Interpreting Exile: Displacement and Deportation in Biblical and Modern Contexts. Edited by Brad E. Kelle; Frank Ritchel Ames; and Jacob L. Wright. Ancient Israel and Its Literature, vol. 10. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2011. Pp. xiii + 464. $57.95 (paper).
The present volume is the result of deliberations and discussions of the SBL "Warfare in Ancient Israel" section. When I agreed to review the book, as an immigrant myself, I was intrigued by the promise of the interdisciplinary nature of the work that purports to illuminate the experiences of the deportees during the 732-720 B.C.E. exile and the Neo-Babylonian exiles of 597, 587, and 582. Moreover, the stated goal of the contributors to shed light on the historical and psychological issues arising from migrations, both ancient and modern ones, seemed intriguing. The volume, however, raised more questions than it delivered answers.
The volume is divided into four parts, which deal separately with archaeological and historical, sociological, psychological, and representational and literary aspects of the exiles. In the introductory essay, Kelle points out that exile is more than an event but rather a multidimensional phenomenon (p. 7) and as such deserves the attention of archaeologists, historians, sociologists, psychologists, and literary critics. Kelle takes a step further when he writes, "Ancient Judean experiences and literature could provide insights into the dynamics of modern exiles and displacements, and contemporary experiences of diaspora could likewise provide themes, categories, and images for interpreting the Hebrew Bible and Judean history" (p. 26). On the surface, the volume appears a promising interdisciplinary venture, if one ignores a host of methodological difficulties in comparing and analyzing writings separated by the chasms of time, space, historical reliability, and agendas.
The contributions by Burke, Lipschits, Faust, Wright, Feldman, and Becking in the first part of the volume address the archaeological aspects of the refugee phenomena in Iron-Age Judah. For example, using the contemporary "Impoverishment Risks and Reconstruction" model, Burke analyzes the universal risks encountered by refugees: landlessness, joblessness, homelessness, marginalization, food insecurity, increased morbidity and mortality, loss of access to common property assets, and community disarticulation (p. 43; after Cernea 2000). Lipschits argues for the continuity of material...