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Getting a fix on the social context of the Hebrew Bible is imperative for anyone reconstructing either the “story” of the text or the “history” behind the text. Resources in this area often prove overspecialized and arcane, and readerly tasks as simple as scanning their table of contents can require highly sophisticated skills in cultural anthropology or Semitic languages. Social World of Ancient Israel, 1250–587 BCE offers those interested in learning about the biblical world a more user-friendly framework for viewing the broader picture; at the same time, it relies on the latest methods of cultural anthropology and biblical analysis in its presentation. Painting a picture in broad but precise strokes, the authors portray the landscape of ancient Israel in new and exciting colors that expert and student alike will appreciate.

Social World of Ancient Israel takes a unique look at the most prominent social institutions of the world of early Israel and the period of the monarchy, and then shows how properly understanding these social institutions is essential for sound biblical interpretation. Immersing the reader in five major areas of antiquity’s daily life—politics, economics, diplomacy, law, and education—Matthews and Benjamin explore the ways in which knowing how “players” function in these institutions (configurations include “father/mother,” “prophet/wise one,”, and “host/stranger”) can shape our understanding of earliest Israel. Perhaps most significantly, the book gently exposes the inefficiency of past anthropological models for interpreting the relationships, attitudes and social conventions of earliest Israel. Its corrective insights will enable scholar and student alike to plot new approaches for studying the Hebrew Bible and the ancient people of Israel.