Friday, June 25, 2010

The history of Ancient Israel

The history of Ancient Israel and Judah is known to us from classical sources including Judaism's Tanakh or Hebrew Bible (known to Christianity as the Old Testament), the Talmud, the Ethiopian Kebra Nagast, the writings of Nicolaus of Damascus, Artapanas, Philo of Alexandria and Flavius Josephus supplemented by ancient sources uncovered by biblical archaeology including Egyptian, Moabite, Assyrian, Babylonian as well as Israelite and Judean inscriptions.

It was also subject to domination by adjacent empires, beginning with Egypt in the late 3rd millennium BCE.

Traditions regarding the early history found in later works such as the Kebra Nagast and commentaries of Rashi, Philo of Alexandria, and numerous others, (besides of course, the Tanakh) refer to the early inhabitants as the sons of Shem and also speak of an invasion by the people known as Canaanites (see Canaan) descended from Ham.

The Book of Jubilees states that the land was originally allotted to Shem and Arphaxad (ancestor of the Hebrews) when it was still vacant, but was wrongfully occupied by Canaan and his son Sidon. Jubilees makes this, then, the true justification for the later war to drive out the Canaanites.

The Kebra Nagast, however, speaks of the Canaanites invading existing cities of Shem and Ibn Ezra, similarly notes that they had seized land from earlier inhabitants. Rashi mentions that the Canaanites were seizing land from the sons of Shem in the days of Abraham.

The patriarchal period

The patriarchal period begins with Abraham. The Bible places the events surrounding Abraham (originally Abram) circa 1800 BCE, give or take 100 years. The account of his life is found in Genesis 11, at the close of a genealogy of the sons of Shem (which includes among its members Eber, the eponym of the Hebrews).

His father Terah came from Ur Kasdim. His father moved his family, including his son Abram, from Ur Kasdim to the city of Haran.


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