katapi HOMEkatapi new bible atlas | HOME | ISRAEL | <Region | [MAP] | [EARTH]

ISRAEL (See also wiki article Israel.)

ISRAEL

HISTORY: sources | early traditions | Patriachal age | origins | Egypt-slavery | exodus | wilderness wandering | conquest of Trans-jordan | crossing the Jordan | conquest of Canaan | the Judges | Saul | David | Solomon | division of the Kingdom | Jereboam to Ahab | Ahaziah to Jeroboam II | the fall of Samaria | Hezekiah & the siege of Jerusalem | Manasseh, Amon, Josiah | the end of Judah | exile in Babylonia | Jerusalem - restoration | the Hellenic rule | maccabaean revolt | Hasmonaean dynasty | Roman rule |
RELIGION: the ancient Hebrews | Mosaic covenant | Israel - before the great prophets | Israel - during the great prophets | post-exilic Judaism | the triumph of Legalism.

The name Israel designates in the Bible
(a) the patriarch Jacob (Gn.32.29);
(b) several ethnic groups of heterogeneous origins which settled in the land of Canaan during the 13th cent. BC;
(c) the northern kingdom which, under Jeroboam's leadership, seceded from the monarchic rule of Rehoboam soon after Solomon's death (922 BC) and was destroyed by the Assyrians (722 BC);
(d) occasionally the southern kingdom of Judah (Is.5.7, Mic.3.1);
(e) the eschatological remnant; and
(f) the religious and political community of the Judaeans' descendants commonly known as the Jews, from the fall of Jerusalem under the Babylonians (586 BC) to the fall of Jerusalem under the Romans (AD 70;
see G. A. Danell, Studies in the Name Israel in the Old Testament, 1946).

I. HISTORY

1. Sources

Documentation for Israel's history during the Biblical period has been traditionally found in
(a) the canonical books and the Apocrypha of the OT;
(b) the Jewish Pseudepigrapha and other writings of the Greco-Roman times, especially those of Plavius Josephus;
(d) the works of the Greek and Roman historians;
(e) the Mishnah and Talmud. Information obtained from these sources was generally accepted at its face value, particularly that which was offered by the OT, and contradictions found therein were either artificially resolved or ignored. In modern times, however, three major developments have radically transformed the task of Israel's historians:
(a) the rise of Biblical criticism;
(b) the growth of near-eastern archaeology;
(c) the emergence of anthropology, sociology, and comparative religion.

(a) The Rise of Biblical Criticism. - Ever since the middle of the 17th cent., scholars have inquired into the composition, date, authorship, and historical reliability of the Biblical books (see especially PENTATEUCH, PROPHETS, PSALMS, WISDOM LITERATURE). At the beginning of the 20th cent., a majority of students accepted the results of the Graf-Wellhausen school, according to which narratives and legal material now found in the Pentateuch were edited in about 400 BC from four previously written documents: (i) the Yahwistic source (J), composed in Judah in about 800 BC; (ii) the Elohistic source (E), written in Northern Israel in about 750 BC; (iii) the Deuteronomic code and sermons (D), redacted between 650 and 560 BC; and (iv) the Priestly source (P), compiled in about 450 BC and including the slightly earlier Holiness Code (H). Such a view of the composition and date of the Pentateuch, which became known as the Documentary Hypothesis, led the historians of Israel to exercise extreme caution not only toward those sources to which a late date was ascribed but also toward the earlier documents, since a considerable period of time - in fact, several centuries - separated the writing of all the documents from the events which they purported to relate. A similarly negative attitude prevailed on most of the data preserved in the book of Joshua, the composition of which was associated with the final stage of Pentateuchal editing (see PENTATEUCH, JOSHUA). With Judges, Samuel, and Kings, the case was considered to be different. Although the framework of Judges was assigned to Deuteronomic editorship, literary analysis of the book revealed the presence of poems and narratives, such as the Song of Deborah (Jg.5), the antiquity of which constituted a strong argument in favour of their historical reliability. The court memoirs which were utilized in a large section of Samuel and the manifold uses of royal and Temple archives which are manifest in Kings were deemed to offer a relatively valid kind of information, although the presence of legendary material, such as the Elisha cycle of stories, and the chronological difficulties produced by the synchronisms which tie together the reigns of the Judaean and Israelite kings, revealed the constant need for critical evaluation. The work of the Chronicler (see CHRONICLES, EZRA, NEHEMIAH) was considered to be late (around 300 BC) and generally unreliable, as it chiefly retold the stories of Samuel and Kings from a Levitical bias.

Since the beginning of the 20th cent., successors of Wellhausen have accepted the major results of the Documentary Hypothesis, with three important modifications: (i) literary analysis of the various documents no longer extends to the minute dissecting of phrases and words with the degree of confidence which was at first granted to it; (ii) dates of the documents tend to be pushed back in time (i.e. 950 or perhaps 1000 BC for J); (iii) the documents themselves are held 10 represent faithfully a large number of early traditions, orally preserved, which bring the historians much closer to the events than it was hitherto suspected.

Already in 1908, Eerdmans showed that the ancient Hebrews were not as 'primitive' as generally supposed. At the same time, the oral traditions which lay behind the documents were analysed by Gunkel for Genesis (1901) and Gressmann for Exodus (1910). Patterns and forms of 'literary' although 'unwritten' traditions were ascertained (see A. Lods, 'Le role de la tradition orale dans la formation des recits de 1'Ancien Testament,' RHR, Ixxxviii [1923], 51-64 ; E. Nielsen, Oral Tradition, 1954). Oestreicher in 1923 and Welch in 1924 pointed out that many laws of Deuteronomy reflected the situation of Israel during the conquest and the early monarchy rather than that of Judah under Manasseh. Eissfeldt in 1934 demonstrated that much of the priestly legislation, late as it may have been in its finally edited form, rested on pre-exilic practices. Kaufmann maintained in 1930 and 1937 the priority of P over D; Volz in 1933 and Rudolph in 1938 questioned the existence of E. Nevertheless, the general validity of the Documentary Hypothesis has survived these attacks (see R. H. Pfeiffer, Introduction to the Old Testament, 1941; A Lods, Histoire de la litterature hebraique et juive, 1945; C. R. North, 'Pentateuchal Criticism,' in H. H. Rowley, ed., The Old Testament and Modern Study, 1951, pp. 48-83; 0. Eissfeldt, Einleitung in das Alte Testament, 1956; A. Weiser, Einleitung in das Alte Testament, 1957). Meanwhile.the narratives of Judges were investigated by Wiese in 1926, the traditions concerning Israel's election by Galling in 1928, the origin and growth of the twelve-tribe system by Noth in 1930, the Saul-David material by Rost in 1926 and von Rad in 1944. Cultic and civil-criminal laws were replaced in their respective 'life-situations' by Jirku in 1927, Alt in 1934, Begrich in 1936. The links of historiography to cultus were recognized and investigated (see G. von Rad, Das formgeschichtliche Problem des Hexateuchs, 1938; Das erste Buck Mose, 1949-1953; M. Noth, Ueberlie-ferungsgeschichtliche Studien, I, 1943; E. Jacob, La tradition historique en Israel, 1946; cf G. E. Wright, 'Recent European Study in the Pentateuch,' JBR, xviii [1950], 216-220). Literary criticism of other books of the OT and of the Apocrypha has likewise provided Israel's historians with a largely re-evaluated documentation. Moreover, the testimony of the written sources has been considerably complemented and in some cases corrected or confirmed by the results of near-eastern archaeology.

(b) The Growth of Near-Eastern Archaeology. - Inaugurated by Bonaparte's scientific and artistic expedition which accompanied the military invasion of Egypt in 1799, archaeology of the ancient Near East has considerably increased the knowledge of Israel's historians. Data furnished by archaeological investigations include: (i) the identification of Biblical sites, ways of communication, topographic and hydrographic features of the soil which in turn provide valuable information on the geography, the climate and the economic resources with their political and cultural consequences (see G. E. Wright and F. V. Filson, eds.. The Westminister Historical Atlas to the Bible, 1956 ; L. H. Grollenberg, Atlas of the Bible, 1956; E. G. Kraeling, Bible Atlas, 1956; D. Baly, The Geography of the Bible, 1957 ; N. Glueck, Rivers in the Desert, 1959); (ii) the recovery of architectural and technological remains, with all artifacts, including weapons, tools, and instruments, ornaments and jewels, statuary and cultic objects; of especial importance is the excavation of Biblical sites, with the stratification of ashes and of datable pottery, which offers chronological clues of relative accuracy (see I. Benzinger, Hebraische Archdologie, 1927 ; C. Watzinger, Denkmaler Palastinas, 1933-1935 ; A. G. Barrois, Manuel d'archeologie biblique, 1939, 1953 ; G. Contenau, Manuel d'archeologie orientate, 1927-1947 ; W. F. Albright, The Archaeology of Palestine, 1949; 'The Old Testament and the Archaeology of Palestine,' and 'The Old Testament and the Archaeology of the Ancient Near East,' in H. H. Rowley, ed.. The Old Testament and Modern Study, 1951, 1?47; J. Vandier, Manuel d'archeologie egyptienne, 1952-1958; J. B. Pritchard, The Ancient Near East in Pictures. 1954; Archaeology and the Old Testament, 1958; G. E. Wright, Biblical Archaeology, 1957); (iii) the unearthing, publication, translation, and interpretation of monumental inscriptions and literary texts, which have been relatively scarce in Palestine proper (even when cognizance is taken of the Dead Sea Scrolls), but quite numerous in Egypt, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Lebanon, and Turkey. These documents have been of considerable value for the reconstruction of the life and history of the world in which Israel lived (see H. Gressmann, Altorientalische Texte und Bilder zum Alien Testament, 1926-1927; G. A. Barton, Archaeology and the Bible, 1937; J. B. Pritchard, ed.. Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament, 1955).

(c) The Emergence of Anthropology, Sociology, and Comparative Religion. - Studies on primitive man and society, the international folklore and magical rites offer no direct sources of information for the recovery of Israel's past. Nevertheless, these sciences have provided many clues for the interpretation of the Biblical material and the evaluation of the archaeological data. Actually, some scholars ascribe to them an exaggerated importance by postulating the identity of psychological, sociological, cultural, and especially religious processes, in Israel and in all primitive societies of mankind, thereby ignoring the distinctiveness of Israel's history. For example, many features of the Scandinavian thesis on Hebrew communal rites have been derived from Norse mythology rather than from the OT record. However, a knowledge of anthropology, sociology, and especially of Semitic comparative religion is indispensable to the historian of Israel, since the Hebrews were heavily dependent upon the cultures of the Ancient Near East.

The study of the pre-Islamic Arabs as well as of modern Bedouin tribes received an impulse from Wellhausen in 1883 and Musil in 1908 (see M. F. von Oppenheim, Die Beduinen, 1939-1952). Robertson Smith in 1889 and Lagrange in 1905 attempted to recapture, each in his own way, the religion of the ancient Semites. Frazer's monumental study of magic and religion (1890-1915) and folklore (1918) on the one hand and Winckler and Zimmern's publication of Babylonian texts (1893-1906) on the other hand have paved the way for highly conjectural reinterpretations of Israel's religious and political history by Mowinckel (1922-1926) and Hooke (1927, 1938, 1956, 1958) in the light of the Babylonian New Year Festival. Pedersen's emphasis on corporate-ness in his studies of Israel's popular culture (1926-1940) was paralleled by stresses which sociologists like Weber (1921) laid on economic factors or historians like Causse (1937) on the conflict between nomadic and agrarian modes of living, while Baron (1937) recognized not only the part played by social forces but also the decisive influence of Israel's elite. In the middle of the 20th cent., historians tended to maintain the moderate position occupied by Kittel and by Sellin in 1921. They were aware of elements of continuity and discontinuity in Israel's cultural affinities with the other nations of the ancient Near East.
top

2. The Early Traditions.

The majority of scholars, while making allowance for legendary and mythical elements, are confident that important outlines of tribal history are revealed in the early books of the Bible. The tenth chapter of Genesis contains a genealogical table in which nations are personified as men. Thus the sons of Ham were Cush (Nubia), Mizraim (Egypt), Put (East Africa ?), and Canaan. The sons of Shem were Elam, Assyria, Mesopotamia, Lud (a land of disputed situation, not Lydia), and Aram (the Aramaeans). If countries and peoples are here personified as men, the same may be the case elsewhere; in Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Esau, and the twelve sons of Jacob, we may be dealing not with individuals but with tribes. The marriages of individuals may represent the alliances or union of tribes. Viewed in this way, these narratives disclose to us the formation of the Israelite nation.

The traditions may be classified in two ways: (a) as to origin, and (b) as to content.

(a) (i) Some traditions, such as those concerning kinship with non-Palestinian tribes, the deliverance from Egypt, and those concerning Moses, were brought into Palestine from the desert, (ii) Others, such as the traditions of Abraham's connexion with various shrines, and the stories of Jacob and his sons, were developed in the land of Canaan, (iii) Still others were received from the Canaanites. Thus we learn from an inscription of Thuthmose III. (1490-1435 BC), that Jacob-el was a place name in Palestine, Genesis (48.9f) tells how Joseph was divided into two tribes, Ephraim and Manasseh. Probably the latter are Israelite, and are so called because they settled in the Joseph country. Lot or Luten (Egyptian Ruten) is an old name of Palestine or of a part of it. In Genesis, Moab and Ammon are said to be the children of Lot, probably because they settled in the country of Luten. In most cases where a tradition has blended two elements, one of these was learned from the Canaanites. (iv) Finally, a fourth set of traditions were derived from Babylonia. This is clearly the case with the Creation and Deluge narratives, parallels to which have been found in Mesopotamian literature. It is probable, however, that even these traditions were received through the Canaanites.

(b) Classified according to their content, the narratives are: (i) ancestral sagas which embody the history and movements of tribes; (ii) cultic legends which grew around the various shrines, like Bethel, Shechem, Hebron, and Beersheba; (iii) aetiological legends and myths, intended to explain the origin of some custom or the cause of some physical phenomenon. Thus Gn 18, 19 - the destruction of Sodom and the other cities of the plain - is a story which grew up to account for the Dead Sea, with its asphalt and bitumen deposits and its desolate shore. Similarly Gn 22 is a story which was preserved in order to justify the principle of animal substitution in the firstborn sacrifices, (iv) Other narratives are devoted to cosmogony and primeval anthropology. Many scholars regard the patriarchal narratives as relating largely to tribes rather than individuals. Parts of the account of Abraham are local traditions of shrines, but the story of Abraham's migration is the narrative of the westward movement of a tribe or group of tribes from which the Hebrews were descended. Isaac is a shadowy figure confined mostly to the south, which possibly represents a south Palestinian clan afterwards absorbed by the Israelites. Jacob-Israel represents the nation itself. Israel is called an Aramaean (Dt 26.5), and the account of the marriage of Jacob (Gn 29-31) shows that Israel was kindred to the Aramaeans.
top

3. The Patriarchal Age.

While the Genesis traditions link Abraham with 'Ur of the Chaldaeans' (Gn.11.31) in Lower Mesopotamia, they also relate that Terah, his father, had moved northward to Haran and that it was from there that Abraham emigrated to Canaan (Gn.11.31, 12.1-9). Archaeological excavations have brought to light no external evidence on the historical accuracy of these traditions but they have enabled us to picture the Mesopotamian and Syro-Palestinian background of the patriarchal age with remarkable vividness and precision (see F. M. T. Bohl, 'Das Zeitalter Abrahams,' Der alte Orient, xxix [1930], 1; E. Dhorme, 'Abraham dans le cadre de l'histoire,' RB xxxvii [1928), 367-385, 481-511; xl [1931], 364-374, 503-518; R. de Vaux, 'Les patriarches hebreux et les decouvertes modernes,' RB liii [1946], 321-348; Iv [1948], 321-347; Ivi [1949], 5-36; H. H. Rowley, 'Recent Discoveries and the Patriarchal Age,' in The Servant of the Lord and Other Essays on the Old Testament, 1952, pp. 271-305). The Sumerians had established in Lower Mesopotamia during the 3rd millennium BC a flourishing civilization. After suffering defeat under the Akkadians of Sargon I. (24th cent. BC), they finally succumbed to the onslaught of Elamitic hordes from the north-east. Amorite semi-nomads moved in Lower Mesopotamia from the desert of north-central Arabia and created the First Amorite Dynasty of Babylon. Through the impulse of their most dynamic monarch, Hammurabi (1728-1686 BC), the Amorites extended their domination of the Tigris and Euphrates valley northward and pushed westward their control of the Fertile Crescent (S. Moscati, The Semites in Ancient History, 1959).

The migration of Terah and Abraham are considered by many scholars to be a part of the Amorite expansion. Names of Amorite towns like Peleg, Serug, Nahor, Terah, and Haran are found in the Biblical narratives as personal names ascribed to ancestors or relatives of Abraham (Gn.10.25, 11.20, 25). Names of Amorite individuals include 'Benjamin,''Jacob-el,' and 'Abamram' (Abram ?). The date of the Hebrews' march to the West remains uncertain. Some scholars have identified the Amraphel, king of Shinar, mentioned in Gn.14, with Hammurabi of Babylon, thereby situating Abraham in the 18th-17th cents. BC. This identification remains hypothetical, however, since more than one individual appears to have borne the name of Hammurabi and the tradition of Abraham's military activities, although ancient, conflicts sharply with the pictures of a peaceful semi-nomad which emerges elsewhere in the patriarchal traditions.

Legal and other customs of the Hebrews during this period, far from reflecting the mores of Israel after the conquest, as Wellhausen maintained (Prolegomena to the History of Israel, 1885, pp. 318-319), are similar to those of the contemporary Hurrians (reflected in the Nuzu and Mari Tablets; see I. J, Gelb, Hurrians and Subarians, 1944), an ethnic group which migrated southward from the Caucasian mountains and formed in the 15th and 14th cents. BC the Mittani empire. Thus several Hebrew customs on adoption, marriage, and property (Gn.15.4, 16.2, 21.10, 25.29-34, 29.2ff, 30.3, 9, 25ff, 31.19ff) were strikingly similar to those of the 2nd millennium Hurrians, while they had become obsolete when the early traditions came to be written down. Many Hurrians (the Horites of Gn.14.6; cf 36.20) went to the land of Canaan (the Hurru of the Egyptian documents during the 18th Dynasty). The Hebrews' travels through Palestine in the patriarchal age may well have been a part of the Human infiltrations.

In Canaan, the patriarchal Hebrews entered into close contacts with the local inhabitants (see, for example, Gn.34). The Phoenician-Canaanite culture has become in modern times quite well-known, not only through the excavation of Palestinian and Phoenician sites but also by the Tell el-Amarna tablets and the Ras Shamra (Ugarit) texts (see W. P. Albright, The Role of the Canaanites in the History of Civilization, 1942; B. Maisler, 'Canaan and the Canaanites,' BASOR, No. 102, April 1946, 7-12). The Hebrews also had economic and cultural relations with the Hittites (Gn.23.9, 25.9, 26.34 etc.) who had expanded eastward and southward from their Asia Minor empire (see P. Sommer, Hethiter und Hethitisch, 1948; E. Cavaignac, Les Hittites, 1950; O. R. Gurney, The Hittites, 1952; R. Dussaud, Prelydiens, Hittites et Acheens, 1953). Archaeological evidence supports the view of many Biblical writers according to which Israel's ancestors consorted with foreign nations (for example. Ex.3.17; cf Ezk.16.3).

Many documents of the 2nd millennium BC, scattered on a wide area from Mesopotamia to Egypt, refer to the Habiru or Hapiru, semi-nomadic groups which moved about the Fertile Crescent between the 20th and the 12th cents. BC. The assumption that the 'Hebrews' were an ethnic community identical with the 'Habiru' has not been demonstrated (see H. H. Rowley, 'Rag Shamra and the Habiru Question,' PEQ, lxxii [1940], 90-94; J. W. Jack, 'New Light on the Habiru-Hebrew Question,' ibid., 95-115; G. Posener et J. Bottero, Le probleme des Habiru ..., 1954; M. Greenberg, The Hab/piru, 1955).
top

4. The Origins of Israel.

In all probability, the Hebrews of the patriarchal age formed a number of distinct clans, as shown by the traditions concerning Abraham's descendants and their relatives (Gn.19, 22.20-24, 25.1-4, 12-18, 36) and especially the sons of Jacob (Gn.29.14-30.36, 35.16-20). The patrilineal surname 'Israel' for Jacob (Gn.32.28, cf Hos.12.12-13, Is.41.8 etc.) clearly suggests that the tribes designated by the names of his sons felt among themselves a degree and a quality of close kinship while they were aware of a more distant affinity with the other 'descendants' of Abraham and Isaac. Some historians maintain that the twelve-tribe scheme (Gn.49, Dt.33, etc.) dates from the conquest rather than from an earlier age (see M. Noth, Geschichte Israels, 1956, pp. 54-104), but internal evidence requires a more confident appraisal of the traditions (see J. Bright, Early Israel in Recent History Writing, 1956; A History of Israel, 1959, pp. 60-127).

The sons of Jacob are divided into four groups. Six - Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, and Zebulun - are said to be the sons of Leah, a name which probably means 'wild cow.' Apparently these tribes were near of kin, and possessed as a common symbol the 'wild cow ' or 'bovine antelope.' The tribes of Manasseh, Ephraim, and Benjamin traced their descent from Rachel, a name which means 'ewe.' These tribes, though kindred to the other six, probably traced their origin to a different ethnic and cultic stock, symbolized by the ewe. Judah was, in the period before the conquest, a far smaller tribe than afterwards, for it seems that many Palestinian clans were absorbed into Judah. Benjamin is said to have been the youngest son of Jacob, born in Palestine a long time after the others. The name means 'son of the south' or 'southerner' and historians used to think that it applied to the geographical location of the tribe of Benjamin, S. of Ephraim. Recent discoveries make this view doubtful (J. Muilenburg, 'The Birth of Benjamin,' JBL, lxxv [1956], 194-201). Four sons of Jacob - Dan, Naphtali, Gad, and Asher - are said to be the sons of concubines. This less honourable birth possibly meant that they joined the confederacy later than the others. The original Israel probably consisted of the eight tribes - Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, Manasseh, and Ephraim - though perhaps the Rachel tribes did not join the confederacy until they had escaped from Egypt. These tribes, along with the other Abrahamidae - the Edomites, and Moabites - moved westward from the Euphrates along the eastern borders of Palestine. The Ammonites, Moabites, and Edomites gained a foothold in the territories afterwards occupied by them. The Israelites appear to have been compelled to move on to the less fertile steppe to the south, between Beersheba and Egypt, roaming at times as far as Sinai.

The end of the patriarchal age is of uncertain date. Some time during the 2nd millennium, perhaps during the Hyksos invasion of Egypt (c 1710 BC; see R. M. Engberg, The Hyksos Reconsidered, 1944), perhaps later, a few of the Jacob tribes entered the Nile Delta while others remained in the Fertile Crescent.
top

5. The Egyptian Slavery.

The firm and constant tradition of Hebrew enslavement in Egypt, running as it does through all of the Pentateuchal documents and forming the background of all Israel's religious and prophetic consciousness, must have some historical content. We know from the Egyptian monuments that at different times Bedouin from Asia entered the country on account of its fertility. The famous Hyksos kings and their people found access to the land of the Nile in this way. Probability strengthens the tradition that the Hebrews so entered Egypt. Ex.1.11 states that they were compelled to aid in building the cities of Pithom and Raamses. Excavations have shown that these cities were either founded or rebuilt by Rameses II. (1292-1224 BC), although his father, Seti I. (1308-1292 BC) had already begun architectural renovations at Avaris (Tanis). It is known that both monarchs pressed into labour the semi-nomadic Asiatics who were living in that area, a fact which fits the stories of Ex 1 (see P. Montet, Le drame d'Avaris: essai sur la penetration des Semites en Egypte, 1940). The date of the Exodus presents a number of extremely complex problems because the data are quite contradictory (see H. H. Rowley, From Joseph to Joshua, 1950). Since Merenptah (1224-1216 BC) mentioned 'Israel' as a people (but not as a country) whom he crushed in Canaan in about 1220 BC, it is probable that the bulk of Israel had only infiltrated the land at that date. This conclusion is confirmed by some of the archaeological evidence. Bethel, Eglon, Kiriath-sepher (Debir), and Lachish were violently destroyed during the 13th cent. BC; in the case of Lachish, the date may be more accurately determined as between 1240 and 1230 BC (cf Jos.10.31ff). Excavations at Jericho and Ai offer inconclusive results. Moreover, the memory of a forty-year wandering in the Sinai and Kadesh wilderness, at least for the Joseph tribes and the Levi elements led by Moses and Aaron, is so firmly established that the date of the Exodus would seem to be the first half of the 13th cent. (c 1275 BC).
top

6. The Exodus.

The J, E, and P documents agree in their main picture of the Exodus, although J differs from the other two in holding that the worship of Yahweh was known at an earlier time. Moses, they tell us, fled from Egypt and took refuge in Midian with Jethro, a Kenite priest (cf Jg.1.16). Here, according to E and P, at Horeb or Sinai, Yahweh's holy mount, Moses first learned to worship Yahweh, who, he believed, sent him to deliver from Egypt his oppressed brothers. After various plagues (J gives them as seven, E, five, and P, six) Moses led them out, and by Divine aid they escaped across the Red Sea. J presents this escape as the result of Yahweh's control of natural means (Ex.14.21). Moses then led them to Sinai, where, according to both J and E, they entered into a solemn covenant with Yahweh, to serve Him as their God. According to E (Ex.18.12ff), it was Jethro, the Kenite or Midianite priest, who initiated the covenant. After this the Rachel tribes probably allied themselves more closely to the Leah tribes, and, through the aid of Moses, gradually led them to adopt the worship of Yahweh.

The story of Moses is encumbered with folkloric details (i.e. Ex.2), but their legendary origin does not detract from the historical character of the Levi hero. His tribal ancestry called for valour (Gn.49.6-7). He and several of his companions had been exposed to Egyptian culture, as shown by their names (Moses, Aaron, Hophni, Merari, Miriam, Phinehas, Puti-el), and his leadership extended to non-Hebrew elements (Ex.12.38, Nu.14.4).

The route followed by the fugitives is a matter of controversy. There is evidence that Lake Timsah was during the 2nd millennium BC a shallow part of the Gulf of Suez (see C. Bourdon, 'La route de l'Exode ...,' RB, xli [1932], 370-392, 539-549; cf H. Cazelles, 'Les localisations de 1'Exode et la critique litteraire,' RB, lxii [1955], 321-364). The yam suph of Ex.15.4 is not 'the Red Sea' (LXX) but 'the sea of papyrus reeds,' and it may well have been in the Lake Timsah vicinity. The memory of a Divine deliverance at a time of utmost crisis became central to the faith of Israel and remained determinative, to a large extent, of her later history and religion. The antiquity of the victory song attributed to Miriam, the sister of Moses, offers strong literary support to the validity of the tradition (see F. M. Cross, jun., and D. N. Freedman, 'The Song of Miriam,' JNES, xiv [1955], 237-250.
top

7. The Wilderness Wandering.

For some time the habitat of Israel, as thus constituted, was the region between Sinai on the south and Kadesh - a spring some fifty miles S. of Beersheba - on the north. At Kadesh the fountain was sacred, and at Sinai there was a sacred mountain. Moses became during this period the sheikh of the united tribes. Because of his pre-eminence in the knowledge of Yahweh he acquired this paramount influence in all their counsels. In the traditions this period is called the Wandering in the Wilderness, and it is said to have continued forty years. The expression 'forty years is, however, used by D and his followers in a vague way for an indefinite period of time. Nevertheless, the people remembered that all those who had left Egypt as adults died in the desert (Nu.14.26-35, 26.63-65).

The region in which Israel now roamed was anything but fertile, and the people naturally turned their eyes to more promising pasture lands. This they did with the more confidence, because Yahweh, their God, had just delivered their fathers from Egypt in an extraordinary manner. Naturally they desired the most fertile land in the region, Canaan. Finding themselves unable, for some reason, to move directly upon it from the south (Nu 13, 14), perhaps because the hostile Amalekites interposed, they made a circuit to the eastward. According to the traditions, their detour extended around the territories of Edom and Moab, so that they came upon the territory N. of the Arnon, where an Amorite kingdom had previously been established, over which, in the city of Heshbon, Sihon ruled.
top

8. The Trans-Jordanic Conquest.

The account of the conquest of the kingdom of Sihon is given by E with a few additions from J in Nu.21. No details are included, but it appears that in the battles Israel was victorious. We learn from the P document in Nu.32 that the conquered cities of this region were divided between the tribes of Reuben and Gad. Perhaps it was at this moment that the tribe of Gad came into the confederacy. At least they appear in concrete history here for the first time. It is usually supposed that the territory of Reuben lay to the south of that of Gad, extending from the Arnon to Elealeh, N. of Heshbon; in fact, their territory interpenetrated (Nu.32.34). Thus the Gadites had Dibon, Ataroth, and Aroer to the south, Jazer N. of Heshbon, and Beth-nimrah and Beth-haran in the Jordan valley; while the Reubenites had Baal-meon, Nebo, Heshbon, and Elealeh, which lay between these. Probably the country to the north was not conquered until later. To be sure, D claims that Og, the king of Bashan, was conquered at this time, but it is possible that the conquest of Bashan by a part of the tribe of Manasseh was a backward movement from the west after the conquest of Palestine was accomplished. During this period Moses died, and Joshua became the leader of the nation.
top

9. Crossing of the Jordan.

The conquests achieved by the tribe of Gad brought the Hebrews into the Jordan valley, but the swiftly flowing river with its banks of clay formed an insuperable obstacle. The Arabic historian Nuwairi tells of a land-slide of one of the clay hills that border the Jordan, which afforded an opportunity for the Arabs to complete a military bridge. A similar event may well have taken place at the time of Israel's military expedition westward. The stories which describe the crossing of the Jordan (Jos.3-5) explained the origin of a circle of sacred stones called Gilgal, which lay on the west of the river (see H. J. Kraus, 'Gilgal: ein Beitrag zur Kultusgeschichte Israels,' VT, i [1951], 181-199; J. Mauchline, 'Gilead and Gilgal: Some Reflections on the Israelite Occupation of Palestine,' VT, vi [1956], 19-33).
top

10. The Conquest of Canaan.

The first point of attack after crossing the Jordan was Jericho (Jos.6). As to the subsequent course of the conquest, the sources differ widely. The D and P strata of the book of Joshua, which form the main portion of it, represent Joshua as gaining possession of the country in two great battles, and as dividing it up among the tribes by lot. The J account of the conquest, however, which has been preserved in Jg.1 and Jos.8-10, 13.1, 7a, 13, 15.14-19, 63, 16.1-3, 10, 17.11-18, 19.47, while it represents Joshua as the leader of the Rachel tribes and as winning a decisive victory near Gibeon, declares that the tribes went up to win their territory singly, and that in the end their conquest was only partial. This representation is much older than the other, and is much more in accord with the subsequent course of events and with historical probability. (See W. F. Albright, 'The Israelite Conquest of Canaan,' BASOR, No. 74 [April, 1939], 11-23; G. E. Wright, 'The Literary and Historical Problem of Joshua 10 and Judges 1,' JNES, v [1946], 105-114; N. H. Snaith, 'The Historical Books,' in H. H. Rowley, ed.. The Old Testament and Modern Study, 1951, pp. 84-95; M. Noth, Das Buch Josua, 1953; H. W. Hertzberg, Die Bucher Josua, Richter, Ruth ..., 1953 ; Y. Kaufmann, The Biblical Account of the Conquest of Palestine, 1953.)

According to J, there seem to have been at least three lines of attack:
(a) that which Joshua led up the valley from Jericho to Ai and Bethel, from which the territories afterwards occupied by Ephraim and Benjamin were secured;
(b) a movement on the part of the tribe of Judah followed by the Simeonites, south-westward from Jericho into the hill-country about Bethlehem and Hebron;
(c) lastly, there was the movement of the northern tribes into the hill-country which borders the plain of Jezreel.
J in Jos.11.1, 4-9 tells us that in a battle by the Waters of Merom Joshua won for the Israelites a victory over four petty kings of the north, which gave the Israelites a foothold there. In the course of these struggles a disaster befell the tribes of Simeon and Levi. They attempted to take Shechem, but the Shechemites practically annihilated Levi, and greatly weakened Simeon (cf Gn.34). This disaster was thought to be a Divine punishment for reprehensible conduct (Gn.49.5-7). J distinctly states (Jg.1) that the conquest was not complete, but that two lines of fortresses, remaining in the possession of the Canaanites, cut the Israelite territory into three sections. One of these consisted of Dor, Megiddo, Taanach, Ibleam, and Beth-shean, and gave the Canaanites control of the great plain of Jezreel, while, holding as they did Jerusalem, Aijalon, Har-heres (Beth-shemesh), and Gezer, they cut the tribe of Judah off from their northern kinsfolk. J further tells us distinctly that not all the Canaanites were driven out, but that the Canaanites and the Hebrews lived together. Later, the tradition says, Israel made slaves of the Canaanites. Although this latter statement is perhaps true for those Canaanites who held out in these fortresses, the are reasons for believing that by intermarriage a gradual fusion between Canaanites and Israelites took place.

The first event of major importance in the history of Israel as a nation took place at Shechem, where Joshua renewed the covenant (Jos.24; see E. Nielsen, Shechem, A Traditio-historical Investigation, 1955) and revived the memory of a common ancestry. He may have also created a tribal organization which some scholars have likened to the Greek amphictyony. It is possible that the Shechem covenant helped to seal a religious and political bond between those tribal elements which had settled in Canaan and Transjordania for several centuries and others which had sojourned in Egypt and the wilderness of Sinai. At what time the tribes of Naphtali and Dan joined the Hebrew federation we have no means of knowing. J tells us (Jg.1.34f) that the Danites struggled for a foothold in the Shephelah, where they obtained but an insecure footing. As they afterwards migrated from here (Jg.17, 18), and as a place in this region was called the 'Camp of Dan' (Jg.13.25, 18.12), probably their hold was insecure. We learn from Jg.15 that they possessed the town of Zorah, where Samson was afterwards born (see H. H. Rowley, 'The Danite Migration to Laish,' ET, li [1939-1940], 465-471).
top

11. The Time of the Judges (c 1200-1020 BC).

For the first century of her occupation of the land, Israel learned agriculture and industrial technology from the Canaanites who lived there (see C. A. Simpson, Composition of the Book of Judges, 1957; W. F. Albright, From the Stone Age to Christianity, 1957; E. Taubler, Biblische Studien: I. Die Epoche der Richter, 1958). The chronology suggested by the Book of Judges is probably too long. The Deuteronomic editor, who is responsible for this chronology, may have reckoned forty years as the equivalent of a generation, and 1 K.6.1 gives us the key to his scheme. He made the time from the Exodus to the founding of the Temple twelve generations. The so-called 'Minor Judges' - Tola, Jair, Ibzan, Elon, and Abdon (Jg.10.1-5, 12.8-15) - were not included in the editors' chronology. The statements concerning them were added by a later hand. As three of their names appear elsewhere as clan names (cf Gn.46.13f, Nu.26.23, 26, Dt.3.14), and as another is a city (Jos.21.30), scholars are agreed that these were not real judges, but that they owe their existence to the evolution of the traditions. Some doubt attaches also to Othniel, who is elsewhere a younger brother of a Caleb. The Calebites were a branch of the Edomite clan of the Kenaz (cf. Jg.1.13 with Gn.36.11, 13, 42) which had settled in Southern Judah. This doubt is increased by the fact that the whole of the narrative of the invasion of Cushan-rishathaim, king of Mesoptamia, is the work of the editor, and also by the fact that no king of Mesopotamia who could have made such an invasion is known to have existed at this time. Furthermore, had such a king invaded Israel, his power would have been felt in the north and not in Judah. If there is any historical kernel in this narrative, probably it was the Edomites who were the perpetrators of the invasion, and their name has become corrupted. It is difficult, then, to see how Othniel should have been a deliverer, as he seems to have belonged to a kindred clan, but the whole matter may have been confused by oral transmission. Perhaps the narrative is a distorted reminiscence of the settlement in Southern Judah of the Edomitic clans of Caleb and Othniel (see A. Malamat, 'Cushan Risha-thaim and the Decline of the Near East around 1200 BC.' JNES, xiii [1954], 231-242).

The major judges were Ehud, Deborah, Gideon, Jephthah, Eli, and Samuel. Samson was a kind of giant-hero, but he always fought single-handed; he was no leader and organizer of men, and it is difficult to see how he can justly be called a judge. The age was a period of great tribal restlessness. Others were trying to do what the Israelites had done, and gain a foothold in the relatively fertile land of Canaan. Each invader, coming from a different direction, affected a different part of the territory, and in the region thus concerned a patriot would arouse the Hebrews of the vicinity and expel the invader. The influence he acquired from his exploit and the position which the wealth derived from the spoil of war gave him, made such a hero the sheikh of his district for a few years. Thus the judges were in reality great tribal chieftains. They owed their office to personal prowess.

Deborah and Barak delivered Israel, not from invaders, but from Canaanites, who still controlled, with the help of 'iron chariots,' the lowlands of Palestine, especially the plain of Jezreel (Jg.4-5). At the battle of Megiddo (c 1125 BC), Sisera's army was routed and the Hebrew elements which had settled on the Galilean hills were no longer separated from the bulk of the tribes which occupied the central mountain range.

The conquest of Canaan by the Hebrews was made possible by a conjunction of events rather unusual in the ancient Near East. Toward the end of the 13th cent. BC, Egypt lost her grip upon Western Asia, and except during the reign of Rameses ill. (c 1175-1144 BC) remained politically weak for several generations. At the same time, Assyria did not yet constitute an imperialistic threat. During the age of the Judges, the Israelites were able to survive and to overcome Canaanite resistance without risking interference from the larger powers of the world. At the same time, they were able to pass from a nomadic and pastoral mode of existence to a sedentary and agrarian civilization.

There were, however, four serious invasions from the outside:
(a) that of the Moabites, which called Ehud into prominence;
(b) that of the Midianites, which gave Gideon his opportunity;
(c) that of the Ammonites, from whom Jephthah delivered Gilead; and
(d) that of the Philistines, against whom Samson, Eli, Samuel, and Saul struggled, and who were not overcome until the time of David.

The first of these invasions affected the territories of Reuben and Gad on the east of the Jordan, and of Benjamin on the west. It probably occurred early in the period of the Judges. The second invasion affected the country of Ephraim and Manasseh, and probably occurred about the middle of the period. Gideon's son Abimelech endeavoured to establish in Shechem a petty kingdom (c 1100 BC) but the attempt at kingship was premature (Jg. 9; see especially Jotham's fable, vv.5-7; C. F. Whitley, 'The Sources of the Gideon Stories,' VT, vii [1957], 157-164). The Ammonite invasion affected only Gilead, while the Philistine invasion, at a later time, threatened the life of the entire territory, and constituted the most important factor in the establishment of a hereditary monarchy.

The struggles with these invaders increased the national solidarity. At the end of the 12th cent. BC, as the song of Deborah shows, a sense of kinship existed 'in Israel' (Jg.5.7f). Although several tribes refused to join the coalition against Sisera (Jg.5.16-18) and the tribe of Judah is not even mentioned, the very fact that some tribes are blamed for their neutrality attests the reality of a consciousness of super-tribal solidarity. The existence of a twelve-tribe system is implied by the ritual act of the man from Ephraim (Jg.19.29) and by a similar gesture performed by Saul when he responded to a call of Jabesh-gilead at the time of a second Ammonite invasion (1 S.11.7). Some scholars maintain that throughout the period of the Judges, in sThe Kingdom of Davcid and Solomon.


13. The Reign of David (c 1000-962 BC).

Before Saul's death, David, who had been expelled from the court, attached the men of Judah firmly to himself, and exhibited exceptional qualities of leadership. When Saul fell at Gilboa, David declared himself king of Judah at Hebron (2 S.2.4). As Jonathan, Saul's heir, had fallen in battle, Abner, Saul's faithful general, made Ish-baal, Saul's other son, king over Israel at Mahanaim in Transjordania. For seven and a half years civil war dragged itself along. Then Joab, David's general, removed Abner through treacherous murder, assassins disposed of the weak Ish-baal, and Israel and Judah were soon reunited under the rule of a single monarch, David. The statements of 2 S.5 show that the elders of Israel were hostile to him, but that they finally rallied to his leadership. David devoted his skill and energy to the consolidation of his kingdom. Just at the northern edge of the tribe of Judah, commanding the highway from north to south, stood the ancient fortress of Jerusalem. It had never been in the possession of the Israelites. The Jebusites, who had held it since Israel's entrance into Canaan, fondly believed that its position rendered it impregnable. This city David captured, and with the insight of genius made it his capital (2 S.5.4ff). This choice was a wise one in every way. Had he continued to dwell in Hebron, both Benjamin - which had been recently the royal tribe - and Ephraim - which never easily yielded precedence to any other group - would have regarded him as a Judaean rather than a national leader. Jerusalem was to the Israelites a new city. It not only had no associations with the tribal differences of the past, but, lying as it did on the borderland of two tribes, was neutral ground. Moreover, the natural facilities of its situation lent it a strategic and tactical significance. David rebuilt the Jebusite stronghold and took up his residence in it, and thus it became known as the city of David.

The Philistines, ever jealous of the rising power of Israel, soon attacked David in his new capital, but he gained such a victory over them (2 S.5.18ff) that he thereafter sought them out, city by city, and subdued them at his leisure (2 S.8.1ff). Having swept the Philistines out of the high land, he turned his attention to the Transjordanian territory. He attacked Moab, and after his victory treated the conquered with the greatest barbarity (2 S.8.2). Edom was also subdued (8.13f). Ammon needlessly provoked a war with Israel, and after a long siege their capital Rabbah, on the distant border of the desert, succumbed (12.29). The Aramaean state of Zobah was compelled to pay tribute (8.3ff). Damascus, whose inhabitants, as kinsfolk of the people of Zobah, tried to aid the latter, was finally made a tributary state also (8.5ff). Within a few years, David built up a considerable empire. This territory he did not attempt to organize in a political way, but according to the Oriental custom of the time he ruled it through submissive native princes. Toi, king of Hamath, and Hiram, king of Tyre, sent embassies to welcome David as a commercial partner. Thus Israel became a recognized power, for the first time in history, among the nations of the world.

This political success was made possible by the continuation of a state of weakness both in Mesopotamia and in the valley of the Nile. After Tiglath-pileser I. (c 1113-1075 BC), the Assyrians passed through a period of difficulties, from which they did not emerge until the middle of the 9th cent. BC. Likewise, the 21st Egyptian Dynasty, divided by domestic intrigue, was unable to intervene in the affairs of the Fertile Crescent.

Upon his removal to Jerusalem, David organized his court on a scale hitherto unknown in Israel. Following Oriental mores, he married several wives. His fondness for his son Absalom and his paternal weakness produced dire political consequences. Absalom led a rebellion which drove the king from Jerusalem and nearly cost him the throne. David on this occasion, like Ish-baal before him, took refuge at Mahanaim, the east Jordanian stronghold. David's conduct towards the rebellious son was such that, without Joab's disregard of the royal command, the defeated Absalom would not have been put to death and might have triumphed in the end. The last days of David were further troubled by the attempt of his other son, Adonijah, to seize the crown (1 K.1). Having, however, fixed the succession upon Solomon, the son of Bathsheba, David probably left to him as an inheritance not only the kingdom but also the duty of taking vengeance upon Joab and Shimei (1 K.2.1ff). To the reign of David subsequent generations looked as the golden age of Israel. Never again did the boundaries of a united kingdom extend so far. These boundaries, magnified a little by fond imagination, became the ideal limits of the Promised Land. David himself, idealized by later ages, became the prototype of the Messiah.
top

14. The Reign of Solomon (962-922 BC).

Probably upon the accession of Solomon, certainly during his reign, two of the tributary states Edom and Damascus, gained their independence (1 K.11.14-25). The remainder of the empire of David was held by Solomon almost until his own death. While David had risen from the people, a simple shepherd who, not unlike Saul, had maintained fairly simple modes of living, Solomon imitated the conduct of the petty kings of the ancient Near East. He consummated a marriage with the daughter of the Pharaoh, probably one of the rulers of the Tanite branch of the 21st Dynasty. This marriage brought him in touch with the culture of Egypt. He developed a foreign service, with ambassadors who learned the methods of the international wise men, and probably on this account received at a later age a reputation for wisdom (1 K.3.16-23, 4.29-34, 10.1-10; see R. B. Y. Scott, 'Solomon and the beginnings of wisdom in Israel,' Wisdom in Israel and in the Ancient Near East, ed. by M. Noth and D. Winton Thomas [1955], pp. 262-279).

In order to equip his capital with public buildings suitable to the estate of an international monarch, Solomon hired Phoenician architects, and constructed a palace for himself, one for the Egyptian princess, and a royal chapel according to the design of Phoenician temples. This religious innovation was looked upon with disfavour by many of his contemporaries (1 K.12.28b), and his buildings, although the boast of a later age, were regarded with mingled feelings by those who were compelled to pay the taxes by which their erection was made possible. His expenditures forced him to cede to the king of Tyre a part of the Galilean territory.

Not only through his architectural projects but also in his whole establishment did Solomon depart from the simple ways of his father. He not only married the daughters of many of the petty kings who were his tributaries, but he also filled his harem with numerous beauties besides. Probably the statement that he had 700 wives and 300 concubines (1 K.11.3) is the exaggeration of popular legend, but, allowing for this, his harem must have been quite extensive and constituted a drain on the public treasury. His method of living was, of course, in accord with the magnificent palaces which he had erected.

To support this splendour, the old system of taxation was inadequate, and a new method had to be devised. The whole country was divided into twelve districts, each of which was placed under the charge of a tax-gatherer, in order to furnish for the king's house the provision for one month in each year (1 K.4.7-18). It is noteworthy that in this division economic conditions rather than tribal territories were followed. Not only were the tribes unequal in numbers, but the territory of certain sections was much more productive than that of others, and it appears that Judah received a favoured treatment. Solomon is also said to have departed from the simple ways of his father by introducing horses and chariots for his army and for his personal use. To house his chariotry, he built stables at Megiddo and elsewhere. The stables of Megiddo, which have been excavated, could accommodate almost 500 horses. The royal wealth was increased by trade with South Arabia and possibly the east coast of Africa and the west coast of India. Solomon established a fleet of trading vessels on the Red Sea and perhaps on the Indian Ocean as well, manned with Phoenician sailors (1 K.9.26ff). In order to shelter goods in transit, he built a number of warehouses in fortified centres which were also of use for the storing of taxed goods. He traded horses on an international basis (1 K.10.28-29). Excavations at the site of the ancient port of Ezion-geber, on the gulf of 'Aqaba, have brought to light large installations, including furnaces for the smelting and refining of copper and iron ore which was mined in the vicinity and in the Sinai peninsula.

Towards the close of Solomon's reign the tribe of Ephraim, which in the time of the Judges could hardly bear to allow another tribe to take precedence of it, became restless. Economic and political resentment against Solomon found support among the prophetic circles which represented the old Yahwism of the desert and condemned the king's alliances with foreign nations as well as the idolatrous worship practised in Jerusalem by his wives. The prophet Ahijah supported Jeroboam, a young Ephraimitic officer to whom Solomon had entrusted the administration of the Joseph tribes (1 K.11.28). Jeroboam's plans for rebelling involved the fortifying of his native city of Zeredah, which called Solomon's attention to his plot. Forced to flee the country, he found refuge in Egypt. The 21st Dynasty, with which Solomon was allied by marriage, had been terminated by Shishak (Sheshonk), who founded the 22nd Dynasty, reunited Egypt under one sceptre and entertained ambitions to renew Egypt's colonization of the Fertile Crescent. Shishak accordingly welcomed Jeroboam and offered him asylum.
top

15. The Division of the Kingdom (922 BC).

Upon the death of Solomon, his son Rehoboam wa proclaimed king in Judah without opposition, but as some doubt concerning the loyalty of the other tribes seems to have existed, Rehoboam went to Shechem to be anointed king at the traditional shrine of Ephraim (1 K.12.1f). Having been informed of the development in his Egyptian retreat, Jeroboam returned to Shechem at once and prompted the elders of the tribes assembled there to exact from Rehoboam a promise that in case they accepted him as monarch he would relieve them of the heavy taxation which his father had imposed upon them. After considering the matter for three days, Rehoboam replied, 'My little finger shall be thicker than my father's loins.' All the tribes except Judah and a portion of Benjamin refused to acknowledge the descendant of David, and they made Jeroboam their king. Judah remained faithful to the heir of their old hero, and, because Jerusalem was on the border of Benjamin, the Judaean kings were able to retain a strip of the land of that tribe from four to eight miles in width. All else was lost to the Davidic dynasty.

The chief forces which produced this disruption were economic and ethnic. Israel proper was aware of the divergence of racial elements which separated her from Judah. Religious conservatism also did its share. Solomon had in many ways contravened the religious customs of his nation. Jeroboam was aware of this antagonism when he used as a rallying slogan, 'Behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt!' Since the history of the schism has been preserved only through the Deuteronomic editor of the book of Kings, who was a propagandist of the Jerusalem cultus in a later era, modern scholars are careful to view the attitude of Jeroboam with impartiality. He was not a religious and political innovator but rather a conservative.

When the kingdom was divided, the tributary states of course gained their independence, and Israel's empire came to an end. The time of her political glory had been less than a century, and her empire disappeared never to return. The nation, being divided and its parts often warring with one another, could not easily become again a power of importance (see S. Yeivin, 'Social, Religious and Cultural Trends in Jerusalem under the Davidic Dynasty,' VT, iii [1953], 163 ff).
top

16. From Jeroboam to Ahab (922-850 BC).

The kingdom of Judah remained loyal to the Davidic dynasty for three and a half centuries, but in Israel military coups d'etat imposed frequent and violent interruptions of dynastic succession. Only one family furnished more than four monarchs, some only two, while several failed to transmit the throne at all. The kings during the first period after the schism were:

ISRAELBC.JUDAH BC.
Jeroboam I922-901Rehoboam922-915
Nadab901-900Abijam915-913
Baasha900-877Asa913-873
Elah877-876Jehosaphat873-849
Zimri876  
Omri876-869  
Ahab869-850  

Jeroboam I. fortified Shechem (1 K.12.25), but Tirzah became the capital of his kingdom (I K 14.17). He extended his patronage to two sanctuaries, Dan and Bethel, the one at the northern and the other at the southern extremity of his territory. There were, of course, hostile relations between him and Rehoboam as long as he lived. One might think that he was instrumental in bringing Shishak of Egypt to invade Judah (1 K.14.25). If so, his diplomatic intrigue turned against him as well as against the son of Solomon. For Shishak not only compelled Rehoboam to pay a tribute which stripped the Temple of much of its gold treasure and ornamentation but also marched northward as far as the sea of Galilee, captured the towns of Megiddo, Taanach, and Shunem in the plain of Jezreel, the town of Bethshean at the junction of Jezreel with the Jordan valley, and Transjordania as far as Mahanaim. How deep the enmity between Israel and Judah may have become is to be inferred from the fact that this attack of the Egyptian monarch did not effect between them a reconciliation.

Shishak's campaign seems to have been a mere plundering raid. It established no permanent Asiatic empire for Egypt. After this attack, Rehoboam strengthened the fortifications of his kingdom (2 Ch.11.5-11). His territory extended to Mareshah and Gath in the Shephelah, and southward as far as Hebron. No mention is made of any town N. of Jerusalem or in the Jordan valley.

The hostile relations between the two kingdoms were perpetuated after the death of Rehoboam, during the short reign of Abijam. In the early part of the reign of Asa, while Nadab was on the throne of Israel, active hostilities ceased sufficiently to allow the king of Israel to besiege the Palestine city of Gibbethon, a town in the northern part of the coastal plain. The Israelite monarch felt strong enough to endeavour to extend his dominions by compelling these ancient enemies of Israel to submit once more. During the siege of this town, Baasha, an ambitious man of the tribe of Issachar, assassinated Nadab and had himself proclaimed king in his stead (1 K.15.27-29). Thus the dynasty of Jeroboam came to an end in the second generation.

Baasha upon his accession determined to push more vigorously the war with Judah. Entering into an alliance with Benhadad i. of Damascus, he proceeded to fortify Ramah, 5 miles N. of Jerusalem, as a base of operations against Judah. Asa in this crisis collected all the treasure that he could, sent it to Benhadad, and bought him off, persuading him to break his alliance with Israel and to enter into one with Judah. Benhadad thereupon attacked some of the towns in north-eastern Galilee, and Baasha was obliged to desist from his Judaean campaign and to defend his own borders. Asa took this opportunity to fortify Geba, about 8 miles NE. of Jerusalem, and Mizpah, 5 miles to the NW. of it (1 K.15.16-22). The only other important event in Asa's reign known to us consisted of the erection by Asa's mother of an asherah - a cultic object used in Canaanite worship - which so shocked the sense of the time that Asa was compelled to remove it (15.13).

During the reign ofElah of Israel, an attempt was made once more to capture Gibbethon. The siege was being prosecuted by an able general named Omri, while the weak king was enjoying himself at Tirzah, which had been the royal residence since the days of Jeroboam. Zimri, the commander of his chariots, killed the king in a drunken brawl, and was then proclaimed king. Omri, however, upon hearing of this, hastened from Gibbethon to Tirzah, overthrew and slew Zimri, and himself became king. Thus, once more did the dynasty change. Omri proved to be one of the ablest rulers of the Northern Kingdom. His fame spread to Assyria, where even after his dynasty had been overthrown Israel was still called 'the land of Omri.' Perceiving the splendid military possibilities and political advantages of the hill of Samaria, he chose it for his capital, fortified it, and made it one of his residences, thus introducing to history a name destined to play in succeeding generations an important part (see E. L. Sukenik, The Buildings at Samaria, 1942). He appears to have made a peaceful alliance with Damascus, so that war between the two kingdoms ceased. He also formed an alliance with the king of Tyre, taking Jezebel, the daughter of the Tyrian king Ethbaal, as a wife for his son Ahab. The Moabite Stone shows that Omri conquered Moab, compelling the Moabites to pay tribute. Of the nature of the relations between Israel and Judah during his reign, nothing is known. Peace probably prevailed since the next two kings of these kingdoms were allies.

With the reign of Ahab, peace at last was sealed between Jerusalem and Samaria, when Jehoram, the son of Jehoshaphat of Judah, married Athaliah, the daughter of Ahab and Jezebel (1 K.22.44, 2 K.8.26. Ahab rebuilt and fortified Jericho (I K.16.34). The first part of his reign seems to have been prosperous, although the Moabites soon gained their independence. In 853 BC Ahab joined a confederacy of twelve kings who were headed by Benhadad II. of Damascus, and who fought Shalmaneser III. of Assyria at Qarqar on the Orontes. Although Shalmaneser claimed victory, it is clear that the western coalition practically defeated him, for he made no further inroads southward. In the following year, Benhadad invaded Israelite territory in Trans-jordania and he seized Ramoth-gilead. Trying to regain it with the assistance of his ally, Jehoshaphat of Judah, Ahab was wounded in battle and lost his life.

Meanwhile in Judah Jehoshaphat had a prosperous and long reign. He made Edom tributary to him (1 K.22.47) and rebuilt the fleet on the Red Sea (22.48).
top

17. From Ahaziah to Jeroboam II. (849-746 BC).

The monarchs of the two kingdoms were the following:

ISRAELBC.JUDAH BC.
Ahaziah850-849  
Jehoram849-842Jehoram849-842
Jehu842-815Ahaziah842
Jehoahaz815-801

Athaliah

842-837
Jehoash801-786Jehoash837-800
Jereboam II786-746Amaziah800-783
  Azariah (Uzziah) 783-750

Of the short reign of Ahaziah of Israel, son of Ahab, nothing is known. His brother, Jehoram of Israel, another son of Ahab, became king in his place and attempted to resubjugate the Moabites (2 K.3). He besieged the king of Moab who, in his distress, offered his eldest son in sacrifice to Chemosh, the god of the Moabites. The siege was raised and the conquest of Moab abandoned.

Jehoram of Judah, the son of Jehoshaphat, lost control over Edom (2 K.8.20f). Ahaziah of Judah, Jehoram's son, who was also the son of Athaliah, and therefore the nephew of Jehoram of Israel, went to the help of his uncle in the siege of Ramoth-gilead, which was still in the possession of the Aramaeans of Damascus. Jehoram of Israel was wounded in battle, and the two monarchs returned to the royal residence at Jezreel while the wound was healing. The prophetic circles, opposed to syncretistic worship, determined to overthrow the house of Ahab. Elisha encouraged Jehu, a military officer employed in the siege of Ramoth-gilead, to return to Jezreel and to slay the king of Israel. This he did, and for good measure, he slew also the king of Judah, the queen-mother of Israel, Jezebel, and all the offspring of the royal family. Jehu then started for Samaria, called a solemn feast in honour of Baal, and when the worshippers were assembled, massacred them all (2 K. 9, 10).

In the year that Jehu thus gained the throne (842 BC), Shalmaneser III. of Assyria marched into the West. This time, no powerful alliance was formed against him. Damascus and Israel, at war with each other, could not resist the Assyrian advance. Jehu hastened to pay tribute, an event which is recorded on the black obelisk of Shalmaneser. Jehu is there portrayed in the act of kissing the foot of the Assyrian monarch.

In Judah, Ahaziah's widow, Athaliah, who was also the daughter of Jezebel, seized the reins of government, put to death all the royal seed, and sat on the throne of David. One prince, however, had been rescued by the priest Jehoiada, and kept hidden in the Temple of Jerusalem for six years. Still a child, Jehoash was proclaimed king by the Temple hierarchy and the half-Phoenician queen was put to death (2 K.11).

In Israel, the young Jehoahaz succeeded his father Jehu. At first unable to gain victory against the Aramaeans, the new king finally imposed peace upon the new ruler of Damascus, Hazael, and a new era of prosperity began for the kingdom. Jehoash of Judah was not as successful and paid tribute to Hazael. Perhaps as a consequence of this national humiliation, a conspiracy rose against him. He was assassinated and his son Amaziah succeeded him.

Jehoahaz of Israel maintained the dynasty of Jehu on the throne of Samaria and his son Jehoash of Israel continued warfare with the Aramaeans and regained from them all the Transjordanian territory which had been previously snatched away from Israel (2 K.13.25). In Judah, Amaziah executed the assassins of his father, reoccupied a part of Edom, but in a clash with Jehoash at Beth-shemesh lost the battle. Jerusalem itself was taken by the Israelites and part of its wall was dismantled. Amaziah, who had fled to Lachish, was slain there by conspirators. His son Azariah (Uzziah) became king of Judah in his place.

During the reigns of Jeroboam II. in Israel and of Uzziah in Judah, the ancient world passed through a new period of stability. While Adadnirari III had made an incursion westward in 806 BC and had boasted receiving tribute not only from Tyre and Sidon but also from the 'land of Omri,' no more menace was arising from Nineveh. The Aramaeans had lost their power. Egypt remained weak. Between them, Jeroboam n. and Uzziah restored the territory almost to the limits of the Davidic empire. Israel ruled as far as Hamath and Damascus (2 K.14.28) while Judah returned to the shore of the Red Sea (2 Ch 26) and imposed a tribute over the Philistine cities in the south-west. A vigorous and profitable trade sprang up. Freed from the necessity of continual warfare, the nation enriched itself, but wealth was not evenly distributed. Palaces were built for the ruling class, but the conditions of the poor husbandmen did hardly improve. Some were sold into slavery. It was social injustice which led a man like Amos to condemn the policies of Jeroboam (750 BC) and to announce the end of the kingdom.
top

18. The Fall of Samaria (746-722 BC).

In a few years, events rushed one behind the other. The kings of the two countries were then the following:

ISRAELBC.JUDAHBC.
Zechariah746-745Jotham (regent)750-742
Shallum745Jotham (king)742-735
Menahem745-738Ahaz

735-715

Pekahiah738-737

 

 
Pekah737-732  

Hoshea

732-724  

After Jeroboam II. died (746 BC), his son, Zechariah reigned for six months, but a conspiracy removed him and placed Shallum on the throne. With Zechariah, the dynasty came to an end. Another revolution in Samaria soon removed Shallum, and Menahem became king of Israel (745 BC).

Tiglath-pileser III. had just seized power in Assyria. He proved himself to be a successful administrator and a brilliant general, and he soon pursued the ancient policy of westward expansion. He was, however, occupied until the year 742 BC in reducing the East to his sceptre. When he turned his attention to the West, the siege of Arpad detained him for two years. Uzziah of Judah, who in his old age had become a leper, and had associated his son Jotham with him as regent, appears to have taken a leading part in the organization of a coalition of nineteen states, including Hamath, Carchemish, and Damascus, to oppose the progress of the Assyrians. Tiglath-pileser marched southward along the Coastal Plain as though to attack Uzziah himself. Upon his approach Menahem deserted the confederacy and hastened to pay his tribute to Assyria.

Menahem died in about 735 BC. His son Pekahiah was soon removed by a revolution, and Pekah became king in Samaria (2 K.15.22-27). in Judah, Jotham was succeeded in the same year by his youthful son Ahaz. Pekah of Israel and Rezin, the new king of Damascus, tried to form a new confederacy in order to throw off the yoke of Assyria. Into this coalition they attempted to draw Ahaz, and when he declined to engage in the hopeless enterprise they threatened to make war jointly on Judah, depose Ahaz, and place a certain Tabeel on the throne of David. Upon the receipt of this news, consternation reigned in Jerusalem, and it was at this juncture that the prophet Isaiah asked the young king Ahaz to have faith in Yahweh (7.9). Soon, Tiglath-pileser returned to the West (734 BC), took Damascus after a long and difficult siege (a city which his predecessors had at various times for more than a hundred years tried in vain to capture), made it an Assyrian colony, put Pekah of Israel to death, carried captive to Assyria the principal inhabitants of the Galilean hills (2 K.15.29ff), made Hoshea king over a truncated Israel, and imposed upon him a heavy war tax.

At the approach of Tiglath-pileser, Ahaz of Judah had renewed his allegiance to his Assyrian overlord. After the capture of Damascus, he went thither to do obeisance in person to the Assyrian emperor. In effect, the two kingdoms of Israel and Judah, while remaining nominally independent, passed under the control of Nineveh.

Soon after the death of Tiglath-pileser (727 BC), Hoshea refused to continue payment of the national taxes to Assyria, and the new emperor, Shalmaneser v. (727-722 BC), sent an expeditionary force which overran the Israelite territory, cut off Hoshea's lines of supplies, and isolated him in his fortified capital, Samaria. The military genius of Omri had selected the site wisely: it is a marvel of defensive warfare that the city, in the midst of a country occupied by the enemy, could resist a siege of three years (725-722 BC). Shalmaneser v. died and was succeeded by Sargon n. (722-705 BC). The Assyrian commanders who were prosecuting the siege of Samaria probably did not know of the regnal change until after the city had fallen. At any rate, Sargon boasted of the fall of the Israelite capital as one of the achievements of his first year. He deported to the eastern borders of the empire 27,290 inhabitants of Samaria and other cities of the Northern Kingdom, including no doubt the elite of the population. (See H. G. May, 'The Deportation of Israel,' and ' The Israelites in Exile,' BA, vi [1943], 57-60). He thereupon resettled the territory with ethnic groups from Cuthah and Sippar in Babylonia and from Hamath in Syria. These new settlers intermingled with the peasant classes of Israel that had been left upon the land (2 K.17.24). Sargon's demographic policy was partly responsible for the origin of the Samaritans. The new-comers were, of course, polytheists. When they were attacked by lions, however, they petitioned to have a priest of Yahweh teach them how to worship the God of the land. Sargon granted their request and sent back to them a a captive priest. In the course of time, the foreign settlers intermarried with the Israelites who had managed to remain in the mountains and their descendants became known as 'the Samaritans.'
top

19. Hezekiah (715-687 BC) and the Siege of Jerusalem (701 BC).

The kingdom of Judah escaped destruction when Samaria fell, no doubt because Ahaz maintained toward Assyria the submissive attitude which he had manifested toward Tiglath-pileser in 735 BC. On the western borders of Judah, however, the city-states of Philistia were always plotting to throw off the Assyrian yoke, and endeavouring to secure the co-operation of the son of Ahaz, Hezekiah (715-685 BC). Such cooperation, the prophet Isaiah steadily opposed. In the year 711 BC, the city of Ashdod succeeded in heading a coalition which she hoped would gain her freedom, but Sargon II. sent an army which soon brought her to terms (Is.20.1). During those turbulent years, Hezekiah prepared for an eventual siege of Jerusalem by attempting to insure the water-supply of the city (709 BC; see G. E. Wright, Biblical Archaeology [1957], 164-172). His workmen dug a tunnel under the old city in order to by-pass the hitherto open-air and exposed canal which brought water to the sheltered Siloam pool, from the spring of Gihon (see SILOAM). It was perhaps on account of this feat of technology that the city survived the Assyrian onslaught which was to come within the next decade.

After the death of Sargon II. in 705 BC, many subject states of the Fertile Crescent attempted to regain their independence before the new monarch could consolidate his power. Hezekiah yielded to the diplomatic entreaties of Merodach-baladan (Marduk-apal-iddin), the Babylonian prince whom Sargon n. had early in his reign driven from Babylon, and who now sought the opportunity to return to the throne (2 K.20.12ff, Is.39.1ff). In this new coalition the Egyptians also, now under the stronger control of the 25th Dynasty, had a part. Although Isaiah still consistently opposed the move, Hezekiah accepted to join in the general revolt. Padi, king of Ekron, who remained faithful to the Assyrian overlord, was placed under arrest in Jerusalem. Sennacherib, the new king of Assyria (705-681 BC), had to avenge this insult. Military problems in the East delayed him for a while, but in 701 BC he led an army westward, defeated the allies at Eitekeh, besieged and took Ekron, impaled many of the rebellious inhabitants, and invaded Judah. Forty-six of the smaller towns were captured, and Jerusalem itself was invested. Its inhabitants were panic stricken, but Isaiah came forward, declaring Zion to be inviolable in the eyes of Yahweh (Is.31.4). In the meantime, Hezekiah sent to Sennacherib's headquarters in Lachish and offered to pay a war indemnity. The sequence of events is not clear, and many scholars believe that the story of Sennacherib's invasion in 2 K.19 represents a combination of a least two different campaigns into a single expedition (W. F. Albright, 'New Light from Egypt on the Chronology and History of Israel and Judah,' BASOR, No. 130 [April 1953], 8-11; 'Further Light on Synchronisms between Egypt and Asia in the Period 935-685 BC,' BASOR, No. 141 [February 1956], 23-26). The traditions gathered at a later age by Herodotus in Egypt (ii. 141) confirm the Biblical account of a plague which decimated the Assyrian forces (2 K.19.35). In any case, it appears from the totality of the documentation that the siege of Jerusalem was lifted and that the city was saved from destruction. The memory of this unexpected deliverance played in the subsequent centuries a major part in giving to the Temple of Jerusalem or its site the pre-eminence of sanctity it has maintained in Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

According to 2 K.18.4, Hezekiah attempted to abolish the country shrines and to purify the worship of Yahweh in the temple of Solomon (H. H. Rowley, 'Zadok and Nehushtan,' JBL, lviii [1939], 113 ff). Some historians have doubted the historicity of this reform, but others have thought that it is confirmed by an older document quoted in 2 K.18.22. The king may have been prompted by Isaiah in initiating some kind of cultic purification. He thereby demonstrated his political independence from the Assyrian yoke to which his father Ahaz had submitted.
top

20. Manasseh (687-642 BC), Amon (642-640 BC), and Josiah (640 BC).

The editors of Kings have pictured Manasseh as the most criminal monarch who ever sat on the throne of David. Pagan practices which had been eradicated by Hezekiah were restored throughout the kingdom as well as in the Temple of Jerusalem (2 K.23.7). At the same time, prophetic opposition to the royal policies was ruthlessly repressed (2 K.21.16). It is probable, however, that the king had little choice, for the Assyrian emperors, although in the grip of domestic upheavals, were slowly consolidating their power over the entire Near East. Manasseh apparently became a vassal of Sennacherib and during his entire reign remained the subject of Nineveh. The worship of Assyrian deities was a necessary concomitant of Judah's political subservience to Assyria.

Sennacherib was murdered in 681 BC and Esarhaddon (681-669 BC), having secured the throne from his competitors, led Assyria to the conquest of Egypt and seized Memphis in 671 BC. His son, Ashurbanipal (669-633 [ ?] BC), advanced to Upper Egypt and destroyed Thebes (663 BC). For a short while, Assyria ruled over the largest territory ever conquered up to that time in that part of the world. Political rivalries in Babylonia, however, threatened the security of Ashurbanipal at home (652 BC). The new Pharaoh, Psammetichus i. (650-609 BC), founder of the 26th Dynasty, soon declared the independence of Egypt (650 BC). While the Assyrian armies marched up and down the coast of Philistia, Judah escaped direct invasion, no doubt on account of Manasseh's acceptance of vassalage. According to one tradition (2 Ch.33.10-13), he was once brought in chains before the Assyrian emperor, presumably on charges of political insubordination, but eventually was allowed to resume his reign.

The Assyrian empire had reached its apogee. The loss of Egypt was followed by threats of invasion in northern and eastern Mesopotamia. The Scythians and the Cimmerians were pushing across the Caucasus and the Medes exerted a similar pressure from the Iranian plateau.

While Amon (642-640 BC) continued the policy of acquiescence, the young king Josiah (640-609 BC) soon hailed the death of Ashurbanipal (633 BC?) and witnessed the fall of the Assyrian power. In the eighteenth year of Josiah's reign (622 BC), when the king was only twenty-six years old, a copy of the law was found in the Temple of Jerusalem. Upon hearing its contents, the king was profoundly disturbed. He consulted the prophetess Huldah who confirmed its authority (2 K.22), and he therefore set himself to adjust to its standards the worship and the institutions of the kingdom. Josiah's reform swept away all local shrines except the Jerusalem sanctuary, all cultic pillars and statuary, and attempted to wipe out the practices of a pagan character (2 K.23). Modern criticism has shown that the core of the law which was found at that time has been subsequently edited and incorporated in what is now called 'Deuteronomy.' The reform of Josiah, no doubt inspired chiefly by religious considerations, was also motivated by political concern. The king saw his opportunity to claim back from Assyrian control the whole territory of the ancient kingdom of Northern Israel (see P. M. Cross, jun., and D. N. Freedman, 'Josiah's Revolt Against Assyria,' [JNES, xii [1953], 56-58).

Nineveh was tottering to its fall (612 BC). Babylon had regained its independence soon after the death of Ashurbanipal and was rapidly growing in power. Egypt, which under the 26th Dynasty possessed once more a line of native kings, was led on the path of renascence by Neco II., an able administrator and general, who discerned that the fall of Nineveh and the revival of Babylon necessitated the establishment of a new balance of power. He marched an army into Asia and in 609 BC proceeded northward along the coastal plain of Palestine. Josiah, probably because he determined to claim sovereignty over all the territory formerly occupied by Northern Israel, marched northward with an army, fought Neco at the ancient battlefield of Megiddo, and met with death (2 K.23.39ff; see M. B. Rowton, 'Jeremiah and the Death of Josiah,' WES, x [1951], 128-130). A greater calamity could scarcely have befallen the party of Yahwistic rigorism. Not only was their king killed ignominiously, but also their hope of a prosperous Judaean kingdom, faithful to Yahweh's law, was annihilated.
top

21. The End of Judah (609-586 BC).

When the news of the Megiddo defeat reached Jerusalem, the leaders of the people placed Jehoahaz, a son of Josiah, on the throne. Neco meantime moved northward, taking possession of the whole country, and established his headquarters at Riblah in the territory of Hamath. Thither he summoned Jehoahaz, threw him into bonds, sent him to Egypt as a prisoner, and made his brother Eliakim king of Judah, imposing a heavy tribute upon the country (2 K.23.31ff). Upon his accession, Eliakim took the name of Jehoiakim (597-509 BC; 2 K.23.34) and became a vassal of the Pharaoh.

The renewed Babylonian power was pushing westward to secure as much of the Fertile Crescent as possible. At the same time, Neco was ambitious to follow up his previous success and to check the Babylonian army at a strategically sound point, and far away from Egypt. In 605-604 BC he was met in battle at Carchemish by the Babylonian crown prince, Nebuchadnezzar, and was defeated. The Egyptian dream of a new Asiatic empire was crushed, and Judah soon thereafter passed into vassalage to Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar, on the border of Egypt, ready to invade and conquer it, was informed of the death of his father, Nabopolassar, in Babylon, and hastened home to secure his crown. The new ruler appears to have encountered difficulties in several parts of Western Asia. He established his headquarters at Riblah, and for a few years sent out bands of soldiers whither they were needed. Jehoiakim, thinking to take advantage of this unsettled situation, withheld his tribute, and some of these bands, composed largely of men from the neighbouring states, were sent against Jerusalem (2 K.24.1ff). Jehoiakim continued obstinate, however, and Nebuchadnezzar finally, in 597 BC, sent a large army. Before it arrived, the Judaean king died, and his young son, Jehoiachin, was occupying the throne. Nebuchadnezzar laid siege to Jerusalem, which after three months was compelled to capitulate, whereupon the Babylonian king took ten thousand of the prominent men, princes, warriors, priests, and craftsmen, and transported them to Babylonia. Another son of Josiah, who now took the name of Zedekiah, was placed upon the throne, subject of course to a heavy Babylonian tribute. Jehoiachin, a youth of twenty, was taken prisoner to Babylon, to languish in prison for many years (J. P. Hyatt, 'New Light on Nebuchadrezzar and Judean History,' JBL, Ixxv [1956], 277-284; D. J. Wiseman, Chronicles of Chaldaean Kings, 1956).

It was now to be seen whether Judah would repeat the history of the Northern Kingdom or whether her king would have the wisdom to remain faithful to Babylon. Jeremiah, as he had done for years, steadily proclaimed that Judah's sole safety lay in obedience to the Babylonian emperor ; such was the will of Yahweh. There was in Jerusalem, however, a strong party who advocated an alliance with Egypt as a means of securing freedom from Babylon. The king himself was weak and unwise. Finally, in 588 BC, when Hophra, filled with ambitions for an Asiatic empire, ascended the Egyptian throne, he made such promises of aid to Judah that the standard of revolt was raised. Jeremiah did not, as Isaiah had done a century before, proclaim Jerusalem inviolate. In 587 BC, the Babylonian army appeared and the final siege of Jerusalem began. Early in 586 BC, Hophra marched an army into Palestine, and Nebuchadnezzar was obliged to raise the siege to send his full force against the Pharaoh. Jerusalem was then wild with joy, thinking deliverance had come. Jeremiah and his party were laughed to scorn. But Hophra was soon defeated, the siege of Jerusalem renewed, and pressed to its bitter end. In August 586 BC, the city surrendered, its walls were broken down, its Temple was destroyed, another large body of captives transported to Babylonia, and Zedekiah, after being blinded, was taken there too (2 K.25). Thus Jerusalem suffered the fate of Samaria. Before its fall, however, the word of its prophets had so taken root, and such reforms had been instituted, that the Judaean exiles did not disintegrate sociologically and culturally as the Israelites of the Northern Kingdom had apparently done a century previously. Those who were deported in 586 BC were again the more prominent citizens among those who had been left behind in 597 BC. Some of the poorer people and the peasantry were allowed to remain in the land. Gedaliah was made governor of the territory of Judah. Since Jerusalem was desolate, Mizpah, five miles to the north-west, was made the administrative seat of the province. Gedaliah had been in office only two months when he was assassinated (2 K.25.25ff).
top

22. The Babylonian Exile (586-538 BC).

Perhaps fifty thousand Judaeans, including women and children, had been transported to Babylonia in two deportations of Nebuchadnezzar. These, with the exception of a few political leaders, were settled in colonies, in which they were permitted to have houses of their own, to visit one another freely, and to engage in business (Jer.29.5ff). Ezekiel gives the picture of one of these colonies at Tell-abib (Ezk.3.15, 8.1, 20.1ff. 24.18 etc.), by the river Chebar (a canal near Nippur), in which the Palestinian organization of 'elders' was perpetuated. Thus, the Judaeans settled down in Babylonia. Many followed so thoroughly Jeremiah's advice (Jer.29) that they soon acquired economic security and social stability in a hitherto totally alien environment. From then on, they and their descendants may be called 'the Jews.'

The Judaean peasants who remained in Palestine kept up as best they could the old religion, in an ignorant and often superstitious way (cf Jer.41.5ff), while the priests and the more intelligent of the religious devotees who had been transported to Babylon cherished the laws of the past, and fondly framed codes and programmes for a future which they were confident would come. Such an one was Ezekiel, who lived and wrote among the captives till about 570 BC. After the destruction of the city of Jerusalem, he elaborated a new religious polity for the nation, hoping it would form the basis of Israel's organization when the time for the reconstruction of the state came. He prepared even an architect's 'blue-print' for the rebuilding of the Temple which was so precise that several scholars have constructed from it realistic models (Ezk.40-48).

Some years later another writer of the Priestly School collated and published a body of cultic laws which have been preserved in Leviticus and are now designated as the Code of Holiness. Other priests were soon at work on a larger project: a history of the world from the time of its creation, together with a priestly version of the origins of Israel, destined to replace the earlier traditions, with a view to prepare the establishment of a priestly state in Jerusalem. This document became later the basis and the frame of the Pentateuch.

After the death of Nebuchadnezzar (562 BC), his son Amel-Marduk ascended the throne of Babylon. Two years later, Amel-Marduk was murdered by his brother-in-law, Neriglissar (560-555 BC) whose own son, Labashi-Marduk, was in turn put out of the way by Nabonidus (555-538 BC). Compelled to face invasions from the Arabs, Nabonidus left the administration of Babylon to his son Belshazzar and settled more or less permanently at the oasis of Tema, in Arabia. Babylonian society was soon demoralized and in no way could resist a new threat of unprecedented dimensions which was coming from the East.

Cyrus, a petty prince of Anshan, a small district of Elam, had rebelled against Astyages, his overlord, and became king of the Medes (550 BC). A few years later, Cyrus marched into Asia Minor and conquered Croesus, the fabulously wealthy king of Lydia (546 BC). It was probably at this juncture that one of the world's great poets and prophets appeared among the Jewish captives in Babylonia and taught them in most eloquent and poetic strain that Cyrus was the instrument of Yahweh (mashiah, anointed one) and that he was conquering the world for the sake of Yahweh's people so that they would return and rebuild Jerusalem. The name of this prophet is lost, but his poems now form chs. 40-55 of the Book of Isaiah and he is referred to as 'Deutero-Isaiah.'

The hope of this prophet in Cyrus was justified, for in 538 BC, the king of the Medes and Persians captured Babylon without waging a battle, overturned the Babylonian Empire and reversed the policy of mass deportations which Assyrians and Babylonians alike had pursued from the time of Tiglath-pileser III. Cyrus himself tells in his inscription that he permitted captive peoples to return to their lands and to rebuild their temples. This gave the Jews the opportunity for which Deutero-Isaiah had hoped. However, it was years before any considerable number of captives made use of their newly acquired liberty. They were interested in their religion, to be sure, but they had learned to practise it outside of Palestine without sacrificial ritual, and the opportunities in Mesopotamia and elsewhere for trade and the acquisition of riches were too good to be abandoned for the sterile soil of the land of their fathers. The Murashu tablets found at Nippur in Mesopotamia and the papyri discovered at Elephantine in Upper Egypt show the wide-spread character of the Jewish dispersion in the century following the Babylonian exile. In Mesopotamia, the Jews continued to live for fifteen hundred years. They frequently sent money contributions to those of their number who had returned to Jerusalem. Occasionally, a few of them joined the first 'Zionists.' Most of them, however, settled permanently and willingly in the land of their exile. After a time, they chose Exiliarchs, or 'Princes of the Captivity.' Schools of Jewish learning developed in their midst. In due course, the Babylonian Talmud was compiled in these schools, and the Babylonian Massorah (tradition) came to be written down and constitutes an important witness of the Biblical text.

These communities survived the vicissitudes of Persian, Macedonian, Parthian, Sassanian, and Arabian rule, continuing to have their Exiliarchs till the 11th cent. AD, when the oppressions to which they were subjected led them gradually to migrate to other parts of the world.
top

23. The Jerusalem Restoration (538-333 BC).

The book of Ezra tells that a large number of exiles returned to Jerusalem as soon as Cyrus issued his permission to all captives to return to their home lands. It is probable that the 'Zionist' movement was at first very slow. Zerubbabel, a grandson of the unfortunate king Jehoiachin, became governor of Jerusalem, and a high priest named Joshua was the head of the hierarchy. The altar of Yahweh had been rebuilt on the old site and the Temple was still in ruins. The tolerance of the Persian administration is shown in allowing the Jews a governor of the Davidic blood. He, with a small retinue, had no doubt returned from Babylonia, but we have no evidence that the bulk of the population had also come back.

The Jewish peasantry which had remained in Palestine during the Babylonian exile, equally with those Jews who had returned from Babylonia, expected at some time the reconstruction of the Jewish institutions. A prolonged famine led Haggai in the second year of Darius I. (522-486 BC), to persuade the people that Yahweh had withheld rain because he was displeased that the Temple had not yet been rebuilt. Another prophet, Zechariah, took up the same burden, and under their leadership and inspiration the Temple was reconstructed on a smaller scale and with cheap materials, but on the ancient site (516 BC). Contributions to aid this enterprise had been received from the Jews of Babylonia.

The first six years of the reign of Darius I. were troublous times. It became necessary for him to reconquer his empire, as many of the subject nations took the opportunity to rebel. Zerubbabel probably took part in this rebellious movement. Zechariah regarded him as the Messiah and expected him to be crowned and to reign jointly with the high priest Joshua (Zec.3).

Since Zerubbabel disappeared abruptly from the historical scene, it is probable that the Persian overlords quickly put an end to the Jewish attempt at political independence. During the latter years of the reign of Darius I. and the entire reign of Xerxes (486-465 BC), little is known of the history of the Jews, either in the communities which were scattered throughout the Persian empire or in the still struggling congregation which had returned to the ruined city of Jerusalem. Some information may be gleaned from the anthology now contained in Is.56-66, large parts of which appear to come from this period, as well as from some poems of Joel and Malachi, which may also have emerged in the early part of the 5th cent. BC (although several scholars now favour an earlier date). It seems that the Jerusalem Jews were in a semi-anarchic state, with a decadent elite and depressed labourers. Zerubbabel was probably succeeded by a foreign governor (Mal.1.8) who must have had little sympathy for the Jewish way of life. Moreover, pressure from the eastern and southern borders of Judah threatened the security of the tiny enclave. The Nabataeans had pushed the Edomites out of their old territory, S. of the Dead Sea, to Beersheba and Hebron, in southern Judah. The Samaritans, who had apparently spread to the valley of Aijalon, W. of Jerusalem, held many approaches to the city. The Jewish colony occupied but a small territory about Jerusalem, and some of the inhabitants in their distress, as their ancestors had done in the days of Manasseh, were seeking relief in the revival of Canaanite-Phoenician rites (Is.65.11). Early in the reign of Artaxerxes i. (465-424 BC), an attempt was made to rebuild the walls of the city (Ezr.4.7-24), and the Samaritans intervened at the Persian court. The reconstruction was abruptly interrupted, no doubt by imperial order.

Such a state of affairs profoundly moved Nehemiah, a young Jewish official at the court of Artaxerxes I. Having heard in 445 BC bad news from Jerusalem (Neh.1.4), he at once secured an appointment to the governorship of Judah and the permission to rebuild the walls of its capital (see H. H. Rowley, 'Nehemiah's Mission and Its Backgound,' Bulletin of the John Rylands Library, xxxvii [1954-1955], 528-561). The energy with which Nehemiah devoted himself to this task, the opposition which he encountered from the surrounding settlers or invaders, especially from the Samaritans (see H. H. Rowley, 'Sanballat and the Samaritan Temple,' Bulletin of the John Rylands Library, xxxviii [1955-1956], 166-198), and the success which attended his labours, are forcibly depicted in his memoirs, now partly incorporated by the Chronicler in the book of Nehemiah (chs.1-7). After a return to Persia, Nehemiah filled a second term as governor of Jerusalem (c 428 BC). Through the zeal and thoroughness of his administration, the Jewish community was reorganized as distinct from the Samaritans (Neh.13.28ff) and mixed marriages were forbidden.

It is possible although not probable that Nehemiah was in Jerusalem at the same time as the scribe Ezra. According to that part of the work of the Chronicler which came to be known as the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, Ezra arrived in Jerusalem before Nehemiah in the seventh year of Artaxerxes I., namely in 458 BC (Ezra.7-8), but many scholars agree that his visit followed rather than preceded those of Nehemiah. Accordingly, the Persian king mentioned in Ezra.7.7-8 is probably Artaxerxes II. (404-358 BC) and Ezra came to Jerusalem in 398 BC (see H. H. Rowley, 'The Chronological Order of Ezra and Nehemiah,' in The Servant of the Lord [1952], pp. 129-159). Facing a situation of political corruption and of religious assimilation to the surrounding cultures, Ezra pursued with vigour the reforming spirit inaugurated by Nehemiah. He not only applied the ban on mixed marriages but he also succeeded in imposing divorces for the sake of maintaining the purity of the faith (Ezr.10.2-5). Ezra's activity was more religious than political but it has its place in a general history of Israel for he became in effect the founder of legal Judaism (see H. Cazelles, 'La mission d'Esdras,' VT, iv [1954], 113-140). His ceremonial reading of the Pentateuch as the Law of Moses (Neh.8) and his part in the renewal of the covenant (Neh.9-10) exercised a major influence upon the development of Judaism in the subsequent centuries.

Information concerning the Jewish community during the last days of the Persian empire is almost entirely lacking. The Jewish historian Flavius Josephus tells (Ant. xi. vii. 1 [297]) that the Persian general Bagoas (whom he calls Bagoses) entered the Temple and oppressed the Jews for seven years, because the high priest John murdered his brother Joshua, a friend of Bagoas, for whom the latter had promised to obtain the high priesthood. Perhaps there was more underlying this than appears on the surface. Many have supposed, at least, that the action of Bagoas was the result of an attempt on the part of the Jews to regain their independence.

After the reign of Artaxerxes III. (358-338 BC) and that of Arses (338-336 BC), the Persian empire soon came to an end. Darius III. (336-331 BC) witnessed the meteoric rise of Alexander of Macedonia (336-323 BC).
top

24. The Hellenistic Rule (333-168 BC).

According to Plavius Josephus (Ant. xi. viii. 3 [318]), the high priest Jaddua was loyal to Darius in. During the siege of Tyre, Alexander in vain requested Jewish help. After the surrender of Gaza, he marched personally to Jerusalem to take vengeance. At his approach, the high priest, the priests, and the Levites, clad in ceremonial dress, walked in solemn procession toward Mount Scopus in order to welcome the world conqueror.

Alexander was so impressed that he forgot his wrath and refused to desecrate the Temple. This story is probably a legend. Arrian, for example, declares that the rest of Palestine had submitted before the siege of Gaza. Jerusalem was to Alexander simply one Syrian town among the others. It stood out of his route and probably was never visited by him. The chief element of truth reflected by this tradition, however, is that the high priest was then the head of the Jerusalem community. Another significance of the legend may lie in the fact that the Jews were soon to assimilate Hellenistic culture.

During the wars which followed the death of Alexander (323 BC), Judah endured her share of international disorder. The armies of Antigonus and Demetrius were at various times in the region. In 312 BC, a great battle was fought near Gaza, and the political unrest which followed must have produced economic hardship for the Jews. For more than a century, Palestine remained under the rule of the Hellenico-Egyptian Ptolemies. The Seleucids, however, never gave up their claim upon it. Antiochus in, the Great (223-187 BC) briefly snatched the territory from Ptolemy iv. Philopator (221-203 BC) but failed to impose his presence for long. Twenty years later, however, after the battle of Paneion, the Jews passed under the Seleucid jurisdiction.

The chief connexion with the suzerain power during the Ptolemaic and the early years of the Seleucid rules was the payment of taxes. At one time, a Ptolemaic king became dissatisfied with the high priest's management of the finances, and he committed them to the care of one Joseph, son of Tobias, who with his sons led a life of spectacular adventures (Ant. xii. iv. 2 ff [160ff]).

From the beginning of its existence, the metropolis of Alexandria seems to have included a prosperous Jewish community. Greek language became a convenient and even fashionable mode of exchange. Many Jews adopted not only the Greek tongue but also Greek ways which slowly were introduced in Jerusalem itself. Under the Seleucids, certain high priests even adopted Greek names. To court the favours of the kings at Antioch, they cultivated Greek habits. A Syrian garrison was stationed in Jerusalem. Gymnasia were popular. Some went so far as to attempt to remove artificially the signs of circumcision.

One curious aspect of this era of Hellenistic assimilation appears in the fact that one high priest, Onias in., deposed by the Seleucid authorites, went to Egypt and established at Leontopolis in the name of Heliopolis a dissident temple to Yahweh, which existed there for a hundred years.

The country towns of Palestine were more conservative than the capital, but even there Hellenistic culture would have found its way had not Antiochus iv. Epiphanes (175-163 BC) determined to impose by force upon all Jews not only Greek fashions and mores but also Greek religion.
top

25. The Maccabaean Revolt (168-135 BC).

Antiochus commanded in 168 BC that altars to Zeus be erected throughout the land, and especially in the Temple at Jerusalem. He also directed that swine flesh be offered in sacrifice upon them. The fear of the Syrian army secured wide-spread obedience to this decree. In the little town of Modin, however, an old priest, Mattathias, struck down the officiating traitor and raised the standard of revolt. The faithful soon rallied to his standard, and he made his son Judas captain over them. Unexpected victories speedily followed, and the successful Judas was surnamed Makkab, 'the hammer.' He has remained known as Judas Maccabaeus.

Mattathias died before the end of the first year of the revolt, but the struggle was continued by his sons. In the course of three years, the Syrian forces had been driven from the Temple, though they still held the fortress which overlooked it. Accordingly, in December, 165 BC, a great feast was held for the purification and the rededication of the sanctuary - the Hanukkah. Up to this time, Judas had been aided by the Hasidim, or the pious, a set of religious devotees whose ideal was ceremonial puritanism. This party would have been satisfied to rest in what had already been achieved, but Judas and his brothers aimed at political independence. Although it estranged the Hasidim, Judas, with varying fortunes, maintained the struggle till 161 BC. Antiochus iv. had died (163 BC), the forces of the young Antiochus v. (163-162 BC) were defeated, a great victory was won over Nicanor, whom Demetrius I. (162-150 BC) sent to Judah. This victory was long celebrated in a yearly festival, the day of Nicanor. Judas himself fell before the end of the year 161 BC in a battle with the forces which Demetrius had sent to avenge the death of Nicanor.

The leadership of the Jewish nation then passed on to Jonathan, one of the brothers of Judas, who for nearly twenty years maintained the struggle in heroic and desperate conditions (161-143 BC). At first Jonathan thought of taking refuge with the Nabataeans, but he was treacherously treated and his brother John was slain. After many unsuccessful attempts to capture him, the Syrians finally entered into a treaty with him whereby he was permitted to live at Michmash as a kind of licensed free-booter (153 BC). Not unlike David in his outlaw years, Jonathan ruled over such as came to him.

A little later Alexander Balas appeared in the field as a contestant for the Syrian crown. This proved a great help to the Maccabaean cause, as both parties were willing to bid high for the support of Jonathan. Demetrius was killed and Alexander secured the reins of government. Demetrius ii., courting Jewish favour, recognized Jonathan as high priest and exempted the Jews from various taxes. The supporters of Alexander lured Jonathan to Ptolemais for a conference and treacherously put him to death (143 BC).

Another Maccabaean brother, Simon, assumed the leadership (143-135 BC). The star of Alexander Balas had set and Demetrius n. made with the Jews a treaty which once again recognized their independence. The event created the wildest joy. Never since the days of Josiah in the 7th cent. BC had the inhabitants of Jerusalem been politically free. It seemed like a new birth of the nation, and it stimulated the national genius in all directions. The whole civil and religious polity was reorganized. Simon was made both political bead of the state and high priest, and it was ordained that these offices should continue in his house for ever, or until a faithful prophet should arise (1 Mac.14.41ff). Simon spent his energies in organizing his government and in consolidating his territory. He was successful in taking possession of Gezer, where he built a large castle, also Joppa, which he made his port, and on the other side of the mountain range, Jericho. At the latter place he was assassinated in 135 BC by his son-in-law, Ptolemy, who hoped to seize the government. Simon's son, John Hyrcanus, escaped, and maintained the Maccabaean family at the head of the nation. The dynasty became known as 'Hasmonaean' from the name of Mattathias' grandfather, Hashmoni.
top

26. The Hasmonaean Dynasty (135-63 BC).

During the early years of John Hyrcanus I. (135-105 BC), the vigorous Antiochus vii. Sidetes, who had gained the Syrian crown, pressed him so hard that the struggle for independence not only had to be renewed, but seemed for a time to end in failure. Weaker hands, however, soon came into possession of the Syrian sceptre, and Hyrcanus, his independence secure, set about consolidating the power of Judaea. He conquered the Edomites, who had centuries before been pushed up into southern Judah, and compelled them to accept Judaism. Later he conquered Samaria and lower Galilee, treating the latter country as he had treated Idumaea (Ant. xiii. x. 2 f (275 ff]). During the reign of John Hyrcanus I. (135-105 BC), the Pharisees and Sadducees began to emerge into well-defined and opposing parties. The former were developed out of the Hasidim of the earlier time. They desired separation from foreigners in order that they might devote themselves to the keeping of the Law. The Sadducees consisted largely of the old priestly families, whose wealth and position prevented them from either the narrowness or the devotion of the Pharisees. Other sects also appeared at that time, among them the Essenes, with whom the sectarians of the Qumran community, near the Dead Sea, have been tentatively identified.

Aristobulus i. (105-104 BC), upon his accession to power, assumed the title of king (Ant. xiii. xi. 1 [301] - a step which still further estranged the Pharisees. He conquered and Judaized in the one year of his reign the region of upper Galilee. His widow, Alexandra was released from prison and married her brother-in-law, Alexander Jannaeus (104-79 BC) who conquered and Judaized Transjordan. By conquest and forcible conversion, the opposition of the Pharisees became extremely bitter. It was probably during his reign that the mysterious 'Teacher of Righteousness' of the Qumran community met with a violent end. At last, Alexander committed the government to Alexandra, advising her to make peace with the Pharisees (Ant. xiii. xv. 5 [401]. Alexandra ruled for ten years (79-69 BC) and made her son, John Hyrcanus n., the high priest, but left civil authority to Aristobulus ii., the younger of her two sons. Civil war between the rivals dragged itself on for several years.

An extraordinary man from Idumaea, Antipater, attached himself to Hyrcanus and persuaded him to flee to Aretas, king of the Nabataeans, in order to secure arms. When Pompey appeared in 64-63 BC, both brothers appealed to him. Aristobulus, however, shut himself up in Jerusalem. After a siege of three months, Pompey entered the city (63 BC), restored Hyrcanus as high priest but reduced considerably the territory of his jurisdiction. The dream of a Jewish state was ended.
top

27. The Roman Rule (63 BC-AD 66).

Hyrcanus ii. came more and more under the influence of Antipater, the Idumaean. After the death of Pompey in 48 BC, Hyrcanus and Antipater were able to render Julius Caesar material aid at Alexandria, thus winning his favour. Antipater, as a reward, received Roman citizenship and the procuratorship of Judaea. Many privileges of which Pompey had deprived the Jews were returned to them. The old powers of the Sanhedrin, or council, were revived. Religious customs of the Jews were guaranteed, not only in Judaea, but also in Alexandria and elsewhere, and their taxes were remitted in the Sabbatical years (Ant. xiv. x. 45 [201]).

Antipater proceeded to build up the fortunes of his family, making his son Phasaelus governor of Jerusalem, and Herod governor of Galilee. Herod proved an able administrator but narrowly escaped condemnation by the Sanhedrin for presuming to exercise the power of life and death without its consent.

After Antipater was murdered, Hyrcanus passed under the influence of Herod and Phasaelus. When Cassius and Brutus were defeated at Philippi (42 BC), Antony moved eastward to secure Syria. Although many Jews complained bitterly of the sons of Antipater, Antony made them tetrarchs with full political power, leaving to Hyrcanus only the high priesthood.

While Antony was in Egypt, Antigonus, a son of Aristobulus ii., gained the aid of the Parthians, who sent a force which captured Jerusalem (40 BC), and made Antigonus both king and high priest. Herod journeyed to Rome where he besought Augustus and Antony to make Aristobulus, a grandson of Hyrcanus ii., king of Judaea. The Roman government, however, made Herod king and sent him back to conquer his kingdom, which he did after Antony could spare some of his troops which were then engaged against the Parthians.

Herod became in fact king of the Jews in 37 BC. But he had to contend with the whims of Antony and the caprices of Cleopatra. After the battle of Actium (31 BC), Herod convinced Augustus of his loyalty to the new ruler of the world and his throne became secure.

Herod had a passion for building, and he knew how to extract money for his purposes. He therefore founded or rebuilt many cities, adorning them with the beauty of Hellenistic architecture. His enlarging and embellishing the Temple of Jerusalem is perhaps the best known of these undertakings, but it is only one of many. The taxes necessary for his various enterprises fell heavily upon his subjects. His domestic life was tragic as he executed many of his relatives, for fear of their political aspirations. During his reign, Hellenistic culture made new inroads in Judaea. At the same time, sectarian opposition to foreign influence found great success among the masses, and Pharisaism influenced the schools of Hillel and Shammai.

When Herod died in 4 BC, Augustus divided his dominions among his sons. Archelaus received Judaea and Samaria; Antipas, Galilee and Peraea; and Philip, Ituraea and Trachonitis. Herod Antipas held his territory until AD 39, and was the tetrarch of Galilee during the public life of Jesus. Archelaus proved such a bad ruler that Augustus removed him in AD 6 and banished him to Gaul (Josephus, Jewish Wars, ii. vii. 3 [111]). Judaea was then placed under Roman procurators as a part of the province of Syria. The fifth of these procurators was Pontius Pilate.

Once more, the dominions of Herod the Great were united under one of his grandsons, Herod Agrippa I. (AD 41-44), who was a protege of Caligula. After his death, the country returned to the administrative rule of Roman procurators.

Many Jews had never submitted to Rome, either through the Idumaean kings or the procurators. The Zealots expected that military Messianism would soon expel the invaders, and their nationalistic fervour gradually gained influence. In AD 66, the political passions took shape in open rebellion. The Roman general Vespasian was sent to quell the uprising. He had reduced Galilee and the outlying cities of Galilee when he heard of the death of Nero and withdrew to Egypt. During the year AD 69, Vespasian was fighting for the control of the empire, which he finally won. In the meantime, the Jews were consuming one another in civil war.

In AD 70, Titus appeared before Jerusalem, and after the most terrible siege in the history of the site, the city was destroyed, the Temple was ruined, and its sacred objects taken to Rome (BJ vii. v. 5 [148.ff]). The tenth Roman legion was left in charge. A small garrison of Jewish soldiers who had captured the fortress of Masada, on the shore of the Dead Sea, held out for three years, but was finally captured.

The surviving Sanhedrin moved to Jamnia, a town in the Philistine plain, S. of Joppa, where at the end of the 1st cent. AD its sessions became famous for the discussions concerning the authority of the Holy Writings, or Hagiographa.

Under the reign of Trajan, in AD 116, Jews in Cyprus and Asia Minor revolted in vain. In AD 132, a new Jewish leader, called Bar Cochba, 'Son of the Star,' led a new and heroic movement against Rome and some of his followers held out in the desert until AD 133. Hadrian determined to erase the name of Jerusalem from the map. A Roman colony, called Aelia Capitolina, was accordingly founded on the site of the ancient capital. Jews were banished from it, and a temple to Jupiter was erected on the site of the Temple of Yahweh.
top

II. RELIGION.

1. The religion of the ancient Hebrews.

In a sense, the religion of Israel is the history of the religion of Yahweh.
The ancient Hebrews, however, preserved in their national traditions the memory of an event, at a definite time, when the God worshipped by their fathers revealed His name to Moses as Yahweh (Ex.3.13ff; but see Gn.4.26). Before Moses, the religion of Israel's ancestors may not have been substantially different from that of the proto-Phoenicians and Canaanites. The Ugaritic literature shows that EL was the supreme god. Likewise, the Genesis traditions concerning Abram and his family mention El Elyon, or 'God Most High' (Gn.14.18-20), El Shaddai, or 'God Almighty' (Gn.17.1), El Olam, or 'God of Eternity' (Gn.21.33), El Roi (Gn.16.13). The stories of the conquest call the god of Shechem El Berith, or 'God of the Covenant' (Jg.9.4; see H. G. May, 'The Patriarchal Idea of God,' JBL lx [1941], 113-128). Many features of the Canaanite religion have survived in the popular cult of Israel, and some of them are common to all the ancient Semites. There is little doubt that the Hebrews inherited them from their distant ancestors.

(1) Totemism. Traces of a belief associating ancestors with certain animals have been discerned by a number of historians in the names of Leah, 'wild cow,' Rachel, 'ewe,' Simeon, 'wolf' (?), Caleb, 'dog,' etc., but there is no evidence that the Hebrews during the patriarchal age worshipped animals.

(2) Fertility. A conception common to the peoples of the Ancient Near East was that the divine reality manifested itself especially in the process of reproduction. Thus, the organs of generation were the object of religious significance. Such a belief survived in Israel in the patriarchal practice, during the making of an oath, of putting one's hand under the thigh (Gn.24.2).

(3) The massebhah. A cultic object appeared again and again in the worship of Israel and Judah until the reform of Josiah (621 BC). The massebhah was a pillar or phallic symbol which in pre-Mosaic times may have represented the deity (Gn.28.22, Hos.3.4, Dt.7.5, 2 K.23.14).

(4) The asherah. There is no general agreement as to the nature and meaning of this object. It may have been a representation of a deity, corresponding to the Ugaritic Ashirat of the Sea. Such a symbol stood by the altar of Yahweh in the Jerusalem Temple at the time of the Reform of Josiah (2 K.23.6).

(5) Circumcision is an institution which the Hebrews inherited from their Semitic ancestry, since it was not peculiar to Israel but a practice which was common among many peoples of the ancient Near East. Like many other religious customs, circumcision underwent different interpretations at different periods; but its origin is clearly connected with the sacredness of the reproductive organs.

(6) From the pre-Mosaic period came also the idea that spirits dwelt in certain objects of the natural world, such as trees, stones, and springs. Sacred trees existed in many parts of Palestine. There was Abraham's oak at Mamre near Hebron (Gn.13.18, 18.1); at Shechem stood another (Jos.24.26) and still another at Ophrah (Jg.6.11, 19). The fountain at Kadesh was called En-mishpat (Gn.14.7) or 'the spring of judgment,' probably because oracular decisions were obtained there. The well of Lahai-roi (Gn.16.14) had a story to account for its sacredness, as had also the wells of Beersheba (Gn.21.29). En-rogel (to-day known as 'Job's well') was a spring in the vicinity of Jerusalem near which Adonijah offered a sacrifice (1 K.1.9ff). Solomon was anointed at Gihon (now called 'Virgin's fountain' on account of Is.7.14). A sacred circle of stones called Gilgal existed on the W. of the Jordan (Jos.4.19ff). Stones played a part in the lives of the patriarchs, especially Jacob (Gn.28.18). The high places or bamoth had stone altars dating from prehistoric times, including the foundation rock of the altar near the Jerusalem Temple.

(7) Sacrifice. In the historical period of Israel's religion, sacrifice was regarded mainly as a gift of food to the deity (cf Ps.50) and probably in earlier times this idea was already present. Sacrifice in the Semitic religions, however, was primarily a commensal feast, in which the god and the worshipper partook of the same food, and their kinship was consequently renewed. Whether this was the sole feature of sacrifice among the ancient Hebrews or not is an open question (see Ex.24.11). Human sacrifice was widely practised by the Canaanites (e.g., excavations at Gezer), and Israel resorted to the practice in times of crisis (Ahaz, Manasseh, et al.). It is not impossible that human sacrifice originated in the ritual of impersonating the dying deity in the seasonal cycle of nature celebration (Jephthah's daughter, Jg.11.40). The story of Isaac's sacrifice (Gn.22) points to the Hebrew memory of a change from human to animal sacrifice.

(8) The herem, or 'ban.' Even before a battle, all the population of the enemy country and their property could be devoted to destruction as a solemn obligation to the deity (Nu.21.2, Jos.6.17, 1 S.15.3ff). It seems to have been the custom of the Moabites, for Mesha says, 'I killed all the people of the city - a pleasing spectacle to Chemosh' (Moabite Stone, 11 ff).

(9) Blood revenge. It was a religious duty, when one was injured, to inflict a like injury, and if the blood of one's kinsman was shed, to shed the blood of those who had committed the deed (Code of Hammurabi, 18th cent. BC, 127, 195-197, etc.). Many references to this practice are found in the OT (Gn.4.14ff, 23ff etc.).

(10) The Passover (pesach), or spring festival. One of the survivals of the early Semitic worship appears in the tradition that the celebration of a spring feast was anterior to the time of Moses (Ex.5.1 etc.). It was probably related to the fertility god (The Song of Songs is still chanted in Judaism at the passover celebration). The festival underwent a radical transformation under the historical event of the Exodus (Ex.12), but its vernal origin has not been forgotten by a later age (Ps.114).

(11) It is probable that an autumn festival, combined with a new year festival, was borrowed by the Hebrews from ancient Semitic paganism and was later transformed in the ritual of the Day of the Atonement and in the feast of Tabernacles.

(12) While the ancient Hebrews were not exactly polytheistic like their Canaanite neighbours and mentors, there is evidence that their henotheism was strongly, corrupted by the worship of ancestral or tribal deities. The god of the tribe of Gad has survived with a specialized function (Is.65.11). The Shield of Abraham (Gn.15.1), the Fear or Kinsman of Isaac (Gn.31.42, 53), and the Mighty One of Jacob (Gn.49.24) were in all probability clan gods, perhaps not unrelated to the t'raphim or household gods of the Laban family (Gn.31.19; see A. Alt, Der Gott der Vater, 1929). The nature of the documents concerning the religion of the patriarchs does not allow a high degree of certainty concerning the historicity of the promise made to Abram (Gn.12.1ff etc.). Nevertheless, there seems to be a core of memories which point to the consciousness of an election for a special purpose in the history of mankind.
top

2. The Mosaic Covenant.

The originality of Israel's religion lies primarily in the event of its origin, the deliverance from Egypt after many years of bondage, under the leadership of Moses who acted in the name of Yahweh.

(1) It is probable that Yahweh was the god of the Kenites before He became the God of Israel. The reasons for this conjecture are as follows:
(a) Of the three documents which narrate the Exodus, E and P tell of the introduction of the name Yahweh as a new name. In early religion a new name usually means a new deity. E, on which P is dependent in this part of the narrative, was preserved in northern Israel and based on traditions of the Joseph tribes,
(b) The account of the institution of the covenant (Ex.18.12ff) makes it clear that Jethro, the Kenite priest, offers the sacrifice. He really initiates the Hebrews in the worship of Yahweh. This is confirmed by the underlying thought of all the documents that Moses first learned of Yahweh among the Midianites (of whom the Kenites formed a clan).
(c) Centuries later than Exodus, Sinai was regarded as the place where Yahweh manifested His presence. From there He marched north to help His people in time of crisis (Jg.5.4ff, Dt.33.2; see Hab.3.1, Ps.68.4). Elijah made a pilgrimage to Horeb in order to seek Yahweh (1 K.19).
(d) The Kenites during several succeeding centuries were the champions of the pure worship of Yahweh. Jael killed Sisera (Jg.5.24ff). The Rechabites, who from Jehu to Jeremiah (2 K.10.15, Jer.35) championed Yahweh, were Kenites (1 Ch.2.55).
(e) Some of the Kenites joined Israel in her migration (Nu 10.29ff), mingling with Israel both in the north (Jg.5.24) and in the south (Jg.1.16): some of them remained on the southern border of Judah, where they maintained a separate existence till the time of Saul (1 S.15.6) and were finally, in the days of David, incorporated into the tribe of Judah (1 S.30.26ff, 29ff).
(f) It is this absorption of the Kenites by Judah which, if Yahweh were a Kenite deity, explains why the J document, written in Judah, regards the knowledge of Yahweh as immemorial (Gn.4.26). The perpetual separateness of Judah from the other tribes tended to perpetuate this in spite of contrary currents from other quarters. It is therefore reasonable to maintain that Yahweh was originally the god of the Kenites, that some of the Hebrew tribes entangled in Egypt were ready to abandon their old gods for one that would deliver them, and that He became their god at the passage of the Sea of Reed (Ex.15).

(2) It is possible to define in broad outline the conception which the Hebrews had of their God at the time of Moses. Quite clearly, they conceived Him to be a God of war. The needs of the oppressed tribes demanded a warrior deity. The people are said to have sung after Miriam, Moses' sister, 'Yahweh is a man of war' (Ex.15.3). A book of old epic poems was called 'the Book of the Wars of Yahweh' (Nu.21.14), and the expression 'Yahweh of Hosts' (Lord Sabaoth) was afterwards one of His most constant names. There can be little doubt that this conception of Yahweh as a war-god had developed among the Kenites, and that it had a large influence in drawing the Hebrews into His worship.

There is reason also to believe that, as Yahweh had long been worshipped around Mount Sinai, where severe thunderstorms occur. He had come to be regarded as a God who manifested Himself especially in the phenomena of storms. He is usually represented in cultic poetry as coming in a thunderstorm (Ps.18, Ezk.1, Hab.3, Is.19.1, Job 38.1) and the regular name for thunder was 'the voice of Yahweh' (Ps.29.3ff, Job 37.4). He is also said to have led His people under the appearance of a cloud (Ex.13, 14), and to have manifested His presence on Mount Sinai and later in the Temple of Jerusalem in a thick cloud or thick darkness (Ex.19, 1 K.8.10f); the cloud is furthermore used about forty times in the Pentateuch as a symbol of Yahweh's presence. Probably, then, the Israelites received Him from the Kenites as a god of war who manifested Himself in the storm-cloud and uttered His voice in thunder. At the same time, the importance of the thunder and lightning motif in the Ugaritic mythology should not prevent us from considering the proto-Phoenician or Canaanite influence upon this aspect of Hebrew theology.

These conceptions, however, did not exhaust the Hebrew thought of God. The Israelites were Semites, and they conceived Yahweh chiefly as a god of life. Had this not been so, circumcision would not have been his sign, the pillar and asherah would not have been symbolic instruments of His worship, the first born would not have been ottered to Him in sacrifice, and the organs of generation would not have been the object of numinous attention.

(3) The name Yahweh, explained in Ex.3.14 as 'I cause to be whatever I cause to be' (the reading 'I am that I am' represents a late rabbinical interpretation, probably influenced by ontological speculations of Hellenistic philosophy), confirms the vitalizing and energizing quality of the God mediated to the people by Moses. Yahweh is the creator God, already in Mosaic theology, and the creator God is also the ruler of history. He can make a world and He can create a nation out of an amorphous gathering of uncouth slaves. Other theories explain the name Yahweh differently. Some think of the Arabic root hawa, 'to love passionately,' used in some forms especially of sexual desire. If this meaning were understood by the Hebrews at the time of Moses, it was lost as soon as the Israelites began to react against the magical aspect of Canaanite fertility cult.

(4) It is probable that the covenant between Yahweh and Israel involved at the time no more than that they would become His worshippers in return for deliverance, victory and continuing protection. In becoming His worshippers, however, it was necessary for them to gain knowledge of His ritual. Our oldest document seems to have been the lapidary form of the E decalogue (Ex.20, Dt.5), i.e., the ten words without the elaboration which now accompanies a number of them. It is most remarkable that this primitive code is less concerned with ritual than with inward dedication and behaviour. The so-called J decalogue (Ex.34) represents not a nomadic and pastoral environment but a sedentary and agrarian situation. It reflects either the later period of the conquest, when Israel came in contact with its farming teachers, the Canaanites, or the patriarchal period, when the Hebrew fathers lived in a Palestinian milieu.

(5) The symbol of Yahweh's cultic presence in the time of Moses was the Ark. As the Egyptians, the Mesopotamians, and the pre-islamic Arabs possessed similar structures for carrying their gods, it is probable that the Ark was a kind of movable sanctuary for a nomadic people. A later tradition (1 K.8.9, 21) says that it contained the ten words written on stone. At any rate, when the Ark was carried into the camp of the Philistines it was thought that Yahweh himself had come into the camp (1 S.8.4).

In the J document the Ark plays a small part while it is prominent in the E document. J apparently thought much more of Sinai as the place of Divine self-disclosure. This peculiarity of the southern tradition may have come about from the fact that after the settlement in the land of Canaan the Ark was in the possession of the Joseph tribes and became their shrine.

(7) According to the oldest sources, there seems to have been no priesthood at the time of Moses, except that of Moses himself. J tells that when the covenant was ratified, Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and seventy elders of Israel went up toward Yahweh's mountain, but only Moses was permitted to come before Him (Ex.24.1f, 9-11), while E tells of a 'tent of meeting' which Moses used to pitch at a distance from the camp, and to which he would go to consult Yahweh (Ex.33.7-11), and then return. In this tent, Joshua, Moses' minister, abode all the time (Ex.33.11). It is clear that neither of these cultic story tellers had any conception of the choice of the tribe of Levi for the priesthood. Indeed, E makes no mention of the tribe of Levi anywhere. Moses was in this view apparently one of the Joseph tribes, and we do not know how the term 'Levite' for priest originated. One document tells of a Levite who belonged to the tribe of Judah (Jg.17.7), so that here 'Levite' cannot have a tribal signification. J also tells of a tribe of Levi to which a calamity happened (Gn.34; see 49.5-7). Another revealing incident is that of the men who in a crisis 'attached themselves' to Moses for the preservation of the religion of Yahweh, and were perhaps, accordingly, called lewiyim [lawah='join'], 'Levites' (Ex.32.26-28). Many scholars think that the later priesthood was developed out of this band, and that its identification with the unfortunate clan of Levi is due to a later confusion of names.

(8) The covenant form, as it appears for instance in the asseveration which opens the E Decalogue (Ex.20.2), may have been borrowed from legal treatises, like those of the Hittites, in the 2nd millennium BC. (G. E. Mendenhall, Law and Covenant in Israel and in the Ancient Near East, 1955). In these and other parallels, a king addresses his vassals and reminds them of his acts, makes stipulations which binds their allegiance to him and which they solemnly promise to accept (Ex.19). The Hebrew amphictyony appears to have found its origin in the religious contract which was accepted by the people at the foot of Mount Sinai (see Jos.24, Jg.5). Such a covenant was not a legal document enacted between equals, but on the contrary a kind of sacramental marriage between a sovereign and the people. The birth of the nation appears therefore primarily as a religious event, with a religious structure and a religious hope.

The promise is made dependent upon the fulfilment of obedience to the Divine words. Israel is not just a nation but a holy people ('am kadhosh) with a priestly mission. In the covenant mediated by Moses lies the seed of the whole theology of the OT (literally, 'old covenant'). The prophets' critique and eschatology, in a later age, are based upon the centrality of the covenant theme in the consciousness of Israel (Am.3.1ff, Hos.2, Is.1, Jer.31.31 etc.). The covenant is the source of Hebrew solidarity, Hebrew law, and Hebrew standards of morality.

(9) Yahweh alone is God. He alone created the world (Gn.2.4b ff), and He alone must be worshipped (Ex.20.5).
top

3. The religion of Israel before the great prophets.

(1) The conquest of Canaan strengthened the faith of the Israelite tribes in Yahweh as the lord of history as well as the sovereign of nature. A Semitic people upon entering a new land always felt it necessary to propitiate the god of the land. As this was the case as late as the 8th cent. (2 K.17.24-34), it would be all the more true at the end of the 13th. At first, therefore, the Israelites mingled the worship of Yahweh with the worship of the baalim or owners and lords of the soil. When under David Israel emerged victorious, Yahweh was more than ever the lord of history as well as the lord of the land. Little by little the cult of Yahweh which took place in the ancient Canaanite shrines was corrupted by Canaanite ritual and beliefs. By the time of Gideon the term 'baal' was applied to Yahweh, as Jerub-baal, Gideon's real name, seems to indicate. Ish-baal and Meri-baal, sons of Saul, and Beeliada, a son of David, bear names which suggest the same syncretistic trend.

(2) During this period it was not thought wrong to make images of Yahweh. Gideon made an ephod-idol at Ophrah (Jg.8.27), Micah made an image to Yahweh (Jg.17.3ff). Sometimes images were in the form of bulls, as were those which Jeroboam i. set up at Bethel and Dan after the schism of Israel from Judah. These symbolized Yahweh as the giver of life and the god of pastoral wealth.

(3) In the whole of this period, it was thought that Yahweh might appear and talk with a human being, undistinguishable from a human form until the moment of His departure (Gn.18.2ff, Jg.6.11ff, 13.3ff). Sometimes, it was the angel of Yahweh that appeared but the difference between Yahweh and the messenger of Yahweh was not always clear.

(4) The people were deeply religious, but the religion existed as a help to secular life. It consisted largely of inherited customs, while the main interest of all was centred in physical prosperity. Certain practices were considered to be wrong, as offences against Yahweh (e.g. the crime of Jg.19 and David's murder and adultery (in 2 S.11), but the ethical content of the religion was of a very rudimentary character. Stealing (Jg.18) and treachery could be at times glorified (Jg.31.5ff, 5.24, 27). The religion of Moses was maintained only through a minority, while the masses appear to have compromised in large measure with the rites, beliefs, and mores of the Canaanites.

(5) In every village was an open-air 'high place' marked by a rock altar, pillars, and other cultic objects, and connected with caves and underground structures. In some of these, as at Gezer and in Jerusalem, serpent worship was practised. Soon, some of the sacred places like Shiloh had their sanctuary (1 S.1-3) built with solid blocks of stone and containing rooms with doors. Solomon erected in Jerusalem an elaborate structure in the style of a Phoenician temple, departing in many ways from the cultic habits of the ancient Hebrews. Jeroboam i. likewise built temples at Bethel and at Dan (1 K.12.31, Am.7.13). A wealthy citizen might possess a private chapel in connexion with his residence (Jg.17).

(6) The priesthood in this period was not confined to any tribe. There seems to have been the thought that it was better to have a Levite for priest (whatever the term may have meant; cf Jg.17.10), but Micah, an Ephraimite, made his son a priest (Jg.17.5); Samuel, a member of one of the Joseph tribes, acted as priest (1 S.9.12ff); and David made his sons priests (2 S.8.18). Jonathan, a grandson of Moses according to tradition, started life as an impecunious resident of Bethlehem in Judah; in seeking his fortune he became a priest in the shrine of Micah, the Ephraimite; then at the instigation of the Danites he robbed that shrine and fled with them to the north, becoming the founder of a line of priests in the temple of Dan. Even if his descent from Moses is not to be credited, the story gives evidence of the kind of irregularity in the priesthood at the time of the Judges. So far as Jerusalem was concerned, David improved this chaotic condition by regulating the priestly corps.

(7) The festivals of that period were of a simple and joyous character (1 S.1, 2). The priests killed the sacrificial animal, pouring out the blood no doubt to Yahweh, and then the flesh was cooked. While it was cooking, the priest obtained his portion by a kind of chance (1 S.2.13ff), after which the victim was consumed by the worshippers in a festive banquet. It is probable that considerable licence accompanied such social and religious gatherings. The feast described here occurred annually, but there were lesser celebrations at the time of the new moons and other occasions (1 S.20.5ff).

(8) A glimpse into the household worship of the time is obtained from the teraphim (Jg.18.26, Hos.3.4). These objects seem to represent household deities, similar to those found in Babylon (Ezk.21.21) and among the Aramaeans (Gn.31.19). Some of them were apparently large enough to be mistaken for a man (1 S.19.13ff). They may have played a part in family divination (Zec.10.2), but it is not possible to state whether they had taken the place of Yahweh worship at a public shrine.

(9) During the centuries of the settlement, a class of religious professionals appeared called seers or prophets. They were related to the diviners and fortune tellers of the ancient Near East. In the time of Saul, there were ecstatic prophets who lived in groups and used music and dancing in their techniques for collective inspiration. Their frenzy possessed an epidemic quality (1 S.10.9-13, 19.23f). In all probability these prophets were of Canaanite origin. The Egyptian Wen-Amon while reporting in about 1100 BC about his experiences in Byblos, on the coast of Phoenicia, tells of a youth who was thrown into a trance and uttered prophecies which moved the king of Byblos to conclude a business transaction. It appears that this Phoenician ecstatic was not part of a group but acted as an individual. In Israel, likewise, Samuel appears in one tradition at least to have been a solitary seer, different from the prophets of the guilds which he later supervised (1 S.9, 19.20f). Such men were held in high regard and obtained their living by telling people what they wished to know. Their oracles were mostly about the future, but often no doubt they told a man whether this or that action was in accord with the will of Yahweh. The Phoenician Baal as well as Yahweh had prophets (1 K.18.19). Such men became necessary adjuncts of the government. In the 9th cent., Ahab kept 400 of them about him (1 K.22.6). David and Solomon had probably done the same in their own time. Both in Israel and in Judah, powerful individual prophets, not unlike Samuel, intervened in the affairs of state. Some were public officials. Gad advised David and organized sacred music as well as wrote a history of the reign (1 S.22.5, 2 S.24.11-14, 1 Ch.29.29) Nathan rebuked David and served him and Solomon as well (2 S.7.2ff, 12.1-15, 1 K.1.22ff, 1 Ch.29.29, 2 Ch.9.29). Other prophets appear to have been 'laymen' or private individuals who suddenly appeared from time to time in order to make a special pronouncement of public interest. Ahijah (1 K.11.29ff) and Micaiah, the son of Imlah (1 K.22.8ff), seemed to belong to this type. Elijah was probably the most influential of them, a true forerunner of the Great Prophets of the eighth and later centuries. His significance lies in the fact that in his opposition to Phoenician syncretism, he revived the Yahwism of the Mosaic times, and upheld sharply the ethical standards of the nomadic covenant (1 K.17-19). At the same time, he understood that it was not possible to return to the old ways of the wilderness, and that the work of Yahweh could be best accomplished in history less through thaumaturgical manifestations than in the quiet and direct transformation of individuals. His theology allowed him to consider a foreigner like the king of Damascus as the instrument of Yahweh's will. He also appears to have initiated the idea of a religious society, within the political nation, which later influenced the growth of the idea of a remnant and of a spiritual congregation (I K.19).

Elisha hardly deserves to be reckoned in this great succession. Although the heir of Elijah, he was the head of professional prophets. When absent from the band of his associates, he found it necessary to call a minstrel to work up his ecstasy before he could prophesy (2 K.3.15). It was he, however, who prompted Jehu to undertake the purification of Israel from the taint of Phoenician worship, and this religious reformation was of extreme significance for the survival of Yahwism, although it was accomplished at the price of ruthless massacres.
top

4. The religion of Israel during the great prophets.

With the exception of Nahum and Obadiah, whose preserved. utterances present a rather violent kind of religious nationalism, the great prophets, from Amos to Second Isaiah formed a remarkable succession of men, whose impact upon the religion of later centuries cannot be overestimated. They were different from the 'sons of the prophets' or prophetic guilds, for they were individuals with a compulsive sense of mission who spoke often against their own will in a way which endangered their own security. Their oracles, sermons, threats, and promises offer an interpretation of history which is unique in the ancient world. They did not represent the interests of a class or dynasty, or a nation. They hailed the sovereignty of the creator of the universe, even at the price of national extermination.

(1) Amos, the first of the great prophets, like Elijah, preached the universalism of Yahweh's jurisdiction. He traced the existence of all mankind to Yahweh's activity. Such a faith was certainly present in the Yahwist publisher of the patriarchal and covenantal traditions, but Amos applies it to concrete cases. Yahweh not only brought the Israelites out of Egypt, but also the Philistines from Caphtor and the Aramaeans from Kir (Am.9.7). More extraordinary still, even the distant Ethiopians are the object of His concern. Ethics, not ritual, was the basis of the covenant in the wilderness (Am.5.21-25). Covenant solidarity or righteousness must roll down as perennial waters, and religion must embrace the totality of life. Amos championed the cause of the poor, and rebuked the social impurities connected with the cult. Ritual cannot save Israel from her appointed doom.

(2) Hosea was a disciple of Amos and the burden of his message is likewise one of threat based on the highest sense of Divine justice. At the same time, Hosea developed the theology of Divine love, not the sexuality of the ancient Semitic religionists, by which man achieves communion with the Divine forces, thereby enlisting them for the fertility of nature and of mankind, but the self-sacrificing compassion of an anxious father or devoted husband, who would suffer in order to reclaim the fallen. Not less stern than Amos in his ethical standards, Hosea is less occupied with denouncing social oppression. He sees in the coming catastrophe not the extermination of Israel but a judgment of chastening and of purification 'in the wilderness.' While Amos concentrated on ethical corruption, Hosea understood that the root of social irresponsibility was to be found in idolatry.

(3) Isaiah continued in Judah the work initiated by Amos and Hosea in Northern Israel. He proclaimed the Holy God, whose holiness fills the earth. For forty years, in many crises and under varying figures, Isaiah set forth his interpretation of Yahweh's will for His people. Man is in the hand of God as clay in the hand of a potter. The powerful Assyrian is but the rod by which the ruler of history is chastising Israel: when God's will is accomplished, the rod shall be broken and discarded (Is.10.5ff). Isaiah was credited by his disciples as the initiator of Davidic messianism, looking forward to a new economy of history when a shoot of the house of Jesse would establish a kingdom described in terms of a reconciled humanity, living in a new paradise (Is.9, 11). Even if these poems were not to be credited to him, it seems clear that he believed in the raising of a remnant which would be converted by faith in Yahweh. His attitude toward the perenniality of Zion is not altogether clear, for he may have altered his views in the course of his long life. The sudden deliverance from the siege in 701 BC may have caused him to believe that Jerusalem would never be destroyed.

(4) Micah of Moresheth, Isaiah's contemporary, maintained the stern theology of doom proclaimed by Amos. He was profoundly concerned by the oppression of the poor and he announced irrevocably the destruction of the Temple in Zion (Mic.3.12). One of his disciples summarized the teaching of the three great prophets of the 8th cent. in a formula on the demands of Yahweh which has become symbolic of the whole theology of prophetism, 'nothing but to do [covenantal] righteousness, to love mercy and to walk humbly [in communion] with [one's] God' (Mic.6.8).

(5) The Deuteronomists attempted to incorporate the high level of the 8th-cent. prophets in a body of laws for civil, criminal, and religious reformation. They saw that ritual should be retained. But the high places were to be eliminated and the cult was to be purified and centralized in Jerusalem, the chosen place of Yahweh's real presence. The ancient Covenant Code (Ex.20.21ff) which had been adapted through the centuries to changing conditions was completely revised, with new emphasis laid both on humanitarian morality and cultic fidelity. The preachers of Josiah's reform reflected on the theology of the covenant, insisted on the gracious character of the election, and preached inward and total devotion to the giver of life (Dt.6, 7).

(6) Jeremiah, the true heir of Hosea and Micah, discerned the dangers of a new formalism in the Deuteronomic reformation. He saw clearly that Yahweh was independent of a temple, even that of Jerusalem (Jer.7, 26). He understood that the covenant had been annulled and looked forward to a new covenant, when the law will be written no longer in a book but at the very core of man's intellect and will (Jer.31.31ff). By composing his intimate confessions, he gave impulse to religious introspection and profoundly influenced the literature of spirituality, from the psalms of lament and Job to the meditations of later Jewish and Christian saints. More specifically, he enabled the Judaeans exiled in Babylon to maintain their faith and their corporate identity (Jer.29), and must therefore be credited with having engendered Diaspora Judaism and indirectly the Christian Church.

(7) Habakkuk meditated on the problem of evil in history and developed the Isaianic concept of faith as a principle for living (Hab.2.4). His concept of joy at all cost, without any hope of material reward (3.17-18), announced the 'pure religion' of Job and the Psalmists (especially Ps.73).

(8) Ezekiel occupies a peculiar position in the prophetic development. He stood, on one side, as a true disciple of Jeremiah, and on the other, being the son of a Jerusalem priestly family, prepared the restoration of ritual and legal Judaism. As a pastor in time of despair, he broke down the concept of collective guilt and proclaimed the dogma of individual responsibility (Ezk.18). He thought of the Messiah as primarily a shepherd, one whose chief function would be to save individuals. As a successor of the Deuteronomists, he endeavoured to adapt prophetic concepts to priestly institutions. He accepted Isaiah's theme of Zion as the seat of Yahweh's real presence, and was instrumental in preparing a blueprint for the construction of a new Temple with an elaborate system of worship sharply distinguishing between the sacred and the profane and between clergy and laity (Ezk.40-48). His disciples composed the Code of Holiness (Lv.17-26) which revised ancient laws and adapted them to a new era.

(9) Second Isaiah (40-55) was the last of the great prophets. The anonymous poet of the exile proclaimed with a unique display of poetic and theological skill the certainty that Yahweh was the creator of the Universe, the ruler of the world, and the maker of history. Cyrus was hailed as the agent of deliverance. Israel is to be forever the servant of Yahweh, whose election is related to a universalistic mission. That mission was nothing less than to bring all the nations of the world to Yahweh. The path of this service was one of suffering and death. It is probable that Second Isaiah, on account of the Hebrew concept of collective personality, thought also of a lonely sufferer, the incarnation of Israel, whose death would be interpreted as an atoning sacrifice (Is.53).

The prophets have developed in the course of three centuries a unique interpretation of God, the world, man, and history. The Mosaic covenant, through their intervention, assumed a new meaning, which prevented the Judaean exiles from disintegrating and which created spiritual as well as ritual Judaism.
top

5. The religion of post-exilic Judaism.

The rehabilitation of the Jewish community in Palestine during the Persian period was wholly due to a theology of cultic presence in Zion. If there were prophets, such as Haggai and Zechariah, Malachi and Joel, they uttered their visions to persuade the people to restore and maintain the sacred ceremonies. Nevertheless, the spirit of the great prophets had left a perennial trace.

(1) The Priestly Document became the cornerstone of restored Judaism and the framework of the written Pentateuch. Prom the prophets, the priests received and developed the lofty monotheism of Judaism. While the ritual which they proposed had been inherited largely from Semitic paganism, they transformed it to a remarkable degree in an attempt to inspire and transform the whole life of their community. They rewrote the history of the people, beginning with the myth of creation (Gn.1.1ff), in order to justify their sacramental experience of communion with the maker of heaven and earth. They related the ritual laws, such as sabbath and circumcision, to the whole scheme of universal existence and of Israel's peculiar mission in history. This latter consideration, however, led them at the same time to accelerate the trend toward separatism from the world. For example, the menial tasks in the sanctuary were no longer to be performed by foreigners. The Levites, or descendants of the provincial priests who have been centralized in Jerusalem at the time of Josiah's reformation, became the attendants of the Temple. Sacrificial theology, through the experiences of the exile and the widespread awareness of national sin, changed its character, from a joyous communion meal to a ritual of atonement. The effects of the priestly ritual, however, were not as deadening as one might suppose. Various factors prevented it from stifling the religious vitality of the congregation. The teachings of the prophets were cherished and taught to children. During the exile, the Jews had learned to live a life of intense spirituality without the benefits or the shackles of ritual.

(2) The Psalter testifies to the extraordinary complexity of religion in the postexilic period. There is little doubt that in its present form, the Psalter was the hymnal of the Second Temple, but it represented the growth of all the centuries of the religious history of Israel from the time of Moses and David. Ancient hymns, some of which were borrowed from Canaanite liturgies, were adapted to covenantal faith and the historical theme now completely transformed the ancient naturistic ceremonies of the festivals. The hard lessons from history were presented lyrically or epically in the light of the prophetic interpretation of history. The joy of Divine presence, the burden of sin-consciousness either on the national or on the individual level, together with the delight of deliverance were sung in a great variety of style and imagery. Paradoxically, the Psalms composed chiefly for cultic celebration, and edited by Temple musicians for Temple ceremonies, adopt a rather lofty attitude of detachment toward sacrificial duties and may reflect levitical bias against priestly privileges and arrogance. Above all, the Psalter is penetrated with eschatological fever, insisting that Yahweh will triumph at the end of history since in the context of the cultic act. He is king for ever and ever.

(3) Ritual and legal exclusivism was represented by the priests and reformers of the type of Nehemiah and Ezra, who advocated divorce of foreign wives for the sake of racial and ritual purity. However, other voices were raised by powerful nonconformists who used literature as a vehicle of protest. Jonah and Ruth, with their concerns for the Ninevites and the Moabites respectively, together with the universalism of some parts of Joel and Malachi, reveal that Judaism after the Exile was not a monolithic monument of ritual observance but included within its ranks dynamic elements which continued in their own way the work of the pre-exilic giants of prophecy.

(4) There was also a class of men who lived apart from the ceremonies of the Temple, seemingly untouched by the concerns of the priests. They were the successors of the ancient sages, public servants who from the time of Solomon had worked in the diplomatic corps of the nation and had been in close contact with the intelligentsia of foreign courts. They treated religious and ethical problems of living from that practical common-sense point of view which the Hebrews called hokhmah, Wisdom. The books produced by this class exercised a profound religious influence on later generations. The oldest of these, the Poem of Job, discusses in some of the noblest poetry ever written, the problem of existence in the light of undeserved suffering. The poet appears to have borrowed an ancient folktale as a setting for a discussion in which he treats his theme with complete freedom of thought, untrammelled by priestly or legal concerns. In his conclusion, he is more than a wise man and proves to be a prophet. Job does not find satisfaction till he receives an immediate vision of God, and becomes willing, through contemplative participation in the mystery of creation, to trust the Divine person, although his intellectual problem remains unsolved.

The Book of Proverbs contains the sayings of the sages of the practical, every-day sort. Wisdom is good because it rewards, and the fear of Yahweh (awesome reverence without the extreme of cultic practices) is the beginning of wisdom. Ecclesiastes (Koheleth) is the work of a wise man who has not lost his faith although his outlook on life's mystery is both blase and serene. The fact that his book was preserved indicates the extent of the influence exercised by intellectual classes in the midst of Judaism.

(5) During the post-exilic period, the religious life of the scattered communities was centred in the synagogues. These 'houses of prayer' became the most potent factor in the preservation and development of Jewish faith in an alien culture. The education of the young together with sabbath worship were thus insured and the heritage of the past was transmitted to future generations. As often as they could, the Jews of the dispersion made pilgrimages to the Temple in Jerusalem and took part, especially at the time of the great festivals, in the ritual worship of the priestly community. Contact with pagan culture, however, broadened the vision and the piety of the Jews of the Diaspora. They saw that many heathen were actually decent individuals. At the same time, they began to make proselytes. The translation into Greek of their sacred Law, and later of the books of the prophets, which began in the 3rd cent. BC, was demanded not only for the use of the Greek-speaking Jews, but also as an instrument in the hands of those who would fulfil the missionary conception of Second Isaiah and win the world to Yahweh. Towards the end of this period, a missionary literature began to be written. One portion of this, the Sibylline Oracles, the oldest part of which dates perhaps from the Maccabaean age, represented the Sibyl, who was popular in the Hellenistic world, as recounting in Greek hexameters the history of the chosen people.
top

6. The triumph of Legalism.

With the beginning of the Hasmonaean dynasty, the creative period of Biblical Judaism began to wane, and the leaders, gathering up the heritage of the past, were crystallizing it into permanent form. This did not come about all at once, and its beginnings went back to the early postexilic times. The writers of the priestly law were the real intellectual and spiritual ancestors of the Hasidim, or enthusiasts for the Law, out of whom the Maccabaean heroes emerged. Until after the Maccabaean struggle, however, the religious life was too varied, and the nation too creative, for the priestly conceptions to impose themselves in a sort of cultural conformism. The struggle of the Maccabees for the life of the faith greatly strengthened the Hasidim, who early in the Hasmonaean rule developed into the Pharisees. More numerous than the Sadducees, and possessing among the country people a much greater reputation for piety, they soon became the dominant party in Palestine. Some might split off from them, and the Essenes, either at Qumran or elsewhere, would develop a full-fledged sect, within and apart from, the larger community of Judaism. The Pharisees' aim was to apply the Law to all the details of the daily life. Some of its provisions were disturbing. It called on the Jews not to work on the sabbath, but some work was necessary, if man would live. The Pharisees endeavoured, therefore, to define what was and was not work within the meaning of the Pentateuch. Similarly they dealt with other laws. These definitions were not, for some centuries, committed to writings. Thus there grew up an Oral Law side by side with the Written Law, and in due time the Pharisees regarded this as of special authority. There was development and growth, of course, but this was accomplished, not by creating the new, but by interpreting the old. In the rabbinic schools, which were developed in the Roman period, this system fully unfolded itself, and formed in due course Talmudic Judaism.

Beginning with the Maccabaean struggles, a new class of literature, the Apocalyptic, was called into existence. The eschatological fever which had inspired the prophets and many of the psalmists was now transformed, under the impact of national suffering and persecution, into a furious attempt to discover the date of the end of the world and of the advent of the reign of God. The Apocalypse of Daniel (165-164 BC) became the pattern of a vast body of documents in which visions of the last throes were elaborately described. No fewer than seven of these works were attributed to Enoch, and six to Baruch; one was ascribed to Moses, one to Isaiah, while each of the twelve sons of Jacob had his 'testament,' and Solomon his 'psalms.'

In this literature, the consciousness of Judaism, in conflict fir