Psalm 8:3-4 - "When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have ordained; what is man, that you think of him? What is the son of man, that you care for him?"
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Peoples of the Old Testament. The world of the Old Testament goes from the land of Egypt in the South, to Chaldea and Persia in the East, up through Media and Urartu in the north, and over to Lydia and the land of the Hittites to Greece and Macedonia on the west. These were the borders of the Old Testament world, also known as the ancient near East. In the middle of them was the land of Canaan which became Israel, the inheritance of the descendants of Abraham. there were many nations in the land of Canaan, and also around the land like the Amorites and the Edomites in the Moabites. To the north of Israel were the Phoenicians on the coast, and the Syrians to the east. Moving further east from Israel where the Assyrians, and journeying down the Tigris and Euphrates rivers was Babylonia, and Chaldea. To the east of them were the Persians and the Zagros Mountains. There are many cities and mountains and rivers and deserts mentioned in the Bible within this area known as the Old Testament world.
Israel and the Surrounding Peoples. The land of Israel was originally called the land of Canaan. The Canaanites were very evil and were a cursed people by the Lord. When the time is right God called the descendants of Abraham to come into claim the promised land. Moses brought them to the border, and Joshua the captain of the Lord's army brought Israel across the Jordan River and into the land of Israel to conquer the nations that live there. the seven nations of Canaan where the Canaanites, the Amorites, the Hittites, the Jebusites, the Hivites, the Perizzites, and the Girgashites. After they conquered the land they divided it among the 12 tribes of Israel, and then there was the period of the Judges. The Judges were raised up as deliverers whenever Israel would disobey God and the enemy would come and torment the land. We finally cried out for a king and Saul was chosen, but later David was the rightful King and he built Israel into a great kingdom, and later his son Solomon made Israel wealthy and famous. After Solomon's death the kingdom divided into North and South. The Northern Kingdom was conquered by the Assyrians in 722 BC because of their rebellion against God, and the southern kingdom was conquered by the Babylonians in 586 BC. Later the Persian ruler Cyrus allowed the Jews to return and rebuild their temple. The Old Testament ends Israel paying tribute to the King of Persia.
The Egyptians. During biblical times the Egyptians dwelt in the land of northern Africa and the Nile Delta. It was upper Egypt and lower Egypt, and lower Egypt is where the pyramids were and where the pharaohs lived. The Egyptians were the most powerful kingdom during the time of Abraham and Moses, but later greater powers arose over in Assyria and Babylonia.
The Philistines. The Philistines dwelt on the seacoast in southwestern Israel. They fought against Israel continually during the period of the judges, and the time of David. The chief cities of the Philistines were Gaza, Ashkelon, Ashdod, Ekron, and Gath. In ancient times there were many tyrants who ruled over the cities of the Philistines. Their territory contain lots of iron, and they had many powerful weapons, including chariots. It was only by the power of God that they could be defeated by the Israelites. Samson fought against the Philistines during the time of the judges. Goliath was a champion of the Philistines and he was defeated by David when he was a youth.
The Edomites. The ancient Edomites were descendants of Esau and therefore related to the Hebrews, but they were always at war with each other. They lived in a rocky place south of the Dead Sea, and they built impregnable fortresses in a rocky mountain sides. When Jerusalem was destroyed in 586 BC the Edomites took advantage of the Jews. Four years later they were defeated by the Babylonians. Herod the great was an Edomite, but after Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 A.D. the Edomites disappeared from history.
The Moabites. The ancient Moabites dwelt east of the Dead Sea and northward for about 50 miles and east for about 30 miles. The Scriptures and the Moabite stone both reveal various cities in the territory of Moab. Dibon, Nebo, Beth-diblaim, Kerioth, and Zoar. According to the book of Genesis the Moabites are the descendants of Moab, the son of Lot and his daughter who thought the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah was the end of the world. There were constant wars between Moab in Israel. During the time of the judges the Moabites oppressed Israel for 18 years until God raised up the deliverer Ehud to defeat them. Later when Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Jerusalem the Moabites barely escaped total destruction, and shortly after they almost completely lost their identity.
The Ammonites. The ancient Ammonites were descendants of Ben-Ammi, the son of Lot by his younger daughter. They were also related to the Israelites. Their territory was east of the Jordan River. There was continual war between the Ammonites and the Israelites, and they refused to give any help the Israelites when they entered the land of Canaan. King David made the Ammonites servants to Israel, but later he assisted the Syrians who were later defeated by the Assyrians. The Ammonites assisted king Nebuchadnezzar in conquering Jerusalem in 586 BC, and plotted the death the prince of Judah who is not taken captive to Babylon in the siege. One Ammonite named Tobiah attempted to stop Nehemiah in his rebuilding of the wall of Jerusalem. They Ammonite worshiped Molech who was known for the offering of human sacrifices.
The Syrians. The ancient Syrians dwelt in the land north of Israel and their capital was Damascus. One of their famous rulers was Ben hadad who fought against Assyria and was defeated, this fact is recorded in the Bible and on extra biblical archaeological monuments. The Syrians were always antagonizing Israel, and it is interesting how Elijah interacted with them. Naaman the leper was a Syrian general who was influenced by Elijah and healed of his leprosy by dipping seven times in the Jordan River.
The Phoenicians. The ancient Phoenicians dwelt in the area on the east coast of the Mediterranean Sea in and above the cities of Tyre and Sidon. They were famous for their ability to make trade with many nations around the Mediterranean world.
The Hittites. The ancient Hittites were a highly advanced people, and they controlled much of the Anatolian peninsula around 2000 BC. After the Hittite Empire had collapsed there were many Hittites still in the areas especially in the south. King Solomon later subdued them. When King David committed adultery with Bathsheba he had her husband murdered, and his name was Uriah the Hittite.
The Assyrians. The ancient Assyrians dwelled in the northern portion of the Tigris River. Their main cities were Nineveh their capital, Assur, and Calah. The Assyrians conquer the northern kingdom of Israel in 722 BC. God sent them as his plunderers of justice against the rebellious kingdom who were worshiping idols. Later God judged the Assyrians, and they were destroyed by the Medes and the Persians in 612 BC in their capital city of Nineveh.
The Babylonians. The ancient Babylonians dwelt in the southern portion of Mesopotamia, now southern Iraq. Many times the territory of Babylonia was known as the land of Shinar in the Bible. The Babylonian ruler King Nebuchadnezzar was a mighty conqueror, he defeated the Pharaoh of Egypt in the upper portion of the Fertile Crescent at Carchemish, and later came and conquer Jerusalem and destroyed the temple. The book of Daniel records the history of Babylon until it was defeated by Cyrus of Persia, with the story of the handwriting on the wall in the Bible.
The Chaldeans. The Chaldeans dwelt in the territory at the southern end of Mesopotamia near the Persian Gulf. Babylonia was also a main territory in that whole area and was called the land of the Chaldeans. Abraham was called by God to leave his homeland and go to a land that God would show him where he would make of his descendents a mighty nation and the Messiah. Abraham's homeland was called Ur of the Chaldees, or Chaldeans.
The Persians. The ancient Persians dwelt in the land to the east of the Persian Gulf and this land is now occupied by modern Iran. It was Cyrus the great who made Persia into a powerful empire. He conquered Babylon in 539 BC and became the master of the world. One year later he issued a decree allowing the Jews to return to Jerusalem to rebuild their temple. This was a common practice for Cyrus the Persian who was in the habit of allowing people to maintain their religion and their identity. Later King Darius, another magnificent ruler of ancient Persia is remembered for organizing and administrating the Empire into various provinces called satrapies. Ezra returned to Jerusalem under the reign of Artaxerxes I (465-424 BC), and Nehemiah was appointed the governor of the satrapy of Israel under the Persian Empire, and he rebuilt Jerusalem's walls. The Old Testament ends with Israel being a satrapy of the Persian Empire.
The Elamites. The people of ancient Elam occupied the territory east of Babylon in the plain below the high Zagros Mountain range. The capital of their territory was ancient Susa which has uncovered many excavations in archaeology, with many inscriptions in the Elamite language. Elamite was one of the three official languages of the Persian Empire, they also spoke Babylonian, and ancient Persian. The Elamites are mentioned often in the Old Testament. In the earliest of times the territory of the Medes the Persians and the Elamites was all one area under the descendants of Elam, the oldest son of Shem and the grandson of Noah.
The Medes. The ancient Medes were descendants of Elam, the grandson of Noah from his son Shem. by the end of the seventh century BC they became very strong and became a major threat to ancient Assyria. In 614 BC the Medes conquered the city of Asshur, which was at that time the capital of ancient Assyria. The Medes allied with the Babylonians and 612 BC they conquered the city of Nineveh. While King Nebuchadnezzar was conquering the west, Cyarxes the Median ruler was conquering his territories over ancient Assyria. he made his capital at Ecbatana. The Medes were overtaken by Cyrus the Persian and 585 BC, who gained the help of the Babylonians. Cyrus conquered the city of Ecbatana in 550 BC and then conquered Babylon in 539 BC becoming master and ruler of the incredibly vast Persian Empire.
The Israelites. The ancient Israelites were descendants of Noah's sons Shem, and finally one of Shem's descendents named Abraham became the first Hebrew by obeying God. After Abraham came Isaac, and Jacob, whose name was changed to Israel and he bore 12 sons which became the 12 tribes of Israel. They conquered the land of Canaan under the leadership of Joshua. The Israelites dwelt in the land of Israel from that point forward until they lost the northern kingdom in 722 BC, and the remaining two tribes defeated by the Babylonians in 586 BC. Since then Israel has been under foreign dominance until 1948 when they became a nation once again.
The study of the ancient peoples of the Bible is very important in the study of the Bible, let's pray:
Dear Jesus, we thank you that you are in control of the People's, places, and events of the ancient world. Nothing happened by accident and ultimately everyone was part of your great plan. It is sad that so many rebelled against you and your people Israel who you called to be a light to the rest of the world. We thank you that you love the world and died for the world and are calling every nation and every people to come to you. We praise you for your rich and precious promises. In Jesus name? Amen!
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