The Carefully Crafted Message of the Book of Judges

Academic scholarship on the book of Judges has largely either focused on evaluating it as a historical account or seen it as a hodgepodge of ancient folklore and heroic tales more similar to Greek epic than to anything else in the Bible. To Robin Baker, however, it is the work of an author (or authors) with considerable literary skill, aiming to convey a message akin to that of the Bible’s prophetic books:

[F]or all its earthy idiosyncrasy and a structure which, on superficial acquaintance, seems haphazard, not to mention its presentation of two of the most shocking episodes in the entire biblical corpus—the [apparent human sacrifice] of Jephthah’s daughter and the gang-rape and dismemberment of the Levite’s concubine—the work was recognized by the Jewish divines who compiled the biblical canon as a venerable prophetic text. . . .

If [this] book represents a form of historiography, it is as a spiritual history of the tribes of Israel during a defining epoch of their existence. But it is more. Embedded in its account is a prophetic element that concerns the southern kingdom of Judah, which still endured, albeit as an Assyrian vassal state, when Judges was [thought to have been] composed. Just as Ezekiel excoriated Judah for out-sinning [the northern kingdom of] Israel (Ezekiel 23:4-12), so Judges indicates that a punishment similar to the reckoning visited on Samaria awaited Jerusalem because it, too, rebelled against and was unfaithful to God.

Judges is remarkable in its literary virtuosity. It occupies a unique place in the Hebrew Bible for the diversity of its literary devices: song, riddle, parable, aphorism, even a password and a tongue-twister. The writer distorts the semantic boundaries of words, makes extensive use of layering, multi-perspectives, and mirror-imaging,and introduces an array of other literary techniques to amplify his theological message. . . .

This is a composition that, for all its brilliance in the portrayal of the heroic characters who give the book its modern title, takes as its essential focus just two actors: God and “the sons of Israel.” It is the epic account of their relationship that forms the subject of the book; it is the progressive, inexorable breakdown in that relationship that it maps through its 21 chapters.

Read more at Bible and Interpretation

More about: Book of Judges, Hebrew Bible, Religion & Holidays

While Israel Is Distracted on Two Fronts, Iran Is on the Verge of Building Nuclear Weapons

Iran recently announced its plans to install over 1,000 new advanced centrifuges at its Fordow nuclear facility. Once they are up and running, the Institute for Science and International Security assesses, Fordow will be able to produce enough highly enriched uranium for three nuclear bombs in a mere ten days. The U.S. has remained indifferent. Jacob Nagel writes:

For more than two decades, Iran has continued its efforts to enhance its nuclear-weapons capability—mainly by enriching uranium—causing Israel and the world to concentrate on the fissile material. The International Atomic Energy Agency recently confirmed that Iran has a huge stockpile of uranium enriched to 60 percent, as well as more enriched to 20 percent, and the IAEA board of governors adopted the E3 (France, Germany, UK) proposed resolution to censure Iran for the violations and lack of cooperation with the agency. The Biden administration tried to block it, but joined the resolution when it understood its efforts to block it had failed.

To clarify, enrichment of uranium above 20 percent is unnecessary for most civilian purposes, and transforming 20-percent-enriched uranium to the 90-percent-enriched product necessary for producing weapons is a relatively small step. Washington’s reluctance even to express concern about this development appears to stem from an unwillingness to acknowledge the failures of President Obama’s nuclear policy. Worse, writes Nagel, it is turning a blind eye to efforts at weaponization. But Israel has no such luxury:

Israel must adopt a totally new approach, concentrating mainly on two main efforts: [halting] Iran’s weaponization actions and weakening the regime hoping it will lead to its replacement. Israel should continue the fight against Iran’s enrichment facilities (especially against the new deep underground facility being built near Natanz) and uranium stockpiles, but it should not be the only goal, and for sure not the priority.

The biggest danger threatening Israel’s existence remains the nuclear program. It would be better to confront this threat with Washington, but Israel also must be fully prepared to do it alone.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Iran nuclear program, Israeli Security, Joseph Biden, U.S. Foreign policy