How is the Hebrew culture influenced by the ancient Mesopotamian and ancient Egyptian culture and knowledge?

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Scholars increasingly regard Hebrew and Jewish traditions within the context of Mediterranean culture as a whole, rather than in terms of a unique and independent identity. Although the Jewish tribes of the Bible had a very strong sense of ethnic and religious identity which gave them strength in times of...

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Scholars increasingly regard Hebrew and Jewish traditions within the context of Mediterranean culture as a whole, rather than in terms of a unique and independent identity. Although the Jewish tribes of the Bible had a very strong sense of ethnic and religious identity which gave them strength in times of persecution, they shared many characteristics with neighboring groups.

First, the Hebrew, Egyptian, and Mesopotamian cultures shared a belief in the importance of literacy, education, and reading. All three cultures produced impressive bodies of written work on religious and philosophical subjects, including much poetry that was beautiful as well as profound. In addition to popular and personal topics, all three cultures produced cultural artifacts that mixed art and spirituality. There seems to have been a great deal of sharing and influence among these three cultures—for instance, with the narrative of the flood in Gilgamesh being strikingly similar to biblical accounts.

All three cultures were patriarchal (with men dominating) and theocratic (with religious and secular power intertwined). Slavery was accepted in all three cultures. All three cultures had formal written law codes which included both civil and criminal law, including some defense of the rights of the weak against the impunity of the powerful. It is difficult to decide whether these are due to parallel evolution or mutual influence.

As is recounted in Exodus, the Jews endured captivity in Egypt as part of their founding myth and during that period of captivity had the opportunity to assimilate certain elements of Egyptian culture. Later, in the Hellenistic period, there was a thriving Jewish culture in Alexandria, and the Old Testament was translated into Greek. Many of the great works of Jewish history and theology were written in Greek by Jewish writers living in Greco-Roman Egypt.

Many Hebrew literary traditions were grounded in cultural interchanges with Mesopotamia, as were culinary traditions.

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The influence of Mesopotamia on Hebrew Culture is striking; Egyptian influence is less clear.

Hebrew culture recounts the story of a flood in which Noah was the survivor. This story bears striking resemblance to the Epic of Gilgamesh of Mesopotamian history. Hebrew religion also tells the story of a large tower, named Babel, meaning confusion. There is compelling evidence that the true "tower" was actually a Ziggurat. There is also compelling evidence that the name "Babel" actually refers to Babylon. A number of cultural and geographical elements of Mesopotamia appear in Hebrew Culture, such as the worship of Baal and Astarte; and the cities of Ur, Babylon, and Nineveh.

Hebrew Culture speaks of course of the flight of the Hebrews from Egypt during the reign of Rameses II. There is some question as to the historical accuracy of this recount; however it is part of the Hebrew Scripture.

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