Having had some experience with contracts and settlement agreements, I was struck by the similarity in content of a 2500 year old settlement agreement with what would be found in a contemporary agreement. In fact, this same agreement could be enforced today.
The agreement reads:
(translated from the Aramaic):
On the 2nd day of the month Epiphi of the 27th year of King Darius, said Selua daughter of Ḳenaya and Yethoma her sister to Ya’a’or daughter of Shelomim, We have given to you half the share which was granted to us by the king’s judges and Ravaka the commander, in exchange for half the share which accrued to you with Ne’ehebeth. Hereafter, on a future day, we shall not be able to sue you in the matter of this your share, 5and say, We did not give it to you; nor shall a brother or sister (of ours), son or daughter, relative 6or alien be able to sue you; and whoever shall sue you in the matter of this your share which we have given you, shall pay to you the sum of 5 karash and the share is yours: and the witnesses (are) Hosea b. Hodaviah, Shelomim b. Azariah, Zephaniah b. Machi.
It has all the necessary elements for a settlement agreement. First, there are factual recitals. These would typically be noted in a modern agreement by a series of “Whereas” clauses:
Whereas Seluda gave a one half interest in a certain …. etc.
Second, it contains a statement of consideration (a thing of value given in exchange as noted in the contract: for instance, the purchase price, the thing purchased, or a promise to make a payment in the future, et cetera): “We have given to you the share which was granted to us ….” “5 karash” ….
Third, there is a waiver and release: “we shall not be able to sue you in the matter of this your share”.
Fourth, the matter is witnessed (while witnesses are not necessary for every contract, they can be quite useful: for example, a notary is simply an official witness to the contract formation).