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Chapter 3, Section 2 Early Israelites The Israelites (location) were also known as the Hebrews (culture/ethnicity), and are known today as Jews (religion). They are one of the oldest continuous cultures, dating their history from about 1900 BC! The Israelites are different from all other cultures of their time because they believed in only one God. This is called monotheism This religion is now called Judaism. Christianity is based on Judaism (of course with one big difference). The Israelites believed that God’s commands were revealed by prophets (holy messengers) and that people were to be held accountable for their actions in a system of punishments and rewards. (see Deut. Chapter 28) The Bible remains one of the main historical texts of this period and region. The Old Testament is all of the books that the Israelites use as their sacred books. The first 5 are the Torah (pentateuch) and define Jewish law. (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.) The Torah is written in scroll form, like this picture shows. The Israelites trace their ancestry back to Abraham (~1900 BC). He lived in the Mesopotamian city of Ur. He settled in Canaan and made a covenant with God. The Israelites shared Canaan with many other people throughout history, including the Phoenicians, Philistines and the Canaanites. Abraham’s grandson, Jacob, had 12 sons. Each of them led a separate family-based tribe of Israelites. To escape a famine, they migrated to Egypt. Unfortunately, the Egyptians decided to make the Israelites slaves. Around 1200 BC, the prophet Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt in an Exodus into the Sinai Desert. Moses parting the Red Sea. During the next 40 years, the Israelites wandered in the desert. The Israelites say that God renewed the covenant of Abraham, and God gave Moses a set of laws (the 10 Commandments). The Ten Commandments Found in Exodus 20:2-14 This is seen as the foundation of Mosaic Law. (See p.84) Moses’ successor, Joshua, led the Israelites across the river Jordan, back into Canaan. But during their absence, other people had occupied the land. In ~200 years of war, they whooped up on the Canaanites (their mortal enemies-see Genesis 9) and the Philistines. The 12 tribes couldn’t agree on much, so they were ruled by Judges until 1020 BC, when Saul was chosen as king. Saul was unable to defeat the Philistines, but had help from David, who eventually became king in 1012 BC and ruled for 40 years. He established the Israelite capital at Jerusalem. Jews now consider this to be the most holy city (although ownership is disputed). David’s son Solomon, took over in 961 BC. Resenting his high taxes, 10 tribes broke away, keeping the name Israel. The other two tribes kept Jerusalem and took the name Judah for their country (that’s where they get the word Jew). Jerusalem today: A divided city. Divided and conquered: The Assyrians defeated the Northern tribes in 722 BC, and the Chaldeans captured Jerusalem and destroyed the holy temple in 586 BC. Most of the Israelite people were scattered throughout Babylon, some in slavery. This was the Babylonian Exile. This wasn’t all bad. Several prophets helped the Israelites become united again and try to observe Jewish law more fervently. Although the Jews did eventually get back to Jerusalem, they also spread out throughout the Middle East. This diffusion of people geographically is called a diaspora. Jews The Jewish legacy of slavery, exile, and return makes them view their history as one of purpose. The Torah gives answers for their sufferings (liberation theology). (see page 86) Jews can now be found all over the world.