The Blood of Abel: The Violent Plot in the Hebrew Bible

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Mercer University Press, 1999 - Religion - 181 pages
Violence in the Bible has received a tremendous amount of attention in recent years. What has been lacking in many such studies is the kind of sustained exegesis of biblical texts that allows the Bible itself to set the agenda. This book begins with biblical texts and stays with them long enough to hear what they have to say, rather than using a collection of texts to support an argument. Part 1 traces the biblical story of Israel, focusing on tests at the turning points of the narrative. Violence enters the human community in the story of Cain and Abel. The thread of violence then runs through the entire biblical narrative. It appears prominently in texts where the status of Israel changes from free persons to slaves, to wanderers, to land-owning tribes, to citizens of a monarchy, to citizens of two monarchies, to exiles.

The interpretations of these passages expose their violent nature and then ask what they tell us about human violence. They reveal that violence is an inevitable part of human existence, which defies attempts to control it. They illustrate the ways violence alters the human identity, of both the victims and the perpetrators. Finally, these texts portray the ambiguous role of God in the midst of human violence.

Part 2 examines representative prophetic texts as responses to Israel's violent story, revealing that even these oracles accept the inevitability of violence and ultimately promote it. Even visions of peace and restoration are preceded by violent action which makes way for them. The conclusion looks at ways this concern about violence has shaped the Hebrew and Christian canons.

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