Prof. Shalom M. Paul, The Hebrew University
Victor Avigdor Hurowitz was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on April 19, 1948. Summoned to the “Academy on High” on January 20, 2013, he is survived by his loving wife Ann Roshwalb Hurowitz; his devoted son Daniel Hurowitz; his three sisters Julia Bornstein, Leah Sherman, and Rachel Durlacher, and his brother Joseph Hurowitz. The second of six children whose parents were both schoolteachers, Victor was raised in a Conservative Jewish home, later adopting Modern Orthodoxy. While attending a public high school that groomed its students for academic excellence, he also studied in the Hebrew High School at the Har Zion Temple in Philadelphia, where the late Moshe Greenberg’s father, Simon Greenberg, had been the rabbi for many years.
Victor originally planned to study Medicine, however early on in his college career he switched to Judaic Studies. He spent his junior year of college in Jerusalem at the Hayyim Greenberg Institute and the Hebrew University, where he was influenced especially by Dr. Gavriel Cohen to adopt a literary approach to the Hebrew Bible. He completed his BA in Hebrew Language and Literature at Temple University in Philadelphia in 1969, and at the same time attended Gratz College of Jewish Studies and the Talmudical Yeshiva of Philadelphia. That same year he settled in Israel and began his graduate studies f in Bible at the Hebrew University. He wrote his MA thesis, “Temple Dedication Ceremonies in the Bible in the Light of Extra-biblical Materials,” under the direction of Professor Menahem Haran and completed his Ph.D.in 1975 under the supervision of Professors Aaron Shafer and Menahem Haran. Hurowitz often reminded us that he was especially influenced by his mentors Professors Hayim Tadmor, Moshe Greenberg, Aaron Shafer, and Moshe Weinfeld, all of blessed memory, as well as Professors Shalom M. Paul and Menahem Haran, may they be blessed with long life. During his years as a doctoral student, Hurowitz also began teaching at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. In 1986 he received his first appointment as Lecturer in the Department of Bible, Archaeology, and Ancient Near Eastern Studies at Ben-Gurion University, and was promoted to Full Professor in 1999. During the 1991–1992 academic year he was a Fellow at the Annenberg Institute in Philadelphia, and in the 1997–1998 academic year was a Fellow at that same institution, now called the Center for Jewish Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. Hurowitz also served with distinction on the editorial boards of Olam Ha-Tanakh, Mo‘ed, Bet Mikra, and Shnaton: Annual for the Study of the Bible and the Ancient Near East, and this past year was selected as Israel’s representative of the International Association of Assyriology. In his teaching capacity at Ben-Gurion University, he was very proud of his doctoral students, Ada Tagar-Cohen, Natalie May, Shirley Graetz, and David Shapiro.
Hurowitz investigated cultic worship in the Hebrew Bible in the light of material from Mesopotamia. His doctoral dissertation, subsequently revised and significantly expanded, was the subject of his first book, I Have Built You an Exalted House: Temple Building in the Bible in the Light of Mesopotamian and North-West Semitic Writings, JSOT Supp. Series 115 (Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1992). In this work, Hurowitz analyzes the account of the building of Solomon’s Temple in 1 Kings 5–9, demonstrating that the biblical account was based upon a Mesopotamian literary model of building accounts, and also clarifies ideas relating to temple construction, such as the need for divine approval of the building program, the dedication ceremony, and the reward the king receives from on high for his efforts. Hurowitz then went on to publish a series of articles on the subject of his first book: “Aspects of the Design and Symbolism of Solomon’s Temple,” in Temple and Worship in Biblical Israel, ed. John Day Library of Hebrew Bible/Old Testament Studies 422, (Edinburgh: T & T Clark International, 2005), 63–110; “Solomon’s Golden Vessels (I Kings 7:48–51) and the Cult of the First Temple,” in Pomegranates and Golden Bells: Studies in Biblical, Jewish and Near Eastern Ritual, Law and Literature in Honor of Jacob Milgrom, ed. D. P. Wright et al. (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1995), 151–164; “‘Solomon Built The Temple and Completed It’”: Building the First Temple According to the Book of Kings,” in From the Foundations to the Crenellations: Essays on Temple Building in the Ancient Near East and Hebrew Bible, ed. M. J. Boda and J. R. Novotny, Alter Orient und Altes Testament 366 (Münster: Ugarit-Verlag, 2010), 281–302; “YHWH’s Exalted House Revisited: New Comparative Light on the Biblical Image of Solomon’s Temple,” in The Ancient Near East in the 12th–10th Centuries BCE: Culture and History, Proceedings of the International Conference Held at the University of Haifa, 2–5 May, 2010, ed. Gershon Galil et al., Alter Orient und Altes Testament 392 (Münster: Ugarit-Verlag, 2012), 229–240.
Hurowitz succeeded in analyzing the Biblical text by bringing to bear upon it both epigraphic and iconographic materials from the ancient Near East. Among other things, Hurowitz showed that the Temple was conceived of as both God’s dwelling place and a kind of Garden of Eden. He was planning on collecting these articles for a full-length book on this topic.
It was Hurowitz’s work on Mesopotamian building narratives that led him, in turn, to undertake literary analyses of royal inscriptions of the Neo-Assyrian kings Sargon II, Esarhaddon, and Ashurbanipal. Hurowitz showed that the accounts of temple building in many of these inscriptions took a back seat to the writing of the history of a king’s reign and exploits. Thus, what began as building narratives turned into important sources for the history of ancient Mesopotamia.
Hurowitz wrote articles analyzing boundary stones (kudurru) and also produced a book-length literary analysis of the famous one from the reign of King Nebuchadrezzar I, Divine Service and Its Rewards: Ideology and Poetics in the Hinke Kudurru, Beer-Sheva 10 (Beersheva: Ben-Gurion University Press, 1997). In it he showed that the elaborate literary structure of the text was designed to convince various deities that they should honor a particular priest to whom the king had granted real estate and tax exemptions.
An additional example of a royal inscription that Hurowitz examined from his unique literary perspective was the prologue and epilogue of the Laws of Hammurabi. In his book, Inu Anum ṣīrum: Literary Structures in the Non-Juridical Parts of Codex Hammurabi Occasional Publications of the Samuel Noah Kramer Fund 15 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1994), Hurowitz demonstrates that the main purpose of the famous inscription was more to glorify Hammubrabi’s achievements than to establish justice.
Another important study by Hurowitz was “Hammurabi in Mesopotamian Tradition,” in An Experienced Scribe Who Neglects Nothing”: Ancient Near Eastern Studies in Honor of Jacob Klein, ed. Y. Sefati et al. (Bethseda, MD: CDL Press, 2005), 497–532. There Hurowitz examined the esteem in which Hammurabi was held after his death, a subject that had not previously been investigated in depth. He also analyzed royal inscriptions of Tiglath-pileser I, Samsuiluna, and Simbar-Shipak, the account of Sargon II’s Eighth Campaign Written in the Form of a Letter to a Deity, and an “Old Babylonian Bawdy Ballad,” published in Solving Riddles and Untying Knots: Biblical, Epigraphic, and Semitic Studies in Honor of Jonas C. Greenfield, ed. Z. Zevit et al. (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1995), 543–558.
Hurowitz contributed many commentaries on chapters and verses in the Olam ha-Tanakh series and important studies on Semitic lexicography and the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Among Hurowitz’s other seminal studies are works on divination, the function of the cult statue in the worship of the gods in antiquity, and Hebrew Wisdom Literature. Several of his contributions to this field include: “Advice to a Prince – A Message From Ea,” State Archives of Assyria Bulletin 12 (1998), 39–53; “Literary Observations on ‘In Praise of the Scribal Art,” Journal of the Ancient Near East Society 27 (2000), 49–56; “The Wisdom of Šūpê-amēlī – A Deathbed Dialogue Between a Father and Son,” in Wisdom, Her Pillars are Seven: Studies in Biblical, Post-biblical and Ancient Near Eastern Wisdom Literature, ed. Shamir Yona and Victor Avigdor Hurowitz, Beer-Sheva 20 (Beersheva: Ben-Gurion University of the Negev Press), 109–124. It was to this last subject, Wisdom Literature, that Hurowitz devoted his longest and most recent publication, his monumental two-volume Hebrew commentary on the Biblical book of Proverbs, which appeared in in the Mikra LeYisra’el series (Tel Aviv: Am Oved; Jerusalem: Magnes Press) in December, 2012, a very short time before Victor’s final illness, which precipitated his untimely death at the age of 64.