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Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary of the English Language (1755) has long had a reputation as the ‘first English dictionary’, despite the dozens of dictionaries that had appeared in the century and a half before Johnson’s. There are few ways in which Johnson’s book can be truly considered a ‘first’, since nearly all his contributions to dictionary-making had precedents in classical and European lexicography. He did, however, introduce some innovations in English lexicography, including grounding his wordlist in the works of English authors, discerning subtle shades of meaning in numbered senses, and providing extensive quotations showing the words in context. Together, these qualities made Johnson’s Dictionary, though not a chronological ‘first’, still the first English dictionary to be widely regarded as the standard of the English language.
Chapter 8 examines divine responses to violence, and in particular, to bloodshed and the outcry of the victim. The restoration, or ‘redemption’, of blood by a divine גאל הדם (‘restorer of blood’) is one of the primary ways that biblical texts portray Yhwh’s response to bloodshed. Through a study of select texts, including several from 1–2 Samuel, the following claims are made. First, Yhwh acted as restorer of blood and legal adjudicator for those wrongly accused. He played the role of Mesopotamian kings who addressed cases for claimants and accused. If the human system failed, the poor had legal recourse. Second, because of the frequent emphasis on the cries of the afflicted and poor in ancient Israelite literature, some poetic and narrative traditions came to valorize the renunciation of one’s legal rights to (human) vengeance. Devotion and loyalty to Yhwh were characterized in terms of committing one’s case to Yhwh, not only when the legal system failed, but in recognition of Yhwh’s unique prerogative to intervene.
Together, the three biblical books Judges, Samuel, and Kings tell the larger part of the story of Israel and Judah as more-or-less independent nations on their own land. Their principal focus is on “rule,” good rule and bad rule: mostly royal rule (by kings), but also “rule” by judges and deliverers, and even by prophets. David is the key human ruler. God too “rules” in these books, but as “judge” rather than as “king.” Together with the book of Joshua, they constitute the sub-set of the Hebrew Bible called Former Prophets and the start of the historical books in an English Bible.
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