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AN ASSESSMENT OF DAVID NOEL FREEDMAN S. David Sperling Hebrew Union College, New York A review of Divine Commitment and Human Obligation-Selected Writings of David Noel Freedman, Vol. 1. Ancient Israelite History and Religion. By David Noel Freedman. John R. Huddleston, ed. pp. xxix + 545. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1997. Cloth, $45.00. Divine Commitment and Human Obligation-Selected Writings of David Noel Freedman, Vol. 2. Poetry and Orthography. By David Noel Freedman. John R. Huddleston, ed. Pp. xx + 269. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1997. Cloth, $30.00. The two volumes under review derive their title from the author's characterization of the biblical berEt between Israel and its God (1:168-78). Through his voluminous publications, his teaching, and not the least his editing of ASOR publications and especially of the Anchor Bible Series, the Anchor Bible Dictionary, and the Anchor Bible Reference Library,! Professor David Noel Freedman, now at the University of California at San Diego, is surely one of the most influential biblical scholars of the twentieth century. The writings selected for these volumes. arranged chronologically , span about a half-century, providing the opportunity for an overview of the constant and the changing in Freedman's work.2 What is constant is Freedman's overriding preoccupation with the text, which he is always examining afresh. As he states in the preface (I:xvii; ll:xvi): "Fifty years later I am still trying to make sense of biblical verses. The primary task of the student-scholar is to read the text closely and care- ! For bibliography of published works and editorial work through 1981, see M. O'Connor, "Bibliography of the Works of David Noel Freedman," in The Word 0/the LordShall Go Forth Essays in lIonor ofDavid Noel Freedman, eds. C. L. Meyers and M. O'Connor (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1983). For bibliography through 1995 see K. G. Bedc in Fortunate the Eyes that See: Essays in Honor 0/David Noel FreedmtJn in Celebration of his Seventieth Birthday, cds. A. B. Beck, A. H Banell, P. R. Raabe, and C. A. Franke (Grand Rapids, M1: Eerdmans, 1995), pp. 660--669. 2 Interestingly, Volume I carries on ils jacket the subtitle Ancient Israelite History and Religion, while the front matter has the more accurate History and Religion. A number of the essays reflect Freedman's passionate dedication to the ongoing life of the Church, the miniStry, Jewish·Christian relations and the theological implications of critical study of the Bible. These significant issues, unfortunately, cannot be discussed in the present review. Hebrew Studies 39 (1998) 184 Review Essay fully and to grapple with problems in and of the text." What has changed is Freedman's evolving reluctance to find value in conjectural emendation (1:352); instead he searches for internal criteria for understanding difficult passages in terms of such poetic devices as gapping and anastrophe. He allows as well for the ecstatic state of at least some of the biblical authors, the prophets (1:365-366). Another constan~ is that Freedman never ignores the smallest details, but is always aware that the details may add up to a comprehensive picture. An excellent example is the 1987 essay "Headings in the Books of the Eighth-Century Prophets" (1:367-382), in which he attempts provocatively to establish the relative chronologies of Amos, Hosea, Micah, and Isaiah as well as the possible circumstances for the publication of their prophecies on the basis of the headings of the individual books. Likewise, Freedman remains over the years committed to the possibility of deriving early Israelite political and religious history from early Israelite poetry. A good example of the method is "Who is Like Thee among the Gods?: The Religion of Early Israel" (1:383-402). Originally published in 1987 in a volume dedicated to Freedman's colleague from Hopkins days, Frank Cross, the essay establishes a relative chronology for five biblical poems: Genesis 49; Exodus 15; Numbers 23-24; Deuteronomy 33 and Judges 5. According to Freedman, these poems describe Israel's earliest history from its origins until its settlement in Canaan. They are only "slightly later than the events they describe"3 and represent the "original medium" of the biblical...


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