment, which, unlike Exod 23:12, does not place animals on the same level as humans during the Sabbath rest (p. 308).

Weinfeld makes good use of Hittite and Assyrian royal grants in his discussion of Yahweh's granting the land to the people (Deut 7:1-26). In doing this, he places the biblical material in the context of other ancient Near Eastern legal texts and highlights the manner in which the covenant with Israel parallels established legal form. For the Israelites, it would have been important that their covenant was written in a recognized treaty and land grant style, giving it legitimacy and the authority of long used tradition.

One deviation in this standard form is the clause regarding divine retribution against the violator of the covenant. Using Jer 31:28 and Ezek 18:2, Weinfeld again argues for a shift to "individual responsibility" and away from the idea of the father's sins being placed on the heads of his descendants (p. 371). While there may have been a greater recognition of the individual in these texts, it is hard to fathom that a society which was based on communal identity and recognition would absolutely reject this for individuality. More likely, these texts refer to individuals as they relate to the community as a whole, not to individuals separate from the community. Otherwise, the covenant promise to the nation as it is formulated throughout the biblical text loses its emphasis and ultimate force in governing the activities of a people.

In form and style, this commentary is very clear in setting out its position and in arguing forcefully for its understanding of Deuteronomy as a crux document. It should be read and used by all scholars interested in a better understanding of the transition of Judaism during and after the exilic period. Weinfeld has given us a important key to textual study which should be enhanced with the publication of his second volume.
Victor H. Matthews
Southwest Missouri State University
Springfield, MO 65804-0095

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