History of the Jews – West Asian religion

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The Pharaoh's daughter picks Moses up out of his basket (synagogue at Dura Europos, Syria, 200s AD)

The Pharaoh’s daughter picks Moses up out of his basket (synagogue at Dura Europos, Syria, 200s AD)

There are really three sets of articles here about the Jews and Judaism. First, there are the Bible stories. These articles tell the most important stories in simple words, using illustrations from the ancient and medieval worlds. Genesis starts with Creation and Adam and Eve. Then Cain kills Abel, and God sends the Flood but saves Noah. Noah’s descendants built the Tower of Babel. After God destroys that, too, Abraham left Mesopotamia and moved to Israel. Abraham’s son Isaac had a son Jacob, and Jacob’s son Joseph moved to Egypt, with many other Jews. But after a while the Jews were slaves in Egypt. Moses saved them, gave them the Ten Commandments, and brought them back to Israel. Joshua conquered Israel from the Canaanites. Samson fought a Philistine invasion, and David killed the Philistine Goliath and became king of Israel. David’s son Solomon ruled after him, but then Israel split into two kingdoms. So far these are all Bible stories, not history. But at this point, the Bible more or less joins up with history.

Maccabean coin from about 100 BC, showing a menorah with 7 branches.

Maccabean coin from about 100 BC, showing a menorah with 7 branches.

Seal of King Hezekiah, from Judah, about 700 BC

Seal of King Hezekiah, from Judah, about 700 BC

So next, there’s the history articles. While many of the Bible stories have some truth to them, historians today know a lot more facts that were not available to the people who wrote the Bible. Our history articles start with the Stone Age. The Jews lived quietly in Israel until the Egyptians conquered them in the New Kingdom. They formed their own kingdom after the New Kingdom collapsed at the end of the Bronze Age.

About 700 BC, Israel split into two kingdoms, and the Assyrians conquered Israel and scattered the Jews who lived there. In the 600s, the Babylonians conquered Judah and took many Jews to live in the Babylonian Captivity. The Persians freed the Jews again in the 500s BC: the Bible stories of Esther and Daniel come from this time. After the Romans conquered Israel, the Jews tried to get free in the First Jewish Revolt, then the Second Jewish Revolt.

A Jewish tombstone from the Roman Empirewith Greek writing and menorahs (Vatican Museum, Rome)

A Jewish tombstone from the Roman Empire with Greek writing and menorahs (Vatican Museum, Rome)

After that, the Romans made most of the Jews leave Israel. Now that they had no land to farm, many Jews became traders. In the Middle Ages, some Jews (like Rashi) lived in Europe, and others (like Maimonides) lived in the Islamic Empire.

A third set of articles explain the major Jewish holidays, where they came from, and how they’re related to the holidays of other West Asian religions like Zoroastrianism and Christianity, and even to holidays in China! Find out what a rabbi is, what a synagogue is, and what the Talmud is. There’s articles about Yom Kippur, Rosh HashanahPurim, Passover, Sukkot, and Hanukkah, with some activities to go with them like making latkes and playing the dreidel game.

Read some Bible stories
Read some Jewish history
Or read more about Jewish holidays 

Bibliography and further reading about the history of Judaism:

  

Read some Bible stories
Read some Jewish history
Or read more about Jewish holidays 
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By |2018-04-08T01:10:57+00:00August 24th, 2017|History, Religion, West Asia|0 Comments
Cite this page: Carr, K.E. History of the Jews – West Asian religion. Quatr.us Study Guides, August 24, 2017. Web. September 21, 2018.

About the Author:

Dr. Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram, Pinterest, or Facebook, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.

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