Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous
JETS 33:4 (December 1990) p. 525
The Song of Songs and the Ancient Egyptian Love Songs. By Michael V. Fox. Madison: University of Wisconsin, 1985, xxvii + 454 pp, n.p.
Instead of simply offering another commentary on Canticles, Fox has attempted a broader task: “My goal in this book is to lead to a richer understanding of the literary treatment of love in Egypt and Israel: what the Egyptian love songs and the Song of Songs say about love and lovers and how they say it” (p. xx). To accomplish this goal he has divided his task into three parts: (1) a translation and interpretation of the corpus of Late Egyptian love songs (pp. 3-81); (2) a translation of and commentary on the Song of Songs (pp. 82-177); (3) a study of the literary treatment of love in ancient Egypt and Israel (pp. 181-331). The book concludes with three appendices—presenting some other Egyptian texts of relevance to the discussion, a concordance to the Egyptian texts, and a hieroglyphic transcription of them—and a series of indices.
Fox’s presentation and discussion of the Late Egyptian love poems represents original, ground-breaking work. Until now this material has not been fully published in translation with accompanying commentary. Facing a number of difficult challenges (including a host of textual problems, the lack of a systematic grammatical analysis of literary Late Egyptian, and the frequent use of rare and exotic words and phrases throughout these love lyrics), Fox uses his admirable text-critical skills, sensitivity to Egyptian grammar and syntax, and an informed use of literary and lexicographical tools available to Egyptologists (e.g. the various studies of Cerný, Groll, Wente, Camino) to produce a respectable and insightful translation of and commentary on these fifteen or so songs or fragments.
Equally commendable is his commentary on the Song of Songs. In fact, this section alone is worth the price of the book. He offers a fresh, idiomatic translation of the Song, one that I find superior to any available in English. I would quibble with only a few renderings—e.g. 1:5a, 6c, 7c; 2:1, 3a; 3:1b, 11b; 4:7 (why not supply the verb “is”?), 9b; 5:6b; 7:3a; 8:6c, 12. His renderings are generally tasteful, info...
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