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Who Were the Early Israelites and Where Did They Come From?
PAPERBACK; Published: 3/31/2006
ISBN: 978-0-8028-4416-3
280 Pages
Trim Size, in inches: 6 x 9

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This book addresses one of the most timely and urgent topics in archaeology and biblical studies -- the origins of early Israel. For centuries the Western tradition has traced its beginnings back to ancient Israel, but recently some historians and archaeologists have questioned the reality of Israel as it is described in biblical literature. In Who Were the Early Israelites and Where Did They Come From? William Dever explores the continuing controversies regarding the true nature of ancient Israel and presents the archaeological evidence for assessing the accuracy of the well-known Bible stories.

Confronting the range of current scholarly interpretations seriously and dispassionately, Dever rejects both the revisionists who characterize biblical literature as "pious propaganda" and the conservatives who are afraid to even question its factuality. Attempting to break through this impasse, Dever draws on thirty years of archaeological fieldwork in the Near East, amassing a wide range of hard evidence for his own compelling view of the development of Israelite history.

In his search for the actual circumstances of Israel's emergence in Canaan, Dever reevaluates the Exodus-Conquest traditions in the books of Exodus, Numbers, Joshua, Judges, and 1 & 2 Samuel in the light of well-documented archaeological evidence from the late Bronze Age and early Iron Age. Among this important evidence are some 300 small agricultural villages recently discovered in the heartland of what would later become the biblical nation of Israel. According to Dever, the authentic ancestors of the "Israelite peoples" were most likely Canaanites -- together with some pastoral nomads and small groups of Semitic slaves escaping from Egypt -- who, through the long cultural and socioeconomic struggles recounted in the book of Judges, managed to forge a new agrarian, communitarian, and monotheistic society.

Written in an engaging, accessible style and featuring fifty photographs that help bring the archaeological record to life, this book provides an authoritative statement on the origins of ancient Israel and promises to reinvigorate discussion about the historicity of the biblical tradition.

Amihai Mazar
"This new book by William Dever is a fluent, well-written critical account of the various views on the origins of Israel and its appearance on the stage of history. Dever evaluates a wide range of previous research and suggests his own solution to the question of the origins of Israel. Excellent reading for both scholars and laypersons."
Ronald Hendel
"William Dever is a superb archaeologist with a deep knowledge of the issues and controversies concerning Israel's origins. In this book he presents a compelling case for early Israel as a reformist frontier society, and along the way he demolishes many rival theories. Dever's discussion is authoritative, polemical, and very readable. He is the exemplary heir of W. F. Albright, with the knockout punch of Mike Tyson."
Baruch Halpern
"William Dever treats Israel's origins as no one before him ever has. This unique, lively synthesis of the archaeological and textual data will shape our understanding of Israel's emergence for years."
Richard Elliott Friedman
"For the general reader there is no better presentation of how the archaeology of Israel really works. It is not about finding an individual artifact like the lost ark but about a complex reconstruction of material culture. This is the real thing. It takes an exceptional archaeologist and writer to make biblical archaeology clear and to keep it interesting. William Dever is that person."