Pseudo-Philo: Rewriting the Bible

By Frederick J. Murphy | Go to book overview

8
From Aod to the Ascension of Phinehas:
Biblical Antiquities 34-48

Chapters 34-48 cover the period between the first two great judges, Kenaz and Deborah, and Samuel. Of special concern in these chapters is the issue of idolatry. It is particularly evident in stories of Aod, Jair, and in the long complex involving Micah, the Levite's concubine, and the Israelite civil war (chaps. 44-47). Leadership is also important in these chapters, particularly in the stories of Gideon, Abimelech, and Jephthah. Samson's stories show the danger of mixed marriages. The chapters end with the ascension of Phinehas, marking the end of an era stretching from the desert period to the monarchy.


Chapter 34: Aod

This narrative is found nowhere else in Jewish tradition. Aod is a Midianite magician who leads the Israelites astray. Pseudo-Philo introduces him here because in Judges 4-5 the story of Deborah is followed by a description of Israel's oppression by Midian, a situation that provides the context for the story of Gideon. Judg. 6:1 says, "The Israelites did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, and the LORD gave them into the hand of Midian seven years." Pseudo-Philo takes this opportunity to insert an incident reflecting on Israel's seduction by foreign idolatry.

Chapter 34 features a conversation between the Israelites and Aod. It ends with God's anger at Israel's idolatry. The chapter is paradigmatic in that it presents in brief form an important theme of Pseudo-Philo--Israel is led into idolatry and abandonment of God through foreign influence. Foreign religion, here portrayed as magic, is seductive to the Israelites, who see it as embodying a power greater than that found in the Torah. But that power is shown to be deceptive and Israel is punished by God.

The initial exchange between Aod and the Israelites lays out the idolatry issue. "He said to Israel, 'Why do you pay attention to your Law? Come, I will show you something other than your Law.' And the people said, 'What will you show us that our Law does not have?'" (34:1). The temptation to

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