by B.S.J. Isserlin ‧ RELEASE DATE: Nov. 15, 1998
An excellent synthesis of the history, culture, geography, and artistic achievements of the ancient Israelites. Isserlin (professor emeritus of Semitic Studies/Univ. of Leeds), an archaeologist of the ancient Near East, has put together a highly readable compendium of the mountain of scholarship on ancient Israel. A classic coffee table textbook, complete with 150 illustrations and maps, this has been written clearly and succinctly, with a general audience in mind. Part I sets the stage for understanding the Israelites through an overview of their history; here Isserlin navigates the murky question of whether biblical accounts can appropriately be utilized to understand the region's history. In a nutshell, because the patriarchal narratives (Abraham, Isaac, etc.) were probably written long after the periods they purport to describe, and because almost no archaeological evidence has been found to support the biblical accounts of the conquest or the premonarchical era, Isserlin politely suggests that it is unwise to employ the Bible as the primary account of Israel's history. Part II utilizes archaeological artifacts and material culture, mostly for later periods, to explain Israel's arts, agriculture, economy, and military technology. Part III delves into ""the world of the spirit"" by describing the crafts, language, and evolving monotheistic religion of the Israelites. Throughout, Isserlin brings readers up to date on the more significant current debates among ancient historians, archaeologists, and biblical scholars, and puts the debates themselves into historical context. While some of the overviews may seem short, they are never shallow. (His brevity in summarizing such discussions should be a model for other scholars.) A welcome contribution to an overcrowded field, needed precisely because it helps the novice make sense of the complex debates surrounding the ancient Israelites.
Pub Date: Nov. 15, 1998
Page Count: 304
Publisher: Thames & Hudson
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1998
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