Israelite History

My program is primarily a (dead) language program, but everyone in the department has to take a series of three history courses early on in 1) Syro-Palestine/Hittite History, 2)Egyptian History, and 3) Mesopotamian History. Those are the only history classes I’ve taken.

Most of my exams are language related, but I have a half-exam in Syro-Palestinian history, which means primarily Israelite history during the period of 1200-300, but also the history of Syria (Ebla, Alalakh, etc.) prior to that, as well as the relevant history of other civilizations that play a role there (ie. the Neo-Assyrians and Babylonians.)

For those interested, this is my book list to prepare from for this half-exam. Some of the books were just for particular sections, others are primarily reference books, and the technicality varies.

  • The Amarna Letters, by William Moran. Electronic edition.- The Amarna letters are a series of letters written back and forth between the kings of Egypt, Babylon, Assyria, Mitanni, Hatti (ie. the Hittites), etc., as well as between Egypt and its Canaanite vassals. Contains a historical introduction, translations and notes.
  • The Context of Scripture, ed. William Hallo. electronic edition. – Contains translations and notes of various ANE texts that pertain in some way to the Hebrew Bible, including myths, ritual, historical documents, etc. This collection supersedes that of Pritchard, Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament.
  • A History of Ancient Israel and Judah, Miller and Hayes. – A good balanced and informed history of Israel and Judah. The authors are critical but not minimalist, and present multiple ways of interpreting evidence for and against different events and periods.
  • Ancient Israel: From Abraham to the Roman Destruction of the Temple, ed. Hershel Shanks. (Electronic edition included with BAR Archive– This volume, put together by the editor of Biblical Archaeology Review and Bible Review is less technical and a good introduction to the historical issues involved. Each chapter is written by a different scholar, and then was revised by someone else for the 2nd edition. (You can get it for $20 from the publisher, but I’m not sure if this is the 2nd ed. or not.)
  • The Oxford History of the Biblical World, ed. Michael Coogan. This is another good entry-level volume frequently used in college courses.
  • Syria 3000 to 300 B.C.: A Handbook of Political History, by Horst Klengel. This book pulls together all the textual sources for history of Syria in a terse and frequently impenetrable fashion. It’s more of a reference book, but one can simply read the historical summary in each chapter instead of plowing through all his references.
  • Donald Redford. Israel, Egypt, and Canaan in Ancient Times.
  • Civilizations of the Ancient Near East, ed. Jack Sasson. This is an excellent series that serves both scholarly and non-scholarly interests. Each volume contains essays devoted to a particular aspect of a particular civilization- cultural, religious, historical, political, linguistic, etc. One of my profs quipped that if you read (and internalized) this series alone, you could probably pass just about any non-language exam in the department. May it be so πŸ™‚

6 thoughts on “Israelite History

  1. One of my profs quipped that if you read (and internalized) this series alone, you could probably pass just about any non-language exam in the department.

    Yeah, that would be great. Except it’s two huge volumes’ worth of stuff! Ben, if this is really what Chicago expects, then I weep for you man! (Mind you, what a genius you’ll end up being in the long run.)

    Hey, that electronic version of Context of Scripture looks cool. It would be great to own that….

  2. Wow. How thorough does your study of this material need to be in order to be prepared for the exam? Is it expected that you will have been absorbing this material over the last several years? I’m impressed.

  3. Ben, I subscribe to BAR. As you probably know, Shanks is involved in a huge controversy within the Biblical archeology community regarding the James Ossuary. I’ve been following it on the pages of BAR, and there’s no sign it will end anytime soon. Good luck on your exams!

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