Rabin’s goal in writing Understanding The Hebrew Bible: A Reader’s Guide is to “garner appreciation for the most influential book ever written,” and to a large extent he does just that. The author divides the content of the Hebrew Bible into seven categories (each of which receives its own chapter): Storytelling, Law, History in the Bible, History of the Bible, Prophesy, Wisdom and Poetry. In each chapter Rabin examines one category of Biblical text. The author plays multiple roles. On one page he is a literary analyst, on another an anthropologist. He also speaks as a historian, a biblical critic and professor of Jewish rabbinic literature.
While the book is tailored to the layman, at times the fit is too tight. Rabin dis-empowers his readers by not footnoting information he presents as indisputable fact and by leaving out significant classical as well as modern scholars in his discussion of the historical accuracy of the Bible. Nevertheless, the author’s quiet exuberance does have a wonderfully insidious way of sparking an interest in a book so many have written off.