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The Ladder of Jacob: Ancient Interpretations of the Biblical Story of Jacob and His Children [Paperback]

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Item Number 416152  
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Item Specifications...

Pages   296
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9.14" Width: 6.08" Height: 0.73"
Weight:   0.6 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Mar 29, 2009
Publisher   Princeton University Press
ISBN  0691141231  
EAN  9780691141237  


Availability  0 units.


Item Description...

Rife with incest, adultery, rape, and murder, the biblical story of Jacob and his children must have troubled ancient readers. By any standard, this was a family with problems. Jacob's oldest son Reuben is said to have slept with his father's concubine Bilhah. The next two sons, Simeon and Levi, tricked the men of a nearby city into undergoing circumcision, and then murdered all of them as revenge for the rape of their sister. Judah, the fourth son, had sexual relations with his own daughter-in-law. Meanwhile, jealous of their younger sibling Joseph, the brothers conspired to kill him; they later relented and merely sold him into slavery. These stories presented a particular challenge for ancient biblical interpreters. After all, Jacob's sons were the founders of the nation of Israel and ought to have been models of virtue.

In "The Ladder of Jacob," renowned biblical scholar James Kugel retraces the steps of ancient biblical interpreters as they struggled with such problems. Kugel reveals how they often fixed on a little detail in the Bible's wording to "deduce" something not openly stated in the narrative. They concluded that Simeon and Levi were justified in killing all the men in a town to avenge the rape of their sister, and that Judah, who slept with his daughter-in-law, was the unfortunate victim of alcoholism.

These are among the earliest examples of ancient biblical interpretation (midrash). They are found in retellings of biblical stories that appeared in the closing centuries BCE--in the Book of Jubilees, the Aramaic Levi Document, the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, and other noncanonical works. Through careful analysis of these retellings, Kugel is able to reconstruct how ancient interpreters worked. "The Ladder of Jacob" is an artful, compelling account of the very beginnings of biblical interpretation.


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More About James L. Kugel

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! James L. Kugel is the Starr Professor of Hebrew Literature at Harvard University and a regular visiting professor of biblical studies at Bar-Ilan University in Israel. He is the author of a number of books on biblical scholarship, including "How to Read the Bible," for which he won the National Jewish Book Award for best book.
George K. Wilson has narrated over one hundred fiction and nonfiction audiobook titles, from Thomas L. Friedman to Thomas Pynchon, and has won several "AudioFile" Earphones Awards.

James L. Kugel currently resides in the state of Massachusetts. James L. Kugel has an academic affiliation as follows - Bar-Ilan University, Ramat-Gan, Israel.

James L. Kugel has published or released items in the following series...
  1. Library of Early Christianity


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Reviews - What do our customers think?
Interesting interpretations  Apr 3, 2008
The author use the apocryphal Dead Sea Scrolls to give interpretations of about a dozen stories from the Torah. Some of these accounts actually give conflicting details. Kugel steps in and explains how by manipulating semantics and expanding midrashic interpretations they can made congruous. He explains, as he did in The Bible as It Was, how many of the later books of the actual Bible are in fact commentaries on early books. One complaint I have is that Kugel presumes that the readers are familiar with Hebrew and Greek and often does not give the transliterations.
 

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