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Kings of the Jews: Exploring the Origins of the Jewish Nation Paperback – February 1, 2010

4.8 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Although Saul, David, and Solomon are the best known kings of Israel, a total of 52 men and two women served as monarchs between the years 1020 B.C.E. and 70 C.E. Their stories are told in this well-researched account by historian Gelb. After Solomon died in 931 B.C.E., his realm was divided into Judah and Israel. For the next 109 years, each kingdom had 19 kings and, in addition, Israel had one queen. They fought with each other and with neighboring states; the rulers often came to a bloody end. Israel, the Northern Kingdom, was conquered by the Assyrians in 722 B.C.E. and little is known about the fate of its inhabitants. The Jews of Judah, the Southern Kingdom, were exiled into Babylonia in 587 B.C.E., and upon their return became subjects of the Persians, then Greeks and Syrians, until the rebellion of the Maccabees. Maccabean rule was followed by the Hasmoneans, who gave way to Herod, king under the Romans, from 37 to 4 B.C.E.. When the Romans conquered Jerusalem in 70 C.E., the Jewish monarchy finally ended. This useful narrative recalls the contributions of Israel's many kings and brings them back to life. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Review

"A total of 52 men and two women served as monarchs between the years 1020 B.C.E. and 70 C.E. Their stories are told in this well-researched account by historian Gelb. . . . This useful narrative recalls the contributions of Israel's many kings and brings them back to life."—Publishers Weekly
(Publishers Weekly )

"He set out to offer contemporary readers an instructive and readable account of what happened to the Jews during the 1,000 years before the Common Era and the first 70 years of the Common Era. He has fully succeeded in meeting this laudable objective."—National Jewish Post and Opinion
(National Jewish Post and Opinion )

"This riveting exploration is a testament to the remarkable resilience of the Jewish people as they survived and thrived despite divisions, discord, and conquest, forging a vibrant identity that continues to endure."—Lookstein Center
(Lookstein Center )

"Gelb offers his readers a clear sufficiently detailed narration of the history of the ancient monarchs for people who want a general understanding of the history of Judaism and its national leaders."—Jewish Eye
(Jewish Eye )

"Norman Gelb paints a vivid picture of Jewish life during the time of each monarch’s reign . . . This riveting exploration is a testament to the remarkable resilience of the Jewish people as they survived and thrived despite divisions, discord, and conquest."—International Journal of Jewish Education Research
(International Journal of Jewish Education Research )

"An accomplished writer, journalist, and historian, Norman Gelb has written a fair-minded history of the kings of the Jews of ancient times . . . I cannot praise this book too highly."—Walter Abish, MacArthur fellow and recipient of the PEN/Faulkner Award
(Walter Abish ) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: The History Press Ltd (February 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0752453580
  • ISBN-13: 978-0752453583
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 0.8 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #13,098,380 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Henry Grinberg on September 29, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Norman Gelb is the author of no fewer than eleven highly acclaimed books, principally studies of some of the cataclysmic events of the 20th century, including "The Berlin Wall"; "Ike and Monty: Generals at War"; and studies on the British (among whom he has lived for many years), Dunkirk, the Battle of Britain, and the Anglo-American North African invasion of 1942.

In his latest work, Gelb turns to an entirely different matter. "Kings of the Jews" tells of a compelling and fascinating saga that lasted almost a thousand years, of the kings of the Jews. After setting the ancient biblical scene, he commences with the distinguished names of Saul, David, and Solomon and marches through century after century of rises and falls, typified by names of monarchs that have, and have not, inspired commemoration. Some figures were truly glorious, others truly despicable.

This thousand-year chronicle encompasses the fusion of the Biblical Twelve Tribes who were led by Moses out of slavery in Egypt into one nation under Saul. That nation rose to singular magnificence and territorial reach under David and Solomon, even though the pressures ttacks of warlike, aggressive neighboring tribes to the north, east, and south were constant. However, it was family rivalry after Solomon's death that divided the kingdom into two territories, Israel and Judah, from which it only fitfully managed to recover.

Gelb shows how, after some 200 years of this divided existence, ruled by a succession of monarchs, few of whose names we remember, the Kingdom of Israel was eradicated by Assyrian conquest and its people dispersed.
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Yes the Kings of the Jews did not end with Solomon but continued for hundreds of years with women as well as men. Many were very important to the continuation of thee Jews as a people and probably created the written history of the Jews and the 5 books of Moses
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Norman Gelb narrates a difficult subject in a successful popular fashion. He tells the story of the kings of ancient Israel and two queens who ruled without husbands. He gives his readers what they want to know and what they should know in brief, easy to read English. He touches on the most important points of the monarchs' lives and how they impacted upon their people and history. He did all of this despite the many problems that he was facing.

It is difficult if not impossible to write a true non-controversial history of these kings and queens. Saul, reluctantly chosen by the prophet Samuel, although he despised the notion that his people should be ruled by a monarch, is generally considered Israel's first king. Yet, as Gelb makes clear, there was an individual during the earlier period of the judges, the period when the Israelite tribes were usually led by charismatic leaders, who proclaimed himself king and lived as a king for a short time.

Saul's son Ishbosheth was king after him for a couple of years. He was followed by David and Solomon. But then, until the Hasmonean kings and the kings in Herod's family, usually overlooked by people, but described by Gelb, the Land of Israel is divided and monarchs ruled in two kingdoms, Judea in the south and Israel in the north. Should the historian call the northerners Israelites and the southerners Judeans? Gelb simplifies and calls them all Jews, as most people think of them, and as he does in the book's title, even though the name Jews was not invented until several centuries after the last king of the divided kingdoms ruled. But these were not the only problems that Gelb had to face.

The history is difficult to tell because the documents that relate the history differ radically.
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"Kings of The Jews" was the book a study group on the "Origins of Jewish Thought" selected to study.

I found each chapter provided a succinct and informative biography and link to biblical information about each king. The author was informative and candid about each of the kings he selected. It was easy reading and most informative. It cleared misconceptions and supported previously acquired knowledge.

I think it is an important book for any one interested in the kings of the Jews.

Jerry Lapides
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Review of KINGS OF THE JEWS: Exploring the Origins of the Jewish Nation, by Norman Gelb

A readable look at the rulers of the Jewish people, spanning more than a millennium. Gelb presents a compilation of the lives of the Jewish rulers from ancient King Saul to the puppet ruler Agrippa, who saw Jerusalem fall to the Romans. The book profiles the dozens of men and two women who ruled over Judah, Israel and some other manifestations of the Jewish nation through a vast period of history. Ancient Jewish history is both well-documented and highly engaging, and Gelb takes advantage of both characteristics in crafting a book based upon these rulers' lives. Whether the stories are well-known, such as David or Solomon, or more obscure, such as tongue-twister monarchs Jehoahaz or Pekahiah, the material is rich, epic and certain to maintain interest. Gelb's narrative style is highly readable and holds the reader's attention.

The author provides worthwhile historical background throughout, especially at crucial junctures such as the move to captivity in Babylon and the Maccabean revolt. Though an instructive read, this book is not necessarily a fresh addition to the overall body of work in Jewish history,. Indeed most of what Gelb includes is found either in the Hebrew scriptures, i.e., the Old Testament, or the Apocrypha. Gelb's contribution is not so much providing original research or fresh interpretation, but instead making this history more approachable to the modern reader, regardless of prior knowledge of Jewish history. Though the book is a history of the leaders of God's chosen people, in Gelb's chronicle, God has little or no agency. When God communicates or acts, it is only, "According to the Bible" or "as the Bible describes.
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