War in the Hebrew Bible: A Study in the Ethics of Violence / Edition 1

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Texts about war pervade the Hebrew Bible, raising challenging questions in religious and political ethics. Among the most disquieting war passages are those in which God demands the total annihilation of the enemy without regard to gender, age, or military status. The ideology of the "ban," however, is only one among a range of attitudes towards war preserved in the ancient Israelite literary tradition. Applying insights from anthropology, comparative literature, and feminist studies, Niditch considers a wide spectrum of war ideologies in the Hebrew Bible, seeking in each case to discover why and how these views might have made sense to biblical writers, who themselves can be seen to wrestle with the ethics of violence. Niditch thus challenges the stereotype of the violent "Old" Testament - of law versus gospel, justice versus mercy, and judgment versus love. To understand attitudes about war in the Hebrew Bible, Niditch argues, is to understand war in general: the motivations, justifications, and rationalizations of those who wage it. In addition, this exploration reveals much about the social and cultural history of Israel, as war texts are found to map the world views of biblical writers from various periods and settings. Reviewing ways in which modern scholars have interpreted this controversial material, Niditch sheds further light on the normative assumptions that shape our understanding of ancient Israel. More widely, this work explores how human beings attempt to justify killing and violence. Niditch's unique study will be of particular interest to students of Judaism, the Bible, and religion, as well as ethicists and historians concerned with relating classical sources to contemporary issues.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A very helpful study, ethically sensitive and methodologically sophisticated. I will certainly use this volume as a teaching text for years to come."—Harold C. Washington, Saint Paul School of Theology

"Represents a unique contribution to the issue of war in the Hebrew Bible. I find Dr. Niditch's work thought-provoking. It provides new ways of thinking about biblical ideologies of war and should initiate useful debate on the issues."—Theodore Hiebert, Harvard Divinity School

"A sophisticated and enlightening study on the various war ideologies of ancient Israel."—Old Testament Abstracts

"Essential reading not only for students and scholars of the Bible, but for anyone interested in issues of war and peace today."—Theological Studies

"An enriching, challenging, and provocative book for scholars of the Bible as well as readers from religious and secular backgrounds."—Digest of Middle East Studies

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195076387
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 2/4/1993
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 192
  • Product dimensions: 5.63 (w) x 8.56 (h) x 0.78 (d)

Table of Contents

Introduction 3
1 The Ban as God's Portion 28
2 The Ban as God's Justice 56
3 The Priestly Ideology of War in Numbers 31 78
4 The Bardic Tradition of War 90
5 The Ideology of Tricksterism 106
6 The Ideology of Expediency and Biblical Critique 123
7 Toward an Ideology of Nonparticipation 134
Conclusions 150
References 157
Additional Readings 171
Index of Biblical Citations 173
General Index 178
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