Numbers 21-36. (Briefly Noted).
Numbers 21-36. The Anchor Bible 4A. By Baruch A. Levine (Doubleday, $45). This completes the commentary on Numbers for the Anchor Bible. In addition to some rather esoteric material (the second census, the daughters of Zelophehad, the festival calendar, the route to the promised land, and the tribal territories), this part of Numbers also contains the story of the brazen serpent, the Balaam account, and the sin at Baal Peor. L. includes a long discussion of the early eighth-century Balaam inscriptions from Deir 'Alla (just east of the Jordan River). Written in Canaanite or another Northwest-Semitic language, these incomplete and somewhat obscure inscriptions report a vision experienced by Balaam the son of Beor. Despite their mythological character (a goddess is mentioned and Balaam uses magic), L. concludes that the inscriptions are possibly of (heterodox) Israelite authorship. The community that produced them may have worshipped both Yahweh and El. M. dates the biblical poems of Balaam to the early ninth ce ntury, about a half century before the inscriptions. The message of the Baal Peor incident is that living in Transjordan leads to idolatry; L. rejects an orgiastic understanding of the passage.