Chieftains of the Highland Clans: A History of Israel in the Twelfth and Eleventh Centuries BC

Chieftains of the Highland Clans: A History of Israel in the Twelfth and Eleventh Centuries BC

Chieftains of the Highland Clans: A History of Israel in the Twelfth and Eleventh Centuries BC

Chieftains of the Highland Clans: A History of Israel in the Twelfth and Eleventh Centuries BC

Synopsis

An illuminating social history of ancient Israel, Chieftains of the Highland Clans offers an unusually thorough and original reconstruction of Israelite society prior to the rise of the monarchy around 1000 B.C. Using the latest archaeological research and anthropological theories, Robert Miller presents an intriguing picture of what life was like in early Israel. Ethnographic evidence from diverse cultures suggests the "complex chiefdom" model as the most appropriate for the archaeology of twelfth- and eleventh-century highland Palestine. This model details the economic and political realities of prestate societies with ascribed rank and hierarchical political control. As he applies and fine-tunes the complex chiefdom model, Miller illustrates areas of potential correspondence and contradiction between his reconstruction and the biblical text. Students of archaeology, Palestine, and the Hebrew Bible will not want to miss Miller's fresh and fascinating conclusions about the sociopolitical nature of early Israel.

Excerpt

One might call the 12th and 11th centuries B.C. (Iron Age I) the new “Dark Ages” for those examining the Palestinian highlands and the community commonly known as Israel. The beginning and end of this period have had no end of ink spilled on them. During the past three decades or more biblical scholars and archaeologists have rigorously considered questions regarding the emergence of Israel at the end of the Late Bronze Age. More recently, but foreshadowed by some earlier work, scholars have done much work based on archaeology and on archaeology in conjunction with the biblical text on the formation of the state and the dawn of the Monarchy in the ancient Israelite community (e.g., Flanagan 1988; Ahlström 1993; Finkelstein 1994).

This lacuna is not because this “gap” offers little of value. Rather, scholars have been so eager to get “From Nomadism to Monarchy” (the title of Finkelstein and Na‘aman 1994) that few have taken a long look at the intervening period except as it illuminates the earlier or later ones.

Nevertheless, an understanding of the functioning of the immediate pre-state Israelite community is in itself a valuable goal; it is a historical subject that can be explored profitably by the historian of the ancient Near East. The reader in a hurry to get to a history of this community should go directly to Chapter 7, “A Social History of Highland Palestine, 1200–1000 B.C.”

There is really no term readily available for this period, and one must

1. For an excellent but seldom cited summary, see Lemaire 1990 (esp. 258-82).

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