C. Frevel (ed.), Mixed Marriages: Intermarriage and Group Identity in the Second Temple Period

Journal of Hebrew Scriptures - Volume 12 (2012) - Review

Frevel, Christian, ed., Mixed Marriages: Intermarriage and Group Identity in the Second Temple Period (LHBOTS, 547; New York: T&T Clark International, 2011). Pp. xi + 337. Hardcover. US$150.00. ISBN 978-0-567-31050-7.

Mixed Marriages: Intermarriage and Group Identity in the Second Temple Period consists of an introduction and fifteen essays, mostly growing out of presentations made at international conferences since 2008 by North American and European scholars of the Hebrew Bible and Dead Sea Scrolls on issues of identity formation and intermarriage in various texts. All fifteen essays and the introduction are well-written and footnoted, use data judiciously, and present coherent—though not always persuasive—arguments. Some essays forge new ground and connections, while others seem to articulate what many, if not most, scholars working in the area would affirm and what the various texts themselves are advocating. In that sense, the volume represents a helpful compendium of current thinking on a complex issue. Each essay will be addressed below. Readers interested in the topic of intermarriage, whether in the Hebrew Bible or Second Temple period, have many quality essays to consult in this valuable collection.

Christian Frevel (“Introduction: The Discourse on Intermarriage in the Hebrew Bible,” pp. 1–14) concisely and clearly presents “the state of the question” on three main points related to intermarriage: definitions of relevant terminology (particularly helpful for those new to this area of research), a summary of the main biblical texts cited as examples against the practice and some of the questions they raise from both diachronic and synchronic perspectives, and the value of multiple approaches to the topic—which also serves as a very short overview of the essays in the volume. The first two parts provide an extremely accessible entry-point into this complicated scholarly subject.

Christian Frevel and Benedikt Conczorowski (“Deepening the Water: First Steps to a Diachronic Approach on Intermarriage in the Hebrew Bible,” pp. 15–45) discuss the view of intermarriage in three distinct sections of the essay. In the first and largest part, they examine the view present in Neh 13 in a detailed comparison and contrast to the view in Ezra 9–10. They suggest a diachronic development from Neh 13 to Ezra 9–10, particularly in expanding the ideal of holiness from priests to the entire people. In the second section, an earlier tradition contained in Num 25 is added to the trajectory with the development from Num 25 to Neh 13 sketched out. The third section briefly names developments after Ezra 9–10 in Second Temple literature and identifies the roots of those views in the biblical material already examined. The essay focuses on diachronic developments, as contained in these representative texts, and what they suggest about the shifts in context over the late Persian and early Hellenistic eras.

Katherine Southwood (“An Ethnic Affair?: Ezra's Intermarriage Crisis against a Context of ‘Self-Ascription’ and ‘Ascription of Others,’” pp. 46–59) uses categories of boundary markers and who has authority to assign them from ethnicity studies as a means to explicate texts, such as Ezra 9, invested in defining and labeling. The analysis reinforces commonly-held readings of the chapter and highlights the role of power struggles and structures within the postexilic community over such perceived identity markers.

Ralf Rothenbusch (“The Question of Mixed Marriages between the Poles of Diaspora and Homeland: Observations in Ezra-Nehemiah,” pp. 60–77) distinguishes two views of the foreigner in postexilic texts, which typically align with whether a text originates from those in the Diaspora or those in the “homeland.” The simple, but appropriately nuanced, conclusion is that texts from the perspective of those in Diaspora, as expressed in Ezra-Nehemiah, tend to be more exclusive while those from the homeland, such as Ruth, tend to be more inclusive of foreigners and less concerned about the dangers of intermarriage.

Juha Pakkala (“Intermarriage and Group Identity in the Ezra Tradition [Ezra 7–10 and Neh 8],” pp. 78–88) examines the various layers, as he understands their redactional sequence, that are contained in the traditions around Ezra regarding intermarriage. With each new addition, the view of intermarriage is adjusted, from rejecting those in the land who had intermarried to the problem of the exiles intermarrying, as well as the minimal attention paid to the practice by later Levitical editors. Pakkala suggests these shifts reveal something about the views of the editors, though not necessarily their individual historical contexts. Whether one accepts Pakkala's view of the expansion of the Ezra traditions or not, there are good details identified that should be considered in constructing any diachronic understanding of this book and its multiple views on intermarriage.

Benedikt Conczorowski (“All the Same as Ezra?: Conceptual Differences between the Texts of Intermarriage in Genesis, Deuteronomy 7, and Ezra,” pp. 89–108) examines the rationale for the prohibition against intermarriage in selected texts. In his view, there are two main reasons: a diffuse moral and an explicit religious argument. A text such as Gen 34 reflects the former, while Deut 7 is typical of the latter. Ezra 9–10 builds on the religious nature of Deut 7 while merging it with the absolutism of Gen 34. The essay helpfully identifies differences between these texts, demonstrating they are not presenting the same restriction for the same reason in each case.

Jan Clauss (“Understanding the Mixed Marriages of Ezra-Nehemiah in the Light of Temple-Building and the Book's Concept of Jerusalem,” pp. 109–31) takes a synchronic approach to the issue of intermarriage in Ezra-Nehemiah, with attention to how the restrictions align with concerns about the temple as sanctuary and Jerusalem as sacred space in the book. Clauss argues from this analysis, somewhat persuasively, though not entirely, that this view points to the rejection of intermarriage being based on ethical requirements related to Israel's unique relationship to God rather than any particular intrinsic or ethnic state of holiness. While this essay focuses almost entirely on Ezra-Nehemiah, parallels and differences regarding the view of the temple and Jerusalem in Chronicles are incorporated to illustrate various points and conclusions.

Karen S. Winslow (“Mixed Marriages in Torah Narratives,” pp. 132–49) provides a brief overview of intermarriage texts outside of the Pentateuch before focusing on key texts in several chapters of Genesis involving intermarriage and Moses' marriages to Zipporah (Exod 2 and 4) and to a Cushite (Num 12) that seem to be “pro-exogamy.” Winslow contends that these texts provide a polemic against those opposing all forms of intermarriage in the Second Temple period.

Yonina Dor (“From the Well in Midian to the Baal of Peor: Different Attitudes to Marriage of Israelites to Midianite Women,” pp. 150–69) offers two main elements in this careful essay. First, the views of marriage to Midianite women found in Exod 2 concerning Moses and Zipporah and in Num 25 and 31 concerning the incident at Baal of Peor are compared and contrasted. Second, scholarly attempts to explain the different views presented in these texts are rehearsed and shown to have insufficiently analyzed the data. Instead, ambiguity points to another example of ongoing dialogue and debate within the Hebrew Bible.

Gary Knoppers (“‘Married into Moab’: The Exogamy Practiced by Judah and his Descendants in the Judahite Lineages,” pp. 170–91) examines with his typical meticulous care the complex presentation of mixed marriage in the genealogies of 1 Chr 1–9, with special focus on the place of Moab in the material. Knoppers briefly compares the Chronicler's view of intermarriage with that expressed in Ezra-Nehemiah, concluding that these texts, along with so many others, reveal a diversity of views in the Persian and Hellenistic eras. Readers familiar with Knoppers's earlier publications will find clear echoes in this probing of the Chronicler's genealogy of Judah.

Sebastian Grätz (“The Question of ‘Mixed Marriages’ [Intermarriage]: The Extra-Biblical Evidence,” pp. 192–204) briefly outlines the views of intermarriage in the Hebrew Bible before turning to the evidence on the topic provided by selected extrabiblical sources: the Elephantine papyri, Greek papyri from Ptolemaic Egypt, and (very briefly) the inscriptions from Idumea. The treatment of the two sets of papyri brings a welcome addition to the perspectives on intermarriage during the Second Temple period.

Armin Lange (“Mixed Marriages and the Hellenistic Religious Reforms,” pp. 205–19) surveys the reactions to intermarriage in various texts composed in the context of the rise of Hellenism: 1 Maccabees, selected Qumran texts, 1 En. 84, and Jub. 30. Lange contends, perhaps surprisingly, that only 1 Maccabees addresses this perceived problem, while the other texts deal with “more pressing issues” in their rejection of Hellenistic culture and rejection of those Jews who had already apostatized before they subsequently engaged in intermarriage.

Christian Frevel (“‘Separate Yourself from the Gentiles’ [Jub. 22:16]: Intermarriage in the Book of Jubilees,” pp. 220–50) examines the view of intermarriage in Jubilees, with particular focus on ch. 30 and how it adapts the story in Gen 34. Frevel makes a suggestion that Jubilees has possibly related its view of intermarriage to the detestable worship of Molech in Lev 20, concluding that the authors took this restriction of the practice to its extreme.

Hannah Harrington (“Intermarriage in Qumran Texts: The Legacy of Ezra-Nehemiah,” pp. 251–79) identifies the cultic terminology used in Ezra-Nehemiah to describe the practice of intermarriage. The concept of intermarriage and especially as it appears with these words and phrases in several Dead Sea Scrolls (MMT, the Temple Scroll, the Damascus Document, the Genesis Apocryphon, and miscellaneous Cave 4 fragments) are surveyed and the reasons given for the prohibitions are named. The texts employ these terms to different degrees, but point to some influence on a conceptual level between Ezra-Nehemiah and the Scrolls.

Karen S. Winslow (“Moses' Cushite Marriage: Torah, Artapanus, and Josephus,” pp. 280–302) examines the various traditions surrounding Moses' marriage to the Cushite and associations with Cush that are known from the Second Temple period, particularly those in Artapanus and Josephus. Rather than seeing these two versions as expansions of the brief notice in Num 12, Winslow argues that they were the basis for the odd report in Numbers, and shows how concerns over intermarriage in the Persian period are being added to the Torah by redactors familiar with other legends. While Winslow's argument is partially one from silence and somewhat speculative, the detailed examination of the accounts in Artapanus and Josephus adds other voices to the debate over intermarriage that are worth hearing.

Claudia V. Camp (“Feminist- and Gender-Critical Perspectives on the Biblical Ideology of Intermarriage,” pp. 303–15) engages the depiction of intermarriage and the responses to it in Ezra-Nehemiah from a feminist lens, and regards with suspicion the historicity of the “crisis” at the time of Ezra. Instead, Camp argues that a later historical event at the time of Nehemiah has been enhanced by an ideological agenda to stress the danger of the practice. Camp correctly notes the various historical contexts that must be present to account for the variegated views contained in Ezra-Nehemiah, and the probability that much of its content is a literary construct rather than historical.

Steven J. Schweitzer, Bethany Theological Seminary