1 11.1. Introduction Chapter 11 The Origins of Judaism How did Judaism originate and develop? In this chapter, you will learn about a group of people who lived northeast of Egypt. These people were known as the Israelites, later called Jews. Jewish civilization developed gradually after about 1800 B.C.E. and continues to flourish today. The people who became the Jews originally lived in Mesopotamia. Around 1950 B.C.E., they moved to Canaan. Canaan was located on a strip of land extending along the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea. The Israelites, sometimes called Hebrews, were the ancestors of the Jewish people. Judaism is the religion of the Jewish people and is one of the world s most influential religious traditions. The origins of Judaism and its basic teachings and laws are recorded in its most sacred text, the Torah. The word Torah means teaching. The Torah consists of the first five books of the Hebrew Bible. This bible is also called the Tanakh (TAH-nahkh). In addition to the Torah, the Hebrew Bible includes two collections of texts known as the Prophets and the Writings. Christians use a version of the Hebrew Bible as their Old Testament. In this chapter, you will find out about the origins, or beginnings, of Judaism. You will read about some of the early history of the Jewish people, as told in the Hebrew Bible. You will also meet four leaders of the ancient Israelites Abraham, Moses, and kings David and Solomon (SAH-leh-mehn) and learn about their contributions to the development of Judaism. Bible. The Torah scroll contains the first five books of the Hebrew
2 11.2. What We Know About the Ancient Israelites Historians rely on sources of information such as artifacts and writings, including the Torah and the other parts of the Hebrew Bible. From such sources, scholars have learned much about the ancient Israelites and the development of Judaism. The Torah The Torah contains written records and teachings of the Jews, and 613 commandments that direct moral and religious conduct. As often happened in ancient times, accounts of the history of the Jewish people were handed down orally from generation to generation. Later on, these stories and traditions were written down. Besides the Torah and the other parts of the Hebrew Bible, historians look at additional sources of information about events and ideas in early Jewish history. Historians often examine archaeological artifacts as well as written records to gain a better understanding of life in this time period. Every Torah scroll is handwritten by a specially trained scribe on sheets of parchment made from animal skins. The Early History of the Israelites According to the Torah, the ancestor of the Israelites was a man named Abraham who lived near Ur in Mesopotamia. Around 1950 B.C.E., Abraham and his family migrated to Canaan, a region of land along the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea. Settling in Canaan, the Israelites herded flocks of sheep and goats. About 1800 B.C.E., according to the first book of the Torah, a famine forced many Israelites to flee from Canaan to Egypt. For a while, the Israelites prospered in Egypt, but eventually they were enslaved. In time, one of their leaders, Moses,
3 led the Israelites in their escape from Egypt. For 40 years, says the Torah, the Israelites traveled in the wilderness, until they settled once again in Canaan. By 1000 B.C.E., the Israelites had set up the kingdom of Israel in Canaan. Israel was ruled by King David and then by his son, King Solomon. David united the Israelites into one kingdom. Solomon built a magnificent temple in the capital city. When Solomon died, in about 930 B.C.E., the kingdom of Israel separated into two kingdoms Israel in the north and Judah in the south Important Jewish Leaders KevinAlexanderGeorge /istockphoto.com The ancient Jewish leaders Abraham and Moses (at left), and David (at far right), were honored in these 13th century statues at the Chartres Cathedral in France. In this way, Christianity honored its Jewish origins. The Hebrew Bible tells of the lives of early Jewish leaders. Four key leaders were Abraham, Moses, David, and Solomon. Abraham Abraham is called the father of the Jews. One central idea of Judaism is the belief in a single God. According to the Torah, it was Abraham who introduced this belief to the Israelites, ancestors of the Jews. This was a new idea
4 in the ancient world. At that time, most people worshiped many gods and goddesses. According to the Torah, God first spoke to Abraham, telling him to move his family from Mesopotamia to Canaan. God also promised to make Abraham the father of a great nation and to bless this nation. Abraham did as he was told, and his descendants became known as the Jewish people. Moses The greatest leader of the Israelites was Moses. The Torah tells how he led his people out of slavery in Egypt. Moses told the Israelites that God would lead them to Canaan, the promised land, in exchange for their faithful obedience. Moses also gave Judaism its fundamental teachings. The Torah tells how God gave Moses ten important commandments, or laws, engraved on two stone tablets. These teachings became the foundation of Judaism. The books of the Torah are also called the Five Books of Moses. Kings David and Solomon After escaping from Egypt and traveling in the wilderness, the Israelites returned to Canaan. It was here that they created a united kingdom, called Israel, during the reigns of King David and his son, King Solomon. King David established Jerusalem as a holy city and the capital of Israel. King Solomon built Jerusalem s great First Temple. To the Israelites, and later the Jews, the city of Jerusalem and its Temple became powerful symbols of their faith in God. You will now learn more about each of these four important leaders. Let s find out what the Hebrew Bible tells about them The Life of Abraham: Father of the Jews Some scholars believe that Abraham, originally named Abram (AY-brum), was born about 2000 B.C.E. in Ur in Mesopotamia. The people of Ur worshiped many gods. But Abram came to believe that there was one true God. This belief would set Judaism apart from other ancient religions. Abram s special relationship to God would become the foundation of the Jewish faith. Abraham s Covenant with God According to the Torah, the faith that would become Judaism began with a sacred agreement, or covenant, between God and Abram. When Abram was about 50 years old, the Torah says that God visited him.
5 God said to him, Leave your own country and your father s house, and go to a country that I will show you. God promised to make Abram the father of a great nation of people. This map shows the route that Abraham may have taken when God told him to leave his home in Ur and go to the land of Canaan. Abram obeyed. Around 1950 B.C.E., he gathered his many relatives and went west into the land of Canaan.
6 The Torah says that when Abram was 99 years old, God spoke to him again: I will make a covenant between myself and you. God promised to love and protect Abram s descendants, meaning Abram s children and the generations that would follow. In return, Abram agreed that he and his people would always devote themselves to God. To mark their covenant, the Torah says, God gave Abram a new name, Abraham, which means father of many. God also promised the land of Canaan to Abraham s people. For Jews, Canaan became the promised land. According to the Torah, the covenant meant that Jews would set an example by their actions for how God wanted people to live. Robert Harding Picture Library/SuperStock According to the Hebrew Bible, God sent angels to Abraham (right) and Sarah (left) to tell them that they would have a son. Abraham s Descendants Many years earlier, before Abram left the city of Ur, he had married a beautiful woman named Sarai. She endured many hardships as she traveled with her husband to Canaan and Egypt. As the years passed, she did not have any children. The Torah says that God promised that Abraham s wife would have a son. God gave Sarai a new name, Sarah, which means princess. A year later, Sarah gave birth to Isaac. The Torah says that she was 90 and Abraham was 100 years old when their son was born. As Isaac s mother, Sarah was the ancestress of the Jewish people.
7 According to the Torah, the Jewish people are descended from Abraham and Sarah, through their son Isaac and his wife Rebekah. Rebekah gave birth to Jacob, whose name was later changed to Israel. The descendants of Jacob, Abraham s grandson, were the Israelites. They flourished as a nation made up of 12 tribes. Abraham made many contributions to the development of Judaism. He introduced the belief in a single God. Because of his covenant with God, Jews believed that they should set an example of how to live. Their reward was the promised land. These beliefs became a central part of Judaism The Life of Moses: Leader of the Israelites Scala / Art Resource, NY According to the Torah, Moses parted the waters of the Sea of Reeds. Jewish people believe that this miracle proved that God was watching over them. Moses was a great leader of the Israelites. The Torah tells how Moses led the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt and gave them God s laws and teachings to live by. The Exodus from Egypt By the time of Moses, in the 1300s B.C.E., a large group of Abraham s descendants were living in Egypt. There, the Torah says, the Israelites increased in number and became very powerful. Fearful of their growing strength, the pharaoh forced them into slavery. According to the Torah, God told Moses, I will send you to the pharaoh, and you shall free my people. Moses went before the pharaoh, the Torah continues, and told him to let the Israelites go free. When the pharaoh refused, God punished Egypt with ten terrible
8 plagues. Finally, the pharaoh gave in. Moses began to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. According to the Torah, the pharaoh soon changed his mind. The Egyptian army chased after the Israelites and nearly caught up with them at the edge of the Sea of Reeds. But Moses raised his staff (walking stick), says the Torah, and the waters of the sea parted. The Israelites crossed safely to the other side. When the Egyptians tried to follow, the waters flooded over the army, drowning the soldiers. The Israelites escaped. The Torah calls the flight from Egypt to freedom the Exodus, which means departure. The Exodus became a central event in the history of the Jewish people. The Ten Commandments As it is told in the Torah, after the Israelites left Egypt, they traveled through a wilderness for 40 years. During this time, God gave Moses the laws and teachings that became the foundation of Judaism. Some of these laws are called the Ten Commandments. The Torah says that Moses received the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai, the Mountain of God. Alone, Moses had gone up the mountain to pray. He returned carrying two tablets of stone. Engraved on the tablets were the Ten Commandments. Some of the commandments listed the Israelites duties to God. For example, one commandment was, You shall have no other gods besides me. This commandment reminded the Israelites of their promise to worship only one God. Another commandment told the Israelites to set aside one day a week, the Sabbath, for rest and worship. Other commandments laid down basic moral teachings (ideas about the right way to live). For example, one said, You shall honor your father and mother. Other commandments forbade stealing, lying, and murdering. The Ten Commandments stated some of Judaism s basic teachings. The Torah says that by obeying God s commandments, the Jewish people would fulfill their part of the covenant with him. Their responsibility was to make God s moral teachings known to the world. In turn, God would protect them. Moses made several key contributions to the development of Judaism. First, he led the Exodus out of Egypt. Jews have celebrated this event ever since to remember the journey from slavery to freedom and as proof that God watched over them. Second, Moses gave Judaism some of its most fundamental laws and
9 teachings, which Jews and Christians call the Ten Commandments. Third, Moses forged the Israelites into a united Jewish people devoted to a single God. This map shows Moses possible route in the Exodus from Egypt. Find where the Torah says he received the Ten Commandments.
10 10.6. The Lives of David and Solomon: Kings of Israel Archivo Iconografico, S.A./Corbis In this painting, Kind David leads a procession to bring the sacred Ark, holding the tablets of the Ten Commandments, into Jerusalem. After their travels in the wilderness, the Israelites settled once more in Canaan. The Hebrew Bible describes how they built a kingdom, called Israel, and the great First Temple during the reigns of two kings, David and Solomon. David Expands the Kingdom of Israel In David s time, about 1000 B.C.E., the Israelites were at war with a rival people, the Philistines (FIH-lih-steenz). According to the Hebrew Bible, the Philistines promised to be the Israelites slaves if an Israelite could beat their fiercest warrior, the giant Goliath (guh-lie-uhth). As it is told in the Hebrew Bible, David was not yet a grown man, but he was outraged at Goliath s mockery of God. Bravely, he stepped forward. His only weapon was a slingshot. With one mighty throw, he felled Goliath with a stone. David s courage and faith were rewarded when he became king of the Israelites after the first king, Saul, fell in battle. According to the Hebrew Bible, God said, The Israelite kingdom will remain with him and with his children and his children s children forever. As king, David completed the defeat of the Philistines as well as other enemies. He united the Israelites into a single nation known as Israel. He created a strong central government. He gave the new kingdom its own army, courts, and officials. David himself served as the nation s chief priest. He was also a poet and
11 a musician. Many of the Psalms in the Writings in the Hebrew Bible are attributed to David. David chose Jerusalem as the capital city. Under his rule, this city became the center of Israel s political and religious life. David brought the Israelites most sacred object, the Ark of the Covenant, to Jerusalem. The Ark was a wood and gold chest that held the tablets of the Ten Commandments. As the home of the Ark, Jerusalem became a holy city. Bettmann/CORBIS Solomon built the magnificent First Temple in Jerusalem. Today, the site of the Temple of Jerusalem is regarded by Jews as the holiest place in the world. Solomon Builds the Great Temple of Jerusalem After David s death, his son, Solomon, became king about 965 B.C.E. Solomon built a magnificent temple in Jerusalem to house the Ark of the Covenant and to serve as the center of Jewish worship. According to the Hebrew Bible, he told God, Thus all the peoples of the earth will know Your name. Building the First Temple in Jerusalem was King-Solomon s major achievement. He also strengthened the kingdom of Israel by making treaties with neighboring kingdoms. And he increased foreign trade and developed industries such as copper mining and metal-working. Solomon was also a poet. The Book of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes in the Writings in the Hebrew Bible are attributed to him. Kings David and Solomon made major contributions to Judaism. They laid
12 the foundation for kings to govern the Jews for more than 400 years. David established Jerusalem as a holy city. Solomon built the great First Temple of Jerusalem. Because of the acts of David and Solomon, Jerusalem would always be the most holy city to the Jews, as well as a powerful symbol of their faith. Summary In this chapter, you read about the ancient Israelites and the origins of Judaism. You learned about four Jewish leaders who helped Judaism develop. Ancient Israelites Historians study artifacts and writings such as the Hebrew Bible to learn about the ancient Israelites and the development of Judaism. The Torah has the first five books of the Hebrew Bible and commandments that direct Jewish life. Abraham, Father of the Jews Abraham introduced the belief in one God. He made a covenant with God to go to Canaan, and in turn God made him the father of the Jews. The Jews believed they should act in a way that would fulfill God s covenant. Moses, Leader of the Israelites Moses led the Israelites on an Exodus out of slavery in Egypt. At Mount Sinai, God gave Moses the Ten Commandments, basic laws and teachings of Judaism. Moses united the Jews into a people who worshiped one God. Kings David and Solomon David defeated the Philistines, united the Israelites in a new nation called Israel, and made Jerusalem the capital and a holy city. Solomon, David s son, built the First Temple in Jerusalem, signed treaties, and increased trade. Both men were also poets with parts of the Hebrew Bible attributed to them. Chapter Vocabulary Torah: Judaism s most sacred text, consisting of the first five books of the Hebrew Bible Israelite: an early name for the Jewish people Judaism: the first religion to worship one God, developed among the ancient Israelites tradition: an inherited or customary pattern of thought, action, or behavior eventually: at a later time
13 Israel: the Israelites kingdom; divided about 930 B.C.E. into two kingdoms called Judah and Israel slavery: the state of a person who is treated as the property of another fundamental: at the most basic level foundation: the solid support on which things are built Jerusalem: the holiest city of the Jews; capital of the ancient kingdoms of Israel and then Judah symbol: character or picture that is used to represent something else covenant: an agreement or promise Exodus: the escape of the Israelites from Egyptian slavery to freedom Ten Commandments: ten laws and teachings said to have been given to Moses by God
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