Bedouin Culture in the Bible


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Clinton Bailey

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The first contemporary analysis of Bedouin and biblical cultures sheds new light on biblical laws, practices, and Bedouin history

Written by one of the world’s leading scholars of Bedouin culture, this groundbreaking book sheds new light on significant points of convergence between Bedouin and early Israelite cultures, as manifested in the Hebrew Bible. Bailey compares Bedouin and biblical sources, identifying overlaps in economic activity, material culture, social values, social organization, laws, religious practices, and oral traditions. He also examines the question of whether some early Israelites were indeed nomads as the Bible presents them, offering a new angle on the controversy over their identity as well as new cultural perspectives to scholars of the Bible and the Bedouin alike.

Clinton Bailey has studied Bedouin culture firsthand for fifty years and is the author of books on Bedouin poetry, law, and proverbs. He has been an advocate and activist on behalf of Bedouin civil rights in Israel since 1978.

"The uninterrupted survival into the modern world of ancient things always inspires a kind of awe. The Bedouin represent such an unimaginable endurance, and so does the Bible; and now Clinton Bailey, with his characteristic mixture of erudition and adventure, shows that they may represent the same antiquity. Bailey has written another extraordinary book. Once again, the romance of ethnography is evident on every one of his fascinating pages. I will not read the Bible  in the same way again." — Leon Wieseltier

"This book will be very important for those who study the literature of the Bible as well as the social history and cultural ethos of the people described in its pages. Its down to earth style is accessible to all. It is as if Bailey is writing for his friends when he describes and discusses the Bedouin."—Ziony Zevit, American Jewish University

"Clinton Bailey is a real connoisseur of the genre, intimately familiar with the details and nuances of Bedouin culture. In this field, Bailey manifests an exceptional mastery."—Heikki Palva, Journal of the American Oriental Society

"Bailey is both an empathetic observer and a master story-teller. Every student of the Bible will appreciate his insights and biblical scholars will find the volume a valuable companion to the collections of ancient Near Eastern texts that already sit on their desks."—Jeffrey H. Tigay, University of Pennsylvania

“A wholly fascinating account of how the folkways of the Bedouin illuminate and explain what we find in the Bible and what we regard as the traditions and practices of the Jewish people.”—Jonathan Kirsch, Jewish Journal

“Fascinating. . . . Biblical scholars will find this to be an accessible entry point for understanding Bedouin culture, and for using ethnographic analogy as a means of generating new interpretations of the Bible.”—Kevin M. McGeough, Reading Religion

“Bailey’s book is elegant, illustrated with photos (mostly his own), and highly suggestive. It provides valuable insight into some, if not all, of the ideas and practices found throughout the Hebrew Bible. Above all, the ethnography of the Bedouin the book provides is authoritative and fascinating.”—Edward L. Greenstein, Biblical Archaeolgy Review
ISBN: 9780300121827
Publication Date: October 23, 2018
288 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
28 b/w illus.
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