Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 54:2 (Fall 1992)
Article: Book Reviews
Author: Anonymous

Book Reviews

David A. Dorsey: The Roads and Highways of Ancient Israel. (ASOR Library of Biblical and Near Eastern Archaeology.) Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991. 288. $39.95.

David Dorsey teaches Hebrew Bible at Evangelical School of Theology, Myerstown, Pennsylvania; this volume is a revision of the author’s Ph.D. dissertation (Dropsie, 1981) under the supervision of Anson F. Rainey.

There is an extraordinary amount of material in the Hebrew Bible that describes the travels of individuals, families, tribes, and armies. In spite of the abundance of such material, a synthesis of the literary and archaeological data to assess the various facets of travel in Iron Age Israel has not been available. In his initial chapter Dorsey describes the physical features of roads, road construction, maintenance, passes, fords, bridges, ferries, inns, modes of transportation, average traveling speeds, the effects of weather on transportation, and the practices for naming roads in ancient Israel. The chapter integrates a vast array of data in ways that will enhance understanding of daily life in the Iron Age for any scholar or casual reader of the Bible.

Dorsey’s main objective, however, is to reconstruct the road network of Israel in the Iron Age. Dorsey describes his methodology in the second chapter. He seeks to integrate historical and literary evidence from the Bible and extrabiblical texts with information drawn from Iron Age settlement distributions, the constraints of the physical terrain, and known later routes in order to depict the network of roads linking the towns and cities of Israel and her neighbors. In light of the fact that there are no clearly identifiable physical remains of roads from the OT period, the task was a formidable one.

The third chapter is devoted to describing the international coastal highway and its alternate branches. Chaps. 4–10 describe roads in various more narrow locales. A helpful appendix (pp. 211-44) investigates the philological and literary data regarding the meaning of the various terms for roads in the Hebrew Bible. An extensive bibliography is followed by indexes to biblical passages and sites named.

Maps are obviously important for a volume like this. The front and back end papers contain maps of the road network in southern and northern Israel respectively. Fifteen additional maps in the text treat smaller areas of specific concern. While the maps are plentiful and helpful, they basically consist of sites connected by lines. It would have been a significant improvement for the volume if the maps had also included topographical detail, although it is not difficult for the reader to transfer the data to some other map.

Doubtless, specialists w...

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