Old Testament Essays
On-line version ISSN 2312-3621
Print version ISSN 1010-9919
WEST, Gerald. Tracking an ancient Near Eastern economic system: The tributary mode of production and the temple-state. Old testam. essays [online]. 2011, vol.24, n.2, pp.511-532. ISSN 2312-3621.
Making sense of ancient economies requires careful attention to particular details as well as a consolidating model that combines the detail into a coherent form. While there is always the danger that economic models will over-determine the detail, models are useful heuristic devices. In this article a model that draws on Marxist economic analysis is assembled and then used to trace a geographically pervasive and historically enduring economic system in the ancient world, stretching from the Ancient Near East to Greco-Rome, and so underlying much of biblical history and story. The article argues that the model of a tributary mode of production, administered through a city-state political system, may also prove useful exegetically and ethically, enabling us to understand particular texts more "economically" and to provide important perspective to our present day economic decisions.