The writings of the Old Testament present a rich and varied feast of about half a million words. To deny the existence and importance of schools in Israel is rather like refusing to recognize the practice of cattle-breeding in the middle of a meal of roast beef. Since it is the end-product which provides the evidence, the method of our investigation will be to see how the diverse literary skills of Israel's authors, in both poetry and prose, bear witness to their educational background. Their knowledge of the school-books of Egypt and their use of traditional didactic language and literary forms are explicable only in terms of their training in academic institutions which were professional, established, and stable.
Although, notoriously, there is little specific factual data about Israel's schools as institutions, 1 a great volume of suggestive evidence has been supplied by archaeologists digging beyond her borders—in Mesopotamia, Egypt, and Syria. It would, indeed, be strange if Israel had administered her state, conducted her business, and produced her literature without the skills which her neighbours had found necessary and had been systematically teaching in their schools for some two thousand years.
New evidence is regularly being unearthed of the great importance attached to reading and writing in the Fertile Crescent. The most recent discovery on a spectacular scale was made in 1974 and 1975 at Tell Mardikh, the site of the ancient city of Ebla in north Syria, when over 10,000