I. Old Testament Times.

1. Early Overland Commerce:

There were forces in early Hebrew life not favorable to the development of commerce. Intercourse with foreigners was not encouraged by Israel’s social and religious customs. From the days of the appearance of the Hebrews in Canaan, however, some commercial contact with the peoples around was inevitable. There were ancient trade routes between the East and the West, as well as between Egypt and the Mesopotamian valley. Palestine lay as a bridge between these objective points. There were doubtless traveling merchants from very remote times, interchanging commodities of other lands for those of Palestine Some of the Hebrew words for "trading" and "merchant" indicate this (compare cachar, "to travel," rakhal, "to go about"). In the nomadic period, the people were necessarily dependent upon overland commerce for at least a part of their food supply, such as grain, and doubtless for articles of clothing, too. Frequent local famines would stimulate such trade. Companies or caravans carrying on this overland commerce are seen in Ge 37:25,28, "Ishmaelites" and "Midianites, merchantmen," on their way to Egypt, with spices, balm and myrrh. Jacob caused his sons to take certain products to Egypt as a present with money to Joseph in return for grain: balsam, spices, honey, myrrh, nuts, almonds (Ge 43:11 f). The presence of a "Bab mantle" among the spoils of Ai (Jos 7:21) indicates commerce between Canaan and the East.

2. Sea Traffic:

3. Land Traffic in the Time of the Kings:

II. New Testament Times.

After the conquests of Alexander 333 BC, trade between East and West was greatly stimulated. Colonies of Jews for trade purposes had been established in Egypt and elsewhere. The dispersion of the Jews throughout the Greek and Roman world added to their interest in commerce. The Mediterranean Sea, as a great Roman lake, under Roman protection, became alive with commercial fleets. The Sea of Galilee with its enormous fish industry became the center of a large trading interest to all parts. The toll collected in Galilee must have been considerable. Matthew was called from his collectorship to discipleship (Mt 9:9); Zaccheus and other publicans became rich collecting taxes from large commercial interests like that of balsam. Jesus frequently used the commerce of the day as illustration (Mt 13:45; 25:14-30). Along the Palestinian coast there were several ports where ships touched: Lydda, Joppa, Caesarea; and further north Ptolemais, Tyre, Sidon and Antioch (port Seleucia).

See also TRADE.

See also

  • Trade