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Book Reviews BOOK REVIEWS 115 Early History of the Israelite People: From the Written and Archaeological Sources, by Thomas L. Thompson. Leiden: E.]. Brill, 1992. 489 pp. n.p.1. Thomas Thompson has written a remarkable book. There have been a great number of books published over the past ten years dealing with the emergence ofAncient Israel, including N. P. Lemche, Early Israel (Leiden, 1985), R. B. Coote and K. W. Whitelam, The Emergence ofEarly Israel in Historical Perspective (Sheffield, 1987), G. Garbini, History and Ideology in Ancient Israel (London, 1988), W. G. Dever, Recent Archaeological Discoveries and Biblical Research (Seattle, 1990), and the posthumously published magnu,m opus by Gosta Ahlstrom on ,The History ofAncientPalestine , from the Palaeolithic Period to Alexander's Conquest (Sheffield, 1993). Thompson draws upon and evaluates all of these works (he even had access to the manuscript of Ahlstrom's book), but he has also written a book distinctively his own, quite unlike any other study of Ancient Israel published to date. All of the books listed here make extensive use of archaeological evidence , but that by Dever is the only one written by a field archaeologist, by a producer of archaeological evidence, not just a consumer. This is an important point, for it is the wealth of new archaeological evidence published within the past twenty-five years that has transformed every9ne's understanding of the history of Ancient Israel. With this has developed a much more sophisticated methodology for evaluating this evidence. Gone for good is the rather simple-minded approach associated with W. F. Albright and the Ameri~anSchool ofBiblical Archaeology, an approach that often degenerated into trying to prove that "the Bible was right after all." But what is going to replace the "Conquest Hypothesis" and who is in the best position to provide the necessary synthesis of the written and archaeological sources? Dever would argue that only the field archaeologist is able to evaluate the complex, often unpublished archaeological evidence, now more and more likely to be survey evidence. Lemche and Thompson would maintain that trainin'g in the evaluation of literary traditions must take precedence, Of all the new literature on Ancient Israel known to me the study by Thompson is the most interesting. It certainly is going to be the most controversial. Thompson is a' radical scholar. He is also an uncompromis- 116 SHOFAR Spring 1994 Vol. 12, No.3 ing scholar, prepared to follow his argument to its logical conclusion regardless of cost. Very few scholars are truly going to like the Early History of the Israelite People; no one can afford to ignore the work. AcceptingThompson's interpretation is going to make necessary a dramatic revision in our understanding of biblical history and biblical archaeology. In a short review I cannot possible evaluate Thompson's arguments. At best I can give some idea of the general thrust of his ideas. In approaching this dense, closely written book the reader would be well advised to begin with chapter nine, the final chapter, where Thompson summarizes his arguments and reveals the grand design implicit in all the previous chapters. This might take away some of the ·fun in reading the book, but it will make that reading a more comprehensible experience. Thompson proposes that the Israel of the biblical tradition can be traced back no earlier than the Persian period, the time of Cyrus the Great and the book of Ezra. Before then the kingdom of Samaria, in the northern part of Palestine, had a limited existence before being obliterated by Assyria in the late eighth century BCE, whereas Judah, in the south, and its capital Jerusalem, flourished during the seventh century only to be wiped out by Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians in the early sixth. Those who returned from exile in Babylonia were greeted with less than enthusiasm by those who had remained in the land (cf. Ezra 4-6), but the intellectuals who returned, imbued with the new ideas of the Persian Renaissance, were able to impose upon the people of Palestine their 'conception of an Israel united under the worship of Yahweh. All oral traditions and memories of what had gone before were worked together in...


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