The term ‘Near East’ is used to describe the vast region that spreads across southwest Asia, also including Egypt, but usually excluding Iran, at least until the time of the Persian Empire. 'Ancient' usually refers to any period before the Hellenistic Period (see Historical Timeline). The ancient Near East (often abbreviated to ANE in biblical and archaeological studies) is often called the ‘cradle of civilisation.’ But this is only true from a Western viewpoint.

The land of Israel was part of the ancient Near East, therefore it is not surprising that the Old Testament shares a great many ideas, forms of literature, religious practices and so forth, with other parts of the region. Study of documents from Mesopotamia, Egypt, and Syria in particular casts a great deal of light on the Old Testament. Details may be found in many of the pages of this Wiki.