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Voices from the Ruins
Theodicy and the Fall of Jerusalem in the Hebrew Bible
HARDCOVER; Published: 5/13/2021
ISBN: 978-0-8028-7860-1
Price: $ 70.00
580 Pages
Trim Size, in inches: 6 x 9
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Where was God in the sixth-century destruction of Jerusalem? 

The Hebrew Bible compositions written during and around the sixth century BCE provide an illuminating glimpse into how ancient Judeans reconciled the major qualities of God—as Lord, fierce warrior, and often harsh rather than compassionate judge—with the suffering they were experiencing at the hands of the Neo-Babylonian empire, which had brutally destroyed Judah and deported its people. Voices from the Ruins examines the biblical texts “explicitly and directly contextualized by those catastrophic events”—Kings, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Lamentations, and selected Psalms—to trace the rich, diverse, and often-polemicized discourse over theodicy unfolding therein. Dalit Rom-Shiloni shows how the “voices from the ruins” in these texts variously justified God in the face of the rampant destruction, expressed doubt, and protested God’s action (and inaction). 

Rather than trying to paper over the stark theological differences between the writings of these sixth-century historiographers, prophets, and poets, Rom-Shiloni emphasizes the dynamic of theological pluralism as a genuine characteristic of the Hebrew Bible. Through these avenues, and with her careful, discerning textual analysis, she provides readers with insight into how the sufferers of an ancient national catastrophe wrestled with the difficult question that has accompanied tragedies throughout history: Where was God?

Table of Contents

Part One: Questions of Method
     1. Justification, Doubt, and Protest in Sixth-Century Biblical Literature
     2. Studying Religious Thought
     3. Multiplicity of Voices and Diversity of Thought
     4. Summary and a Proposal
Part Two: Theodicy as Discourse in the Face of Destruction
     5. God as King
     6. God as Warrior
     7. God Is Called Upon to Fight for His People
     8. God Summons the Enemy
     9. God as the Enemy
     10. God as Judge and Divine Justice
     11. God Visits the Guilt of the Parents upon the Children, the Present Generation
     12. God and the Attribute of Mercy
     13. Summary and Conclusions

Voices from the Ruins is a descriptive theology of the traumatic events of a period in the history of Israel—the Babylonian conquest of Judah and the destruction of the Jerusalem temple—that affected Judean/Jewish history and thought forever after. Rom-Shiloni presents a thorough, methodological, and masterful discussion of various biblical texts that relate to these events, constructs a tapestry of the topics raised, and uncovers the different—often antagonistic—views that allowed doubt and fierce protest yet still persisted in taking part in the talk about God.”
— Sara Japhet
Hebrew University of Jerusalem
“The fall of Jerusalem is the pivotal event in the history of ancient Judah. It triggered a plethora of theological interpretations that influenced the formation of the Hebrew Bible. In this wide-ranging study, Dalit Rom-Shiloni vividly and meticulously describes different biblical approaches to theodicy and develops a descriptive theology of Hebrew Bible texts from the sixth century BCE.”
— Konrad Schmid
University of Zurich
“Everyone interested in the theology of the Hebrew Scriptures will benefit from Rom-Shiloni’s magisterial work. Taking on the thorniest theological problems presented in the Scriptures, she adroitly acknowledges prior contributions even as she makes her own compelling argument for how to think about God and trauma and the traditional problem of theodicy. How we think about God matters for how we live, and Rom-Shiloni is an able guide to thought-provoking new ways of doing so.”
— Jacqueline E. Lapsley
Princeton Theological Seminary
“The subject of this wonderful book—the justice of God—is as timely today as it was in the biblical period. After developing a framework for descriptive Hebrew Bible theology, Rom-Shiloni explores a large variety of biblical texts, highlighting the many biblical views concerning theodicy and the multivocal voices of the Bible more generally. Her exploration of the implications of the different metaphors used of the biblical God in these contexts is especially enlightening.”
— Marc Zvi Brettler
Duke University
“How is it that some biblical texts justify God’s role in the Babylonian destruction of Judah, while others protest God’s actions, and others cast doubt on God’s justice in light of these events? If you want a compelling treatment that is careful to let the diverse biblical texts speak for themselves, look no further than Voices from the Ruins. Rather than viewing the diversity of biblical perspectives as problematic, Dalit Rom-Shiloni’s careful analysis surprisingly reveals that diverse theological pluralism is an essential characteristic of biblical texts as God’s people struggled to hold together their conceptions of divine justice, human responsibility, and divine mercy. Students and scholars alike stand to benefit from a careful reading of this insightful treatment of the biblical texts.”
— Paul S. Evans
McMaster Divinity College
“Dalit Rom-Shiloni, in Voices from the Ruins, makes a significant contribution to the field of biblical theology. With a close and probing examination of texts in Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Psalms, and Lamentations, she focuses on how ancient Judeans grappled with the questions of divine power, presence, and fidelity, in relation to the destruction of Jerusalem in 587/586 BCE. Is G-d powerful, present, and trustworthy? These texts attempt to answer in the affirmative even as they recognize that G-d had failed to protect Jerusalem and Judah as promised. Her study is relevant for understanding divine presence, power, and fidelity in the present, too, as we moderns come to grips with questions raised by the Shoah (Holocaust), as well as justice and righteousness in our own contemporary world.”
— Marvin A. Sweeney
Claremont School of Theology at Willamette University
“Dalit Rom-Shiloni meticulously analyzes the texts created by Israelite thinkers in the late sixth century as they reflected on the moral defensibility of YHWH’s use of mass deportations and destruction. She shows these texts to be deeply interrelated, and in doing so reframes discussion not only of the relationship between theodicy and protest but of the nature of Hebrew Bible theology itself.”
— Mark W. Hamilton
Abilene Christian University
“This rich, penetrating analysis should become a starting point for anyone interested in describing how the ancient Israelites thought about their God. It moves theology out of the realm of the ideal and into that of history by showing how the Israelites foregrounded the themes of ‘justification, doubt, and protest’ in their representations of God, especially in response to the upheavals of the sixth century BCE. Rom-Shiloni has made a major contribution with this new way of doing biblical theology.”
— David Lambert
University of North Carolina
Review of Biblical Literature
“An instructive resource that forms both a methodological and conceptual foundation for further study of other biblical texts as well as trauma-informed hermeneutical approaches.”
Review of Biblical Literature
“Rom-Shiloni has written a profound and comprehensive theology of the sixth-century biblical writers’ attempt to grapple with the Babylonian destruction of Judah and Jerusalem.”