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Introduction to Hebrew Bible: A Guided Tour of Israel's Sacred Library

By James E. Bowley

Published by Pearson

Published Date: Feb 21, 2007

Table of Contents

A Note to Teachers



Welcome to the Library!

Easy Access for All

Why a “Library”?

How This Guide Works



**************THE ENTRANCE**************

Chapter 1. What is a Bible?

The Bible is Not a Book

Books and Scrolls

The Bible or Bibles?

Which Library Are We Touring?

Naming the Library

Arranging the Library

Subsections in the Library

The Rare Book Room: Our Oldest Manuscripts


Chapter 2. Preliminary Matters of Interpretation


Valuing the Scrolls

Ways of Studying/Reading

A Brief Word about Meaning

History Then and Now

Religion in Ancient Israel


Chapter 3. Preliminary Matters of Ancient History

Where Are We Going and Why?

Ancient Near Eastern Political History

            Sumer, at the Beginning

            Egypt, “Gift of the Nile”

            Back to Mesopotamia

            Persia, Conquest from the East

            Greece, Conquest from the West

Where We Are

Canaan: The “Land Between”

Topography and Travel

Ancient Israel’s Political History and the Library Scrolls

Everybody’s History


Chapter 4. The Composition of Biblical Scrolls

Hebrew Language

Time Periods of Composing the Scrolls

Collecting the Scrolls

Authoring a Scroll

Literary Forms

            Hebrew Narrative

            Hebrew Poetry



***************IN the LIBRARY**************

Chapter 5. Torah/Instruction

The First Five Scrolls

Moses (Moshe)

One Story Begins

Explaining the Composition of Torah


1. Genesis  Bereshit

Literary Format and Movement

Composition of Bereshit

Bereshit and History

Setting the Stage: Creation

Setting the Stage: From Creation to Abraham

Abraham Our Great Father

Stories of Isaac and Jacob

Themes of Bereshit

The Main Character


2. Exodus  Shemot

Literary Format and Movement

Date, Composition, and Manuscripts

Exodus and Historiography

The Dramatic Liberation

God, Moses, and YHWH

Women and the Rescue

Who Was Rescued?

The Celebration

The Instruction on the Mountain

How Shall YHWH Live with Israel?


3. Leviticus  Vayikkrah

Literary Format and Movement

Leviticus as Literature

Dating Leviticus

Sources and Sections in Leviticus

Holiness and the Big Ideas of Leviticus

Areas Covered by Holiness Laws

Leviticus and Other Nations

“Behind the Scenes” Observations


4. Numbers  BeMidbar

Literary Format and Movement

Date and Composition

The Behavior and Punishment of One Generation

YHWH’s Blessings

Numbers and History

Laws in BeMidbar


5. Deuteronomy  Devarim

Literary Format and Movement

Composition and Date

The Unique Voice of Moshe in Devarim

The Covenant of YHWH and Israel

Devarim and Other Scrolls of Moses



Chapter 6. Neviim/Prophets- Part I

Narratives: Four Scrolls

6. Joshua  Yehoshua

Literary Format and Movement

A Familiar Story Continues

Joshua and History

Complexity/Reality in Narrative


7. Judges  Shophtim

Literary Format and Movement

Formation and Dating

What’s the Point?

A Literary Genius

Judges and History


8. Samuel  Shemuel

Literary Format and Movement

History and Composition

The Man Samuel



The Text of Samuel


9. Kings  Melakhim

Literary Format and Movement

Composition and sources

History and Historiography

Organizing the Religious History

Prophets in Kings

Religion and Writing



Chapter 7. Neviim/Prophets-Part II

Prophetic Oracles


10. Isaiah  Yeshayahu

Literary Format and Movement

Compositional History

The world of Yeshayahu of Yerushalim (Jerusalem)

The world of Yeshayahu of Babylon

Oracles of Criticism

Oracles Inspiring Trust and Hope

Poetry and Pictures


11. Jeremiah  Yermiyah

Literary Format and Movement

The Scrolls of Yermeyahu

The Life and Times of Yermeyahu

Baruch, Scribe and Associate

Yermeyahu’s Poetic Preaching


12. Ezekiel  Yehezkael

Literary Format and Movement

Yekhezkael the Prophet in His Setting

Yekhezkael the Entertainer

Text and Composition

Major Messages


13. The Twelve

Twelve to One


Hosea  Hoshea

Literary Format and Movement

Hosea’s Time: Politics

Hosea’s Time: Religion

The Text


Joel  Yoel

Literary Format and Movement

Dating the Composition

Today’s Priestly-Prophetic Message, Yesterday’s Words


Ahmos  Amos

Literary Format and Movement

Influence of Amos

The non-Prophet’s World and his Oracles

Amos the Social Critic

Amos the Revisionist

Construction of the Scroll


Obadiah  Ovadyah

Literary Format and Movement

Structure and Message

Obadiah’s Times

Obadiah and Other Poems


Jonah  Yonah

Literary Format and Movement

Questions of Genre and Origin

Compositional Date

The International Times


The Poem

A True Prophet

A Strange Ending


Micah  Mekhah

Literary Format and Movement

Who and When

Composition of the Scroll

Mekhah’s Opposition

A Court Case and Mekhah’s Priorities


Nahum  Nakhum

Literary Format and Movement

The Times of Nahum

National and Religious Overtones

Poetic Video


Habakkuk  Khabakkuk

Literary Format and Movement

A Poet’s Question and Answer Time with YHWH


Zephaniah  Ts’fanyah

Literary Format and Movement

The Times of Ts’fanyah

The Urgent Poetry of Ts’fanyah


Haggai  Khaggai

Literary Format and Movement

The Times of Khaggai

Khaggai’s Encouragements


Zechariah  Zekharyah

Literary Format and Movement

The Times of Zekharyah and the Composition of the Scroll

The Visions and Message of Zekharyah 1-8

The Themes of Zekharyah 9-14


Malachi  Malakhi

Literary Format and Movement

Date and Setting of the Messenger

Message and Tradition



Chapter 8.  Ketuvim/Writings


14. Psalms

Literary Format and Movement

Psalm Literature in the Ancient Near Eastern World

Collecting Poems in Ancient Israel and Later Manuscripts

Music and Tehelim

Authors and Dates

Larger Poetic Structures

Kinds of Psalms

Psalms and Prayers


15. Proverbs

Literary Format and Movement

Wisdom in the Ancient Near East

Wisdom in Mishlei

Lady Wisdom

The Fear of YHWH and Wisdom

What is a Proverb?

Collecting Proverbs

A Jewish “Patron Saint” of Wisdom?

A Final Poem


16. Job

Literary Format and Movement

The Basic Drama

Date and Composition

The Ancient Hebrew Text of Job

Historical Names and Places

Job as Wisdom Literature

The Prologue

The Poetic Disputes

The Epilogue

Job in the Library


17. Song of Songs

Literary Format and Movement

Link to Solomon

Who Is Speaking?

What Are They Saying?

Specific Metaphors

Female and Male

Reflection on Love

Religious Literature?


18. Ruth

Literary Format and Movement

A Simple Story, Well Told

Dramatic Setting and Date

The Point?


19. Lamentations

Literary Format and Movement

A Poetic Monument of Sorrow

Poem One

Poem Two

Poem Three

Poem Four

Poem Five


20. Ecclesiastes

Literary Format and Movement

Date and Authorship

The Quest

The Findings

Method of the Search

Resulting Advice

God and Hevel

The Epilogue

Qohelet in the Library


21. Esther

Literary Format and Movement

Dramatic Setting and Plot

Date and Composition History

Esther and History

Esther and Religion

A Later Version


22. Daniel

Literary Format and Movement

Ancient Daniel Stories

The Longer Version

Daniel’s Dramatic Settings, History, and Date of Composition

Apocalyptic Literature and Daniel

Where to Put Daniel?


23. Ezra-Nehemiah

Literary Format and Movement

History and ‘Ezra-Nekhemyah

Stories with a Purpose


24. Chronicles

Literary Format and Movement

A Historical Review

Ancient Source Citation

Watching the Writer

The Writing Continues

The End of the Story



Chapter 9. Additional Scrolls

More Scrolls?




1 Maccabees

2 Maccabees

3 Maccabees

4 Maccabees

Wisdom of Solomon

Wisdom of Ben Sira (Ecclesiaticus, Sirach)


Letter of Jeremiah



************AFTER THE TOUR************

Chapter 10. Meeting the Librarians: The Communities of the Books

Religious Communities and Biblical Literature

Jewish Practice

Christian Practice

Muslim Practice

The Library in Our Pluralistic World


Checking Out


Glossary   Index


Introduction to Hebrew Bible: A Guided Tour of Israel's Sacred Library

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