Discovering the Bible’s Interconnected Narratives

The opening verse of the book of Esther states that the Persian king Ahasuerus ruled over an empire of 127 provinces. The number 127 occurs in only one other place in the Hebrew Bible: it is the age at which Sarah dies. To Alastair Roberts, this small detail invites readers to see various similarities between the matriarch and the book’s titular heroine. Likewise, the story of David has numerous parallels to that of Jacob, a comparison that, Roberts argues, can illuminate the story’s complex political message. Although Roberts is a Protestant theologian and scholar, his method of reading the Bible by examining similarities among its passages has much in common with the approaches of ancient, medieval, and modern rabbis. In conversation with Rabbi Ari Lamm, he investigates some of these readings. (Audio, 78 minutes.)

Read more at Good Faith Effort

More about: Esther, Hebrew Bible, King David

Recognizing a Palestinian State Won’t Help Palestinians, or Even Make Palestinian Statehood More Likely

While Shira Efron and Michael Koplow are more sanguine about the possibility of a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, and more critical of Israel’s policies in the West Bank, than I am, I found much worth considering in their recent article on the condition of the Palestinian Authority (PA). Particularly perceptive are their comments on the drive to grant diplomatic recognition to a fictive Palestinian state, a step taken by nine countries in the past few months, and almost as many in total as recognize Israel.

Efron and Koplow argue that this move isn’t a mere empty gesture, but one that would actually make things worse, while providing “no tangible benefits for Palestinians.”

In areas under its direct control—Areas A and B of the West Bank, comprising 40 percent of the territory—the PA struggles severely to provide services, livelihoods, and dignity to inhabitants. This is only partly due to its budgetary woes; it has also never established a properly functioning West Bank economy. President Mahmoud Abbas, who will turn ninety next year, administers the PA almost exclusively by executive decrees, with little transparency or oversight. Security is a particular problem, as militants from different factions now openly defy the underfunded and undermotivated PA security forces in cities such as Jenin, Nablus, and Tulkarm.

Turning the Palestinian Authority (PA) from a transitional authority into a permanent state with the stroke of a pen will not make [its] litany of problems go away. The risk that the state of Palestine would become a failed state is very real given the PA’s dysfunctional, insolvent status and its dearth of public legitimacy. Further declines in its ability to provide social services and maintain law and order could yield a situation in which warlords and gangs become de-facto rulers in some areas of the West Bank.

Otherwise, any steps toward realizing two states will be fanciful, built atop a crumbling foundation—and likely to help turn the West Bank into a third front in the current war.

Read more at Foreign Affairs

More about: Palestinian Authority, Palestinian statehood