David’s Social Drama: A Hologram of Israel’s Early Iron AgeJames W. Flanagan (Sheffield, England: The Almond Press, 1988) 373 pp., $22.00
This is an important but difficult book. One might almost call it two books, not because of excessive length, but because it unfolds on two levels. James Flanagan uses several complex social-scientific models in his carefully crafted interpretation of the slow emergence of Israel in the early Iron Age and of its precarious but brilliant consolidation under King David. Unfortunately, he disconcertingly mixes the presentations of the models and their methodological implications with specific hypotheses about early Israel, resulting in a book that must be “chewed over” every step of the way. The work’s distinctive strength in content, however, compensates for its weakness of form. For the patient and consistently attentive reader, the interplay of method and hypothesis proves highly rewarding in the end, even though the payoff may seem long delayed.