Catalogue

COVID-19: Updates on library services and operations.

The ladder of Jacob : ancient interpretations of the biblical story of Jacob and his children /
James L. Kugel.
imprint
Princeton, NJ : Princeton University Press, c2006.
description
xiii, 278 p.
ISBN
0691121222 (hardcover (same as above) : alk. paper), 9780691121222 (hardcover : alk. paper)
format(s)
Book
Holdings
More Details
imprint
Princeton, NJ : Princeton University Press, c2006.
isbn
0691121222 (hardcover (same as above) : alk. paper)
9780691121222 (hardcover : alk. paper)
contents note
Jacob and the Bible's ancient interpreters -- The ladder of Jacob -- The rape of Dinah, and Simeon and Levi's revenge -- Reuben's sin with Bilhah -- How Levi came to be a priest -- Judah and the trial of Tamar -- A prayer about Jacob and Israel from the Dead Sea Scrolls.
catalogue key
5705886
 
Includes bibliographical references and index.
A Look Inside
Excerpts
Flap Copy
"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?"
Flap Copy
"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?
Flap Copy
"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?
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Library Journal on 2006-03-15:
In his latest book, biblical scholar Kugel (director, Inst. for the History of the Jewish Bible, Bar Ilan Univ., Israel; The Bible as It Was) offers an in-depth study of some of the more difficult stories of Jacob and Jacob's family. Instead of examining the modern criticism and exegesis of these stories, Kugel looks at several ancient texts, such as the Testament of Simeon, Jubilees, and the book of Judith, explaining the way an ancient audience might have understood them. He attempts to "assert that something not evident from the biblical narrative did in fact take place or was in fact the case." While these assertions may be frowned upon by biblical literalists, they have merit, he argues, in that they inform biblical scholars of the ancient approach to difficult Bible stories still being debated and discussed today. And any biblical researcher can profit from understanding the questions raised by these texts and analyzing the answers they provide. A valuable resource; recommended for larger university collections.-Wesley A. Mills, Empire State Coll., SUNY at Rochester (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Appeared in Choice on 2007-03-01:
In this sequel to his highly acclaimed In Potiphar's House (CH, Jun'91, 28-5640), Kugel (Bar-Ilan Univ., Israel) persuasively argues that ancient interpreters did more than simply apologize for the less-than-illustrious behavior of certain biblical figures (e.g., Simeon and Levi's slaughter of the Shechemites, Reuben's sleeping with Bilhah, Judah's sleeping with Tamar) by demonstrating how exegetical motifs arise from some quirk in scripture. Lucidly discussing how ancient readers thought through their sacred canons, Kugel identifies often-overlooked textual irregularities that were addressed through narrative expansions and other interpretive strategies, and discloses the complex interrelationships between a range of sources (apocrypha, pseudepigrapha, Targum, and midrash). Like some master detective, Kugel has meticulously sorted through a tangled web of texts and disentangled their exegetical strands. Scholarship of this high caliber operates through very close and careful readings and requires its own considerable degree of linguistic finesse and hermeneutical ingenuity. 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. ^BSumming Up: Highly recommended. Lower-level undergraduates through faculty/researchers; general readers. G. Spinner Central Michigan University
Appeared in Publishers Weekly on 2006-02-27:
In this often tedious but sometimes brilliant academic work, prize-winning biblical exegete Kugel (The Bible As It Was) conducts us on a grand tour of the meanings and methods of ancient biblical interpretation. Using the stories of Jacob and his children (Gen. 28-35) as a case study, Kugel reads carefully the ancient sources that retell these stories in order to enhance, complete or contradict them. Kugel demonstrates that such 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. For example, the famous story of Jacob's dream (Gen. 28) is described variously in ancient Jewish texts as a political dream as well as a spiritual one. Kugel draws on the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs to demonstrate ways that ancient Jewish interpreters attempted to explain the lies, vengeance and murder in the Genesis 34 story of the rape of Jacob's daughter, Dinah. Although his study often bogs down in repetition and simplistic conclusions ("What is particularly striking about the motifs examined here... is the extent to which they... have built on one another"), Kugel helpfully guides us through the marvelous world of ancient biblical interpretation. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Reviews
Review Quotes
All in all a fascinating and valuable contribution to the history of interpretation.
"All in all a fascinating and valuable contribution to the history of interpretation."-- R. Tomes, Society for Old Testament Studies
All in all a fascinating and valuable contribution to the history of interpretation. -- R. Tomes, Society for Old Testament Studies
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.
"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
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.
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.
"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
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
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.
"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
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
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.
"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
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
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.
"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
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
[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.
"[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] 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.
"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
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
[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.
"[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]...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
One of Choice's Outstanding Academic Titles for 2007
The Ladder of Jacobis 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.
" 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
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
The Ladder of Jacobis 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
A wonderful book. The chapters follow their subjects detail by detail with a kind of masterfully unpredictable logic, almost like a detective story.
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.
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.
This item was reviewed in:
Publishers Weekly, February 2006
Library Journal, March 2006
Choice, March 2007
To find out how to look for other reviews, please see our guides to finding book reviews in the Sciences or Social Sciences and Humanities.
Summaries
Main Description
Rife with incest, adultery, rape, and murder, the biblical story of Jacob and his children must have troubled ancient readers. By any standard, this was a family with problems. Jacob's oldest son Reuben is said to have slept with his father's concubine Bilhah. The next two sons, Simeon and Levi, tricked the men of a nearby city into undergoing circumcision, and then murdered all of them as revenge for the rape of their sister. Judah, the fourth son, had sexual relations with his own daughter-in-law. Meanwhile, jealous of their younger sibling Joseph, the brothers conspired to kill him; they later relented and merely sold him into slavery. These stories presented a particular challenge for ancient biblical interpreters. After all, Jacob's sons were the founders of the nation of Israel and ought to have been models of virtue.InThe Ladder of Jacob, renowned biblical scholar James Kugel retraces the steps of ancient biblical interpreters as they struggled with such problems. Kugel reveals how they often fixed on a little detail in the Bible's wording to "deduce" something not openly stated in the narrative. They concluded that Simeon and Levi were justified in killing all the men in a town to avenge the rape of their sister, and that Judah, who slept with his daughter-in-law, was the unfortunate victim of alcoholism.These are among the earliest examples of ancient biblical interpretation (midrash). They are found in retellings of biblical stories that appeared in the closing centuries BCE--in the Book of Jubilees, the Aramaic Levi Document, the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, and other noncanonical works. Through careful analysis of these retellings, Kugel is able to reconstruct how ancient interpreters worked.The Ladder of Jacobis an artful, compelling account of the very beginnings of biblical interpretation.
Main Description
Rife with incest, adultery, rape, and murder, the biblical story of Jacob and his children must have troubled ancient readers. By any standard, this was a family with problems. Jacob's oldest son Reuben is said to have slept with his father's concubine Bilhah. The next two sons, Simeon and Levi, tricked the men of a nearby city into undergoing circumcision, and then murdered all of them as revenge for the rape of their sister. Judah, the fourth son, had sexual relations with his own daughter-in-law. Meanwhile, jealous of their younger sibling Joseph, the brothers conspired to kill him; they later relented and merely sold him into slavery. These stories presented a particular challenge for ancient biblical interpreters. After all, Jacob's sons were the founders of the nation of Israel and ought to have been models of virtue. In The Ladder of Jacob , renowned biblical scholar James Kugel retraces the steps of ancient biblical interpreters as they struggled with such problems. Kugel reveals how they often fixed on a little detail in the Bible's wording to "deduce" something not openly stated in the narrative. They concluded that Simeon and Levi were justified in killing all the men in a town to avenge the rape of their sister, and that Judah, who slept with his daughter-in-law, was the unfortunate victim of alcoholism. These are among the earliest examples of ancient biblical interpretation (midrash). They are found in retellings of biblical stories that appeared in the closing centuries BCE--in the Book of Jubilees, the Aramaic Levi Document, the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, and other noncanonical works. Through careful analysis of these retellings, Kugel is able to reconstruct how ancient interpreters worked. The Ladder of Jacob is an artful, compelling account of the very beginnings of biblical interpretation.
Main Description
The biblical story of Jacob and his children must have troubled ancient readers. By any standard, this was a family with problems. Jacob's oldest son Reuben is said to have slept with his father's concubine Bilhah. The next two sons, Simeon and Levi, tricked the men of a nearby city into undergoing circumcision, and then murdered all of them as revenge for the rape of their sister. Judah, the fourth son, had sexual relations with his own daughter-in-law. Meanwhile, jealous of their younger sibling Joseph, the brothers conspired to kill him; they later relented and merely sold him into slavery. These stories presented a particular challenge for ancient biblical interpreters. After all, Jacob's sons were the founders of the nation of Israel and ought to have been models of virtue. InThe Ladder of Jacob, renowned biblical scholar James Kugel retraces the steps of ancient biblical interpreters as they struggled with such problems. Kugel reveals how they often fixed on a little detail in the Bible's wording to "deduce" something not openly stated in the narrative. Thus, Simeon and Levi, they concluded, tricked no one. As for Reuben, he was led astray after having caught sight of Bilhah bathing, while Judah was the unfortunate victim of his own weakness for alcohol. These are among the earliest examples of ancient biblical interpretation (midrash). They are found in retellings of biblical stories that appeared in the closing centuries BCE--in the Book of Jubilees, the Aramaic Levi Document, the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, and other noncanonical works. Through careful analysis of these retellings, Kugel is able to reconstruct how ancient interpreters worked.The Ladder of Jacobis an artful, compelling account of the very beginnings of biblical interpretation.
Table of Contents
Jacob and the Bible's ancient interpretersp. 1
The ladder of Jacobp. 9
The rape of Dinah, and Simeon and Levi's revengep. 36
Reuben's sin with Bilhahp. 81
How Levi came to be a priestp. 115
Judah and the trial of Tamarp. 169
A prayer about Jacob and Israel from the Dead Sea Scrollsp. 186
Table of Contents provided by Blackwell. All Rights Reserved.

This information is provided by a service that aggregates data from review sources and other sources that are often consulted by libraries, and readers. The University does not edit this information and merely includes it as a convenience for users. It does not warrant that reviews are accurate. As with any review users should approach reviews critically and where deemed necessary should consult multiple review sources. Any concerns or questions about particular reviews should be directed to the reviewer and/or publisher.

  link to old catalogue

Report a problem