My People as Your People

A Textual and Archaeological Analysis of the Reign of Jehoshaphat

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Chris McKinny
American University Studies, volume 355
  • New York, NY: 
    Peter Lang Publishing
    , January
     2016.
     188 pages.
     $83.95.
     Hardcover.
    ISBN
    9781433130762.
     For other formats: Link to Publisher's Website.

Review

The geo-political status of the Kingdom of Judah during the ninth century BCE has, in recent years, become an important research focus for historians and archaeologists alike. Accordingly, Chris McKinny’s My People as Your People, which offers an assessment of the relevant historical and archaeological evidence for this period, is a particularly welcome addition to the expanding corpus of scientific literature devoted to understanding the Iron Age IIA. This predominantly archaeologically based study, which comprises a published version of McKinny’s M.A. thesis, provides a reasonably balanced and detailed examination of Jehoshaphat’s reign (872-848 BCE, Thiele’s chronology).

Two important factors contribute to the usefulness of this book. First, archaeologists working at Tell es-Safi (Philistine Gath) have identified and dated a major destruction layer at the site dating to around 830 BCE, and attribute it to the Aramean King Hazael (2 Kings 12:17). This data, in turn, has enabled both archaeologists and biblical historians to identify a more reliable ninth century BCE footprint at various Judahite sites and narrow the relative chronology for Jehoshaphat’s reign based, in part, upon comparisons of ceramic assemblages from other excavated sites in the region. The most pertinent of these sites are the nearby cities of Beth Shemesh, where recently published Iron Age results demonstrate a nearly contemporary destruction layer dating to around 800 BCE; and Lachish, whose Iron Age IIA history is currently being rewritten by the joint Hebrew University and Southern Adventist University excavations. Second, McKinny is a recent recipient of a Ph.D. from Bar Ilan University and is a long-term staff member with teams excavating at Tell es-Safi as well as at Tel Burna (possibly biblical Libnah), making him particularly qualified to prepare and present this study to the reader given his knowledge of the relevant material culture, and also his proficiency in and frequent citations from publications in Modern Hebrew.

2 Chronicles 17:1-19 records a long list of Jehoshaphat’s accomplishments, some of which have potential archaeological correlations. While mostly known for his Levitical reforms and allegiance to Ahab, Jehoshaphat’s reign also included military restructuring efforts, the building of store cities and fortresses, and diplomatic triumphs over the Arabs and Philistines. However, aside from brief references to En Gedi and Ezion-Geber, the biblical narratives fail to specify either town or topographic names, and lack other potentially valuable data relating to Jehoshaphat. These omissions stand in contrast to biblical records for other kings, such as Rehoboam and Uzziah. Nevertheless, the author presents a fine compendium of sites exhibiting ninth century BCE Judahite occupational evidence, and gives a generally brief but adequate description of each one in his survey treatment. Surprisingly, however, sites in the Hill Country of Judah are not included.

An invasion of Judah from the east is another important biblical narrative (2 Chronicles 20) that is briefly discussed by McKinny (17-18). With a dramatic climax that ends with the self-destruction of the enemy coalition, the veracity of the Chronicles accounts have been largely suspect. Nevertheless, McKinny agrees with Anson Rainey (“Mesha’s Attempt to Invade Judah,” in Studies in Historical Geography and Biblical Historiography Presented to Zecharia Kallai, ed. by G. Galil and M. Weinfeld, Brill, 2000), and contends that certain details provided by Chronicles admirably fit both a ninth century BCE geo-political milieu and the historical-geographical data. Consequently, the propensity of evidence seems to favor a historical basis for this account.

A generous number of helpful tables, photos, and maps supplement the text. While McKinny’s treatment of the various historical issues and sites relating to Jehoshaphat could easily be expanded and developed further, the volume is a valuable resource for student and scholar alike.

About the Reviewer(s): 

Jeffrey P. Hudon is an adjunct professor in the Department of Religion at Bethel College.

Date of Review: 
December 12, 2016
About the Author(s)/Editor(s)/Translator(s): 

Chris McKinny has a PhD from Bar-Ilan University where he studied biblical studies and Bronze and Iron Age archaeology of the southern Levant. His dissertation dealt with the historical geography of the town lists of Judah and Benjamin in the book of Joshua. McKinny is a staff member at the Tel Burna Archaeological Project and the Ackerman Family Bar-Ilan University Expedition to Gath. His publications include studies in historical geography, archaeology, biblical history, biblical chronology, and digital archaeology, relating both to the above-mentioned projects and several other ancient sites.

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