Most scholars studying the first five books of the Bible either attempt to dissect it into various pre-pentateuchal documents or, at the very least, analyze Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy as separate, self-contained documents. The Pentateuch As Narrative focuses on the narrative and literary continuity of the Pentateuch as a whole. It seeks to disclose how the original Jewish readers may have viewed this multivolume work of Moses. Its central thesis is that the Pentateuch was written from the perspective of one who had lived under the Law of the Covenant established at Mount Sinai and had seen its failure to produce genuine trust in the Lord God of Israel. In this context, the Pentateuch pointed the reader forward to the hope of the New Covenant, based on divine faithfulness. Throughout the commentary Dr. Sailhamer pays close attention to and interacts with a wide range of classical and contemporary literature on the Pentateuch, written by Jews, Catholics, and Protestants.
“Nearly every section of the work displays the author’s theological interest, which can be summarized in two points. First, he intends to draw a line connecting the God of the fathers and the God of the Sinai covenant with the God who created the world. Second, he intends to show that the call of the patriarchs and the Sinai covenant have as their ultimate goal the reestablishment of God’s original purpose in Creation. In a word, the biblical covenants are marked off as the way to a new Creation.” (Page 81)
“We must, however, distinguish at least two forms of historical background material in the study of the Pentateuch: first, the historical background or context within which the book was written, second, the historical background or context of the events recorded in the book.” (Page 4)
“It becomes clear as one reads through the second half of the Pentateuch that it was not written primarily to the generation that came out of Egypt. Its readership was specifically the generation of Israelites that was about to go into the Promised Land. All the events of the Exodus and the wilderness journey as well as the giving of the Law at Mount Sinai were cast as something that happened in the past. From the perspective of the Pentateuch as a whole, the events of Sinai and the wilderness were as much in the past as those of the patriarchs. Those events had already become a part of the lessons Israel was to learn from. The focus of the writer was on the future, the next generation. They were the particular readers he had in mind.” (Page 6)
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