The World around the Old Testament: The People and Places of the Ancient Near East. Edited by BILL T. ARNOLD and BRENT A. STRAWN. Grand Rapids: BAKER ACADEMIC, 2016. Pp. xxvii + 531, illus. $49.99.
Much has happened in biblical and Near Eastern studies since the publication of Peoples of Old Testament Times (ed. D. J. Wiseman [Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1973]) and Peoples of the Old Testament World (ed. Alfred Hoerth et al. [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1998]). Therefore, the thirteen essays in this present volume edited by Bill T. Arnold and Brent Strawn are excellent up-to-date renderings of many of the main people groups that surrounded the Israelites in antiquity. In addition to those treated in the two previous volumes, essays on the Arabians and Greeks are included in this volume. A notable omission is the Canaanites; the editors argue, rather unconvincingly, that Israel was from this region, and thus it would be somewhat redundant. However, it is perhaps a stronger argument for their inclusion, since an article on the Canaanites would have provided a solid context for comprehending the Israelites.
Each contributor provides some basic topics for their people group: emphasizing the period 1500-332 BCE, they present an overview of their history, culture, religion, art, and literature, as well as establishing their connections (or lack thereof) to the Israelites. These people groups are Amorites, Assyrians, Babylonians, Ugaritians, Egyptians, Hittites and Hurrians (in one essay), Arameans, Phoenicians, Ammonites, Moabites, and Edomites (the last three in one essay), Philistines, Persians, Arabians, and Greeks. The contributors are world-class scholars, who have written very original and scholarly creations which are among the best summaries of the current state of understanding of each people group (biblical connections or otherwise).
Daniel E. Fleming, "The Amorites," gives an original and thoughtful essay. Following the lead of Anne Porter (2012), he argues that third-millennium sources from southern Mesopotamia show that they were not a separate people group in that region, "but one dimension of its mixed makeup" (p. 7), even if that "dimension" cannot be fully determined. Moreover, the term "Amorite" stays somewhat murky in the Old Babylonian period, although it appears to have indicated a people with a mobile pastoralist background. Fleming continues by showing the similarities of usage of the terms "Amorite" with the later terms " Apiru,"...