Aramaic is a collective term used to describe several Hebrew-influenced Aramaic and Neo-Aramaic languages. Aramaic, like Hebrew, is a Northwest Semitic language, and the two share many features. From the seventh century BCE, Aramaic became the lingua franca of the Middle East. It became the language of diplomacy and trade, but was not used by the Hebrew populace at this early date. As described in 2 Kings 18:26, Hezekiah, king of Judah, negotiates with Assyrian ambassadors in Aramaic rather than Hebrew so that the common people would not understand. During the sixth century BCE, the Babylonian captivity brought the working language of Mesopotamia much more into their daily life of ordinary Jews. Around 500 BCE, Darius I of Persia proclaimed that Aramaic would be the official language for the western half of his empire, and the Eastern Aramaic dialect of Babylon became the official standard.

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