Mordechai Cogan Yale University Press 2001-10-16

This fine commentary by the professor of biblical history at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, completes the Anchor Bible series for the former prophets. (The volume on 2 Kings, coauthored by Cogan and Hayim Tadmor, was published in 1988.) Like the other volumes in the series, this commentary has a wealth of linguistic, historical, and archaeological information that will be invaluable to interpreters. It is sure to be a standard for years to come.

The introduction contains a translation of 1–2 Kings, as well as a discussion of introductory issues, including, among other topics, text and versions, composition, chronology, and historical background. The forty-one page bibliography on 1 Kings will be of help to researchers. The commentary section follows a three-part, easy-to-use format. For each pericope the author provides a translation annotated with text critical observations; exegetical notes; and comments on structure, themes, and history.

In a brief review it is impossible to interact with the commentary in detail; a few observations of a critical nature must suffice. Cogan translates the phrase hQ;dæ hm;m;D“ l/q in 1 Kings 19:12 as “the sound of sheer silence” (p. 449). This may well be correct, but Cogan does not interact with J. Lust’s view that the expression refers to a roaring, thunderous sound (“A Gentle Breeze or a Roaring, Thunderous Sound?” Vetus Testamentum 25 [1975]: 110–15), nor does Cogan include this article in his bibliography.

On some occasions Cogan is content to offer shop-worn redactional critical explanations for difficult passages without exploring other potentially more productive avenues. For example he accounts for Elijah’s “incomplete execution” of Yahweh’s commands regarding the anointing of Hazael, Jehu, and Elisha (1 Kings 19:15–21) by proposing that “two separate fragments of tradition are juxtaposed.” Furthermore, he argues, the Elijah traditions “stand in opposition to others that are preserved in the Elisha cycle” (p. 457). A rhetorical-literary approach would interpret Elijah’s response to his renewed commission as a deliberate act of defiance that amounted to a resignation notice, leaving Elisha to carry out the commission given to his predecessor.

In Cogan’s treatment of the partially fulfilled prophecy concerning Ahab’s death (cf. 1 Kings 21:19 with 22:38; dogs licked Ahab’s blood, but in Samaria, not Jezreel), Cogan sees a “contradiction” and proposes that the account of Ahab’s death is an “alternate tradition . . . that was not harmonized with the Elijah tales” (p. 495). However, another option is that prophetic language, rather than being unconditional in every detail, was performative and flexible enough to accommodate human actions. Elijah’s prophecy emphasized that Ahab would be punished appropriately for his crime against Naboth. When Ahab’s men took his body to Samaria, rather than Jezreel, circumstances seemingly precluded fulfillment of the prophecy. But the prophetic word inexorably followed him there, divine sovereignty winning out over human freedom in the end. As the dogs of Samaria lapped up the king’s blood, it was clear that the prophecy was indeed fulfilled in its essence; only the dogs of Jezreel had reason to object on a technicality.