Professor Isserlin, retired head of Semitic studies at the University of Leeds in England, deliberately modelled his book on Donald Harden's well-known The Phoenicians (1962). It is thus neither a typical history of Israel (that is, a chronological and descriptive survey), a synthesis of Israelite religion and culture (a study of Biblical theology), nor an introduction to the Biblical literature that was produced by, and that enshrines, ancient Israel. Isserlin's The Israelites is really a combination of all three of these, and as such is unique among all others on the market.
The Israelites has many strengths. Chief among these is the breadth of its coverage. It contains chapters on geographical setting origins of the Israelites and their neighbors; the political history of the monarchy; socio-economic structure; town-planning and architecture; trade, craft and industry; warfare; literacy, and art and religion. Moreover, Isserlin makes more use of archaeological data than any other comparable work I know. It is almost always judiciously selected and interpreted, and well illustrated. In fact, a session devoted to material culture covers categories such as industry and craft that are conspicuously absent in most standard histories of Israel. Finally, Isserlin's narrative flows along in an accessible, even popular style, uninterrupted by references to individual scholars or excursions into arcane scholarly controversies. Yet the discussion seems to encompass almost effortlessly the latest and best scholarship. The extensive and up-to-date bibliography (there are no footnotes) will lead the serious reader to all the necessary documentation.
I teach a lower-level university course on the history and religion of ancient Israel for which I have never found a suitable text. Perhaps the most pertinent comment that I can make about The Israelites is to say that I would consider using it as the basic text for my course... If the average reader of BAR - an intelligent, well-educated layperson with a cultivated interest in the Hebrew Bible, the history of ancient Israel and archaeology - wants to purchase a single reference work, it should probably be Isserlin's The Israelites. -- Biblical Archaeology Review