Several days ago, while going through old papers, I found a copy of an academic paper titled “The Economic System of the Hill Country of Israel in Iron Age I.” I read this paper during a meeting of the American Schools of Oriental Research which met on March 12, 1988 in Dallas, Texas. The information contained in the paper is old, but very informative.
I have decided to publish the paper in order to help readers gain fresh knowledge about a period in the life of Israel that is unknown to most people who read the Bible. I am sure that a few readers will find this research interesting and to many readers, the paper will provide a new understanding of the beginning of Israel’s life in Canaan during Iron Age I.
The focus of this paper is the economic system that existed in Israel during the time of the judges. Most people who read the Bible do not realize how difficult life was for those early Israelites. Most Israelites during the period of the judges lived in small villages and had to work hard to try to eke a living off an arid environment and steep hillsides. These Israelites were peasant farmers who had to depend on the soil for their survival.
When reading the book of Judges, readers may not realize that the villages in which most Israelites lived, were mainly farming communities. In addition, the economy of early Israel was also based on animal husbandry. Some villages had a considerable number of sheep and goats.
Because most Israelites lived in a tribal and clan society, where most people shared a common ancestry and culture, village life revolved around a food-producing economy. Communities whose basic economy was animal husbandry, raised small animals for meat, fiber, milk, or other products. These communities developed new techniques to aid day-to-day care of animals, selective breeding, and the raising of livestock.
Most Israelites lived in an arid environment. In order to survive in an arid environment, the people of Israel had to develop new techniques to help them increase their production of food. One of these innovations was the development of terraces which enhanced the accumulation of soil and water.
Another innovation developed by the people of Israel was the use of cisterns. Early cisterns in Israel were known by their waterproof linings. These cisterns were built to catch and store rainwater that was used for irrigation and personal consumption.
I hope this brief overview of the economic life of early Israel will serve as a motivation to read the paper and learn more about Israelite life in Canaan during Iron Age I. Since this is an academic paper presented in an academic society, the paper contains several footnotes which provide background information and additional resources for future research.
The paper dealing with the economic system of the hill country of Israel in Iron Age I is a long paper. The paper will be divided into three posts for easy reading. Part I will be published tomorrow.
The Economic System of the Hill Country of Israel in Iron Age I – Part 2
The Economic System of the Hill Country of Israel in Iron Age I – Part 3
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Emeritus Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary
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