Song and Story in Biblical Narrative: The History of a Literary Convention in Ancient Israel

Steven Weitzman


Indiana University Press

This book examines a literary form within the Bible that has slipped through the cracks of modern scholarship: the mixing of song and story in biblical narrative. Journeying from ancient Egyptian battle accounts to Aramaic wisdom texts, to early retellings of biblical tales in the Dead Sea Scrolls, Jewish-Hellenistic literature, and rabbinic midrash, Steven Weitzman follows the history of this form from its origins as a congeries of different literary behaviors to its emergence as a self-conscious literary convention. Weitzman shows that the perception among early Jews that biblical narrative was a normative text, governing both religious and literary behavior played a catalytic role in transforming this practice into a distinctively biblical literary form. For readers interested in the Bible's form and function, this book sheds light not only on one of its more perplexing literary traits but on literary behavior in ancient Israel, addressing such questions as: What is the relation of literary practice in ancient Israel to that of other ancient Near Eastern cultures? What was the impact of the Bible's Scripturalization on the literary practice of early Jews? And how did that affect the course of the Bible's literary development? For those interested in literature and literary history, this book shows how the changing literary expectations and religious sensibilities of readers can lead them to reimagine, and sometimes rewrite, the texts they seek to understand.