The Book of Revolutions The Battles of Priests, Prophets, and Kings That Birthed the Torah

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2023 Top Five Reference Book from the Academy of Parish Clergy

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The Torah is truly the Book of Revolutions, born from a military coup (the Northern Israelite revolution), the aftermath of an assassination and regency (a Judean revolution), and a quiet but radical revolution effected by outsiders whose ideas proved persuasive (Babylonian exile). Emerging from each of these were three key legal codes—the Covenant Code (Exodus), the Deuteronomic Code (Deuteronomy), and the Holiness Code (Leviticus)—which in turn shaped the Bible, biblical Judaism, and Judaism today.

In dramatic historical accounts grounded in recent Bible scholarship, Edward Feld unveils the epic saga of ancient Israel as the visionary legacy of inspired authors in different times and places. Prophetic teaching and differing social realities shaped new understandings concretized in these law codes. Revolutionary biblical ideas often encountered great difficulties in their time before they triumphed. Eventually master editors wove the threads together, intentionally preserving competing narratives and law codes. Ultimately, the Torah is an emblem of pluralistic belief born of revolutionary moments that preserved spiritual realities that continue to speak powerfully to us today.

“Edward Feld’s new book, The Book of Revolutions: The Battles of Priests, Prophets, and Kings That Birthed the Torah (JPS), is such a spectacular resource—so much so, that I confess that I could not put it down. . . . Move over Game of Thrones. There is far more intrigue here than we had ever imagined.”Religion News Service

“Feld displays a remarkable talent for balancing accessible language with depth of thought and rigorous research, all while exercising a penetrating insight for how ancient conflicts factor into contemporary discourse. Stellar scholarship makes this an essential religious and cultural history.”Publishers Weekly, starred review

“Feld’s mode of unpack­ing [biblical] his­to­ry is unique. . . . He sug­gests that these legal [texts of the Torah], which were not edit­ed for cohe­sion as the nar­ra­tive sec­tions were, demon­strate. . . a rev­o­lu­tion in the reli­gious pro­gres­sion of the Israelites. . . . The acces­si­bil­i­ty of Feld’s writ­ing, and the con­clu­sions he draws about how today’s Judaism is a prod­uct of these rev­o­lu­tions, makes The Book of Rev­o­lu­tions a valu­able addi­tion to the book­shelves of lay read­ers and aca­d­e­mics alike.”—Jonathan Fass, Jewish Book Council

“The weaving together of solid academics and committed religiosity, scholarly hypothesis and lived faith, makes this book a gem among the many volumes devoted to the study of the Pentateuch. And a Christian reader has much to learn.”
Commonweal Magazine

“A pleasure to read. Those readers who are biblically literate will find the author’s reconstruction of the Torah’s composition fascinating. Those beginning a study of the Torah could find no better way to begin the encounter with the Bible’s foundational texts.”Bible Today

“[A] really superb book. . . . I was so deeply impressed. . . . The book is so truly rich that no reasonably sized review can do justice to all of the questions that it raises. Indeed, I have already pressed the manuscript on friends with whom I hope to discuss the book at some length.”—Tikkun

“Feld insists that Jews ‘have not grasped the Torah’s truths in their entirety because the parts do not ultimately quite fit together.’ The same is true for Christians and the New Testament. But it’s the very effort to grasp that helps make the life of faith so lively and fascinating. That’s what makes this book appropriate for anyone with a solid knowledge of Scripture, as well as a hunger to know more. And readers familiar with scholar Amy-Jill Levine’s writings that place Christianity in its Jewish context will find Feld’s book especially useful.”—Presbyterian Outlook

“In highlighting the innovative development of codes within biblical material while revealing their afterlife and influence, this substantive and stunning work succeeds in introducing Torah to a new generation of general readers, all the while delighting more advanced readers in its sophisticated reflections.”—Adriane Leveen, author of Biblical Narratives of Israelites and Their Neighbors
“Outstanding. Feld breaks through simplistic notions of a monolithic biblical and later Jewish religion to reveal its multiplicity and richness. I learned quite a bit from his insights.”—Stephen A. Geller, Irma Cameron Milstein Professor of Bible, Jewish Theological Seminary
“Rabbi Feld takes us on a fascinating journey, demonstrating that modern scholarship reveals not only facts about the Torah’s composition but deeper spiritual truths about its place in our history and in our lives.”—Rabbi David Wolpe, Max Webb Senior Rabbi, Sinai Temple, Los Angeles
“Ed Feld shows us how ancient revolutions impacted biblical revelations and how we can make religious meaning out of historical findings. Through deft and scrupulous analyses of the Bible’s law codes, he uncovers what for many will be surprising connections between biblical law and biblical prophecy, demonstrating how the latter helped shape the former. Readers of all backgrounds and textual skill levels will be guided to new understandings by a gifted teacher and writer.”—Shai Held, author of The Heart of Torah
“I loved this book. It beautifully succeeds in its ambitious task of retelling the Tanakh’s history of biblical Israel as the weaving of a tapestry out of the many strands of God-seeking. Feld passionately argues here that a multiplicity of interpretations and experiences is the most reverential way to seek the Divine. And it really is a page-turner, but the kind that doesn’t just engage you in the moment: it lingers on as an invitation and a challenge to us in the present.”—Gordon Tucker, vice chancellor for Religious Life and Engagement, Jewish Theological Seminary
“[Feld’s] exemplary reader-friendly work of critical biblical scholarship respects traditional approaches in demonstrating that pluralism, not singularity, better explains the origins of the Torah, its conflicting teachings, and the multiplicity of traditions that molded Jewish belief and practice from antiquity to the present.”—Zev Garber, The Catholic Biblical Quarterly
“This book is indeed unique in intertwining biblical scholarship with concerns for contemporary Jewish spirituality and pluralism.”—Rabbi Dr. Ron Kronish, The Jerusalem Report

Edward Feld

Edward Feld is senior editor of Siddur Lev Shalem, the Rabbinical Assembly prayerbook for Sabbaths and festivals, and its sister High Holiday volume Mahzor Lev Shalem. He is the author of The Spirit of Renewal: Faith after the Holocaust and Joy, Despair, and Hope: Reading Psalms.

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