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Der Streit um Babel in den Büchern Jesaja und Jeremia.
Stuttgart: Kohlhammer 2007. 194 S. gr.8° = Beiträge zur Wissenschaft vom Alten und Neuen Testament, 173. Kart. EUR 34,00. ISBN 978-3-17-019823-4.
Hugh G. M. Williamson
Supervised by Klaus Seybold, this Basel dissertation seeks to find a common historical setting for a number of the extended anti-Babylon prophecies included in the books of Isaiah and Jeremiah, namely Isaiah 13; 14:4–21; 21:1–10; and Jeremiah 50–51.
It is claimed that despite the many obvious differences between them these oracles have a number of features in common which justifies studying them as a single group. They are to be dated quite precisely between the first and second Babylonian campaigns against Judah (597 and 587 BCE) and derive from the political party which was most fiercely opposed to any accommodation with Babylon. In Jerusalem, this party is best known from the recorded sayings and actions of Hananiah who opposed Jeremiah (see Jeremiah 28), but some will also have been composed in Babylon by members of the first exilic community who shared the same outlook. Correspondence between the members of this party in Babylon and their adherents in Jerusalem is attested by Jeremiah 29.
It is certainly a worthwhile project to examine these oracles as a group, not least because Jeremiah 50–51 have a number of linguistic and stylistic features which are more characteristic of the Isaiah tradition than that of Jeremiah. Unfortunately, however, K. does not mention these latter. Furthermore, it is to be welcomed that he strikes out in a boldly new direction with his particular dating of these chapters, but in order to overturn the widely-held consensus which dates them rather later he will need to advance more solid arguments than are found here.
The most disappointing feature of this relatively brief monograph is that K. spends too much time circling around his main arguments and not enough time advancing them with detailed evidence. He constantly assures us that the topic under discussion is difficult or controversial, after which we are led to expect that there will be a full and careful presentation of the case. But too often the reader is disappointed. For instance, the single half page (162) of reasons why these oracles may be compared with the outlook of the Hananiah party is simply insufficient to justify the case. The two or three points mentioned are widely attested elsewhere in the biblical texts so that they cannot establish the argument that they are advanced to support; at best, they suggest its possibility. Similar comments might be made about the arguments in favour of these oracles all sharing a common background.
Finally, even where arguments are advanced to support a position, they are not always in the least convincing. For instance, it is stated on p. 24 that the mention of the temple in Jer 50:28 is indicative of priestly authorship and that it excludes Jeremiah as author. This overlooks the rather obvious points that others than priests may and do refer to the temple and that Jeremiah in any case came from a priestly family. Such weak arguments do not inspire confidence in the case being advanced.
I regret the negative nature of this review. I came to the book full of expectation that the project looked worthwhile. I still think it is, but unfortunately it remains to be tackled in an adequate manner.