The author discusses the origin of her book and its purpose, which she describes as setting the two main priestly books of the Pentateuch – the Books of Leviticus and Numbers – in (an anthropologist's) context. These Books are regarded by the author as having a strong shared political commitment: the keeping alive of the legendary alliance of the twelve sons of Jacob, and the advocacy of peace with Samaria, at the time when the Second Temple community of Israel was drawing its boundaries and redefining itself as an exclusive religious group and Samaria was standing out as a dangerous enemy. The scheme of this book is described, and the origins of the controversies that have arisen over interpretation of the Pentateuch outlined, along with discussion of the probable views of the priestly editors (both in exile and on return) on ecstatic cults and the resulting reinforcement of the orderly and theorized approach they took to renewing the old religion. The final section of the Preface returns to the theme of problems of translation and meaning and the concerns of the priestly editors in the different chapters of the book.
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