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The similarities between the ancient israelite babylonian and egyptian cultures


The ANE was the location of the first urban high cultures and of major empires vieing for control over the "Fertile Crescent," the agricultural heart-land of Mesopotamia and Canaan. Out of her specific cultural heritage and political-historical experience, however, Israelite prophets, wisdom teachers, and priests developed a monotheistic system, a unique form of religious, legal, and political thought which was to become the fundamental creed of several subsequent cultures, including Byzantine and Western Christendom and Islam.

The Bible still retains traces of the development of monotheism which was not instituted without a struggle against more traditional forms of religion.

  • The Middle Kingdom 2000-1750 , arising after a period of disorder and unrest, establishes its power by restoring the patterns, mythologies, etc of the Old Kingdom, giving those archaic forms and myths canonical status;
  • It developed around the city of Ashur on the upper Tigris River and south of the later capital, Nineveh;
  • Moses returned to Egypt and confronted the Pharaoh;
  • Nebuchadnezzar II forced thousands of Jews to move to Babylon, many served as slaves.

Our look at the powers surrounding and influencing ancient Israelite history at various times begins with Egypt, because it is the memory of the exodus of the Hebrews from slavery to Pharao in Egypt that constitutes the founding myth of the nation. As ancient and sophisticated as, but quite distinct from, the culture of the Sumerians in Mesopotamia, the Old Kingdom 2850-2200 already establishes the basic forms of social hierarchy and religion, dominated by the agricultural rhythm based on the flooding periods of the river Nile, that were to determine the Egyptian world view and life style until the Hellenistic period and even into the periods of Christianization and, subsequently, Islamization of Egypt 7th cent CE.

The Middle Kingdom 2000-1750arising after a period of disorder and unrest, establishes its power by restoring the patterns, mythologies, etc of the Old Kingdom, giving those archaic forms and myths canonical status.

It is from this type of conservation of its cultural memory that Egyptian culture derived its centuries-lasting stability and continuity. In biblical literature, Israel's sentiments towards Egypt range from the negative depiction of the Pharao in the Exodus narrative Exodus 1-15to testimony to the political partnership between Egypt and Israel, a partnership upon which the independence of the Israelite and later the Judahite states depended.

  • When Ab'igail saw David, she made haste, and alighted from the ass, and fell before David on her face, and bowed to the ground;
  • Ra incidentally has three aspects- in the morning Khepera the Creator, at noon Ra the Sun-god and in the evening Atum the Complete;
  • The Babylonian story of creation, and the Biblical Genesis:

The negative stereotype of the oppressive Pharaoh reflects the sentiments harbored by the pre-monarchic Hebrew tribes that consolidated in Canaan approximately between 1300 and 1000 BCE against the resistance of the Egyptian overlords and their allies, the Canaanite city states.

Once Israel established its monarchy on a par with the Egyptians and other smaller neighboring states, attitudes towards Egypt change. So, for example, the first Israelite monarchy, established by King David, is further maintained by his son, Solomon, through political marriages, including the marriage a Pharao's daughter cf.

See 2 Kings 24-25 This proved a fatal tactical error, foreseen only by some of the prophets cf. The ensueing Babylonian captivity or exile is the decisive catastrophy in Israelite history, and was considered as more desastrous than the slavery in Egypt of old cf.

The southern Egyptian border city of Elephantine Asswan was the site of a Jewish place of worship first an altar, then a templebuilt perhaps as early as the late-7th century BCE cf.

The relationship between Israel and Egypt is complex and multifacetted. Egypt also saw the first attempts at monotheistic reform of a religion under Akhenaton 1364--1347at a time when ties between Egypt and Canaan where close and when the later "Exodus" group of Hebrews supposedly resided in Egypt. Israelite pre-history, the legendary era of the patriarchs, and the fate of the Israelite and Judahite monarchies are inextricably linked to the rise and decline of the major empires controlling Mesopotamia.

Following is a schematic list of the empires of the "Land between the two Rivers" i. After the death of Alexander the Great, this policital conglomerate is organized in four smaller empires, distributed among the four generals of Alexander's army.

The Hellenistic period saw a florishing of Greek speaking Jewish communities in Egypt, especially in the newly founded port city of Alexandria. Greek speaking Jews wrote many works of religious literature. Most significant is the philosopher Philo of Alexandria ca. Greek language and culture, however, became the mainstay of the emerging Christian community which originates mainly among those Greeks attracted to Jewish monotheism without making a full conversion seboumenoi, "God-fearers".

Greek was understood also in Palestine, and the extend to which Jews and non-Jews exchanged ideas beyond the barriers of language is probably far greater than hitherto assumed. Yet, perhaps because nascent Christianity grafted Greek ideas onto a Greek translation of the Bible, the rabbinic leadership discouraged the study of Greek wisdom and culture, including Jewish works composed in Greek.

Rivalries in and around Judah lead to an insurrection against the Syrian overlords, and to the establishment of the Hasmonean Kingdom, a dynasty that lasted from 104 until the 63 when the Romans began to curtail Jewish independence.

The Exodus and the Babylonian Exile of Israel

The Hellenistic Diadochai Alexander's successor states were too weak to withstand the pressure of this next great military power which began its series of conquests with the victory over Hannibal 202the destruction of the Macedonian State, Alexander the Great's erstwhile home-base 168and the destruction of Carthage North Africa, 146.

Last Jewish revolt against the Roman Empire: Bar Kokhba revolt 132-135.

  • The Bible still retains traces of the development of monotheism which was not instituted without a struggle against more traditional forms of religion;
  • The Israelites at first were reluctant to have Moses lead them;
  • Blessed be your discretion, and blessed be you, who have kept me this day from bloodguilt and from avenging myself with my own hand!
  • Greek speaking Jews wrote many works of religious literature.

Still, Jewish life does not end with these events. In response to the destruction of the Temple, the rabbis institute the prayer and holiday liturgies in use until today. Their legal scholarship culminates in the production in the major works of Jewish law, the Mishnah and the Talmud.

Key Dates in Ancient Israelite History ca. Samaria Judah to the South capital: Jerusalem 722 Israel destroyed by the Neo-Assyrians cf.