Author: Brendon C. Benz
Publisher: Penn State Press
Ancient Israel is widely regarded as having been set apart from the nations, representing a unique sociopolitical entity in the ancient world. United by a common tribal identity and a commitment to worshiping the God who delivered them from Egypt exclusively, the Israelites established an egalitarian community that stood in contrast to the hierarchical polities of their polytheistic. In spite of these traditions, modern scholarship for the most part has recognized the points of continuity between Canaanite religion and Israelite religion and concluded that the two religious systems largely developed from the same cultural milieu. However, scholars continue to contend that the Canaanites’ and Israelites’ social and political structures were distinct. Most scholars agree that the Israelites were geographical, economic, and/or political outsiders. The Land before the Kingdom of Israel responds to this modern perspective by contributing an original reconstruction of the sociopolitical landscape of the Late Bronze Age Levant that exposes points of continuity between the polities and populations that inhabited the land and those that were later identified with Israel. By examining multiple sources, Brendon Benz isolates and accounts for complex social and political realities that have gone unnoticed. In so doing, he sets the stage for viewing premonarchic Israel and the Bible’s depiction of it in a new way. In addition to shedding light on historical memories embedded in the books of Judges and Samuel that do not conform to conventional wisdom regarding Israel’s early history, Benz demonstrates that a contingent of the early Israelites was heir to the social and political structures of their Late Bronze Age Levantine predecessors.