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

About the Book

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.

“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

“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

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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