Book Reviews

Readings from the Ancient Near East

Primary Sources for Old Testament Study

Bill T. Arnold, Bryan E. Beyer, editors Grand Rapids 2002-09-01

This volume, part of Baker’s Encountering Biblical Studies series, gives students of the Old Testament an affordable, up-to-date collection of several important ancient Near Eastern texts. These texts illumine the Old Testament in a variety of ways and are frequently cited in secondary literature. Such anthologies exist elsewhere, of course, but other volumes are usually large and expensive. Arnold and Beyer have not provided original translations of the texts; instead they have collected translations from other sources.

A particularly helpful feature of this volume is its arrangement, which corresponds to the sections of the Old Testament. Under the heading “Pentateuch” the editors include ancient Near Eastern texts pertaining to Creation and the Flood, the Tower of Babel, ancestral customs, epic literature, covenants and treaties, law codes, and cultic texts. For the historical books the editors include royal records from Mesopotamia, chronicles and other historiographic lists, non-Hebrew monumental inscriptions, letters, and other Hebrew inscriptions. Biran and Naveh’s translation of the recently discovered Tel Dan Inscription, which mentions the “house of David,” is included in this section. The section on poetic books includes selections from ancient Near Eastern wisdom literature, love poems, and hymns and prayers, while the section on the prophetic books includes ancient Near Eastern prophecies; visions; apocalyptic, divination and incantation texts; and lamentations.

While recognizing that the editors had to be selective, one wishes the volume contained more samples from the Amarna letters (only three are included), the neo-Assyrian royal inscriptions, and Egyptian New Kingdom royal inscriptions. Several important Northwest Semitic inscriptions do not appear, including Phoenician and Aramaic tomb inscriptions, the bilingual Tel Fakhriyah inscription, Kilamuwa, Hadad, and Panammu. 

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