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Who Were the Early Israelites and Where Did They Come From? [Paperback]

By William G. Dever (Author)
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Item description for Who Were the Early Israelites and Where Did They Come From? by William G. Dever...

A respected archaeologist's engaging, revealing take on ancient Israel. A thorough yet readable examination of a much-debated subject -- of relevance also to the current Israeli-Palestinian situation -- this book is sure to reinvigorate discussion of the origins of ancient Israel.

Publishers Description
A respected archaeologist's engaging, revealing take on ancient Israel For centuries the Western tradition has traced its origins back to ancient Israel. But recently some historians and archaeologists have questioned the historical truth of Israel as it is described in biblical literature. Are the biblical accounts of Israel's origins, the memorable stories of the Exodus and Conquest, "historical" at all in the modern sense? This fascinating book by leading authority William Dever examines the controversies and the archaeological evidence behind the well-known Bible stories. Writing for general readers but dealing with very real problems in biblical studies, Dever rejects both the revisionists who characterize biblical literature as "pious propaganda" and the conservatives who are afraid to even question its factuality. Through his exhaustive examination of the archaeological evidence, he instead seeks to approach the biblical text and the external data with no preconceptions, singling out where the two lines of evidence converge. A thorough yet readable examination of a much-debated subject -- of relevance also to the current Israeli-Palestinian situation -- this book is sure to reinvigorate discussion of the origins of ancient Israel.

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company
Pages   280
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9.13" Width: 6.06" Height: 0.7"
Weight:   0.85 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Mar 31, 2006
ISBN  0802844162  
ISBN13  9780802844163  

Availability  0 units.

More About William G. Dever

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! William G. Dever is professor emeritus of Near Eastern archaeology and anthropology at the University of Arizona in Tucson. He has served as director of the Nelson Glueck School of Biblical Archaeology in Jerusalem, as director of the W. F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research in Jerusalem, and as a visiting professor at universities around the world. He has spent thirty years conducting archaeological excavations in the Near East, resulting in a large body of award-winning fieldwork.

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > History > Ancient > General
2Books > Subjects > History > Middle East > Israel
3Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Reference > Bible Study > General
4Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Reference > Old Testament > Old Testament

Christian Product Categories
Books > Bible Study > General Studies > Biblical Archeology

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Reviews - What do customers think about Who Were the Early Israelites and Where Did They Come From??

Hodegpodge  Mar 28, 2007
Read at least one other book close to this subject first--The Bible Unearthed by Silberman and Finkelstein is a good choice--since this could be subtitled "A reply to Finkelstein." After Dever's movie review (he says Yul Brynner was better than Charlton Heston) there comes a host of detail, mixed confusingly with a reviews of the literature from other archeologists, many of whom are cited at length but with little context to make it clear why any of it matters. Dever finally warms up to a complicated theory about the origins of the Israelites that may be true but doesn't have much support, and is a little hard to distinguish from Finkelstein. There are also a few divergences into, for example, possible origins of Moses the man, or natural explanations for the plagues in Egypt, and several other biblical references.

There are lots of maps, drawings, pictures and tables, but not much explanation of them; he seems to assume they are self-explanatory. As he says, "Virtually everyone is familiar with the basic outlines of the biblical story" so he doesn't bother to tell it. Dever admits to dashing off this text, and it shows. This is one of those books that desperately needs editing.

Finkelstein insists that the scientific results must hold sway over the biblical text, while Dever claims to give them equal weight; in fact the two scientists end up rather close together. Dever is responding to Finkelstein's glibness, saying "Hey! Not so fast!" and does offer some balance to the facile Silberman and Finkelstein treatment.
Who Were the Early Israelites?  Nov 10, 2006
Very interesting dicussion of the subject but neither maps nor diagrams were satisfactory to the lay reader who has only scanty biblical knowledge. I was disappointed that the era covered did not stretch back to the origins of the Semite peoples and/or evidence of the Abraham story.
Entertaining and enlightening  Jul 31, 2006
In a field where back biting is the rule and many scholars simply dismiss the writing of their opponents out of hand, William Dever stands out for his careful critiques of the theories of those with whom he disagrees. As with his other works, Prof. Dever engages in a point by point refutation of those who differ from his positions. At the same time, as in previous works, he reveals the political/ideological motivations of many other scholars.

Doubtless, many readers will wish to see this as a political work, but in fact Professor Dever's theory, that the Israelite tribes evolved from displaced Canaanites who merged with other marginal groups would please few ideologues. Perhaps that is because his primary interest remains constructing a cogent theory that fits with the available data? Of particular note, Professor Dever does an excellent job synthesizing anthropological and archeological evidence to craft his thesis.

In a few places professor Dever does fall short. While he does a good job demonstrating how Biblical and archeological data do and don't mesh, his textual analysis on issues such as the bible writers knowledge of Egyptian names seems occasionally lacking. Still, his easy writing style and crisp prose offer an enlightening and entertaining read for those interested in the subject. Those of an ideological bent may find much in this book to upset them, but those seeking knowledge will be glad they picked it up.
Appreciate the Data  May 14, 2006
This book is appreciable because it tries to maintain a middle ground between secular minimalists and Biblical "true believers." It is very polemic, bashing other scholars and their theories, which in some ways detracts from the book, but the presentation of archaeological data is the primary reason it's a good read.

The best observations Devin makes in the book: 1.The Stele of Merneptah and archaeology corroborate the real existence of Proto-Israel in the late 13th century; 2.the Biblical books of Joshua and Judges have two conflicting stories of how Israel came about, and Judges is much more likely to be true.

But the thesis, ie - that the Israelites were Canaanites, seems only plausible. The possibility of Shasu and/or Ephraimite Yahweh worshipers living as nomads in the hill country of Canaan before the archaeological record becomes apparent in the late 13th century - this possibility alone makes Devin's thesis only one of many very plausible theories.
What's the point, Bill?  May 1, 2006
In this cleverly titled book by veteran archaeologist William Dever, we are presented with a novel theory for Israelite origins. Dever spends the first two thirds of his work on building up the introduction. This isn't necessarily bad, if the payoff is big at the end. Indeed, he surveys many of the most important sites around Canaan, introducing us to the history and culture of this region and different schools of thought regarding Israelite origins before progressing to a solid and sustained critique of Finkelstein's nomad-sedentarization model. The problem with the book, however, begins with the final third, where Dever enthusiastically describes his theory, which basically holds that the "proto-Israelites" were in fact sedentarized Canaanites who fled to the hill-country in the wake of the general late-Bronze Age collapse. Although the first part of the book, which served as the build-up, consisted of discussions of archaeological sites and critiques based on lack of evidence, Dever introduces his theory (which takes up a measly eleven pages) with an up-front admission that it also lacks evidence! "My theory, is speculative, of course; and like Medelhall's and Gottwald's peasant revolt it has little direct archaeological evidence to support it." (179) "Nevetheless," Dever assures us, "this scenario is quite realistic". (ibid) Thanks! Now one has to wade through the rest of his discussion knowing in advance that it lacks evidence. But wait a minute, didn't Dever just spend a hundred pages attacking other archaeologists because their theories lacked evidence? One can buy into his theory or not, that's not the point. It's more about how little we really know about the origins of Israel outside the biblical record, which when rejected, creates a vacuum that can be filled with any "realistic" and "scholarly" sounding theory. If you buy this book, use it for the archaeological survey and critique of Finkelstein. Just remember to continue Dever's critique onto himself!

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