As a graduate student with a focus in Old Testament studies, especially with an interest in the ancient Near East, I was thrilled when I found out about The World Around the Old Testament: The People and Places of the Ancient Near East, a new volume from Baker Academic. Bill T. Arnold and Brent A. Strawn have edited an impressive volume that brings together top-quality scholarship and readability with contributors such as Daniel E. Fleming, Mark S. Smith, and K. Lawson Younger Jr.
The underlying premise to this volume is the idea that, just as it is fundamental to know where someone is from, “the thirteen essays gathered [within WAOT] tell the story of where the Old Testament is from” (xv). The Old Testament was extensively influenced by the world in which it resided and originated.
For those familiar with the 1994 Baker publication Peoples of the Old Testament World (POTW), The World Around the Old Testament (WAOT) offers up-to-date scholarship regarding the societies and peoples that inhabited the world around the Old Testament.
Some notable distinctions should be mentioned:
- POTW begins with a chapter on the Sumerians. Although the Sumerians are the only group discussed in POTW who are not mentioned in the Old Testament, their impact on the ancient Near East made them a worthy addition to the volume. WAOT does not include the Sumerians.
- POTW includes a chapter entitled “Canaanites and Amorites”, whereas WAOT has three distinct chapters on Ugarit, Phoenicia, and the Amorites. (Arnold and Strawn write: “we believe that WAOT can proceed without [a chapter on Canaan and the Canaanites] if only because—quite apart from the deeply vexed question of the Canaanite origins of ancient Israel—the land of Canaan is where the Israelites lived and so, technically, is not around the Old Testament but the place where Israel was from” [xvi].)
- POTW divides the Ammonites, Moabites, and Edomites into three distinct chapters, whereas WAOT dedicates one chapter to these Transjordan peoples.
- WAOT includes two final chapters entitled “Arabia and the Arabians” and “Greece and the Greeks”. (Arnold and Strawn write: “we hope that WAOT is even more helpful in including some topics that have not always been included in works of this kind [e.g., POTW]—specifically Arabia and Greece” [xvi].)
The underlying premise to this volume is the idea that, just as it is fundamental to know where someone is from, “the thirteen essays gathered [within WAOT] tell the story of where the Old Testament is from” (xv). 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.
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.
- The Amorites (Daniel E. Fleming)
- Assyria and the Assyrians (Christopher B. Hays with Peter Machinist)
- Babylon and the Babylonians (David S. Vanderhooft)
- Ugarit and the Ugaritians (Mark S. Smith)
- Egypt and the Egyptians (Joel M. LeMon)
- The Hittites and the Hurrians (Billie Jean Collins)
- Aram and the Arameans (K. Lawson Younger Jr.)
- Phoenicia and the Phoenicians (Christopher A. Rollston)
- Transjordan: The Ammonites, Moabites, and Edomites (Joel S. Burnett)
- Philistia and the Philistines (Carl S. Ehrlich)
- Persia and the Persians (Pierre Briant)
- Arabia and the Arabians (David F. Graf)
- Greece and the Greeks (Walter Burkert)