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Ancient Near East

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The term Ancient Near East (abbreviated ANE) is used to describe early civilizations within the region of what is generally considered the Middle East. Traditionally considered to start with Sumer in Mesopotamia in the 4th millennium BC and ends at its conquest by Alexander the Great in the 4th century BC. It is from these astonishing civilizations during this time of history that laid down diverse types of laws, codes, slavery, writing, monotheism, polytheism, organized warfare and began laying foundations for astronomy, mathematics and astrology.

Uniqueness of Israel

Social stratification is a common theme throughout the earliest of ANE civilizations and is common in today's world. The social milieus especially economics being based on groups of people, fundamentally the productive and non-productive classes of a society. Further strain is applied upon class distinction within a nation when surplus becomes a realistic economic outlook. Surplus, or more then there is needed by a particular common people living together, calls for protection from those who feel they have not gotten their fair share. This brings into focus a ruling class and thus disparity between the people grows ever deeper based upon the most critical of needs.[1] However viewing the ANE in the wider scope of an overall Biblical exegesis of the Pentateuch, many socio-political themes of Israel are intended to denounce ANE normality. The Pentateuch attempts to restructure and revamp the regional commonalities in defense of the characterization, or economic approach towards, society in Israel as one whole, unbroken homogeneous people. Not necessarily does this define traditional communism but rather is a way of life supporting the whole of a nation state.

The historical heritage translates into opposition against the common ANE hierarchical similarities between the earthly and divine. Kingships on Earth and the structure of their administrations and that of the divine heavenly ruling bodies are always strikingly similar within the ANE. Israelite societal expression from a relationship with the divine Godhead, was not derived through a human king or the designated prophets of the king, but the Pentateuch holds an intention for all people of Israel, making even kings subordinate. An approach towards the divine that was unfamiliar to the greater ANE. Of course to be sure the priests, or Levites of Israel, had rights other normal citizens did not. Again however in comparison to the ANE in totality, limitation is clearly seen. What was turned inward and created for the elite of society such as temple visitation and mandatory payments required by the people for the temple are respectively given to the people and far less within Israel. In the end with a total ancient view the power of the ruling religious class as it was was seen in the ANE is diminished in ancient Israel.

The internal ancient Israelite politics being a type of egalitarianism or an approach based on equality for all of some sort is unparalleled within the greater ANE. Through inheritance of Hebrew oral tradition and culture, what is presented within the Torah (Pentateuch) or Old Testament of Christianity is an approach basing people on, "institution and instrument rather than of class and kinship".[2]

Civilizations

Mesopotamia

Main Article: Mesopotamia

Mesopotamia (Greek: Μεσοποταμία, Mésopotamiā; "[land] between the rivers," compare with the Hebrew: ארם נהרים, ʼArām-Naharaīm; "Aram of the two rivers") is the region between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in the Middle East, roughly corresponding to modern-day Iraq. The name comes from the Greek words μέσος, mésos ("between") and ποταμός, potamós ("river"), referring to the Tigris and Euphrates rivers and the area in between. The term is rendered in Arabic as بلاد الرافدين (bilād al-rāfidayn), likewise meaning "land between the two rivers." It is often referred to as the "Cradle of Civilization" and has been the source of millennium's of war, division of land and utter survival that enabled the population of earth and the testing of crude political rule.

Sumer

Main Article: Sumer

Sumer (Sumerian: 𒆠𒂗𒂠, ki-en-ĝir; "Land of the Lords of Brightness"; Akkadian: Shūmerū; Hebrew: שעיר, Shinʻār; "Land of the Rivers") was the earliest known civilization in the world located in Mesopotamia.

The Akkadian Empire

Main Article: Akkad

Through the initiative of Sargon the world's first Middle Eastern empire was built, at the time of the Egyptian VI Dynasty, unifying the north (Akkad) and south (Sumer). The Akkad Dynasty as it can also be called only lasted around a century beginning with Sargon then Rimush, Manishtusu, Naram-Sin, and Shar-kali-sharri.[3] Under either Naram-Sin or his son Shar-kali-sharri, the Gutian Empire (with cultural influence from the Elamites), a non-Semitic tribe from the central Zagros mountainous regions (largest mountain range in modern day Iran and Iraq) invaded around 2193 BC collapsing the southern half of the Akkadian Empire. The Guti attempt their rule at southern Mesopotamia to about 2130 BC.[4] The Akkadian empire to the north remains until the expulsion of the Guti by popular uprising eliminated all influence of the Akkad Dynasty and initiated a Third Dynasty of Ur (or the Neo-Sumerian period - 2055-1940).[5]

With the Guti pushed back and under Shulgi's reign (2029–1982), who was deified while still alive, peace ruled the lands and it was this atmosphere that encouraged maturity of legal systems, the calendar, study of mythology, agriculture and the re-building of temples. The Ur III Empire or the Third Dynasty of Ur stands until the Elamite's (people from southwest Iran) lasting violent military invasions take their toll and the culture of Amorites takes hold leaving little room for similar Babylonian cultural expressions around 1940 BC.[6]

The Babylonian Empire

Main Article: Babylonia

The Amorites managed to take over Isin, Larsa, and Babylon. In conjunction with these city takeovers they would institute their own kingship's in which then brought forth a period known as the First Dynasty of Babylon (1894-1595) ruled by Hammurabi of Amorite descent. He ruled the entirety of the Mesopotamian region with its capital in the south, called Babylon in ancient times.[7]

Soon the Kassite tribes of the Zagros and the Hittites in Anatolia (essentially modern day Turkey) would be waging war with Hammurabi's successors. Circa 1595 the Hittite king Mursilis I advances down the Euphrates river, sacking Babylon and even stealing a stone statue of the chief religious idol of the Babylonians, their supreme god Marduk.[7]

The Mitanni Empire

Main Article: Mitanni

The Mitanni Empire or Hanigalbat (Hittite: URUMi-it-ta-ni; Assyrian: Ḫa-ni-gal-bat) was a Hurrian kingdom in northern Mesopotamia and south-west Anatolia which controlled the territory of modern day Syria, Palestine, and Iraq between 1530-1330 BC. Its heartland was the Khābūr River region, where Washukanni, its capital, was probably located. Dr. A.E. Crowley suggests that these Mitanni are direct descendants of Midian, the son of Abraham.[8] After being sent away by Abraham, the descendants of Midian settled in the region of the Caucasus, both north and south of the mountain range (Genesis 25:5-6 ). They were sent east of Palestine, not south into modern Saudi Arabia, as many speculate. After multiplying greatly, they came pouring down into Anatolia and northern Mesopotamia (with some settling south of Edom in northwest Arabia), being known at that time as the Hurrians.[9]

Elam

Main Article: Elam

Elam (Elamite: Haltamti; Old Persian: 𐎢𐎺𐎩, Hūjiya; Hebrew: עילם, ʻĒlām) an ancient civilization, founded by the descendants of Elam, the son of Shem, located in what is now southwest Iran. The Elamites which dwelt in south-west Persia[10] were known to the Babylonians as the Elamû, to the Greeks as Elymais and the Romans called them the Elymaci. But, to the Elamites, they named themselves Haltamti and subsequently in the Old Persian language, the rendering of their name is Hūjiya (𐎢𐎺𐎩), in Middle Persian as Huź, and New Persian Xuz. This is the archaic form of Khūzestān which is the old land of Elam to the south-east of Babylonia. The Elamites came into unfortunate conflict with Assyria. The powerful Assyrians mercilessly invaded Elam, sacked Susa their capital, and slaughtered many of them. Thus they became eternal enemies. Later, Elam was destroyed by Media (c 640 BC) together with their capital, Susa. This ended the Elamite power, even though Cyrus, King of Persia, made Susa one of his capitals a century later.

The Assyrian Empire

Main Article: Assyria

Assyria (Akkadian: 𒀸𒋗𒁺, Ashūr; Hebrew: אשור, ʼAshūr; Aramaic: ܐܫܘܪ, Āshūr or ܐܬܘܪ, Āthūr; Arabic: أشور, Ashūr; Greek: Ἀσσυρία, Assuriā) was an ancient empire centered on the Upper Tigris river, in Mesopotamia. It was named for its original capital, the ancient city of Ashur (modern Qal'at Sherqat), which in turn was named after Asshur, the son of Shem and progenitor of the Assyrians. The Assyrian empire emerged shortly after the Global Flood and came to its greatest strength during the period of the Divided Kingdoms of Israel. It conquered and permanently dispersed the Northern Kingdom and attempted an invasion of the Southern Kingdom shortly thereafter. It is credited even with holding a brief sway over Egypt until Nabopolassar and Astyages led a joint force against its capital city of Nineveh and destroyed it in 612 BC. Assyria has never again been an independent nation, and indeed its name was all but forgotten until a 19th Century archaeologist named Austen Henry Layard finally discovered the ruins of Nineveh and Nimrud.

Anatolia

The Hittite Empire

Main Article: Hittite empire

The Hittite Empire (Hittite: URUHa-at-ti; "The Land of Hatti") was an ancient kingdom which encompassed a large part of Anatolia and north-western Syria as far as Ugarit, and upper Mesopotamia from the 18th century BC to the 12th century BC. The name of Heth, the son of Canaan, was perpetuated in the Hittite capital of Hattusa (Hittite: URUḪattuša), near modern Boğazkale in Turkey. Heth's descendants (known as the Hattians) inhabited the "land of Hatti" in the central and southeastern parts of Anatolia until they eventually merged with, or were displaced by, by Indo-Europeans (known as "Nesites" or "Late-Hittites") who adopted their name for themselves as well as the term "Land of Hatti." These Indo-Europeans were ethnically and linguistically distinct from the Hattians. Although their empire was composed from many diverse ethnic and linguistic backgrounds an Indo-European language known as Našili or Nesian, was spoken by the dominant group. Today this language is known as Hittite. In this tongue there are many loan words particularly religious vocabulary from Hatti and Hurrian. Hatti was the non-Indo-European language of the Hattians before the ancestors of the Indo-European Hittites became the dominant group.

They were known for their skills in working iron and making chariots. Even though they lived in the Bronze Age they were considered ahead of there time with their knowledge of Iron. Egyptian depictions of the Battle of Kadesh reportedly show long-nosed Hattian soldiers while their Hittite leaders looked different, according to Turkish archaeologist Ekrem Akurgal.[11] Akurgal claims that "The Hattians were still the great majority of the population in the Hittite period."[12] If true, the Indo-Europeans constituted a ruling elite within the Hittite Empire whereas the assimilated Hattians were lower ranking members of Hittite society.

The discovery of the Hittite Empire put to rest doubts about the validity of the Bible, because the Hittite Empire was one of the biggest ever mentioned in the Bible. In Ankara, Turkey there is a museum that contains many Hittite artifacts called the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations.[13]

Levant

United Kingdom of Israel

Main Article: United Kingdom of Israel

The United Kingdom of Israel (Hebrew: הממלכת ישראל המאוחדת, HaMamléḵeṯ Yisrāʼēl HaMeuḥedet); Established::Abib 2909 AM-Dissolved::25 Adar 3029 AM according to Ussher,[14] or 1050-Dissolved::930 BC according to Thiele[15][16]) was a regal government for all of national Israel that succeeded to the semi-direct rule over the Israelites by God through His appointed and raised-up Judges. It began with King Saul and ended with the death of Solomon and the subsequent division of the kingdom into Northern and Southern halves.

Kingdom of Israel
Main Article: Kingdom of Israel

The Kingdom of Israel (Hebrew: הממלכת ישראל, HaMamléḵeṯ Yisrāʼēl; Established::25 Adar 3029 AM-Conquered::Adar 3283 AM), also called the "Northern Kingdom" after the death of Solomon, was a monarchy consisting of ten of the twelve tribes of Israel who revolted against King Rehoboam, successor to Solomon. This revolt happened in 975 BC (according to James Ussher[14]) or 930 BC (according to Edwin R. Thiele[15]). The Northern Kingdom lasted until 721-2 BC, at which time King Shalmaneser V of Assyria conquered it and carried all of its people off to exile. That kingdom would never again re-assemble. (Secular historians miscredit an additional Assyrian ruler named Sargon II with the conquest of Samaria; Ussher positively identifies this "Sargon" as Shalmaneser's successor Sennacherib.[17][18])

Kingdom of Judah
Main Article: Kingdom of Judah

The Kingdom of Judah (Hebrew: הממלכת יהודה, HaMamléḵeṯ Yehūḏāh; Established::25 Adar 3029 AM-Conquered::9 Tammuz 3418 AM), also called the "Southern Kingdom" after the death of Solomon, was a monarchy, inclusive only of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, over which the House of David enjoyed an unbroken primacy. This kingdom, like its Northern counterpart, began with the Revolt of the Ten Tribes in either 975 BC (per James Ussher[14]) or 930 BC (per Edwin R. Thiele[15]). It ended with the Fall of Jerusalem in either 588 BC (Ussher) or 586 BC (Thiele).

North Africa

Ancient Egypt

Main Article: Ancient Egypt

Ancient Egypt (Egyptian: Kemet; Coptic: Ⲭⲏⲙⲓ, Kīmi; Hebrew: מצרים, Miẓrāīm; Greek: Αίγυπτος, Aígyptos; Latin: Ægyptus) was an ancient civilization located in eastern North Africa which began about 4,200 years ago when Mizraim, son of Ham, led his tribe from the failed city-state of Babel to the Nile River. Ussher calculates that this happened in the summer of 1816 AM (2188 BC). He cites Constantinus Manasses as stating that "the Egyptian state lasted sixteen hundred and sixty-three years," and works backward from the conquest of Egypt by Cambyses, king of Persia and relative of Cyrus.[14]

Religions and Mythology

Judaism

Main Article: Judaism

Judaism is the world's first monotheistic worldview, and is foremost among the three great monotheistic religions, since from it came Christianity and Islam. The foundation and principles of Judaism are found in the Hebrew scriptures or the Jewish Bible, more widely known as the Old Testament, which is part of the Christian Bible, along with its history. A proper name for the Bible of the Hebrews is the "Tanakh" which is an acronym for the different sections of it: the Torah, or the Instruction, the Law, the five books of Moses; the Nevi'im, the Prophets; and the Kethuvim, the Writings. The most revered section is the Torah, which is the foundation for the rest.

Egyptian mythology

Main Article: Ancient Egyptian Religion

Egyptian mythology refers to the characteristics of animism, fetishism and magic that dominated ancient Egypt. A sense of monotheism is present within Egyptian mythology. Ra the "One or One One" is a lot like what "the Muslim means today when he says, 'There is no god but God.'"[19] The monotheism is not the same as what Christianity would believe in. There was a point at which the Sun-god had no "no counterpart, no offspring, and no associate" but the ancient theologians of Egypt later allow Osiris to usurp the "position of the god of the day;".[19] The concept of one god within Egyptian mythology actually has to do with an overarching god of many gods. Complexities of this grand Egyptian polytheism of hundreds of cult-gods and sacred animals are found in the relationship between the natural world and divine will. This resulted in "local spirits" manifesting in accord with the "magico-religious ritual"[20] sociology of ancient Egypt much like pixies or fairies capture the Western mind. There also underlies all of ancient Egyptian mythology a political theocratic system where by rulers attempt to usurp divine powers into their own political will. Coupled with Babylonian influence it is considered the root of modern astrology. The stars, sun, moon, seasons, weather, etc were all revered within ancient Egypt. This is because man was, as is still true today, dependent upon nature. During the ancient near east, society depended heavily upon agriculture. Crops would or would not grow based on water that at times would or would not flood the lands. Ancient Egypt culture was seen dependent upon those many interconnected natural elements each seen as a unique divine force or god. The superior forces became deified by Egyptians and likewise those deities were personified within kingship's such as Pharaoh. So intimate was the relationship between god and man within Egyptian society that some of the most revered rulers were seen to have a genealogical connection with the divine. A history formed into an Egyptian canon of writings, essentially mythology that is very much intertwined with nature and humanity as it is with the divine.[7][21]

Horus the Aged, Ra, and Osiris were names which the Egyptians gave to the sun at different times in their history; the sun was their god 'One', and they never faltered in their allegiance to him, and in this respect they may be said to have been monotheists.[22]
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References

  1. A Peoples History of the World By Chris Harman
  2. In Conversation With Joshua A. Berman, Created Equal: How the Bible Broke With Ancient Political Thought (Oxford University Press, 2008) Journal of Hebrew Scriptures
  3. The Egyptian Old Kingdom, Sumer and Akkad Index of Egyptian History
  4. Brief History of Mesopotamia By Duncan J. Melville. Last modified: 30 May 2001
  5. The Guti By History World International
  6. Sumerian Civilization By San José State University Department of Economics
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Babylonian Empire By LIVIUS - Articles on Ancient History
  8. Bristowe, S (1971) Sargon The Magnificent. Association Of The Covenant People, Vancouver, Canada, 12
  9. Cottrell, L (1975) The Concise Encyclopedia Of Archaeology. Hutchins Of London, 178
  10. Josephus Antiquities 1:6:4
  11. Ekrem Akurgal, The Hattian and Hittite Civilizations, Publications of the Republic of Turkey: Ministry of Culture, 2001, p.8 Akurgal writes here: "The large-nosed soldiers identified as "Hitti" in the Egyptian temple depictions of the Battle of Kadesh show a completely different ethnic type from their [Indo-European] kings in the same scenes."
  12. Akurgal, op. cit., p.6
  13. Discovery of the Hittite EmpireBy Albright School of Biblical Archeology
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 14.3 James Ussher, The Annals of the World, Larry Pierce, ed., Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2003 (ISBN 0890513600), pghh. 392-474, 476-477
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 Leon J. Wood, A Survey of Israel's History, rev. ed. David O'Brien, Grand Rapids, MI: Academie Books, 1986 (ISBN 031034770X), pp. 197-254
  16. Chad Brand, Charlie Draper, Archie England, et al., eds. "Chronology of the Biblical Period." Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary. Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2003. (ISBN 0-80542-836-4) pp. 291-295
  17. Ussher, op. cit., pgh. 642.
  18. Mackey, Damien. Sargon is Sennacherib 2001. Retrieved May 28, 2007.
  19. 19.0 19.1 E. A. Wallis Budge, From Fetish To God In Ancient Egypt (Dover Publications 1988), pg. 5
  20. E. A. Wallis Budge, From Fetish To God In Ancient Egypt (Dover Publications 1988), pg. 9
  21. Ancient Egypt: The Mythology
  22. E. A. Wallis Budge, From Fetish To God In Ancient Egypt (Dover Publications 1988), pg. 8