[The Classic Christian Network] Jewish Studies: Ancient Israel (1of100) Wiki

Posted: April 8, 2011 in Uncategorized

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Jewish Topical

“Ancient Israel”

(1 of 100)



History of ancient Israel and Judah

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Iron Age kingdom of Israel (blue) andkingdom of Judah (tan), with their neighbours (8th century BC)


Israel and Judah were related Iron Age kingdoms of ancient Palestine. The earliest known reference to the name Israel in archaeological records is in the Merneptah stele, an Egyptian record of c. 1209 BCE. By the 9th century BCE the kingdom of Israel had emerged as an important local power before falling to the Assyrians in 722 BCE. Israel’s southern neighbor, the kingdom of Judah, enjoyed a period of prosperity as a client-state of the greater empires of the region before a revolt against Babylon led to its destruction by Babylon in 586 BCE and the deportation of the elite. Following the fall of Babylon to the Persian Cyrus The Great, some Judean exiles returned to Jerusalem during the Persian period, inaugurating the formative period in the development of a distinctive Judahite identity in the Persian province of Yehud. Yehud was absorbed into the subsequent Hellenistic kingdoms that followed the conquests of Alexander the Great, but in the 2nd century BCE the Judaeans revolted against the Hellenist Seleucid Empire and created the Hasmonean kingdom. This, the last nominally independent Judean kingdom, came to an end in 63 BC with its conquest by the Roman Republic.


Periods and chronology

  • Late Bronze Age: 1550–1200
  • Iron Age: 1200–586
  • Babylonian: 586–539
  • Persian: 539–332
  • Hellenistic: 332–53[




The sources for the history of ancient Israel and Judah can be broadly divided into the biblical narrative (essentially the Hebrew Bible, but alsoDeuterocanonical and non-biblical works for the later period) and the archaeological record. The latter can again be divided between epigraphy (written inscriptions, both from Israel and other lands including Mesopotamia and Egypt) and the material record (everything else).

The Hebrew Bible contains “myths, legends and folktales, sagas, heroic epics, oral traditions, annals, biographies, narrative histories, novellae,belles lettres, proverbs and wisdom-sayings, poetry (including erotic poems …), prophecy, apocalyptic, and much more … the whole finally woven into a composite, highly complex literary fabric sometime in the Hellenistic era.”[2] Although Jewish tradition ascribes the biblical books to times and authors contemporaneous with events, they were in fact written in many cases considerably after the times they describe and by authors with a clear religious and nationalist agenda, and it is therefore critical to treat them with circumspection.[3]

On the other hand, “were we entirely dependent on the archaeological evidence narrowly defined, we would not even know that ancient Israel existed”; for this reason archaeology must be interpreted in the light of the Old Testament and the epigraphic evidence.[4]

[edit]Late Bronze Age

The Canaanite god Ba’al, 14th–12th century BC (Louvre museum, Paris)

The eastern Mediterranean seaboard – the Levant – stretches 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.[5] The coastal plain of the southern Levant, broad in the south and narrowing to the north, is backed in its southernmost portion by a zone of foothills, the Shephalah; like the plain this narrows as it goes northwards, ending in the promontory of 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”.[6]

Canaan in the Late Bronze Age was a shadow of what it had been centuries earlier: many cities were abandoned, others shrank in size, and the total settled population was probably not much more than a hundred thousand.[7] Settlement was concentrated in cities along the coastal plain and along major communication routes; the central and northern hill country which would later become the biblical kingdom of Israel was only sparsely inhabited[8] although letters from the Egyptian archives indicate that Jerusalem was already a Canaanite city-state recognising Egyptian overlordship.[9] Politically and culturally it was dominated by Egypt,[10] each city under its own ruler, constantly at odds with its neighbours, and appealing to the Egyptians to adjudicate their differences.[8]

The Canaanite city-state system broke down at the end of the Late Bronze period,[11] and Canaanite culture was then gradually absorbed into that of the Philistines, Phoenicians and Israelites.[12] The process was gradual rather than swift:[13] a strong Egyptian presence continued into the 12th century BCE, and, while some Canaanite cities were destroyed, others continued to exist in Iron I.[14]

[edit]Iron Age I

The Merneptah stele (JE 31408), bearing the first record of the name Israel (


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