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Jacob book/ Unexpected Patriarch/ Jewish Lives Biography Series Preview
October 30, 2012
1 P., 5.5" x 8.25"

Jacob: Unexpected Patriarch

by Yair Zakovitch

A powerful hero of the Bible, Jacob is also one of its most complex figures. Bible stories recounting his life often expose his deception, lies, and greed—then, puzzlingly, attempt to justify them. In this book, eminent biblical scholar Yair Zakovitch presents a complete view of the patriarch, first examining Jacob and his life story as presented in the Bible, then also reconstructing the stories that the Bible writers suppressed—tales that were well-known, perhaps, but incompatible with the image of Jacob they wanted to promote. Through a work of extraordinary “literary archaeology,” Zakovitch explores the recesses of literary history, reaching back even to the stage of oral storytelling, to identify sources of Jacob's story that preceded the work of the Genesis writers.

The biblical writers were skilled mosaic-makers, Zakovitch says, and their achievement was to reshape diverse pre-biblical representations of Jacob in support of their emerging new religion and identity. As the author follows Jacob in his wanderings and revelations, his successes, disgraces, and disappointments, he also considers the religious and political environment in which the Bible was written, offering a powerful explication of early Judaism.

Feature Review: 

"....an engaging analysis of one of the Bible’s most complex figures.” --Kirkus Review

“...an engaging analysis of one of the Bible’s most complex figures.” Kirkus Review

"A most eloquently provocative and detailed reconstruction of the 'life story' of the biblical patriarch."--Choice

"A profound, unsparing, and deeply learned look at a character who demonstrates the uneasy and charismatic qualities of a flawed hero...In [this] gripping exegesis, we see Jacob as alternately courageous, cunning, self-pitying, faithful, and distrustful." David Wolpe, Weekly Standard

"Zakovitch has provided us with a brilliant analytical biography utilizing traditional rabbinic sources, ancient Near Eastern literature, non-canonical biblical books, modern critical techniques, and incisive hermeneutical interpretation. The scholar will appreciate the nuances and the neophyte will be enthralled by new discoveries." Wallace Greene, Jewish Book World

"Zakovitch draws a colorful picture of the complex and enigmatic patriarch, whose story is essential for understanding the traditions of ancient Hebrews regarding their early days. This is an irreplaceable, must-read book for whomever is interested in the Hebrew Bible and the history of ancient Israel.” Israel Finkelstein, author of The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology's New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Its Sacred Texts

Yair Zakovitch

Valerie Zakovitch

Yair Zakovitch is Emeritus Father Takeji Otsuki Professor of Bible, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and Professor of Jewish Peoplehood, Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya. He is author of numerous commentaries and monographs on the Hebrew Bible, and co-author (with Avigdor Shinan) of two Israeli bestsellers. He lives in Israel.