The Nehemiah Memoir, the narrative of the royal cupbearer sent to rebuild Jerusalem, is central to Ezra-Nehemiah's account of Persian Judah. Yet its emphasis on one individual's efforts makes it a text that ill-fits the book's story of a communal restoration. Sean Burt analyzes the nature of this curious text through the lens of genre criticism and identifies the impact of its use of genres on its early reception in Ezra-Nehemiah. Drawing upon contemporary theorists of literary genre, within the field of biblical studies and beyond, he builds an understanding of genre capable of addressing both its flexibility and its necessarily historical horizon. Burt argues that the Nehemiah Memoir makes use of two ancient genres: the novelistic court tale (e.g. Esther, Ahiqar, and others) and the official memorial, or biographical genre used across the ancient Near East by kings and other governmental officials for individual commemoration. This study contends that the narrative subtly shifts genres as it unfolds, from court tale to memorial. Nehemiah the courtier becomes Nehemiah the governor. While these genres reveal an affinity to one another, they also highlight a central contradiction in the narratives portrait of Nehemiah. Nehemiah is, like the people of Jerusalem, beholden to the whims of a foreign ruler, but he also simultaneously represents Persia's power over Jerusalem. Burt concludes that the Nehemiah Memoirs combination of these two ultimately incommensurate genres can account for how the writers of Ezra-Nehemiah modified and corrected Nehemiahs problematic story to integrate it into Ezra-Nehemiahs vision of a holistic restoration enacted by a unified people.
The Courtier and the Governor by Sean Burt was published by Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht GmbH & Co KG in October 2014. The ISBN for The Courtier and the Governor is 9783525550762.