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Steven H Propp
- Publié sur Amazon.com
At the time this book was first published in 1986, J. Maxwell Miller was professor of Hebrew Bible at Emory University, and John Hayes was professor of Old Testament at Emory University.
They wrote in the Preface, “Any attempt to write a history of ancient Israel and Judah must depend primarily on the biblical record and necessarily presupposed a moderate position between two extremes. On the one hand, there are those who, usually on theological grounds, insist that the biblical record itself already provides a completely accurate and adequate account of biblical times. On the other hand, there are those who, viewing the Bible fundamentally as a collection of folk legends, miracle stories, theological treatises, and the like, deny that it has much valid historical information to offer. We expect this volume to receive negative responses from both directions---from those who regard our treatment as overly skeptical of the biblical story, and from those who regard it as overly gullible. One thing is certain: writing a history of biblical times… entails the highly subjective task of analyzing and interpreting sources… which rarely provide in any straightforward manner exactly the kinds of information the historian seeks. Thus we have devoted considerable space to describing the sources relevant to the various periods of Israelite and Judean history…”
They note, “Although historically the Philistines are to be associated specifically with the coastal plain, during Classical Times the name ‘Philistia’ (‘land of the Philistines’) came to be applied more generally to the whole southern end of the Eastern Mediterranean Seaboard. Syria Palestina was the name of the Roman province, for example, which included most of the region that will be described below as Palestine. In short then, the English term ‘Palestine’ derives ultimately from ‘Philistia,’ ‘the land of the Philistines.’” (Pg. 40)
They explain, “This Genesis-Joshua account of Israel’s origins exhibits certain characteristics and makes historical claims that many modern historians, indeed many modern readers in general, find difficult to accept… The material… reflects, for example, certain historical perspectives that were popular in ancient times but are no longer in vogue and that raise questions about the material’s credibility. [Such as:] The Concept of a ‘Golden Age’… Divine Direction of Human Affairs… Lineal Genealogical Descent… there are other aspects that challenge credulity… For example, Jacob presumably would have been at least seventy years old when he went to Mesopotamia to secure himself a wife… Simeon and Levi, sons of Jacob, would have been teenagers when they destroyed the city of Chechem (Gen 34). Other matters unrelated to chronology raise similar credibility issues. Exodus 12:37-39 reports that 600,000 Hebrews of fighting age left Egypt. This number plus their wives and children along with the mixed multitude said to accompany them would have totaled come two and a half million. Marching ten abreast, the numbers would have formed a line over 150 miles long and would have required eight or nine days to march by any fixed point. The mere logistics of organizing such a group… raise enormous questions for any historian who would seek to use this information. The critical historian must reject some or all of such accounts, qualify them, or develop some nonbiblical scenario large enough to encompass the improbabilities.” (Pg. 60-61)
They observe, “The only reference to Israel in Middle Eastern sources prior to the ninth century is found in the so-called ‘Israel Stela’ of Pharaoh Merneptah. Inscribed in his fifth year, about 1230 B.C.E., the stela commemorates and extols the pharaoh’s victories, some actual, some probably imaginary. Near the end of the final hymnic section, the inscription claims: … ‘Israel is laid waste, his seed is not…’ Thus the inscription testifies to the existence of a population group bearing the name ‘Israel’ and possibly tribal in structure, living in Canaan about 1230 B.C.E. Little more can be concluded from the inscription. The reported encounter between Merneptah and Israel is not mentioned in the Bible. Yet the very fact that this Egyptian inscription reports an Israel as being on the scene in Palestine during the thirteenth century is an important bit of information…” (Pg. 68)
They say, “We decline any attempt to reconstruct the earliest history of the Israelites … and begin our treatment with a description of the circumstances that appear to have existed among the tribes in Palestine on the eve of the establishment of the monarchy. Our primary source of information for this purpose will be the narratives in the Book of Judges.” (Pg. 79) They wrote, “The compilers of Genesis-II Kings concluded their presentation of Solomon’s reign with a reference to a source from which, presumably, they derived some of their material. ‘Now the rest of the acts of Solomon, and all that he did, and his wisdom, are they not written in the book of the acts of Solomon?’ (I Kings 11:41) This pattern will be repeated for each of the later Israelite and Judean kings … Scholars have generally supposed… that the books of ‘Chronicles’ to which the compilers of Genesis-II Kings referred were annalistic-like accounts based ultimately on court records… In any case, it is impossible to determine which material in the Genesis-II Kings presentation of Solomon was derived from ‘the book of the acts of Solomon.’” (Pg. 197)
They point out of the Divided Kingdom, “There now were two kingdoms, Israel in the north and Judah in the south, where formerly one had existed. From a casual reading of I-II Kings and II Chronicles, one might get the idea that these two kingdoms were roughly equal in size and strength, and perhaps even infer that Judah was the superior power and Israel only a breakaway fragment. Actually the reverse was the case. In many ways---including size, geographical position, and military strength---Israel was the dominant kingdom.” (Pg. 233)
This is an excellent, broad, reasonably “balanced” and critical account of the history of “Old Testament Israel,” that will be of interest to anyone wanting a one-volume summary.