Bible Review 7:4, August 1991

Bible Books

Bedouin Poetry from Sinai and the Negev: Mirror of a Cult

Clinton Bailey (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1991) 473 pp., $125.00.

The patriarchs of the Old Testament may or may not have been historical figures, but this much at least is certain: Their way of life is described in an entirely authentic fashion. We know this above all because we can compare them with the modern nomadic peoples of the Middle East. For this reason the Bedouin will always be of special interest to students of the Bible.

One striking characteristic of the Bedouin is their gift for every kind of verbal activity: story-telling, poetry, argument and litigation—all are developed to an exceptional degree. Modern Bedouin poetry is oral poetry, composed by mostly illiterate men and women in one or another of the Bedouin Arabic dialects. It is truly the “mirror of a culture,” Since the 19th century, many of these poems have been written down and published, and some have been translated into European languages.

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