From an early age we are taught to respect the belongings of others even if our size and strength make it possible to take them by force. In order to understand the actions of the people of the ancient Near East, we need to make a major adjustment in this thinking. Within the cultural construct of this world, the expectation was that those who were victorious in battle had the right to seize the personal property of those defeated and even enslave the owners of that property. This practice of plundering is mentioned repeatedly in the literature of the ancient world peatedly in the literature of the ancient world and illustrated in the art of the empires that rose to power during the Old Testament era.
Deuteronomy shares many affinities with literature from the ancient Near East. The most evident is tis relationship to the various collections of legal sayings that have been recovered. These collections have come from as early as 2000 BC and before – eg., Sumerian Laws of Ur-Nammu (2064-2046 BC), the Laws Eshnunna (c 1850 BC), and the Code of Hammurapi king of Babylon (1792-1750 BC). The OT contains both similarities with and difference from these collections in subcategories of types of laws, such as case law, apodictic law, laws, involving curses, motive clauses, etc.
In the ancient Near East dreams were one of several ways people sought to see the future and to make decisions that would be beneficial to them. In some societies, people went to temples or holy places to sleep in order to have a dream that would show them the best decision to make.
SOAP – Cleaner made by mixing olive oil and alikali from burning certain salt-producing plants. It was used of washing the body (Jer 2:22) and of washing clothes (Mal 3:2). Perhaps the scant references to soap are due to the fact that people in the Near East use oil for cleansing the body and pound clothes on rocks while wet to cleanse them.
Objects of unknown shape and material used to determine the divine will. Often in the ancient Near East people, especially priests, made difficult and significant decisions by casting lots on the ground or drawing them from a receptacle. Several times Scripture mentions the practice. We do not know exactly what the lots look like. Nor do we know how they were interpreted. We do know that people of the OT and NT believe God (or gods in the case of non-Israelites or non-Christians) influenced the fall or outcome of the lots (Prov 16:33). Thus, casting lots was a way of determining God’s will. Continue reading DEFINITION OF THE DAY (LOTS)→