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Excerpt: "My purpose in this book is to tell the story of Israel's nearest neighbors- not only discovering what the Bible has to say about them but also what we can know from archaeology, ancient inscriptions, and other sources. To say that this task is complicated is putting it lightly. For one thing, the Bible itself presents these neighbors in nuanced and conflicting ways; sometimes they are friends or even related to Israel at a family level, and sometimes they are enemies, spoken of as though they must die in order for Israel to live. The Moabites, for example, violently confront the escaped Hebrew slaves on their way out of Egypt yet also provide the great-grandmother of King David in the person of Ruth, a Moabite refugee. The Edomites, reviled in the Bible as participators in the sacking ofJerusalem in 586 BCE, have familial ties with Israel in the book of Genesis, and the Aramaeans, political enemies of Israel in the book of Kings, occupy a mysterious place near the heart oflsrael's own journey in Deuteronomy 26:5, where the in- dividual Israelite is to recite a short historical creed that begins, "A wandering Aramaean was my ancestor. .. :· Moreover, the biblical story never presents the identity of these groups as pure "history;' but rather as a complex mix of legend, storytelling, political invec- tive, and memory. We are left wondering how the biblical portrayal might have affected our thinking about these people as historical groups. How would an Aramaean have described her own reli- gion? How would an Edomite have described conflict with Israel?

In this book, then, I explore the biblical portrayal of the smaller groups surrounding Israel as well as what we can know about these groups through their own literature, archaeology, and other sources.


Originally published by Oxford University Press

Chapter 1 of Ancient Israel's Neighbors. pp. 1-21. by Brian Doak, 2020. ISBN: 9780190690601

Reproduced by permission of Oxford University Press