Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous
BBR 9:1 (1999) p. 297
The Origins of the Ancient Israelite States. By Volkmar Fritz and Philip R. Davies, eds. JSOTSup 228. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1996. 219 pp. ISBN 1-85075-629-5.
This diverse collection of essays began life as a conference sponsored by the German Protestant Institute of Archaeology. However, the reader is informed that not all of the participants contributed to the volume; not even all of those invited attended. This is immediately evident from the first paper, that of T. L. Thompson (“Historiography of Ancient Palestine and Early Jewish Historiography: W. G. Dever and the Not So New Biblical Archaeology”), who attacks his opponent for being behind the times, using faulty methodology, and failing to adequately minimalize the use of the biblical sources. The editors have divided the collection into three parts: method, society, and sources. The first part has two essays, Thompson’s and a completely different approach by B. Halpern (“The Construction of the Davidic State: An Exercise in Historiography”). Halpern uses the texts of 2 Samuel and 1 Kings as historical sources. He applies interpretive principles gained from Assyrian annals dating as early as the twelfth century bc. He concludes that a careful reading of the biblical text does not require a United Kingdom that extended very far north but that the biblical author used contemporary literary techniques to give the impression of a greater northward expansion. Halpern affirms (unlike Thompson) a tenth-century Israelite state on the basis of the archaeological existence of administrative centers such as Megiddo. This site has no provision for many domestic quarters within its gates, nor was there any apparent hinterland population. Thus its existence bears witness to control by a larger state within the area.
Part 2 of the book, Society, includes three essays. The first, by C. Schafer-Lichtenberger (“Sociological and Biblical Views of the Early State”), uses the sociological model of Classen, Cohen, and Skalnik to argue that the description of the biblical text regarding Saul’s rule coincides with the first stage of an “early state” (an incohative state). David’s kingdom agrees with either the second stage (a typical early state) or the third and final stage (a transitional state). Having encompassed analysis of twenty societies around the world, this model can claim greater comprehensiveness than studies of one or two societies that are sometimes used in sociological descriptions of biblical texts. N. P. Lemche (“From Patronage Society to Patronage Society”) argues that Late Bronze Age Palestine was a collection of patronage societies, as was the system that was reestablished in the tenth century bc. Yet this does not address the appe...
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