Book Reviews

Numbers

Forms of the Old Testament Literature

Rolf P. Knierim, George W. Coats Grand Rapids 2005-01-19

This important series of publications on the literary and rhetorical features of the Old Testament has now been augmented by this solid contribution by two eminent Old Testament scholars. True to the critical stance of the series as a whole, the authors view the Book of Numbers as “the result of a complex growth process which extended throughout several centuries,” culminating in the editorial work of the so-called Priestly tradition (pp. 6–7). But also in line with the ethos of the project is a primary emphasis on the final form of the text—its canonical shape—rather than on its oral prehistory or even historical development. This is not to say that even oral stages are ignored; in fact it is the contention of the authors that they must be recognized and studied as the preliminary stages of the growth of the tradition that finds its final form in the Masoretic text of Numbers.

That said—and with due consideration of its import—the work at hand is a masterful review of such matters as the structure of the book, its genre(s), its setting, and its intention. Each of the major units is broken down into these categories and each is also further subdivided into analyses of secondary features such as lexicography, wordplay, rhetorical devices, and the like. In addition to broad bibliographies of hundreds of books and articles, the authors, again in line with the thrust of the series, supply bibliographic data for even the briefest, most specific subunits. Also they provide a glossary of technical terms arranged in alphabetical order (pp. 337–367). A helpful feature of the glossary is its cross-referencing of terms appropriate to Numbers to other volumes in the series.

Eerdmans is to be applauded for launching and continuing this set of tools indispensable to students of the Old Testament who want to understand it in literary as well as theological terms.

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