Robert Miller – “Israelite Life Before the Kings”


The magazine Biblical Archaeology Review is currently showcasing an article by Robert Miller entitled Israelite Life Before the Kings. Not having a subscription to this, I have only seen the promotional blurb and not the full article, but it would make a great description of the setting of In a Milk and Honeyed Land.

Their tag line question is “What was life like for the settlers of Canaan during the time of the Biblical Judges”, and Miller is particularly interested in the Iron I period, roughly 1200-1000 BC. He has written on this topic before, typically from an archaeological perspective. I cited his book Chieftains of the Highland Clans – also on the Iron I period – during work in my PhD thesis Triumphal Accounts in Hebrew and Egyptian.

Now, In a Milk and Honeyed Land is set right at the start of this time, before the period of the judges got under way, but of course many of his observations apply equally to that time. For example, he says

villages … were quite small, possibly 400 people in the largest of these — Shiloh or Gibeon, for instance. These towns were mostly unwalled, though they were part of larger political units or regional chiefdoms that provided security…

Israelites lived in nuclear households, often with their relatives in clusters of houses around a common courtyard. Houses were made of mudbrick with a stone foundation and perhaps a second story of wood. The living space of the houses consisted of three or four rooms, often with sleeping space on the roof or in a covered roof loft…

the hills were densely overgrown, covered with a thick scrub of pine, oak and terebinth trees…the early Israelite settlers of Canaan would burn off some of the brush, terrace the hillsides within an hour’s walk of the village, and plant grain, primarily wheat…They had orchards on these terraces as well.

Readers of In a Milk and Honeyed Land will recognise all of these features in the story. BAR’s normal coverage is of popular academic presentations of biblical material, but maybe it’s worth seeing if they would review my book…

The link to the abridged version is


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