I had good fortune to spend a few days in Chicago just before Thanksgiving. Chicago is one of these fabulous “in between” cities, partaking of the East and the West Coasts. The weather was balmy and the people were amiable. I was attending and presenting at a Near Eastern archaeology conference; the attendees were from all over the world and discussed latest findings about the archaeology of Israel, Jordan, Cyprus and Syria.
What most surprised me was how rapidly, in the last half-decade or so, the archaeology of the “Biblical Lands” has shifted from concerns over kings, wars and biblical texts to commoners and peasants and goddesses. It was almost like the Occupy Movement—less concern over Saul and David—more interest in the resilience of the Judean farmers who intermixed with other peoples and persisted through wars, exiles, and famines. My talk was on the origin of the Philistines—you know, the Goliath people who settled along the coast of Palestine—and how their DNA is still recognizable in the DNA of modern people living in Israel. The Philistines likely came from the Greek islands or the Turkish coast and set up shop in towns such as Gaza, Ashkelon, Ashdod—cities we hear about today in the awful clamor of conflict between Gaza and Israel.
Yet optimism infused the conference. There was much talk of globalization and interconnectivity in the ancient world and adaptation to climate change and geological catastrophes. The biblical world was a realm both different from and similar to ours. Only through a progressive shift into more global and interrelated attitude of compassion did the people of the Bible survive. That is, in my view, the lesson for us today.