28 January 2015

A Survey of Israel's History

A Survey of Israel's History by Leon Wood is an overview of Old Testament biblical history. It is written with good scholarship and lucidity. Some of the information in it is a bit dated, as it was last updated in 1986, but overall it stands as a good summary of the history of God's people in ancient times.

The opening chapter sets things up very well, and gives some good historical and archaeological background to the book. The following chapters on the patriarchs are adequate, but they really do little more than summarize the stories in the Bible. It does a little, but only a little to place the patriarchs in their historical and cultural situation. With the wealth of archaeological information about time period, Wood could have done a lot more here.

There is an entire chapter devoted to that dating of the Exodus. Wood argues for an early date (1446/1447) rather than a late date (1250). Even a few decades later this is still solid stuff. His discussion on the identity of the habiru is a bit dated, but otherwise this would be a good introduction to the issues surrounding the dating of the exodus.

The life in Egypt chapter is very good, and I think offers a plausible fitting of the exodus story within Egyptian history. That said, there are no absolute, agreed upon dates for Egyptian rulers (Egyptian chronology is notoriously hard to pin down absolutely), but rather higher and lower chronologies. It isn’t necessary for us to dogmatically assert exactly who the pharaoh was during the time of the exodus. For example, Hatshepsut is not necessarily the princess who pulled Moses from the river. The quest to find the pharaoh of the exodus or the pharaoh of Joseph’s day or even to exactly correlate Biblical and Egyptian history must be pursued with caution and without being too dogmatic. Also most scholars today disagree that Thutmose III harbored bitterness for Hatshepsut and see other cultural reasons for his effacing of her name from monuments.

The chapters on the wilderness wanderings and the conquest are adequate, but feel a little rushed overall. Chapter on the judges period is very good on the whole. My only quibble is that he calls the government at this time a theocracy in contrast to the future monarchy. This is a false dichotomy as both are clearly intended as theocracies in Scripture.

The chapters from here on in the book, covering the history of the Northern and Southern Kingdoms, the captivity, and the intertestamental period are excellent! They are informative without being too pedantic, and thoroughly cover the historical, cultural and biblical info.

Overall, if an updated version were produced, this would make a good textbook for ages 11-12th grade or a college undergrad course.

No comments: