Four-room house at ‘Izbet Sartah. One of the earliest Israelite settlements, ‘Izbet Sartah sits on the western edge of the Canaanite hill country. The site presents an obvious problem: If the Israelites entered Canaan from the east—whether by conquest or through peaceful infiltration—how could one of their earliest settlements be so far to the west, which should have been the last area to be settled?

Weak points in the conquest and the peaceful infiltration models highlighted by sites such as ‘Izbet Sartah and the ambiguous evidence presented by four-room houses and collared-rim jars led some scholars to advance a third proposal: the peasant revolt model. Supported most notably by the scholars George Mendenhall and Norman Gottwald, this model argues that the people we now think of as the Israelites were originally for the most part Canaanite peasants who had taken to the hill country after having revolted against their urban overlords at the end of the Late Bronze Age. Once established in the hill country, these former peasants developed a religion based on the worship of Yahweh and evolved into the people called Israel.