Attention to exegesis in and of the Hebrew Bible has much to offer Latter-day Saint students of scripture in their efforts to understand the biblical text.* Exegesis is the explanation or interpretation of a text. The word is derived from Greek, meaning literally "to lead out (of)." The general study of biblical exegesis has come to incorporate at least three subdivisions, each having direct relevance for Latter-day Saints: inner-biblical allusion, biblical and postbiblical exegesis, and scribal comments and corrections.
Inner-biblical allusion refers, simply, to the Bible's self-reference. As Michael Fishbane has shown in his standard Biblical Interpretation in Ancient Israel (1985), there is much evidence indicating that biblical authors used traditions found elsewhere in the Hebrew Bible to "preserve, render contemporary, or otherwise reinterpret these teachings or traditions for new times and circumstances" (p. 8). An example of this is Jeremiah 2:3, in which Jeremiah adapts a law known from Leviticus 22:14–16 in order to reinforce his teaching of the importance of Israel's relationship with God. Another example is Malachi 1:6–2:9, in which the prophet turns the priestly blessing of Numbers 6:23–27 into a condemnation of priestly practice.
Also in this category is typological adaptation. In this type of allusion, new events are correlated with old ones, revealing, as James Kugel has observed, "unexpected unity in historical experience and providential continuity in its new patterns and shapes."1 Fishbane demonstrates that typological thinking prevalent in later Christian interpretation is already found in the Hebrew Bible (pp. 350–51). This type of interpretation is perhaps most common in linking the hope for future deliverance with the exodus from Egypt (see, for example, Hosea 2:16, Micah 7:14, Jeremiah 16:14, and their subsequent contexts).
Inner-biblical exegesis takes allusion a step further. In the context of the Bible, exegesis refers to the resolution of problems in an authoritative tradition or text. Thus it is most visible in exilic and postexilic texts (after the Old Testament had become more fully authoritative) and begins to flourish in the intertestamental period in apocryphal and pseudepigraphical materials. Genesis 15 is a perfect example of a text that needed (and needs) explaining because of several ambiguous references and the poorly understood covenant-making cere-mony in the latter verses. In verse 6, for example, the subject of the latter clause is unclear: "And he believed in the Lord; and he counted it to him for righteousness." Who is doing the counting or reckoning? Ezra, in Nehemiah 9:7–8, clarifies exegetically Genesis 15:6, making these verses an example of inner-biblical exegesis. As Kugel has shown, however, the interpretation found in the latter books of the Old Testament is only the beginning.2 First Maccabees 2:52, Romans 4:3, James 2:23, Philemon, and 1 Clement all attest varying exegetical traditions dealing with Genesis 15:6. And this barely scratches the surface of the number of texts that solve problems in Genesis 15, let alone in the Hebrew Bible.
Finally, the study of Old Testament exegesis also examines scribal manipulation of the text. Fishbane outlines four principal situations in which the scribes were wont to tamper with the text: when divine honor was at stake (1 Samuel 3:13), when they perceived pagan elements (Deuteronomy 32:8), when they perceived theologically problematic statements (2 Samuel 8:18), and when they saw a need to cast the king's religious deportment in a better light (1 Kings 11:31–33). Fishbane remarks that these "theological changes underscore the fact that those persons most responsible for maintaining the orthography of the texts tampered with their wording so as to preserve the religious dignity of these documents according to contemporary theological tastes" (p. 67).
This brief survey of certain points of biblical exegesis has important implications for Latter-day Saints. Inner-biblical allusion and exegesis show how ancient prophets and authors likened scriptures to themselves, adapting older traditions to new situations. The Book of Mormon provides a rich source for examining exegetical method, as evidenced by the work that has been done on Book of Mormon Isaiah commentaries.3 We have evidence of typological exegesis within the Book of Mormon in Alma 37:38–46, where the Liahona is compared typologically to obedience to the words of Christ, and arrival in the promised land is cast as a type of entrance to eternal life. A more subtle example of biblical allusion in the Book of Mormon is Nephi's probable reliance upon a tradition similar to Exodus 21:13–14 (which indicates the conditions and consequences of taking a life when the victim was delivered up by God), underlying his account of the killing of Laban (1 Nephi 4:5–18). These prophets manifest an array of exegetical techniques that fit within many of the paradigms outlined by scholars. As John Day has remarked, the Old Testament prophets are rich in inner-biblical interpretation,4 and the Book of Mormon prophets are not different in this regard.
Regarding postbiblical exegesis, Kugel's monumental work (including his observation that ancient interpreters saw the scriptural text as cryptic, fundamentally relevant, absolutely consistent, and divinely inspired)5 indicates that when we look to apocrypha and pseudepigrapha for evidence of ancient extrabiblical traditions, the utmost care should be taken not to overstate the issue when positing or reconstructing a tradition lost from the biblical text. This is because most of the time the interpreters create or reuse exegetical traditions that stem from a biblical text closely resembling our current version(s).
The study of scribal comments and corrections is interesting to Latter-day Saints because it helps reveal the process whereby the biblical text was manipulated and changed. It should be noted, likewise, that the scribes in many cases were probably not guilty of malfeasance but were attempting to make the text relevant to their current situation. In the end, as Fishbane concludes, the Hebrew Bible, "despite its authoritative character, is not a 'clean' or 'corrected' text-copy, but rather a compound of errors, corrections, and supplements" (p. 38).
The study of inner-biblical allusion and exegesis reveals the need for contemporary students of scripture to be intimately familiar with a broad range of biblical tradition, because often allusion and interpretation are found only with a thorough knowledge of the Old Testament text. As Fishbane notes, "Aside from [a] few instances of explicit citation or referral, the vast majority of cases of . . . exegesis in the Hebrew Bible involve implicit or virtual citations" (p. 285). That is, prophets assumed their readers and listeners would have been so familiar with the tradition that a word or two would suffice to indicate to the audience a whole conceptual field.6 Thus, if we are to get at the fullest meaning of scripture, we must attempt to approximate the ancient familiarity with texts and traditions. !