When Ancient Israel was first published, Lemche presented a new model of how we should understand Israelite society, its history and its religion. Lemche argues first that 'Israel' was the result of a social development among the Canaanite population of Palestine in the second half of the second millennium BCE. Lemche's radical reassessment of Israelite history is based on the conviction that the Old Testament contains hardly any historical sources older than the seventh century BCE. The early history of Israel must therefore be reconstructed from archaeological results and non-biblical evidence, not from the Old Testament. In this new Cornerstones edition Lemche provides an extensive new introduction and bibliography, considering how the field has developed since the work first appeared.
“When it first appeared, Lemche's Ancient Israel was the first of a new generation of Iron age histories, with its insistence on a sociological rather than theological approach, its rejection of the 'rationalistic biblical paraphrases', (as Lemche felicitously termed what had gone before). If some features of this new approach were already being anticipated, Lemche provided the first synthesis, laying the foundation for the current agenda. In this new edition, some of his own modifications and developments of that agenda are also reviewed. It remains an excellent foundation for historical research into the Hebrew Bible.” – Philip Davies, University of Sheffield, UK
“When it was first published, this best-selling introductory textbook on the history of ancient Israel stood at the cusp of the departure from a history based on a rational paraphrase of the Bible and the construction of the critical, archaeologically based history of Palestine which is dominant today. Rooted in a social science-based perspective of Palestine's ancient past, Lemche based himself in the rapidly changing perspectives of Israel and Judah's histories of the decade preceding his textbook and set a firm foundation for the critical histories of the present.” – Thomas L. Thompson, Professor emeritus, University of Copenhagen, Denmark