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Biblical Archaeology Review 46:4, Fall 2020

Strata: Book Review: Bible and Bedouin

By Edward L. Greenstein

There is a long history of scholarship that attributes the origins of the Hebrews to a nomadic lifestyle and that explains manifold biblical norms and literary features as direct reflections of such a society. Roland de Vaux’s classic Ancient Israel: Its Life and Institutions (1961) is chock full of comparisons to Arab and Bedouin cultures. In 1975, Morris S. Seale, a Christian missionary in Syria and Lebanon and an Arabist, published his book The Desert Bible: Nomadic Tribal Culture and Old Testament Interpretation, where he sought to explicate biblical practices, passages, and terms on the basis of Arabian culture. We are now presented with a somewhat similar but more copiously referenced treatment by Clinton Bailey, an American Israeli who has for several decades lived with Bedouin, studied their culture, and published on their literature, law, and lore.

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