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The Political Economy of Ancient Israel

Jump to navigation. A century is a wholly arbitrary block of time. History surely does not proceed by year chunks. And to mark the beginning and end of a historical period by the start and finish of a particular century can be justified by nothing more than our attraction for round numbers. Mulling over Israelite history in this kind of casual way, I was struck with the confluence of significance in what we may call, at least roughly, the eighth century B. I ended up devoting the better part of a year to this study and finally concluded that this unlikely century was of extraordinary, if sometimes overlooked, importance.

True, devotees of the eighth century cannot point to the glories of David and Solomon, a time long gone. By the eighth century, the kingdom had split—Judah in the south and Israel in the north. Both kingdoms were living in the shadow of their illustrious past and were soon to be eclipsed totally by empires to the east.

Hyrcanus agreed to this, but the war against the Parthians didn't work and Antiochus died in Hyrcanus was able to take back Judea and keep his power. John Hyrcanus also kept good relations with the Roman and the Egyptians, owing to the large number of Jews living there. He defied his father's wishes that his mother should take over the government and instead had her and all of his brothers except for one thrown in prison.

The one not thrown in prison was later killed on his orders. The most significant thing he did during his one-year-reign was conquer most of Ituraea. After his death, he was succeeded by his brother Alexander Jannaeus , who was only concerned with power and conquest. He also married his brother's widow, showing little respect for Jewish law. His first conquest was Ptolemais. The people called to Ptolemy IX for aid, as he was in Cyprus. Alexander was not a popular ruler. This caused a civil war in Jerusalem that lasted for six years. After Alexander Janaeaus' death, his widow became ruler, but not high priest.

With their help, Herod had seized Jerusalem by Henotheism is defined in the dictionary as adherence to one god out of several.

The Great Eighth Century

In this transitional period many followers of the Israelite religion worshiped the god Yahweh but did not deny the existence of other deities accepted throughout the region. There are strong arguments that Mesopotamia, particularly Assyria shared the concept of the cult of Ashur with Israel. Israelite religion shares many characteristics with Canaanite religion , which itself was formed with influence from Mesopotamian religious traditions. Most scholars agree that the Israelite god of Yahweh was adopted from the Canaanite god El.

Monotheism in the region of ancient Israel and Judah did not take hold over night and during the intermediate stages most people are believed to have been henotheistic. During this intermediate period of henotheism many families worshiped different gods. Religion was very much centered around the family, as opposed to the community.

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People sparsely populated the region of Israel and Judah during the time of Moses. As such many different areas worshiped different gods, due to social isolation. That switch occurred with the growth of power and influence of the Israelite kingdom and its rulers and can be read about further in the Iron Age Yahwism section below.

Evidence from the bible suggests that henotheism did exist: "They [the Hebrews] went and served alien gods and paid homage to them, gods of whom they had no experience and whom he [Yahweh] did not allot to them" Deut. Many believe that this quote goes to show that the early Israelite kingdom followed similar traditions as ancient Mesopotamia, where each major urban center had a supreme god.

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Each culture then embraced their patron god but did not deny the existence of other cultures' patron gods. In Assyria, the patron god was Ashur, and in ancient Israel, it was Yahweh; however, both Israelite and Assyrian cultures recognized each other's deities during this period. Some scholars have used the Bible as evidence to argue that most of the people alive during the events recounted in the Old Testament, including Moses, were most likely henotheists.

There are many quotes from the Old Testament support this point of view.


One quote from Jewish and Christian tradition that supports this claim is the first commandment which in its entirety reads "I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before me. Some scholars attribute the concept of angels and demons found in Judaism and Christianity to the tradition of henotheism. Instead of completely getting rid of the concept of other supernatural beings, these religions changed former deities into angels and demons.

This tradition of believing in multiple forms of supernatural beings is attributed by many to the traditions of ancient Mesopotamia and Canaan and their pantheons of gods.

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Earlier influences from Mesopotamia and Canaan were important in creating the foundation of Israelite religion consistent with the Kingdoms of ancient Israel and Judah, and have since left lasting impacts on some of the biggest and most widespread religions in our world today. The religion of the Israelites of Iron Age I, like the Ancient Canaanite religion from which it evolved and other religions of the ancient Near East , was based on a cult of ancestors and worship of family gods the "gods of the fathers".

Yahweh, the national god of both Israel and Judah, seems to have originated in Edom and Midian in southern Canaan and may have been brought to Israel by the Kenites and Midianites at an early stage. Refugees from the northern kingdom fled to Judah, bringing with them laws and a prophetic tradition of Yahweh. Judah at this time was a vassal state of Assyria, but Assyrian power collapsed in the s, and around Josiah and his supporters launched a bid for independence expressed as loyalty to " Yahweh alone ". According to the Deuteronomists , as scholars call these Judean nationalists, the treaty with Yahweh would enable Israel's god to preserve both the city and the king in return for the people's worship and obedience.

This revision was expressed in the Deuteronomistic history , the books of Joshua. Judges , Samuel and Kings , which interpreted the Babylonian destruction as divinely-ordained punishment for the failure of Israel's kings to worship Yahweh to the exclusion of all other deities.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. History of the Kingdom of Israel and the Kingdom of Judah. Part of a series on the. Main article: Yehud Babylonian province. Main article: Yehud Medinata. Main article: Yahweh.

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Main article: Second Temple Judaism. Journal for the study of the Old Testament: Supplement series. Retrieved 2 June Out of the discussions a new model is beginning to emerge, which has been inspired, above all, by recent archaeological field research. There are several variations in this new theory, but they share in common the image of an Israelite community which arose peacefully and internally in the highlands of Palestine. Miller The Religion of Ancient Israel.

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Westminster John Knox Press. A history of Israel to Bar Kochba. Slate Magazine. Retrieved 15 August Davies in The Canon Debate , p. Judaism from Cyrus to Hadrian. Fortress Press. Hendrik , The Maccabees. In Search of the Promised Land? Retrieved 26 April Harrison, Stewart Goetz The Routledge Companion to Theism. British Institute for the Study of Iraq. Journal of Biblical Literature. The Biblical Archaeologist.

Near Eastern Archaeology. Retrieved 28 April This article's further reading may not follow Wikipedia's content policies or guidelines. Please improve this article by removing less relevant or redundant publications with the same point of view ; or by incorporating the relevant publications into the body of the article through appropriate citations.

The Great Eighth Century · The BAS Library

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