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A History of Israel by John Bright
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1,32839,185 (3.82)2
Unsurpassed for nearly half a century, and now with a new introduction and appendix by William P. Brown, John Bright's A History of Israel will continue to be a standard for a new generation of students of the Old Testament. This book remains a classic in the literature of theological education.… (more)



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This is the most interesting book I've read all year. It's an attempt to tell the story of the Jews from the earliest times to the Maccabean revolt using the Bible, archaeology and the general history of the area. In the absence of other evidence – or common sense – Bright defaults to the Bible (using a critical approach).

The danger with this, of course, is that new facts emerge from the ground all the time. Even I, with my very sketchy knowledge of the period noticed a few points where more recent interpretations differ. I am given to understand that he published three revised editions. But that's not to say that the first edition isn't worth reading, if that is what you have available. I read it because I've been thinking of leafing through the Bible and a wanted a narrative history so I wouldn't be all at sea. I got so much more than that. The book has true literary qualities that I just wasn't expecting to find.

There's a wonderful tension in the stories. Take Abraham. Now obviously there's no archaeological evidence for Abraham or for anything up to the Exodus. What Bright does is paint a picture of the times when Abraham might reasonably have lived, if he did. What emerges from the stories told about Abraham – his cultural practices and the journey he made – is that he is being presented as Mr Norman Normal. Yet on the other hand here is a man in direct communication with God. There's that tension between daily life on the one hand and the divine on the other.

Later you have a people with the most grandiose conception of God and of their place in the world on the one hand. On the other the mundane truth – that they are an obscure hill-people who cannot hold their kingdom together and are apparently incapable of winning a major battle.

That tension also characterises Bright's approach. His use of faith and reason to tell the story, each straining in the opposite direction and yearning for freedom. I sensed that same tension in Bright himself. He's obviously come to his subject because of it's importance to his own faith (he was Presbyterian) but he has to understand and has to know. ( )
  Lukerik | Jan 11, 2018 |
A history of Israel (Westminster aids to the study of the Scriptures) by John Bright (?)
  journeyguy | Apr 2, 2013 |
A spectacular introduction to the history of God's people. Covering cultural and historical background as well as the production of the Old Testament, this work will help anyone endeavoring to understand the context and development of the Bible. ( )
  PastorBob | Mar 29, 2010 |
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To the Memory of


in recognition of a debt of gratitude

that cannot be repaid
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FOREWORD TO THE FIRST EDITION -- It is unnecessary in itself to justify the writing of a history of Israel.
FOREWORD TO THE SECOND EDITION -- Needless to say, I have been deeply gratified by the generally favorable response which the first edition of this book has received.
FOREWORD TO THE THIRD EDITION -- Although the second edition of this book appeared less than ten years ago, it has become obvious to me that yet a further revision is imperative.


As the Bible presents it, the history of Israel began with the migration of the Hebrew patriarchs from Mesopotamia to their new homeland in Palestine.
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