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Of Fields and Forced Labor

Roland Boer’s Materialist Criticism and the Plundering of the Israelite Body

In: Horizons in Biblical Theology
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Biblical narratives about ostensibly “local” barter (Abraham’s purchase of the cave at Machpelah), protection of battle spoils (Achan’s theft and subsequent execution), and commodification of labor and bodies (Ruth gleaning for hours and offering herself to Boaz) reveal much about ideologies of economic control operative in ancient Israel. The materialist analysis of Roland Boer provides a richly detailed study of Israelite agrarian and tributary practices, offering a salutary corrective to naïve views of Israelite economic relations. Highlighting labor as the most ruthlessly exploited resource in the ancient Near East, Boer examines the class-specific benefits and sustained violence of economic formations from kinship-household relations to militarized extraction. Boer’s erudite study will compel readers to look afresh at the subjugation of the poor and plundering of the powerless as constitutive features of diverse economic practices throughout the history of ancient Israel.

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