Review: A History of Israel (Revised)

27777600A History of Israel: From the Bronze Age through the Jewish Wars by Walter C. Kaiser has been a classic seminary textbook for nearly two decades. Its detailed structure and organization have provided professors and students the ideal platform needed for thoughtful exploration into the history of ancient Israel. Now, after almost 20 years of academic service, A History of Israel has received a much-needed overhaul.

A full review of the book’s content can be found elsewhere, as this is a revision. That said, at least two comments are worth mention here before attention is turned towards the revision. First, and probably foremost, those familiar with Kaiser’s work will be pleasantly welcomed by the conservative scholarship that is characteristic of his legacy. Kaiser deals with the evidence (and sometimes lack thereof) without compromise in scholarship or conviction. Second, as mentioned above, the organization of the volume has been a large factor of its success in the classroom over the years. Kaiser is detailed and comprehensive, and the editorial effort that has been done to bring this caliber of work into focus is impressive, and it only gets better with this revision.

The revision itself in many ways simply enhances the original beauty of Kaiser’s work. There are a number of enhancements worth discussing here. First, and probably most notable, Paul D. Wegner has been added to the volume as a coauthor, and likely a major reason that the revision was commenced. Wegner is a capable scholar and complements Kaiser nicely. Second, there is more content than before, approximately 200 pages. Some of the added page count is the result of added illustrations, but some is also due to revision within the content of the book. The revisions therein largely focus on Old Testament texts and ancient Near Eastern literary and archaeological sources. Kaiser and Wegner aim to highlight the important modern controversies surrounding this portion of Scripture and treat topics such as current approaches to the study of the history of Israel, common fallacies in modern, secular biblical studies, and the evidence for the historical authenticity of the Old Testament accounts. Third, as alluded to above, there has been a substantial focus on the volumes visual appeal. The revised edition includes over 600 full-color maps, charts, and illustrations to help bring the content closer to the reader, and this is a welcomed effort.

Still, where the above highlights some of the more praiseworthy elements of the revised edition of A History of Israel, it is important to comment on the shortcomings of the volume. It should be said at the onset that apart from some likely methodological differences, for most readers, few content related shortcomings exist. Where the missed opportunities are evident is largely in the hands of the publisher. B&H Academic is known for quality resources, especially when it comes to full-color prints. That said, this volume is likely the first exception to that legacy. First, the book is way too big for a flimsy paperback cover. The binding is stiff, difficult to read beyond the first hundred pages or so, and the cover does not match the caliber of the content therein. The book’s size alone makes it worthy of a hardcover. Second, while the pages are nice and thick, the print quality therein is a little better than what you would get at home on an old HP printer. Third, the 600+ full-color visuals are welcomed, but the overall execution of such was well below even the lowest standard of quality. The colors and print quality are inconsistent, and sadly, the otherwise excellent content appears amateur as a result.

A History of Israel: From the Bronze Age through the Jewish Wars (Revised Edition) by Walter C. Kaiser and Paul D. Wegner is a phenomenal resource. Kaiser and Wegner have done a huge service by bringing the material up-to-date with current conversations. It continues to be a gold standard resource for a conservative position on the matters of the history of Israel. It’s a shame that the physical appearance of the book detracts from the academic rigor therein. Because the content is both needed and done right, it comes highly recommended—but only for those who can look beyond the aesthetics of a poorly printed book.

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