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Religion in the ancient Near East was closely tied to place and politics. Deities were associated with particular places, such as cities and eventually nations. Temples functioned quite literally as the god's house, where the god resided in the form of a cult statue.

Priests and followers fed, clothed and cared for the deity in a series of rituals and offerings. Chief among the god's adherents was the king or city-ruler. As builder of the temple and chief official in the cult, the king had a special relationship with the god. This association between place, deity and royalty made religion a powerful factor in defining group identities in the ancient Near East.

Ancient Near Eastern religions were polytheistic, recognizing and worshipping more than one deity. Biblical monotheism, the concept of a single god with universal authority, stands out as a unique development in Ancient Israel. In modern times, Christianity, Judaism and Islam are all monotheistic religions. Hinduism is a major polytheistic modern religion.

During the Iron Age, monotheism does, however, find a context in the development of state-supported religions with monolatrous tendencies, such as the cult of Assur in Assyria and the worship of Kemosh in Moab. Monolatry is the worship of a single god without denying the existence of other deities. Monolatrous views can be seen in places within the Bible, and may have been the view of at least some Israelites when the worship of Yahweh was the state religion of Israel and Judah during the Iron Age.

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