Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament: Introducing the Conceptual World of the Hebrew Bible


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A leading evangelical scholar surveys the cultural context of the ancient Near East, bringing insight to the interpretation of specific Old Testament passages. Now thoroughly updated and revised throughout.

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Jan 3, 2019

Terrific resource

Read my fuller review at Spoiledmilks (12/19/18)

OT and ANE scholar John Walton introduces his readers into the conceptual world of the Hebrew Bible. The methodology section in chapter one describing comparative study has been lengthened by a few pages (it spans pages 5-7). Walton inserts a discussion about the "cultural river" we all live in. For example, Americans swim in concepts such as "rights, privacy, freedom, capitalism, consumerism, democracy, individualism, [and] globalism" to name a few (6). Yet the ancient world had a common set of concepts such as "community identity, the comprehensive and ubiquitous control of the gods, the role of kingship, divination, the centrality of the temple, the mediatory role of images, and the reality of the spirit world and magic" (6). Even when we swim upstream, against the flow of our cultural river, we are still in our cultural river.

Chapter three, "Summary of the Literature of the Ancient Near East," has been seriously condensed. Beyond that, not much is new. Some figures are taken out, new ones added in, and many photos have been included. There is a very helpful list of the Comparative Explorations (gray boxes) found throughout the book. The font has been updated, and the headings are easier to see, both of which look nice.

But why should you buy this book? As the paragraph above says, the OT Hebrews had a different mindset altogether. It's one thing to experience culture shock today when you visit England, Norway, Germany, or Ireland. It's another to experience it daily with a 3,000-year- old culture. Walton guides his readers into the different categories of the OT Hebrew so that we can better understand the strange world of the Old Testament.

*God has a divine council.
*God's resting is actually one of "engagement as [he] takes his place at the helm to maintain an ordered, secure, and stable cosmos" (122). Israel rests to see that God brings and keeps order, not them. God was building and maintaining a temple.
*They understood things within the world (and outside, like the stars) as existing because it had a function. Things weren't just "there;" they serve a purpose.
*Israel believed the gods lived at the tops of mountains which were in the heavens, perhaps supporting the sky.
*The firmament/sky was believed to be solid.
*"The act of creation had involved setting boundaries for the cosmic waters. In the flood the restraints were removed, thus bringing destruction" (145).
*"The image of God did the work of God on earth" (184). In ANE literature, humans were made to work/serve the gods, who were, basically, slave drivers. In the OT, God creates and orders the world, places Adam and Eve in a beautiful garden that they might serve him and serve with him. He is not a slave driver, but a slave rescuer (Exodus 14-15).

If you have the first edition, just stick with that. If you have neither the first nor the second, buy the second edition.

I received this book from Baker Academic with no requirement of a positive review.

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