In pre-Roman times, Judaism was shaped

Hatra, arched gateway
Hatra, arched gateway

by Eastern cultures; it was the encounter and exchange with the superior cultural power of Rome that gave it the cultural and religious dimensions we know today.

The Romans are presented in the Old Testament in various ways. Genesis 32f, the account of how Jacob reconciled with Esau, is a literary treatment of Herod’s subjection to Augustus. Herod had supported Mark Antony in the civil war with Augustus. After Augustus’ victory in the sea battle of Actium on 2 September 31 BC, Herod was forced to offer himself to Augustus as a reliable partner (Ant. 15, 6, 6f).

In the narrative of Samuel’s hunt for a king for Israel in 1 Sam. 8ff, Samuel appoints kings and deposes them. In the political reality, this role was taken by the Romans Pompey and Augustus. In this way, 1 Sam. 8ff shows that the Jews accepted Roman power as being installed by God.

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