“The Wiley Blackwell Companion to Ancient Israel” edited by Susan Niditch (Part 2 of 3)

WileyBlackwellSusan Niditch (editor). The Wiley Blackwell Companion to Ancient Israel. Malden, MA: Wiley Blackwell, 2016, 567 pp., $195.00 (hardcover).

*I’d like to express my gratitude to Wiley Blackwell for providing me with a review copy in exchange for my honest opinion. Additionally, primarily due to the many contributors and secondarily the lengthy nature of this work, I will be posting the complete review through three blog posts. Click here for Part I.

Part Two focuses on the political history of ancient Israel. Following this are succinct summaries of each article accompanied by any strengths or critiques.

After briefly tracing the history of Israel’s emergence in scholarship and the subjective nature of ethnicity with regard to archaeology, Avraham Faust (Professor of Archaeology at Bar-Ilan University) presents his analysis of ancient Israel’s ethnogenesis, analysis taken and updated from his book Israel’s Ethnogenesis (Equinox, 2006). While archaeology is certainty subjective, Faust’s thoughtful consideration of Israel’s ethnogenesis through archaeology provides a stable starting point for research about the origins of Israel’s political history.

Brad E. Kelle (Professort of Old Testament at Point Loma Nazarene University) considers the early monarchy, primarily focusing on the scholarship trends from the mid-1980s to the present. While he offers no innovations or additions to trends, he offer a well-balanced record of scholarship, presenting and critiquing trends like state formation theory. For study of the monarchy in ancient Israel and frameworks for interpreting it, Kelle’s work is a great place to begin.

J. J. M. Roberts (Princeton Theological Seminary’s W.H. Green Professor of Old Testament Literature Emeritus (retired)) illustrates the history of ancient Israel from the divided monarchy (922 BCE) up to the second capture of Jerusalem (586 BCE). His preliminary focus on how to read DtrH is especially important because it directly indicates how students should engage with the Bible as a source of history. Likewise, his presentation of ancient Israel from 922 BCE to 586 BCE is detailed – whilst concise – and provides an important framework for reading the Hebrew Bible historically.

Examining the Persian and Neo-Babylonian influence upon Israel, Charles E. Carter (Professor of Religion at Seton Hall University) suggests three strategies to studying the “exilic” period (territory, imperial context, settlement and position), refocuses on the presence of Judaean cities along with their economic and social situations, and discusses the socio-religious reforms. Highlighted throughout his article is the importance of avoiding terms such as “exilic” and “postexilic”, which he claims “accepts the would-be dominant gola ideology. Terms such as Neo-Babylonian and Persians… are more accurate” (236). While I agree that “exilic” potentially subscribes to gola ideology, Neo-Babylonian and Persian accept the dominance of imperial rule. Thus, his suggestion for different terminology in these period is important in recognizing inherent ideological bias. It is also problematic, as any terms selected for representing the period will carry some sort of ideological baggage – in his case imperial ideological baggage. .

Matthew J. Goff (Associate Professor in the Department of Religion at Florida State University) discusses the Hellenistic Period, focusing on the broader advent of Hellenism up to Jewish Apocalypticism. Unlike many treatment which consider ancient Israel, Goff’s treatment is unique and fantastic for students because it illustrates Jewish Hellenism as a progressive cultural exchange and development in the midst of the greater movement of Hellenism. Essentially, he does not overemphasize how Jewish thought was influenced; rather, echoing the approach of Martin Hengel, he focuses on social influence through political, socioeconomic, cultural, and religious factors. Consequently, his illustration of Hellenism in Judea and the Diaspora communities is filled out, highlighting how Hellenism propelled forward and interacted with Judaean and Diaspora ideas through social, cultural, religious, and economic factors.

*Part III will be posted 1/15/2016. Also, if you enjoyed what your read, please follow or subscribe to my blog for more reviews and musings about biblical literature.

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