The Nine Commandments: Uncovering the Hidden Pattern of Crime and Punishment in the Hebrew Bible

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9780385499873: The Nine Commandments: Uncovering the Hidden Pattern of Crime and Punishment in the Hebrew Bible
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In a book as controversial as Harold Bloom’s The Book of J and Elaine Pagels’s The Gnostic Gospels, David Noel Freedman delves into the Old Testament and reveals a pattern of defiance of the Covenant with God that inexorably led to the downfall of the nation of Israel, the destruction of the Temple, and the banishment of survivors from the Promised Land. Book by book, from Exodus to Kings, Freedman charts the violation of the first nine Commandments one by one–from the sin of apostasy (the worship of the golden calf, Exodus 32) to murder (the death of a concubine, Judges 19:25—26) to false testimony (Jezebel’s charges against her neighbor, Naboth, I Kings 21).

Because covetousness lies behind all the crimes committed, Freedman shows, each act implicitly breaks the Tenth Commandment as well. In a powerful and persuasive argument, Freedman asserts that this hidden trail of sins betrays the hand of a Master Weaver or Editor who has skillfully woven into Israel’s history a message to a community in exile that their fate is not the result of God’s abandoning them but of their willful abandonment of God. With wit and insight, The Nine Commandments boldly challenges previous scholarship and conventional beliefs, and appeals to the same audience that has propelled Thomas Cahill’s books and other recent explorations of the history of religion onto bestseller lists across the country.

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Review:

The Nine Commandments is David Noel Freedman's daringly original reading of the early history of the Israelites. Freedman's thesis is as follows: "Hidden in the Bible is a previously unrecognized pattern of commandment violations that has gone undetected for over 2,000 years. In the books spanning from Exodus to Kings the nation of Israel is presented as thoroughly defying its covenant with God by breaking each of the Ten Commandments, one by one, book by book, until there are none--leaving God with only one choice: the destruction of the nation." (The book is titled The Nine Commandments because the pattern it describes is of nine commandments being violated in nine books; Freedman argues that the remaining commandment, against covetousness, is implicitly broken in the perpetration of the other nine offenses.) Furthermore, Freedman believes this pattern indicates the presence of a "Master Editor" who arranged these stories in this order so that readers would be discouraged from emulating Israel's rebelliousness. Freedman, a professor of Hebrew studies at the University of California, San Diego, and general editor of the Anchor Bible series, backs up his ingenious and controversial claims with close textual readings and informs them with deep knowledge of the biblical texts. --Michael Joseph Gross

From the Back Cover:

“This book is the rare example of a scholar who manages to say something new–new!–in an utterly accessible and engaging book about the Bible. Freedman has written a riveting work that will fundamentally change the way readers understand the Old Testament.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Readers will find Freedman’s discussion engaging and accessible and his framework one that forms an effective narrative for introducing Hebrew Scripture and its cultural setting.” –Booklist

“Informed, original, and clear . . . This erudite and lucid presentation will be enjoyed by biblical scholars and readily understood by general readers.” –Choice

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