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The Empty Men: The Heroic Tradition of Ancient Israel (Anchor Yale Bible Reference Library) [Hardcover]

By Gregory Mobley (Author)
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Item Specifications...

Pages   320
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9.2" Width: 6.3" Height: 1.1"
Weight:   1.2 lbs.
Binding  Hardcover
Release Date   Dec 13, 2005
Publisher   Anchor Bible
ISBN  0385498519  
EAN  9780385498517  

Availability  0 units.

Item Description...
In a groundbreaking work of literary archaeology, a bold young scholar adds a new page to the quintessential book of adventure stories, that of the heroic traditions of the Old Testament.

Gregory Mobley brings a highly original eye to the familiar stories found in Judges, which depict Israel's frontier era, and inFirst and Second Samuel, which portray the ragged and violent emergence of kingship in Judah and Israel. From Ehud's mission into an inaccessible Moabite palace to the triumph of Gideon and his elite squadron against a Midianite swarm, from the gangland epic of the warlord Abimelech's rise and fall to the narrative of Samson, Israel's great outlaw-hero, Mobley rescues these stories from their theologically minded biblical editors and traditional interpreters. Mobley draws upon Semitic and European heroic traditions about warriors and wild men, and upon Celtic, Anglo-American, and African-American balladry about borderers and outlaws, to dig out the heroic themes submerged in biblical adventure stories.

The Empty Men describes the process by which adventure stories---replete with foolish love, warfare, assassinations, ritual slaughter, and grim masculine codes---were transformed into sermons and history lessons. Mobley also offers reflections on the Iron Age theology of these narratives, with their emphasis on poetic justice, and on the mythic dimensions of landscape in these stories. Mobley is sure to attract much attention in the scholarly community for his raw portrayals of biblical heroes, for his unblinking attention to the martial codes and the warrior subculture of ancient Israel, and for his bittersweet reflections on the theological and ethical significance of this corpus of adventure stories that are under the surface---but close to the bedrock---of the many mansions that Judaism and Christianity have built in subsequent centuries on these foundational texts.

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More About Gregory Mobley

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Gregory Mobley is associate professor of Old Testament studies at Andover Newton Theological School in Newton Centre, Massachusetts.

Gregory Mobley was born in 1957.

Gregory Mobley has published or released items in the following series...
  1. Library of Hebrew Bible/Old Testament Studies

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Product Categories
1Books > Subjects > History > Ancient > General   [3788  similar products]
2Books > Subjects > History > Ancient   [570  similar products]
3Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Reference > Commentaries > Old Testament   [2074  similar products]
4Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Reference > Criticism & Interpretation > Old Testa   [1604  similar products]
5Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Reference > General   [10297  similar products]

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
Informative and creative explanations  Aug 29, 2006
Mobley provides a very close reading reading of these texts, often providing interpretations that clarify and enlighten. For example, Ehud is described as a kind of iron age James Bond who enters the Moabite king's inner chamber with a hidden weapon literally up his sleeve, assasinates him, and escapes without the guards even noticing. The guards do not enter the chamber because they think the king is still "covering his feet". Mobley explains the meaning of this idiom -- he has lowered his robe while moving his bowels. Mobley also suggests that instead of saying the guards "waited" we should translate this as "dilly-dallied" -- this better captures the sense and the original Hebrew word is a rhyme like that.
Interesting though incomplete  Aug 12, 2006
Perhaps no book in the entire biblical cannon receives such scant reading as Judges. Though several characters within the story, Samson being a prime example, get considerable extra textual attention, the Book of Judges itself remains an off putting text at best. The reasons for this become obvious once one gives it a full reading - beyond being certainly the most violent book of the Bible; its heroes include some of the cannon's most ethically ambiguous characters. Another reason of course is that Judges with its plethora of characters and frequent moral lapses stands in stark contrast with the other account of the conquest of the land, the Book of Joshua. Indeed, even G-d appears at his most rough in the Book of Judges. In one cycle that follows the text's recurrent pattern of lapse into idolatry, punishment exacted by a foreign oppressor, pleas to the Divine for redemption, and the anointing of a deliverer, G-d replies to the people's pleas with a curt, go ask your idols. Given the depth and complexity of Judges, as well as the scant scholarly attention it's received in comparison with other biblical texts, one must welcome any new analysis.

Professor Gregory Mobley approaches Judges from an interesting vantage point, wishing to examine the idea of the "empty men," characters that rise from marginal social positions to become leaders of the people of Israel. As a starting point, its stands as an interesting one, offering the author the chance to use not just tools of textual analysis, but those rising from the social science of anthropology and sociology as well. And as far as Professor Mobley take it, which is unfortunately not far enough, it makes for an interesting and thought provoking read.

Professor Mobley examines three of the "Judges," Ehud, Gideon, and, of course, Samson. In each case he provides an interesting textual analysis and, particularly in the latter two cases, a rather complete review of the modern textual theories that have deconstructed the texts. The author further does a fine job of showing how all three of these characters stand as iconic figures with more than a few parallels in other cultures - Samson as the "wild man" for example. Yet for all of the strength of his analysis several missing pieces leave one wishing this relatively short text were double its current length.

While dealing with the "stars" of Judges, several of the more minor "heroes" would have proven interesting candidates for analysis and helped illuminate the author's thesis. Jepthah in particular, the iconic foolish warrior who makes a foolish pledge to sacrifice the first thing he sees when he returns home from war if only he is granted victory, and who of course first beholds his daughter, would have stood as a character particularly worthy of consideration. Further, while the author does contrast Judges with Samuel in the shifting social structures in the evolution to a more urbanized monarchic culture, his attention focuses on David and Joab, placing only scant attention on the two transitional characters of the story, Israel's last Judge Samuel and its first King Saul. This oversight leaves in the book a rather obvious and unfortunate hole.

A word must also be given to one final oversight of the author. Professor Mobley favors a more deconstructive analysis of the text. While this approach stands currently as very much in vogue, it often proves unsatisfying. Looking over the book's bibliography and notes it becomes obvious that the author should have given greater attention to the singular and seminal work of the great Deuteromic scholar Robert Polzin whose three volume work examines the cycle from Deuteronomy to Samuel. Polzin's particular genius stands as his effort to unify and harmonize the often seemingly dispirit strands of the texts with which he works, rather than simply throwing up his hands and declaring them to be the work of a "sloppy redactor." Too often, Mobley seems to take difficult and seemingly contradictory parts of the textual whole and simply chalk them up to poor collation and editorial oversight. In the end I think scholarship would only benefit if more writers used as their point of departure Polzin's more respectful and harmonizing approach.

Despite these reservations, Mobley's work remains a worthwhile read. Clearly, he possesses considerable affinity for this oft neglected piece of biblical text and an interesting sociological and literary approach. Those interested in Biblical studies can only hope that he will move others to join him in examining the Book of Judges.

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