Why does God’s covenant with Abraham in Genesis 15 follow a form similar to a covenant form from Hittite culture centuries before and an Egyptian form used centuries later? The occurrence of treaties and covenants as cultural phenomena throughout the Ancient Near East has been investigated on a number of occasions, usually in order to resolve certain questions arising in the biblical field. But the existence of identical forms of covenants and treaties in a number of different cultures has not been treated as a problem in itself. Why do disparate cultures possess common forms for treaties and covenants? Do treaties and covenants in disparate cultures exhibit striking similarities because they arose from a common origin? Or are treaty and covenant forms in different cultures nearly identical to one another because they developed independently in similar socio-political and cultural contexts?
In Admonition and Curse: The Ancient Near Eastern Treaty/Covenant Form as a Problem in Inter-Cultural Relationships, Noel Weeks revisits scholarship on cultural interaction in the Ancient Near East and asks important questions about how various cultural institutions—such as treaties and covenants—may have formed and developed. In particular, Weeks examines treaties in various Near Eastern cultures, including Mesopotamia, Egypt, Syrian centers, and the Hittites. His findings reveal important insights into cultural influence on Old Testament covenants, including God’s covenant with Noah, Abraham, and Israel. He attempts to determine whether similar treaty and covenant forms in a range of geographically distinct cultures throughout the Near East are linked to a common origin, such as a culture which pre-dated all Near Eastern cultures in question. If the origin of covenants and treaties predates Biblical cultures, how will this possibility affect our understanding of the role of covenants and treaties in both the Bible and in Near Eastern culture? More importantly, what might these findings mean for the future of Old Testament and Ancient Near Eastern scholarship? Weeks skillfully traces possible answers to these questions.
Admonition and Curse: The Ancient Near Eastern Treaty/Covenant Form as a Problem in Inter-Cultural Relationships, therefore, serves as an important resource for Old Testament and Near Eastern scholars, pastors and teachers, and anyone interested in how covenants functioned in the Bible and Ancient Near Eastern culture.
Weeks shows himself to be a thorough and careful scholar who says the minimum that the evidence will allow rather than the maximum. He also displays a breadth of scholarship with his treatment and personal translation of treaty/covenant texts from Egypt to Hatti that is truly noteworthy.
—John Engle, Review of Biblical Literature
Noel Weeks is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Ancient History at the University of Sydney.