1. People
    1. Mesopotamian; patriarch Abraham left Ur c. 2000 BC
    2. Settled in Canaan some time before 1500 BC
    3. Emigrated to Egypt, probably about the time of the Hyksos domination in the Third Intermediate Period (1800-1600 BC)
    4. Experienced forced labor in Egypt
    5. Left Egypt c. 1250 BC; Exodus forged identity as a people and formed view of God
  2. History
    1. No extant written accounts of Hebrews before the Exodus; Bible written between 1200 and 150 BC
    2. Other accounts:

                                                               i.      Semitic-speaking tribes settled in northern Egypt after 1800 BC;

                                                             ii.      Foreigners dominated during the Third Intermediate Period;

                                                            iii.      “Habiru” (landless aliens from “abiru” or foreigner) expelled or forced to build garrisoned cities for pharaohs

  1. Religion
    1. Period of the Exodus crucial: view of God changed from Henotheism to Monotheism
    2. Conception of God:

                                                               i.      Absolute transcendence;

                                                             ii.      Unitary;

                                                            iii.      Incorporeal (could not be described or represented in visual terms);

                                                           iv.      YHVH (Yahweh) or “to be” (God the creator);

                                                             v.      Eternal (Alpha and Omega);

                                                           vi.      Omniscient;

                                                          vii.      Omnipotent;

                                                        viii.      Omnipresent;

                                                           ix.      Omnibenevolent;

                                                             x.      Unchanging;

                                                           xi.      Adonai or Lord

    1. Source of the moral laws/standards: Covenant.


*** Covenant was solemn agreement between God and his People given to Moses on Mount Sinai whereby the Hebrews received and accepted God’s law and God promised His blessing on His People. Failure to observe covenant brought punishment (Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Jeremiah) ***


    1. Conception of human nature:

                                                               i.      Created by God in His image;

                                                             ii.      Given dominion over earth;

                                                            iii.      Possessed moral autonomy;

                                                           iv.      Owed obedience to the Torah;

                                                             v.      Should live in accord with divine will (Prophets warned people to avoid God’s wrath by living good and ethical lives);

                                                           vi.      Communicated with God through prayer and meditation.

  1. Political History
    1. Election of Saul as first king (reigned 1024-1000 BC)
    2. Capital at Jerusalem established by David (1000-961 BC)
    3. Wealth from commerce and taxes used by Solomon (ruled 961-922 BC) to construct the first temple at Jerusalem
    4. After Solomon, nation split into two halves – Israel in the North (Israel means wrestler with God) and Judah in the South (fourth son of Jacob and Leah and one of the 12 tribes of Israel)
    5. Israel conquered by the Assyrians 722 BC
    6. Judah conquered by the Chaldeans 586 BC (Babylonian Captivity. Prophets: God had intended conquest as a punishment; Jeremiah told of new covenant between the individual and God)
    7. Persians conquered Mesopotamia in 537 BC and allowed Hebrews to return to Jerusalem
    8. Second temple dedicated 515 BC
    9. No independent state until 142 BC


As Perry notes in his section on “The Hebrew Idea of History,” the importance of God’s dealings with his people in the past was important to the Jewish understanding of the present and the future. Thus, the Hebrews were the first people to write long narratives of human events in order to understand God’s will and purpose.