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The Oxford Study Bible Study Bible supplemented with commentary from scholars of various religions.

The Village and/or City

Although the notion of village or town might seem totally different from that of family, the two can be integrally related since one lineage (one of the meanings of the father's house) could make up the population of a village. Put another way, villages could define themselves genealogically as well as geographically. The grouping of several households constitutes a small village, which, depending upon such factors as water supply, fertility of the land, and defensive position, could develop into a town or even a city. However, not all villages became cities; in fact, cities and villages functioned as complementary entities. A city provided a market for and defense of a village whereas a village provided food for those in a city.

There is minimal archaeological evidence of isolated houses or family compounds. Rather villages (pěrāzôt) seem to be the smallest collective unit of habitation. A typical village may have included about twenty households, which would have provided the potential for a population of about two hundred people. At least during the pre-monarchic period, most Israelites would have lived in this setting.

Cities, walled urban entities, had existed in Syria-Palestine long before Israel emerged. Jericho, for example, may be dated at least to 7000 B.C.E. However, urbanization and all its entailments—trade, occupational specialization, social stratification, centralized political power—are normally associated with the political change from a loose agglomeration of families to a state; in Israel these developments are associated with the reigns of David and Solomon. There were two major moments of urbanization in ancient Israel, one accompanying the inception of monarchy, the other associated with the restoration of Judah in the late sixth and fifth centuries. Both served political administrative purposes, those of the Davidic and then of the Persian Empires respectively.

One may speak of a city's social structure. There was a ruling or elite class—merchants, military leaders, priests, political leaders, royalty, and administrators—who typically made up no more than ten percent of the population. The households of the elite class, in part because of their wealth, were larger in both size and population than those of the landed peasantry. The other inhabitants had a status in the larger society roughly similar to the peasants in villages outside the city, although they were more vulnerable to economic deprivation since they did not have direct access to the land and its produce.

Cities in Israel followed a basic plan. A roughly circular wall enclosed the whole. Houses were built up against this wall and fronted on a street that paralleled the lines of it. Other streets radiated off the main circular one. There were usually some large public buildings, e.g., temple and a residence for the ruler and/or aristocracy of the city. Immediately inside the city gate was a large, open area, which probably served as a place of public gathering, whether for economic (e.g., market), political, or religious purposes. If one assumes that one acre of a city can sustain upwards of two hundred individuals, Jerusalem during Solomon's reign would have had a population of about 6000 people.

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