The period of the demise of the kingdom of Judah at the end of the 6th century B.C.E., the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians, the exile of the elite to Babylon, and the reshaping of the territory of the new province of Judah, culminating at the end of the century with the first return of exiles--all have been subjects of intense scrutiny during the last decade. Lipschits takes into account the biblical textual evidence, the results of archaeological research, and the reports of Babylonian and Egyptian sources and provides a comprehensive survey and analysis of the evidence for the history of this 100-year-long era. He provides a lucid historical survey that will, no doubt, become the baseline for all future studies of this era.
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As someone who has written a book on the exilic period some years ago (Israel in Exile [Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2004], German 2001) I can imagine the enormous difficulties in reconstructing a period for which we have so little historical data. Oded Lipschits is extremely well trained for this difficult task. He is one of the few scholars who is not only a distinguished expert of Israelite archaeology but also a learned historian of the ancient Near East and even a well-trained biblical scholar who can deal with the biblical text in a sophisticated manner. Thus he is able to offer the reader three different approaches. The book consists of two historical chapters (1 133), two archaeological chapters (134 271), and one exegetical chapter (272 359), each of them showing a high academic standard. With regard to the notes, which often cover half or even more of the page, Lipschits s book tops even German academic studies, sometimes ridiculed for being too sophisticated.
"How happy I would have been if I had received this book ten years earlier, when I wrote the historical chapters of my study! ...I think it is the main merit of this book that it draws a much more founded, a much more detailed, and a much more realistic picture of Judah during the exilic period than has ever been possible before. "...I am very thankful that Oded Lipschits included this important sector of exilic literary production and theological discussion into his book, which is so rich of archaeological and historical information. At present, many Old Testament scholars tend to isolate literature and theological thought from political and social history. Oded Lipschits contradicts this tendency and combines both aspects of ancient Israel s historical reality in a sophisticated manner. I congratulate Oded Lipschits for this wonderful book. I am sure it will become a standard for all further studies on the exilic period. --Rainer Albertz, Universität Münster in Review of Biblical Literature, June 2006
This book is an excellent examination of the position of Judah during the period of Babylonian dominance. One of the author s biggest contributions to the field of biblical studies is his discussion of the struggle between Egypt and Babylon. This struggle is introduced at the beginning of the book, which lays the groundwork for the late seventh century situation of the kingdom of Judah. This starting point leads the reader into the history of the fall of Jerusalem with a succinct framework. Further, his extensive footnotes are very helpful and a great benefit to any scholar interested in the Babylonian period. Lipschits does an excellent job combining the archaeological material with the textual material, providing a balanced presentation of the evidence. His writing style is lucid but at times a bit repetitious. Also, his twenty-eight-page summary at the end of the text is useful for anyone who has not read the book and who is interested in a short overview of his main points. But the summary is not necessary for anyone who has read the book. The fall of Jerusalem is insightfully investigated and explained in great detail. Overall, this book is an admirable work and an important addition to the scholarship of the Babylonian period. --Deirdre Fulton, Pennsylvania State University in Review of Biblical Literature, June 2006
Lipschits's book is the most compendious, thorough effort to date to profile the period of Babylonian rule over Judah. His analyses build on archaeological, demographic, sociological, and historical research to identify the perceptions and biases "embedded in biblical historiography" of the Neo-Babylonian, Persian, and Roman periods(p. xiv)...Lipschits breaks new ground in this study, challenging long-held ideas about the fall of Jerusalem and the later return by exiles from Babylon. This book is exceptionally well done and deserves a close reading by students of the period and scholars interested in the development of Israel in the Neo-Babylonian and Persian periods. This was the formative age when the biblical text took shape. L. poses questions that will push others to further research. In the end, I suspect that we will need to redefine the way we speak of the sixth century BCE - and the possibilities are very exciting. ---John W. Betlyon, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA, in Catholic Biblical Quarterly, 68, 2006
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