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THE JEWISHQUARTERLYREVIEW,XCII, Nos. 1-2 (July-October, 2001) 250-254 NIELS PETERLEMCHE.The Israelites in History and Tradition. London: SPCK; Louisville, Kentucky:WestminsterJohn Knox Press, 1998. Pp. viii + 246. This monographis a confused exercise in futility. I am amazed that it was published in the "Libraryof Israel"series. The editor of that series, Douglas A. Knight, writes on the back flyleaf: Volumes in the Library of Ancient Israel draw on multiple disciplines -such as archaeology, anthropology, sociology, linguistics, and literary criticism-to illumine the everyday realities and social subtleties these ancient culturesexperienced. None of the disciplines listed by Knightareutilized on a trulyprofessional level in this book. A reviewer cited in the front flyleaf, RobertP. Carroll, says, "[Lemche's] account of the matteris the first one to begin to make sense of the whole Bible to me."Johnvan Seters, quotedon the backcover, claims thatLemche'sstudy "poses a serious challenge to currentmethodologies used in historical andliterarystudy of the Old Testament." All of these accolades only serve to underlinethe sad state of biblical studies in the "postmodernist"climate, in fact, the gullibility and mediocrity of Old Testament scholarship at the beginning of the 21st century. There is an aversion for the difficultand serious analysis of ancient documents which requires intensive linguistic as well as philological training. But throughoutthe latter part of the 20th century, this reviewer has seen how the generalrunof Old Testamentpractitionerspreferthe easy way out. The essence of Lemche'srevisionist approachis expressed in chapter 1, "Playing the Ranke Game."Lemche demonstratesthat someone has told him about the emphasis of Leopold von Ranke on the use of primary sources for the reconstructionof history.Then Lemche dismisses the Bible as a source of any primarysources. Therefore,he feels free to reconstruct Israelitehistory in accordancewith his own imagination(supposedly based on anthropologicaldata). One needs to be well trained in the linguistics and philology of ancient Near Easterntexts in orderto recognize the truly ancient sources embeddedin the HebrewBible. Lemche andhis revisionist colleagues do not demonstratethatability. The problemis clearly demonstratedby Lemche'streatmentof non-biblical epigraphicsources in chapter2. In orderto vitiate the testimony of the Merenptahstele, Lemche twists and turns, citing such an "Egyptological" authorityas Gosta W. Ahlstrom, who did not know hieroglyphics. In fact, the determinativeof a socioethnic groupappliedto "Israel,"as found in the stele, clearly distinguished it as a people living on a tribalor village social LEMCHE, ISRAELITESIN HISTORY AND TRADITION-RAINEY 251 level, as opposed to the city states of Ashkelon, Gezer and Yano'am.Incidentally ,the lattertown is in Transjordanand shows thatthe campaignhad gone over there. It may be that the Israel listed on the stele was encountered in the region adjacentto Yano'am if there is geographic orderto the poem. Furthermore,Lemche is content to depend on FrankYurco's interpretationof the Merenptahreliefs at Karnakto the effect thatthe Israelites are depicted as Canaanites.In fact, Yurco, afterhis brilliantdetective work in identifying the authorof the reliefs, committed a series of interpretative errorsleading to his determinationthat certain Canaanitesoldiers must be equated with the Israel on the Merenptahstele (these have been treatedin detail: Rainey 1998a, 1999, 2000a and 2001). Lemche ignores all views that are not convenient for his interpretation. The Mesha stele is anothercase in point. Lemche cites a few references to those who deprecate or minimize the weight of this inscriptionaltestimony . He embraces the ridiculous suggestion that not David, but some fictitious deity namedDaudo (Na'aman 1997), is mentionedin the allusion to an "ariel of David."Lemche's limited linguistic knowledge is apparent when he insists thatDWDH in that phrasecannot be a personalname (plus possessive suffix). The argument showing that the phrase means "his (Gad's)Davidic altarhearth"have been elucidatedrecently (Rainey 1998b, 1998b). Na'aman (2001: 8) has demonstratedonce again that he is incapable of understandingthe syntax of the Mesha stele. The Tel Dan inscriptionis deprecatedby Lemche in a series of false arguments . He claims that the fragmentscome from two differenttexts and rejectsthe allusions to two kings of the 9th century,viz. [Jeho]ram,king of Israel and [Ahaza]iah, king of "The House of David." In fact, the fragments clearly come from one text and make reference to the two above named kings. It is also clear, as was obvious from the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1553-0604
Print ISSN
0021-6682
Pages
pp. 250-254
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
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