Love in the Hebrew Bible, the fourth book by Dr. Song-Mi Suzie Park, associate professor of Old Testament, was published by Westminster John Knox Press (WJK) this May.
In its promotional materials, WJK says, “Christians insist that love stands at the heart of who God is. Yet, when we talk about love in the Hebrew Bible, how much do we really know? Possessing such a belief alone does not mean that we possess a clear understanding of what love is. Are we aware of how often divine and human love are tied up with the idea of preference for one individual or group over another? Do we know how often descriptions of love involve questions of power, authority, and gender? Do we see that love is connected to suffering, betrayal, and sometimes death in the Hebrew Scriptures? In Love in the Hebrew Bible, one of the first book-length studies of its kind, Suzie Park provides fascinating and essential insights into these questions, refreshing our understanding of the meaning of love in the Hebrew Bible. Pushing against characterizations of the loving God of the New Testament narrative universe versus the wrathful God of the Old Testament, Park shows that love is integral to the ways in which relationships, both among people and also between humanity and God, are imagined in the Hebrew text. Reflecting matrices of meaning and associations, love thus is a vital component of the ideology and theology of the Hebrew Scriptures, and an understanding of it remains fundamental to our knowledge of the biblical text.”
A reviewer, Jonathan Kaplan, associate professor of Hebrew Bible and Ancient Judaism in the Department of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Texas at Austin, says "Love can be sweet, beautiful, and joyous. It can also be daunting, jealous, and violent. The descriptions of love in the literature of ancient Israel are no different. In Love in the Hebrew Bible, Song-Mi Suzie Park … does not shy from the fraught complexities of these descriptions of love–by parents, siblings, friends, lovers, and God. Rather, she shows how these stories and poems portray unique ancient cultural understandings of what it means to love and be loved and how perspectives on love were intertwined with ancient Israelite conceptions of kinship, gender, and politics. Love in the Hebrew Bible is a must read for anyone interested in what the Hebrew Bible has to say about love."
“Looking back, my family’s background influenced my interest in the biblical text and my decision to become a scholar of the Bible,” says Park. “And in turn, my background influences how I read these stories and how I understand love in them. For example, the centrality of God and family in the understanding of love in the Hebrew text feels familiar. Also recognizable is the idea that love is intrinsically connected to sacrifice and suffering in the Hebrew Bible; and that love, while deeply felt, is more often and more clearly demonstrated through behavior and actions than through words.
Since joining the Austin Seminary faculty, Dr. Park has also published Hezekiah and the Dialogue of Memory (Fortress Press, 2015), 2 Kings (vol 12, Wisdom Commentary Series, 2019) and was co-author, with Professor Carolyn Helsel, of The Flawed Family of God: Stories about the Imperfect Families in Genesis (WJK, 2021).