Habiru – The Rise of Earliest Israel, by Gary Arthur Thomson (book review)
Do you believe in coincidences?
I was about to start writing a review of the latest book I read, when I looked up the name of the author on the internet one more time, in hope I could send him a quick note. Instead, I found his obituary that was published… the day before yesterday:
I had never heard of Dr. Gary Arthur Thomson. I came across his book “Habiru – The Rise of Earliest Israel” while doing a Google search on “Habiru”. I immediately ordered the book when I saw that the first chapter was entitled “Israel began at Shechem” because I come to the same conclusion in my book “The Covenant – On the Origin of the Abrahamic Faith, my Means of Deification”.
While not the most visible scholar in his field, Thomson has definitely been around:
“Gary Arthur Thomson has taught archaeology and traditional history at McGill University for 23 years. His 17 popular courses include the Sumerians, Hittites, Egyptians, Phoenicians, Celts, Iroquois, Etruscans, and Biblical Archaeology. A classically educated humanist, Dr. Thomson has studied in North America, Europe and the Middle East. He worked as an archaeologist in Israel. He holds four university degrees.” ioriginsbook.com
Dr. Thomson died a few days ago, on Aug 10th (literally hours before I ordered his book):
Truth be told, not many modern scholars would make such claim today… especially scholars teaching history of religion from a top university – McGill has historically ranked among the top universities in the world!
Thomson has this message for his colleagues:
“Most egregious and flagrantly offensive in modern times has been the attempt to deny the historicity of the whole Hebrew era that this book has addressed – earliest Israel. University professors babble that there is not a shred of evidence for the historical existence of Samuel, Joshua, Saul, David and Solomon. They say that the Hebrew Bible was fabricated centuries later in Hellenistic times in the way that Arthena leaped from Zeus’s head, fully grown. Such nonsense belies their ignorance of the layers of text and archaeology in earliest Israel and in the Ancient Near East. It also betrays their truly anti-Semitic bias and racial hatred.” P.96
“Habiru” tells a slice of history inspired by the context, archaeology, and the scriptures. Thomson tells us the story of a confederation of tribes of Habiru and their role of in the formation of Israel at Shechem, back in 1230 BCE.
Thomson does not discuss whether he believes Abraham ever existed or not. What is important for the story is that this group of Habiru identified as descendants of the patriarch and this is what enabled them to establish a covenant among themselves.
While the book was published back in 2011, the story Thomson tells us aligns surprisingly well with The Shmunis Family Conversations in the Archaeology and History of Ancient Israel with Israel Finkelstein.
In this recent and fascinating series, Israel Finkelstein, a leading figure in the archaeology and history, sat down for several sessions (producing over 12 hrs of edited material) to talk about how a lifetime of work has informed the story of Ancient Israel.
All the dates, events, and evidence he brings forth also align perfectly with my work. In fact, I found “Habiru” to be the perfect segue from the non-fiction comic I will be publishing this fall. Thomson takes it exactly where I am leaving it.
We both worked in Montreal. From the timing surrounding the purchase of his book (literally hours after he died), to how I found out about his obituary (the day I wrote this blogpost), to the timing of how his work showed up in my life (weeks before I release my upcoming non-fiction comic), to how “Habiru” complements in a fairly unique way my comic, I must say it sure feels like this is the perfect relay race that was meant to be!
Thank you for your good work Dr. Thomson, and rest in peace.
Thomson, Gary Arthur. 2011. Habiru: the Rise Of Earliest Israel. iUniverse.Com.