Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous
BBR 16:1 (2006) p. 149
There Shall Be No Poor among You: Poverty in the Bible. By Leslie J. Hoppe. Nashville: Abingdon, 2004. Pp. 197, ISBN 0-687-00059-9. $22.00.
In this volume, Leslie Hoppe, Professor of Old Testament Studies at the Catholic Theological Union of Chicago and author of several other studies in OT, deftly surveys the Bible’s treatment of poverty and provides some framework for interpreting this teaching, On the whole, the book works well as a gathering and summary of biblical passages. It works less well as an interpretation and application of this material.
Hoppe devotes successive chapters to sections of Scripture and within these chapters adapts his treatment to [he literature at hand. So, for example, the chapter on Tor ah is organized according to specific issues, such as debt relief, slaveholding, and other topics. The chapter on the Former Prophets, by contrast, treats specific books and topics that arise within a particular book. This approach allows the texts to form the subject matter and methodology. It is a subtly effective way of teaching students to read texts, This effectiveness is enhanced by questions for reflection that conclude each chapter.
Hoppe’s treatment of poverty in the Bible ranges across the spectrum of texts and makes good use of various hermeneutical practices for reading legal texts, narratives, wisdom, poetry and others to introduce students to the spectrum to be found in Scripture Hoppe is at his best identifying texts on poverty and setting them in their literary contexts. He also does well in placing texts historically and sociologically. He notes, for instance, the differences between a clan economy and a monarchichal economy and neatly explains the social context for the poverty and injustice that Micah denounces. Hoppe generally represents mainstream judgments on historical and social settings, though I think that he draws too severe a contrast between the economics of clans and monarchies,
In addition to presenting literary and social contexts, Hoppe occasionally makes ethical assertions. His work here is quite balanced. Even when one may disagree with him, his conclusions are not so wild or dogmatic that they inhibit learning from him. He argues that the Bible is “not a charter for social revolution nor is it simply a theological justification for the status quo’’ (14). In several places he notes that the Bible both relates poverty to injustice and also identifies the poor as sinners. His careful reading of texts leads him to observe that the prophets announce not a human revolution but Cod’s judgment; that Isaiah’s focus is restoration not oppression Ln the midst of some of this discussion, one may discern a commitment to identifying God’s concern for the poor while at the same time a...
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