Iron Age ruins at Megiddo (Photo: Gary A. Rendsburg)
Two centuries of archaeological excavation and exploration in the Holy Land and its environs have revealed more than we ever knew about the people, culture, society, and religion of ancient Israel. Religious artifacts and writings from ancient Egypt, Canaan, and Mesopotamia provide information about historical events as well as religious beliefs and practices not mentioned in the Bible. The result is an ever-clearer picture and a fuller understanding of the people and the society that produced the Bible.
In this illustrated all-day program, biblical scholar Gary Rendsburg presents an overview of new findings that illuminate the world of ancient Israel.
Rendsburg holds the Blanche and Irving Laurie Chair in Jewish History at Rutgers University.
10–11:15 a.m. In Search of Israel’s Origins
Rendsburg begins with the mention of “Israel” found in the famous Merneptah Stele (c. 1220 BC) from ancient Egypt, along with additional Egyptian texts that refer to phenomena known from the Bible, such as the arrival of herdsmen from the delta and foreign laborers used in construction projects. He follows the earliest Israelites into the land of Canaan, where they settled in small villages in the central hill country, characterized by a basic material culture and the total absence of pig bones.
11:30 a.m.–12:45 p.m. In Search of David and Solomon
Rendsburg looks at the city of Jerusalem, established by David as the capital of Israel and the location of Solomon’s Temple, as well as other sites in the land of Israel, including the cities of Hazor and Megiddo. He also examines the earliest written remains in the Hebrew language, several of which were discovered only in the last two decades.
12:45–1:15 p.m. Break
1:15–2:30 p.m. In Search of Israel and Judah
The death of Solomon resulted in the establishment of two smaller kingdoms, Israel in the north and Judah in the south. Both entities and many of the numerous kings who ruled over them are mentioned in contemporary documents from Aram, Moab, Assyria, and Babylonia. Two texts, one from Aram and one from Moab, refer to Judah as “the House of David.”
2:45–4 p.m. In Search of God
Rendsburg turns to the question of religion and theology: Where does God come from? Did all Israelites worship the one God or did some element of the population worship other gods? When does pure monotheism rise?