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Review of Biblical Literature Blog

Persuading God: Rhetorical Studies of First-Person Psalms
Charney, Davida H.

Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix, 2017 pp. xii + 156. $22.50

Series Information
Hebrew Bible Monographs, 73

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Description: 2017 paperback reprint; originally published in hardcover in 2015. Written by a scholar of rhetoric, Persuading God demonstrates that the first-person psalms that make up over a third of the Book of Psalms were designed not simply to express the feelings of individual Israelites but to persuade God to act. The book casts a new light on the roles of all the players in the situations in which the psalms were composed and performed: the person represented by the speaker on whose particular troubles the psalm is based, the spectators and opponents who are sometimes addressed directly by the speaker, the poet-musicians who craft the speaker's case and occasionally undermine it, and most of all, God as the direct addressee whose presumed openness to persuasion and willingness to intervene underlie the entire event. The readings provide new explanations for many long-standing puzzles: how to deal with the long string of imprecations in Psalm 109, whether Psalm 4 is best read as protesting a false accusation or as countering apostasy, why so many verses in Psalm 62 begin with the exclamation ach, and, more generally, why so many first-person psalms seem to swing abruptly between despair and praise. The book demonstrates the relevance of contemporary rhetorical theory to Hebrew Bible studies, including the work of ChaÔm Perelman and Lucie Olbrechts-Tyteca, Kenneth Burke, and Mikhail Bakhtin. It also illuminates the state of rhetorical practice in the ancient Near East at the same time that rhetorical theories were first being codified and taught in archaic and classical Athens.

Subjects: Bible, Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, Writings, Literature, Methods, Literary Approaches, Rhetorical Criticism, Psalms

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Review by Jeffery M. Leonard
Published 6/4/2019
Citation: Jeffery M. Leonard, review of Davida H. Charney, Persuading God: Rhetorical Studies of First-Person Psalms, Review of Biblical Literature [] (2019).

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