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Publisher's Summary

From Genesis to Job, the Hebrew scriptures contain some of the most influential stories in Western civilization. But what do these stories tell us about daily life in ancient Israel? And why do they still speak to us today?

In 24 captivating lectures, Professor Chapman introduces you to the stories of the Judeans in exile and grounds them in their historical context, giving you a grand vision of history as presented in the scriptures. She compares the history in the Bible to the archaeological record so that you come away with a complete picture of life in biblical Israel.

Discover the complete literary power of the scriptures by investigating many of the Bible's key historical moments, from the origins of the Israelites in the Torah to the Babylonian Captivity and the resettlement under the Persian Empire, which is the very heart of the Hebrew scriptures. Learn how the exilic period motivated the community to reexamine its relationship to its God, its land, its religious practices, and its legacy to the children who would become the new Israel.

But you'll tackle more than the sweep of history. From the family compounds to the battlefields and from the kitchens to the temples, Professor Chapman puts flesh on the bones of the biblical stories. Spiritually engaging and historically fascinating, this course is unlike any other, and it will give you a new appreciation both for ancient history and for the foundation of the three Abrahamic faiths.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.

©2013 The Great Courses (P)2013 The Teaching Company, LLC

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Story

Great overview of ancient Jewish history

I had trouble finding a good overview of biblical Jewish history and this is it. Exactly what I was hoping for!

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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Outstanding course

What made the experience of listening to The World of Biblical Israel the most enjoyable?

Professor Chapman offers an outstanding course on the World of Biblical Israel. It is thorough, insightful, and her presentations are enjoyable. As a Catholic deacon who has studied Scripture extensively, I would strongly recommend this course to anyone who wishes to understand the life and struggles of a people whose blessing paradoxically comes from wrestling with God.

7 of 8 people found this review helpful

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  • B Taub
  • Ann Arbor, MI United States
  • 05-19-16

Wow! The Torah Kinda Makes Sense Now!

I absolutely loved this course and felt like I finished it far more educated! I have always felt that the Bible combined historical truth with political opinion and deific mythology. This course does a great job of distilling the history from the mythology. For beginners trying to figure out the Bible, it also puts things along a nice timeline.

I've read bits and pieces from the Bible and they never really made sense to me. For example, if Jews are not to have idols, and David was a great king, why does the Bible describe him as having household idols? In another example, what did it really mean that the Assyrians displaced the 10 tribes of Israel and left just the tribe of Judah?

Well, Dr. Chapman takes the text and puts it into a historical context - suddenly, the material makes sense! You walk away with a real sense of who the ancient Israelites were and what they really believed.

Dr. Chapman's overall thesis is that, while some material was older than the Babylonian exile, the Bible is largely a result of that exile and, even the older material, was edited in light of the experience of exile. She delves into a lot of concepts to support her thesis.

For those who commented that this course comes from a secular perspective that denies the existence and supremacy of Gd, I'd have to agree with their opinion. Of course, I'm not sure what a history course would look like if it were built around Gd - isn't that pretty much the Bible in it's raw form?

Anyway, for a wannabe, amateur, Biblical historian, this course just ties everything together and I highly recommend it.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Title of Course does not match expectations

I have listened to about 25 great courses and enjoyed most of them. Professor Chapman apparently knows her material well, but most of the time she is speaking in a monotone, suggestive of having given this talk many times. Once in awhile, she would become more animated, but most of the time, it was hard for me to listen.

More importantly, the story was also unclear. The primary focus was on the exilic period when Judah and Israel had been conquest by Babylon and Assyria respectively. However, it was not history as much as an exposition of how the Deuteronomists edited the history to give meaning to that period of Israel's exile. That is fine, but that more narrow focus was not indicated by the title of this course. There were also a few places where I questioned some of the "facts" being offered. Not a course I would recommend. Sorry! I enjoy the great courses, but sometimes they miss the mark, and I do not place the fault on the speaker.

8 of 10 people found this review helpful

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I wanted either more or less

This discussion starts off pulling a lot of bits from the Bible about day to day life in ancient Israel. If she had stopped with that, it would have been a good series, but she continued into areas such as the origins of the Hebrew God. That would certainly be a fascinating subject, but it was breezed over so quickly we were left with only her opinions and no supporting evidence.

8 of 10 people found this review helpful

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Well worth the time!

Would you listen to The World of Biblical Israel again? Why?

Yes, there was so much information that I'm sure I missed some of the items taught.

Any additional comments?

The Professor brings ancient Israel to life in a practical sensibility.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Interesting, if you can stomach the bias.

I was excited when I found this course - I thought I would be getting historical and cultural insight into ancient Israel. I got some interesting tidbits, but was distracted by the overtone of cynicism with regard to the Bible as anything beyond rewritten family stories full of propaganda, or "composed" literature. As a believer in the Bible as the Word of God, I felt the delivery to be dismissive and disrespectful of listeners who believe these scriptures to be true and ordained by God. The information could have been communicated entirely apart from these subjective interjections - it didn't add anything to the series to have the obvious personal bias of the lecturer against the validity of scripture as truth coating the delivery, and indeed took away from my experience of this series. By the end, I had given up getting any real content, and resolved that the lectures would be mostly the a retelling of scriptural accounts with the speaker's own thoughts and ideas woven in, full of subtle jabs at its accuracy. One might ask how we can learn ANYTHING from the text, if we are also saying it isn't trustworthy. The duplicity is aggravating, and the lack of integrity saddens me. How disappointing.

25 of 48 people found this review helpful

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Does not live up to the title

This book is primarily a reading of Bible stories with commentary... not the review the world the Bible was written in. While the writing style is witty, I do not find the logic compelling. Furthermore, it only addresses the Old Testament. Nothing about the New Testament. period is included

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  • Pollyanna
  • Foresthill, CA, United States
  • 08-30-17

Broad and insightful survey. Chapman combines<br />sc<br /><br />

Chapman's scholarship combines biblical references with geography, archaeology, anthropology and theology. She tells a story in cultural context, with depth of background in the stories of exile and rebuilding, and a sense of literary stewardship of the living Bible by those who lived the stories. A touch of wry humor as well.

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A book everyone should read

Where does The World of Biblical Israel rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

Top 25

Who was your favorite character and why?

Well you have to go with Abraham

What does Professor Cynthia R. Chapman bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

How to pronounce people's names and places

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

no, it's too long

Any additional comments?

I recommend this book to everyone,

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  • Jonathan
  • 10-11-14

Fascinating and informative but a bit too serious

This was an extremely interesting lecture course from which I learned a huge amount. It describes the period of Jewish history covered in the Old Testament, including some remarkable insights into everyday life. As with all Great Courses series, there is a lot of detail about content on the Great Courses web site. The lecturer gives the impression of being extremely learned and her presentation is extremely clear with an astonishing absence of stumbles. I decided to rate it as 4 rather than 5 because the whole thing is a bit too serious. The best Great Courses lecturers inject a healthy amount of humour and their own personality -- this course had very little of either. As a result I found that I had to concentrate at times to follow the material in detail. But having said that I am very pleased that I listened to this course because it was so informative and so interesting.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 02-02-16

Mildly Interesting

Well, there were some good facts brought out. An interesting take on the culture.
For those who are quite familiar with the topic, the interpretations were in some instances outlandish and unsubstantiated. The tone is somewhat combatative.
This is not particularly archaeological in nature. Takes more a sociological measure of history.