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June 07 , 2009

The A to Z of Ancient Israel


Of the many ancient civilizations we are aware of, few are smaller than the ancient Kingdom of Israel. Small both in geographical area and population, it was barely noticed by the major civilizations of the time in Egypt, Mesopotamia and elsewhere, which either ignored or crushed it. Yet, several millennia later, Israel is the civilization we remember most acutely, which we know—or think we know—the most about, and which has even been revised after a manner. Alas, what we know—or think we know—about Israel comes partly from the Old Testament and partly from fragmentary and sometimes distorted bits of historical evidence.

For these very reasons, because Ancient Israel means so much to us and because we actually know so little for sure, The A to Z of Ancient Israel is particularly important. It examines the usual sources in the Old Testament and surveys the findings of more recent archaeological research to help us determine just what happened and when, a far from simple task. It includes entries on most of the persons, places, and events which are generally considered, and shows more broadly what the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah were like and what role they played in the ancient world, but it also defines them as closely as possible according to the latest data. While the results may differ from traditional views, they are essential correctives.
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