مرکزی صفحہ Biblical Interpretation A Journal of Contemporary Approaches Longing for Egypt and Other Unexpected Biblical Tales. By Diana Lipton. Sheffield: Sheffield...
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Book Reviews I Biblical Interpretation 21 (2013) 130-152 139 Longing for Egypt and Other Unexpected Biblical Tales. By Diana Lipton. Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2009. Pp. x + 285. In Longingfor Egypt and Other Unexpected Biblical Tales, Diana Lipton revisits Hebrew Bible texts on Israel's identity and relation to non-Israelites and shows how those texts are more complex than readers often see. With "non-traditional and even quirky" readings (3), encouraged by rich rabbinic insights, Lipton targets readers who are alienated by simplistic interpretations and readers from faith communities that are blind to the Bible's complexity. Longing for Egypt engages the creative imaginations of rabbinic traditions and journeys the paths of intertextuality. The upshot is a series of readings that attends to the intricate details of biblical texts, traces textual and ideological links between texts within and beyond biblical limits, and shows how "the Hebrew Bible can never lose its capacity to surprise, excite, and even unsettle" (11). The stories of Israel in Egypt (ch. 1) and of Joseph in the domain of Potiphar's wife (ch. 7) frame the seven chapters of Longing for Egypt. In between, Lipton takes the reader through memories and desires in the court of Ahasuerus (ch. 2), Babylon (ch. 3), Sodom and Gomorrah (ch. 4), Sinai (ch. 5) and Moriah (ch. 6), in the company of God, Abraham, Tina Gandhi, a host of rabbis, and several others. Longing for Egypt invites one to read these texts together, affirming the complexity of the Hebrew Bible at one level, and more importantly, to reexamine views on foreign nations often demonized by traditional readers. In the Hebrew Bible, in Lipton's eyes, the Other is sophisticated! In Chapter 1, "'The Heart Enticed:' The Exodus from Egypt as a Response to the Threat of Assimilation," Lipton presents Egypt as "the apex of the seductive other" (14). The exodus therefore was the rescue of Israel more from assimilation and loss of identity than f; rom persecution under the Egyptian empire (23). Unlike Joseph, who assimilated into Egyptian society (see ch. 7), Moses led Israel out of Egypt to avoid assimilation (43). Exodus "provides an inspiring model of resistance, but offers little or nothing in the way of guidance for those who find themselves wanting to sleep with the enemy" (48). Chapter 2, "God's Influence on Influencing God—A Right Royal Puzzle," explores how the view of God as king was the means by which God exercised authority over Israel as well as the opening for people to influence God. As king, God was accessible and could be affected (54), a view that is too simplistic for me, a commoner from the Kingdom of Tonga. I find the God lamented in the Psalter, on the other hand, more accessible and affective. In Chapter 3, "Bezalel in Babylon? Biblical Attitudes to Other Religions," Lipton argues on the basis of the story of Hosea's wife and Isaiah 40-55 that biblical writers did not oppose other religions per se, but rather Israelites who assimilated to those religions. So "the Canaanite gods are not bad—powerless or non-existent; they are simply inappropriate objects of worship for members of a religion whose God demands exclusivity" (81). This position feels almost like my believing that adultery is bad only when I do it! © Koninklijke Brill NV, Uiden, 2013 DOl: 10.1163/15685152-1016B0009 140 Book Reviews / Biblical Interpretation 21 (2013) 130-152 Chapter 4, "The Limits of Intercession: Abraham reads Ezekiel at Sodom and Gomorrah," presents Abraham, called to be a blessing for the nations (Gen. 12:1-4), as a model intercessor on behalf of non-Israelites. On the other hand, "Ezekiel makes it crystal clear that non-Israelites can save only themselves, and that this is achieved through their own righteousness" (133). Insofer as Lipton finds intercession erotic (126), it is curious that she won't let non-Israelites intercede for Israelites. Chapter 5, "The Temporal Temple: Was Abraham Standing at Sinai?" conflates time and space (145). Time warped and became space; ordered time was a substitute for ordered space, which was significant during the exile when space (the Temple) was not accessible (166). And in the case of the Abraham narrative, it unfolds as if he always already has traveled across time/space to Sinai. Chapter 6, "Terms of Endearment: A (Very) Fresh Look at Biblical Law," acknowledges theflexibilityof the law (173), and of God, the lawgiver (174). Lipton sees law "as a vehicle for unending, interactive engagement.... The closest approximation of this dialogic engagement is erotic love, and its ultimate goal, theologically speaking, is intercession" (177). Law is thus not so much about restriction and obedience as about eros and relationships. Law requires engagement and interplay, the lack of which is sometimes signaled by the absence of woman figures (e.g. Sarahs absence from Genesis 22). In Chapter 7, "The Furnace of Desire: Forging Identities in Foreign Bedrooms," Lipton defends Ezra against accusations of ethnic cleansing for his views concerning foreign women. Lipton argues that "foreign women represent for Ezra the Judeans who did not go into exile, and whom Ezra wants to disenfranchise" (216). Since no expulsion is reported in Ezra, divorce is the most likely goal that Ezra desired for crosscultural marriages (221). Chapter 7 closes with the story of Potiphars wife, who was not getting sex or children from her eunuch husband (251). Lipton imagines that Potiphar may have brought Joseph into his house in order to compensate for his lack. On the day when Potiphars wife screamed and grabbed Josephs garment, she was crying in ecstasy and Joseph fled for fear that he would be discovered. Teasingly, Lipton adds, "Joseph fled because he could no longer keep all the balls in the air" (259). Joseph, who later married an Egyptian woman, failed the test of assimilation (264). Lon^ngfor Egypt is inviting and engaging in a world that still carmot cope with differences. Lipton favors biblical Israel, but some of her readers may not be as sympathetic. Assimilation is no longer a threat nowadays, but a reality: from the shores of Oceania to the banks of the Jordan, and in the academic halls and at the crying walls of África, the Americas, Asia, the Caribbean and Europe. Jione Havea United Theological College & School of Theology, Charles Sturt University Australia Copyright of Biblical Interpretation is the property of Brill Academic Publishers and its content may not be copied or emailed to multiple sites or posted to a listserv without the copyright holder's express written permission. However, users may print, download, or email articles for individual use.