People have been reading the Book of Genesis for more than twenty-five hundred years, yet new commentaries, scholarly studies, and literary analyses continue to appear. In this new treatment of Genesis, the author adapts ancient approaches to the text for a contemporary sensibility in order to arrive at readings that are both surprising and satisfying. He thus places himself in a modern tradition of Jewish biblical study that is flourishing in Israel, Europe, and the United States.
When presented with a novel way of looking at something familiar, the reader’s response will often be “Of course -- I should have seen that!” Unfortunately, in the case of an ancient text written in an ancient language, it is all too easy to miss what might have been noticed if only the reader had been able to read the original. But even reading the original text would not be enough if one were unfamiliar with literary conventions that were known to ancient readers. By extending some of the techniques long used by authors writing in the exegetical genre of Midrash, The Serpent’s Skin shows how Genesis might have been read and understood by its earliest readers or listeners, thus illuminating the text for a modern reader in unexpected ways. In addition, close attention to the various kinds of imagery utilized in the narratives reveals facets of the stories that are often implicit, but which are brought into the foreground by these literary devices. Finally, looking at Genesis as an interconnected whole shows how the central concerns of the book are addressed by the development of themes that return again and again in the narratives.
These readings of the well-known tales of the Creation, the Garden of Eden, the Flood, and the adventures of the Patriarchs will give modern readers a new perspective on these stories -- a perspective that might in reality be an ancient one.