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The northern Kingdom of Israel (green on the map) and the Kingdom of Judah to the south.

The history of ancient Israel and Judah refers to the Iron Age kingdoms of Israel (Samaria) and Judah. They emerged from the regional Canaanite and Israelite culture of the Late bronze age, and were based on villages that formed and grew in the southern Levant highlands (i.e. today's definition for the region between the coastal plan and the Jordan Valley) between c.1200-1000 BCE, a period during which the biblical united monarchy was formed and eventually split to these two kingdoms. The northern kingdom, Israel, became an important local power in the 9th and 8th centuries BCE before falling to the Assyrians; the southern kingdom, Judah, fell to the Babylonians early in the 6th century; Judean exiles returned from Babylon to found the Second Temple early in the following Persian period.

By the 2nd century BCE, Judah, now the province of Yehud (formerly Yehud Medinata under Persian rule), revolted against Hellenistic Greek overlords and re-created a Judean kingdom, based on the biblical model; this kingdom eventually became part of the Roman Empire as the Iudaea Province before being dissolved due to major rebellions in the 1st century CE and 2nd century CE, after which the name Judah/Judea ceased to be used for any political entity.

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Geographic and cultural background

Israel and Judah were neighbouring Iron Age (c.1200-600 BCE) kingdoms, located in a region defined today as southern Levant. The geographical area where they arose was between the eastern coast line of the Mediterranean Sea and the depression of the Jordan Valley. To the immediate south and east were the kingdoms of Edom (immediately south of the Dead Sea), Moab (east of the Dead Sea), with Aram and Ammon to their north. To the west, on the Mediterranean coast, were the city-states of the Philistines. Immediately to the north of the Philistines was a coastal extension of Israel, with more city-states, those of the Phoenicians, on the coast further north. Large empires lay to the southwest (Egypt) and northeast (Assyria in the 8th-7th centuries BCE, Babylonia in the 6th century, and Achaemenid Persia thereafter). There was also considerable contact between all of these and the city-states of Greece across the eastern Mediterranean.[1]

According to the Bible, the Israelites conquered land from the Canaanites at the time of Joshua, by divine promise and guidance after the The Exodus. Yet lingistically, based on the limited epigraphic archaeological evidence available, the Judahite and Israelite dialects of the early 1st millennium BCE group most closely with Phoenician, Ammonite, Moabite and Edomite; and within that grouping a "core Canaanite" of Israelite and Phoenician can be distinguished from a "fringe Canaanite" of Judahite, Ammonite, Moabite and Edomite.[2]

Origins (1200-1000 BCE)

The earliest mention of the name Israel comes at the very end of the Late Bronze Age, in an Egyptian inscription of about 1207 BCE. The Merneptah stele was erected to commemorate a victory over the Libyans and Sea Peoples, but includes a short poem or hymn listing victories over various cities in Canaan. Near the end occurs the line: "Israel is laid waste and his seed is not."[3] This Israel is identified as a people, and it is highly probable that they were located in the northern part of the central highlands, geographically part of what would later be the biblical Kingdom of Israel.[4]

At the end of the Late Bronze Age the central highlands were sparsely populated, with some 25 villages and a population of about 12,000; but the end of Iron Age I some two hundred years later the number of villages had increased to 300 and the population to 55,000.[5] Politically, the highlands lack any sign of centralised authority; religiously, they lack any sign of temples, shrines, or centralised worship in general (although cult-objects associated with the Canaanite god El have been found); the pottery remains strongly in the local Late Bronze tradition; and the alphabet used (although there have been very few examples found) is that of early Canaanite. Almost the sole marker distinguishing the "Israelite" villages from Cannanite sites is an absence of pig bones, although whether this can be taken as an ethnic marker or is due to other factors remains a matter of dispute.[6]

Iron age (1000-550 BCE)

Israel, Judah and surrounding kingdoms, 9th century BCE.

In the second half of the 10th century BCE the Egyptian pharaoh Shoshenq I (probably identical with the Shishak of 1 Kings 14:25-26 and 2 Chronicles 12:2-9) recorded a series of campaigns directed at the northern part of the Judah/Israel region, although his inscriptions mention cities, not kingdoms.[7] He does not mention Jerusalem, nor is it mentioned in other texts from the time such as the Arad and Kuntillet Arjud ostracons, making it unlikely that the city was a major power at this time.[8]

There is ample evidence of Israel as an important regional state during the 9th and 8th centuries. The Assyrian king Shalmaneser III names king Ahab of Israel among his enemies at the battle of Qarqar, reliably dated to 853 BCE); in the Mesha stele a king of Moab celebrates his success in throwing off the oppression of the "House of Omri", and the Tel Dan stele of c.850-825 BCE tells of the death of a king of Israel, probably Jehoram, at the hands of an Aramaen king about 841 BCE. Excavations at Samaria, the Israelite capital, further reinforce the impression of a powerful, centralised kingdom.[9] In the second half of the 8th century king Hoshea of Israel revolted against the Assyrians, and was crushed. Part of the population was deported, outside settlers were brought in to replace them, and Israel became an Assyrian province (c.722 BCE).[10]

The 9th century Tel Dan stele also tells of the death of a king of the House of David, although again there is no explicit mention of the name Judah. By the 8th century the territory of Judah was a collection of small towns, the most notable of which were Jerusalem, Lachish and Hebron. It became an important city in the 7th century, following Assyria's annexation of Israel, with a population far greater than at any time before and with clear primacy over the surrounding towns. The older scholarly reconstruction of events is that this was due to an influx of refugees from Israel, but the newer view is that it reflects a cooperative effort between Assyria and the kings of Judah to establish the latter as a loyal vassal state exercising control over the valuable olive industry.[11] The sudden collapse of the Assyrian power in the last half of the 7th century led to an unsuccessful bid for independence under king Josiah, followed by the destruction of Jerusalem by Assyria's successor, the neo-Babylonian empire (587/586 BCE).

Babylonian and Persian periods (586-333 BCE)

In 586 BCE, the Babylonians, under king Nebuchadnezzar II, defeated the Kingdom of Judah, captured Jerusalem, and destroyed the First Temple. The biblical texts (2 Kings, 2 Chronicles, Jeremiah and sundry references in Ezekiel and Daniel) say that after the Babylonian captivity, only the poorest were left behind in Judah, now the Babylonian province of Yehud. A few years later, again according to the bible, the governor of Yehud was murdered by rivals, triggering an exodus of refugees to Egypt. Thus by about 580 the people of Judah were to be found in three separate locations, the elite in Babylon (where, incidentally, they appear to have been well treated), in Egypt, and a remnant in Judah.[12]

The Babylonian exile was relatively brief, ending when Cyrus the Great of Persia conquered Babylon (traditionally 538 BCE). Over the following decades some of the exiles returned to Jerusalem, but the majority chose to remain in Mesopotamia. Relations between the returnees and those they found in the land appear to have been strained: for over a century the administrative capital remained at Mizpah in the territory of Benjamin, and the northerners (previously Israel, now Samaritans) opposed the rebuilding of the walls and Temple in Jerusalem. Nevertheless the Temple was rebuilt and rededicated in the sixth year of Darius (516/515 BCE) through the efforts of Nehemiah and Ezra.[13]

Under Persian rule and protection, the Jewish community in the Land of Israel established the Yehud Medinata autonomy.

Hellenistic and Roman periods (333 BCE-70 CE)

The extent of the Hasmonean kingdom
Iudaea Province and surrounding area in the 1st century

In 331 BCE Alexander the Great conquered the Persian Empire. Upon his death in 323 BCE, the province of Yehud changed hands regularly between two Greek successor-kingdoms, the Seleucids of Syria and the Ptolemies of Egypt. Ptolemy II Philadelphus of Egypt (281-246 BCE) promoted Jewish culture: the Septuagint translation of the Torah was begun in Alexandria in his reign, which also saw the beginning of the Pharisees and other Jewish Second Temple parties such as the Sadducees and Essenes.[14]. Antiochus IV Epiphanes of Syria (174-163 BCE), in contrast, when he gained control of Yehud, attempted complete Hellenization of the Jews. His desecration of the Temple sparked the Maccabee rebellion, which ended in victory for the Jews with the expulsion of the Syrians and the re-consecration of the Temple.

The Hasmonean kingdom established by the Maccabees was a deliberate attempt to revive the Judah described in the bible: a monarchy stretching over most of Palestine, defeating and absorbing (and forcible converting) the one-time Moabites, Edomites and Ammonites, and re-conquering the lost kingdom of Israel.[15]

In 64 BCE the Roman general Pompey conquered Jerusalem and made the Jewish kingdom a client of Rome. In 57-55 BCE Aulus Gabinius, proconsul of Syria, split it into Galilee, Samaria & Judea, with 5 districts of Sanhedrin/Synedrion (councils of law).[16] In 40-39 BCE Herod the Great was appointed King of the Jews by the Roman Senate.[17] and in 6 CE his successor, Herod Archelaus, ethnarch of Judea, was deposed by the emperor Augustus and Samaria, Judea and Idumea annexed as Iudaea Province under direct Roman administration.[18]

In 66 the Jews revolted against Rome. The rebellion was crushed and the Temple destroyed (70 CE); over 100,000 Jews died during the siege of Jerusalem, nearly 100,000 were taken to Rome as slaves, and many others fled to Mesopotamia and to other countries. In 132 a second revolt, Bar Kokhba's Revolt, began, led by Simon bar Kokhba, and an independent state in Israel was declared. By 135 this revolt also was suppressed, and the Romans reorganized Judaea as part of the province of Syria-Palestine.

Religion

Israel and Judah inherited the religion of late first-millennium Canaan, and Canaanite religion in turn had its roots in the religion of second-millennium Ugarit.[19] In the 2nd millennium, polytheism was expressed through the concepts of the divine council and the divine family, a single entity with four levels: the chief god and his wife (El and Asherah); the seventy divine children or "stars of El" (including Baal, Astarte, Anat, probably Resheph, as well as the sun-goddess Shapshu and the moon-god Yerak); the head helper of the divine household, Kothar wa-Hasis; and the servants of the divine household, including the messenger-gods who would later appear as the "angels" of the Hebrew bible.[20]

In the earliest stage, Yahweh was one of the seventy children of El, each of whom was the patron deity of one of the seventy nations. This is illustrated by the Dead Sea Scrolls and Septuagint texts of Deuteronomy 32:8-9, in which El, as the head of the divine assembly, gives member of the divine family a nation of his own, "according to the number of the divine sons": Israel is the portion of Yahweh.[21] The later Masoretic text, evidently uncomfortable with the polytheism expressed by the phrase, altered it to "according to the number of the children of Israel"[22]

Between the eighth to the sixth centuries El became identified with Yahweh, Yahweh-El became the husband of the goddess Asherah, and the other gods and the divine messengers gradually became mere expressions of Yahweh's power.[23] Yahweh is cast in the role of the Divine King ruling over all the other deities, as in Psalm 29:2, where the "sons of God" are called upon to worship Yahweh; and as Ezekiel 8-10 suggests, the Temple itself became Yahweh's palace, populated by those in his retinue.[24]

It is in this period that the earliest clear monotheistic statements appear in the Bible, for example in the apparently seventh-century Deuteronomy 4:35, 39, 1 Samuel 2:2, 2 Samuel 7:22, 2 Kings 19:15, 19 (= Isaiah 37:16, 20), and Jeremiah 16:19, 20 and the sixth-century portion of Isaiah 43:10-11, 44:6, 8, 45:5-7, 14, 18, 21, and 46:9.[25] Because many of the passages involved appear in works associated with either Deuteronomy, the Deuteronomistic History (Joshua through Kings) or in Jeremiah, most recent scholarly treatments have suggested that a Deuteronomistic movement of this period developed the idea of monotheism as a response to the religious issues of the time.[26]

The first factor behind this development involves changes in Israel's social structure. At Ugarit, social identity was strongest at the level of the family: legal documents, for example, were often made between the sons of one family and the sons of another. Ugarit's religion, with its divine family headed by El and Asherah, mirrored this human reality.[27] The same was true in ancient Israel through most of the monarchy - for example, the story of Achan in Joshua 8 suggests an extended family as the major social unit. However, the family lineages went through traumatic changes beginning in the eighth century due to major social stratification, followed by Assyrian incursions. In the seventh and sixth centuries, we begin to see expressions of individual identity (Deuteronomy 26:16; Jeremiah 31:29-30; Ezekiel 18). A culture with a diminished lineage system, deteriorating over a long period from the ninth or eighth century onward, less embedded in traditional family patrimonies, might be more predisposed both to hold the individual accountable for his behavior, and to see an individual deity accountable for the cosmos. In short, the rise of the individual as the basic social unit led to the rise of a single god replacing a divine family.[28]

The second major factor was the rise of the neo-Assyrian and neo-Babylonian empires. As long as Israel was, from its own perspective, part of a community of similar small nations, it made sense to see the Israelite pantheon on par with the other nations, each one with its own patron god - the picture described with Deuteronomy 32:8-9. The assumption behind this worldview was that each nation was as powerful as its patron god.[29] However, the neo-Assyrian conquest of the northern kingdom in ca. 722 challenged this, for if the neo-Assyrian empire were so powerful, so must be its god; and conversely, if Israel could be conquered (and later Judah, c. 586), it implied that Yahweh in turn was a minor divinity. The crisis was met by separating the heavenly power and earthly kingdoms. Even though Assyria and Babylon were so powerful, the new monotheistic thinking in Israel reasoned, this did not mean that the god of Israel and Judah was weak. Assyria had not succeeded because of the power of its god Marduk; it was Yahweh who was using Assyria to punish and purify the one nation which Yahweh had chosen.[30]

By the post-Exilic period, full monotheism had emerged: Yahweh was the sole God, not just of Israel, but of the whole world. If the nations were tools of Yahweh, then the new king who would come to redeem Israel might not be a Judean as taught in older literature (e.g Psalm 2). Now, even a foreigner such as Cyrus the Persian could serve as the Lord's anointed (Isaiah 44:28, 45:1). One god stood behind all the world's history.[31]

Demographic history

By the 8th century Israel's population in the north had grown to about 350,000. At the time of the Omrides it may have been even more, as Israel had lost Hazor, Dan and Bethsaida to Damascus, and the sacking of Megiddo and Taanach by Hazael of Damascus had led to a depopulation of the Jezrael. Under the Omrides, Israel was the most populous state of the Levant, probably surpassing even Damascus; but after the wars with Damascus and the coup of Jehu, it was probable that Aramaean Damascus had become the larger state. Thus, under the Omrides, the population of Israel may have been about 500,000.

The south was much less populated. Judea's population, which before the collapse of the north had been low, grew 500% to 120,000. This means, the previous size of Judea before the reign of Ahaz had been about 24,000 people in the south with 96,000 coming as refugees from the north (about 1/3rd of the total of the previous population). This would suggest that the population of Judea was less than 1/20th that of the northern kingdom. During the 10th century it would have been still smaller.[32]

But the enormous population after the fall of Israel did not last. The Assyrian campaign against Hezekiah, and the plague with which it was associated (Hezekiah himself narrowly escaped) reduced the population by nearly 50,000, so that by the end of the monarchy, Judah's population, based fairly accurately upon surveys at the time, was about 75,000, with 20% of it (about 15,000) living in Jerusalem.

The Book of Jeremiah reports that a total of 4,600 went into exile in Babylon. The Book of Kings suggests that it was ten thousand, and then eight thousand. Israel Finkelstein, a prominent archaeologist, suggests that 4,600 represented the heads of households and 8,000 was the total, whilst 10,000 is a rounding upwards of the second number. Jeremiah also hints that an equivalent number may have fled to Egypt. Given these figures, Finkelstein suggests that 3/4 of the population of Judah did not move.

The returnees at the time of Ezra and Nehemiah are said to be 50,000, possibly over a period of 100 years. Thus, about 50% of the total population in the Persian period, in the truncated territory of Yahud, estimated at about 100-150,000 was of the "new" post- exilic monotheism, and 50% practiced the old Canaanite pre-exilic polytheism. Given that Yehud did not include Bethsheva or Hebron, which were ruled by the Idumaeans, it is possible that the population within the border of old Judea was twice that (about 240,000). With the population of Israel nearly 10 times that of the south, the total population living within the borders of monarchial Israel and Judah at the end of the Persian period together may have numbered as many as 3 million, the number recorded roughly at the time of the Jewish Revolt. At this time it was estimated that Jews may have been 1/10th of the total population of the Empire, of between 50-60 million, and that the number of Jews in Diaspora, largely living in Egypt, Syria and Asia Minor (modern Turkey) was equal to the numbers living in the Land of Israel.

See also

Notable people
Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Benjamin, Moses, Aaron, Joshua

Kings of Israel
Main: List of the Kings of Israel

Saul, Ish-bosheth, David, Solomon, Jeroboam, Nadab, Baasha, Elah, Zimri, Omri, Ahab Ahaziah, Jehoram, Jehu, Elisha, Jehoahaz, Jehoash, Jeroboam II, Zachariah, Shallum, Menahem, Pekahiah, Pekah, Hoshea

Kings of Judah
Main: List of the Kings of Judah

Rehoboam, Abijam, Asa, Jehoshaphat, Jehoram, Ahaziah, Athaliah, Jehoash, Amaziah, Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, Hezekiah, Manasseh, Amon, Josiah, Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, Jeconiah, Zedekiah

References

  1. ^ James Maxwell Miller and John Haralson Hayes, "A History of Ancient Israel and Judah" (Westminster John Knox Press, 1986) pp.30-49
  2. ^ Thomas L. Thompson, "Early History of the Israelite People" p.413
  3. ^ Lawrence E. Stagger, Forging an Identity: The Emergence of Ancient ISrael, in Michael D. Coogan (ed), "The Oxford History of the Biblical World (Oxford UP, 1998), p.91
  4. ^ Niels Peter Lemche, "The Israelites in History and Tradition" (Westminster John Knox, 1998) pp.35-8
  5. ^ Paula McNutt, "Reconstructing the Society of Ancient Israel" pp.47-8
  6. ^ Anne E. Killebrew, "Biblical Peoples and Ethnicity" (Society of Biblical Literature, 2005) p.176
  7. ^ Kenneth Kitchen, "On the Reliability of the Old Testament" p.10
  8. ^ Thomas L. Thompson, Early History of the Israelite People" pp.409-410
  9. ^ Amihai Mazar, The Divided Monarchy: Comments on some Archaeological Issues, in Israel Finkelstein and Amihai Mazar, "The quest for the historical Israel" (Society of Biblical Literature, 2007) p.163
  10. ^ Stephanie Dalley, "The Legacy of Mesopotamia" (OUP, 1998) p.62
  11. ^ Thomas L. Thompson, "The Early History of Israel" pp.410-412
  12. ^ Kenneth Kitchen, "On the Reliability of the Old Testament (Eerdmans, 2003) pp.66-70
  13. ^ Victor H. Matthews, "A Brief History of Israel" (Westminster John Knox, 2002) p.103
  14. ^ http://www.us-israel.org/jsource/Judaism/The_Temple.html Jewish Virtual Library
  15. ^ Philip R. Davies, "In Search of 'Ancient Israel'" pp.149-150
  16. ^ Antiquities of the Jews 14.5.4
  17. ^ Jewish War 1.14.4
  18. ^ H.H. Ben-Sasson, A History of the Jewish People, Harvard University Press, 1976, ISBN 0674397312, page 246
  19. ^ Karel van der Toorn, editor, "Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible" (second edition, Eerdmans, 1999)
  20. ^ Robert Karl Gnuse, "No Other Gods: Emergent Monotheism in Israel" (Sheffield Academic Press, 1997)
  21. ^ Meindert Djikstra, "El the God of Israel, Israel the People of YHWH: On the Origins of Ancient Israelite Yahwism" (in "Only One God? Monotheism in Ancient Israel and the Veneration of the Goddess Asherah", ed. Bob Beckering, Sheffield Academic Press, 2001)
  22. ^ Meindert Djikstra, "I have Blessed you by Yahweh of Samaria and his Asherah: Texts with Religious Elements from the Soil Archive of Ancient Israel" (in "Only One God? Monotheism in Ancient Israel and the Veneration of the Goddess Asherah", ed. Bob Beckering, Sheffield Academic Press, 2001)
  23. ^ Karel van der Toorn, "Goddesses in Early Israelite Religion in Ancient Goddesses: the Myths and the Evidence" (editors Lucy Goodison and Christine Morris, University of Wisconsin Press, 1998)
  24. ^ Karel van der Toorn, editor, "Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible" (second edition, Eerdmans, 1999)
  25. ^ Ziony Zevit, "The Religions of Ancient Israel: A Synthesis of Parallactic Approaches (Continuum, 2001)
  26. ^ Mark S.Smith, "Untold Stories: The Bible and Ugaritic Studies in the Twentieth Century" (Hendrickson Publishers, 2001)
  27. ^ Mark S. Smith and Patrick D Miller, "The Early History of God: Yahweh and the Other Deities in Ancient Israel" (Harper & Row, 1990)
  28. ^ Mark S. Smith, "Untold Stories: The Bible and Ugaritic Studies in the Twentieth Century" (Hendrickson Publishers, 2001)
  29. ^ William G. Dever, "Did God Have a Wife? Archaeology and Folk Religion in Ancient ISrael" (Eerdman's, 2005)
  30. ^ Mark S.Smith, "Untold Stories: The Bible and Ugaritic Studies in the Twentieth Century" (Hendrickson Publishers, 2001)
  31. ^ Mark S.Smith, "Untold Stories: The Bible and Ugaritic Studies in the Twentieth Century" (Hendrickson Publishers, 2001)
  32. ^ Thompson, Thomas L. (2000), "The Mythic Past: Biblical Archaeology And The Myth Of Israel" (Basic Books)

Further reading


Simple English

and the Kingdom of Judah to the south.]]

Israel and Judah were Iron Age kingdoms of the old Near East. The area of time covered in this page is from the first mention of the name Israel in the archaeological record (1200 BCE) to the end of a independent Judean kingdom near the time of Jesus Christ.

The two kingdoms arose on the most eastern coast of the Mediterranean, the most western part of the Fertile Crescent, between the old empires of Egypt to the south, Assyria, Babylonia, later Persia to the north and east, Greece and later Rome across the sea to the west. The area is small, maybe only 100 miles north to south and 40 or 50 miles east to west.

Israel and Judah were from the Canaanite culture of the late bronze age, and were based on villages that formed and grew in the southern Levant highlands (today for the region between the coastal plain and the Jordan Valley) between c.1200-1000 BCE. Israel became an important local power in the 9th and 8th centuries BCE before falling to the Assyrians; the southern kingdom, Judah, enjoyed a period of richness as a dependency of the greater empires of the region before a revolt against Babylon led to it being destoried early in the 6th century. Judean exiles returned from Babylon early in the following Persian period, starting the period in the starting of a Judahite presence in the province of Yehud, as Judah was now called. Yehud was absorbed into the subsequent Greek-ruled kingdoms which followed the conquests of Alexander the Great. In the 2nd century BCE, the Jews went up against Greek rule and created the Hasmonean kingdom, which became first a Roman dependency and soon went under direct Roman rule.

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Late Bronze Age background (1550-1200 BCE)

Geography and human settlement

The eastern Mediterranean seaboard - the Levant - goes 400 miles north to south from the Taurus Mountains to the Sinai desert, and 70 to 100 miles east to west between the sea and the Arabian desert.[1] The coastal area of the southern Levant, large in the south and becoming short to the north, the southernmost part has a zone of foothills, the Shephalah; like the plain this area narrows as it goes northwards, ending at Mount Carmel. East of the plain and the Shephalah is a mountainous ridge, the "hill country of Judah" in the south, the "hill country of Ephraim" north of that, then Galilee and the Lebanon mountains. To the east again lie the steep-sided valley occupied by the Jordan River, the Dead Sea, and the wadi of the Arabah, which continues down to the eastern arm of the Red Sea. Beyond the plateau is the Syrian desert, separating the Levant from Mesopotamia. To the southwest is Egypt, to the northeast Mesopotamia. "The Levant thus constitutes a narrow corridor whose geographical setting made it a constant area of contention between more powerful entities".[2]

The central and northern part of the Levantine coast was known in Classical times as Phoenicia; the southernmost portion was known to the Egyptians as Canaan, by which they seem to have meant all their Asian possessions. In the bible Canaan can mean all of the land west of the Jordan river, or, more narrowly, the coastal strip. By Classical times the name Canaan had been dropped in favour of "Philistia", "Land of the Philistines", despite the fact that the Philistines had long since disappeared. The modern name "Palestine" is derived from this. Northeast of Canaan/Palestine was Aram, later called Syria after the Assyrians, who had likewise long since vanished. [3]

Settlement during the Late Bronze was concentrated in the coastal plain and along major communication routes, with the central hill-country only sparsely inhabited; each city had its own ruler, constantly at odds with his neighbours and appealing to the Egyptians to adjudicate his differences.[4] One of these Canaanite states was Jerusalem: letters from the Egyptian archives indicate that it followed the usual Late Bronze pattern of a small city with surrounding farmlands and villages; unlike most other Late Bronze city-states, there is no indication that it was destroyed at the end of the period.[5]

Canaan and the Late Bronze collapse

Canaan in the 13th and early 12th centuries consisted of a diverse population of various origins, unified by a common socioeconomic system of city-states administered and controlled by Egypt.[6] This stable system was broken at the end of the period by the collapse of Egyptian power and of the Canaanite city-state system. From the collapse two new communities emerged in the 12th century BCE, the Israelites in the hill country and the Philistines in the southern part of the coastal plain. The Philistines clearly represent the arrival of a considerable number of outsiders, probably from Cyprus, with their own non-indigenous culture.[7] The Israelites are just as clearly indigenous to Canaan:[8] to take linguistics as just one indicator, Judahite and Israelite Hebrew of the early 1st millennium BCE group with Phoenician, Ammonite, Moabite and Edomite; and within that grouping a "core Canaanite" of Israelite and Phoenician can be distinguished from a "fringe Canaanite" of Judahite, Ammonite, Moabite and Edomite.[9] The causes of the Bronze Age collapse - which extended throughout the eastern Mediterranean - remain obscure, although drought, famine and other stresses may be behind the widespread population movements of the time; in any case, a number of important Canaanite cities were destroyed at the end of the Bronze Age (although the process was spread out over more than a century), and Canaanite culture was gradually absorbed into that of the Philistines, Phoenicians and Israelites.[10]

Pre-Exilic period

Iron Age I (1200-1000 BCE)

The Merneptah stele, erected by an Egyptian pharaoh at the very beginning of Iron Age I, contains the first record of the name Israel: "Israel is laid waste and his seed is not."[11] This Israel, identified as a people, were probably located in the northern part of the central highlands.[12] As the Canaanite city-state system collapsed into chaos the previously unsettled highlands were starting to fill with villages: surveys have identified more than 300 small settlements, most of them new and the largest with a population of no more than 300, in the Palestinian highlands during Iron Age I. The process was most intensive, and villages larger, in the northern regions (biblical Manasseh and Ephraim), although no settlements can be described as urban. The total settled population at the beginning of the period was about 20,000, and double this number by the end.[13] Nevertheless, while Iron Age I villages with features such as four-roomed houses, collar-rim store jars, and hewn water-cisterns are counted as Israelite when found in the highlands, it is in fact impossible to differentiate these from Canaanite sites of the same period; nor is it possible to distinguish between Hebrew and Canaanite inscriptions down to the 10th century.[14] Throughout Iron Age I the highlands lack any sign of centralised authority, or of temples, shrines, or centralised worship in general (although cult-objects associated with the Canaanite god El have been found); almost the sole marker distinguishing the highland "Israelite" villages from Cannanite sites is an absence of pig bones, although whether this can be taken as an ethnic marker or is due to other factors remains a matter of dispute.[15]

The same period saw the rise of the kingdoms of the kingdoms of Aram Damascus and Ammon to the east of the northern hill country, Moab (east of the Dead Sea), and Edom (in the Arabah south of the Dead Sea), in that order.

Iron Age II (1000-586 BCE)

An inscription of the Egyptian pharaoh Shoshenq I, probably identical with the biblical Shishak, record a series of campaigns apparently directed at the area immediately north of Jerusalem in the second half of the 10th century BCE. About a hundred years later, in the 9th century BCE, the Assyrian king Shalmaneser III names Ahab of Israel among his enemies at the battle of Qarqar (853 BCE), while in the Mesha stele (c.830 BCE) a king of Moab celebrates his success in throwing off the oppression of the "House of Omri" (i.e. Israel). Similarly, the Tel Dan stele tells of the death of a king of Israel, probably Jehoram, at the hands of an Aramaen king about 841 BCE. Excavations at Samaria, the Israelite capital, further reinforce the impression of a powerful, centralised kingdom in the northern highlands during the 9th and 8th centuries.[16] In the second half of the 8th century king Hoshea of Israel revolted against the Assyrians, and was crushed (c.722 BCE). Part of the population was deported, outside settlers were brought in to replace them, and Israel became an Assyrian province.[17]

The first evidence for the existence of an organised kingdom in the southern region comes from the mid 9th century Tel Dan stele, which mentions the death of a king of the "House of David" alongside the king of Israel; the contemporary Mesha stele may also mention the House of David, although the reconstruction which allows this reading is disputed.[18] It is generally assumed that this "House of David" is identical with the biblical dynasty, but the archaeological evidence from surface surveys indicates that during the 10th and 9th centuries Jerusalem was only one of the four large villages in the area, with no sign of primacy over its neighbours.[19] It was only in the last part of the 8th century that Jerusalem experienced a period of rapid growth, achieving a population far greater than at any time before and clear primacy over the surrounding towns. The older scholarly reconstruction of events is that this was due to an influx of refugees from Israel following its conquest by the Assyrians (c.722 BC), but the newer view is that it reflects a cooperative effort between Assyria and the kings of Jerusalem to establish Judah as a pro-Assyrian vassal state exercising control over the valuable olive industry.[20] The sudden collapse of the Assyrian power in the last half of the 7th century led to an unsuccessful bid for independence under king Josiah, followed by the destruction of Jerusalem by Assyria's successor, the neo-Babylonian empire (587/586 BCE).

Exilic and Post-Exilic period

Babylonian and Persian periods (586-333 BCE)

In 586 BCE, the Babylonians, under king Nebuchadnezzar II captured Jerusalem, destroyed the Temple of Solomon, ended the Davidic kingship, and carried the people into captivity. Only the poorest were left behind in Judah, now the Babylonian province of Yehud with its capital at Mizpah in the former territory of Benjamin, north of Jerusalem. A few years later, again according to the bible, the governor of Yehud was murdered by rivals, triggering another exodus of refugees, this time to Egypt. Thus by about 580 the people of Judah were to be found in three separate locations, the elite in Babylon (where, incidentally, they appear to have been well treated), a large community in Egypt, and a remnant in Judah.[21] The Exile ended when Cyrus the Great of Persia conquered Babylon (traditionally 538 BCE). The Persians reconstituted Judah/Yehud as a province ("Yehud medinata") within the satrapy "Beyond the River", and over the following century some of the exiles returned to Jerusalem. There they eventually rebuilt the Temple (traditionally 516/515 BCE), but for over a century the administrative capital remained at Mizpah.[22] Samaria, meanwhile, continued as the province of Semarina within the same satrapy as Yehud.[23]

The Persian Period

In 539 BCE the Persians conquered Babylon and in 537 BCE, inaugurated the Persian period of Jewish history. In 520 BCE Cyrus the Great allowed Jews to return to Judea and rebuild the Temple (completed 515 BCE). He appointed Zerubbabel (the grandson of the second to last Judean king, Jehoiachin) governor, but did not allow the restoration of the kingdom. The influence of Zoroastrianism on monotheism, Judaism, as well as Christianity are still the subject of academic debate.

Without the constraining power of the monarchy, the authority of the Temple was amplified, and priests became the dominant authority. However, the Second Temple had been constructed under the auspices of a foreign power, and there were lingering questions about its legitimacy. This provided the condition for various sects to develop within Judaism over the coming centuries, each of which claimed to represent "Judaism". Most of these typically discouraged social intercourse, especially marriage, with members of other sects.

The end of the Babylonian Exile saw not only the construction of the Second Temple, but, according to the Documentary Hypothesis, the final redaction of the Torah as well. Although the priests controlled the monarchy and the Temple, scribes and sages (who later became the rabbis) monopolized the study of the Torah, which (starting from the time of Ezra) was read publicly on market-days. These sages developed and maintained an oral tradition alongside of the Holy Writ, and identified with the prophets. According to Geza Vermes, such scribes were often addressed using a basic term of respect, "lord."

Hellenistic and Roman periods (333 BCE-70 CE)

File:Hasmoneese
The extent of the Hasmonean kingdom
File:First century palestine.gif
Iudaea Province and surrounding area in the 1st century

The Hellenistic period of Jewish history began in 332 BCE when Alexander the Great conquered Persia. Upon his death in 323 BCE, his empire was divided among his generals. At first, Judea was ruled by the Egyptian-Hellenic Ptolemies, but in 198 BCE,the Syrian-Hellenic Seleucid Empire, under Antiochus III, seized control over Judea.

The Hellenistic Period saw the canonization of the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible), according to one theory, see Development of the Jewish canon for details, and the emergence of extra-Biblical sacred traditions. The earliest evidence of a Jewish mysticism tradition surrounds the book of Ezekiel, written during the Babylonian Exile. Virtually all known mystical texts, however, were written at the end of the Second Temple period. Scholars like Gershom Scholom have discerned within the esoteric traditions of the Kabbalah(Jewish Mysticism, which were restricted to sages), the influence of Persian beliefs, Platonic philosophy and Gnosticism.

2 Esdras 14:45-46, which was written in the second century CE, declares: "Make public the twenty-four books that you wrote first, and let the worthy and the unworthy read them; but keep the seventy that were written last, in order to give them to the wise among your people." This is the first known reference to the canonized Hebrew Bible, and the seventy non-canonical texts may have been mystical; the Talmud suggests other mystical traditions which may have their roots in Second Temple Judaism.

The Near East was cosmopolitan, especially during the Hellenistic period. Several languages were used, and the matter of the lingua franca is still subject of some debate. The Jews almost certainly spoke Aramaic among themselves. Greek was at least to some extent a trade language in the region, and indeed throughout the entire eastern portion of the Mediterranean. Judaism was rapidly changing, reacting and adapting to a larger political, cultural, and intellectual world, and in turn drawing the interests of non-Jews. Historian Shaye Cohen observed:

All the Judaisms of the Hellenistic period, of both the diaspora and the land of Israel, were Hellenized, that is, were integral parts of the culture of the ancient world. Some varieties of Judaism were more hellenized than others, but none was an island unto itself. It is a mistake to imagine that the land of Palestine preserved a "pure" form of Judaism and that the diaspora was the home of adulterated or diluted forms of Judaism. The term "Hellenistic Judaism" makes sense, then, only as a chronological indicator for the period from Alexander the Great to the Macabees or perhaps to the Roman conquests of the first century BCE. As a descriptive term for a certain type of Judaism, however, it is meaningless because all the Judaisms of the Hellenistic period were "Hellenistic." (Cohen 1987: 37)

Cultural Struggles with Hellenism

Many Jews lived in the Diaspora, and the Judean provinces of Judea, Samaria, and the Galilee were populated by many Gentiles (who often showed an interest in Judaism). Jews had to live with the values of Hellenism and Hellenistic philosophy, which were often directly at odds with their own values and traditions. Broadly, Hellenistic culture saw itself as a civilizor, bringing civilized values and ways to peoples they thought of as insular or either backwards or degenerate.

For example, Greek-style bath houses were built in sight of the Temple in Jerusalem, for instance, and even in that city the gymnasium became a center of social, athletic, and intellectual life. Many Jews, including some of the more aristocratic priests, embraced these institutions, although Jews who did so were often looked down upon due to their circumcision, which Jews saw as the mark of their covenant with God, but which Hellenistic culture viewed as an aesthetic defacement of the body. Consequently, some Jews began to abandon the practice of circumcision (and thus their covenant with God), while others bridled at Greek domination.

At the same time that Jews were confronting the cultural differences at their door, they had to confront a paradox in their own tradition: their Torah laws applied only to them, and to proselytes, but their God, they believed, was the one and only God of all. This situation led to new interpretations of the Torah, some of which were influenced by Hellenic thought and in response to Gentile interest in Judaism. It was in this period that many concepts from early Greek philosophy entered or influenced Judaism, as well as debates and sects within the religion and culture of the time.

In 331 BCE Alexander the Great took over the Persian Empire. Upon his death in 323 BCE his empire crumbled, and the province of Yehud became part of the kingdom of Egypt, ruled by the Ptolemaic dynasty. Ptolemaic rule was mild: Alexandria became the largest Jewish city in the world, and Ptolemy II Philadelphus of Egypt (281-246 BCE) promoted Jewish culture, sponsoring the Septuagint translation of the Torah. This period also saw the beginning of the Pharisees and other Jewish Second Temple parties such as the Sadducees and Essenes.[24]. But in the early 2nd century BCE Yehud fell to the Seleucid Syrian ruler Antiochus IV Epiphanes (174-163 BCE), who, in contrast to the tolerance shown by the Ptolemids, attempted complete Hellenization of the Jews. His desecration of the Temple sparked a national rebellion, which ended in the expulsion of the Syrians and the re-consecration of the Temple under the Maccabees

The kingdom established by the Maccabees was a conscious attempt to revive the Judah described in the bible: a Jewish monarchy ruled from Jerusalem and stretching over all the territories once ruled by David and Solomon. In order to carry out this project the Hasmonean kings conquered (and forcibly converted to Judaism) the one-time Moabites, Edomites and Ammonites, as well as the lost kingdom of Israel.[25]

Generally, the Jews accepted foreign rule when they were only required to pay tribute, and otherwise allowed to govern themselves internally. Nevertheless, Jews were divided between those favoring hellenization and those opposing it, and were divided over allegiance to the Ptolemies or Seleucids. When the High Priest Simon II died in 175 BCE, conflict broke out between supporters of his son Onias III (who opposed hellenization, and favored the Ptolemies) and his son Jason (who favored hellenization, and favored the Seleucids). A period of political intrigue followed, with priests such as Menelaus bribing the king to win the High Priesthood, and accusations of murder of competing contenders for the title. The result was a brief civil war.

Huge numbers of Jews flocked to Jason's side, and in 167 BCE the Seleucid king Antiochus IV invaded Judea, entered the Temple, and stripped it of money and ceremonial objects. Jason fled to Egypt, and Antiochus imposed a program of forced hellenization, requiring Jews to abandon their own laws and customs under threat of slaughter. At this point Mattathias and his five sons, John, Eleazar, Simon, Jonathan, and Judah Maccabee, priests of the Hasmon family[26] living in the rural village of Modein (pronounced "Mo-Ah-Dein"), assumed leadership of a bloody and ultimately successful revolt against the Seleucids.

Judah liberated Jerusalem in 165 BCE and restored the Temple. Fighting continued, and Judah and his brother Jonathan were killed. In 141 BCE an assembly of priests and others affirmed Simon as high priest and leader, in effect establishing the Hasmonean dynasty. When Simon was killed in 135 BCE, his son (and Judah's nephew) John Hyrcanus took his place as high priest and king.

The Hasmonean kingdom

After defeating the Seleucid forces, John Hyrcanus established a new monarchy in the form of the priestly Hasmonean[26] dynasty in 152 BCE — thus making priests as political as well as religious authorities. Although the Hasmoneans were popularly seen as heroes and leaders for resisting the Seleucids, some regarded their reign as lacking the religious legitimacy conferred by descent from the Davidic dynasty of the First Temple Era.

Sadducees, Essenes, and Pharisees

The rift between the priests and the sages grew during the Hellenistic period, when the Jews faced new political and cultural struggles. Around this time the Sadducee party emerged as the party of the priests and allied elites (the name Sadducee comes from Zadok, the high priest of the first Temple).

The Essenes were another early mystical-religious movement, who are believed to have rejected either the Seleucid appointed high priests, or the Hasmonean high priests, as wrong. But they soon rejected the Second Temple, arguing that the Essene community was itself the new Temple, and that obedience to the law represented a new form of sacrifice.

Although their lack of concern for the Second Temple alienated the Essenes from the great mass of Jews, their notion that the sacred could exist outside of the Temple was shared by another group, the Pharisees ("separatists"), based within the community of scribes and sages. The meaning of the name is unclear, though.

During the Hasmonean period, the Sadducees and Pharisees functioned primarily as political parties (the Essenes not being as politically oriented). The political differences between the Sadducees and Pharisees became evident when Pharisees demanded that the Hasmonean king Alexander Jannai choose between being king and being High Priest in the traditional manner. This demand led to a brief civil war that ended with a bloody repression of the Pharisees, although at his deathbed the king called for a reconciliation between the two parties. Alexander was succeeded by his widow, whose brother was a leading Pharisee. Upon her death her elder son, Hyrcanus II, sought Pharisee support, and her younger son, Aristobulus, sought the support of the Sadducees.

In 64 BCE the Roman general Pompey took over Jerusalem and made the Jewish kingdom a client of Rome. In 57-55 BCE Aulus Gabinius, proconsul of Syria, split it into Galilee, Samaria & Judea, with 5 district Sanhedrin/Synedrion (councils of law).[27] In 40-39 BCE Herod the Great was appointed King of the Jews by the Roman Senate,[28] but in 6 CE his successor, Herod Archelaus, ethnarch of Judea, was deposed by the emperor Augustus and his territories annexed as Iudaea Province under direct Roman administration: this marked the end of Judah as an even theoretically independent kingdom.[29]

Religion

Israel and Judah inherited the religion of late first-millennium Canaan, and Canaanite religion in turn had its roots in the religion of second-millennium Ugarit.[30] In the 2nd millennium, polytheism was expressed through the concepts of the divine council and the divine family.[31]

Other pages

Notable people
Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Benjamin, Moses, Aaron, Joshua, Gideon, Deborah, Samson, Samuel

Kings of Israel
Main: List of the Kings of Israel

Saul, Ish-bosheth, David, Solomon, Jeroboam, Nadab, Baasha, Elah, Zimri, Omri, Ahab Ahaziah, Jehoram, Jehu, Elisha, Jehoahaz, Jehoash, Jeroboam II, Zachariah, Shallum, Menahem, Pekahiah, Pekah, Hoshea

Kings of Judah
Main: List of the Kings of Judah

Rehoboam, Abijam, Asa, Jehoshaphat, Jehoram, Ahaziah, Athaliah, Jehoash, Amaziah, Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, Hezekiah, Manasseh, Amon, Josiah, Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, Jeconiah, Zedekiah

References

  1. Miller, James Maxwell, and Hayes, John Haralson, "A history of ancient Israel and Judah" (Westminster John Knox, 1986) p.36
  2. Coogan, Michael D. (ed), "The Oxford History of the Biblical World (Oxford University Press, 1998) pp.4-7
  3. Miller, James Maxwell, and Hayes, John Haralson, "A history of ancient Israel and Judah" (Westminster John Knox, 1986) p.38-9
  4. Killebrew, Anne, "Biblical Peoples and Ethnicity: An Archaeological Study of Egyptians, Canaanites, and Early Israel, 1300-1100 BCE" (Society of Biblical Literature, 2005) p.38-9
  5. Cahill, Jane M., Jerusalem at the Time of the United Monarchy, in Vaughn, Andrew G., and Killebrew, Ann E., (eds), "Jerusalem in Bible and Archaeology: The First Temple Period" (Sheffield, 1992) pp.27-33
  6. Killebrew, Anne, "Biblical Peoples and Ethnicity: An Archaeological Study of Egyptians, Canaanites, and Early Israel, 1300-1100 BCE" (Society of Biblical Literature, 2005) pp.10-16
  7. Killebrew, Anne, "Biblical Peoples and Ethnicity: An Archaeological Study of Egyptians, Canaanites, and Early Israel, 1300-1100 BCE" (Society of Biblical Literature, 2005) pp.10-16
  8. Killebrew, Anne, "Biblical Peoples and Ethnicity: An Archaeological Study of Egyptians, Canaanites, and Early Israel, 1300-1100 BCE" (Society of Biblical Literature, 2005) pp.10-16
  9. Thomas L. Thompson, "Early History of the Israelite People" p.413
  10. Golden, Jonathan Michael, "Ancient Canaan and Israel: new perspectives"(ABC-CLIO, 2004) pp.61-2
  11. Lawrence E. Stagger, Forging an Identity: The Emergence of Ancient ISrael, in Michael D. Coogan (ed), "The Oxford History of the Biblical World (Oxford UP, 1998), p.91
  12. Niels Peter Lemche, "The Israelites in History and Tradition" (Westminster John Knox, 1998) pp.35-8
  13. Paula McNutt, "Reconstructing the Society of Ancient Israel" pp.69-70
  14. Smith, Mark S., "The Early History of God" (HarpurSanFrancisco, 2002) p.27
  15. Anne E. Killebrew, "Biblical Peoples and Ethnicity" (Society of Biblical Literature, 2005) p.176
  16. Amihai Mazar, The Divided Monarchy: Comments on some Archaeological Issues, in Israel Finkelstein and Amihai Mazar, "The quest for the historical Israel" (Society of Biblical Literature, 2007) p.163
  17. Stephanie Dalley, "The Legacy of Mesopotamia" (OUP, 1998) p.62
  18. Pierre Bordreuil, "A propos de l'inscription de Mesha': deux notes," in P. M. Michele Daviau, John W. Wevers and Michael Weigl [Eds.], The World of the Aramaeans III, pp. 158-167, especially pp. 162-163 [Sheffield, England: Sheffield Academic Press, 2001]
  19. Gunnar Lehman, The United Monarchy in the Countryside: Jerusalem, Judah and the Shephelah During the Tenth Century BCE, in Vaughan and Killibrew (eds), "Jerusalem in Bible and Archaeology: The First Temple Period" ()p.149
  20. Thomas L. Thompson, "The Early History of Israel" pp.410-412
  21. Kenneth Kitchen, "On the Reliability of the Old Testament (Eerdmans, 2003) pp.66-70
  22. Victor H. Matthews, "A Brief History of Israel" (Westminster John Knox, 2002) p.103
  23. [Lester L. Grabbe, "A history of the Jews and Judaism in the Second Temple Period, Volume 1: Yehud: A History of the Persian Province of Judah" (T&T Clarke International, 2004) p.134]
  24. http://www.us-israel.org/jsource/Judaism/The_Temple.html Jewish Virtual Library
  25. Philip R. Davies, "In Search of 'Ancient Israel'" pp.149-150
  26. 26.0 26.1 Josephus traces the term "Hasmonean" to the great grandfather of Mattathias, known as hasmon.
  27. Antiquities of the Jews 14.5.4
  28. Jewish War 1.14.4
  29. H.H. Ben-Sasson, A History of the Jewish People, Harvard University Press, 1976, ISBN 0-674-39731-2, page 246
  30. Karel van der Toorn, editor, "Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible" (second edition, Eerdmans, 1999)
  31. Robert Karl Gnuse, "No Other Gods: Emergent Monotheism in Israel" (Sheffield Academic Press, 1997)







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