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Philip R. Davies, one of the leading scholars of Ancient Israel in recent years, begins by examining the relevance of the study of Ancient Israel, giving an overview of the sources and issues facing historians in approaching the material. Davies then continues by looking at the various theories and hypotheses that scholars have advanced throughout the 20th century, showing how different approaches are presented and in some cases how they are both underpinned and undermined by a range of ideological perspectives.

After this helpful survey of past methodologies Davies introduces readers to the current trends in biblical scholarship in the present day, covering areas such as cultural memory, the impact of literary and social scientific theory, and the notion of 'invented history'.

Finally, Davies considers the big question: how the various sources of knowledge can be combined to write a modern history that combines and accounts for all the data available, in a meaningful way. Prologue 1. Orientation 'History' 2. What is History? Origins of Ancient Historiography 4. Biblical Historiography 'Israel' 5. Ancient Israels in the Iron age 6.

Archaeology 8.

In This Article

Case Studies Bibliographical Review Bibliography Indexes. Davies biblical studies, Univ. For many readers, the book will be an introduction to new methodologies and conceptual approaches to the study of the relevant fields indeed, of history as a whole resulting from the newest social theorizing, archaeological investigation, and other approaches, which are all described in considerable detail. Summing Up: Recommended.

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History of Ancient Israel - Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Religion

Advanced undergraduates and graduate students, as well as scholars in related areas of study. Moses was unable to enter the land himself owing to a misunderstanding with this god and passed his leadership to his second-in-command, Joshua, who then led the Israelites to victory over the indigenous people and divided the land among his own Deuteronomy , Joshua It has been established, however, that something of moment did occur c.

Some modern-day scholars completely reject the claim of a conquest and point to archaeological evidence to support their contention that the Israelites peacefully assimilated with the Canaanites and that belief in a conquest of the region by an Israelite general only emerged much later during the period of the Babylonian Captivity of BCE and was only codified as part of the biblical narrative during the Second Temple Period c. They elevated a minor Canaanite deity, Yahweh , to the level of supreme being and then instituted religious practices to further distance themselves from others in the region.

According to this theory, there was no conquest but only a gradual assimilation of immigrants into the general population of the region. As the Ark was thought to contain the living presence of God, bringing it to Jerusalem would have made the city both a political and religious center of considerable importance. The Kingdom of Israel prospered under the reigns of the kings Omri c. By the time of the reign of King Hezekiah of Judah c. Miller and Hayes note:. Israel ceased to exist as an independent kingdom quite early in the period of Assyrian domination.

Its capital at Samaria was captured in BCE, and Israelite territory was incorporated subsequently into the Assyrian provincial system.

Understanding the History of Ancient Israel

Judah maintained its national identity throughout this period but was almost completely dominated by Assyria. The exception to this domination was the city of Jerusalem which withstood Assyrian aggression. Hezekiah, according to the Bible, witnessed the fall of Samaria and focused on preparations to protect his capital city of Jerusalem. The Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar II r. Babylon was conquered by the Persians under Cyrus the Great d. The destruction of their cities, and deportation from a land they believed had been promised them by their god, forced the Jewish clergy to re-think their religious beliefs.

Although the Bible generally presents a picture of a people who were unwavering in their monotheism, there is evidence even in those narratives that the people recognized and worshipped other deities such as the Ugaritic goddess Asherah, the Phoenician god Baal, and the Sumerian sun god Utu-Shamash , among others. The tribal desert god Yahweh, as noted, was advanced as the supreme deity as early as the reign of King Saul. As in many ancient belief systems and modern ones , faith in Yahweh relied on quid pro quo — an agreement, spoken or unspoken, that one would receive what one desired in return for something else.

The people were expected to honor Yahweh and worship him and, in return, he would help them and keep them safe. When the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem and its temple and deported the leading citizens, some reason had to be found for why God had abandoned them and, exiled in Babylon, the Hebrew clerics concluded it was because they had not worshipped Yahweh exclusively. The Babylonian Captivity, then, was the turning point in Israelite religious belief and practice and, moving forward, it would be characterized by a strict monotheism.

The era encompassing the return of the Jews to their homeland and the revision of their religious beliefs is known as the Second Temple Period c.

The Babylonian Captivity and resulting reformation of belief essentially created the religion of Judaism as recognized today. The synagogue, rabbinical schools, and the canonization of Hebrew scripture can all be traced initially to this time even though other reforms would emerge later during and after the Jewish- Roman Wars. As he did in every region he conquered, Alexander introduced Hellenistic beliefs and cultural values in the region of Judea which some Jews accepted and others rejected.

The Seleucids held the region until the edicts of their king Antiochus IV Epiphanes BCE to establish Hellenistic religious practices in the region and especially the temple in Jerusalem brought about the Maccabean Revolt of c. The Maccabean Revolt c. Although traditionally viewed as an insurrection by religious freedom fighters led by Judas Maccabeus against foreign occupation and religious oppression, it is possible that the revolt began as a civil war between Jews who had embraced the Hellenism of the Seleucids and the traditionalists who rejected it and Antiochus IV became involved as an ally of the Hellenistic Jews.

However that may be, the Israelite victory over the Seleucids enabled them to found the Hasmonean Dynasty which would be the last independent Jewish kingdom in the region. The Hasmonaeans possibly so named for Asmoneus, an ancestor of the Maccabees engaged in a policy of expansion in which they claimed for themselves important trade centers formerly controlled by the wealthy Kingdom of Nabatea on their border.

These policies brought them into conflict with the Nabatean kings and also with each other for control of the kingdom. The wealth of the Nabatean Kingdom and civil wars of the Hasmonean Dynasty attracted the attention of Rome. The people of Judea resisted the occupation by Rome, however, and tensions finally erupted in the First Jewish-Roman War also known as the Great Revolt of CE which concluded with the Roman general Titus destroying Jerusalem and laying siege to the mountain fortress of Masada.

The defenders of Masada killed themselves rather than surrender or be taken and with their deaths the last resistance was broken and a large part of the population scattered or were sold into slavery. The second significant revolt was the Kitos War so-named from a corruption of the name of Lucius Quietus, the Roman general who put down the revolt, also known as the Second Jewish-Roman War of CE which resulted in further wide-scale slaughter and displacement of the population.

Led by Simon bar Kochba, the revolt was initially successful and he was able to establish his authority and rule the region for three years until the rebellion was crushed by Rome. Thousands of people were slaughtered and others scattered. Hadrian exiled all Jews from the region and prohibited their return on pain of death.


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Following the destruction of Judea and the resulting diaspora, Israel ceased to exist until the creation of the modern State of Israel in CE by the United Nations. This link between the ancient Kingdom of Israel and the modern state of the same name has been hotly contested through the years and continues to remain a contentious subject of debate. Editorial Review This Article has been reviewed for accuracy, reliability and adherence to academic standards prior to publication. We're a small non-profit organisation run by a handful of volunteers.

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The History of Ancient Israel

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Bibliography Israel Nelson, T. Thomas Nelson, Durant, W.