The Sacred Economy of Ancient Israel  -     By: Roland Boer
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The Sacred Economy of Ancient Israel

Westminster John Knox Press / 2015 / Paperback

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The Sacred Economy of Ancient Israel offers a new reconstruction of the economic context of the Bible and of ancient Israel. It argues that the key to ancient economies is with those who worked on the land rather than in intermittent and relatively weak kingdoms and empires.

Drawing on sophisticated economic theory (especially the Regulation School) and textual and archaeological resources, Roland Boer makes it clear that economic "crisis" was the norm and that economics is always socially determined. He examines three economic layers: the building blocks (five institutional forms), periods of relative stability (three regimes), and the overarching mode of production. Ultimately, the most resilient of all the regimes was subsistence survival, for which the regular collapse of kingdoms and empires was a blessing rather than a curse.

Students will come away with a clear understanding of the dynamics of the economy of ancient Israel. Boer's volume should become a new benchmark for future studies.

Product Information

Format: Paperback
Number of Pages: 570
Vendor: Westminster John Knox Press
Publication Date: 2015
Dimensions: 9.00 X 6.00 (inches)
ISBN: 0664259669
ISBN-13: 9780664259662

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Author Bio

Roland Boer is Professor of Literary Theory at Renmin (Peoples) University of China, Beijing, and Research Professor in Religious Thought at the University of Newcastle, Australia. An internationally recognized lecturer, he is the author of numerous articles and books, including In the Vale of Tears; Lenin, Religion, and Theology; Criticism of Earth and Political Grace.

Endorsements

Boer's growing corpus of critical work has not received nearly the attention that it merits. With this book Boer establishes himself as a front-line critical scholar whose work will be an inescapable reference point for future work. This courageous book is nothing short of a tour de force in which Boer probes the economic organization, structure, practice, and resources of the Near East and ancient Israel as a sub-set of that culture. His study is organized around 'regimes' of allocation that distribute resources and of extraction that plunder resources according to the deployment of socio-political power. The discussion maintains a continuing dialectic of 'subsistence' and 'surplus' that kept economic practice endlessly open and unstable. It is impossible to overstate the importance of this book and the sheer erudition that has made it possible. Boer's patient attention to detail, his mastery of a huge critical literature, and the daring of his interpretive capacity combine to make this book a 'must' for any who want to probe the economic sub-structure of biblical faith and the culture that was its environment.
-Walter Brueggemann

This is a remarkable book. It is a brilliant analysis of ancient Israel in its broader historical context. Boer has a more profound and extensive knowledge of the ancient economy than any other scholar working on the ancient world. Given the prevailing neoliberal ideology in Western societies, many biblical and ancient Near East scholars looked for trade in an early capitalist market economy; but working from a profound knowledge of the history of political economic theory, Boer offers a desperately needed counter to such anachronistic analysis. In opposition to individualizing, desocializing, and dehistoricizing neoclassical theory, he investigates, explains, and documents how both subsistence and extractive economic life was embedded in social relations, cultural traditions, and institutionalized social forms. He carefully builds a flexible theoretical framework in a multifaceted analysis that is able to comprehend the many interrelated factors and institutional forms of the ancient 'sacred economy.' Supplementing his magisterial discussion, his excursuses, critical comments on other approaches, and bibliography provide guided tutorials and rich resources for specialist and nonspecialist alike. Boer's book finally sets study of economic life in ancient Israel and Southwestern Asia in general on a sound critical theoretical basis from which archaeological explorations, historical investigations, and textual interpretation can work with confidence.
-Richard A. Horsley,
Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Liberal Arts and the Study of Religion, University of Massachusetts

Roland Boer offers the reader a comprehensive and exhaustive study of Israel's economy in the context of the ancient world. He draws all sorts of economic theories and models into both use and criticism. The reader is encouraged to read through to the end, where Boer asks the question--and seeks to answer it--as to what normative patterns can be discerned for considering economic life today.
-Patrick D. Miller,
Charles T. Haley Professor of Old Testament Theology Emeritus, Princeton Theological Seminary

Marxism as a practical political ideology may have lost its momentum, but Marxism as an analytical method has not. Rather, this method is very precise and produces surprising results. Roland Boer's study is a fine example of what can be achieved by a consequent use of this method. Boer distinguishes between two societal systems in the ancient Near East: the subsistence survival strategy in its various forms and extractive regimes such as states. Thus he has authored a highly readable new kind of book about the society of ancient Israel and its economic forces.
-Niels Peter Lemche,
Professor Emeritus, Department of Biblical Exegesis, University of Copenhagen

Roland Boer's informative and colorful study provides a thorough treatment of the 'sacred economy' of ancient Israel. Boer examines household structures, the plight of subsistence farmers, and financial exchanges. By applying the insights of economic theory, Boer is able to offer a fresh appraisal of key biblical texts. Full of interesting facts and lively prose, this book is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand the vagaries of economic life during the period in which the Bible was written.
-Samuel L. Adams,
Associate Professor of Biblical Studies, Union Presbyterian Seminary

The Sacred Economy of Ancient Israel is nothing short of groundbreaking. Through an unparalleled understanding of economic theory, Boer corrects two misguided assumptions in approaching biblical economies: the tendency to assume capitalist structures and the tendency to isolate economy from the rest of the social world. Boer cogently articulates how the economy of Ancient Israel was deeply integrated into its religious institutions. With lucid prose and engaging style, this book will be a welcome resource for students and scholars for years to come.
-Roger S. Nam,
Associate Professor of Biblical Studies, George Fox University

This bold and theoretically rich economic analysis should stimulate the rereading of many biblical texts and the rethinking of Israelite life altogether. Rather than dwelling on temple, palace, and the apparatus of empire, Boer shows the economic resilience through centuries of subsistence-level households and villages. While recognizing the injustices common in kinship-based communities, he nonetheless dares to suggest that agricultural subsistence models may hold the greatest promise for the thriving of contemporary communities.
-Ellen F. Davis,
Amos Ragan Kearns Distinguished Professor of Bible and Practical Theology, Duke Divinity School

Roland Boer is without doubt the world's foremost scholar on the relation between Marxism and religion. Ste. Croix's magisterial work on ancient Greece set the absolute standard for scholarship on the economies and societies of that part of the world; this book will set the same bar for work on the ancient Near East.
-Kenneth Surin,
Professor of Literature and Professor of Religion and Critical Theory, Duke University

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