Jewish Contributions to Civilization: An Estimate

By Joseph Jacobs | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VI
JEWS AND COMMERCE

IT is usually assumed that there is a natural tendency in the Jewish character toward commerce. This was certainly not the case in Bible times. The Israelites, perched up on highlands, far from the two main caravan routes, from Damascus to Egypt, had little occasion to engage in traffic. Each household produced all the food, clothing, timber, and tools it needed, and only for a few luxuries did it have resort to "wanderers," known invariably as foreigners-Canaanites,1 Midianites,2 and Ishmaelites.3 The mere fact that there was no coined money used in Israel until the time of the Maccabees would be alone sufficient to prove how little trade was current among the Israelites. How little popular it was, even in the times of the Mishnah (first two centuries, C.E.), is shown in the maxims, "Have

____________________
1
Job 40, 30; Proverbs 31, 24.
2
Genesis 37, 28.
3
Genesis 37, 25.

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