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Hebrew Studies 41 (2000) 253 Reviews POLITICAL SATIRE IN THE BIBLE. By Ze'ev Weisman. SBL Semeia Studies 32. pp. xii + 175. Atlanta, GA: Scholars Press, 1998. Paper, $19.95. In Political Satire in the Bible, Ze'ev Weisman has assembled and analyzed biblical texts from a wide variety of literary genres to demonstrate the existence and multiformity of political satire in the Hebrew Scriptures. Beginning with a short methodological discussion of the term "satire," he proceeds first to illustrate its most compact form in names and nicknames, and their derivations from animals or other terms with a pejorative connotation . Next he looks at the short satirical fables of latham (ludg 9:8-15) and lehoash (2 Kgs 14:9-10) showing how the form and substance of the fables contribute to their satirical thrusts. Chapter 4 is devoted to two other short narratives, the tower of Babel tale (Gen 11:1-9) and the episode in which Saul prophesies (1 Sam 19:20-24), texts considered together here because both issue in etiological explanations-of the name Babel and of the saying "Is Saul also among the prophets?" In the next three chapters, Weisman turns to prophetic literature, in particular to the oracles against the nations, for poetic examples of political satire. Under form-critical classifications such as "taunt elegy," and "woe oracle," he examines a number of texts in detail, attending to structure and Sitz im Leben and to vehicles of satire such as wordplay and rhetorical questions. He also is concerned to establish the historical background of the oracles to show the exact object of the satire; thus he explores the evidence for identifying Sargon II as the focus of the satire in Isaiah 14. The last three chapters return to narrative: the satire directed at Rehoboam who listened to the wrong counselors and lost the northern tribes (1 Kgs 12-19), the mocking address of Rabshakeh embedded in the narrative of 2 Kings 18-19 (cf. Isa 36-37), and the entire book of Esther. In the last chapter. Weisman focuses especially on the "sapiential-political" messages in the book represented, for instance, by the satirical picture of an empire whose policy is driven by rival ministers. The strength of this book lies in its several useful studies of particular texts and its focus on the variety of strategies that biblical writers employ to satirize their subjects. Weisman has done well to bring these studies together and to show the pervasive presence of satirical aims in biblical literature. Unfortunately, the book does not rise above its specific text studies to offer either comparisons among texts or a more general discussion of the Hebrew Studies 41 (2000) 254 Reviews phenomenon under consideration. The problem begins with Chapter l's too brief methodological discussion which, after a bit of casting around at others' work on the subject and a search for biblical terminology for satire, issues in an essentialist description of what political satire will mean in the book. (I would say that "political" is at least as problematic a tenn as "satire," yet it receives little attention.) The sketchiness here is compounded by a confusing one-sentence prospectus of the rest of the book in which the content of "the fIrst three chapters" is distinguished from that of "the other three chapters" (p. 8)-this in a book of nine chapters! Distressing as well is the lack of a concluding chapter in which political satire in its various manifestations might have been synthesized. Altogether I fmd the structure of the book somewhat hard to follow. The order of the chapters does not contribute to the building of an argument , nor do transitions lead from one chapter to the next. And within chapters the choices of subjects studied are not clearly justifIed. Why Jotham's fable and not Nathan's? Why some "woe" oracles and not others? Why Esther and not Jonah (in fact, why is Jonah not mentioned in the book at all?)? Despite the interesting perspectives Weisman presents on a number of texts, the whole has a rather haphazard quality to it. Sometimes the subject of satire gets lost in the pursuit of an exegetical fme...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2158-1681
Print ISSN
0146-4094
Pages
pp. 253-254
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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