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The Ladder of Jacob
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix List of Abbreviations xi Chapter One: Jacob and the Bible's Ancient Interpreters 1 Chapter Two: The Ladder of Jacob 9 Chapter Three: The Rape of Dinah, and Simeon and Levi's Revenge 36 Chapter Four: Reuben's Sin with Bilhah 81 Chapter Five: How Levi Came to Be a Priest 115 Chapter Six: Judah and the Trial of Tamar 169 Chapter Seven: A Prayer about Jacob and Israel from the Dead Sea Scrolls 186 Notes 223 Subject Index 263 Hebrew Bible Index 271 Index of Motifs Studied 276

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James Kugel is the expert in the history of biblical interpretation, and he offers a great introduction to and explanation of ancient exegesis of these parts of Genesis. -- James VanderKam, University of Notre Dame A wonderful book. The chapters follow their subjects detail by detail with a kind of masterfully unpredictable logic, almost like a detective story. -- David Stern, University of Pennsylvania James Kugel fuses immense learning with a poignant (yet wary) nostalgia for what he has called 'the God of old'. The Ladder of Jacob could be read side-by-side with Thomas Mann's Joseph tetralogy. Kugel, like Mann, belongs to authentic cultures now vanished or vanishing. Both novelist and scholar temper their ironies with wisdom and a sense of justice. -- Harold Bloom, author of "Jesus and Yahweh" and "Where Shall Wisdom Be Found?"

Acknowledgments ix List of Abbreviations xi Chapter One: Jacob and the Bible's Ancient Interpreters 1 Chapter Two: The Ladder of Jacob 9 Chapter Three: The Rape of Dinah, and Simeon and Levi's Revenge 36 Chapter Four: Reuben's Sin with Bilhah 81 Chapter Five: How Levi Came to Be a Priest 115 Chapter Six: Judah and the Trial of Tamar 169 Chapter Seven: A Prayer about Jacob and Israel from the Dead Sea Scrolls 186 Notes 223 Subject Index 263 Hebrew Bible Index 271 Index of Motifs Studied 276

About the Author

James L. Kugel, formerly Starr Professor of Hebrew Literature at Harvard University, is Director of the Institute for the History of the Jewish Bible at Bar-Ilan University in Israel, where he also serves as Professor of Bible. Kugel is the author of ten books, including "The God of Old: Great Poems of the Bible" and "The Bible as It Was" (a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for nonfiction and the winner of the Grawemeyer Prize in Religion in 2001). He lives in Jerusalem.

Reviews

One of Choice's Outstanding Academic Titles for 2007 "The Ladder of Jacob is one of the most readable and attractive introductions to the general style of traditional Jewish reasoning from Scripture. It captures the strange combination of playfulness with deadly seriousness that characterizes this exegetical tradition, and which makes studying it so enjoyable. The methods it works with are profoundly interesting to the historian of ideas, who will be aware of parallels in other scriptural religions."--John Baron, Times Literary Supplement "James L. Kugel demonstrates that ... ancient sources described the biblical narratives in terms of various motifs that brought fresh meanings to the stories and their place in Israel's religious history... Kugel helpfully guides us through the marvelous world of ancient biblical interpretation."--Publishers Weekly "In his elegant new book, ... James L. Kugel takes on ... perplexing ... questions with great erudition and admirable lucidity... Whether unravelling some philological tangle or reconciling divergent readings, he has the enviable knack of capturing his reader's attention and keeping it firmly tethered... Whether discussing Reuben's sin with Bilhah or the priesthood of Levi or Judah and Tamar, Mr. Kugel moves easily from moral dilemmas to textual enigmas; his book thus serves as a guide to interpretation as well."--Eric Ormsby, New York Sun "Biblical scholar Kugel offers an in-depth study of some of the more difficult stories of Jacob and Jacob's family... [A]ny biblical researcher can profit from understanding the questions raised by these text, and analyzing the answers they provide. A valuable resource."--Library Journal "Highly recommended... James L. Kugel persuasively argues that ancient interpreters did more than simply apologize for the less-than-illustrious behavior of certain biblical figures ... by demonstrating how exegetical motifs arise from some quirk in scripture... Kugel has written a book that is obviously important for specialists (it will certainly be instrumental in reevaluating the history of the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs), but he is so remarkably adept at making opaque materials accessible to nonspecialists that both novices and the initiated will read his latest work with evident relish."--Choice "James Kugel...is an expert in the history of biblical interpretation and well equipped to write a book that gives the reader an introduction to and explanation of the ancient exegesis of the particular text from Genesis under discussion in this book... [It] can be recommended for every one interested in the development of certain biblical traditions, but especially for those interested in the way ancient interpreters treated biblical texts."--S I Cronje, Verbum et Ecclesia "[Kugel]...takes half a dozen Biblical stories--Jacob's career, his heavenly ladder, the rape of Dinah, Reuben's dalliance with Bilhah, Levi's elevation to priesthood, Judah's victimization of Tamar--and invites the reader to accompany him in a survey of ancient Biblical commentaries which range far beyond the well known canonical literature...James Kugel has presented the reader with a dazzling array of Midrashic and other texts which testify to the extraordinary vitality of the rabbinic mind and its successors in unpackaging the hidden meanings in the Hebrew Bible."--Arnold Ages, Chicago Jewish Star "[Kugel] masterfully reveals why mishnaic, rabbinic, and targumic commentaries make the moves they do by analytically assessing the how and the why in each step. In this sense what Kugel does, helps the most rigid historical-critical exegetes ... become more alert to the intricacies of the literary-syntactical elements--particularly the cruxes--and also become more appreciative of the artistic aspects of ancient allegorical methods."--Craig D. Bowman, Book Reviews and Notes "Kugel ... most elegantly and convincingly explores how ... early interpreters conceived of the Bible and of their hermeneutical task... This book--and Kugel's major oeuvre of recuperating early exegesis--is an important, fascinating, and often brilliant endeavor."--Ronald Hendel, Interpretation "I can certainly recommend Kugel's book as yet another masterpiece of the history of interpretation. It should serve as a guide for others attempting to do so, as well as a wonderful sourcebook for those working on Genesis."--Dan Clanton, Journal of Hebrew Scriptures "All in all a fascinating and valuable contribution to the history of interpretation."--R. Tomes, Society for Old Testament Studies

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