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The World around the Old Testament



What people groups interacted with ancient Israel? Who were the Hurrians and why do they matter? What do we know about the Philistines, the Egyptians, the Amorites, the Assyrians, the Babylonians, and others?

In this up-to-date volume, leading experts introduce the peoples and places of the world around the Old Testament, providing students with a fresh exploration of the ancient Near East. The contributors offer comprehensive orientations to the main cultures and people groups that surrounded ancient Israel in the wider ancient Near East, including not only Mesopotamia and the northern Levant but also Egypt, Arabia, and Greece. They also explore the contributions of each people group or culture to our understanding of the Hebrew Scriptures.

This supplementary text is organized by geographic region, making it especially suitable for the classroom and useful in a variety of Old Testament courses. Approximately eighty-five illustrative items are included throughout the book.

In the Logos edition, this volume is enhanced by amazing functionality. Important terms link to dictionaries, encyclopedias, and a wealth of other resources in your digital library. Perform powerful searches to find exactly what you’re looking for. Take the discussion with you using tablet and mobile apps. With Logos Bible Software, the most efficient and comprehensive research tools are in one place, so you get the most out of your study.

Resource Experts

Key Features

  • Introduces the people and contexts of the Old Testament
  • Includes over 80 illustrations
  • Features essays by leading scholars


  • Introduction by Bill T. Arnold and Brent A. Strawn
  • The Amorites by Daniel E. Fleming
  • Assyria and the Assyrians by Christopher B. Hays with Peter Machinist
  • Babylonia and the Babylonians by David S. Vanderhooft
  • Ugarit and the Ugaritians by Mark S. Smith
  • Egypt and the Egyptians by Joel M. LeMon
  • The Hittites and the Hurrians by Billie Jean Collins
  • Aram and the Arameans by K. Lawson Younger Jr.
  • Phoenicia and the Phoenicians by Christopher A. Rollston
  • Transjordan: The Ammonites, Moabites, and Edomites by Joel S. Burnett
  • Philistia and the Philistines by Carl S. Ehrlich
  • Persia and the Persians by Pierre Briant
  • Arabia and the Arabians by David F. Graf
  • Greece and the Greeks by Walter Burkert†

Top Highlights

“The Amorites appear to have been a class of people defined by mode of life, not by regional origin, and any application of the term to geography, politics, or language would have been secondary to this social usage. In particular, they were shepherds, or communities identified with the herding of flocks over distance.” (Page 5)

“Most prominent among ancient Israel’s neighbors east of the Jordan were the Ammonites, Moabites, and Edomites.” (Page 309)

“The history of Assyria is conventionally divided into Old Assyrian, Middle Assyrian, and Neo-Assyrian periods.” (Page 40)

“Assyria’s military was arguably its most distinctive cultural achievement.” (Page 57)

“What then are the main points that the biblical text makes about the Philistines? First, they were longtime inhabitants of the land in spite of the fact that they came originally from Caphtor (see Amos 9:7). Second, they were organized in a Pentapolis, a confederation of five city-states, which in later texts became a Tetrapolis, a confederation of four city-states. Third, their heyday as Israel’s enemy extended from the period of the judges until the early monarchic age. Fourth, although their power was broken by David, they still remained a thorn in Israel’s side. And fifth, their cult was dominated by their devotion to the gods Dagon and Baal,22 with a small nod in the direction of the goddess Ashtoreth/Astarte.” (Page 362)

Praise for the Print Edition

The best scholars in the modern world illuminate the various peoples in the ancient world of the Bible in this indispensable resource for students and teachers.

—William M. Schniedewind, Kershaw Chair of Ancient Eastern Mediterranean Studies, University of California, Los Angeles

For those interested in gaining a deeper understanding of the Scriptures, The World around the Old Testament is an eminently useful and accessible resource. The volume features detailed, well-written, and informative articles on various peoples and places mentioned in the Bible, written by leading authorities in the field. The careful attention devoted to recent archaeological excavations and ancient inscriptions is most welcome.

—Gary N. Knoppers, John A. O’Brien Professor of Theology, University of Notre Dame

The World around the Old Testament is a refreshing contribution to contextualizing the Hebrew Bible within its ancient Near Eastern and Mediterranean context. The specialists for each area focus on their particular region while tying it into the larger framework of the Hebrew Bible.

—Tammi J. Schneider, professor of religion, dean of the School of Arts and Humanities, Claremont Graduate University

This is an especially important book. Nowhere else can one find, in a single volume, the kind of up-to-date and nuanced treatment of the ethnolinguistic groups of the ancient Near East that appears in this collection. Each chapter is written by a renowned scholar, and each carefully explains the sources that are used to reconstruct our understanding of the history, language, and religion of these cultures. The clear-eyed examination of current scholarly debates and the identification of key insights for the study of biblical texts also set this book apart. While the authors play to their strengths—with some emphasizing the surviving literature of a given group and others concentrating on political history—all of the discussions are extensive, robust, and far-reaching in their use of contemporary scholarship. The World around the Old Testament will be a very productive resource for advanced students and scholars alike.

—Bruce Wells, professor of theology and religious studies, Saint Joseph's University

About the Editors

Dr. Bill T. Arnold is the Paul S. Amos Professor of Old Testament Interpretation and director of Hebrew Studies. He joined Asbury Theological Seminary’s faculty in 1995 with more than 10 years of teaching experience. Dr. Arnold received a B.A. at Asbury College, 1977; an M.Div. at Asbury Theological Seminary, 1980; and a Ph.D. at Hebrew Union College, 1985. While at Asbury Seminary, Dr. Arnold has served as vice president of academic affairs, director of postgraduate studies, chair of the area of Biblical Studies and director of Hebrew Studies. Prior to teaching at Asbury Seminary, Dr. Arnold taught at Ashland Theological Seminary, Wesley Biblical Theological Seminary and Jewish Institute of Religion. Dr. Arnold is an elder in the United Methodist Church and is the former pastor of two churches. He is a teacher at First United Methodist Church in Lexington, Ky. In 2003–2004, Dr. Arnold was named alumnus-in-residence at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati, Ohio. He has published many books, including his most recent, Genesis (Cambridge University Press, 2008). Dr. Arnold and his wife, Susan, have three sons.

Brent A. Strawn (PhD, Princeton Theological Seminary) is professor of Old Testament at the Candler School of Theology, Emory University, in Atlanta, Georgia. He has authored or coedited numerous volumes, including The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Bible and Law and What Is Stronger than a Lion? Leonine Image and Metaphor in the Hebrew Bible and the Ancient Near East. Strawn also serves as co-editor of the Old Testament Theology series and is on the editorial board of Catholic Biblical Quarterly and Journal of Biblical Literature.

Sample Pages from the Print Edition


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