- Ancient Israel is the birthplace of the 3 great monotheistic religions of the world: Judaism, Christianity and Islam
- Ancient Israel dates back approximately 4000 years to the books of the Old TestamentGreat patriarchs of Judaism: Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Joshua
- Hebrews, Israelites, Jews, Semites: have all undergone persecution throughout history; from Babylonian Captivity, Exodus, Diaspora, Spanish Inquisition to the Holocaust
What’s in a name?
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- Hebrew means “From across”- name given to Abraham and his followers
- Israelites: Abraham’s grandson Jacob renamed Israel which means “he who has wrestled with God”. His descendants were called “Israelites”
- Jews: named after Jacob’s son Judah, ancient father of tribe of King David’s dynasty
Tracing Roots of Israel’s History
- Nomadic tribes wandered into Palestine from east in approximately 1900 BCE
- Mesopotamian society dominated by polytheism
- Judaism started when God appeared before Patriarch Abraham at Harran (west of Ephrates) and told him to leave his home and travel until he arrived at Canaan in Palestine. to go and raise a great nation”
- This began the monotheistic tradition of the Hebrew faith with the establishment of the “Covenant”, “Chosen People” and “Promised Land”
Jacob (grandson of Abraham)
- Abraham’s grandson Jacob took name “Israel” which means “God ruled” and organized Israelites into 12 tribes
- Some tribes settled in Egypt (due to drought and famine) and were subjected to Pharaoh rule and slavery
- Other Israelis came as slaves after Egypt conquered Canaan, from 1500 to 1300 BCE.
- During the time of Ramses II, Egypt was going through its greatest construction period since the pyramids were constructed, over a thousand years before. Many slave labourers were used, including the Israelis.
Moses & Exodus: – “Let My People Go!”
- Around 1300 BCE Moses led the Israelis out of Egypt (Exodus).
- He led the 12 Tribes of Israel to Mount Sinai where God gave him the 10 Commandments, uniting the Hebrews under one God
- The first commandment “Thou shalt have no other gods before me” pretty much sealed Judaism as the monotheist religion that continues today
- It is here that the Jews entered into a covenant with God
- Moses and Hebrews searched for the “Promised Land” or the land of milk and honey, however they wandered in the desert for 40 years
- They settled in Palestine in 1230 BCE and re-took Canaan, then they took Jericho.
The Great Kings of Israel
- 1230 BCE, Israelites guided by Joshua, invaded Canaan (Promised Land)
- 1020 BCE: First king of Israelites was Saul, then David, then Solomon
- Under King David the Israelites captured city of Jerusalem and extended Israel to its greatest extent.
- King Solomon built the Temple of Jerusalem, to house the Arc of the Covenant (sacred box to hold Torah)
- Solomon’s Temple was destroyed during Babylonian invasion, rebuilt in 6th century BCE, and destroyed again in 70 CE by the Romans
- Only remaining part of Solomon’s Temple is the Western Wall
Lost Tribes of Israel
- After the death of Solomon, Kingdom of Israel split into two (north= Israel; south= Judah)
- Israel was conquered by Assyrians in 722 BCE and the scattered people were known as the ‘Lost Tribes of Israel’
- Judah was eventually destroyed by Babylon in 586 BCE and inhabitants were held in captivity (called the Exile or Babylonian Captivity)
- There was an emergence of synagogues and rabbis during Exile
- Released by Persians in 538 BCE and returned to Jerusalem to rebuild temple
- In the age of the prophets; Jewish prophets were always trying to get people to act ethically and to repent for their sins.
- Diaspora is a Greek word meaning “sowing of seed” or “dispersal” which refers to Jewish population living outside of Israel
- 332 BCE: Jewish people fell under Hellenization (Greek culture) as Alexander the Great conquered Persia, Egypt and India
- 164 BCE: A group of Jews called the Maccabees revolted against Greek rule, took control of Jerusalem and rededicated the Temple to God (Hanukkah)
- 64 BCE: Jerusalem fell to Romans and the Kingdom of Judah became one of the provinces of the Roman Empire (Judea). The people living there were called Judeans, and it is from this word that we get the word Jew
- 66 CE: The people of Judea revolted against Rome. This uprising was crushed and the temple was destroyed for a second time in 70 CE
- From about 200 BCE the Jews thought that a Messiah would someday come to restore Israel to its power and glory.
- Despite the dispersion of Jewish people throughout Europe after 70 CE, their culture and religious beliefs have been by far the most influential of all the ancient cultures of the Near East
Impact of Ancient Israel
- The idea of the Covenant = formal agreement between Hebrews and God (Yahweh)
- The concept of Monotheism – Hebrews worshipped God and only God, and in return, they would be God’s Chosen People and given Canaan as the Promised Land
- Spiritual ideas profoundly influenced Western culture, morality, ethics and conduct and the influence of this religion has lasted for over 3000 years.
- Three of the world’s most dominant religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam all derive their roots from the spiritual beliefs of the Ancient Israelites
What made Judaism different from the other religions at the time of the Exodus (Moses)?:
- It was a religion of the people. It started from Abraham and Moses men of ordinary status who had to convince others to follow God. (they were not kings or pharaohs that could impose a religion)