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Egypt, Canaan, and Israel in Ancient Times [Paperback]

Donald B. Redford
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

10 Oct 1993

Covering the time span from the Paleolithic period to the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 B.C., the eminent Egyptologist Donald Redford explores three thousand years of uninterrupted contact between Egypt and Western Asia across the Sinai land-bridge. In the vivid and lucid style that we expect from the author of the popular Akhenaten, Redford presents a sweeping narrative of the love-hate relationship between the peoples of ancient Israel/Palestine and Egypt.



Product details

  • Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press; New Ed edition (10 Oct 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691000867
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691000862
  • Product Dimensions: 3.6 x 15.3 x 23 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 785,901 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Review

Winner of the 1993 Best Scholarly Book in Archaeology Award, Biblical Archaeological Society

"In the best Egyptological tradition. . . . This is a work written by a master in Near Eastern studies."--Jean-Pierre V.M. Herubel, Digest of Middle East Studies

"Attractively presents for the lay reader a wealth of research on the peoples and localities of ancient Palestine."--Journal of Palestine Studies

"In his ability to understand the fragmentary data of ancient history, and in constructive use of imagination, Redford has few equals in the field. . . . One of the finest histories of the ancient Near East."--The Times Literary Supplement

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
ONE OF THE great anomalies in the long story of civilization on the face of the globe is the stark contrast between Egypt of the 4000s and 3000s before Christ and its immediate progeny of the early pyramid age. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A thorough overview 30 Nov 2008
Format:Paperback
The author provides a comprehensive but highly readable review of Egypt and its relations with its neighbouring states to the east and north, from the earliest dynastic period to the fall of Jerusalem in 586 BC. Although it has an enormous amount of material to cover, the book is never dull, the author's personal viewpoint coming through clearly on many key issues. I was particularly interested in the analyses offered on the origins both of the Hyksos and (later) the Sea Peoples.

On the relationship between Egypt and Israel, Redford cannot hide his frustration with the variable quality of much 'biblical' scholarship. As with other matters, the author presents his analysis clearly and forcefully - for example in his exposition of the many differences between the monotheism of Akhenaten and that of the Hebrews. He argues for a 'late' date to much of the biblical material on Egypt (i.e. 8th century BC or later as opposed to Bronze Age). While I am sure he is correct, other authors may construe the evidence differently (e.g. relationship between Psalm 104 and Akhenaten's Hymn to the Sun Disk).

The book is excellent for the amateur interested in better understanding how ancient Egypt 'fitted in' to the broader Mesopotameum world. It also provides references into the academic literature on all issues which could act as a launching pad for those interested in following the latest threads in scholarship.
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4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A vital standard Reference work. 26 Mar 1997
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
A phenomenal work, which is of immense use and interest to both professional and amateur Egyptologists, as well as those more generally interested in the Near East.
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Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars  13 reviews
35 of 36 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Illuminates Ancient History 9 Aug 2003
By Giant Panda - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Whenever one puts Egypt and Israel in the same sentence, the stories of Joseph and Moses springs to mind, at least to Christians such as myself. This book shows that there is a lot more to it than this. Starting from 5000 years ago, the book traces in great detail the history of Egypt for 3000 years, and particularly its relation with its Asian neighbors in the lands of Canaan and beyond. In here we get to learn about the Canaanites, Phoenicians, Hittites, and Assyrians, as well as Egypt's African neighbors such as the Kushites and the Libyans. The book is extremely well-researched, drawing upon a vast wealth of archeological findings and recently discovered ancient texts and tablets, as well as the various sources of recorded history. The book is exceptional in terms of acknowledging in detail all the possible competing theories and explanations before thoroughly proving the author's theories beyond doubt through impeccable logic. The notes alone fill almost a hundred pages! But volume is far from being a dry history text. The writing is exceptional, almost bringing the ancient pharaohs and ordinary people to life in its realistic and thorough description of life in those ancient times.
The core of the book concentrates on the relationship between Egypt and the land of Canaan or southern Syria. Thus the book analyses the Hyksos invasion in detail and introduces us to the countless wars and treaties between Egypt and its Asian neighbors. Of particular interest in this book is the rise of the Hebrews, nomadic tribes from Southern Jordan who later became known as the Israelites. This book illustrates how their history has become misrepresented over the years, sometimes by well-meaning but unscholarly "Biblical scholars" who take the word of the Bible literally. Thus this book goes a long way towards establishing a history based on scientific analysis of facts, rather than purely on spiritual beliefs. Though long and tedious at times, it is a rewarding read that provides many of the answers to the most intriguing questions: Was Joseph a historical figure, and if so, is there any evidence? How did the Egyptians view their relationships with Asia? Are there any Egyptian records of the story of Moses? Why does Egypt not play a significant role during the reign of say, King David? These are all basic and fundamental questions that are of interest to all Christians, Jews, and Moslems, and the answers can all be found in this book.
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Impartial and Honest Recount of Egyptian influence on Canaan & Israel 29 July 2006
By Didaskalex - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
"As well as being scholarly, Redford's work meets my criteria for impartiality and honesty: he provides evidence against his own position and references to dissenting scholars; he uses the same standards for evaluating his own theories and alternatives;... " Danny Yee

Canaan & the Levant:
The land known as Canaan was situated in the territory of the southern Levant which today encompasses Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, Jordan and the southern portions of Syria and Lebanon. Many names have been given to this area, throughout ancient times, called by the Egyptians Rhetenu or Kharu, and Canaan by the Syrians of the second millenium BC.
The Levant is an imprecise geographical term, historically referring to a large area in the Middle East south of the Taurus Mountains, bounded by the Mediterranean Sea on the west, and by the northern Arabian Desert and Upper Mesopotamia to the east.

Ancient Egypt, Canaan & Israel:
In a study of Ancient Egypt, and Near Eastern history and archaeology, Donald Redford, an eminent Egyptologist, and a leading Canadian scholar of Near Eastern studies, highlights Egypt's dominant influence on the cultural, political, and religious traditions of the peoples of Assyria, Canaan, and the Israelite during three millennia, to the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 B.C.
This study is a lucid sociopolitical history of the relationship between Egypt and its Northern neighbors taking into account the related biblical studies. Rather than stressing Egyptian origins of clusters of Israelite culture, frequently advanced by most Egyptologists, he points out the long-lasting distinctions and differences between the cultures which prevailed to the SW and the NE of Sinai.

Study Highlights:
Exploring three thousand years of social anthropology, from prehistoric times to the Hyksos, and the continuing influential contacts across Sinai, between Egypt and its northern neighbors, with resulting resentment of the ancient superpower cultural influence and military superiority by the peoples of Canaan& the Levant. Starting with the prehistory of Egypt and drawing on archaeological evidence from the Levant, compared to Biblical history, the study then explores the Egyptian New Kingdom and its Empire in Asia.
Redford begins by considering some of the differing theories about the origins of the Hebrews, and the relationship between Egypt and the monarchy in Israel. At the end of the study, the biblical 'four great origin traditions' : the Creation accounts, the Table of Nations, the Sojourn and Exodus narratives, and the story of Joseph are discussed, within the historical context in which they were written.

Papyrus Ipuwer & Exodus:
The theme of this work has previously been taken either as a lament inspired by the supposed chaos, or as historical fiction depicting the fall of the Old Kingdom (pp. 63/67) several centuries earlier, or possibly a combination of both. This ancient Egyptian poem is preserved in Leiden Papyrus I 344. Ipuwer describes Egypt as afflicted by natural disasters and in a state of social collapse. The poor have become rich, and the rich poor, and warfare, famine and death are everywhere. One symptom of this collapse is the lament that servants are leaving their servitude and acting rebelliously. Because of this, and such statements as "the River is blood", some have interpreted the document as an Egyptian account of the Plagues of Egypt and the Exodus in the Hebrew Bible, and it is often cited as proof for the Biblical account by various biblical authorities.

End of Last Repository:
"The political defeats of 586 and 525 B.C. were destined ultimately to exert a deleterious influence on the intellectual life of both Egypt and the Levant. The reputation of Egypt for metaphysical inquiry into imponderables, which brought many a Greek of the seventh and sixth centuries to the feet of an Egyptian priest, vanished in the fifth and fourth,... The dominance of foreigners in the affairs of Egypt and Judah set the intelligentsia in both communities in a defensive posture." Epilogue, page 470

Qualified Reviews:
"What distinguishes this study is the perspective of an Egyptologist who approaches the subject of ancient Egypt and Israel without the usual preconceptions and emphases found in the studies emanating from biblical studies scholars." Paula Nielson, Loyola Marymount University.
In a book review, Danny Yee comments that, "Christians or Jews raised on 'orthodox' accounts of Israelite history may find some of it disturbing, but should persist unless they are literalists -- Redford is not out to discredit the Bible, he is just determined to treat it as one historical source amongst others."
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sometimes a tough slog, but worth it 5 Feb 2006
By Eric C. Petersen - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Redford has probably read every ancient inscription and has knowledge of every archiological site in Egypt-Middle east - as well as knowledge of every language written then. For the serious scholar of the region, book a must, both for its detail and his debunking of past popular "reasoning" about events in the area. For the casual reader, at times irritatingly challenging - he uses proper and place names often with no previous reference and maps are very sparse, and in tiny print. However, the overall sweep of history he presents is fascinating, but the sidebars - often for pages - into minutae a bit hairpulling - but, then again, one can skip these sections.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Masterful Study 31 Oct 2009
By E.L.B. - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Naturally as an Egyptologist Redford relates the history of the Near East from the angle of Egyptian activity and thought, beginning from pre-dynastic times and following through to Assyrian empire, focusing mostly on Egyptian intercourse with Syria-Palestine, whether that be in the form of its control over its peoples, trade relations with them, or hostility towards them. (or in the case of the Hyskos, subordination) The origins of several Semitic groups, including the Israelite community, and those of different stock are explained, and there is a tangent of two chapters on the influence of Egypt on the Israelites in the political, ideological, cultic and literary spheres. All the events discussed acuminate with Nebuchadrezzar's destruction of Jerusalem, and an epilogue of two pages ends on a kind of cheesy note. But forgiving this, *Egypt, Canaan, and Israel in Ancient Times* is anything but a cheesy work. This is knitty-gritty historiography which far from 'attractively presents for the lay reader' anything. (see the review comment on the back cover by the *Journal of Palestinian Studies*) Nothing about Redford's book, excepting the pictures, maps, and tables perhaps, is 'lay'. That is, unless the laity in perspective are scholars who just aren't Egyptologists. Those unaccustomed to this kind of reading, with all its jargon and impressive eloquence, will find it overbearingly pedantic. Otherwise, you'll love it, as I did, and it will be easy enough to follow along. The footnotes are usually short and to the point, citing references with little or no comment, so no real worries about a choppy read, eyes moving constantly athwart between main text and footnote. (I hate that for myself) I would like to have seen provided a chronological chart for the periods discussed. I have other ready resources for this, but of course not everyone would. I wouldn't mind a bibliographical list either.

I only gripe with the fact that Redford gets a little caustic when he addresses biblical studies, and gives off the impression that all or most biblical scholars are 'apologists' for the historicity of the biblical tradition. This is misleading and in some cases I would say unfair. His passion for his own field erupts through the pages at this point, as is evident, e.g., from the first-person pronouns (268 & 421, when the norm of self-reference everywhere else is 'the present author') and remarks such as: 'At least we can thank such writers for providing us with comic relief.' [n.113, p.310] I don't think he should have crossed so antipathic to a field he's not an expert in...then he would not have made a mistake such as: 'The absence of the Exodus tradition from early Biblical material should also be noted.' [n.76, p.410]; but then not long later: 'Despite the lateness and unreliability of the story in Exodus, no one can deny that the tradition of Israel's coming out of Egypt was one of long standing. It is found in early poetry (e.g., Exod. 15) and is constantly alluded to by the prophets.' [412] My guess for such a contradiction is that he wrote the footnote some distance prior to discovering and writing the fact of the latter (despite their spatial closeness in the text) and never emended his error. However, on most counts I agree with the points he's making about biblical literature.

I'll be holding on to this one.

Fun Facts:

* There are multiple trivial flaws in this book of the humorous kind, like the sentence (64) ending with a comma ['...and perhaps disease, With all this...']; or the sentence (213) being interrupted by a period when it should have been a comma ['In fact, in the schematized scenes of tribute bringing. Syrian ornamental vases often stand symbolically...']; or the curious 'J. J. Rowley' for the proper 'H. H. Rowley'. (n.11, p.260)

* Redford states: 'The patient and observant reader will have noted that, up to this point in our study, no mention has been made of Israel' (257). This is false (172 & 237)

* Redford cites his wife, Susan Redford, once in n.63, p.271.
11 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Broad, Even-Handed, and Very Useful 31 Oct 2001
By Timothy Dougal - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This is an incredibly comprhensive account of ancient Egypt and its Asian neighbors. It may contain more detail than some readers may want at first reading, but since then, I have found the specifics useful in clarifying other material that I am reading. Mr. Redford takes an even-handed approach with his materials and considers various viewpoints. Archaeological findings are cited, many ancient texts are quoted and some, but not many, photographs are present, and welcome. There are some typo's in my edition (EYGPT and the like).
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