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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 practiced monotheism, the belief in only one god, which was a new idea in the ancient world. • The Torah contains the basic laws of the religion of the Jewish people, called Judaism. 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 Moses. • After the Egyptian ruler set the Hebrews free, they took a long and difficult journeycalled the Exodusback to their homeland. 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 Commandments. • The idea of a covenant became the basis for both Judaism and Christianity, and the Ten Commandments 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 capital. • 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 Judah. 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 homeland. A People Governed by Priests • The Babylonians allowed the Jews to return to Judah, but Jerusalem and the surrounding territory remained a province of Persia. • 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 Israel’s independence. The Revolt of the Maccabees • New rulers from Syria brought Greek culture to Israel. • A Jewish priest and his son, Judah Maccabee fought a two year rebellion against the Syrians. • In 164 B.C., the Maccabees drove the Syrians out of the area around Jerusalem and restored independence to Judah. • 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 forgiveness. • 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 death. • 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 temple. • The Jews revolted once again in A.D. 132, but were crushed after three years. The Jewish Legacy • After battles with the Romans left the Jews without a homeland or temple, the Torah became their portable temple. • As Jews settled in other lands, rabbis, or teachers, helped them to continue to practice Jewish traditions.