About Bezalel Porten

Bezalel Porten

Bezalel Porten has degrees from the Jewish Theological Seminary (Rabbi, M.A.) as well as Columbia University (Ph.D.). He taught at the University of California in both Berkeley and Davis before making aliyah in Israel 1968. Professor Porten retired from the Hebrew University as a professor emeritus in 1998. He has completed sabbatical years at York University in Toronto, Yale University, Cambridge University, the University of Sydney, the University of Pennsylvania, and the Jewish Theological Seminary. He has written ten books and over 100 articles either individually or in collaboration. His areas of interest include Biblical literature, the Jewish community at Elephantine and the Idumean ostraca.

Presenter at

Bible & Archaeology Fest XX, November 17 – 19, 2017
Biblical Bargaining: There’s No Fixed Price

In terms of “Biblical bargaining,” there are seven passages that come into play: three are narrative and four are cultic. The narratives passages are 1. The plea for Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 18:16-33), 2. The purchase of the cave of Machpelah (Gen. 23), and 3. The plea of Moses for divine presence (Ex. 33:12-23). The four cultic texts are 1. Four cases of negligence (Lev. 5:1-13), 2. The sacrifice of the parturient (Lev. 12), 3. The sacrifice of the leper (Lev. 14:1-32), and 4. The sliding scale for charity (Lev. 27). These passages contain terminology that expresses the inability to pay full price, and this lecture will explore the significance of “Biblical bargaining.”

Bible & Archaeology Fest XIX, November 18 – 20, 2016
The Book of Jonah and the Odyssey of Repentance

What is the point of the Book of Jonah and how do we date it? The aura of the story is vast and fabulous, as evidenced by the appearance of the Hebrew word for “great” at least fourteen times. The Book of Jonah story may be best understood against the background of the prophets Elijah and Elisha, and as a polemical text foreshadowing the prophecies of Jeremiah and Ezekiel.

Bible & Archaeology Fest XVIII, November 20 – 22, 2015
Ruth: King David’s Moabite Great-Grandmother

Why does Israel’s greatest king and future messiah have a foreign ancestress? Does the Book of Ruth have anything to do with the question of foreign wives in the period of Ezra and Nehemiah, or is the text really from the time of the Judges? How does the literary structure of the Book of Ruth authenticate its genealogy at the end? What is its theme and why did it make the canon? This presentation explores and sheds light on these questions.

Bible & Archaeology Fest XVII, November 21 – 23, 2014
Song of Songs: Is the Loved One Typical or Atypical?

The Song of Songs, with its descriptions of male and female beauty and emphasis on physical love, is a unique book in the Bible, without parallel. Many scholars think it is an anthology of individual love poems. Can it be shown to be a unified book, with the beloved as a dominant figure? If so, how does she stack up against the other women in the Bible?

Bible & Archaeology Fest XVI, November 22 – 24, 2013
David the Good and David the Bad

Why did David displace Saul? What was his fatal flaw that did him in? Why does the Biblical narrative devote so much space to his rise to power and so much on his decline with almost nothing on his achievements? This presentation examines the answers to these questions in the attempt to shed light on one of the Old Testament’s most compelling figures.

Bible & Archaeology Fest XV, November 16 – 18, 2012
The Idumean Ostraca: Fakes and Authentics

Some 2000 Idumean ostraca from the 4th century B.C.E. have turned up on the antiquities market and are to be found in eight institutions and 20 private collections. They encompass ten different categories including commodity chits, payment orders, accounts, workers texts and jar inscriptions. Some scholars have wondered, publicly and privately, whether any forgeries have crept into this large collection. This lecture will present the history and importance of some of these extraordinary artifacts and address the question: How can one distinguish between a really ancient text and one written in the not too distant past?

Selected Articles by Bezalel Porten