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Hebrew Studies 41 (2000) 264 Reviews students, and to scholars interested in an up-to-date presentation of the current state of wisdom studies. Daryl Jefferies University of Wisconsin-Madison Madison, WI 53706 djefJeri@students.wisc.edu THE ISRAELITES IN HISTORY AND TRADITION. By N. P. Lemche. Library of Ancient Israel. Pp. ix + 246. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1998. Cloth, $25.00. N. P. Lemche's The Israelites in History and Tradition represents the latest contribution to the ongoing debate over how best to reconstruct Israel's past. In his "Prolegomena," Lemche argues that the quest for ancient Israel has been seriously hindered by an over-dependence upon the biblical text. A more fruitful approach would be to employ interpretive models that take into account the larger sociological, political, and economic developments of ancient Palestine (i.e., the French les annales school). Only then can we hope to get at the actual history of this region. In chapter 1 ("Playing the von Ranke Game: Sifting the Sources"), Lemche sets the ground-rules for reconstructing Israel's past. Regarding the written materials, the closer the source is to the event the more valuable it is for reconstructing the past (as set forth by the Gennan scholar Leopold von Ranke). Thus, for Lemche, "the Old Testament is not a primary source of the history of ancient Israel" since it is too far removed from the history it recounts. Yet, even near contemporary sources are subject to propaganda and misrepresentation, and therefore a methodological approach that can filter out this "noise" is required. Regarding the archaeological record, the traditional markers for identifying Israelite 0 r "proto-Israelite" culture, such ~s the four-roomed house or collared-rim pottery, are unreliable, as they also appear in non-Israelite contexts. Therefore , any argument for an ethnically distinct "Israel" must come from other bodies of evidence. In "Israel in Contemporary Historical Documents from the Ancient Near East," Lemche discusses the inscriptional evidence for an ancient Israel. The reference to "Israel" in the Memeptah stele, while probably having some connection to the later kingdom by that name, tells us little Hebrew Studies 41 (2000) 265 Reviews except its name and general location. The so-called "House of David" inscription , which also mentions Israel, only tells us that there existed a political entity by this name in the ninth century. The supposed reference to the "house of David" can be explained in other ways, including a placename in the vicinity of Dan. In no way could it be referring to "the king of the house of David," as such a construction is unattested in the inscriptional record. Similar problems of interpretation surround the Mesha stele, lemelek stamps, Siloam inscription, the Samaria and Lachish ostraca, and the Mesopotamian records. While each provides some details about political structures and events within ancient Palestine, they do not allow for a detailed reconstruction of its history. In "Archaeology and Israelite Ethnic Identity," Lemche makes use of recent studies that take a la longue duree approach to the study of ancient Palestine. Lemche suggests that the shift in population from fortified cities to unwalled villages during the transitional period (late Bronze-early Iron Age) is not due to infiltration (peaceful or violent) from without, nor the result of a ''peasant revolt" (Mendenhall) or gradual migration (previously Lemche; Finkelstein) from within. Rather, this shift may reflect an Egyptian policy of moving urban populations into cultivatable lands in order to extend its control over the means of subsistence. A la longue duree approach to the first millennium provides little evidence of an Israelite state before the ninth century, and a Judean one much before the eighth. Even then, these states appear to be of limited size and influence-nothing like the "empires" described for us in the Bible. In "The People of God: The Two Israels in the Old Testament," Lemche explores what he calls the "two foundation myths" of Israel: the Exodus and the Exile. Lemche contends that these myths, with their emphases on a return to the land and the law reflect the propaganda of the postexilic community. Lemche revives Noth's idea of an amphictyony, not as a historical reality...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2158-1681
Print ISSN
0146-4094
Pages
pp. 264-267
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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