The bottom line: Valuable information about the world in which ancient Israel lived, but at a very steep price.
There were many forces, players, and themes occurring behind and around the narrative of the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) that served to shape Israel’s history.
Gottwald’s The Hebrew Bible sheds new light on the Biblical text with an acute emphasis on the sources of the scriptures and the traditions the texts drew from, as well as the secular social and political influences of the empires of ancient times.
The book excels for a biblical scholar who seeks to better understand and know the ancient dynamics in play.
The book begins by describing different angles of approaching the Bible, describing the world of the ancient Hebrews and then discussing the literary history of the Hebrew Bible. From there, a loose chronological course is charted from the pre-monarchic history, through the kingdoms of David and Solomon, to rule under foreign empires. Some eye-opening insights will delight the mind of the Biblical student and Gottwald’s discussion of the Divine Name (Yahweh), the divergent explanatory models of Israel’s occupation of the Promised Land, and the sociohistorical horizons of colonial Israel are amazing. The section titled “A Jewish State Rises and Falls” is an exemplary analysis of the political factions that existed in Judea during the time of Christ and can be used to illuminate many of the tensions experienced by rival factions in the New Testament.
I read this book as required by a graduate level seminary course. The information contained in The Hebrew Bible will certainly assist anyone who wishes to learn about the socio-historical context in which the Bible narratives occurred, and without a doubt will expand your comprehension and understanding of the Bible going from a pre-critical to a post-critical stance. However, I do not believe that insight is worth the steep price of $40—the book itself independent of price would have easily earned 4+ stars.
Dr. C. H. E. Sadaphal