Saul M. Olyan
Much has been written about animal rights in the four decades since the appearance of Peter Singer’s classic monograph Animal Liberation (1975) and not a few studies consider – often in passing – what biblical texts have to contribute to debates about animal rights. These studies are, however, almost exclusively the work of non-specialists. I begin to address this dearth of professional scholarship on this topic by exploring what four biblical laws – Exod. 23:10-11, 12; Lev. 25:2-7 and Deut. 5:12-15 – might suggest about the legal standing of animals. As legal scholar Gary L. Francione states, “[W]e normally use [the term “rights”] to describe a type of protection that does not evaporate in the face of consequential considerations.” In this article, I consider whether the four biblical laws in question meet this standard.
Daniel J. D. Stulac
Following the work of Ellen Davis in her 2009 volume Scripture, Culture, and Agriculture: An Agrarian Reading of the Bible, this essay identifies an “agrarian hermeneutic” as an important resource for addressing current impasses in modern-critical exegesis. A close examination of Isaiah 5 demonstrates how such a hermeneutic provides fresh insight into a well-worn text. Modern scholars have tended to see this passage as a chronological sequence of prophetic indictment (5:1-7), grievance (5:8-24), and military sentence (5:25-30); such interpretations typically exchange the chapter’s actual language for the sociopolitical realities that are thought to stand behind it, and moreover, cannot adequately account for the text’s redactional expansions. By contrast, an agrarian-rhetorical perspective on this passage identifies a theological sequence that communicates to the reader a paradigmatic vision of land-destruction and loss.
Laura Carlson Hasler
Determining the authenticity of Ezra-Nehemiah’s sources was a central question among scholars more than a century ago and remains so today. In this article, I explore why posing questions of authenticity about the source documents endures as a mainstay of Ezra-Nehemiah scholarship and argue that the implications of the authenticity question are frequently overstated. This overstatement reveals a prevailing scholarly instinct to separate “the real” from “the ideological,” a dichotomy traceable since C.C. Torrey’s Ezra Studies. Using Ezra 4 as an example, I argue that determining the authenticity of Ezra-Nehemiah’s source documents is not a worthy litmus test of historical-critical scholarship. Instead, considering how Ezra 4 resembles a space of collection rather than a linear story collapses methodological boundaries, calling into question the usefulness of categories like authenticity and fabrication in our understanding of Ezra-Nehemiah and beyond.
The use of cosmetic oils by the heroines of the books of Esther and Ruth is frequently interpreted as a means to enhance their beauty and allurement. Cosmetic use in the Hebrew Bible is routinely condemned, and yet Esther and Ruth receive no censure for their actions. By utilising a sociological approach to the function of cosmetics and body adornment alongside archaeological and textual evidence from ancient Palestine, in this article I consider the use of cosmetics akin to a speech act, able to communicate the social status and sexual intentions of the wearer to those around them. This perspective provides a new access to understanding the characterisation of Esther and Ruth, showing that their intentions in utilising cosmetic oils fundamentally differs in the two books. This has implications for understanding some of the narrative elements within the tales, as well as their reception at the hands of later interpreters.
Sébastien Doane and Nathan Robert Mastnjak
The image of Rachel’s inconsolable weeping for her lost children in Jer. 31:15 presents a specific kind of response to a cultural trauma. As this paper argues, understanding this response is enriched both by analyzing the extra-textual literary strategy of the passage itself and by engaging in an intertextual reading of the ancient text with a contemporary artistic response to trauma. By means of an allusion to Genesis 37, Jer. 31:15 makes a case both for the continued existence of the people of Israel and for the legitimacy of experiencing the exile as a metaphorical death. What Jer. 31:15 accomplishes textually for a sixth century BCE Judean audience, the Witness Blanket accomplishes in a visual medium for threatened Canadian native cultures. Both texts stage a protest against the threat to the continued existence of culture by asserting the persistent potency of its cultural symbols.
Emily O. Gravett
Milton Steinberg’s posthumously published novel The Prophet’s Wife retells the story of the prophet Hosea and his “wife of whoredom,” Gomer. To analyze the novel’s interpretation of the biblical text, the article first reviews the book of Hosea and outlines the concept of “retrieval” in biblical retellings (that is, the restoration of characters overlooked in the Bible). Because Steinberg retrieves Gomer by drawing upon language of sight, body, and beauty, the article turns to the concept of the “male gaze” from film studies. Using this concept, the article examines several key moments of retrieval from the novel, in which Gomer is framed as a beautiful object for male eyes to appraise. What becomes clear is that Gomer’s retrieval in The Prophet’s Wife paradoxically results in her increased exposure to the male gaze. The article culminates in an exploration of this risk, possibly inherent in biblical retellings that retrieve female figures.