Religion 109 A
Introduction to the Hebrew Bible
Fall Semester 20076 M W F 9:30-10:20

Instructor: Jonathan Brumberg-Kraus

Office Hours: MWF 10:30-12:20 and by appointment
Office: 102 Knapton
Phone: x3694 E-mail: jkraus


In this course we will move through the wide span of religious viewpoints in ancient Israel, from the time of Abraham to the Dead Sea Scrolls, developed in response to particular historical events within a broader ancient Near Eastern cultural setting. We will cover such topics as mythic thought, prophetic consciousness, religion and politics, the problem of evil, archeology, literary analysis, trends in modern scholarship--all as they apply to understanding the religion of ancient Israel. Prerequisites: none.

Enhanced section of Introduction to the Hebrew Bible - Rel 198 (1.5 credits)

I am offering an enhanced version of the Introduction to the Hebrew Bible course, in which we will spend an additional hour a week reading some of the assigned Biblical texts in Hebrew. It is open to students with some previous knowledge of Hebrew. Let me know within the first two weeks of class if you're interested. If so, the course number for your schedule is Rel 198, instead of Rel 109a, and is worth 1.5 credits.


Oxford Study Bible
2) Lawrence Boadt,
Reading the Old Testament (NY, NY: Paulist, 1984)
3) Cain Hope Felder,
Race, Racism, and the Biblical Narratives (Minneapolis: Augsburg/Fortress, 2002)

4) Renita J. Weems, Battered Love: Marriage, Sex, and Violence in the Hebrew Prophets (Minneapolis: Augsburg/Fortress, 2002)

Richard E. Friedman, Who Wrote the Bible? (NY, NY: Harper)

On reserve:

Back to the Sources, ed. Barry Holtz (Murray Lichtenstein, "Biblical Poetry")

Phyllis Trible, God and the Rhetoric of Sexuality

Robert Alter, The Art Of Biblical Poetry

Course Schedule

W 8/29/07 Introduction

I. Interpreting Biblical Literature: an in-depth look at Genesis 1-3

A. Compare 1: 1-2:4a with 2:4b-25 order of creation, time of creation, name of God,
view of God and man
B. Cultural background of the stories
C. Parallels with, and differences from, the Babylonian creation story
D. 1: 1-2:4a and 2; 4b-25 conflicting or complementary
E. The Eden story, the "isness" vs. the "wasness" of early biblical literature
F. Other Pre-Abrahamic Stories

F 8/31/07Genesis 1-4; 6-9; 11

M 9/3/07 No Class Labor Day

W 9/5/07 Boadt, 109-132; Friedman 15-32, 50-69

II. A Brief History of Pentateuch Scholarship

A. Witter and two sources
B. Eichhorn, Hupfeld--and four sources
C. De Wette and the dating of D (2 Kings 22:1-23:25; Deut. 12:1-14)
D. Wellhausen and the chronology of the four sources

F 9/7/07 Boadt 89-108; 2 Kgs 22:1-23:25, Deut 12:1-14; [Friedman 33-49]

E. Gunkel, oral tradition, and the development of form criticism
F. An example of form criticism: Alt on the laws of the Pentateuch (Exod 20:1-17;
22: 1-13)
G. Alt on the origin of the twelve tribes of Israel (Gen.34: Josh 24)

M 9/10/07 Exod. 20:1-17; 22:1-13; Genesis 34; Joshua 24

H. History of tradition: the work of von Rad and Noth (Deut. 26 5-9)
I. Noth's "G" hypothesis, oral tradition, and the sources of the Pentateuch 

W 9/12/07 Friedman 15-32; Boadt 69-88; Deut 26 5-9 (Erev Rosh Hashanah)

III. The Origins of Mesopotamian Civilization

A. Sumerian culture: the city-state and its relationship to the pantheon of gods
B. Sumerian society: the move from primitive democracy to kingship (3010-2500
B C.E.)
C. The Story of Gilgamesh, fourth king of Uruk
D. Oral tradition, the flood story, and the formation of epic cycles in the ancient Near East.

F 9/14/07 Boadt 28-36, 40-45,61-64; 124-132; Genesis 12-15; 18-19; 21-25 (Second Day of Rosha Hashanah – No Class)

E. The Akkadians: appearance of the first Semitic people in Mesopotamia (2500-
2000 B.C. E.)
F. The Amorites: appearance of the second wave of Semitic peoples in Mesopotamia
(2000-1500 B C.E.)

1. Two Amorite kingdoms: Assyria and Babylonia
2. The rule of Hammurabi (1700 B.C.E.)
3. Abram the Amorite

M 9/17/07 Boadt 133-154; Genesis 27-33

G. The Patriarchal Period
1. Urban versus semi-nomadic society
2. The religion of Abraham in its ancient Near Eastern setting

a. Mari
b. Nuzi

H. The Patriarchal Cycles of Stories: Abraham, Jacob, and Joseph
I. Types of Patriarchal Stories

W 9/19/07 Genesis 37-46

IV. "Israel" in Egypt

A. The Hurrians and the Hyksos (1750-1550 B.C.E.)
B. The expulsion of the Hyksos from Egypt (1550 B.C.E.)
C. The biblical connection: the rule of Joseph and Hebrew bondage
D. The Hittite empire and the suzerainty covenant

F 9/21/07 Boadt 36-40, 46-51, 155-169; Exod 1:1-6:9; 10-11 (Erev Yom Kippur)

1.     E. Moses and the escape from Egypt
F. The formation of the Exodus cycle
G. Exodus and the Passover celebration 

M 9/24/07 Boadt 169-172; Exod 12-16

V. The Sinai experience and Mosaic religion
A. The purpose of Israel (Ex. 19:4-6)
B. The nature of the god of Moses

The name YHWH
2. Active in history
3. Monotheism
4. YHWH as holy
5. The covenant structure

C. The gods and YHWH; the gods versus YHWH

W 9/26/07 Boadt 173-194; Exodus 19-24; Leviticus 16-19 [
Erev Sukkot]
VI. The Wilderness Narratives - before & after the Golden Calf
Review lecture notes & previous reading assignments

F 9/28/07


7:30 PM (Dessert in my Sukkah, at my home in Providence, RI, weather permitting)

W 10/3/07 Friedman 70-88; Exodus 32-34; Numbers 11 - 14; 16; 20-24; Deut 31: 14-34: 12

VII. The Origins of Israel: Three Theories

A. Alt/von Rad/Noth--the gradual Hebrew buildup in Canaan
B. Kaufmann and Wright--the unified Hebrew blitzkrieg into Canaan
C. Mendenhall--the Hebrew social-political revolution in Canaan
D. The geography of Palestine
F 10/5/07 Boadt 195-212, 52-61, 64-68; Joshua 3; 6-7; 10; Judges 1 (Simhat Torah)

VIII. The Tribal League Period (1200-1000 B C.E.)

A. YHWH as king: charismatic rule
B No other gods
C. Central, movable shrine (ark and tent)
D Covenant law
E Holy war
F. The problem of the Judges

M 10/8/07 No class October Break


W 10/10/07 Joshua 24; Judges 4-8; 11; 13-16

F 10/12/07 Boadt 213-226; Deut 32:7-9; Psalm 82; 74:12-17; Isaiah 51:9-11

IX. The Rise of Monarchy in Israel (1025-922 B.C.E.)

A. The Canaanites
1. Economic and cultural middlemen of the ancient Near East
2. Canaanite myth and ritual
3. The nature and purpose of myth
B. Early Israel's response to myth

 Saturday 10/14/07  Evening (@6PM) Filed trip to Simhat Torah Celebration – Temple Emanuel,  Providence, RI)

M 10/15/07 Boadt 227-244; 1 Samuel 1-4; 7-11; 13-22; 24-25; 27-31

C. The Philistine threat and Israel's move toward kingship: Samuel and Saul
D. The Kingdom of David and Solomon (1000-922 B.C.E.)

E. Israel's return to the wilderness ([Hosea?] 2: 14-23) Characteristics of prophetic eschatology; comparing/contrasting Amos & Hosea

W 10/17/07 Boadt 292-308, 309-324; Hosea 1-6; 11

Excursus: Characteristics of Biblical Poetry

F 10/19/07 Murray Lichtenstein, "Biblical Poetry," in Back to the Sources,
ed. Barry Holtz (on reserve)
F. Isaiah of Jerusalem (742-687 B.C. E.)

1. Let us reason together (1:10-20)
2. Israel as the vineyard (5 1-7)
3. Isaiah's call to prophecy (6:1-13)
4. Isaiah in the Syro-Ephraimite war (7:1-17)
5. Other involvements in foreign policy

a. 714 B.C. E (14:28-32; 18; 20)
b. 705-01 B C E (28-31)

c. 687 B C E. (36-37)

M 10/22/07 Boadt 324-337; Isaiah 1-2, 5-7

Biblical Poem due. Post yours on Blackboard

G. Micah (ca. 730 B.C.E.)
1. Micah and Jerusalem (3)
2. What YHWH requires (6: 1-8)

W 10/24/07 Boadt 338-343; Isaiah 9-11; Micah 3, 6

X. The Last Flourishing of Prophecy in Judah (640-540 B.C. E )

A. Historical background (687-622 B C.E.)
1. The rise and fall of Assyria
2. The reign of Manasseh (687-642 B C E.)
3. King Josiah, the reformer

F 10/26/07 Deut 1-6, 31-32

B. The Rediscovery of Mosaic Torah (622 B C.E.): the Book of Deuteronomy

1. Obedience as a response to God's love (6:20-25)
2 Basis of Israel's election (7:6-11; 9:4-12)
3. Relationship of Torah to YHWH (29:29)
4. Strong contemporarizing tone (5: 2-3)
5. Sermonic/exhortation tone (6 4-15; 10: 12-22; 15:7-18)
6. Role of the Levites (31:9-13)
7. The structure of Deuteronomy

C. Deuteronomic history

M 10/29/07 Boadt 343-359; Friedman pp. 89-135; Deuteronomy 5-10; 14-15; 2 Kings 21-23

D. Jeremiah

1. 626--his call to prophecy (1)
2. 622--Deuteronomic reform (4:1-4; 2:1-13; 3:1-10)
3. Events of 612-609 B.C.E.
4. 609--Temple sermon (7 and 26)
5. 609-605--the loincloth and the potter (13: 1-11; 18-19)
6. 605--The battle of Carchemish (36)
7. 597--The first exile (27-28)
8. 589-587--The final siege

a. Jeremiah arrested (37)
b. Redeeming the field (32)
c. Preaching in prison (38)
d. Midnight consultations (37-38)
e. Babylonian reception (39:1-40:6)
9. 584--Down into Egypt (42:1-43:7)
10 Jeremiah's "confessions" (12:1-6; 15:10-21; 20:7-18)
11. Who is the true prophet? (23:16-22; compare Dt. 13:1-5; 18:15-22)
12. From the end to the beginning (4:23-31; 31:31-34)

W-F 10/31/07-11/2/07 Boadt 360-382; 2 Kings 24-25; Jeremiah 1-4; 7; 26-32; 38-43

[N.B.: Remember to make your appointments with me this week (10/29-11/2) to recite the passage from Deuteronomy]

XI. The Emergence of Normative Judaism

A. The challenge of the Diaspora--transforming a religion which has been tied to land,
temple, and king
B Cyrus and the return to Palestine
C. Religious viewpoints
1. YHWH's justice in history--Torah preserves the relationship and points the
way to fullness of life.
2. "You must be holy"--Torah as preserving a unique heritage
3 Stress on YHWH's transcendence--YHWH had fulfilled his actions in
Torah; now it was up to Jews to respond
4 New stress on individualism--each person rewarded or punished according
to his/her response.
5 Death of prophecy: Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, "Third Isaiah," Obadiah,
6. Return to theocratic rule (Ezra and Nehemiah)

M 11/5/07 Boadt 449-471; Ezra 1; 4-7; 9-10; Nehemiah 8-9; 2; 4; 6

W 11/7/07
Assignment Boadt 472-491; all the highlighted passages below
XII. Wisdom in Israel

A. Secular origins of wisdom; theologized during the Exile
B. Man's search for wisdom (
Job 28; Prov. 2)
C. Bina as "understanding"
D. Modes of wisdom thought
1. A is in some mysterious way like B (
Prov.30: 18- 19)
2. A might seem like B, but it really is not; A might seem better than B, but
under certain circumstances it is not (
Sir. 20:6-7; Prov 26:4-5)
3. A sets into motion a series of events usually leading to B.
E. Insight into the human condition
F Attitude toward women (
Prov.31: 10-31; 7:6-27; Sir 42:9-14)
G. Two "women" and their enticing appeals (
Prov. 9:1-6; Sir. 24:1-9, 12, 16-22)
H. What can a person really know? (
Job 26:6-14)

F 11/9/07 Boadt 472-491; Ecclesiastes 1-3; 7; 11-12

1. Introduction
2 Search for meaning

a. All is hebhel
b. Eternal movement, no change
c. Crooked can't be straightened
d. Cosmic pattern
e. Denial of retribution
f. Death cancels (gives?) meaning

3. In pursuit of happiness
a Face facts
b Adapt yourself
c. Enjoy the moment


M 11/12/07 Job 1-5; 9; 12; 14; 19; 29-31; 38-42

Review your lectures notes & reading assignments
The Book of Job

1. Structure of the book

a. Prologue (1-2)
b Dialogue (3-31)
c. Elihu speeches (32-37)
d YHWH speeches (38:1-42:6)
e. Epilogue (42:7-17)

W 11/14/07 Find the specific passages in the following outline where 1) the comforters make these arguments; 2) Job's charges against God; 3) God's responses to the comforters' and Job's arguments.

2. Arguments of the comforters

a. Fear not-innocent will not perish (4:7)

b. All people are fallen (4:17-21)
c. Punishment purifies (5: 17)
d. Repent & be forgiven (8:3-7)
e. God's ways are unknowable (11 :8-12)

3. Job's pilgrimage

a. Wish for death (3)
b. God's isolation (7:11-21)
c. Job's umpire (9)
d Life after death? (14)
e. Job's witness (16:18-21)
f. Job's redeemer (19:23-27)
g Job's righteousness (29-31)

4 YHWH speeches (38: 1 -42:6)
5. Puzzling ending (42:7-17)
6 Purpose of book

F 11/16/07 SECOND HOURLY QUIZ I will be attending a national conference on Religious and Biblical Studies (AAR/SBL)

M-F 11/19-25 NO CLASS AAR/SBL conference, Thanksgiving Break

XIII. Biblical Literature as "Sacralization" of Social Norms:

Afro-centric Approaches to Race, Ethnicity, and Gender in the Hebrew Bible

M 11/26/07 Felder
W 11/28/07 Weems

[Trible 166-196 (optional)]

Student summaries

F 11/30/07 Weems
Student summaries

M 12/3/07 Weems
Student summaries

XIV.Post-exilic Jewish literature: Ruth, Jonah & Esther
W 12/5/07
Student Evaluation of Instruction


Boadt 492-516; Ruth 1-4; Jonah 1-4; Esther 1-8

F 12/7/07
Conclusions;; Guide for Final Exam.



Course Expectations

1. That you become familiar with the major figures of ancient Israel and with the biblical
literature in which they are described.

2. That you learn the basic outline of ancient Israelite history.

3. That you understand the major religious concepts which are covered in the course, knowing the historical-cultural background in which these concepts developed. Often you will be asked to compare and contrast religious concepts.

4. That you sharpen your eye for reading the Bible by learning the various methodologies developed by scholars to analyze biblical literature.

5. That you become familiar with some of the main figures of ancient Near Eastern history and some of the main features of ancient Near Eastern culture, noting the cultural interaction between Israel and her neighbors

How to do Well in Rel 109

This course will focus on religious ideas as they are expressed in the Hebrew Bible. We will always discuss those ideas as they relate to particular individuals or groups who lived at a particular time, in a particular area. Thus in many ways Rel 109 will be like a history course which stresses religious ideas by analyzing certain texts. In order to grasp the material as thoroughly as possible, you should try to work up the following review notes as you go along:

1 Divide the course into significant "ages" (e.g., Mesopotamian culture, the Patriarchal period, Israel in Egypt, Exodus-Sinai, the Tribal League period, etc.). Under each heading make a list of the main things going on historically (i.e., under "Israel in Egypt) you could
write: 'many of the ancestors of Israel probably entered Egypt while the Hyksos controlled
the land. But when the Egyptians rebelled and drove the Hyksos out, many of the
ancestors of Israel were captured and made slaves in Egypt).

2 Make a list of the main persons who play significant roles during each age (e.g., under
"Patriarchal period" you would put--Abraham, Sarah, Lot, Ishmael, Hagar, Isaac,
Rebekah, Jacob, Esau, Rachel, Leah, Joseph, Hammurabi, Amorites, Canaanites) and give
a brief 2-3 sentence description of what they said or did which was noteworthy.

3. Make a brief "story line" of the Bible as you read it, so you can see the overall narrative
flow (e.g., under "Patriarchal period" you would put--Abraham, Sarah, Lot, Ishmael, Hagar, Isaac,
Rebekah, Jacob, Esau, Rachel, Leah, Joseph, Hammurabi, Amorites, Canaanites) and give
a brief 2-3 sentence description of what they said or did which was noteworthy.

3. Make a brief "story line" of the Bible as you read it, so you can see the overall narrative
flow (e.g., under "Patriarchal period" the Bible reading assignment is Genesis 12-50. You
could begin: 'Abraham is told to leave his homeland for a new country which God shows
him, telling him that his descendants will one day possess the land. After he arrives, a
famine forces Abraham and his family to go down to Egypt, where he pretends that Sarah is his sister to save his life. After Godsends plagues on Egypt, Abraham is allowed to return to Canaan--where he divides the land with his nephew Lot...).

4.The Boadt book and the lectures will focus on the religious ideas. Make brief descriptions
of the main religious beliefs of each age, noting comparisons and contrasts between
different groups during the same age (e.g., whereas the urban peoples of the ancient Near
East believed in a pantheon of gods and that what existed on earth reflected what existed
in heaven, Abraham was related in covenant to one god who promised his descendants a
future fulfillment of land, a great people, and a blessing to all nations) or of the same
group during different ages (e.g., whereas the religion of Abraham stressed a friendly god
who was a guardian and guide--eternally related to his people, the religion of Moses
stressed a powerful, holy god who had set his people free and would only be their god if
they would respond and be his people)

5.Since all of the biblical stories take place within a certain geographical setting, it is important for you to get the "lay of the land" as soon as possible.

The first hourly will have a map question on the ancient Near East in which you will be asked to locate the following:



Bodies of Water



Red Sea



Tigris River



Nile River



Persian Gulf



Euphrates River



Mediterranean Sea



Salt (Dead) Sea



Aegean Sea



Jordan River













The second hourly will have a map question on the land of Israel in which you will be asked to locate the following:

Tribes & Countries



Dan (North)


Mediterranean Sea



Chinnereth Sea



Jordan River



Salt Sea



M t. Carmel






Mt. Gilboa





































A Suggested Learning Procedure

1. Read the assigned biblical reading quickly straight through, writing your "story line."
Don't get bogged down in details.

2. Attend the lecture. Be sure you understand the main points of each lecture (outlined in
this syllabus)

3. Read the assignment in Boadt. Boadt will be especially helpful in a) working up your
identification list (e.g., to distinguish "Hyksos" from "Hurrians" from"Hittites") and b)
giving more details and further discussion of the historical background and religious
concepts covered in class.

4. Re-read carefully those biblical passages mentioned specifically in the lecture and/or in

Boadt. (Note especially the suggested Biblical passages at the beginning of the assigned
chapters in Boadt.

5. Take notes on your notes. Your lecture notes are very important. Organize and clarify
them as you go along, integrating new insights or specifics rowboat related to historical
background or religious concepts. If you have any questions as you go along, come by
and see your instructor (or e-mail him) to get some help.

Tests and Grades

1.There will be two hourly tests and one final exam in the course:

First hourly October 1 (20% of the course grade)
Second hourly November 16 (20% of the course grade)
Final Exam December (25% of the course grade)

The tests will be predominantly objective, although there will be short--answer essays.
Whereas the second hourly will concentrate only on the second third of the course, the
final 2 hr. exam will be cumulative.

Policy on Make-Up Exams

Make-up exams will be given one week after the regular exams. They will be considerably more difficult than the regular exams.

2.Class participation 10% of the course grade

An electronic discussion has been set up (on Blackboard) for this course to which students are required to subscribe. This on-line discussion group is intended to be forum for students to continue discussions begun in class, to raise questions prior to in-class discussion, and for general communications, syllabus updates, etc. between class members and the professor. Students are expected to make at least 10 contributions to the on-line discussion (@one per weekly topic) in order to receive full credit for class participation.

3. Two Scriptural Interpretation projects (each 5%) Students will be exposed to 2 kinds of scriptural interpretations or practices characteristic of Hebrew Biblical tradition. These assignments are intended to allow students to "get inside” the Hebrew Biblical traditions, to think about Scripture as if they were experiencing it from within It is a chance for you tousle your creative imagination; I hope you have fun with them! It is not meant to try to convert you to Judaism or ancient Israelite practice. It is only an exercise that approximates what it is like to think and feel what it is like to live out the Hebrew Biblical tradition, to help you understand what academic scholars of religion call the phenomenology of religious experience.

Therefore each project requires an additional 1-3 page reflection paper on what you learned and experienced as you did the project, as well as the actual product you composed. You will have to hand in both the composition and the reflection paper for each to get full credit. Your compositions will be evaluated on how well you executed your work according to the conventions of the form.

a. Compose a short poem, in English, in the style of Biblical poetry (i.e., using parallelism and other stylistic devices discussed by Robert Alter, Renita Weems, Phyllis Trible [on reserve]) Post your poems on the "Poems in the Biblical Style" heading of our Religion 109 electronic discussion. DUE Wednesday 10/22.

b. Recitation of a verse in Hebrew, with trope (the musical notation) and Hebrew calligraphy assignment.

i. Recite Deut. 6:4-7 in Hebrew (audiovisual resources to be provided). Due date: Make appointment to recite between 10/29 and 11/3.
ii. Copy the letters of the Hebrew alphabet from.
DUE Monday 11/12 (in my office in Knapton 102).
iii. Copy Deut. 6:7 in Hebrew as best as you can.
DUE Monday 11/12 (in my office in Knapton 102).

I strongly recommend you consult and read the Web Site Hebrew Alphabet used in writing STA"M (Sifrei Torah, Tefillin, and Mezuzos) for a detailed description of the Hebrew calligraphy used for Torah scrolls. This site shows you how to compose each letter according to this style.

N.B.: Compliance with the Honor Code:  For all course work, students will write and sign the following: "I have abided by the Wheaton College Honor Code in this work."

Be Forewarned!

The Hebrew Bible is a very powerful religious document. As we will see from the Dead Sea Scrolls, its writings were reinterpreted and up dated by every generation. Eventually one religious group would interpret the Hebrew Bible in a way which led to the formation of the Talmud and the Midrash. Another religious group would interpret the same writings as fulfilled in the New Testament. Both interpretations are legitimate updatings--attempts to read the ancient traditions in the light of new circumstances and insights.

Christians and Jews can read the Hebrew Bible and see many of its writings as influential in shaping their contemporary beliefs. The Bible has an on-going power to address people, and these religious/denominational interpretations are appropriate; they are the focus of study in other courses that I teach in the Religion Department. Though how Jews and Christians interpret the Bible today cannot nor will not be completely ignored, in Rel 109, our primary focus will be on recovering the meanings of the texts in their original contexts.

Content by Jonathan Brumberg-Kraus, Associate Professor of Religion
Designed by
David Dudek, 2001
Last Update 8/28/07