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Subversive Sequels in the Bible: How Biblical Stories Mine and Undermine Each Other Hardcover – October 12, 2009

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: The Jewish Publication Society; 1st edition (October 12, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0827608888
  • ISBN-13: 978-0827608887
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 5.9 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #217,652 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"Singularly faithful to the biblical text, which Klitsner reads closely and with great respect, this book is fascinating and radical in its implications and inspires the reader to see surprising connections in language and in themes."—JOFA Journal
(JOFA Journal)

"Klitsner addresses head-on the challenges of finding modern-day relevance in the Bible, especially in relation to women's issues. She analyzes without apologizing, leaving the reader with much to consider."—Hadassah Magazine
(Hadassah Magazine)

"This new commentary exhibits biblical scholarship at its finest."—Jewish Book World
(Jewish Book World)

"In this ground-breaking book, Judy Klitsner presides over a conversation between pairs, or sequences, of biblical narratives. Paying close attention to the nuances of biblical language, she expertly maps the way in which passages echo and subvert one another. Her alert ear and vigorous writing style reveal new intertextual structures, within which later narratives reconsider earlier ones, revising and often redeeming them . . . A moral and religious passion animates this innovative study."—Avivah Zornberg, Torah scholar and author (including the JPS classic Genesis: The Beginning of Desire)
(Avivah Zornberg)

"Ms. Klitsner is an excellent teacher whose insights into biblical narrative will deepen the reader’s engagement and understanding."—Rabbi David Silber, Founder and Dean of the Drisha Institute for Jewish Education
(Rabbi David Silber)

From the Publisher

2009 National Jewish Book Award Winner, Scholarship category

More About the Author

About Judy Klitsner, author, "Subversive Sequels in the Bible" (

Judy Klitsner is the author of the new book, "Subversive Sequels in the Bible: How Biblical Stories Mine and Undermine Each Other." The book was the winner of a National Jewish Book Award in 2010.

Judy Klitsner is a senior faculty member at the Pardes Institute for Jewish Studies in Jerusalem, where she has been teaching Bible and biblical exegesis for the past two decades.

A disciple of the renowned Torah teacher, Nechama Leibowitz, Klitsner has had a profound impact on a generation of students, many of whom now serve as teachers and heads of Jewish Studies programs in the US, Israel, and the UK. She is a popular international speaker who brings a dynamic, interactive teaching style to a broad and varied array of audiences across the Jewish denominational spectrum.

Originally from Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, she and her husband, Shmuel Klitsner, live in Jerusalem, where they raised their five children. Klitsner's recent and most enjoyable avocation is playing with her grandchildren.

More information on Judy Klitsner can be found on her website,

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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See all 14 customer reviews
All are interesting, thought-provoking, and worth reading.
Israel Drazin
What links the various essays in the book is the tight literary analysis and its striking methodology of reading texts as "intertextually" related.
H. Zukier
Anyone who reads this book will find their appreciation of the beautiful tapestry of Biblical narrative enriched and their understanding enhanced.
James F. McGrath

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Derek Leman on November 6, 2009
Format: Hardcover
While I do not share some of Klitsner's presuppositions, her book qualifies immediately in the most important virtue of a book on Biblical interpretation: she helps readers see the text in new ways. Occasionally her exposition is strained but for every non-sequitur there are dozens of insightful connections in inner Biblical interpretation.

The first chapter draws attention to connections between the Jonah story and the earlier Noah story:

(1) Noah sent a dove (Hebrew, yonah) to see if the flood was ended; Jonah is, of course Yonah.

(2) God flooded the world because of hamas (violence, injustice); in Jonah, the Ninevites repented of their hamas and turned away from it.

(3) Noah and Jonah's stories both involve boats, sea journeys, and water-induced catastrophe (even though Nineveh is nowhere near the sea).

(4) The Noah story is about judgment without mercy; the Jonah story is about mercy over judgment.

(5) Noah ends his career in self-induced slumber and drunken self-destruction; Jonah begins his quest sleeping in the hold of the ship, then asking to be drowned in the sea, and at the end praying for God to take his life.

(6) Noah is ambivalent about the destruction of the world while God is unrelenting; in Jonah, God wants to save the wicked, but Jonah is unwilling.

Klitsner is more willing than I to question God's motives in the story, as she apparently views the Biblical narratives as human writings about God. Thus, it is possible, in her view, that the Noah story represents an earlier and inferior view of Divine judgment and mercy. My own theology differs a bit from hers, not being as willing to find fault with God in the Flood account.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By H. Zukier on November 1, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Submitted by Prof. Henri Zukier

In Subversive Sequels in the Bible, Judy Klitsner explores the complex relationship between various familiar Biblical tales in a manner that is at once both surprising and convincing. What is convincing is the degree to which these narratives interact with common theme and language. What is surprising is that the results of such an examination yield a subversive yet stubbornly reverent approach to Bible study. Klitsner is a masterful guide on a thrilling voyage of discovery of hidden meanings and dynamics in the classical texts. Klitsner shakes up our old certainties about our most ancient and seemingly familiar biblical narratives, with counterintuitive, but ultimately compelling insights. She casts this familiar universe in a very different, bright light.
Written with a minimum of academic jargon, this work is accessible, enjoyable and valuable to scholar and layperson alike and may be one of a very few examples of literary close readings of Hebrew texts that brings the sophistication of ancient Hebrew literature to the English speaking public.
An easily summarized example is Klitsner's first chapter comparing the narrative of Noah and his ark to that of Jonah (Hebrew for "dove"). Under Klitsner's lens, these two stories are in dialogue about the dynamic nature of both human transcendence and Divine compassion. Whereas Noah is the surviving prophet in a drowning world - Jonah is the drowning prophet in a world redeemed. One story (Noah) ends with the sending of a dove and begins with the saving of many animals. The other begins with the sending of a "dove" (Jonah) and ends with a verse about saving many animals.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Elie Kaunfer on December 20, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I have been privileged to study with Judy Klitsner on a number of occasions, including at Pardes, Hadar, JTS and Limmud. Every time I hear her give a lecture, I ask: how could I recreate the magic of that teaching to tell my friends about her main points? Finally, Judy has done that herself in this book. This represents an expansion of the thoughts and ideas she has been teaching for years, and it is a blessing that this exists for anyone who wants to take hold of it, anywhere in the world. You will never read the Bible in the same way once you catch a glimpse of Judy's method. I won't spoil the contents, but the juxtapositions she puts forth between Biblical narratives are simply brilliant. Enjoy this fantastic book.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Martin Lockshin on October 30, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I very much enjoyed reading this book and I recommend it enthusiastically. Judy Klitsner combines classical Jewish close readings of biblical narratives with deep modern literary insights. The results are often astonishing. I learned much from this book--both from Klitsner's skill at interweaving seemingly unrelated biblical texts and from the timely lessons she draws from these juxtapositions. She finds surprisingly modern attitudes in the Bible about the relationships between women and men, humans and God.
Readers do not require background in Hebrew or in Biblical Studies to appreciate Klitsner's work. But even experts in the field will find much new and of value in the book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Israel Drazin TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 4, 2011
Format: Paperback
Judy Klitsner introduces readers to a new, eye-opening, and interesting way of understanding biblical narratives in her book, which won the National Jewish Book Award. She reads the stories as one reads good literature. She shows that different biblical tales frequently and purposely use similar language, often the same word, to draw readers' attention to the connection between the tales. The basic part of this technique is well-known and used by many people to help them understand and appreciate the depths of biblical narratives. However, Klitsner moves a step further and makes a profound contribution to the understanding of the Bible. She proves, with dozens of demonstrations, that the subsequent stories subvert - radically reexamine, develop, and change - the idea or ideas that are in the prior tale.

For example, three of her six chapters examine the changes in the Bible's portrayal of women. The first narrative, in Genesis chapter 1, depicts the first humans as "full and equal partners in their capacity to create and subdue." However, in chapter 2, "the equality between man and woman is lost." The man patronizingly "views her as a unique and irreplaceable gift, and as one who gives him as sense of completion as a human being." Thus, chapter 1's equality of the sexes is lost. The woman becomes subservient to man, a source of pleasure.

The woman is frustrated with this demeaning secondary status. At the end of chapter 2, we discover another subversion. She seeks independence, meaning, and satisfaction. She speaks with the serpent in the Garden of Eden. The serpent, says the Talmud, Baba Bathra 16a, is her "evil Inclination," her inner urge. She expresses her feelings by violating the man's command, which he says is from God, by eating the forbidden fruit.
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