» Did the Israelites escape slavery in a mass exodus from Egypt?
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» What was everyday life like in ancient Israel?
World-renowned archaeologist William G. Dever examines these important topics and others in How Archaeology Illuminates the Bible, an eight-part series he created exclusively for the Biblical Archaeology Society. If you’re looking for a comprehensive introduction to archaeology and the Hebrew Bible, look no further!
An Orientation to Biblical Archaeology: History, Aims and Methods
In “An Orientation to Biblical Archaeology,” Professor Dever introduces you to the major players in the development of the discipline, and how the goals and terminology of the field have changed over the years. He also explains the different types of history, delving into the methods archaeologists use to learn about the ancient past.
Patriarchs and Matriarchs: History or Fiction?
Dever discusses the very beginning of Israelite history with “Patriarchs and Matriarchs” including Abraham and Sarah, Jacob and Joseph. Professor Dever demonstrates how archaeology can help us understand these Biblical figures in their historical contexts to locate nuggets of truth in their legendary tales.
Who Were the Early Israelites, and Where Did They Come From?
Out of the uncertainty of the patriarchal period, a somewhat clearer picture emerges in “Who Were the Early Israelites, and Where Did They Come From?” Here Professor Dever presents the earliest definitive cultural and inscriptional evidence of a new people called “Israel” living in the Holy Land. If archaeology shows that they were there, can it also find traces of fact in the Exodus story and the Biblical narratives about the sojourn in the desert followed by the Canaanite conquest?
The Rise of the Israelite State: the “United Monarchy”
Under the United Monarchy of Kings David and Solomon in the tenth century B.C., Israel truly became a force to be reckoned with. In “The Rise of the Israelite State,” Professor Dever examines the social organization and monumental architecture that marked the rise of a centralized kingdom—from the fortified cities with their massive gates to the ritual structures, culminating in the famed Temple of Solomon.
Religion and Cult: One God or Many?
The Bible makes it clear that the official state religion of Israel was the sole worship of the God Yahweh, centered at the Jerusalem Temple. However, in “Religion and Cult” Professor Dever shows that there’s always another side to the story. Archaeological remains demonstrate that popular Israelite religion was in fact quite diverse. It included belief in other deities (especially the goddess Asherah), the use of carved figurines and cultic rituals at household shrines. Monotheism was in fact a long, hard-fought struggle that only fully triumphed after the destruction of Israel and Judah in the sixth century B.C.
Everyday Life in Biblical Times
While the Bible focuses on the kings, prophets and heroes of ancient Israel, most people led a very different existence. In “Everyday Life in Biblical Times,” Professor Dever uses archaeology to bridge the gap between social classes and shed light on what life was really like for the majority of Israelite people. From pottery styles to family homes to farming techniques, uncovering “life on the ground” is one of Professor Dever’s archaeological specialties.
Israel’s Neighbors in the Light of Recent Archaeological Research
Some say that your greatest enemies are those who are most like you. Professor Dever looks within and beyond Israel’s borders in “Israel’s Neighbors in the Light of Recent Archaeological Research” to demonstrate that, although Israel had a distinct culture, it was not necessarily unique among its West Semitic neighbors. From the Philistines and Canaanites to the Edomites and Ammonites, Dever explains the complex social politics of the Levant, exploring how given enough time, family can become foe and enemies can become friends.
The Assyrian and Babylonian Destructions: The End or the Beginning?
“The Assyrian and Babylonian Destructions” marks the end of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah. But Professor Dever argues that this was just the beginning. Although this was a time of brutal devastation, it also gave rise to the great prophets, a commitment to monotheism and the writing of the Bible. For the Judahites, who returned from decades of exile in Babylon as Jews, with old traditions and new cultural influences, their lives and their God would never be the same.
Professor William G. Dever, one of America’s most eminent Near Eastern archaeologists specializing in the Bible and a much sought-after lecturer, received his Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1966. He served as director of the American Schools of Oriental Research (later the Albright Institute of Archaeological Research) in Jerusalem from 1971 to 1975. In 1975, he joined the faculty of the University of Arizona, Tuscon as Professor of Near Eastern Archaeology and Anthropology in the Near Eastern Studies and Anthropology Departments, later becoming the head of the Department of Oriental Studies (1978-81) and the head of the Department of Near Eastern Studies (1989-1994). Professor Dever retired from the University of Arizona in 2002.
He is perhaps best known in archaeological circles as the excavator of Gezer, the major mound between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem that, according to the Bible, was given to Solomon by pharaoh as part of his daughter’s dowry when she was given in marriage to the Israelite king. At Gezer, Professor Dever excavated a city gate attributed to King Solomon. Professor Dever has also excavated at numerous other sites in Israel, Jordan and Cyprus. His many popular books include What Did the Biblical Writers Know and When Did They Know It? (2001); Who Were the Israelites and Where Did They Come From? (2003); and Did God Have a Wife? Archaeology and Folk Religion in Ancient Israel, (2005). He is also the author of hundreds of scholarly articles, reviews and monographs. In 1982, he received the Percia Schimmel Prize from the Israel Museum for distinction in archaeology.
He currently divides his time between his home in Cyprus, where his wife Pamela excavates, and Lycoming College in Pennsylvania, where he is Distinguished Visiting Professor of Near Eastern Archaeology.