The Bible Unearthed-An Extended Review, Part 5

Chapter 4

Israel Finkelstein continues into his archeological theory about the origins of the Israelites. Since Finkelstein did plenty of surveying in the 80s, the should be trusted with interpreting the results of his findings. His results?


1. The Israelites were not warmongers. Judges is a projection of the warlike later eras into a rather primitive time period. No weaponry was found at the vast majority of Israelite sites. Also, the sites were almost never fortified MB style, but were tiny farming communities intensively using oil-and-wine processing technologies.

2. The desert could not supply the number of pastoralists needed to ferment such a settlement movement. The original Israelite population was nomadic and only began to rise after the fall of the great Canaanite city states c. 1130-20 BC (as confirmed by Radiocarbon dating). However, the stele of Merenptah (1209/8 BC) raises problems for this theory.

3. As to culture, no pig bones are found at Israelite sites, suggesting some kind of cultic prohibition. Neither were burials given much reverence. Culture seemed to come from the east, nullifying any suggestion of lowland origins. Heavy settlement began immediately to the N. of Jerusalem. Three settlement areas can be discerned from the map on p. 116: Benjamin (center between Beitin and Jerusalem), Ephraim (having a center around Shiloh and stretching into Shechem) and Mannaseh, between Shechem and Taanach. Judah was sparsely settled, comprising only 19 sites. The cultic importance of Shiloh in this arrangement is not discussed, and probably for the better.

4. The vast majority of the Judges stories probably originated in pre-722 BC Israel. It is not known how much of them are factual.

I only have two pities here: that F&S do not discuss settlement to the E. of the Jordan and Finkelstein’s theory of southern Iron IIa settlement (ala Qudeirat) being caused by the rise of the Masos-Nahas copper network and its fall due to the Phoenician Omrides and their expansion of the Cypriot trade.

Author: pithom

An atheist with an interest in the history of the ancient Near East. Author of the Against Jebel al-Lawz Wordpress blog.

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