There’s Room for Creativity in Modern Bible Commentary, but It Should Be Combined with Textual Rigor

Reviewing in-depth studies of the biblical books of Joshua and Judges by the rabbi Michael Hattin, Francis Nataf writes:

Hattin’s approach is defined by two parallel endeavors. The first is to teach the major themes as culled from the Jewish interpretive tradition. . . . The other major strand of his work is to provide new and creative readings strongly anchored in the text, thereby providing a new layer of interpretive activity that expands upon, and provides additional depth to, the messages of the past.

Hattin [thus] allows his creative juices to flow, treating us to some truly fascinating readings along the way. His comparison of Joshua’s decree against taking booty from [the conquered Canaanite city of] Jericho (Joshua 6:16-19, 26) to the laws of an idolatrous Jewish city (Deuteronomy 13:13-19) puts a new spin on the reason for Joshua’s prohibition. Indeed he draws two important conclusions from the similarities in the laws and wording of these two passages. The first is that the war being waged against the Canaanites is primarily an ideological war meant to uproot idolatry from the Jews’ new habitat. Coming off of this conclusion, the second is that with such an understanding, “an Israelite city that endorses idolatrous worship is no different than its Canaanite counterparts and will suffer the same ignominious fate.”

However, the flip side of Hattin’s creativity is that it leads him to develop theories that rely on little objective evidence. . . . If some interpretive mistakes are the price we must pay for new and creative readings, I believe it is well worth it. Rare indeed is a writer who engages in one without the other. But there is something missing in this equation.

Read more at Lehrhaus

More about: Biblical commentary, Book of Joshua, Book of Judges, Hebrew Bible


Iran Brings Its War on Israel and the U.S. to the High Seas

On Sunday, the Tehran-backed Houthi guerrillas, who have managed to control much of Yemen, attacked an American warship and three British commercial vessels in the Red Sea. This comes on the heels of a series of maritime attacks on targets loosely connected to Israel and the U.S., documented in the article below by Mark Dubowitz and Richard Goldberg. They explain that Washington must respond far more forcefully than it has been:

President Biden refuses to add the Houthis back to the official U.S. terror list—a status he revoked shortly after taking office. And [Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali] Khamenei keeps driving toward a weapon of mass destruction with the UN’s nuclear watchdog warning that Iran is increasing its production of high-enriched uranium while stonewalling inspectors.

Refreezing all cash made available to Iran over the last few months and cracking down on Iranian oil shipments to China are the easy first steps. Senators can force Biden’s hand on both counts by voting on two bills that passed the House with overwhelming bipartisan support.

Next comes the reestablishment of U.S. military deterrence. America must defend itself and regional allies against any attempt by Iran to retaliate—a reassurance Riyadh and Abu Dhabi [also] need, given the potential for Tehran to break its de-escalation pact with the Gulf Arab states. By striking Iranian and Houthi targets, Biden would advance the cause of Middle East peace.  . . . Tehran will keep attacking Americans and U.S. allies unless and until he flashes American steel.

Read more at New York Post

More about: Gaza War 2023, Iran, Naval strategy, U.S. Foreign policy, Yemen