Journal of Hebrew Scriptures - Volume 5 (2004-2005) - Review

O. Lipschits, Jerusalem between Destruction and Restoration. Judah under Babylonian Rule (Jerusalem: Yad Ben-Zvi, 2004), 551 Pp. ISBN: 965-217-225-1.  $NP. In Modern Hebrew with English Table of Contents.

This book is a revised version of the author’s doctoral dissertation written at Tel Aviv University in 1997 under the direction of Prof. Nadav Na’aman. It deals with one of the most problematic eras for the study of the ancient Israelite history – the years between the destruction of the First Temple (586 BCE) and the beginning of the Persian period (538 BCE). The relative lack of evidence from this period of time makes it almost impossible to reconstruct its history (see, at length, A. Faust, “Judah in the Sixth Century B.C.E.: A Rural Perspective,” PEQ 135 [2003]: 37–53). 

The book consists of five parts divided into sub-chapters. After a short introduction that deals with the scope and aims of the book, the first part (divided into six sub-chapters) presents the geopolitical and historical background situation in Judah and its neighbors in the seventh century.  The second part focuses on the Babylonian dominion in the Hattu-land. Most of this part is devoted to a detailed analysis of the biblical accounts in the book of Kings that describe the destruction of the First Temple and the Babylonian exile. Issues related to the demographic and geopolitical processes in Judah in the six century BCE are dealt with in the third part. Here Lipschits also compares the biblical accounts in Ezra-Nehemiah with the archeological finds and tries to depict the borders of Judah in that period. The fourth part focuses again on archeology but this time it used to evaluate the population in Jerusalem and in other regions. The final part examines the nature of the biblical sources that describe the destruction of the First Temple and the Babylonian Exile, i.e. the so-called ‘Deuteronomistic History’ and the ‘biographic source’ in Jeremiah (Jer 37-45).  Lipschits deals with the date and redaction of these sources, the place in which they were written, and their purposes.

 Maps, tables, and illustrations accompany the various chapters. A bibliography and indices round up the book. 

Specific points of critique are:

  1. The book could have been more focused and therefore shorter had the author narrowed his focus to the historical and archeological data. Instead, he deals thoroughly with the composition of the books of Kings and Jeremiah, rather than dealing with artifacts and their meaning. It is doubtful whether such a thorough discussion was necessary at all.

  2. The footnotes throughout the book are too long. In fact, in some cases the footnotes are spread over most of the page. Some of the footnotes could have been part of the upper text, while other could have been avoided or abridged (see for example, pages 79-81, 103-105, 227-228).

  3. The bibliographic list seems to be too extensive. It consists of 100 pages, that is, a fifth of the whole book. Though the author makes efforts to update the bibliography written from 1997 and onwards, still, it does not contain some very important items, such as Faust’s article (listed above), various books on Jerusalem in biblical times and especially recent studies dealing with the troublesome question of the historical reliability of the Bible.

  4. Usually one can feel that the book was well proofread, except in pages 292-305, where the title of the chapter reads יהדדה rather than יהודה.

One can hope that these matters will be corrected in the English version that will probably appear in the future.  

On the whole, Lipschits’ book is a very welcome addition to the study of biblical history and historiography, the relationship between Bible and archeology, and the early Persian period.


Michael Avioz

Department of Bible, Bar-Ilan University, Ramat-Gan 52900, Israel