How Did Ancient Israelites Influence Surrounding Civilizations?

December 17, 2015 | Christopher B. Hays
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Much biblical scholarship investigates how other ancient Near Eastern civilizations influenced the Israelites, but it also stands to reason that Israelites would have exerted an influence on those around them. Nonetheless, explains Christopher B. Hays, very little evidence of such influence has come to light:

One way in which the Judeans seem to have distinguished themselves among their neighbors was through grain production. The Judahite [unit of measurement known as a] se’ah was used . . . even in Nineveh, an Assyrian capital, and Judean weights have been found in various neighboring countries, suggesting that they served as one of the basic units of measure for trade in the region. . . .

The question of specifically Israelite/Judean influence is made more difficult by the similarities between its culture and those of the contemporaneous small nations of the Levant, such as the Aramean and Phoenician city-states and the Moabites. We may observe West Semitic influence on a language or culture—there were certainly West Semitic loanwords in other ancient Near Eastern languages—but to identify it as specifically Israelite (or Judean) is more difficult due to the similarities among the West Semitic languages.

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