The Hebrews The ancient Middle East and Mesopotamia was largely a multicultural society composed of small, often insignificant kingdoms that were regularly torn between the forces of powerful empires, from Babylon to Egypt to Greece to Rome. One of these small kingdoms through its religion, philosophy, and law became one of the most important cultures in Middle Eastern and Western history. The word Hebrew appears to have been derived from the world Hiberu, which was found in writing sent to Egypt by one of the small states that Egypt had left behind when it withdrew from Canaan in the 1300s BC. These states were distressed by the arrival of nomadic tribes that came in waves across generations. Hiberu meant outsider and probably referred to a great variety of migrants.
Beginning as a closely-knit, war-like group of wandering tribes, this culture enjoyed for a short period, one of a histories greatest empires, but it soon fell into a small and feeble state. The Hebrews would surface as one of the most significant culture of the West and Middle East, giving us monotheism, law, and a new history for the west. For the first hundred years the Hebrews wandered and roamed the region of Mesopotamia, Palestine, and northern Egypt. From about 1950 BC to 1500 BC they rambled around the ancient Near East. Around 1500 BC they settled in the fertile land of northern Egypt called Goshen. It was here that these drifting tribes developed a national identity.
Around 1200 BC the Hebrews, also called The children of Israel left Egypt in an event called the Exodus. This historical event was lead by Moses. The Old Testament’s Book of Exodus describes an unnamed pharaoh ordering the slaughter of all male Hebrew infants, and it describes a Hebrew woman trying to save her infant son, Moses, by putting him adrift on the Nile in a tiny boat of reeds caulked with tar pitch. Moses was credited with introducing a powerful single idol, Yahweh to the Hebrews. This new religion of Yahweh and the dramatic Exodus from Egypt are perhaps the main unifying events that solidified the Hebrews into a nation.
The Hebrews enjoyed a brief time of magnificent power and prominent status. After a few hundred years of mostly unsuccessful attempts to drive out the established populations they were finally recognized as a monarchy. During this time Israel’s three most famous Kings lived one after another. This small period of time is known as The golden age of Israel. The three kings, Saul, David and Solomon, unified the often squabbling tribes.
The first king of the Israelites in 1029 BC was Saul. In spite of his victories he failed to push the Philistines toward the coast and tension grew between him and the prophet Samuel. Saul was overthrown and a new king was to be named. Saul would die in battle a short while after his dethroning against the Philistines on Mt. Gilboa. With the death of Saul, the Israelites would need a new king to rule the newly formed kingdom. Samuel chose David as his successor.
Seven years of civil war was fought between the tribes controlled by David the new king and Ish-Bosheth son of Saul. The civil war ended when Ish-Bosheth was murdered and the people asked David to save them from the Philistines. David not only continued to rule the empire left to him by Saul, but organized it into a major political and religious power in that area. David also defeated the Arameans and annexed Aram-Damascus. In the east he routed the Moabites, conquered the state of Edom, and conquered the Ammonites.
In order to keep a secure northern border, David made a pact with Hiram, King of Tyre. David would not stop there, he would go on to eliminate all Canaanite farms and took the city of Jerusalem from the Jebusites securing a capital for the strongest kingdom on the Fertile Crescent. David was getting old and his health was starting to decline. This lead to fighting between the sons and priests about who the next king would be. Before Davids death, he appointed Solomon.
During Solomon’s reign, the Hebrews controlled almost all of Palestine. Solomon also made the new capital, Jerusalem, into a marvelous city that rivaled those in the Assyrian and Chaldean empires. To show everyone in the kingdom he was a serious leader he began to strike out against all his enemies. Some were banished some exiled. Solomon built temples and permanent towns.
These prosperous days were short lived. Soon after Solomons death, the northern ten tribes of Israel separated from the south. With the Hebrews divided, they were in great danger from foreign powers. In 722, the Assyrians defeated Israel and exiled the Hebrews throughout Mesopotamia. These Hebrews are referred to as the lost tribes because they were completely incorporated into Assyrian and other cultures.
In 586, the Chaldeans conquered Judah and banished the Hebrews to the Chaldean capital, Babylon. The Hebrews remained a community in Babylon for 50 years until they were allowed to return to Jerusalem. The Hebrews were very good potters, though they used their work was more useful than decorative. To make it, they mixed the clay with water, made it more pliable by adding terracotta or sand, then worked it on a wheel, or by hand. The Canaanites also herded sheep and goats.
They used the sheep and goats as pets, food, and money for trading. The Canaanites traded among themselves for other animals. When they traded with other civilizations they traded for money. Early farming in Canaan was done with wood sickles and other wooden tools. Also they mined copper and iron.
The copper and iron were used to trade. It was also used to make stronger tools which made arming and other jobs easier. Although the Hebrews were not seen as a Middle East power they certainly had their share of ups and downs. Their journey from wandering nomads to the conquering of major cities are examples of what they have gone through. Even though they are not as recognizable as the Romans or Sparta , this civilization has endured as much adversity and triumph to be held with the same regards. The Hebrews are an important culture because they started a major religion that was laughed at in their time, but know is one of the leading religions in world.