Shorter Reviews and Notices -- Tragedy and Biblical Narrative: Arrows of the Almighty by J. Cheryl Exum

Article excerpt

Tragedy and Biblical Narrative: Arrows of the Almighty, by J. Cheryl Exum. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge and New York, 1992. 206 pp. $49.95. ISBN 0-521-41073-8.

This book begins with two provocatively juxtaposed quotes, the first claiming that tragedy is alien in the Judaic sense of the world and the second arguing that, among the ancients, the Hebrews were the most possessed of a tragic sense of life. Exum's sympathies surely lie with the latter as she argues a "tragic vision," defined as the "Aeschylean paradox of human guilt and the wicked god" (p. 17), permeates the Hebrew Bible. While tragic heroes do sin, the misfortunes God inflicts on account of this sin are far greater than the heroes deserve.

After providing this definition in Chapter 1, Exum discusses briefly the paradigm of the tragic hero Job. Yet ultimately Exum focuses on characters from the deuteronomistic history: Saul (Chap. 2), Jephthah (Chap. 3), the various members of the house of Saul (Chap. 4), and David (Chap. 5). The choice of the deuteronomistic history may initially appear surprising, since the deuteronomistic belief that God rewards the just and punishes the wicked seemingly posits the antithesis of the irrational world required by Exum's vision of the tragic. …