In A Covenant with Death Christopher Hays summarizes what is known about the beliefs and practices concerning death in Mesopotamia, Egypt, Syria-Palestine, and Judah/Israel in the Second Iron Age. He then points out how his findings illumine more than a dozen obscure passages in Isaiah, creatively breaking new ground.
Shows how ancient Near Eastern attitudes toward death illumine the Hebrew Bible
Death is one of the major themes of First Isaiah, although it has not generally been recognized as such. In this work Christopher Hays offers fresh interpretations of more than a dozen passages in Isaiah 5-38 in light of ancient beliefs about death. What especially distinguishes Hays's study is its holistic approach, as he brilliantly synthesizes both literary and archaeological evidence, resulting in new insights.
Hays first summarizes what is known about death in the ancient Near East during the Second Iron Age, covering beliefs and practices in Mesopotamia, Egypt, Syria-Palestine, and Judah/Israel. He then shows how select passages in the first part of Isaiah employ the rhetorical imagery of death that was part of their cultural context; further, he identifies ways in which these texts break new creative ground.
Christopher B. Hays is D. Wilson Moore Associate Professor of Ancient Near Eastern Studies at Fuller Theological Seminary. He is also the author of Hidden Riches: A Sourcebook for the Comparative Study of the Hebrew Bible and Ancient Near East.
Bernd U. Schipper
Humboldt University of Berlin, Germany
"A masterful and fascinating overview of death in Mesopotamia, Egypt, Ugarit, and Judah. . . . Christopher Hays offers a thorough discussion of ancient Near Eastern conceptions and imagery of the underworld and its deities, the afterlife, burials, and mourning. Students as well as scholars will benefit from the rich synthesis that this work provides."
University of California, Los Angeles
"Hayss holistic perspective and readable prose effectively move biblical scholarship out of safe territorial boxes and into the real world of hybridization and cross-pollination. This book belongs on the bookshelf of any contextualizing scholar."
Matthew J. Suriano (from foreword)
Meyerhoff Center for Jewish Studies, University of Maryland
"The appearance of this accessible and affordable volume is a welcome event in biblical studies and an important advancement in the ongoing work on death in the ancient world."
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