Reviews -- By: Anonymous
TrinJ 1:2 (Fall 1980) p. 237
The Tribes of Yahweh, by Norman K. Gottwald. Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 1979. 916 pages. $19.95, paper.
Ever since George Mendenhall’s bold counter-hypothesis to the prevailing settlement theories (“The Hebrew Conquest of Palestine,” BA 25  66-87 [repr. in E. F. Campbell, Jr. and D. N. Freedman, eds., BAR 3 (1970) 100-20]; cf. “Social Organization in Early Israel,” Magnalia Dei: The Mighty Acts of God (F. M. Cross, W. E. Lemke, and P. D. Miller, Jr., eds.; Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1976] 132-51)-according to which what is generally designated as the biblical “conquest” was in fact the reaction of an oppressed segment of Palestine’s autochthonic population who, for religious reasons, willingly withdrew from all societal obligations and, in a manner reminiscent of the Great German Peasant’s Revolt, established for themselves a counter sociopolitical system, revolving around the axis of Yahweh’s covenant the so-called “sociological model” for the conquest has awaited systematic and comprehensive delineation. Norman Gottwald’s valiant attempt to rectify this deficiency should be warmly welcomed and heartily applauded, as this massive tome in all likelihood will constitute the definitive expression of the “revolt model” for the balance of the twentieth century.
The volume itself embodies a complex of eight concerns. (1) Gottwald devotes an initial chapter to the defense of a concern which, in the end, is endemic to the whole of his thinking: earliest Israel emerged as a socio-religious entity; only when and to the degree that biblical scholars come to recognize the compatibility of biblical history and biblical sociology and gainfully employ the methods and conclusions of the social sciences will they be able to find their way out of the current historical morass, in which there exists a number of competing theories that seek to explain the origins of Israel. Alternatively, the coherence of historical and sociological approaches to Old Testament studies presents the biblical scholar with the possibility of coming to a fresh, yet comprehensive, understanding of nascent Israel.
(2) Attempting in chapters II-IV to ascertain the proper starting point for reconstructing Israel’s earliest solidarity, Gottwald engages in a painstaking literary- and form-critical study of Old Testament sources, paying especially close attention to sociologically relevant data. He supplies a detailed list of historical sources and provides a general assessment of problems inherent in utilizing such a compendium of sources. His discussion culminates in a thesis already formulated by both Noth and yon Rad: the seminal notion of a genuinely unified Israel is first recognizable in the premonarchical period; alleged ap...
Click here to subscribe