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The Natural History of the Bible: An Environmental Exploration of the Hebrew Scriptures [Hardcover]

By Daniel J. Hillel (Author)
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Item description for The Natural History of the Bible: An Environmental Exploration of the Hebrew Scriptures by Daniel J. Hillel...

Traversing river valleys, steppes, deserts, rain-fed forests, farmlands, and seacoasts, the early Israelites experienced all the contrasting ecological domains of the ancient Near East. As they grew from a nomadic clan to become a nation-state in Canaan, they interacted with indigenous societies of the region, absorbed selective elements of their cultures, and integrated them into a radically new culture of their own. Daniel Hillel reveals the interplay between the culture of the Israelites and the environments within which it evolved. More than just affecting their material existence, the region's ecology influenced their views of creation and the creator, their conception of humanity's role on Earth, their own distinctive identity and destiny, and their ethics.

In "The Natural History of the Bible," Hillel shows how the eclectic experiences of the Israelites shaped their perception of the overarching unity governing nature's varied manifestations. Where other societies idolized disparate and capricious forces of nature, the Israelites discerned essential harmony and higher moral purpose. Inspired by visionary prophets, they looked to a singular, omnipresent, omnipotent force of nature mandating justice and compassion in human affairs. Monotheism was promoted as state policy and centralized in the Temple of Jerusalem. After it was destroyed and the people were exiled, a collection of scrolls distilling the nation's memories and spiritual quest served as the focus of faith in its stead.

A prominent environmental scientist who surveyed Israel's land and water resources and has worked on agricultural development projects throughout the region, Daniel Hillel is a uniquely qualified expert on the natural history of the lands of the Bible. Combining his scientific work with a passionate, life-long study of the Bible, Hillel offers new perspectives on biblical views of the environment and the origin of ethical monotheism as an outgrowth of the Israelites' internalized experiences.

Citations And Professional Reviews
The Natural History of the Bible: An Environmental Exploration of the Hebrew Scriptures by Daniel J. Hillel has been reviewed by professional book reviewers and journalists at the following establishments -

  • Univ PR Books for Public Libry - 01/01/2006 page 1
  • Publishers Weekly - 09/12/2005 page 63
  • Library Journal - 11/01/2005 page 82

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Columbia University Press
Pages   376
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9.45" Width: 6.26" Height: 0.99"
Weight:   1.35 lbs.
Binding  Hardcover
Release Date   Dec 7, 2005
Publisher   Columbia University Press
Age  22
ISBN  0231133626  
ISBN13  9780231133623  

Availability  0 units.

More About Daniel J. Hillel

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Daniel Hillel is professor emeritus of environmental studies, University of Massachusetts, and senior research scientist, Center for Climate Systems Research, Columbia University. He is the author or editor of more than twenty books, including Negev: Land, Water, and Life in a Desert Enviornment; Out of the Earth: Civilization and the Life of the Soil; and Rivers of Eden: The Struggle for Water and the Quest for Peace in the Middle East. He is the 2012 World Food Prize Laureate.

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Outdoors & Nature > Ecology
2Books > Subjects > Outdoors & Nature > Environment > Ecology
3Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Reference > Commentaries > General
4Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Reference > Concordances
5Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Reference > Criticism & Interpretation > General
6Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Reference > General
7Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Reference > Old Testament > Old Testament
8Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Reference > Old Testament
10Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Judaism > General
11Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Judaism > Sacred Writings > Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) > Criticism & Interpretation
12Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Judaism > Sacred Writings > Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) > Study
13Books > Subjects > Science > Biological Sciences > Biology > General
14Books > Subjects > Science > Biological Sciences > Biology
15Books > Subjects > Science > Nature & Ecology > General

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Reviews - What do customers think about The Natural History of the Bible: An Environmental Exploration of the Hebrew Scriptures?

Looks like a gem so far  Dec 12, 2007
I just received this book, but already its looking like it will be one of those rare gems of biblical writing where I get to make up my own mind rather than the author polluting the topic with his/her own dogma. It is very hard to find a book that is balanced in the genre of religion. Apparently, this author is Jewish, which will be a nice change since most authors on the Abrahamic linage I come across seem to be Christian. I follow the Teaching of Jesus personally, but really enjoy other perspectives besides the same old fiat that gives no critical eye to any of the Bible's history. Yep, I have high hopes for this book. Not many of these around. Even if you are a dyed in the wool traditionalist, you will enjoy the read. I doubt this man will offend you, you'll just dismiss anything that disagrees with your 'rightness' on the subject and move on.
A New Look at an Old Book: A Biblical Journey  Apr 22, 2007
I have been writing to many of my friends urging them to read this very special book. Why? I'm awed by the sheer volume and depth and density of its material. The sidebars and notes are an education in themselves. Daniel Hillel takes his readers on a journey through Jewish history, the Hebrew Bible and across the land of Israel - and what an enlightening tour guide he is!

On a personal level, this book has given me one more way to explore and view Jewish history and my own beliefs. I did a small bit of serious studies ages ago, when I was in my teens, but there was a long lapse until I picked it up a few years back. It's becoming increasingly important to me and I'm grateful for everything that helps me in a search to find some intelligent sense in my Jewish universe.

What else do I like so much about Daniel Hillel's book? That he explores and explains the meaning of words. His appreciation of women. And the beauty of his language. I was especially moved by the passages on the "land of your fathers" and the spirit of the desert.

I hope that this book will generate interest in reading the Bible from an environmental perspective. I think that it deserves to be seen as an important reference in the field of biblical studies.
Ecology and Culture  Mar 20, 2007
The more I reflect on this exceptional work, the more I am convinced that it represents a new paradigm for understanding the Bible. Not only does it persuasively link every symbol,linguistic nuance, holiday cycle, calendric change and moments of social evolution to the transit of the Israelites across the successive ecosystems they experienced, but most dramatically, even the central core of Israelite belief, monotheism, becomes an inevitable outcome of this passage. Given the need for an all-powerful force that will guarantee rainfall, prevent drought and the scourge of crop failure and protect as well from the assault of invaders, a utilitarian agreement is struck. Strict adherence to a table of personal and social behavior in exchange for divine protection. Every lapse in the agreement is, ipso facto, the failure of the human partner to fulfill his obligation--a concept that remains the core of orthodox belief. Every page, every footnote is rich in material, all relevant, a great deal surprising in the connections which are elaborated among language, cultures and environment. Indeed, one can already foresee a second edition, more generous in format, which permits a less demanding scrutiny of the wonderful illustrations and diagrams which abound.

In summary, a tour de force without knowlege of which every student of the Bible and the cultural world which derives from it cannot feel complete.

Haim Gunner, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus, Environmental Sciences
University of Massachusetts
The Landscape of God  Feb 2, 2007
This is a masterful book about the Landscape that wrote the Bible. As someone who has read passages from it every night for over a decade, I found it illuminating. Who wrote the Old Testament? What were they experiencing? Why is it, no matter where we are - desert, sea, forest, pastor - we can always find passages that continue to connect us with the land?
Reading the Bible with Fresh Eyes  Sep 12, 2006
Reading The Natural History of the Bible is like taking a trip to one of the most fascinating regions on the planet with a world class environmental scientist as your guide. Seeing the biblical landscape through Daniel Hillel's eyes allows you to notice aspects of the text that you've probably ignored regardless of how much time you've spent with the Hebrew Scriptures. Far from being unimportant background features, Hillel makes a strong case that that the succession of diverse habitats in which the ancient Israelites found themselves helped shape the development of their commitment to monotheism. In addition to a sharp eye for the details of the biblical landscape, the author has an ear for the language of the Bible that many trained linguists would envy. Hillel presents not only a fresh reading of ancient texts, but a passionate pleading for surrendering the widely held but dangerously simplistic view that blames our present environmental crisis on the Bible--i.e. on God's instruction to Adam and Eve that they, and their descendents "subdue" the earth. Hillel concludes that "using the Bible to justify or even to explain the abuse of the nature is an abuse of the Bible." If you're looking for an eminently readable book that will transform your understanding of the Bible and the natural world this is it.

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