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Ancient Israel
Prepared by Anita Billeter
Palmdale School District
with funding from
Jordan Fundamentals Grant
Keeping History Alive Grant
The Belief of the Israelites
• The Israelites
monotheism, the
belief in only one
god, which was a new
idea in the ancient
• The Torah contains
the basic laws of the
religion of the Jewish
people, called
The Origin of the Israelites
• According to Genesis,
God told a shepherd
named Abraham to
move from
Mesopotamia to
Canaan to establish a
new nation.
• Many different people
lived together in
Canaan, and
gradually came
together and were
called Hebrews.
• Some Hebrews
became slaves to the
Egyptians, and were
led out of captivity by
• After the Egyptian
ruler set the Hebrews
free, they took a long
and difficult journeycalled the Exodusback to their
An Agreement with God
• According to the Torah,
Moses received a message
from God establishing a
covenant, or special
agreement, that bound
the Israelites to God.
• The Torah explains that
first of God’s laws for the
Israelites were written on
stone tablets that are also
known as the Ten
• The idea of a
covenant became
the basis for both
Judaism and
Christianity, and
the Ten
form much of the
Western world’s
ideas about law
and justice.
The Monarchy
• The second king of the
Israelites, David, united
the tribes of Israel, and
established a dynasty that
lasted over 400 years.
• Under David’s leadership,
the Israelite empire
extended from the Sinai
Peninsula to Damascus,
with Jerusalem as its
• David’s son, Solomon,
made treaties with
neighboring nations,
increased trade with
others, and began a royal
building program.
• Solomon’s main temple in
Jerusalem became the
center for the Israelites’
religious life and a symbol
of their faith.
• After Solomon’s death,
Israel split into two
kingdoms, Israel and
The Message of the Prophets
• In 587 B.C. the
Babylonians conquered
Judah, destroyed the city
of Jerusalem and the
temple, and took 15,000
prisoners to Babylonia.
• Jewish prophets, who
interpreted the will of
God, said the Jewish
people were being
punished for breaking
their covenant with God.
• The prophets
preached that if
the Jews obeyed
the laws of God,
they would
someday be able
to return to their
A People Governed by Priests
• The Babylonians allowed
the Jews to return to
Judah, but Jerusalem and
the surrounding territory
remained a province of
• Without a king, leadership
of the Jews fell to the
priests, who oversaw the
rebuilding of the temple,
the celebration of
religious holidays, and the
following of laws.
• In the 400s B.C.,
Ezra, a priest and
scribe, collected the
holy writings that
became the Torah.
• Some Jews came to
believe that a
messiah would
someday free the
people and restore
The Revolt of the Maccabees
• New rulers from
Syria brought
Greek culture to
• A Jewish priest
and his son, Judah
Maccabee fought a
two year rebellion
against the
• In 164 B.C., the
Maccabees drove
the Syrians out of
the area around
Jerusalem and
independence to
• Jews celebrate
this victory today
as Chanukah.
The Teachings of Jesus
• Jesus taught that people
should obey the Ten
Commandments and the
teachings of the prophets;
he stressed the
importance of love and
• As Jesus gained followers
and was called the
messiah, opposition from
religious leaders grew.
• About A.D. 33 Jesus
was arrested, charged
with treason against
Rome, and put to
• A new religion,
Christianity, rose as
Jesus’ followers
spread his teachings.
Judaism in the First Century
• In A.D. 66 the Zealots
rebelled against
Roman rule, and
during that war, the
Romans destroyed
Jerusalem and
burned down the
• The Jews revolted
once again in A.D.
132, but were
crushed after three
The Jewish Legacy
• After battles with the
Romans left the Jews
without a homeland
or temple, the Torah
became their portable
• As Jews settled in
other lands, rabbis, or
teachers, helped
them to continue to
practice Jewish