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The Israelites Hardcover – October 1, 1998

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Thames & Hudson; 1ST edition (October 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0500050821
  • ISBN-13: 978-0500050828
  • Product Dimensions: 10.2 x 7.2 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,529,689 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


Dozens of books on the "ancient Israelites" have appeared in the last decade or so, representing virtually every imaginable approach. So why yet another? I must admit that I have known the name Isserlin for some 30 years, and when I agreed to review his book I was skeptical that he could produce anything other than another conventional treatment. I was wrong.

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

About the Author

Ben Isserlin was born in Germany and studied at the universities of Edinburgh and Oxford. He was Head of the Department of Semitic Studies and Reader in Semitic Studies at the University of Leeds until his retirement, and has directed archaeological excavations in Israel and at Phoenician and other sites in Sicily, Spain, and Greece.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Midwest Book Review on August 11, 2001
Format: Paperback
In The Israelites: History, Archaeology, Social Structure, And Religion, B.S.J. Isserlin draws upon his years of experience and expertise in directed archaeological fieldwork in Jaffa and Mikhomret, Israel, Sicily, Greece, and Spain, as well as his years as president of the British Association for Jewish Studies, and head of the Department of Semitic Studies as the university of Leeds, England, to bring to the reader an impressive overview and survey of ancient Israelite culture. Beginning with a survey of the geography and resources of the land, the origins and affinities of the Israelites, their history and social structure, Professor Isserlin moves on to their material cultures (towns, villages, architecture, agricultures, industries, crafts, trade and economics, warfare); and concludes with an informative survey and commentary on their language, writing, texts, religion, and art. Wonderfully illustrated throughout, Professor Isserlin's The Israelites is an ideal introduction which is enhanced with an Epilogue, a selected bibliography, acknowledgments, sources of illustrations, and an index.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By E.L.B. on July 9, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a great book on the subject of the Israelites from a historical perspective, one of the best I've ever read in terms of a general synthesis of data. It is clearly written, candid and fair, and contains all the general information you'll want to know about ancient Israel, from geography, agriculture, crafts, art, architecture, religion, and even music, among others. Isserlin falls squarely into the mainstream about what we can determine from archeology, the biblical texts, and ancient Near Eastern sources about this most controversial civilization.

It is somewhat dated, but serves still as a handy standard reference work. It needed a better scholarly apparatus. There is a bibliography for each chapter at the end, but footnotes would have been helpful. Often Isserlin will note a position, but not reveal who holds the position, or refer indirectly to primary source material without naming the source. But a good place to begin overall.
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By Marcos E. Ruiz Rivero on July 19, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
as a student of the bible and a student of archaeologist, i highly recommend it... well written, although i would have added more illustrations...
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful By J. A Magill TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 27, 2001
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This work covers a broad range of topics related to the life and culture of ancient Israel. Several other works have been written on the subject. In my opinion this is one of the best. It covers everthing from town planning to agriculture. All and all an excellent window into how an ancient people lived.
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