Kingdom of Priests – A History of Old Testament Israel
On November 4, 2009 At 6:36 am
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From the origins and exodus to the restoration and new hope, Kingdom of Priests offers a comprehensive introduction to the history of Old Testament Israel. Merrill explores the history of ancient Israel not only from Old Testament texts but also from the literary and archeological sources of the ancient Near East. After selling more than 30,000 copies, the book has now been updated and revised. The second edition addresses and interacts with current debates in the history of ancient Israel, offering an up-to-date articulation of a conservative evangelical position on historical matters. The text is accented with nearly twenty maps and charts.
User Ratings and Reviews
4 Stars Atop the Stronghold (Proverbs 21:22)
Merrill's work is certainly well-done. Although the work is obviously scholarly, the reader is not lost in a morass of technical jargon. Footnotes are generoulsy sprinkled at the bottom of every page and Merrill is always careful to include a reference to the work of other scholars, even those who do not agree with him, for the sake of those readers who might wish to do a little more research and receive both sides of the argument. At the same time, he gives cogent arguments for his own conservative stance on controversial issues and I must say that, barring one or two, I found his arguments very persuasive and, overall, whether I always agreed with him or not, he certainly provides a strong defense of his own position. Throughout the work I was consistently reminded of the experience, learning and concentrated insight that any reader can gain from a true scholar. Merrill did a fine job.
At times, because he is fair in his representation of differing opinions among certain historio-literary schools of thought (even going so far as to make explicit the fact that some of his views are in the minority among scholars), he might fool some of his readers into thinking that he holds certain views which he, in fact, does not. This is why I must disagree with the first reviewer who mentions Merrill's supposed belief that three or four tribes of Israel left Egypt at once and met the others later… In truth, Merrill was relating the views of another and not his own.
The crucial fact to consider in this work is that Merrill explicitly states that his position stems from the assumption that the Bible is the revealed Word of GOD (itself a minority view among "Biblical scholars"). Because of this, Merrill looks to the accounts rendered in the Old Testament first and compares what is found there with the claims of his peers. I found this approach extremely refreshing and of the utmost integrity.
All in all, it is quite obvious that Merrill is right in the thick of things and brings an up-to-date approach to the study of the Old Testament and he provides references for on every page. If you desire to know more about the economical, political, religious and geographical influences which helped shape the thoughts and actions of GOD's first covenant people from a well-written, conservative Christian perspective, "Kingdom of Priests" is an invaluable guide.
5 Stars Thorough but accessable
I'm about 30 pages from the end (should finish in a few days). We had this book on the shelf for a couple of years but until a few months ago, I'd never cracked the cover. It has been thought provoking and encouraging to work through the historical exploration. I especially enjoyed Merrill's treatment of the Exodus. All too often, books like this shy away from a vigorous defense of the biblical record in order to accommodate naturalistic scholarship. Anyway, this isn't light reading, but if you've read through the Old Testament a few times and are trying to string all the pearls together, Merrill is an excellent place to begin your study. He is thoroughly footnoted, so you can expand your study as needed.
5 Stars The book to read if you have to chose just one.
This is the definitive work of conservative scholarship on the history of biblical Israel. It provides a seminary level survey that is easy to read for lay people and provides the footnotes to help serious scholars dig deeper. The author is faithful to Scripture, but recognizes and explains differing view points before rebutting them. A must read for all serious students of the Old Testement.
4 Stars An Excellent Reference on Ancient History for Evangelicals!
I've read this book twice now, and I keep it on hand as a reference particularly when I am doing studies on the prophetic books of the Old Testament. It is a good concise reference for the historical background in which the Old Testament was written, but there are a few things that some of the other reviews did not seem to realize:
This book is not an exhaustive study of Israelite history. It appears to be written for a well-read lay audience. The footnotes are particularly helpful for nonprofessional Bible 'scholars,' as they point the reader to more in-depth sources of information that they might otherwise be unaware of. It is also written for Evangelicals (this is explicitly stated in the introduction). Those looking for a 'critical' history will be disappointed at his tenaciousness in reconciling ancient history with the Biblical narrative, but he is perfectly honest about what he is trying to do.
On a related thought, the two reviewers who claimed that Merrill was ignorant or intentionally ignored the Biblical account in place were sorely wrong. They either have not read the entire book, or grossly misunderstood what he was saying. For instance, it is true that he talks about the theory that several of the tribes of Israel were already in Canaan prior to the Exodus, but he then rejects that idea, and provides reasons why it does not make sense historically.
Merrill also presents a compelling system of chronology for the Exodus and for the period of the Kings. Personally, I disagree with his chronology, but he is consistent and does an excellent job of presenting his own views, and it is still a good system for obtaining an overall grasp of the approximate times that various events in the Bible took place.
With that said, the reason that I gave this book 4 stars instead of 5 is because I felt that Merrill would at times arbitrarily dismiss opposing views in favor of his own. I do believe from looking at his other works that he has a deep understanding of these other views and could refute them at length, and so my only disappointment is that he did not choose to devote more time to explaining why some of the opposing views are invalid, rather than quickly glossing over them and moving on to his own theories.
The second time that I read this book, I was also reading Wolfram Von Soden's "The Ancient Orient" and the two books complemented each other very nicely. Merrill is concerned primarily with chronology and political history. Von Soden's work is more of a social and cultural history (although it is on Mesopotamia and not Israel). They went very well together because one explained 'what happened' and the other explained 'what ordinary life was like' in the ancient Near East. I would thoroughly recommend reading these two books together as an introduction to the study of Old Testament history.
1 Star Poorly thought out
I would have to agree with a previous "reviewer" and say that the book itself is written quite well, but Merril states certain things that are obviously not true and can be picked up by almost any sunday school student. For instance, he states that three, maybe four, of the twelve tribes of Israel left Egypt at once and met up later, before the Ten Commandments were given. This, obviously cannot be true because the book of Exodus itself that all twelve tribes left together. His Biblical flaws aside, his writing was good, making the book easy to read and I believe that most of his dates were right on target. It could be hard for some people to ignore his Biblical ignorance, however, and I suggest that those people do not read this book looking for an indepth study, survey and education of the Old Testament.