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Land Revised Edition (Overtures to Biblical Theology) [Paperback]

By Walter Brueggemann (Author)
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Pages   256
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.48" Width: 5.56" Height: 0.61"
Weight:   0.8 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Sep 1, 2002
Publisher   Augsburg Fortress Publishers
ISBN  0800634624  
EAN  9780800634629  

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Item Description...
The Promised Land has played an important role in Jewish life from the days of Abraham to the rise of modern Zionism. Brueggemann elaborates on major Old Testament themes---land as gift, as temptation, as task, and as threat---plus tackles how to view the Babylonian exile and the Diaspora.

Publishers Description
The land was one of the most vibrant symbols for the people of ancient Israel. In the land-gift, promise, and challenge-was found the physical source of Israel's fertility and life, and a place for the gathering of the hopes of the covenant people. In this careful treatment, Walter Brueggemann follows the development of his theme through the major blocks of Israel's traditions. The book provides a point of entrance both to the theology of the Old Testament and to aspects of the New Testament-even as it illuminates crucial issues of the contemporary scene. In this fully revised version, Brueggemann provides new insights, as well as updating the discussion, notes, and bibliography.

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More About Walter Brueggemann

Walter Brueggemann

Walter Brueggemann is William Marcellus McPheeters Professor of Old Testament Emeritus at Columbia Theological Seminary.

Walter Brueggemann has published or released items in the following series...

  1. Literary Currents in Biblical Interpretation
  2. Old Testament Theology
  3. Shalom Resource
  4. Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
enthralling  May 9, 2006
In The Land, Walter Brueggemann consistently pushes one point: that "The Bible ... is primarily concerned with the issue of being displaced and yearning for a place" (2). Through the stories it tells about the relationship between Israel and the land, the Bible is concerned with laying out a vision of how and how not to be in the land. This book is loaded with pathos, reminding us of how the Bible witnesses to God's intense longing for his creation to live into the vibrant, harmonious relationships for which he destined it. Brueggemann well articulates the Bible's ideal of the Land as an avenue through which grace intervenes upon the fallen state of creation.

Right relationship with the land begins with Yahweh's call to the land, for the means of acquisition is definitive for the character of the interaction with the land once occupation takes place. This shows up of course in the Abraham narrative, but is echoed throughout the text as the people of God are continually called to leave the land of their own establishment (which is slavery), embrace exile/wilderness, and receive that land which is Yahweh's gift. It is obedience and trust in this word from Yahweh that enables one to receive land as it was created to be given. Any other means of land acquisition is deemed illegitimate by Torah.

Brueggemann goes on to describe right relationship with the land once occupation has occurred. In fact, I shouldn't use the word "occupation," for it implies a sort of living that Brueggemann's reading of the text adamantly opposes - one that views the land as a thing to be used and abused if necessary. Even "use" gets it wrong, for that would imply that the land belonged to Israel, which it certainly does not. The land is Yahweh's, and it is a gift in a peculiar sense, namely that there has been no transfer in ownership. Rather, the gift is the permission he gives to live there. The gift is the fruitfulness he brings from it. The gift is a safety that wasn't earned, a city that was built by another, protected by another. The gift is an existence in which need not be defended or fought for. Remaining in the land is not a matter of defense or alliance, but of obedience to Torah. And it is this life of obedience that is true liberty. More than simply not being subject to oppressors, "Exodus is about freedom ... in the good land under the good word of promise" (27).

Yet it is in the Land that the Israelites face the greatest temptation: to believe that their lives can be blessed by the work of their own hands. Always in the wilderness,Israel was forced into dependency, trust, and hope in Yahweh as the sole provider for them. To counter this are the institutes of Torah, a memory giving definition to the community in a way that affirms their peculiar identity as a people whose very existence is a gift. It is a bulwark against a belief that better management1, denial of justice to the poor, etc., will lead to productivity. The only true fruitfulness comes by obedience to Torah.

On the one hand, Brueggemann holds out the vision of Deuteronomy as one that "clings to a better vision of Israel, believing that in the land, fithful people can resist the temptation to be too secure, and can maintain the buoyancy of the covenant" (56). On the other, he also makes clear that the text seems doubtful as to whether these people will actually do so. And of course, Israel is a miserable failure at living in obedience to Torah. They are characterized by such mistrust and insistence on working to provide for their own security that Yahweeh must boot them out of the land, back into wilderness/exile, and start his people back on a process of looking landward.

I find myself in agreement with nearly all of the larger points of Brueggemann's. Although I found myself at times flabbergasted at some of his smaller points (c.f. the unexplained/clarified/warrented import of covenantal theology on p. 45, which interestingly isn't developed in his N.T. Chapter), I found myself greatly provoked in my thinking, even in disagreement. The one exception to this was the "Blessed are the Meek" chapter. One is certainly able to discern the idea of land/exile in Christ's death/resurrection, but Brueggemann's clever, and even apt connections between certain N.T. themes with the Land left me wishing he would have more fully addressed the most conspicuous feature of the N.T. in regards to the land, namely it's lack of references to it. Does Christ now function as the land?; are Gentiles going to inherit any land?; etc? Brueggemann doesen't want to take his observation that "Yahweh transforms the question so that bread-talk has the dimansion of God-talk..." (38) to existentialist ends, so what happened to the land in the N.T.? This book leaves me full of questions, definitely a sign of its value.
possibly Brueggemann's best work  Mar 8, 2006
Though this may be the best of Walter Brueggemann's many books, it is not a work for the faint of heart. Brueggemann's prose sometimes seems to overtake his meaning. One wonders at times-Brueggemann himself might say-whether there is a surfeit of meaning in this text that eludes immediate penetration, or simply a surplus of words.

At least that's how I often feel upon first reading. A virtue of Brueggemann's work is that it invites one back for a second reading and even more. This, I find, is often the moment when one's efforts to capture his line of thought pay off. Because there is a notable homiletic note in much of Brueggemann's prose, he proclaims more often than he explains. The most important observation I can make for a first-time reader of Brueggemann is that one needs to count on reading him more than once.

Always, the gems that Brueggemann scatters across the terrain are well worth the labor. His assays in search of the reflection Israel has applied to her sacred texts demonstrate his commitment to the Bible as theological material. One rarely departs a chapter empty-handed, though one sometimes leaves exhausted.

An extended preface to the second edition (pp. xi - xxiii) establishes an apologia for what the author considers his methodological naiveté in the first edition. Brueggemann provides a useful sketch of the state of Old Testament theology when he first wrote on the land. Perhaps his most important observation was that the discipline had only recently begun to turn from the `mighty acts of God' pattern of thought often associated with G. Ernest Wright, Harvard's late and eminent Old Testament scholar. A recognition that this intellectual movement-characterized by a search for Israel's distinctives-sometimes played upon false antitheses (myth/history, space/time) was making it possible for scholars to recover the biblical motif of creation and, so, for Brueggemann to speak about the biblical theme of land, even if in not so sophisticated a fashion as he believes is possible some years hence.

Brueggemann finds in the land a central organizing motif for Old Testament theology, offering as it does the chance to move beyond existentialist interpretation-individual decisions are important but too, well, individual-and those interpretations abbreviated by the label `mighty acts of God' (`Land as Promise and as Problem', pp. 1-13). The latter notice a serious biblical concern, but fail to take into account the concrete longing for place and the power to hold on to it that runs through the biblical witness. We meet Israel in its wanderings in and out of land. This people certainly knows land as a promise, for it is so often without it. It also knows the problem of keeping it-by purity rather than by power, in Brueggemann's construction-during its monarchic time as a landed nation. In this first of a dozen chapters, Brueggemann makes an important distinction between space and place. Space is essentially empty and often refers to the liberties that allow one to create for oneself an identity with maximum liberties. By contrast, place is storied space. It is intensively concrete, social, and shot through with remembered events and people.

Brueggemann's second chapter (`To the Land I Will Show You', pp. 15-25) finds in Genesis two stories about land in contraposition: chs 1-11, people `fully rooted in land living towards expulsion and loss of land' and chs 12-50, Abraham and his family `not having land but being on the way toward it and living in confident expectation of it'. The hinge is the well-known word of promise at 12.1.

`You Lacked Nothing' (ch. 3, pp. 27-41) is in my judgment the book's finest chapter. Brueggemann sees that `wilderness is the historical form of chaos' His exploration of Israel's well-processes memory of the wilderness landedness must be quoted: `His glory is known, his presence discerned, and his sovereignty acknowledged in his capacity to transform this situation from emptiness to satiation, from death to life, from hunger to bread and meat. He acted decisively to make for landless Israel an environment as rich and nourishing as a landed people had ever known. Yahweh is transformer of situations. The surprise is that landlessness can become nourishing.' Those charged with teaching or preaching Israel's Scripture will linger with profit over this chapter, which achieves an almost throbbing density as it explores two Torah texts of wilderness remembrance, of scarcity and provision when there is no land to be held.

In `Reflections at the Boundary' (ch. 4, pp. 43-65), Brueggemann takes up the listening pause at the boundary (in history and symbol, the river Jordan). At that moment-the tradition communicates it to us in the book of Deuteronomy-Israel is reminded that she lives by grace and that the gift of enlandment that she is about to receive is also just that: a gift. As she was satisfied in the desert, though precariously, now Israel must undergo a radical identify shift as she becomes the possessor of a land that is capable of satisfying in sturdier, more calculable ways.

In this context, Brueggemann can affirm what a prior generation of Old Testament scholars would have considered outlandish: that Yahweh, too, is a fertility god. He is not only that, but he is that as he promises that Israel's satiety in the new land will endure the seasons and cycles of nature if she remains obedient to its giver. Israel is reminded that she will manage the land as temptation only if she employs her sole resource of memory. The land is also a responsibility, for it can be kept only by keeping Torah in it. Finally, the land is a threat because there are always Canaanites in it.

Brueggemann does not like kings. His writing becomes most acidic when speaking of kings and the things kings do, perhaps because his is acutely conscious of how badly royal misbehavior wastes Israel's promise. In `One from among Your Brethren' (ch. 5, pp. 67-85), the author explores the different kind of land management-different, that is, in contrast to `the nations'-that was to take place under the kingly successors to the rather idiosyncratic judges that `governed' Israel's premonarchical league. Speaking of Deuteronomy's reluctant (?) profile of future kings, Brueggemann is poignant and insightful: `The contrast is clear and sharp: a brother, not a foreigner. The issue is not pure blood or tribal connection but that the land must be managed by someone nurtured in the understandings and memories of Israel. If the land is not to be wrongly handled, the king must remember barrenness and birth, slavery and freedom, hunger and manna, and above all the speeches at the boundary.' Solomon, who appears not to have remembered very well, is (again!) Brueggemann's arch-villain, having removed by all available royal prerogatives the `if' of obedience from the charter of kings.

Ch. 6 (`Because Your Forgot Me', pp. 85-100) stresses the urgent complementarity of prophets and kings. The prophet accompanies kings as a component part of the insistence that Israel's kings should not rule as the monarchs of other nations do. Prophets enforce, or at least press the claims for, Torah obedience by kings who must manage land and all its trappings. Brueggemann concedes too much to his own enthusiasm for the subject when he claims that the `language of resurrection is used' to announce the rise of prophets and prophecy, but his interlocking of prophecy and monarchy seems to this reviewer to be spot on.

Torah and prophet are the king's only hope to ward off amnesia. But kings forget, and divorce comes. Here, at least, Yahwistic religion is not like the cyclical rhythm of fertility cults. With Yahweh, divorce can occur and it does.

Brueggemann's language in chapter 7 (`The Push Toward Landlessness-and Beyond', pp. 101-122) is powerful enough momentarily to evoke in the reader the terror of a king who needs to deal with the next crisis when he finds himself faced down by a prophet who has the time-or perhaps in biblical terms, the calling-to `think unthinkable thoughts and speak unspeakable words' about the `drift and destiny of the community'. Jeremiah is the most poignant of land-poets, arguing-in vain, in the short term-for an alternative model of kingship, approximated by Josiah, that requires a `Mosaic effort at Davidic power'.

After exile becomes a fact, `Jeremiah announces the central scandal of the Bible, that radical loss and discontinuity do happen and are the source of real newness.' That few people might intuit that such is the Bible's `central scandal' is in part what makes Brueggemann a compelling biblical theologian as well as an able exegete. He has a nose for subterranean tectonic plates. A little later, this: `The Bible never denies that there is landlessness or that it is deathly. But it rejects every suggestion that landlessness is finally the will of Yahweh. Exiles, like the old sojourners, live in this hope and for this plan that outdistances all reasonable hypotheses about history.'

In chapter eight (`None to Comfort', pp. 123-141), the author listens in as the likes of Jeremiah confront his self-deceived contemporaries about the radical discontinuities of Israel's `second story': the journey from life with the land to existence without it. A flood of literature pours out of this second history as Israel copes with the `no of God' (cf. Lamentations) and gropes toward life by Yahweh's promise rather than by a possessed land. Then Ezekiel's roughish language dares to speak of an exiled God (banished with his Israel) and then of a Joshua-like conquest (again, God with his Israel) of a recovered land. Alongside these thickly interpretive voices, that of the Priestly writers is also heard: `not just the action of desperate people collecting historical data. It is an artistic statement designed to give a sense of serenity, order, and coherence. It is constructed with remarkable intentionality.' Thus does Brueggemann rescue P from the appearance of mere antiquarian interests, a salvaging that profoundly needs the attention of 21st-century readers separated from such literature by a very wide chasm of tastes, preferences, and deftness with the protean language of symbol. Finally, the author surveys Second Isaiah's convergence of traditions in the interest of land-rescue.

It must require enormous discipline for Brueggemann's to domesticate his quasi-liberal (the quasi is extremely important) instincts sufficiently to discover sympathy for Ezra and Nehemiah (chapter nine 'Jealous for Jerusalem", pp. 143-156). That he does so is to his credit, for he can see the dangerously 'careful' and covenant-constructing work of these reformers and land-recoverers as something other than shallow legalism: 'It is not our intent to confine the reconstruction under Ezra to a concern for the land. However, such a consideration invites us to understand the movement in a fresh way. The work of Ezra is often seen as a legalistic cultic sectarianism, and no doubt it has that dimension. But the data can be differently understood if we consider the powerful memory of land-loss through syncretism and the passion for covenant as a way to survive in history.' With Solomon and Ahab's internationalistic syncretism as a precedent for land-loss, it is not difficult to understand why an Ezra might have risked a kind of social tyranny in order to avoid that 'other'' extreme.

In this chapter, the author adeptly helps his reader understand why Hellenism-as a distinct type of a universalism not so distant from what today we call 'globalization'-might have represented an insidious threat not so much to Judaism per se as to a kind of Ezra-shaped Judaism that saw in Hellenistic values the seeds of a particularistic Judaism's demise. As an extreme reaction, Apocalyptic would return the most particularist and radical strains of Judaism, sick beyond limits with 'world-weariness' (P. Hanson's term, quoted here by Brueggemann). Thus, whether Jerusalem was experienced as possession or hope, emerged a particular and not very persuadable jealousy for Zion.

Brueggemann ventures some daring polarities in chapter ten (`Blessed are the Meek', pp. 157-172), beginning by seeing the `movement around Jesus' as an alternative to the dominant `scribalism' of the Judaism of his time. Further, `grasping with courage' is counterpoised to `waiting in confidence for the gift', a binomial that the author uses to envisage Jesus' message as a kind of return by the dispossessed to a species of landedness. What is more, the Western Wall and Masada stand in for opposite modern Israeli stances, with some lamentation of Masada's role in what Brueggemann sees as that nation's unwarranted militarism.

Even Jesus' crucifixion is brought into the orbit of this motif, it being a landlessness par excellence. If Brueggemann outpaces his texts here, it must be conceded that he has at least cast a helpful light on the fact of land concerns in the New Testament, even as he wrestles with the complexities they inevitably present.

In chapter eleven ('Land: Fertility and Justice', pp. 173-196), Brueggemann turns to the nature of humankind as an earthly and covenant-keeping creature, playing on the well-known 'adam/'adamah relationship. He finds implications in several directions: 'The mystery of an adequate relationship with a woman (which we do not often realize) is to hold so loyally as to preclude promiscuity, but to hold so freely as to respect her rights. It is the same with the land. They mystery of faithfulness is to hold the land loyally so as not to reduce it to a commodity, but to hold so freely as to honor its rights as partner and not as possession'.

The author finds the American economic context as a large violation of this principle of covenant-keeping landholding. Some of Brueggemann's deliberations in this respect are properly thought-provoking, though few of them approach the kinds of socio-economic hardheadedness that might produce a workable alternative. Such is the paradox of this man's writing: he is at his most helpful when he is not concrete, for seminality is the stuff of his prose. Yet just here is he at his most frustrating, for it is not clear that he is competent at moving from critique to proposal. This is far from a fatal flaw, but it is a limitation that frequent returnees to Brueggemann's work-like this reviewer-must come eventually to appreciate and to embrace with the requisite sympathy. Though Brueggemann brings to social critique a profoundly theological voice, he prefers 'inversion' where 'reshaping' might have been achievable. Yahweh is, for him, a socialist in a world where socialisms have manifestly not proven to be exemplary providers of opportunity or functionally covenantal society. One must wonder whether the kinds of oppressive management that Brueggemann decries are more often features of command (by whomever) economies or of those driven by the myriad individual, family, and otherwise collective decisions that we abbreviate as 'the market'. History, it seems to me, places the burden of proof upon those who support the other, particularly on those who do so without having lived in one of them.

Economic calculation is, for Brueggemann, a chief among sins rather than a productive feature of worldly stewardship. Yet those whose preferences-or, dare we say, calculations-run in more market-oriented directions ought not to do without Brueggemann's covenantal critique of their social vision. Capitalism with no soul, it has sometimes been observed, is a dark and empty promise. Brueggemann knows this, even if he must in the end stand with the rest of us who know little.

Characteristically, Brueggemann's wrap-ups leave one hungry for more. 'Concluding Hermeneutical Reflections' (pp. 197-208) keeps the pace. It is difficult to explain the academy's lack of attention to the concept of land in the biblical literature, though the intellectual history of a culture that has for some time accelerated in the direction of the individual accumulates some mileage towards providing an answer. By any account, Walter Brueggemann has moved us closer to a remedy for that deficiency, stating-with his characteristic risk of overstatement-that the land may well be the Bible's most central concept. Even if he is wrong, the decision to read this peerless contribution to biblical theology is bound to be right.
Discovering New Dimensions of the Biblical Text  Nov 30, 2003
Almost always bibliographies for rural ministry include Brueggemann's "The Land." After reading the book, I don't understand why. Brueggemann's observations appear applicable to urban and suburban as well as rural ministries. (Granted, I read an earlier edition of the book. Perhaps, a later edition would clear my confusion.) Brueggemann's insight is in biblical theology, not a particular subset of Christian ministry.

Brueggemann uses "the land" as a category of interpretation from Genesis to the ends of the New Testament. Granted, the scope of the book is ambitious, but Brueggemann does a commendable job. I was particularly intrigued in seeing connections between the land as gift, Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, and Paul's teaching on grace. Brueggemann's method helps us overcome blind spots in traditional interpretation. Nonetheless, I would not suggest jettisoning more familiar ways of looking at Scripture in favor of "the land." As one who reads the Old Testament through the New, I would have appreciated more emphasis on Christology, Soteriology and their relation to the land. Still, there is plenty of food for thought.

Some practical observations. The book is dense. Anyone with merely a cursory knowledge of the Old Testament will find the book a slow read. Moreover, I recommend reading the last chapters first. They lay out where Brueggemann's interpretation is going.


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