The book starts from the problem defined by recent archaeological discovery about the societies that formed the backbone of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah, their origins and their relationship. It has become clear that the biblical notion of a 12-tribe 'nation' united by descent and religion does not correspond to these findings. The challenge is not to argue endlessly about how far the differing accounts can be reconciled, as a prolongation of an old debate about biblical 'historicity', but to try and understand what historical, social and cultural process led to the production of the biblical portrait of an Israel of 12 tribes embracing two kingdoms. Davies argues for the importance of the role of Bethel as a royal sanctuary, then a central sanctuary of the Neo-Babylonian and Persian province of Judah. In particular, the figure of Jacob as the ancestor of 'Israel', associated with Bethel, became the eponym of the biblical 'all Israel' and the name 'Israel' survived as the name of a new society, even as Jerusalem was re-established as the major, and subsequently the only, official Judaean temple.