This is a peculiar post title, I know, but I was trying to find a way to associate the contents of this newly published book with matters about which readers of this blog may be most interested. In this interesting study, the author – a prominent historian and archaeologist – does a wonderful job painting the picture of the ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern worlds in both the middle bronze age (MBA) and late bronze age (LBA). Though its goal is to synthesize the data relevant to understanding the collapse of the bronze age, it does so only after first explaining the international storyline of the 15th-13th centuries. Thus readers get a much broader understanding of the ancient world from this engaging and informative story.
On another front, I liked that the author did not limit his study to Egypt or Mesopotamia. He also discussed Anatolia (Hatti), the Aegean, Mycenae, and other civilizations engaged in commerce and diplomacy in the MBA and LBA. What was evident from this book was the global economy that existed in the ancient world and an interaction between empires that parallels what we have today. I was especially interested in the emphasis he placed upon the Mediterranean, and found his utilization of the Uluburun and Cape Geladonya shipwrecks to be some of the clearest and most well integrated I’ve read.
When reading about biblical figures who lived in this period, I have often found it difficult to fully appreciate the setting in which they found themselves. Apart from some general references made to the Hyksos when speaking of Joseph, discussions about the identity of the Pharaoh of the Exodus, and analysis of destruction layers of southern Levantine tells mentioned in Joshua, there are only a few other topics that books in the orbit of Old Testament students tend to cover. Yet the ancient world with its wars and allegiances, its diplomacy and royal marriage, its letter writing and gifting, and its trade and sharing of cultural expressions is a rich tapestry within which God’s redemptive plan was played out.
This was really a wonderful book. The author says some things about ancient Israel that will be disputed by those of us more maximalist in our view of the historical value of the Old Testament, but the general tenor of the book was very calm. Though the books by Amelie Kuhrt and Mark Van De Mieroop (here and here) are thorough histories of the ancient world surrounding Israel and Judah, E.H. Cline’s new book is a thrilling and readable overview of this part of history.
(Note: I found the book as exciting as this trailer! Although, since when do they make trailers for books?!)
R. Andrew Compton
Christ Reformed Church (URCNA)