Review: Hidden Riches

17384428Christopher B. Hays is D. Wilson Moore Associate Professor of Ancient Near Eastern Studies at Fuller Theological Seminary. Hays has received a M.Div. from Princeton Theological Seminary and a Ph.D. from Emory University. He is the author of Death in the Iron Age II and in First Isaiah and is currently working on the Isaiah commentary for the Old Testament Library series. Most recently, Hays has released an excitingly useful volume for students and enthusiasts of the Old Testament: Hidden Riches: A Sourcebook for the Comparative Study of the Hebrew Bible and the Ancient Near East (WJK Books, 2014)

Hidden Riches opens with a brief introduction to the history and methods of comparative studies. Hays does the reader a service by immediately establishing his efforts within the overall context of the discipline, and rightly positions the reader for the coming investigation. The book is arranged canonically (Pentateuch, Former Prophets, Latter Prophets, and Writings), and thus is ideal for the task of comparative studies. Each chapter begins with introductory or composition information for both the biblical and ancient Near Eastern literature, including date, location, language, and more, followed by a readable and up-to-date translation of the comparative source (translations are done by Hays and others scholars, and footnotes are provided therein). Each chapter concludes with discussion around the sources, reflection questions, and a brief bibliography for additional study.

Hidden Riches is an excellent resource for serious study of the Hebrew Bible, and I think that there are a number of qualities that make this volume appropriate for the average reader but especially for academic use. First, Hays’ interaction when seeking to provide discussion around the biblical and ancient Near Eastern text is accessible and easy to understand for the average reader, although it does assume some prior knowledge in various sections. Second, the inclusion of a separate bibliography at the end of each chapter is fitting for additional study, but I think that the work cited will be largely inaccessible to the average reader. There are certainly gems buried, but this section will find its primary use in the work of graduate students and beyond. Third, Hays covers a wide range of comparative genres and the scope of the volume is quite impressive. There is certain to be something for every reader to ponder regardless of academic experience and background.

The comparative study of the Hebrew Bible and the ancient Near Easter literature is strangely neglected in the arena of popular thought concerning the Old Testament. While the reader is certain to walk away with some level of disagreement with Hays, the importance of the study should not be overshadowed by intellectual conflict. The Hebrew Bible did not develop in a vacuum. What I appreciated most about Hays’ treatment of the study in Hidden Riches was his keen ability to bring high-level scholarly conversations down to a level in which even an interested undergraduate student could interact. This is a volume that will both make you think and challenge your thinking. Hays is clear, informative, fair, judicious, and well-positioned for the task of this book. It will be used often and comes highly recommended!

 

I received a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

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