Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous
ATJ 23 (1991) p. 85
Robert B. Coote, Early Israel: A New Horizon Fortress Press: Minneapolis 1990, pp. 197 + ix.
Robert Coote, author and co-author of numerous works of late concerning the early history of Israel, has written a book which is an expansion of an earlier work (The Bible’s First History, 1989, with D. Ord). His purpose is to summarize the latest developments concerning the study of early Israel. The text, which has few detailed notes, is intended for beginning students of the history of Israel. Israel, according to Coote, was not unique, but had cultural and political similarities with other groups in Palestine. He wrongly tends to deemphasize Israel’s religious nature, overcompensating for what has lacked in earlier works.
The origins of Israel are not shrouded in mystery, according to Coote, but are part of a process involving political relations that existed in ancient Palestine (p. 2). Early Israel was a fluid political organization, with sheikhs, clients, and laboring constituents. He does not accept the biblical account of the conquest of the highlands, nor does he agree with recent theories concerning a movement of disparate nomads into the hills, merging gradually into a tribal league, nor with the idea of a peasant revolution. What actually occurred, according to Coote, is not another alternative, but a shift in research designs. Recent scholarship is concerned with viewing Israelite origins in the context of Palestinian (used as a geographic term in this review) politics of the late first millennium B.C. While many may not agree with his ideas, they must admire the significance of this shift; historians are now grappling with understanding ancient Israel, not simply theologians or linguistic experts, who have been short-sighted in their views. Since Coote believes that the Scriptures say nothing about Israel’s origins, he thus does not include a discussion of the periods of the Patriarchs, the Exodus, or the Conquest. For Coote, they never happened. To add them to a history of Israel would be a grave disservice. He begins with Egyptian rule, Philistine domination of the lowlands, and the rise of the Israelite monarchy in this context (c. 1200-1000 B.C.)
Coote has thus come up with eight premises which comprise the chapters of the book: 1. The Israelites, who were indigenous to Palestine, were a tribal organization which was used by the Egyptian state in order to extract taxes. When this system was abused, the tribes would oppose state interference. 2. Since the time of Thutmose III (c. 1490–1435), the Egyptians had established a network of garrison cities with mercenaries. Within a century, migrants and displaced persons who were in the area became a formidable force with which the Egyptians had to reckon. 3. However, this disrupted the socia...
Click here to subscribe