The Natural History of the Bible: An Environmental Exploration of the Hebrew Scriptures
Traversing river valleys, steppes, deserts, rain-fed forests, farmlands, and seacoasts, the early Israelites experienced all the contrasting ecological domains of the ancient Near East. As they grew from a nomadic clan to become a nation-state in Canaan, they interacted with indigenous societies of the region, absorbed selective elements of their cultures, and integrated them into a radically new culture of their own. Daniel Hillel reveals the interplay between the culture of the Israelites and the environments within which it evolved. More than just affecting their material existence, the region's ecology influenced their views of creation and the creator, their conception of humanity's role on Earth, their own distinctive identity and destiny, and their ethics.
In The Natural History of the Bible, Hillel shows how the eclectic experiences of the Israelites shaped their perception of the overarching unity governing nature's varied manifestations. Where other societies idolized disparate and capricious forces of nature, the Israelites discerned essential harmony and higher moral purpose. Inspired by visionary prophets, they looked to a singular, omnipresent, omnipotent force of nature mandating justice and compassion in human affairs. Monotheism was promoted as state policy and centralized in the Temple of Jerusalem. After it was destroyed and the people were exiled, a collection of scrolls distilling the nation's memories and spiritual quest served as the focus of faith in its stead.
A prominent environmental scientist who surveyed Israel's land and water resources and has worked on agricultural development projects throughout the region, Daniel Hillel is a uniquely qualified expert on the natural history of the lands of the Bible. Combining his scientific work with a passionate, life-long study of the Bible, Hillel offers new perspectives on biblical views of the environment and the origin of ethical monotheism as an outgrowth of the Israelites' internalized experiences.
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With all the commentaries and books on the Hebrew Scriptures that have appeared over the years, it would seem nearly impossible to write something unique and illuminating. Yet this is precisely what ... Read full review
A Personal Testament
ENVIRONMENT AND CULTURE A Premise and Its Implications
THE ECOLOGICAL CONTEXT A Region of Disparate Domains
THE FIRST RIVERINE DOMAIN Influence of Mesopotamia
THE PASTORAL DOMAIN Legacy of the Bedouin Patriarchs
THE SECOND RIVERINE DOMAIN Sojourn and Slavery in Egypt
THE DESERT DOMAIN Wanderings in Sinai and the Negev
THE RAINFED DOMAIN Settlement in the Hill District of Canaan
THE EXILE DOMAIN Expulsion Survival Revival and Return
THE OVERARCHING UNITY Culmination of Ethical Monotheism
The Lasting Relevance of Early Ecological Influences
On the Historical Validity of the Bible
Perceptions of Humanitys Role on Gods Earth
Selected Passages Regarding the Seven Domains