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In God's Shadow: Politics in the Hebrew Bible Hardcover – June 5, 2012

4.4 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"Walzer brings a fresh voice to the most studied text of the Western tradition.  I found myself marking up passage after passage as I followed his learned observations about the political implications of the Bible...I constantly found myself reaching new levels of insight as a result of his erudite points of provocation. This book is highly recommended for all those who take the legacy of the Bible seriously."—Gary Anderson, Hesburgh Professor of Catholic Theology, University of Notre Dame, author of Sin: A History (Gary Anderson 2011-11-11)

"Was there room in the Biblical kingdom of an omnipotent God for a political constitution or political responsibility? Walzer’s guide through the text of the Hebrew Bible is magnificent: a many-layered, elegant, sympathetic but unapologetic examination of covenants, legal codes, kingship, prophecy, exile, holy war, and social justice ‘in God’s shadow’. It is nothing less than an account of how the Israelites came to define themselves as Jews."—Nancy Rosenblum, Department of Government, Harvard University, and author of On the Side of the Angels: An Appreciation of Parties and Partisanship
(Nancy Rosenblum 2011-11-28)

"In this remarkable, wise and elegant book, Michael Walzer, one of the greatest political theorists of our time, examines brilliantly the diverse dimensions of Biblical politics, its institutions and struggles. It raises as well the ultimate question of the possibility to carve a human political realm in the Shadow of God. Scholars and students of the Bible will learn a great deal from the fresh an original reading of biblical traditions, and it will inspire anyone who is interested in the relationship between politics and religion."—Moshe Halbertal, author of On Sacrifice
(Moshe Halbertal 2011-12-07)

"This book deals with the breadth of foundational themes of the Hebrew Bible. Michael Walzer provides a vibrant perspective, and innovative and refreshing reading of the ancient book of books."—Israel Knohl, author of The Sanctuary of Silence
(Israel Knohl 2011-12-08)

"Walzer is a great portraitist of biblical political ideas such as power, authority, hierarchy and war—warts and all. His depiction is beautifully conceived and beautifully written. It is a very good book on The Good Book." —Avishai Margalit, George F. Kennan Professor, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, and Professor Emeritus in Philosophy, Hebrew University of Jerusalem
(Avishai Margalit 2011-12-28)

"In the story of how the modern West evolved beyond sacral kingship, there is a Greco-Roman strand and a Hebrew strand.

Walzer offers a penetrating account of the Hebrew strand in its many ramifications, with all the insight and sense of nuance that distinguish him as a political theorist."—Charles Taylor, author of A Secular Age and Dilemmas and Connections
(Charles Taylor 2012-01-04)

"[Walzer] mines the scriptures for their insight on subjects that continue to vex world leaders today. If there is a common thread, it is perhaps that great power inevitably 'tempts kings and emperors to put themselves in God’s place,' while blinding them to the fact that, often, 'human beings are better off not doing what God does.'"—Publishers Weekly
(Publishers Weekly)

"In God's Shadow is elegant and erudite. Anyone interested in assessing the ideas about politics, government and law in the Bible should read it."—Glenn C. Altschuler, Jerusalem Post
(Glenn C. Altschuler Jerusalem Post 2012-07-01)

“Those interested in politics, those interested in religion, and those interested in both will be challenged by this fascinating study.”—Booklist Online
(Booklist Online)

In God’s Shadow “is a rich and rare example of how new, provocative and illuminating meanings can be teased out of the ancient text.”– Jonathan Kirsch, The Jewish Journal

(Jonathan Kirsch The Jewish Journal)

“Walzer has written a lucid, probing, and broad-minded study that will enrich each reader's understanding of the great architectonic text of Western civilization. We are in his debt.”—Eric Nelson, Jewish Review of Books

(Eric Nelson Jewish Review of Books)

From the Author

A Conversation with Michael Walzer

Q:  Why did you write this book?

A:  I think about politics all the time when I read, and I've been reading the Bible all my life. So why should this book be different from any other book? There is a politics in the Bible, and sometimes an anti-politics, and the stories and arguments are gripping. They cry out for our engagement.

Q:  What did you find most surprising in the Bible?

A:  The many voices, the radical pluralism of the Bible, which is really an anthology, a book of books. The last editors would never have called themselves pluralists or articulated a doctrine of pluralism, but they were remarkably inclusive. They brought together radically contradictory views, without seeking to harmonize the contradictions.

Q:  So, is there a biblical political doctrine, a single teaching, a lesson to be learned?

A:  No. Biblical fundamentalists will have a hard time finding the foundations. There is a biblical doctrine about religion and one about justice, but there is radical disagreement among the Bible's authors about politics. Some are actively hostile: when God is king, what need is there for human politics?

Praise for Michael Walzer’s Arguing about War:

“Walzer has moved the concerns over just war from the periphery of political theory to the very center of our democratic dilemma.”—Garry Wills, New York Review of Books

Praise for Michael Walzer’s On Toleration:

"The genius of Walzer's little book . . . is how realistic it is about the contradictions confronting those who would create an open society."—E. J. Dionne, Jr., Washington Post


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; 1st Edition, 1st Printing edition (June 5, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300180446
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300180442
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 0.9 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #441,595 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
From the moment I heard of Michael Walzer's latest work I was itching to read it. The combination of Biblical literature, politics and Walzer's depth of experience were enough for me to order an early copy. Walzer begins his review of politics in the Hebrew scripture with the obligatory mention of his approach to Biblical interpretation. According to Walzer and his sources (many from the Jewish tradition) the Bible's historical accounts and detailed religious codes are not always what they seem. In addition, the author is skeptical of any political lessons to be reaped from the Bible, especially in light of a divine, interfering "ultimate ruler".

Walzer is writing in an age where religion is being re-introduced to the fields of politics and international relations. Authors such as Jonathan Fox and Shmuel Sandler are pushing for religion's front-line recognition. Douglas Johnston's strategy of interfaith dialogue is influencing foreign affairs. Esteemed editors, Raymond Cohen and Raymond Westbrook use the Biblical era to study the theoretical branches of international relations.

Admittedly, Walzer mentions that his topic is influenced by, but notably veers away from other Biblical political studies like that of Aaron Wildavsky. The increased hype around finding political solidarity in religious engagement, keeping in mind the Biblical approaches in recent and distant works, demand that any reader of "In God's Shadow" not be confused or distraught by Walzer's very critical, at times revisionist, approach.

The main question addressed in Walzer's study is not 'how' we learn from the examples of Biblical politics but in truth are there 'any' intended political endorsements to be noted at all?
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I bought the book because of the review in Foreign Affairs not expecting such an indepth revelation of the Hebrew Bible. Excellent book and I recommend it highly to any who are interested in the Hebrew Bible and how it is mis-interpreted by our politicians to their own benefit.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Michael Walzer's work is always informative, insightful and written as easily as a cheap novel - and I mean that as high praise for an erudite book on Old Testament political thought. If one has not already read Walzer's "Exodus and Revolution", do it now! It will be a great companion to this exellent work.
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Format: Kindle Edition
I am not a biblical scholar, but I do read this literature. The book is certainly worth reading, but it could really use a hard edit to get rid of sentences that trail off to nowhere. If cut by 1/4 the book would be 5 stars.
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