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Review of Biblical Literature Blog

Sexual Pollution in the Hebrew Bible
Feinstein, Eve Levavi

New York: Oxford University Press, 2014 pp. xii + 293. $74.00


Description: The concepts of purity and pollution are fundamental to the worldview reflected in the Hebrew Bible, yet the ways biblical texts apply these concepts to sexual relationships remain largely overlooked. Sexual Pollution in the Hebrew Bible argues that, when applied to sexual relations, pollution language usually reflects a conception of women as sexual property susceptible to being "ruined" for particular men through contamination by others. In contrast, however, the Holiness legislation of the Pentateuch applies such language to men who engage in transgressive sexual relations, conveying the idea that male bodily purity is a prerequisite for individual and communal holiness. This understanding of sexual pollution, found in Leviticus 18, has a profound impact on later texts. In the book of Ezekiel, it contributes to a broader conception of pollution resulting from Israel's sins, which bring about the Babylonian exile. In the book of Ezra, it figures in a view of the Israelite community as a body of males contaminated by foreign women. Drawing on psychological and cross-cultural studies as well as philological and historical-critical analysis of biblical texts, Eve Feinstein's study illuminates the reasons why the idea of pollution adheres to particular domains of experience, including sex, death, and certain types of infirmity.

Subjects: Bible, Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, Pentateuch, Leviticus, Historical Books, Ezra, Prophetic Literature, Literature, Methods, Ideological Critique, Ezekiel

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Review by Thomas Kazen
Published 3/15/2016
Citation: Thomas Kazen, review of Eve Levavi Feinstein, Sexual Pollution in the Hebrew Bible, Review of Biblical Literature [http://www.bookreviews.org] (2016).


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