Current Discussions of History in the Bible and in Archaeology: A Review Article of The Old Testament in Archaeology and History
A Denver Journal Review Article by Denver Seminary Professor Dr. Richard S. Hess
Ebeling, Jennie, J. Edward Wright, Mark Elliott, and Paul V. M. Flesher eds. The Old Testament in Archaeology and History. Waco: Baylor University Press, 2017. Hardback, xxxv+650 pp. ISBN 9781481307390. $59.95.
This work is the product of eighteen contributors including the four editors. The purpose of the book is to rectify a perceived absence of the critical use of archaeology and the Old Testament “to develop for its introductory readers a historical understanding of the ancient Israelites as they were, in all their achievements and failures” (p. 4). It therefore seeks to serve as a textbook that uses the fruits of Syro-Palestinian archaeology and the academic study of history, specifically ancient Near Eastern history. The editors recognize that the views of the contributors will not represent a unity. The purpose of this essay will be to reflect on each of this essay is to reflect on each of the essays, to note the important historical and archaeological observations, and to annotate these studies in specific points as well as discussions of method.
The first chapter (Gary P. Arbino, “Introduction to the Geography and Archaeology of the Ancient Near East”) provides an excellent geographical and topographical context for the book by outlining the larger Middle East as well as the specific regions and features of Israel, Judah, and transjordan. The author also provides a kind of abbreviated course in archaeological methods and techniques as used in the southern Levant. The strengths and limitations of archaeology for historical interpretation are also briefly mentioned. As with every chapter, a paragraph or two at the end provide an annotated guide for further reading in the subject area.
Chapter 2 (M. Elliott and P. V. M. Flesher, “Introduction to the Old Testament and Its Character as Historical Evidence”) surveys the manuscripts and books of the Old Testament at the beginning. The text turns to consider the canon, arguing that its formation is late. Aside from the diverse Qumran biblical texts (which do not mention the subject of canon beyond the reference to the common threefold division in 4QMMT fragment 10), the only evidence deduced is the mention of a debate regarding the status of the Song of Songs and Qohelet in M. Yadayim 3:5, usually dated to the end of the second century. However, this text does not indicate the extent of the dispute (that took place earlier); and it affirms at the beginning and end of the paragraph that these two books were fully recognized as canonical. After reviewing the ancient translations and editions of the Old Testament, various forms of critical study are discussed. These trace the last century and a half. The focus is on Pentateuchal criticism, especially the documentary hypothesis and the recent neo-documentarians. Sweeping generalizations reject or ignore any view that critiques this approach. For example, the linguistic evidence for the broad dating of biblical Hebrew into Classical and Late (as well as Early) is dismissed as “a long way from reaching a consensus” (p. 72). This ignores the twenty-two scholars connected with universities around the world who affirmed various techniques and approaches for this sort of dating in Diachrony in Biblical Hebrew (Cynthia Miller-Naudé and Ziony Zevit eds., Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 2012). On p. 74 we learn that “Conservatives often maintained that no scholar was worthy of undertaking an investigation of Holy Writ until there was some acknowledgement of its divine qualities and its inerrant nature.” The authors feel no need to provide documented evidence for this statement. On p. 75 the clear mention of “Israel” in the Egyptian Merneptah stele, dating the existence of Israel as a people group in the land of southern Canaan at the end of the thirteenth century BC, is followed at the bottom of the same page by the what the authors regard as the “incisive” statement of S. R. Driver that “archaeology has not confirmed any ‘single fact’ recorded in the Hebrew Bible prior to the tenth century BCE.” Yet the books of Joshua and Judges would place Israel in the land by the late thirteenth century BC, in agreement with the Merneptah stele. One could go on here with further comments about the final pages of the chapters and problematic statements. Certainly, there is value in the literary study of the documentary hypothesis. However, there are serious disagreements among serious Bible scholars. To ignore these by calling one side names and praising the other side with unsubstantiated generalizations does little to advance the argument or provide a useful textbook.
Chapters 3 and 4 (Victor H. Matthews, “The West’s Rediscovery of the Holy Land” and Rachel Hallote “’Bible Lands Archaeology’ and ‘Biblical Archaeology’ in the Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries”) provide a fine survey of the early antiquarian and collecting interests of explorers as well as the gradual development of the archaeological and geographical study of the ancient Near East and of Palestine. Along the way the decipherment and importance of the Egyptian and Akkadian languages and texts are discussed. Hallote’s piece ends with the founding of the British, German, French, and American schools in Jerusalem and their early work in the Holy Land.
William G. Dever’s essay, “A Critique of Biblical Archaeology: History and Interpretation,” is a noteworthy contribution to the volume. In contrast to chapters 1 and 2, as well as ones that follow Dever, one finds here a well-balanced and appreciative approach to key figures in this area and their methods. Although providing special focus on American and indigenous (mostly Israeli) archaeologists, Dever is much more aware of the larger philosophical (e.g., processural archaeology) and political (e.g., intifada) contexts that seem not to have been addressed by other chapters in this book engaging the last thirty years of the history of the discipline. The chapter also reads as background and perhaps advertising for Dever’s own recent volume, Beyond the Texts: An Archaeological Portrait of Ancient Israel and Judah.
The second part of the book, consisting of four chapters, considers “Israel before Settling in the Land.” The first of these, by K. L. Noll (“In the Beginning, Archaeologically Speaking: Archaeology to the Bronze Ages in Canaan” – the subtitle seems odd), begins with a discussion of the opening chapters of Genesis that, along with most of the Old Testament, is best understood as “secular folklore.” Noll cites only the work of Thomas L. Thompson to demonstrate his assertions of contradictions in Genesis 1-3, as well as later chapters. Alternative explanations (or even the majority readings of the Classical Hebrew in these texts) are ignored and thus the work takes on an idiosyncratic perspective that it retains whenever discussing Bible. Noll has helpful surveys of early hominids and their development (“mitochondrial Eve” is not mentioned) and his own perspectives on the influence of Late Bronze Age West Semitic rituals on ceremonial texts in Exodus and Leviticus. For Noll these literary texts made their way from Canaan to Mesopotamia where they were preserved and encountered by Israelite scribes five hundred or a thousand years later (in the mid-first millennium BC). There is no textual evidence to support this circuitous route. Nor is there evidence for the view that any “religious” texts in the Bible were the preserve of elites who used them for their own interests and did not make them known to the Israelite public. This and other interpretations of the biblical text do not address any objections but are presented as fact. While there is literary influence, biblical literature knows nothing of the second millennium BC, according to Noll, because it does not mention pharaoh Merneptah or the Egyptian imperial presence in Canaan in the Late Bronze Age. Noll does not consider my “Joshua and Egypt” (pp. 144-50 in Visions of Life in Biblical Times: Essays in Honor of Meir Lubetski, C. Cohen, C. Gottlieb, and M. Gruber eds. [Hebrew Bible Monographs, 76; Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix, 2015]). I point out that the presence of “Egypt” in Joshua is greater than its presence in the Amarna letters and other Late Bronze Age texts from southern Canaan. If this is evidence for the lack of historical awareness, then the Amarna letters cannot come from the Late Bronze Age world of Egypt’s New Kingdom empire; an absurd conclusion.
Jill Baker writes chapter 7, “Canaan and the Canaanites.” Reviewing some references to Canaan in the first half of the second millennium BC., Baker notes the original sense of the term in either “bow down” (Semitic) or “purple cloth” (Hurrian). The view that Canaan includes Ugarit and Transjordan runs counter to the borders as defined by biblical and Egyptian sources. (See R. Hess, “Occurrences of Canaan in Late Bronze Age Archives of the West Semitic World,” pp. 365-372 in Israel Oriental Studies 18: Past Links: Studies in the Languages and Cultures of the Ancient Near East, Sh. Izre’el, I. Singer, and R. Zadok eds. [Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 1998].) Neither include these two in the territory of Canaan. Texts from Ugarit distinguish people from Canaan from those of Ugarit. The use of Canaanites in the Bible portrays the people in a negative light. The section entitled “Historical Background” focuses on ecology, roads, and city-states; rather than on political history. Nevertheless, there is much of interest here and the following summary of Bronze Age settlement patterns is valuable. The same is true on the review of city planning, fortifications, gates, and public and private buildings. The useful discussion on political structures and religions at Ugarit might profit by comparisons with contemporary West Semitic Emar. Dothan should be added to the list of large Bronze Age burial sites. Regarding Baker’s statement that the Bible’s portrayal of the Canaanites was that of “a thoroughly uncivilized people,” this might be balanced by other biblical texts (R. Hess, “’Because of the Wickedness of These Nations’ (Deut 9:4-5): The Canaanites – Ethical or Not?” pp. 17-38 in For Our Good Always: Studies on the Message and Influence of Deuteronomy in Honor of Daniel I. Block, Jason S. DeRouchie, Jason Gile, and Kenneth J. Turner eds. [Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 2013]).
Mark Elliott and J. Edward Wright contribute chapter 8, “The Book of Genesis and Israel’s Ancestral Traditions.” This essay provides a survey of the contents of Genesis 12-50. It examines them with a variety of conclusions concerning the religion and historicity described here. While many issues are touched on, a few additional notes might be worthwhile considering. The chapter begins and ends asserting that Genesis 14:14 and similar texts demonstrate that Israel remembered its ancestors as worshipping the Canaanite god El. While it may be true that Yahweh was known as El before he was revealed as Yahweh, it is difficult to equate the El of Genesis 14 with the Ugaritic El or a reconstruction of what El “must” have meant. Its use as a title may be in play. A few additional notes are appropriate. Jacob’s stone pillars are explicitly memorials, not objects representing other deities (as in Deuteronomy 12:2-3). The tree that Abraham plants (an ’eshel) is identified with a different term from the Asherah pole forbidden in Deuteronomy 16:21. Contrary to Elliott and Wright, the term “Chaldeans” (in “Ur of the Chaldeans”) is increasingly unlikely to be anachronistic, as it is now attested in the twelfth century BC (see review of Becking’s ch. 19 below). While Amorites were more diffuse at the end of the third millennium than previously thought, Gimil-Sin did not build an “Amorite Wall” to resist drought and famine. The references to names such as Abram, Haran, and Serug prove nothing about dating. Many names include elements common throughout the second and first millennia BC. However, some forms, such as y-prefix names (Israel, Jacob, Isaac, Ishmael, Issachar), occur in sizeable numbers early in the second millennium BC as a large percentage of the recorded W. Semitic names. By the late second millennium BC this number dwindles and reduces to less than ten percent as the centuries progress. If one were to date the likeliest context for the relatively large percentage of such names in Genesis 12-36, it would be the early second millennium BC, not later. Camels appear in a Middle Bronze Age ceramic design from Alalakh with indication of bearing a load. They also appear as early as the third millennium BC in lexical texts (Martin Heide, “The Domestication of the Camel: Biological, Archaeological and Inscriptional Evidence from Mesopotamia, Israel and Arabia, and Literary Evidence from the Hebrew Bible,” Ugarit Forschungen 42 : 331-83). Gerar (Tel Haror) may be a small site in the Late Bronze Age (and later) but it is one of the largest sites in southern Canaan in the Middle Bronze Age (c. 40 acres), a traditional date for the stories of Genesis 20 and 26. The use of the term, “Philistine,” may be an updating of references to Aegean people in the region. Aegean culture is attested by Middle Bronze Age Cypriot pottery and Minoan-style handles. In Genesis 21:13 Beersheba is designated a “place,” not a “town.” The “town” Beersheba in 26:33 is mentioned in the context of its presence “to this day,” i.e., a later period than Abraham. The mention of Dan in Genesis 14:14 is no more surprising than the modern statement that “the Dutch settled New York” (rather than New Amsterdam). The reference to Ai in Genesis is not necessarily to an occupied town as the term, Ai, means “the Ruin.” As for early Arameans, the fourteenth century BC pharaoh Amenhotep III mentions “the one from Aram” as the name of a place in Syria. Tiglath-pileser I (c. 1100 BC) equates the Arameans with the Ahlamu (an older term). The Ahlamu appear as early as an 18th century BC (Middle Bronze Age) letter to Hammurabi. I could go on with, among other things, a discussion of the Hyksos (c. 1750-1550 BC) and the manner in which they provide a unique background for Joseph. However, this suffices to make the point that this chapter’s claims of contradiction and historical inaccuracy should be taken with a grain of salt.
Edward Wright, Mark Elliott, and Paul V. M. Flesher discuss “Israel In and Out of Egypt” in ch. 9. Once again, the writers (who are also the editors of this volume) give the reader two choices; either readers accept the editors’ reading of what “conservative” scholars think, or they accept that the text is riddled with contradictions and needs to be understood according to other scholars that the editors choose. Here I will try to contextualize a few statements that are made. The authors state that, one of the two main problems with finding anything historical in the biblical account is that the “exodus story itself seems written to avoid historical specificity” (the other problem is the lack of archaeological evidence). The evidence for this is that it “assigns no names to either pharaoh mentioned or to the pharaoh’s daughter who raised Moses.” A few pages later the authors note that “the book of Joshua’s stories of the conquest of Canaan never even presents the Egyptians as opponents in battle.” A critical reader might ask, How important is this to establish historicity? How often must the accounts mention the names of pharaohs and Egypt or the Egyptians? We have only one set of literature to compare this with, the 300+ letters from rulers of southern Canaan in the Amarna age in the mid-fourteenth century BC and cuneiform documents from Late Bronze Age southern Canaan. Although the genre is different, the letters certainly deal with current political and historical events. Among several hundred cuneiform documents there is no mention of the name of the pharaoh himself, despite most of these letters being written to the pharaoh. One must go north to Qatna to find the first mention of the name of pharaoh. There and in the international correspondence, pharaoh’s name does appear. Regarding “Egypt” or “Egyptian,” only six occurrences can be found in any Late Bronze Age documents from the area of Canaan around Tyre and to its south. This contrasts with the book of Joshua that mentions Egypt/Egyptian 18 times (see R. Hess, “Joshua and Egypt,” cited above, especially p. 149). By the standard of naming pharaohs and their country, the Amarna letters must be non-historical texts, certainly not from the time they purport to come. Of course, that is nonsense as is the “evidence” that the authors of ch. 9 use to decry the exodus account (and that of Joshua).
The authors summarize the exodus story and then describe the Documentary Hypothesis which enables them to state as a matter of fact that the exodus account was written down four centuries later. I believe that the Pentateuch contains literary strands similar to the documentary sources. It is, however, speculation that the exodus and other Pentateuchal accounts waited four centuries before “they began to be written down.” The authors provide a nice historical review of Late Bronze Age Egypt and the presence of Semites there. There is some note of the W. Semitic city of Tell ed-Dab’a in the eastern Delta and its association with Pi-Ramesses of the Egyptian records and Ramesses of Exodus 1:11. Wright, Elliott, and Flesher discuss the well-known possibility that the fourteenth century BC toponym, “the land of the Shasu of Yhw” may be the first mention of Israel’s Yahweh outside the Bible. The authors discuss theories regarding the identification of the Red Sea and of the route of the exodus. However, they do not accept any evidence of historical value. For them the “The exodus story thus presents a national theology of deliverance from slavery to freedom.” Why did the nation choose to begin its history as a nation of slaves? Who would invent such a national epic? The writers assume that Numbers 14 and 20 project Israel as resident at Qadesh Barnea for 40 years. However, verse 1 of ch. 20 begins with the preterite form of bw’, a verb normally translated as “enter” from somewhere else, not indicating an ongoing occupation. Finally, they argue that many of the sites mentioned in Israel’s wandering that can be identified, were not occupied in the Late Bronze Age (and thus did not exist at that time): Hebron, Arad, Hormah, Heshbon, Dibon, and the kingdoms of Edom and Moab. Names of sites can shift as, for example, Jericho which moved several miles between its OT and NT sites. Heshbon may not have been Tell Heshbon but nearby Late Bronze Age sites such as Tall al-‘Umeiri or Tall Jalul. Dibon is known as a conquered population center in a Late Bronze Age itinerary of Ramesses II (Egyptian tbn). The biblical texts purporting to come from the Late Bronze Age or Early Iron Age do not require the site to have people living at Hormah. It may simply be a place so called (“destruction”) due to events (such as battles) there; and there may have been more than one place called Hormah (Numbers 21:3; Judges 1:17). The same may be true of Arad or the site name may have been applied to nearby Tell Milá¸¥ (Tel Malá¸¥ata). Late Bronze Age pottery and tombs were found near Tell er-Rumeideh, the site ascribed to ancient Hebron. Edom was likely occupied (sedentary) early in the Iron Age, and perhaps earlier, beside the copper mines at or near Khirbet en-Nahas; rather than in the highlands as previously thought. Late Bronze Age towns have already been mentioned and additional ones have been identified by the Madeba Plains Project. This evidence for occupation, whether sedentary or mobile pastoralism, suggests that coalitions could exist, especially temporary ones for special needs. See the earlier example of Mari, where we have written documentation. Whether these were briefly expanded city-states or something more, they allow for the picture of these regions as preserved in the biblical text.
Chapter 10, by J. P. Dessel, “Looking for the Israelites: The Archaeological Evidence,” introduces a new section on early Israel’s emergence in Canaan in the late 13th and early 12th centuries BC. Dessel provides an excellent review of the dramatic demographic changes in the hill country and Galilee at the end of the 13th century, in the appearance of hundreds of small villages. He describes these, including the distinctive four-roomed house architecture and village planning, the wide use of the collar rim storage jars, and the terracing and other increased use of storage pits and plastered cisterns. These provide indications of people who may be Merneptah’s Israelites as identified on his Egyptian stele of c. 1208 BC. The Ebal site (while anomalous in terms of earlier religious shrines) and the Bull site may be an altar and a local ritual center (although the Ebal site cannot be identified as the altar of Joshua 8). Nevertheless, a diet devoid of pork (in contrast to the diet on the Philistine coast) comports with food regulations of the Hebrew Bible. Dessel also provides a readable summary and evaluation of the various theories of Israel’s appearance, dividing into two groups: Israelites coming from outside Canaan and those coming from inside Canaan. This is one of the more useful sections of this volume. I would just note that, while Albright may have been the first modern archaeologist to use the Conquest model, this had been the model of biblical historians for centuries before the advent of current archaeological explorations. The chapter suggests that archaeologists take a variety of views regarding the connections between the biblical accounts and archaeological evidence, a suggestion not found in the next chapter.
Chapter 11, by Paul V. M. Flesher, has the same main title as ch. 10, but the subtitle indicates the difference: “Looking for the Israelites: The Evidence of the Biblical Text.” This chapter incorporates the archaeological evidence of ch. 10 into the theory that the book of Joshua is largely the product of Deuteronomistic History writing; while the book of Judges demonstrates the realities of tribal fluidity and the overall importance of the Rachel tribes over that of Judah. In this respect it may be significant to note that Joshua distinguishes allocation of the land, which is the main point of chs. 13-21, from actual settlement in the land. The focus is clearly on the settlement of Caleb at Hebron (14:6-15), and of settlement in the highlands of central Canaan as represented by the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh (cf. e.g., 17:14-18), by the central meeting place of Shiloh in this region (e.g., 17:19), and by the covenant renewal in and around Shechem and Mt. Ebal (8:30-35; chs. 23, 24). This actually corresponds well with the settlement picture in southern Canaan c. 1200 BC. After a helpful review of many of the activities of the Judges, Flesher focuses on the victory poem of ch. 5 to argue that its early date coincides with the omission of many tribes and the naming of some groups as tribes that were not tribes in the later biblical material. In fact, Judges 5 does not use the word for “tribe” (except as “staff” in v. 14). Thus, it should not be used as a description of how the poet understood the tribes of her day. The comments on Hazor actually coincide with the late 12th century BC, when many would date the Israelite destruction of Hazor in Joshua 11. The association of Jabin with Hazor in Judges 4:2 is much more nuanced. He is not designated king of Hazor but rather “King of Canaan.” He ruled in or around Hazor; the beth preposition is not so clear. Nor does Sisera appear to be associated with Hazor at all, but with another site that may be in a Canaanite coalition. Finally, the mention of Judah in the book of Judges is not well described in this chapter. It appears more than “just three times.” In additions to the chapters that Flesher lists, it can be found in Judges 1 (vv. 2, 3, 4, 8, 9, 16, 17, 19) and in chs. 10, 15, 17, and 18. It is true that the last two chapters reference a name from the area of Judah, but the overall impression is that the writing of the major parts of the book was done by someone(s) acquainted with a tribe of Judah.
Ann Killebrew, “The Philistines during the Period of the Judges,” provides an important and valuable overview of the biblical, extrabiblical textual, and archaeological evidence for the appearance of these peoples on the shores of the eastern Mediterranean coast. She begins with a review of the biblical evidence. This includes a special focus on the appearance of the Philistines in Judges and the early battles with Israel there and in the books of Samuel. This is handled in a moderately critical fashion. She provides one of the most complete and readable summaries of all the extrabiblical epigraphic and (Egyptian) iconographic evidence, and she does so in an orderly sequence that I have not seen elsewhere. This includes the “classic” sources from Egypt as well as the materials found more recently at Aleppo, Tayinat and elsewhere in northern Syria. This, as well as Killebrew’s personal archaeological experience at Tel Miqne/Ekron and her thorough knowledge of the archaeology of the other Philistine sites, provides a concrete evaluation of the cultural innovation and change that these peoples brought to the region of southern Canaan, as well as the connections of these material cultural forms to the Aegean and also to the regions of Cilicia (Amuq) in modern southern Turkey. Killebrew concludes her discussion with a summary of the one or two “invasion” hypotheses and how these are tied to theories of chronology and dating.
Baruch Halpern writes ch. 13, “The United Monarchy: David between Saul and Solomon.” Halpern summarizes and updates his arguments which focus on an evaluation of the biblical text, rather than a modern critical redaction of it. The presentation is a creative application of archaeology, textual witnesses, and geopolitical theory to the period. He notes that David ruled from Dan to Beersheba, with some domination of Ammon and official ties to other areas. As various times he defeats Arameans and he garrisons Edom. The plain of Philistia retains a culture distinct from Israel at this time. Halpern notes that David’s good relations with Achish of Gath continued after he became king. While Saul’s base was in Benjamin and stretched northward, David appears to move about Benjamin and central Judah, where the archaeology of the period reveals few settlements and thus plenty of room for movement independent of Saul’s control. David’s attacks on nomadic gangs (Amalekites) in the Negev provided a basis for the loyalty of local towns and residences that served him well in his initial rule from Hebron. David’s garrisoning of this area and of Edom to the south and east corresponds to the Negev settlements that Shishak claims to have destroyed c. 925 BC. The disappearance of the Negev settlements after this and the settling of the Judean hills create a world unknown to the accounts of 1 and 2 Samuel. On the basis of the pottery, Halpern dates to David’s time the Stepped Stone Structure and Eilat Mazar’s discovery of a public building in Jerusalem that is larger than what would be expected for a small regional center. Contemporary Qeiyafa (on the Philistine border) was a ring fortress, that is a barracks with parallels to Tell Beit Mirsim and other Judean cities. This large-scale construction gives evidence of central state planning and execution. Davidic period (or earlier) inscriptions from Qeiyafa, Izbet Sartah, and Jerusalem share the same scribal tradition and suggest for Halpern “a state-supported administration” (p. 348). I would agree and, in light of a writing exercise at a small village such as Izbet Sartah, believe that it suggests more widespread reading and writing. The Negev forts also imply the central planning of a larger state. Finally, the Tel Dan inscription demonstrates beyond doubt the presence of a Davidic dynasty in Judah. Its discovery “struck a major blow to the school of minimalists who argued that David was no more historic than King Arthur” (p. 349).
Halpern places the advent of Iron Age IIA with the reign of King Solomon. Like Yadin, he finds the identical six-chambered gates, along with similar pottery, at Hazor, Megiddo, and Gezer, give evidence of far-flung state planning and control (cf. 1 Kings 9:15-18). Halpern notes the same gate at En Hazeva, which has the Roman name of Tamar, probably the Tamar that was another of Solomon’s forts. Shortly after Shishak’s invasion c. 925 BC the style of gates changed and no longer resembled one another. These cities lack temples and a significant domestic presence. Halpern finds here the desire to move the people into the countryside. There they would promote agricultural work and also be discouraged from using these forts as centers for resistance. Halpern believes that, along with the appearance of burnished red-slipped bowls, this period saw the beginning of international trade as well as a chariot force that would become legendary in its numbers by the time that Shalmaneser III encountered Ahab in 853 BC. The temple palace complex, described in 1 Kings 6-7 and based in Jerusalem, was paralleled by contemporary structures of similar art and architecture at ‘Ain Dara, Tell Tayinat, and Sam’al. David’s reign had brought an end to the Canaanite city-state kings and their polities as attested in the Amarna letters and in Joshua. These cities took on a trading culture under David. According to Halpern, by Solomon’s period new elites had residences in Jerusalem and in the provincial capitals (1 Kings 4:7-19) with their agricultural estates nearby. Rather than only an earthquake as behind the destruction of Megiddo VIA, Halpern suggests Absalom and his allies as destroying the trade system or pharaoh Siamum in an otherwise unattested incursion. Finally, Halpern observes: “Knauf’s point (1991b) about the import of the Faynan copper supply during this era when the copper supply from Cyprus was disrupted comports precisely with the Iron IB-IIA Negev settlement as a state policy” (p. 359). Thus, the excavations of Levy and Najjar more than thirty miles south of the Dead Sea at Khirbet en-Nahas in Wadi Faynan confirm copper production in Edom, in the twelfth to eleventh and in the tenth to ninth centuries BC. In every region, in all the major sites, and in Jerusalem Halpern makes his case that his reading of the biblical text of Samuel conforms in large part to the archaeology with the geopolitical model that he brings to the discussion.
Randall W. Younker writes ch. 14, “Israel: The Prosperous Northern Kingdom.” This is a well written survey of its subject, taking the biblical, epigraphic, and archaeological evidence seriously; rather than privileging one in favor of the others. He identifies nine dynasties, with those of Jeroboam I, Omri, and Jehu as the most important. He stresses the abundant rainfall in the north that produced cereals, grapes, and olives. Whether the population of the Northern Kingdom ever reached 800,000 may be disputed. However, its position along key trade routes enhanced the agricultural productivity with the wealth of trade. Younker begins his stor