According to an old tradition preserved in the Palestinian Targums, the Hebrew Bible is "the Book of Memories." The sacred past recalled in the Bible serves as a model and wellspring for the present. The remembered past, says Ronald Hendel, is the material with which biblical Israel constructed its identity as a people, a religion, and a culture. It is a mixture of history, collective memory, folklore, and literary brilliance, and is often colored by political and religious interests.
In Israel's formative years, these memories circulated orally in the context of family and tribe. Over time they came to be crystallized in various written texts. The Hebrew Bible is a vast compendium of writings, spanning a thousand-year period from roughly the twelfth to the second century BCE, and representing perhaps a small slice of the writings of that period. The texts are often overwritten by later texts, creating a complex pastiche of text, reinterpretation, and commentary. The religion and culture of ancient Israel are expressed by these texts, and in no small part also created by them, as they formulate new or altered conceptions of the sacred past. Remembering Abraham explores the interplay of culture, history, and memory in the Hebrew Bible. Hendel examines the Hebrew Bible's portrayal of Israel and its history, and correlates the biblical past with our own sense of the past. He addresses the ways that culture, memory, and history interweave in the self-fashioning of Israel's identity, and in the biblical portrayals of the patriarchs, the Exodus, and King Solomon. A concluding chapter explores the broad horizons of the biblical sense of the past.
This accessibly written book represents the mature thought of one of our leading scholars of the Hebrew Bible.
"Hendel steers a careful but masterful course between extremes, balancing his craft among the rapids and cataracts of excessive dogmatic assertions at either end of the spectrum. If he occupies some middle ground between radicals and conservatives, it is nevertheless an exciting place to be, and new ideas and new constructions pour forth and are built up in profusion. The scholarship is impeccable."--David Noel Freedman, Professor of Hebrew Bible, University of California, San Diego
"These interlocking essays offer a lucid and finely instructive account of how the biblical writers wove together myth, folklore, literary invention, and actual memory to create a national past regarded with the utmost seriousness. Ronald Hendel combines acute philological analysis, informed awareness of the archeological evidence, and an openness to the broader horizons of intellectual and cultural history in a way that is a model of intellectual method."--Robert Alter, author of The Art of Biblical Narrative
"Ronald Hendel has written a magnificent volume of interlocking essays which discuss Israel's historical memories. His book should make a major impact on the field of biblical studies. His perceptions of the evolution of Israel's ethnic identity and religion neglect neither its cultural lore held in common with its neighbors, nor the distinctive traits which emerge, especially in Israel's perception of its history as defining its origins as a distinct nation, and furnishing the ground of its religion."--Frank Moore Cross, Hancock Professor of Hebrew and Other Oriental Languages, Emeritus, Harvard University
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