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CHAPTER 4. Early Israel and the Rise of the Israelite Monarchy

Carol Meyers

Subject Religion

Place Middle and Near East » Israel

Key-Topics Bible, monarchy

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405127202.2004.00006.x


A generation ago, an overview of early Israel, from its beginnings in its land through the rise of the monarchy several centuries later, would have relted heavily on the information contained in the Hebrew Bible. Most scholars wrote Israelite history as “biblical history”; they followed quite closely the basic framework and also many of the details that are presented in the grand narrative of Israel's formation as presented in the book of Exodus, in parts of other pentateuchal books, and in the books of Joshua and Judges and of 1 and 2 Samuel. They recognized the folkloristic quality of some of these materials; and they also acknowledged that those biblical books took their present shape many centuries, if not half a millennium or more, after the events they purport to describe. Nonetheless, they treated the biblical sources, whatever their embellishments, nationalist functions, or religious programs, as historiography (history-writing) that preserved a reliable account of the formation and early development of ancient Israel. The ancestor narratives of Genesis were understood as highly fictionalized or legendary accounts, but the national story beginning in Exodus was seen as an historical record. The broad outlines of that story are well known to most people living in the West, where Jewish and Christian tradition has permeated general cultural forms and values. The story opens ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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