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Solomon: The Lure of Wisdom
     

Solomon: The Lure of Wisdom

by Steven Weitzman
 

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Tradition has it that King Solomon knew everything there was to know—the mysteries of nature, of love, of God himself—but what do we know of him? Esteemed biblical scholar Steven Weitzman reintroduces readers to Solomon's story and its surprising influence in shaping Western culture, and he also examines what Solomon's life, wisdom, and writings have

Overview

Tradition has it that King Solomon knew everything there was to know—the mysteries of nature, of love, of God himself—but what do we know of him? Esteemed biblical scholar Steven Weitzman reintroduces readers to Solomon's story and its surprising influence in shaping Western culture, and he also examines what Solomon's life, wisdom, and writings have come to mean for Jews, Christians, and Muslims over the past two thousand years.

Weitzman's Solomon is populated by a colorful cast of ambitious characters—Byzantine emperors, explorers, rabbis, saints, scientists, poets, archaeologists, trial judges, reggae singers, and moviemakers among them—whose common goal is to unearth the truth about Solomon's life and wisdom. Filled with the Solomonic texts of the Bible, along with lesser–known magical texts and other writings, this book challenges both religious and secular assumptions. Even as it seeks to tell the story of ancient Israel's greatest ruler, this insightful book is also a meditation on the Solomonic desire to know all of life's secrets, and on the role of this desire in world history.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Weitzman (Surviving Sacrilege: Cultural Persistence in Jewish Antiquity) writes in the tradition of critical biblical scholarship with great éclat, which makes his latest effort something of a demolition derby. This is illustrated well by the most familiar story told of King Solomon, finding him judging two women who are vying for the same baby, a sword suspended above it. In some versions of the Bible, a second, dead child exists, "accidentally smothered by its mother and scarcely acknowledged after its death." Likewise, recent archaeological research has not only debunked what was thought to be evidence of the king's construction projects, including his Temple, but also his Kingdom, once thought to be vast. This kind of brush clearing opens the way for a tour de force evaluation of Solomon's wisdom—both the practical mastery which brought him to political power and the wisdom which God granted him while he slept—a trait that the biblical narrative does "not explain or describe...but only shows in action, leaving us awestruck and puzzled," Claims Weitzman. His effort is organized through successive tales—Solomon's Kingdom, his Temple, and so on—clearly illustrating the many cultures, including Islam, Rome, and medieval Catholicism, that contributed, creating a foundation story for our culture. A thoroughly entertaining treatment of a controversial topic. (Mar.)
Jewish Week

"In looking anew at Solomon’s life, [Weitzman] offers answers to many questions about the accomplished and wise king, and writes of Solomon’s significance to Jews, Christians and Muslims."—Sandee Brawarsky, Jewish Week

— Sandee Brawarsky

Jewish Ideas Daily

"Weitzman captures the longstanding ambivalence regarding the pursuit of knowledge that has troubled many a Western imagination and that continues to the present day."—Eve Levavi Feinstein, Jewish Ideas Daily

— Eve Levavi Feinstein

Forward
Solomon is an engrossing, elegant and erudite exegesis of the quest for knowledge—and an examination of where wisdom originates, the shapes it takes, the Faustian bargains it often makes and the tragic end to which it often comes."—Glenn Altschuler, Forward
Washington Jewish Week

"Fascinating . . . provocative."—Aaron Leibel, Washington Jewish Week

— Aaron Leibel

Baltimore Jewish Times

"Compelling . . . .Weitzman’s subject matter is ostensibly Solomon, but what he gleans for modern readers are bigger lessons."—Priya Ramachandran, Baltimore Jewish Times

— Priya Ramachandran

Robert Alter
"Steve Weitzman turns the challenge of writing a biography of King Solomon into a meditation on the quest for unattainable knowledge, an enterprise equally embodied in the figure of Solomon in Scripture and in legend. There is something deeply human about this appealing book of intellectual distinction."—Robert Alter

Jewish Week - Sandee Brawarsky
"In looking anew at Solomon’s life, [Weitzman] offers answers to many questions about the accomplished and wise king, and writes of Solomon’s significance to Jews, Christians and Muslims."—Sandee Brawarsky, Jewish Week
Jewish Ideas Daily - Eve Levavi Feinstein
"Weitzman captures the longstanding ambivalence regarding the pursuit of knowledge that has troubled many a Western imagination and that continues to the present day."—Eve Levavi Feinstein, Jewish Ideas Daily
Washington Jewish Week - Aaron Leibel
"Fascinating. . . . Provocative."—Aaron Leibel, Washington Jewish Week
Baltimore Jewish Times - Priya Ramachandran
"Compelling . . . .Weitzman’s subject matter is ostensibly Solomon, but what he gleans for modern readers are bigger lessons."—Priya Ramachandran, Baltimore Jewish Times
The Reporter - Rabbi Rachel Esserman
"[Weitzman's] discussions of the way Solomon's story and its meaning have changed over time do an excellent job highlighting how an interpretation can tell one more about the storyteller than the original tale. . . . By not trying to be a traditional biography, Solomon: The Lure of Wisdom successfully shows how one can use the biblical text to gain a better understanding of the human condition."—Rabbi Rachel Esserman, The Reporter
Choice - S.H. Werlin
"Weitzman approaches his subject with levity and erudition, balancing his interpretive views between religious lore and secular scholarship in a voice that laypeople and scholars alike can appreciate. . . . Highly recommended."—S.H. Werlin, Choice
Association of Jewish Libraries Reviews - Ellen Share
"This fascinating and informative book will be of interest to both Jewish and Christian readers."—Ellen Share, Association of Jewish Libraries Reviews

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780300137187
Publisher:
Yale University Press
Publication date:
03/29/2011
Series:
Jewish Lives Series
Pages:
240
Sales rank:
680,890
Product dimensions:
5.70(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.00(d)

Meet the Author

Steven Weitzman is the Daniel E. Koshland Professor of Jewish Culture and Religion at Stanford University. He was awarded the Gustave O. Arlt Prize for Outstanding Scholarship in the Humanities for his first book, Song and Story in Biblical Narrative, and has received fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies and the Yad-Hadiv Foundation. His other books include Surviving Sacrilege and The Jews: A History.

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