The Land before the Kingdom of Israel: Asking New Questions of Old Data

The Land before the Kingdom of Israel: Asking New Questions of Old Data

ASOR June 2017


“Reevaluating the social and political landscape of the Late Bronze Age Levant provides a fresh understanding of Israel’s origins and nature. Rather than a distinct ethnic group founded upon a unique set of social and political principles, some of its constituents emerged out of the sociopolitical milieu of the Late Bronze Age. It also sheds light on the process of centralization that occurred with the formation of the monarchy.”

Map of Ancient Canaan Amarna Tablets 14th Century BCE


El Amarna text 161, Correspondance of Aziru, the king of Amurru

Visiting Tel Balata–Schechem

Spent a lovely afternoon in Tel Balata–Shechem in the Bible. Of course, “Shechem” plays dominant roles in both Testaments: the Jacob cycle in Genesis, Joshua-Judges (especially Judges 9 which I think is central to understanding an important segment of Samaria’s history), and Jesus with the Samaritan woman to name just a few. I have dreamed of coming to this place for decades.

“The only such polity in the northern part of the central hill country that had not been ruled from the area of Shechem is the Gibeon/Gibeah entity of the Late Iron 1.” I Finkelstein, 2013.

“And Joseph’s bones, which the Israelites had brought up from Egypt, were buried at Shechem in the tract of land that Jacob bought for a hundred pieces of silver from the sons of Hamor, the father of Shechem. This became the inheritance of Joseph’s descendants” (Jos 24:32).

Spoiler alert: rocks, rocks and more rocks.

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