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The World around the Old Testament

The People and Places of the Ancient Near East

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Leading Experts Introduce the People and Contexts of 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.

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


"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

The Authors

  1. Bill T. Arnold

    Bill T. Arnold

    Bill T. Arnold (PhD, Hebrew Union College) is Paul S. Amos Professor of Old Testament Interpretation at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky, where he has taught for more than twenty-five years. He is the author or editor of twelve books, including...

    Continue reading about Bill T. Arnold

  2. Brent A. Strawn
    Kay Hinton

    Brent A. Strawn

    Brent A. Strawn (PhD, Princeton Theological Seminary) is D. Moody Smith Distinguished Professor of Old Testament and professor of law at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. He previously taught at Candler School of Theology, Emory University. He...

    Continue reading about Brent A. Strawn


"Arnold and Strawn have done a tremendous service for students and scholars alike by assembling a stellar cast of contributors for the purpose of producing a fresh survey of the main ethnic and political groups that interacted with Israel throughout the timespan covered in the OT. . . . For the reader familiar with the general world of biblical studies, the first immediate impression will be the exceedingly high quality of the scholars participating in this project. In nearly every case, the authors of the individual chapters are well-recognized experts with substantial publishing records on the specific people groups in question. . . . The World around the Old Testament will be valued by both students and professors for years to come, as each of the individual chapters constitutes an ideal starting point for any kind of research involving the civilizations covered."

David J. Fuller,

Bulletin for Biblical Research

"A single volume reference offering detailed historical, cultural, and religious treatments of the major empires as well as regional and local polities that significantly touched upon, impacted, or otherwise influenced biblical Israel. . . . Such a work is an invaluable supplementary text for students of the Hebrew Bible."

Jeffrey P. Hudon,

Reading Religion (AAR)

"The essays . . . are well worth reading because they are excellent state-of-the-art syntheses of the people groups surrounding ancient Israel."

Mark W. Chavalas,

Journal of the American Oriental Society

"This volume should become a standard resource for anyone who studies the Old Testament. While the book does not blindly align to every Old Testament event, it succinctly and engagingly addresses the extrabiblical geopolitical situations that are pertinent to the Scriptures. . . . Over and over again, the individual chapters bring to light new and refreshing insights into the biblical text. . . . If you desire to understand how ancient Near Eastern societies outside Israel shaped the background of the Old Testament, this book is for you. Moreover, if you wish to understand the cultures and lifestyles of the nations around Israel, this book is also for you. Already, it has become a mainstay in my library, and I will refer to it frequently in the future."

Donald McNeeley,

Near East Archaeological Society Bulletin

"This resource provides advanced students and scholars access to world-renowned experts by way of a single introductory volume centered on the contextualization of the OT in its ANE milieu. . . . I highly recommend this book for its outstanding collection of essays, and for its up-to-date scholarship regarding various and important data relevant to the 'world around the Old Testament.'"

Nathan S. French,

Journal for the Study of the Old Testament

"Each contributor thoroughly explores evidence from biblical texts, ancient Near Eastern texts, and archaeological investigation in presenting the historical origin and development of the nations around Israel. The information is rendered in such a way that the reader is clearly informed about the political context of the civilizations mentioned in the Old Testament. . . . Examinations of significant cultural conditions for each civilization are also laid out in a very informative way. . . . Presentations on how each nation was involved in the story of Israel are notable. . . . Biblical students and those who are interested in the development of ancient Near Eastern civilization during the time of the Old Testament will gain a great amount of understanding through the extensive observation offered in the book."

Ruth Aung,

Artistic Theologian

"This volume of essays by well-established scholars on the ancient Near East features essays that give the reader ample historical, geographical, and cultural background on the peoples that populate the OT, such as the Amorites and the Greeks. These essays are not written for casual students of the Bible, but readers who are inclined to delve deeply into the ancient Near Eastern background of the OT will find this resource a real treasure."

John R. Barker, OFM,

The Bible Today

"Bill Arnold and Brent Strawn have put together a collection of essays written by today's leading scholars in the field of ancient Near East studies to offer detailed information about the various people groups in the ancient eastern Mediterranean world. . . . [Readers] will find a vast array of up-to-date information about the history, language, culture, and religion of these people groups. . . . For advanced students, this is a very useful work not only because of the essays it contains but also because of the bibliographies included for further reading at the end of each chapter. . . . Arnold and Strawn build on similar but outdated books with new and up-to-date information in a very reader-friendly way. Pictures and maps are included as visual aids, and three different indexes are included to help readers navigate the text."

Young-Kwang Kim,

Calvin Theological Journal

"An ideal curriculum textbook for an Old Testament Studies courses, and especially recommended for personal studies, The World around the Old Testament: The People and Places of the Ancient Near East is unreservedly recommended for community, seminary, college and university library collections."

Paul T. Vogel,

MBR Bookwatch 

"An impressive volume that brings together top-quality scholarship and readability. . . . [It] offers up-to-date scholarship regarding the societies and peoples that inhabited the world around the Old Testament. . . . The Old Testament was extensively influenced by the world in which it resided and originated. In that respect, it is crucial to understand the world around the Old Testament, and The World around the Old Testament is a fantastic resource to assist in that endeavor."

Mike Reynolds,

Brave Daily