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Review of IVP’s Dictionary of the Old Testament: Pentateuch (final part 3)

April 8, 2013

IVP OT Dictionary Pentateuch

I’ve been spending some time the last few weeks with InterVarsity Press’s Dictionary of the Old Testament: Pentateuch in Logos Bible Software. You can read part 1 of my review here and part 2 here; those help provide context for this third and final part to the review.

In this post I summarize and briefly interact with three more articles: “Warfare,” “Book of Genesis,” and “Haran.” Then I offer my concluding thoughts.

Warfare

A.C. Emery’s article explores “the conduct of warfare found in the Pentateuch, as well as instructions provided for the waging of warfare in Israel” (877). He notes, “Conflict is a common event recorded within the OT” (877), even if the student of ancient warfare tactics may not find much in the Pentateuch. To wit: “With rare exception the battle is described more for the divine intervention than for its technical conduct, which is the particular interest of this article” (878-9). God himself is described “as a warrior” (877) in the Pentateuch.

Emery looks at common Hebrew words that the Pentateuch uses to describe warfare and battles, with qārab (“draw near”) being the most common. He explores Pentateuchal “battle accounts” (879), from Abraham in Genesis 14 to Amalek in Exodus 17 and the “Canaanite king of Arad” and Og, king of Bashan, in Numbers 21-25 (879-80). There are “various instructions with regard to activities related to warfare” (880), including “the need to be… emotionally and religiously prepared for the dangers of combat” and the mechanics of negotiations and siege warfare (880). Emery’s final section examines the ethical difficulty that warfare poses.

Surprisingly, Emery does not in his ethics section mention the difficult Deuteronomy 7:2 with its “show them no mercy” command. He also has an article in the dictionary (“ḤĒREM”) that covers that passage, but his treatment of warfare ethics in “Warfare” was briefer than I would have liked. But, as with the rest of the dictionary, the few-page article still offers a decent jumping-off point for further research, even if it’s not a one-stop shop.

Book of Genesis

The entry on the book of Genesis examines the book with special reference to structure, plot, and theology (350). L.A. Turner’s key assumption is: “Genesis is a narrative book, and its theology is conveyed through features such as its structure, plot and characterization, rather than through set pieces of divine promulgation, as in legal or prophetic texts” (356).

Regarding structure, though there are varying theories, most agree that “Genesis is composed of two distinct blocks of unequal size” (350). The first runs roughly through Genesis 11 or the first few verses of Genesis 12 and is about humanity generally. Genesis 12 onward picks up the story of Abraham. The “main sections” in Genesis, according to Turner, are “the Abraham story (Gen 11:27–25:18), the Jacob story (Gen 25:19–37:1) and the story of Jacob’s family (Gen 37:2–50:26)” (350). The Hebrew word tôlĕdôt (genealogy) is a structural marker throughout Genesis.

The plot of Genesis has “progressive complexity” (352), moving from early human history to complex characters and families by the end of the book. “Divine promises and blessings” constitute “the book’s central core” (353) for Turner, and set the stage for the rest of the Bible (358). Regarding theology, he notes the tension “between divine sovereignty (as exemplified in the genealogies) and human free will (as demonstrated in the narratives)” (357).

I wanted to be sure to review a longer article in the dictionary. I was unexpectedly riveted as Turner walked through Genesis (10 pages in print). I found his contention that the book’s structure has theological import to be particularly compelling.

Haran

“Haran” in English could refer either to a place or to a person, though the spelling is different between each word in Hebrew (379). Both the place and the person are in Genesis 11:27-32, so M.W. Chavalas treats them together (379).

Haran the place is where Abraham lived after leaving Ur and before departing for Canaan (379). He also sought a wife for Isaac there, and Jacob found Rachel and Leah there, too. Similar to Ur, Haran centered on lunar worship. Haran is located in what today is southeastern Turkey. There is “only a small amount of archaeological evidence…for the city, and even less for patriarchal times” (379). It seems to have been inhabited already well before Abraham’s time, perhaps by some 20,000 people (379). Chavalas notes its likely founding “as a merchant outpost by the Sumerian city of Ur in the late third millennium B.C.” (379).

Haran the person has “very little biblical or extrabiblical information” recorded about him. He was Terah’s son, Lot’s father, and Abram’s brother. It was Haran’s death at Ur that led Lot to go to Haran with Abram. Haran also had two daughters, Iscah and Milcah.

The more I research Abraham and the Pentateuch, the more I realize how important Lot was to him. His desire to bear a family perhaps through Lot seems to be what led to his rescue of Lot in Genesis 14.  Several dictionary articles point this out nicely. Chavalas covers Haran fairly thoroughly in a short amount of space (just two or three print pages).

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I hope Logos will update the dictionary so that the sidebar Table of Contents can expand to include all the article sub-points. Another thing that would make the product better is an easier way to find out about contributors from within an article. Having their names hyperlinked with their biographical information would be nice. As it is, one has to move between the article and the separate “Contributors” section to find out more about each author. [EDIT: Author names have hyperlinks in the Accordance production of this module.]

The Logos edition of the IVP Dictionary of the Old Testament: Pentateuch is overall a good module. Being able to have it open to both Hebrew and English biblical texts saves considerable time compared to using the print edition. The Dictionary is a solid first place to go on issues, themes, and people in the Pentateuch.

The Dictionary is on Amazon here (in print) and at Logos here. My thanks to Logos for the review copy.  Read part 1 of my review here and part 2 here.

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