Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous
JETS 55:1 (March 2012) p. 145
The Land of Canaan and the Destiny of Israel: Theologies of Territory in the Hebrew Bible. Siphrut 4: Literature and Theology of the Hebrew Scriptures. By David Frankel. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2011, 400 pp., $49.50.
David Frankel’s Land of Canaan and the Destiny of Israel speaks to the topic of the place of “the land of Canaan in the biblical conception of Israel” (p. vii) and the perception that “religion promoted by the Hebrew Bible requires that Israel live in communal life in the national homeland” (p. vii). Frankel addresses questions such as whether Israel’s religious destiny is irrevocably linked to the land; whether the land can be shared with other people who might take part in Israel’s religious destiny or is the land exclusively for Israel (p. vii); how the land compares in importance with “other elements presented as belonging to Israel’s ultimate destiny” (p. vii); and to what extent the Lord of Israel can be worshiped outside the land” (p. vii).
Through the application of historical criticism and rabbinic methodology, the author reconstructs the process of the literary growth of the texts in question, uncovering original forms and final transformations so as to compare the “theologies” of territory found in biblical literature. Frankel draws the conclusion that there are divergent and opposing voices that make it “difficult to speak simplistically about the biblical conception of territory as if the Hebrew Bible speaks in one voice” (p. vii).
In chapter 1, Frankel notes that Israel’s relationship to the land is central to “the overall structure of the narrative of the Hebrew Bible” (p. 1). At first, he points out that some texts indicate that the land is not only prominent in the Hebrew Bible, but central, even essential, to Israel and to the proper practice of Israel’s covenant relationship with God (pp. 2–17). However, as he continues, he notes that certain biblical texts qualify or marginalize the land’s significance in Israel’s national life (pp. 17–41), this being due to “secondary editorializing and reshaping” in order to emphasize “the indispensable character of national life on the land,” while other texts were later reworked to narrow intentionally the estimation of the place of the land (pp. 42–63). He concludes that whereas national life on the land reflects the ideal for Israel’s religious existence, in the exile a new mode of existence took shape whereby Israel’s relationship with God is fractured and incomplete. In Frankel’s view, the land is “a necessary though insufficient component of Israel’s ideal mode of religious existence” (p. 71). “Biblical literature,” he concludes, “exhibits a somewhat ambivalent and dialectical attit...
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