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 Map of the trade routes in ancient Israel

 Trade routes in ancient Israel 


Israel lay on two of the great trade routes of the ancient world, the King's Highway and the Via Maris (Sea Road). These roads linked the two great superpowers of the time, Egypt and Mesopotamia. Lying across these roads, it was inevitable that Israel would become a trading nation.

By the time the Israelites arrived, a well-oiled trading system had already been created. Mules, and later camels, were used as beasts of burden to carry goods over long distances. Fodder for the animals was available along the route, making travel easier for the traders.

The downside of Israel's position was that it also lay on the path of armies from Egypt or Mesopotamia, when these countries attacked each other - which was often. Any invading army knew it was necessary to secure Israel before it moved on to it real target, and Israel often had to pay huge amounts to buy its safety.

Sometimes even money failed to keep Israel safe. Lachish, for example, was destroyed because it was too near Jerusalem, too much of a threat to the rear of Sennacherib's army, whose real target was Egypt.


Traders mostly used the trade routes for transporting luxury goods, but the city-state of Dan was fairly close to the coastal cities, and produced more food than it needed, so the area around Dan became a breadbasket.

It prospered - Dan could ask a good price for its food, and it did.

The downside as far as the biblical writers were concerned was that the people of Dan integrated rather too well with the coastal cities, who were not Jewish and who worshipped gods other than Yahweh.

Dan's prosperity and its cosy relationship with foreigners were probably to blame for Dan's refusal to answer Deborah's summons, when she called the Danites to fight with the other Israelites against the Canaanite king at Mount Tabor.  


Mount Tabor and the fertile plain beneath it

Mount Tabor and the fertile land at its foot





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