Judges. By Serge Frolov. The Forms of the Old Testament Literature. Grand Rapids, Mich.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2013. Pp. xv + 374. $55 (paper).
The biblical book of Judges deserves renewed and careful attention by scholars of religion and historians of the ancient Near East. The well-known yet still puzzling problems of its relation to the rest of the Hebrew Bible are manifold: the manifest parallels between Judges 19 and Genesis 19, the intention of which is evidently to portray the Israelites as having become no better than the Sodomites; the relation of the yet-to-be-accomplished conquest of the land as described in Judges 1-2 (especially beginning at 1:27) to the overall thrust of the book of Joshua (so, Joshua 11:23, 21:43-45)--a contrast presumably in the service of both criticizing northern Israel and establishing the theological framework (Judges 2:11-23) of the sequence of apostasy-oppression-repentance-deliverance to account for the Assyrian and Babylonian victories of 722 and 586, respectively; and so on.
Attendant compositional questions abound: how to account for the twice-recounted death of Joshua (Joshua 24:29, Judges 2:8); are we to understand the beginning of the narrative of the judges at 3:7 with the account of Othniel; does that narrative extend through Judges 16:31 with the death of Samson, followed by two appendices--the story of the Danites (Judges 17-18) and the outrage at Gibeah (19-21)--or should Judges 13 through 1 Samuel 7 be seen, as Serge Frolov argues, as a single literary unit of "the Philistine cycle" that has followed the earlier descriptions of the cycles of oppression by the Moabites, Midianites, and Ammonites; and so on.
These and other puzzling problems and compositional questions have, in turn, provoked further contested considerations. For the former, there was the earlier difference between William Foxwell Albright and Albrecht Alt over the character of the conquest, permutations of which continue today. For the latter compositional questions, how are we to understand the relation of Judges to the so-called Deuteronomistic Historian, as posited by Martin Noth and others? Do we have a large amount of preexisting material in Judges which has been literarily and theologically woven together by the editorial insertions of the redactor? If so, is the historian able to discern from that material the earlier reality, the Sitz im Leben, of, say, the Israel of the Merneptah stele (e.g., military...