Review of M. Halvorson-Taylor, Enduring Exile

Journal of Hebrew Scriptures - Volume 11 (2011) - Review

Halvorson-Taylor, Martien, Enduring Exile: The Metaphorization of Exile in the Hebrew Bible (VTSup, 141; Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2011). Pp. xiii + 230. Hardback. $137.00. ISBN 9789004160972.

In the current study of the “exile” or “forced migrations” period (598/7 b.c.e. to 538 b.c.e.), there are three proven methodological approaches: historical, literary, and sociological. This work by Martien Halvorson-Taylor is an example of the literary approach. Enduring Exile is comprised of four chapters plus a conclusion, bibliography, and author and scripture indices.

In Chapter One, Introduction, Halvorson-Taylor provides a sampling of the exilic motifs appropriated in Second Temple literature (Animal Apocalypse [1 En. 85–90], Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs, Damascus Document, Fourth Ezra, Second Apocalypse of Baruch). Beyond geographic displacement, for her the term exile functions as an “expression for marginalization of other sorts … a variety of alienations: political disenfranchisement within Yehud, deep dissatisfaction with the status quo, and a feeling of separation from God” (p. 1).

Halvorson-Taylor's central thesis is that the literary construct of exile endured down to the 2nd century b.c.e. Her investigation, however, rests primarily on select blocks of material from 6th century b.c.e. texts of Jeremiah, Isaiah, and Zech 1–8. But prior to engagement with these texts, she offers a helpful definition of metaphor taken from Janet Soskice—“that figure of speech whereby we speak of one thing in terms which are seen to be suggestive of another” (p. 17)—with additional input from the works of I.A. Richards (tenor and vehicle), Max Black (primary subject and secondary subject), and Paul Ricoeur (discourse). She closes her introduction by discussing the two large trajectories on exile—Deuteronomic (Deut 28) “futility: a manifestation of Yahweh's fatal wrath” (p. 30) and Priestly (Lev 26) “divine punishment” (p. 38).

In Chapter Two, “Jeremiah's Book of Consolation,” her strongest chapter, a brief overview of the two editions of the Book of Consolation is rehearsed (pp. 45–50). I found Part III of this chapter, “Images of Exile in the Book of Consolation,” especially informative. “Jacob's Distress (Poem 1: Jer 30:5–11),” of which vv 5–7 are the earliest strand, is traced back to the historical precedence of the 587 b.c.e. event. With respect to verses 10–11, a later interpolation, Halvorson-Taylor makes what might be a path-breaking contribution by comparing “But as for you, have no fear, my servant Jacob, says Yahweh, and do not be dismayed, O Israel; for I am going to save you from far away, and your offspring from the land of their captivity. Jacob shall return and have quiet and ease, and no one shall make him afraid…” with the identical concept and similar wording in the second or third generation amanuensis of Second Isaiah (Isa 41:8; 43:22; 44:1–2; 45:4; 48:20). Furthermore, her observation of vv 8–9 being an interpolation is absolutely correct. These are very important verses that disjunctively bridge the first (vv 5–7) and second (vv 10–11) units. She dates these verses to ca. 450–350 b.c.e. This is based on dating vv 10–11 to the same timeframe. However, the string of illustrations beginning with “…no longer serve foreigners or strangers” (v 8) coupled with v 9's “…worship Yahweh (monotheism) within a fully restored Davidic king” suggests metaphorization from the Maccabean period (164–63 b.c.e.)—which would additionally support her thesis of “enduring exile” down to the 2nd century b.c.e. It should be clearly noted that there are difficulties in v 8. Not only are there pronoun variances in vv 8 and 9—“you” 2ms and 3cp “they” or “their” that are harmonized in the LXX (Jer 37:9: changes “your” to “their neck,” and “you” to “they shall no longer serve”), but also two layers of identifiable redactional activity are evident. This problem was clearly identified by the tradents or authors of the LXX since they removed and smoothed out this difficulty. Indeed, scholars since Rudolph have noted that vv 8–9 are late interpolation(s). But my question is, how late? Her footnote (see p. 51, n. 21) reveals command of this problem. Yet, the complexity and brilliance these interpolations (v 8 being independent of v 9) cannot be seen in the LXX's reading preferred by Halvorson-Taylor.

Additional careful analysis of the images of “Wounded Zion” (Poem 2, Jer 30:12–17), “Favor in the Wilderness” (Poem 4, Jer 31:2–6), and “Rachel Weeps, Ephraim Repents” (Poem 6, Jer 31:15–22) all receive careful discussion with solid insights.

In Chapter Three, “Isaiah,” Halvorson-Taylor begins by framing her entire discussion of Second Isaiah in the Persian period. Wanting in her discussions of Isa 40–46 (or 48) is the work by Jürgen van Oorschot (1993), who clearly demonstrated that these chapters belong in the Neo-Babylonian setting. The metaphors that she sees in Isa 48:20–21 and 40:1–2 are discussed as “Exile and Redemption”; Isa 42:18–25 and 51:12–16 as “Exile and Death”; and Isa 42:5–9; 49:7–13; Isa 61:1–3; and 58:6–7 as “Exile and the Mission of the Servant.”

Interestingly, without rehearsing the “Israel” and “Jacob” problem in the book of Second Isaiah, Halvorson-Taylor immediately jumps into tracing the disenfranchised negative voices of the underclass in Babylon. However, in Second Isaiah there are two distinct socio-economic classes of second generation Judeo-Babylonians. One is identified as “Jacob,” the underclass (descendants of 587/582), and the other “as Israel,” the descendant of 597, the upper/skilled class.[1] In contrast to the underclass (Jacob), the upper-skilled class experience the exile very differently. Their exilic experience is positive, praiseworthy, and a blessing from God. Halvorson-Taylor's tracing of Jacob's voice has allowed her to strongly identify the group that was still struggling, the group that never made it in Babylon, which is often associated with the community of the suffering servant: “Individuals trapped in such situations cry out” (p. 127). It is this underclass that Halvorson-Taylor has correctly identified and traced.

And so, in her analysis of Isa 48:20, two phrases become important: “Go forth from Babylon and flee from the Chaldeans.” The flight of Jacob is then introduced (Gen 31:20–22, 27) since “Yahweh has redeemed his servant Jacob.” גאל is further linked to the redemptive act found in the “Song of the Sea” (Exod 15:13)—freed from economic moorings and Egypt itself. And additional exegetical bridges to Deut 25:5–10 and Ruth 3:13 are attached to Isa 54:5's vocabulary of Yahweh as Israel's husband, maker, and redeemer.

In Chapter Four, “Zechariah 1–8,” after providing a brief synopsis of critical Zechariah scholarship, she correctly notes that “[t]he use of exile as a metaphor for spiritual estrangement is a later development that occurred over the course of the book's interpretation and revision” (pp. 152–53). Picking up on the classical problem of the seventy years, she suggests this was the duration of Yahweh's anger—a continuation of estrangement. Additional references to Jeremiah's seventy years, the forty years in the wilderness, and Esarhaddon's Babylonian Inscription of eleven years (a code for seventy years) provide good insights for generational consciousness—down to the third or fourth generation (cf. the Decalogue) as punishment.

Starting on page 165 (“Enduring Exile in the Night Visions”), the night visions are briefly rehearsed with comments. Picking up on the problem of seventy years in the book of Zechariah, Halvorson-Taylor offers the three unresolved scholarly views of how to understand the conclusion of the seventy years: (1) did the 70 years end in 538 b.c.e.; (2) or is the 70 years about to end in 515 b.c.e., (3) or has the 70 years come to an end in 515 b.c.e.? Without offering a clear resolution, either politically-centered, people-centered or temple-centered, she moves immediately into the second and third oracles that dramatically shift the tone toward “compassion” as part of Yahweh's goodness.

The second vision is said to be a product of 519 b.c.e. The four horns' implications have little or no correlation to nations, per se, as in the book of Daniel, but the broader displacement of peoples in the ancient Near East, Assyria, Babylonia, and Persia is suggested in its place. An important theme in the “Exhortation Zech 2:10–17” (Eng. 2:6–13): “Up, up! Flee from the land of the north, says Yahweh; for I have spread you out like the four winds of heaven, says Yahweh. Up O Zion! Escape you who live with daughter Babylon!” reveals an affinity and some familiarity with the aforementioned passages in the book of Consolation and Second Isaiah. But there is caution and control over against parallelomania, though more discussion and critical assessment would have been helpful on this oft repeated metaphor.

Halvorson-Taylor does a fine job on the “Prologue” (Zech 1:1–6), and Zech 7–8, dating them to Dec 7, 518, the fourth year of Darius. She ends the chapter with a closing remark on metaphorization of exile—that it will only end when the people turn/return to Yahweh, and vice-versa.

Her well-drawn conclusion pulls together the metaphorization of exile as a nexus that absorbs “death, sterility, bodily and emotional pain, and servitude” (p. 203). For the end of the Second Temple period, Halvorson-Taylor makes a subtle but very important observation regarding the social phenomenon of exile: the exile is a real “existential condition.”

In closing, this work is a revision of Halvorson-Taylor's Harvard Ph.D. dissertation directed by Jon Levenson. The monograph is readable, well researched, and uses classical methodologies. The task of examining the 6th century b.c.e. is about solving historical, literary, and sociological problems. Halvorson-Taylor is aware of the problems that germinate from this seminal period. And so, her attempts at dating biblical texts serve to address and redress socio-historical problems embedded in the literature. Scholarly endeavors outlining literary-redactional activity are held accountable to the precise historical context or contexts that produced and redacted those texts, thereby offering precise demarcation of when exactly such texts were produced or reworked. We can no longer speak of a sloppily generalized 6th century b.c.e.

John Ahn, Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary

[1] See John Ahn, Exile as Forced Migration (BZAW, 417; New York/Berlin: de Gruyter, 2011), 195–205. reference