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This book addresses one of the most timely and urgent topics in archaeology and biblical studies -- the origins of early Israel. For centuries the Western tradition has traced its beginnings back to ancient Israel, but recently some historians and archaeologists have questioned the reality of Israel as it is described in biblical literature. In Who Were the Early Israelites and Where Did They Come From? William Dever explores the continuing controversies regarding the true nature of ancient Israel and presents the archaeological evidence for assessing the accuracy of the well-known Bible stories.

Confronting the range of current scholarly interpretations seriously and dispassionately, Dever rejects both the revisionists who characterize biblical literature as "pious propaganda" and the conservatives who are afraid to even question its factuality. Attempting to break through this impasse, Dever draws on thirty years of archaeological fieldwork in the Near East, amassing a wide range of hard evidence for his own compelling view of the development of Israelite history.

In his search for the actual circumstances of Israel's emergence in Canaan, Dever reevaluates the Exodus-Conquest traditions in the books of Exodus, Numbers, Joshua, Judges, and 1 & 2 Samuel in the light of well-documented archaeological evidence from the late Bronze Age and early Iron Age. Among this important evidence are some 300 small agricultural villages recently discovered in the heartland of what would later become the biblical nation of Israel. According to Dever, the authentic ancestors of the "Israelite peoples" were most likely Canaanites -- together with some pastoral nomads and small groups of Semitic slaves escaping from Egypt -- who, through the long cultural and socioeconomic struggles recounted in the book of Judges, managed to forge a new agrarian, communitarian, and monotheistic society.

Written in an engaging, accessible style and featuring fifty photographs that help bring the archaeological record to life, this book provides an authoritative statement on the origins of ancient Israel and promises to reinvigorate discussion about the historicity of the biblical tradition.
Archaeology and Bible--two simple terms, often used together, understood by everybody. But are they understood properly? If so, why are both subject to such controversy? And what can archaeology contribute to our understanding of the Bible? These are the problems addressed by Professor Dever in this book.

Dever first looks at the nature and recent development of both archaeology and Biblical studies, and then lays the groundwork for a new a productive relationship between these two disciplines. His “case studies” are three eras in Israelite history: the period of settlement in Canaan, the period of the United Monarchy, and the period of religious development, chiefly during the Divided Monarchy. In each case Dever explores by means of recent discoveries what archaeology, couples with textual study, can contribute to the illumination of the life and times of ancient Israel.

Given the flood of new information that has come from recent archaeological discoveries, Dever has chosen to draw evidence largely from excavations and surveys done in Israel in the last ten years--many still unpublished--concerning archaeology and the Old Testament.

Dever’s work not only brings the reader up to date on recent archaeological discoveries as they pertain to the Hebrew Bible, but indeed goes further in offering an original interpretation of the relationship between the study of the Bible and the uncovering of the material culture of the ancient Near East. Extensive notes, plus the use of much new and/or unpublished data, will make the volume useful to graduate students and professors in the fields of Biblical studies and Syro-Palestinian archaeology, and the seminarians, pastors, rabbis, and others. This book provides stimulating, provocative, and often controversial reading as well as a compendium of valuable insights and marginalia that symbolizes the state of the art of Biblical archaeology today.

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