A Denver Journal Book Review
An Update on Major People Groups of the Old Testament and Ancient Israel: A Review Article of The World Around the Old Testament: The Peoples and Places of the Ancient Near East
Arnold, Bill T. and Brent A. Strawn eds. The World Around the Old Testament: The Peoples and Places of the Ancient Near East. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2016. Hardback, xxvii+531 pp. ISBN 9780801039188. $49.95.
This volume provides a 21st century version of the earlier Peoples of Old Testament Times and Peoples of the Old Testament World, published in the 1973 and 1994 respectively. Like the present work, the editors of each of these previous works chose outstanding experts in the respective fields that they addressed. The editors’ introduction suggests that in the current work each chapter will provide a general overview of the area described, a history of the relevant people(s) during the ancient Near Eastern periods, a study of the ancient arts and culture of the people or place, and its relevance to the Old Testament and Israel. They justify omitting a chapter on Canaan(ites) because Israel is (in) Canaan and this is a study of the peoples surrounding them.
The first chapter, “The Amorites,” by Daniel E. Fleming reviews some of the past study of this people of Mesopotamia from the late third and second millennia BC. Amorites lived east of the Tigris as well as west of it (near Jebel Bishri) when they fought against the kings of Ur and other Sumerian cities. They functioned as mobile pastoralists but could be integrated with settled populations. They were not of a single tribe or ethnic identity. From Mari (18th century BC) through the Late Bronze Age (1550-1200 BC) the land of Amurru (of the Amorites) could be found in the mountains between the Mediterranean Coast and the Orontes River Valley. Mari texts attest to the language of Amorite although there are none that are written in that language. From these texts, Fleming identifies the pastoralist Hana people with the Amorites. In the Bible the Amorites are found east of the Jordan (Deuteronomy 2-3), among the kings of the southern coalition in Joshua 10, and in the highlands west of the Jordan (Numbers 13:29). In both Bible and cuneiform sources they appear associated with pastoralists in various highland and steppe settings, sometimes becoming the highland populations themselves. At Mari, correspondence describes how five tribes of the southern coalition (Binu Yamina, same name as biblical Benjamin) entered into a formal agreement at the city of Harran, known in Genesis. An early literary narrative, known as “The Marriage of Martu,” denigrates pastoralists as eating forbidden food, always moving, wearing skins, living in tents in the highlands, gnawing on raw meat, and having no houses or burials. Fleming considers the ‘apiru as mentioned in the Amarna correspondence of the 14th century BC. He suggests that they are seen as a coherent population outside of the control of local rulers. They may live in remote, highland areas. The ‘apiru prism of King Tunip-Tessup names 438 warriors who fought together in the upper Tirgris in the late 17th century. Fleming might also mention the ‘apiu of the 15th/14th centuries BC inscriptions from Alalakh. King Idrimi lives among them for a while before becoming ruler (much like David) and then he integrates members of this group into the government of Alalakh, as seen in the administrative texts. This would reinforce Fleming’s conclusions that the ‘apiru were not without social order, and even suggest that at times they could have a “fixed town of residence.” Fleming concludes with some observations regarding the tribal nature of the society and the comparative societal (and geographical and linguistic) elements among the Arameans.
Chapter 2, “Assyria and the Assyrians,” is described (uniquely in the book) as written by “Christopher B. Hays with Peter Machinist.” It is by far the longest chapter in the book, two or three times longer than other chapters. A brief review of the history of the discovery of Assyria, its sites and archaeology, and its text and their translation, follows. There is nothing here on the 21st century. Assyria’s heartland lay in the upper Tigris River area, around and between where the Upper Zab and Lower Zab rivers join that main river. These rivers and plentiful rainfall provided for agriculture to a much larger extent than did the regions of Babylon and Sumer farther south. Some eighteen pages are devoted to a review of the history of Assyria. The earliest period includes the great figures of Sargon I and of Naram-Sin, who ruled in the Old Akkadian period of the 24th and 23rd centuries. The Old Assyrian period saw the rise of Shamshi-Adad I c. 1800 BC. However, this period is best attested by the texts found at the Old Assyrian trading colony of Kanesh (Turkish Kültepe). The Middle Assyrian period included the notable Assur-uballit I (1363-1328 BC), who wrested the eastern part of Mitanni into Assyrian control. Many Middle Assyrian period texts attest to details related to the administration of the state. The Middle Assyrian collection of laws reflected a greater militarism than the Code of Hammurabi. After the decline of Middle Assyria in the early eleventh century, the late tenth and early ninth centuries saw the rise of the Neo-Assyrian period, most significantly under Assurnasirpal II (883-859 BC) who extended the kingdom to the Taurus mountains in the north and to the Euphrates in the west. He received tribute as far south as Tyre. The Assyrians received “tribute” from their vassals, which the authors correctly describe as a euphemism for something like a mafia protection racket. Shalmaneser III in 853 BC faced twelve western kings, who included Ahab and his contribution of 10,000 footsoldiers and 2,000 chariots, more chariots than any other king. That battle was not a victory for the Assyrian king, but by 841 BC his Black Obelisk was able to portray Jehu, then king of Israel, as bringing tribute and kneeling before him. There followed a period where Assyria had little to do with the Western states. About a century later, Tiglath-pileser III (744-727) arose as king and re-established power over Babylon to the south and Urartu to the north. He came against the west and Menahem of Israel in 738 BC, extracting a thousand talents of silver as tribute from Israel. The following decade led to an anti-Assyrian movement joined by Pekah of Israel and Rezin of Damascus. Damascus became an Assyrian province and Pekah was replaced by Hoshea from 734-731 BC. Shalmaneser V and then Sargon II sacked Samaria c. 722 BC and deported more than 27,000 Israelites. During this period and the decade that followed Judah actually profited from increased trade that the Assyrians promoted. The rise of Sennacherib (705-681 BC) in Assyria and of Hezekiah in Judah led to war in 701 BC. Joined by six and more allies, the king of Judah was attacked by Sennacherib. He claims to have destroyed 46 cities in Judah and deported some 200,150 people, no doubt an exaggerated number. There is no clear reason for why Sennacherib did not attack and destroy Hezekiah, rather than apparently accepting tribute and departing. Esarhaddon followed his father Sennacherib, who was murdered by the older brother who had been passed over in the line of succession. Esarhaddon conquered part of Egypt and mentions the Judean king Manasseh whom he summoned to bring building supplied for a palace at Nineveh. Esarhaddon’s vassal treaties, eight found with powers in the east and one found the temple at Tell Tayinat, sought to guarantee the succession for his son, Ashurbanipal. The latter continued to fight in Egypt but did not take the whole country. While Ashurbanipal may have died in 631 there is no record of Assyrian presence in the west after 645 BC. King Josiah’s rule in Judah led to a major reform following his discovery of the book of the law c. 622 BC, identified with a form of Deuteronomy. The authors note how this has been connected with anti-Assyrian propaganda, where love and faithfulness was directed to God instead of similar language found in loyalty oaths directed to the king of Assyria. In this and their attempts to parallel the Deuteronomy curses with Neo-Assyrian treaty curses (especially of Esarhaddon), they make important points but do not address the similarities with the Hittite language noted by Markus Zehnder and others. By 614 the Medes joined the Babylonians in pushing back Assyria, capturing Nineveh two years later. Holdouts of the army in the west are last mentioned in the Babylonian Chronicle of 609 BC. Hays and Machinist provide helpful overviews of the Assyrian military (and their planting of administrative forts such as the one at Ramat Rahel near Jerusalem), uses of propaganda, mass deportations (following Oded’s count of 157 such deportations in the Neo-Assyrian period), the economy (with the production of barley, corn, wheat, and sheep), the religion (with its diversity of official relationships with each province and vassal state and its kispu funerary ritual), the ideology of kingship, and the wall reliefs and colossal sculptures as well as other examples of art. Hays and Machinist conclude that Judean scribes knew at least some Akkadian (e.g., the eighty likely Akkadian loanwords in Hebrew). Especially important parallels are made with the siege of Sennarcherib and the treaty/covenant parallels (both noted above), as well as the temple building accounts of eleventh century BC Assyrian kings such as Tiglath-pileser I which most closely parallel the account of Solomon in 1 Kings 5-9.
Chapter 3, “Babylon and the Babylonians,” moves chronologically through the major periods of Babylonian history. The first section traces the emergence of the Old Babylonian dynasty to about a century after the fall of Ur III and the end of a significant Sumerian civilization. Cataloging the achievements of Hammurabi the greatest king of the Old Babylonian period Vandenhooft devotes some time to the monarch’s law code, which became a standard practice text in later years. While helpfully separating the common cultural influence theory of Raymond Westbrook from the direct influence theory of David Wright to explain how the Covenant Code of Exodus relates to the earlier work Hammurabi, no mention is made of Bronze Age fragments of Hammurabi-like laws found at Hazor and the potential impact on their theories and on the age of the Covenant Code. The Kassite period, the longest one in Babylon’s recorded history, begins in 1595 BC with destruction of Babylon by the Hittite king Mursili I. While not Semitic (unlike the West Semitic Old Babylonian dynasty of Hammurabi), the Kassites copied and preserved the literary culture of the earlier period. With the general collapse of ancient Near Eastern civilization c. 1200 BC, the Babylonians were also weakened by Arameans, Assyrians, and Elamites. Nebuchadnezzar I (1125-1104) was the most significant figure in fighting the Elamites and re-establishing an independent Babylonian kingdom. Some (e.g., Wlifrid Lambert) hypothesized that the Enuma Elish creation story and Marduk’s prominence in it date from this time. The theory that it influenced an autumn New Year’s festival in Israel remains speculation. The eleventh century BC havoc wreaked by Arameans and Suteans may be related to the emergence of the Poem of Erra, in which Erra brings violence against Babylon. Vandenhooft notes that the first mention of kaldu (Chaldean) occurs in the ninth century BC. This is no longer true. The first attested occurrence of Chaldee (kal-de) is in a Middle Assyrian text of c. 1100 BC ("A Cylinder Inscription of Aššur-ketta-lēšir II," vol. 1 pp. 309-40 in "Now It Happened in Those Days. Studies in Biblical, Assyrian, and Ancient Near Eastern Historiography Presented to Mordechai Cogan [eds. A. Baruchi-Unna, T. Forti, S. Aḥituv, I. Ephʿal, and J. H. Tigay. 2 Volumes. Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 2017], TR 109 line 6, p. 316, cf. pp. 321, 331-34; I thank K. Lawson Younger, Jr., for this reference). The Babylon guerilla leader (biblical) Merodach baladan fought against Sargon II and Sennacherib and for a time created an independent kingdom of Babylon in the late eighth century BC. The Neo-Babylonian empire began with Nabopolassar (625-605 BC). He liberated the city from Assyria. His son Nebuchadnezzar continued the war against Assyria and Egypt with their defeat in 605 BC at Carchemish. This king reconstructed and expanded Babylon with its remarkable temple and ziggurat. The Akitu festival celebrated Marduk’s supremacy and the legitimacy of the king who ruled from Babylon. The destruction of Judah in 586 and the exile of the Judeans are attributed to Nebuchadnezzar. Vandenhooft notes the al-Yahudu city in Babylonia populated by exiled Judeans and the cuneiform records from that site. They attest to Judean assimilation of Babylonian writing and its legal culture. He records the end of Babylonian rule when Cyrus’ Persians appear at the gates of Babylon in 539 BC. Vandenhooft finds connections with Babylonian culture and texts in Genesis 1-11, in the story of Abram departing from the region of Babylonia, and in the laws of the Covenant Code already mentioned. This is a judicious selection and evaluation of significant aspects of Babylonian history and culture.
Chapter 4, “Ugarit and the Ugaritians,” by Mark S. Smith concerns the role of this city. Introducing the chapter with a discussion of the location, discovery, and extra-Ugarit witness to the city-state, Smith provides an overview of Ugarit’s history. He then works through a survey of the religion and various texts of Ugarit, providing cultural comparisons of all sorts with a variety of Old Testament texts. The author provides a host of comparative references, especially between the religious texts and the Bible. Unlike some who seek to use comparative material to either “prove” or (more frequently) “disprove” the Bible, Smith notes the relationships and allows the readers to investigate further and make their own judgments. For example, Smith’s summary of the Baal Cycle (KTU 1.1-1.6) includes mention of the divine council (1 Kings 22:19-23), the chief God as commissioner in that council (Isaiah 6), Kothar’s prediction of Baal’s victory (Psalms 92:10; 145:13), the cosmic battle against “Sea” (Psalms 74:13; 89:9-11; Isaiah 51:9-11), Anat’s war and its blood and gore (Lamentations 1:15; Joel 3:13; Revelation 14:14-20; Judges 8:1-2), her cannibalistic feast and the biblical “ban” (Joshua 7:1), Baal’s thunderous voice (Psalm 29), Baal’s defeat of Leviathan the 7-headed dragon (Job 3:8; 7:12; 41:1; Psalms 74:14; Isaiah 27:1), the battle against death (Isaiah 25:8; Revelation 21:4), and the manner in which the major episodes of the Baal cycle are paralleled (Revelation 21:1-4). While I might have preferred to go beyond the myth and religious texts to see some mention of the treaty border descriptions and the name lists (both people and places) and their relation to biblical texts in Joshua, 1 Kings 4, and elsewhere, this is now the best summary of identified themes, particulars, and general observations between Ugarit (especially Ugaritic) and the Bible.
Joel M. LeMon’s “Egypt and the Egyptians” treats at length the political history of Egypt. He begins with the expulsion of the Hyksos (c. 1550 BC) and the rise of New Kingdom Egypt. While briefly reviewing theories about ties between the W. Semitic Hyksos and the Israelite exodus, he remains agnostic here and in his concluding remarks concerning the historicity of the biblical event of the exodus. Likewise, no attempt is made to equate Akhenaten’s “monotheism” with Israelite belief in a single deity. LeMon handles well his brief survey of the Amarna period (both within Egypt and in Canaan) and the battles with the Sea Peoples in the next period. The following Ramesside period saw the building of the Piramesse, which LeMon notes should be identified with the Ramesses of Genesis 47:11 and Exodus 1:11; 12:37. Merenptah’s rule and mention of Israel as a people group c. 1209 BC is followed by general loss of political control over Palestine. This gives way to the Third Intermediate Period where sporadic but historical connections with Israel take place: Shisheonq I and Jeroboam (as well as his attack on Jerusalem c. 925 BC), Taharqo and Hezekiah, and Nekau II and Josiah (as well as the pharaoh’s installation of Jehoiakim). LeMon’s section on Egypt and Israel includes some important iconographic images from ancient Canaan, especially the Late Bronze Age ivory plaque from Megiddo. His observations on Psalm 2 and 110 demonstrate some similar imagery from Egypt, but might also allow for some influences from elsewhere.
Billie Jean Collins writes ch. 6 on “The Hittites and the Hurrians.” This is overall an excellent resource, especially for the Hittites, that deserves a detailed review. A significant part of the chapter is devoted to a chronological review of the Hittite Empire, followed by the same for the surviving Neo-Hittite states. After the Old Assyrian trading colony at Kanesh departed from Anatolia c. 1725, it was only a short while later that Huzziya and his son Labarna ruled in Anatolia. In c. 1650 BC Labarna’s son Hattusili I became king. He established the capital at Hattusa and expanded the Old Kingdom of the Hittites beyond the Euphrates. He may have brought the cuneiform writing system to the Hittites and introduced this form of record keeping. Alalakh and other Syrian sites were conquered in his reign as well as that of his grandson Mursili I. The latter sacked Babylon c. 1595 BC. The lack of clear lines of dynastic succession led to infighting until Telipinu (c. 1525-1500 BC) established such rules. He also concluded the first known international treaty among the Hittites (with Kizzuwatna). In the following years the rise of the Mittanian state spread its Hurrian culture over what is today northern Syria. Hurrian names appeared among the royal family. The Hittite power deteriorated until the rise of Suppiluliuma I (c. 1350-1322 BC). This Hittite king re-established the Hittite empire. He moved south and east, ending the Mittanian kingdom and bringing most of it under his control. In a period of weakness, Egypt’s queen (a widow) sent a message offering to marry and to place a Hittite prince on its throne. However, the prince was murdered before reaching Egypt. Suppiluliuma took vengeance by capturing cities and Egyptian troops at the northern edge of the Egyptian New Kingdom’s area of influence. The Egyptian prisoners who came back to Hattusa were blamed for introducing a plague that ravaged the land for two decades. Suppiluliuma’s son Mursili II became king in 1321 and withstood threats against the Hittites coming from all directions. His successor and son, Muwatalli II, restored Alaksandu to his throne at Wilusa (Troy) in the west and moved his own capital to Tarhuntassa. He fought pharaoh Ramesses II (c. 1279-1213) at Qadesh and pursued the Egyptian troops south into their New Kingdom empire lands. A few years later Muwatalli died and his son, Mursili III became king, returning the capital to Hattusa. He also battled his uncle, Hattusili III, in a civil war. The Apology of Hattusili was written to justify his usurpation and to guarantee the line of succession through Hattusili and his son. The king established treaties with Amurru, Babylon, and Egypt; the latter in 1259 BC with Ramesses II. The pharaoh’s guarantee to recognize Hattusili’s heir has no comparable stipulation on the Egyptian side. This was followed thirteen years later by sending a Hittite princess to marry the pharaoh. Hattusili’s son, Tudhaliya, focused on restoring the cult and, through this, reasserting his political power. C. 1207 Suppiluliuma II became ruler in a period of increasingly bad harvests and lack of food throughout his kingdom. Food supplies were sent from Ramesses II and also requested from the king of Ugarit, who would obtain the grain from the neighboring kingdom of Mukish. As the empire became to collapse and peasants fled their villages to seek food, land and sea migration of these “Sea Peoples” began. Collins attributes much of this to central and western Anatolian conditions and the tradition of raiders along the southern coast. Sea Peoples may also have originated in other Aegean areas due to similar climate conditions. Hattusa was abandoned and finally burnt, probably by the Kaska, in the early twelfth century BC. A historical interest existed throughout the period of the Hittites and gave rise to a variety of historiographic documents. In addition, myths from Anatolian as well as Hurrian sources played a significant role in the songs and rituals of the Hittites. Collins correctly identifies the Hittite Law Code as a “working document,” rather than as propaganda (as probably were the Laws of Hammurabi). Many of the areas of the southern and eastern parts of the Hittite empire developed as separate Neo-Hittite states in the following centuries. Some, such as Carchemish, were unaffected by the Sea Peoples insofar as they retained their royal dynasty that reached back to Suppiluliuma I’s son. In Syria some smaller kingdoms flourished. Taita of the eleventh century BC, called king of Palistin, ruled an area including Aleppo, Hamath, and Ta’yinat. These various states never united politically and eventually succumbed to the westward advance of the Neo-Assyrian empire. Collins has two pages on the Hittites and the Bible. She recognizes the literary form of the Apology of Hattusilis as a model for the biblical story of David’s rise to kingship. The mention of Hittites and Hittite cities in Joshua and 1 and 2 Kings likely refer to the Neo-Hittite states. The mention of the Hittites among the lists of Canaanite nations to be destroyed in the Pentateuch and elsewhere suggests a few theories that Collins rehearses. She seems to side with the view that this is a Neo-Assyrian topos borrowed in the first millennium BC as the “other” or the “enemy.” While possible this gives too little credit to the presence of Anatolian, Hurrian, and other names of rulers in southern Canaan during the Amarna period. This suggests a cultural influence and possibly some people movement into this area that could have been present at the time of the arrival and emergence of Israel.
K. Lawson Younger’s ch. 7, “Aram and the Arameans,” enables the leading expert of Aramean history (cf. his A Political History of the Arameans: From Their Origins to the End of Their Polities [SBL, 2016]) to provide a brief but essential epitome of the subject. Younger begins with a review of ideas of nomadism as described in the past decades. He concludes by noting the increasing complexity of the scholarly understanding of the subject. According to Younger, the name and origins of Aram and the Arameans are uncertain. The earliest mention of Aram occurs in a toponym list of Amenhotep III in the early 14th century BC. Ahlamu is identified the with Arameans in the inscriptions of Tiglath-pileser I. The earliest occurrence of Ahlamu occurs in the Old Babylonian period. Younger has helpfully divided his study of the Arameans into three major geographic and cultural entities: north Syria and the Neo-Hittite/Luwian polities, Assyria and the region between the Tigris and Euphrates (Aram Naharaim), and the south Levantine region closest to ancient Israel. In reviewing the history, Younger addresses the well-known problem of 1 Kings 20 and 22 in which Ahab’s Damascus contemporary is Ben-Hadad while the Inscriptions of Shalmaneser III (Kurkh monolith) list the leader of Damascus as Adad-idri. Younger notes the possibility that these names identify the same person and that remains as likely an explanation as any. In the Tel Dan stele the usurper Hazael refers to “his father” as a previous king; but that seems unlikely in any literal sense, given both Assyrian and biblical accounts of Hazael as a usurper. Younger refers to Lemaire who notes that the term “father” was used at this time by kings to claim legitimacy, even where that did not exist. Further, if Jehu assassinated Joran and Ahaziah, why does the Tel Dan stele suggest that Hazael did this? Perhaps Hazael was taking credit for something he was not personally involved in. Younger discusses the role of Rezin in the Syro-Ephraimite war and the ultimate defeat and death of the Damascus king by Tiglath-pileser III in 732. With this defeat the independence of the Levantine Aramean states largely ended. Some observations regarding Aramean culture conclude this very useful survey.
Chapter 8, “Phoenician and the Phoenicians,” is written by Christopher A. Rollston. The author introduces the subject with a few Classical testimonies of Phoenicians as maritime, as makers of purple dye, and as those who introduced the alphabet to Greece. Developing the latter, the legendary bringer of this technology, Cadmus, is understood either as a nickname (“Easterner”) or as a pure fictional construct out of a vague memory of its eastern origins. This second option falls in line with Rollston’s preferred suspicious reading of all Classical (and biblical) sources that he demonstrates. He does, however, tend to accept Assyrian sources at face value, without providing evidence. The nineteen pages devoted to Phoenician grammar and the paleography of some of the major texts reflect Rollston’s special interest in this subject and provide a far longer and more detailed discussion than any other chapter in a volume on the world around the Old Testament. The last fifteen pages of the chapter combine written sources, including a generally sympathetic treatment of the Solomonic witness of 1 Kings, to provide a useful survey of what can be known regarding the history of the Phoenician coastal cities, especially Tyre and Sidon, throughout the Iron Age and the Persian periods.
Joel S. Burnett discusses “Transjordan: The Ammonites, Moabites, and Edomites,” in ch. 9. After the traditional geographical divisions following the major east-west wadis that cut through the plateau to empty into the Jordan River and the Dead Sea, Burnett reviews the walled settlements that occupied the northern part of the region in the Middle Bronze Age and their mention in the 18th century Egyptian Execration texts, to their continuation into the Late Bronze Age. Whether the route through northern Transjordan preserved in the topographic lists of Egyptian pharaoh Amenophis III (c. 1450 BC) or the mention of Pella, Ashtaroth, and other Amarna sites a century later, by the thirteenth century BC Egyptian stelae and texts provide explicit references to Moab, Edom, and Seir. Burnett then moves from the north to the south examining each polity individually. The line of fortified settlements with Amman in the middle and the greater rainfall in this region made the Ammonites a strong agrarian society promoting land ownership and “stable kinship bonds” (p. 315). The result was the designation of this people as the “children of Ammon” or as the “house of Ammon,” in contrast to Moab and Edom where this type of description does not appear. In Iron Age II Burnett observes the close (even kinship) relations between Ammon and David and his successors. Ammon’s loyalty to Assyria, like that of Moab and Edom, won them prestige during the 8th and 7th centuries, as did the subsequent weakening of this superpower; although only for a time. Jeremiah 49:6 and the prediction of restored fortunes for Ammon is connected by Burnett with the archaeological record of Tall Umaeiri and its evidence for a strong economy and no destruction. Moab is mentioned first in the thirteenth century BC by Ramessses II, as are references to Dibon and Butartu. With its control of the Arnon (Mujib) wadi, the region of Moab saw a dramatic increase in settlement both north and south of the wadi due to the sedentariztion of nomadic peoples. This occurred in the Iron Age I, with quick settlement and gradual abandonment. The threat of the Judean monarchy, beginning with David, saw its response in the rise of a Moabite state. Although Mesha does not mention Moab, his development of a state around his hometown city of Dibon is recorded in the Mesha stele. As Isaiah 15-16 and Jeremiah 48 suggest, the late eighth century BC saw the expansion of Moab’s northern border up to the Ammonite state at Jalul. Seir and its corresponding name, Edom, appear in Egyptian Late Bronze Age texts. The area was populated by pastoral nomads who lived in tents and developed kin-based social solidarities. The collapse of Cyprus as a source of copper at the end of the Late Bronze saw the seasonal engagement of Edomites in the cooler fall and winter in the copper mines of Timna in the west and the Faynan region in the lowlands of Edom. This industry was interrupted during the late tenth century BC, perhaps due to pharaoh Sheshonq I’s invasion. The fortress there was subsequently reorganized and expanded. Burnett relates this to David’s subduing of Edom and placement of garrisons in the region. Like Moab, the Iron Age II saw the development of a unified state as a mirror image to Judah in order to combat their enemy to the north and west. Burnett notes an increasing Edomite presence in the Negev of the late seventh and sixth centuries BC. He recounts how Ezekiel 35, Psalm 137, and Obadiah 11-14 suggest the role of Edom in the attack and destruction of Judah by the Babylonians. Nabonidus records his capture of the town of “Edom” and perhaps his annexation of the state as a whole. The remainder of the chapter provides a helpful review of some of the important inscriptional (and seal) finds, the monumental basalt sculpture, and the evidence for Milcom and Qaus as well as other deities in Transjordan. Among the religious evidence is the interesting terracotta bull statue from Iron II found in the temple at Khirbet Ataruz (biblical Atarot?), east of the Dead Sea. All in all, this is an important and useful summary of the biblical and extrabiblical evidence.
Carl Ehrlich contributes ch. 10, “Philistia and the Philistines,” to the volume. This is an important review of the biblical accounts, the ancient Near Eastern textual accounts (especially Assyrian and Egyptian), and the archaeological evidence from the Philistine sites. While covering the early period, this chapter devotes more attention than many studies to the region in the Iron II period. One can trace the varied fortunes of the sites as evidenced from their strata and from the Neo-Assyrian records of Tiglath-pileser III and later sovereigns. Except for a footnote little attention is given to evidence for Philistines or Sea Peoples in the region of Hamath, Aleppo, and Tell Tayinat. But then that might fall outside the world around the Bible.
Pierre Briant’s “Persia and the Persians” provides the eleventh chapter. This is not a recounting of the history of Persian emperors. It is a review of the administrative and cultural aspects of the empire. The chapter is bracketed by Briant’s rejection of earlier historiography that privileged the Greeks at the expense of the Persians. Far from barbarians, the empire had a stable dynasty, endowed by the god Ahura Mazda with justice, building skills (for the great palaces and tombs at Persepolis as well as Susa and Pasargadae), an imperial state that recognized and worked with administrative and religious particularities of each region, and storehouses to feed workers in Persia. Mention is made of the Elephantine Jews and their rule by the satrap of Egypt rather than by the governors of Judea and Samaria. The art of Persia combined influences of the many nations it governed and reached beyond the empire (e.g., the image of a Persian rider in a cave engraving near Tayma in Arabia). When conquered by Alexander in a series of battles, the Persians were not a degenerate empire, but rather continuing to exercise a control largely accepted by their citizens.
In a lengthy chapter, David F. Graf considers “Arabia and the Arabians.” The term first appears in cuneiform literature in a list of countries opposing Shalmaneser III in 853 BC. Among these is a Gindibu from the land of Arabia with one hundred camels. Arabs recur in the eighth century BC Assyrian documents. In South Arabia the first occurrence of Arab as a term used by Arabs takes place in a seventh century BC inscription. In North Arabia Graf notes more than four hundred texts (mostly brief graffiti) while South Arabia preserves more than seventeen thousand inscriptions. Graf divides his discussion into the three major settled areas of Arabia: Northeast, Northwest, and South. Northeast Arabia is focused on the ancient tradition of Dilmun, known from Mesopotamian sources. First associated with the island of Tarut, the name moved to identify Bahrain. The latter preserves some 200,000 tumuli dating between 2200 BC and the Parthian period. Little is known about where the dead originated. There is a Greek tradition that Tyre and other Phoenician coastal cities were first populated by people from the Arabian Gulf. Graf finds support for this in the mention of Dilmun and Mari and Ebla in their texts describing trade. Northwest Arabia is centered around the city of Qurayya, with its distinctive pottery that includes Aegean motifs of birds, spirals, and chevrons. Sennacherib’s conquest of Dumah and the region in 703 BC lists 81 walled towns and 820 other settlements. Tayma, one of the largest archaeological sites in Arabia, is mentioned in a Luwian tablet from Carchemish in Iron Age I. However, its main claim to fame is as the home of the Neo-Babylonian king Nabonidus for a decade (c. 552-542 BC). Although the true reason for the king’s sojourn is a matter of dispute, he seems to have introduced the Aramaic script and the Aramaic pantheon. South Arabia includes several tribes and sites, especially Saba with its capital at Marib. Although most of the inscriptions traditionally date from the mid-first millennium BC and later, several excavations have revealed pottery sherds with writing dating between 1200 and 900 BC. While Assyrian texts attest to eighth century BC South Arabian caravans, the seventh century include lengthy texts that suggest Sabaean control reached Eritrea. The Mineans were major traders whose fourth century BC “lists of foreign women” attest to colonies or presence in Egypt, Gaza, Ammon, Moab, Sidon, and Greece. Graf discusses the four Genesis genealogies that identify places in the Arabian world (10:6-7, 26-30; 25:1-4, 12-16). He finds their historical context in the 8th through 5th centuries BC. The account of the Queen of Sheba’s visit to Solomon in 1 Kings 10 and 2 Chronicles 9 finds parallels in trade and travel along this route c. 600 BC. Graf finds more problematic the absence of queen as rulers in the earlier period. Nevertheless, little is attested from as early as the tenth century BC and Graf allows the possibility for the existence of South Arabian queens at the time (p. 462). He concludes with some observations on the trade routes described in Ezekiel 27:12-25. Graf’s chapter is one of the better ones in the book for competently and cautiously discussing an important area that is not well known to most biblical scholars.
Walter Burkert provides a helpful overview of “Greece and the Greeks” for the final chapter (13) of the book. He suggests there was a common culture in the Eastern Mediterranean during the second half of the second millennium BC. He also presents the intriguing connections between the Hittite mention of king Alaksandus of Wilusa and Alexander and Ilios, while recognizing the chronological problems in trying to connect these to the Homeric traditions. Burkert touches on trade, the introduction of the alphabet, and the Neo-Assyrian cuneiform inscriptions in Cyprus and Cilicia as well as their 738 BC (first) mention of Ionia. The traditional first Olympiad of 776 BC and the c. 814 BC founding of Carthage, as well as the development of metallurgy, marble sculpture, and ceramics attest to the presence of easterners in the Greek worlds. Burkert find the development of the Homeric epics in the eighth or (more likely, for him) the seventh century BC to parallel the library of King Assurbanipal and literary similarities with Akkadian epics (an interesting observation that the author does not pursue). By 600 BC Greeks were establishing trading centers in Egypt and serving in the court of the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar. To the west Greek experts in marbles and bronze settled in Italy, as Greek and Roman gods became syncretized. The Persian king Cyrus inaugurated the Persian empire in the west with the overthrow of Lydia and the establishment of Persian rule at Sardis. Burkert regards Ezra and Nehemiah as contradictory at points but as all attesting to the authority of the Persian king. The Persian satrap funded the completion of the building of the marble temple of Artemis at Ephesus. With the Persian King Xerxes (486-465 BC) battles led to the temporary withdrawal of Persian influence in Greece and the rise of the dominance of Athens there. Art, poetry, drama, comedy, and philosophy flourished in the middle and later fifth century, assisted by the wide spread appearance of literacy. At the same time the inner Greek Peloponnesian wars raged from 431 until the end of the century. The reliefs of the Persian capital of Persepolis were made by Greeks while others served at royal doctors. In 334 BC Alexander of Macedon led the Greek armies into Persia. By the time he died in 324 he controlled an empire from Greece to India. The empire was divided among his generals. Burkert accepts the tradition that the library of Alexandria was begun by King Ptolemy I before his death in 283 BC. Great strides in science were accompanied by the Punic Wars of Rome in the third century BC. While Rome gradually dominated the eastern Mediterranean world of Greece, Greece influenced and transformed the culture of Rome. The emergence of the Septuagint, of the book Daniel, and of the figure of Herod the Great provide examples of the influence of Greek culture in the last three centuries before the turn of the era.
This collection of chapters is fascinating and useful for understanding the overall significance of the various peoples portrayed here and for appreciating who they were in the overall picture of Israel’s history. Having found in useful in teaching a graduate course on Israel’s history (in conjunction with B. Arnold and R. Hess eds., Ancient Israel’s History: An Introduction to Issues and Sources I [Grand Rapids: Baker, 2014]), I highly recommend the book as an entry point into the world of ancient Israel.
Richard S. Hess, PhD
Distinguished Professor of Old Testament and Semitic Languages