My Favorite Books

The Walking Drum
Ender's Game
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
The Curse of Chalion
The Name of the Wind
Chronicles of the Black Company
The Faded Sun Trilogy
The Tar-Aiym Krang

Sunday, January 28, 2024

Review: Numbers: (An Exegetical & Theological Bible Commentary - BCOT)

Numbers: (An Exegetical & Theological Bible Commentary - BCOT) Numbers: (An Exegetical & Theological Bible Commentary - BCOT) by Mark A Awabdy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Numbers can be a bit challenges to read on your own; at least for me the mind numbing census data makes it hard to focus on what is important. This commentary is part of the Baker series on the Old Testament and was a welcome addition to my study of the Pentateuch. After a lengthy Introduction where the author provided context on History, Translations, Genres, Structure and Composition, each chapter broke it down a section from Numbers (typically chapter by chapter) into an overview, translation, interpretation and implications. I got the most out of the interpretation section; however, the others still very helpful in providing context or better understanding. The fact that this was not verse by verse interpretation and was written in very accessible language (limited theological buzz words/phrases) makes this a welcome addition for any study of the text. Additionally, the author highlights where some of the material was referenced within the New Testament, making it particular helpful for understanding the how the Christian faith connect the two (and potentially where it may diverge from Jewish interpretation).

Some of the other points that really got my attention are:
The term “Nephilim” is transliterated in English translations since it reflects the name of a legendary people group (Gen. 6:4), but the Greek translator, presumably thinking that such a transliteration would not be understood by his readers, describes them as “giants” (tous gigantas, v. 34a), a synonym of the preceding genitive “very tall” (hypermēkeis for Hb. middôt “great stature,” v. 32c).
Finally, because literature and iconography always communicate some aspect of the worldview of its culture, temple, or royal institutions, we can often discern when Numbers is assuming, adapting, or rejecting the ethical values and theologies of Israel’s neighbors.
Against this backdrop, there are two ways to interpret Num. 2:17: (1) the sanctuary and not the king is to be the center of Israel’s society; or (2) in light of the glory of Yahweh that fills and appears from the meeting tent, Yahweh is the king who has taken up residence in the center of his people’s military encampment. Either way, if Yahweh not only possesses Israel as his people (Lev. 20:26) but also created the heavens and earth (Exod. 19:5; 20:11; 31:17), then wherever he pitches his tent becomes the axis mundi (axis of the world), a continuum that extends from heaven through earth and into the abyss below.
The Nazirite’s consecration to Yahweh could presumably be for any length of time that they choose up front (vv. 12–13). Their devotion to Yahweh becomes apparent to all by their new lifestyle of abstaining from consuming grapes in any form (vv. 3–4), not cutting any hair on their head (v. 5), and not touching a corpse (v. 6). The prohibition of these three in particular is intriguing since grape products were associated with fertility, hair with sympathetic magic, and corpse defilement with the cult of the dead.
In the ANE—Mesopotamia, for example—the cult image enshrined deep inside the deity’s temple structure was thought to be “a semipermanent theophany.” By contrast, the Israelites were never to represent Yahweh in any form (Exod. 20:4; Deut. 5:8–9), and they could not manipulate him by their ritual services. Yet, like the ANE deities, Yahweh holds the prerogative to take on any form he so chooses.
Surveying the Hebrew terminology in the OT, Kitz clarifies the process of lot casting: “Each lot ‘thrown into’ (hûṭal bě-) a container. Someone ‘shakes’ (qilqal) the lots in a receptacle until one of them ‘comes up’ (ʿālâ) and ‘goes out’ (yāṣāʾ). When the shaker has ‘cast out’ (hišlîk) a lot, it ‘falls’ (nāpal) to the ground. The meaning applied to that lot constitutes the mišpaṭ yhwh, ‘the decision of Yahweh.’”
Against the ANE and Israelite stigma and vulnerability of being a widow or divorced, v. 9 [10] elucidates that these classes of women are under no patriarch’s authority, such as an uncle or brother, and so their formal commitments are always binding, just as those of Israelite males (v. 2 [3]). Beyond this, what is shocking is that in contrast to Torah texts that limit divorced women, here the divorced woman is endowed with the privilege to make unchecked, binding vows to Yahweh or commitments to others. The conception is implicit: As with the widow and orphan in Deut. 10:18, so also the divorced woman is under the protective authority of Yahweh as her divine paterfamilias.
However, three special classes of daughters could become heiresses along with her brothers: “If, during a father’s lifetime, his daughter becomes an ugbabtu, a nadîtu, or a qadištu, they (her brothers) shall divide the estate considering her as an equal heir.” An ugbabtu was a “female devotee of a male deity”; a nadîtu was a “woman dedicated to a god, usually unmarried, not allowed to have children”; a qadištu was a “woman of special status.” Since a nadîtu would be without a biological heir, she had the prerogative of choosing someone else to inherit her estate.
I was given this free advance reader copy (ARC) ebook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

#Numbers #BCOT #NetGalley

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My Ratings Explained ...

  • [ ***** ] Amazing Read - Perfect story, exciting, engrossing, well developed complex characters, solid plot with few to no holes, descriptive environments and place settings, great mystery elements, realistic dialogue, believable reactions and behaviors; a favorite that I can re-read many times.
  • [ **** ] Great Read - Highly entertaining and enjoyable, exciting storyline, well developed characters and settings, a few discrepancies but nothing that can’t be overlooked. Some aspect of the story was new/refreshing to me and/or intriguing. Recommended for everyone.
  • [ *** ] Good Read - Solid story with a 'good' ending, or has some other redeeming feature. Limited character development and/or over reliance on tropes. Noticeable discrepancies in world building and/or dialog/behavior that were distracting. I connected enough with the characters/world to read the entire series. Most of the books I read for fun are here. Recommended for fans of the genre.
  • [ ** ] Okay Read - Suitable for a brief, afternoon escape … flat or shallow characters with little to no development. Over the top character dialog and/or behavior. Poor world building with significant issues and/or mistakes indicating poor research. Excessive use of trivial detail, info dumps and/or pontification. Any issues with the story/characters are offset by some other aspect that I enjoyed. Not very memorable. May only appeal to a niche group of readers. Recommended for some (YMMV).
  • [ * ] Bad Read - Awkward and/or confusing writing style. Poor world building and/or unbelievable (or unlikeable) characters. Victimization, gaslighting, blatant abuse, unnecessary violence, child endangerment, or any other highly objectionable behaviors by Main characters. I didn't connect with the story at all; significant aspects of this story irritated me enough that I struggled to finished it. Series was abandoned. Not recommended.