Here’s a little cracker (I say little – not that little – 368 pp.) by John Walton entitled Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament: Introducing the Conceptual World of the Hebrew Bible. I know, I know – sounds dull, but is actually really helpful, and, I’m increasingly convinced, really important for OT study.
I don’t know if you’ve ever had someone who knows something about art explain a picture to you – what the various characters, scenes, fixtures, background, etc signify – suddenly the picture becomes more alive and somehow more enjoyable. Well that is what John Walton’s book does for OT study.
Walton takes the novice by the hand for a guided tour of the major literature of the ANE period – what they thought about God/gods, the world, people, ethics, life after death, and a host of other things. As he does so he succeeds in painting, in broad brush strokes, the prevailing views of the ANE culture, and then compares and contrasts that with Israelite conceptual world as seen in the OT. As a result the reader can better appreciate the ways in which the OT engages with and often ‘subversively fulfills’ some of the ideas of the surrounding culture.
It’s the kind of book you could read cover to cover, or have on your shelves as a reference for when particular issues or texts come up. Walton clearly knows his onions and has a great knack of making great learning easily accessible. A worthy addition to any scholars library.