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LEARNING BIBLE TODAY

From Creation to the Conquest of Canaan


by Michael J. Prival


CHAPTER VI

RETURN TO CANAAN



 

CONTENTS OF CHAPTER VI:

VI - 1. Along the Road to Canaan, the Conquest Begins

VI - 2. From Moses to Joshua

VI - 3. Joshua Sends out Two Spies

VI - 4. Crossing over the Jordan and Conquering Jericho

VI - 5. The Israelites Settle in the Land of Canaan

 

 

VI - 1. Along the Road to Canaan, the Conquest Begins

[Numbers 21, 32:33; Deuteronomy 2:24 - 3:16]

 

   And the Canaanite king Arad, who lived in the South, fought against the Israelites and took some of them as prisoners. The Israelites made a vow to Yahweh saying, “If you give these enemies to us, we will completely destroy their cities.” And Yahweh heard them and gave the Canaanites to them. The Israelites completely destroyed their cities. And they named the place Hormah.

 

   And when the Israelites came to the land of the Amorites, they sent messengers to Seehone, the Amorite king of the Heshbon, saying, “Let us pass peacefully through your land on our way.” Seehone attacked the Israelites. But the sword of the Israelites beat down the army of Seehone, and the Israelites took possession of all the cities of Seehone the Amorite, Heshbon and all its villages.

 

   The Israelites turned toward Bashan, and Ohg the Amorite King of Bashan met them in battle. Yahweh said to Moses, “Do not fear him, for I have given him and all his people to you. You shall do to him as you have to the Amorite king Seehone.” And the Israelites defeated them and left for Ohg no remnant of the people of Bashan alive. And they took possession of his land.

 

   So Moses divided up the two Amorite kingdoms, the kingdom of Seehone, king of Heshbon, and the kingdom of Ohg, king of Bashan, and gave the land to the tribes of Gad and Reuben and to the half-tribe of Menasheh. 

 

 

DISCUSSION:

 

1.  Here we see the beginnings of the conquest by the Israelites of the land that will eventually become their home. First the battle against the Canaanite king Arad occurs. Arad was in the Negev, in the southern part of the land of Canaan.

 

The Bible story says that the kingdom of Arad was completely destroyed. Remember the commandment about how the Israelites are supposed to completely destroy any people they defeat in battle in the land that God had promised them? This is the second paragraph of item “I” under “Do Not Oppress the Stranger, Except Sometimes” in chapter V-4-iv). In this commandment, Yahweh requires that the Israelites kill every person and even the cattle in a conquered territory. This is called the law of “herem” (see discussion point number 6 under “Do Not Oppress the Stranger, Except Sometimes” in chapter V-4-iv).

 

It is interesting that the place where this “herem” takes place is named “Hormah.” The similarity between these two words is no coincidence. The Bible story implies that the place got the name “Hormah” because that is where the “herem” took place. There are Bible scholars and archaeologists who believe that what took place was actually the other way around, namely, that there was a place called “Hormah” and the story of the herem was invented to explain the name. Do you remember other stories that we have read that might have developed in this way – to explain the name of a place?

 

 

2.  We have already read a story about a battle that occurred Hormah. Do you remember which one? What was the outcome of that battle? What lesson do you think that the Bible authors were trying to convey by telling these two stories that occur at the same location? Take a look at “The Israelites Anger Yahweh and He Announces Their Punishment,” chapter V-6.

 

 

3.  As the Israelites moved north on the east side of the Jordan River and the land of Canaan, they also met opposition from two Amorite kings, Seehone and Ohg. Thus the two Amorite kingdoms are also completely destroyed by herem, except that King Ohg himself is apparently not killed.

 

These conquests lead Moses to begin assigning land to the various tribes. Gad and Reuben and half of the tribe of Menasheh are given land that was in the kingdoms of Seehone and Ohg. This land is on the east side of the Jordan River. Although the Israelites have not yet crossed over the Jordan into the land of Canaan, they are beginning to settle the land anyway. Eventually, the other tribes will be given land in Canaan itself, west of the Jordan River, as these lands are conquered. Remember that Moses will not be permitted to cross over the Jordan into Canaan. (Why not? See chapter V-8, “Moses and Aaron Are Punished for Disobeying Yahweh”). So these lands on the east side of the Jordan are the only ones that he will live to see settled by the Israelites.

 

 

4.  Do you remember where the tribes come from? Each tribe is supposed to represent the descendants of one of the sons of Jacob. But Jacob had no son named Menasheh. Menasheh and Ephraim are the two sons of Joseph and his wife Asenat, as mentioned in the story “Pharaoh Dreams and Joseph Becomes ruler of Egypt”

(chapter III-4).

 

Why isn’t there a single tribe of Joseph’s descendants? Of course, no one knows. But one explanation that makes sense would be as follows: The Israelites were a confederation of independent tribes who often banded together to defend themselves against their enemies. In order to bind the tribes together, stories were told that presented them all as the descendants of a single man, Jacob. We remember the story of how Jacob’s name was changed to “Israel” so that members of all the tribes could be called “the children of Israel” (chapter II-14). One problem may have been that the story of Jacob and his sons was well known, particularly the many stories about the son named Joseph. The story tellers could give the names of the existing tribes to each of the less important sons of Jacob, but they could not change Joseph’s name because everyone knew it already. They may have gotten around this problem by simply saying that two of the tribes – Menasheh and Ephraim – did not represent sons of Jacob, but rather sons of Joseph.

 

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VI - 2. From Moses to Joshua

[Deuteronomy 31, 32, 33, 34]

 

   And Moses said to the people, “I am now 120 years old. And Yahweh has said to me that I shall not go with you over the Jordan. Joshua will lead you to the promised land of Canaan, as Yahweh has said. And Yahweh will do to them what he has done to the Amorite kings Seehone and Ohg and to their land, which he destroyed.

 

   And Yahweh appeared in a pillar of cloud at the Tent of Congregation and said to Moses, “Soon you will lie down with your fathers. Then the people will begin to worship other gods, forgetting about me, and breaking the Covenant between me and them. And then I shall hide my face from them, and terrible things will befall them.”

 

   And Yahweh told Moses to climb up Mount Nebo, which is in the land of Moab, across from Jericho. “From there you can see the land of Canaan. It is on that mountain that you will die, because you were not faithful to me at the waters in the Wilderness of Tseen – you did not sanctify me before the Israelites. So you will see the land that I promised, but you shall not enter it. It is the land I am giving to the Israelites.”

 

   And, before he died, Moses said his blessing upon Reuben, Judah, Levi, Benjamin, Joseph, Zevuloon, Gad, Dan, Naphtalee, and Asher.

 

   Moses climbed up Mount Nebo, and Yahweh showed him all the land that he had promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. And when Moses died upon the mountain, he was 120 years old and his eyes were not dim and his vigor was undiminished.

 

   The people mourned Moses for 30 days, and then Joshua was filled with the spirit of wisdom because Moses had laid his hands on him. And the Israelites followed the words of Joshua.

 

   Never since then has there been a prophet like Moses, with whom Yahweh spoke face-to-face.

 

 

DISCUSSION:

 

1.  This is the story of the death of Moses, the final story in the Torah, or “Pentateuch.” The “Pentateuch” means the first five books of the Bible. These are considered to be a unified set of books because religious tradition, among both Jews and Christians, says that they were written by Moses himself, with direct inspiration from God. Remember that for religious Jews the Pentateuch is known as the Torah, which means instruction or guidance, and is taken as the basis for Jewish religious law. One question that Jewish religious scholars have asked themselves over the centuries is: if the purpose of the Torah is to transmit the Law or the Commandments to the people, then why did Moses (and God) write into it so many stories that contain no laws or commandments within them? How do you think they might have answered this question?

 

Of course, the five books of the Torah were written many centuries after the time of Moses, by at least four different authors, as we have discussed many times. If you believed that Moses wrote the complete Torah, how would you explain that he was able to write about the details of his own death?

 

 

2.  In the traditional religious view of Jewish history, Moses is the great founder of the Jewish religion, which is said to based on the commandments in the five Books of Moses, the Torah. He is not permitted, however, to live long enough to see the fulfillment of Yahweh’s promise that the Israelites will establish their home in the land of Canaan. Yahweh reminds Moses, in this story, that he will not live to see the Israelites conquer Canaan because he was unfaithful to Yahweh in the Wilderness of Tseen. Do you remember what Moses did to get Yahweh angry? If not, look back at the story “Moses and Aaron are Punished for Disobeying Yahweh” (chapter V-8). Why do you think the story was written so that the person who gave the Law to the Israelites and the person who led them to the conquest of Canaan were two different people?

 

 

3.  When Moses dies, Joshua takes over as the leader of the people. Although the story says that Joshua was filled with the spirit of wisdom, his accomplishments will be very different from those of Moses. As we will see, Joshua becomes a military leader and conqueror. Do you remember in what way Joshua was different from almost all the other Israelites who lived to see the conquest of the land of Canaan? If not, then reread the story “The Israelites Anger Yahweh and He Announces Their Punishment” (chapter V-6) especially discussion point 6.

 

So, now we will begin the sixth book of the Bible, the book of Joshua.

 

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VI - 3. Joshua Sends out Two Spies

[Joshua 1:1 - 2:24]

 

   After the death of Moses, servant of Yahweh, Yahweh spoke to Joshua, son of Noon and minister of Moses, saying, “Moses, my servant, is dead. Now go over the Jordan River with the Israelites. I have given you all the land that your foot will tread upon, as I said to Moses. Only, be strong and courageous to follow all the commandments that Moses, my servant, has given to you.”

 

   So Joshua told the people, “Prepare your supplies, for within three days you will pass over the Jordan to take possession of the land that Yahweh, your god, is giving to you.”

 

   And he sent two men to spy upon Jericho. The spies went to the house of Rahab, a prostitute. And the king of Jericho sent word to Rahab to turn over the spies. But Rahab hid the two of them on her roof, under some stalks of flax.

 

   Rahab told the two spies, “I know that Yahweh has given this land to you. Our people are in terror of you because we have heard how Yahweh dried up the water of the Sea of Reeds for you as you left Egypt and how you destroyed the Amorite kings Seehone and Ohg. When we heard these things, our hearts melted and our courage left us. Now swear to me that, because I have treated you with kindness, you will spare the lives of me and my family – my father, and my mother, and my brothers, and my sisters.”

 

   The two spies agreed and told Rahab to tie a scarlet thread in her window, so that the Israelites would know which house was hers. And Rahab helped the spies escape from Jericho.

 

   They went to Joshua and said to him, “Surely Yahweh has given this land to us. All its people are faint with fear because of us.”

 

DISCUSSION:

 

1.  At the beginning of this story, Yahweh tells Joshua that the Israelites will obtain the land he has promised them if they follow all the commandments that he has given to them through Moses. We have heard this several times before. To what other individuals did Yahweh promise that the Israelites would have the land of Canaan if they would follow his commandments? As we have discussed before, this agreement is the “covenant” or, in Hebrew, “b’reet” between the Israelites and their god Yahweh

(chapter II-1 and chapter II-11).

 

 

2.  This story begins with Yahweh speaking to Joshua. Notice how Moses is described and how Joshua is described in the first sentence of this story. Why do you think the two of them are described this way?

 

At the end of the last story, “From Moses to Joshua,” chapter VI-2, it says that no one since Moses has spoken with Yahweh face-to-face. But we see here that Yahweh speaks directly to Joshua. Maybe the difference is that Joshua doesn’t speak back to Yahweh, so Moses is the last person to converse with Yahweh. The point here is that Moses is thought of by the Bible authors as far more important than Joshua. Moses brought the laws to the Israelites from Yahweh; Joshua will soon lead the Israelites in the conquest of the land that Yahweh promised to them. Why do you think that Moses is considered more important? Do you agree that he is?

 

 

3.  We have already read a story about Israelite spies (chapter V-6, “The Israelites Anger Yahweh and He Announces Their Punishment.”) How does that story differ from this one? How are the two stories similar? What person is vitally important in both stories, but has a different role in each?

 

 

4.  Rahab tells the two spies that the people of Jericho are terrified of the Israelites, and the spies report this fact to Joshua. Why are the spies so happy to obtain this information?

 

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VI - 4. Crossing over the Jordan and Conquering Jericho

[Joshua 3:1 - 6:27]

 

   Joshua and the Israelites went to the Jordan River. And Yahweh said to Joshua, “Today I will begin to make you great in the eyes of the Israelites, so that they will know that I am with you as I was with Moses.”

 

   And Joshua said to the Israelites, “When the feet of the priests who are carrying the Ark of Yahweh, lord of all the earth, shall rest in the waters of the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan will be cut off, and will stand in a heap.” And when the waters stopped, as Joshua had said they would, all the people crossed over the dry river bed. They set up camp at Gilgal, on the eastern edge of Jericho and observed the Passover. The next day they ate unleavened bread and grain from the land of Canaan. And they received no more manna, but ate the products of the land of Canaan that year.

 

   And Yahweh said to Joshua, “You and your men of battle shall march silently, without speaking, around the city one time each day for six days. Have seven priests blowing seven trumpets go before the ark, circling the city with you. On the seventh day, march around the city seven times with the priests blowing the trumpets. When the long blast of the trumpets is heard, have all the people shout. With their great shout, the wall of the city shall fall and all of you will enter it.”

 

   And they did all these things that Yahweh had told them. And on the seventh day, on the seventh time they circled the city, the priests blew the trumpets and Joshua said to the people, “Now shout, for Yahweh has given you the city.”

 

   And the Israelites shouted and the wall of Jericho fell down. The Israelites entered the city and captured it. And with their swords they killed every man and woman, both young and old, and every ox and sheep and ass. Only Rahab and her family were saved, because she had hidden the spies that Joshua had sent. Then they burned down the city and everything in it. They saved only the silver and gold and copper and iron, which they put in the treasury of the house of Yahweh.

 

   And Joshua said, “Cursed be the man who rebuilds this city.” And Yahweh was with Joshua, and his fame spread through all the land.

 

 

DISCUSSION:

 

1.  This story begins with a familiar theme: the parting of the waters so the Israelites can pass. What purpose is served by having Joshua lead the Israelites across the dry river bed in the same manner that Moses led them across the Sea of Reeds?

 

When they got across, the story says that they observed the festival of Passover and ate unleavened bread. What is the significance of Passover and unleavened bread? Look back at the story “The Israelites Gain their Freedom” (chapter IV-5) and discussion points #1 and #3 of that story. Why do you think that Passover and unleavened bread are mentioned here again in the story of the crossing of the Jordan?

 

2.  After the Israelites cross the Jordan into Canaan, Yahweh stops providing them with manna to eat. If you think about the reason why Yahweh sent the manna in the first place (see the story “Complaints and Miracles – Food, Water and a Battle,” chapter V-1), why does it seem right that he should cut off the supply of this food now?

 

3.  The Israelites, on instructions from Yahweh and Joshua, seem to have a very strange battle plan for conquering Jericho. For six days they circle the city one time each day silently, except for the blowing of the trumpets (which are actually rams’ horns). Then on the seventh day they circle the city seven times. Upon a signal from Joshua, the Israelites all begin to shout, and the walls of Jericho fall down.

 

How could that be? Could shouting make the walls of a city fall down? There are many different ways of looking at this story. First, we can try to imagine what it was like to be inside Jericho during this time. We know from what Rahab said in the previous story (chapter VI-3, “Joshua Sends out Two Spies”) that the people of Jericho were already scared to death of the Israelites because of the stories they had heard about their conquests. What would they have felt like in seeing the Israelites participating in this strange ritual of circling the city each day? They may have been so confused that their fear only became greater. Maybe the statement that the walls fell down simply means that the people of Jericho became so frightened that they opened the gates to let the Israelites in when they heard the Israelites shouting. If we think of the Bible simply as literature, which can be interpreted in any way our imaginations lead us, then this might be one way of looking at this story. Can you think of any other ways of interpreting this story?

 

Another approach, very different from interpretation as literature, is to try to examine the best scientific evidence and then try to explain why the story might have been written in the way it was. When scientists try to understand the story of Jericho, they conclude that it is a very ancient city, probably the oldest in the world, having been settled about 10,000 years ago. However, when the archaeologist Kathleen Kenyon led a team to examine Jericho in the 1950's, she concluded that the walls of Jericho had fallen down long before the time of the story of Joshua. By Joshua’s time, Jericho was just a little village – not a very important place at all – with no walls to protect it. Some archaeologists now disagree with Kenyon’s conclusions, but most seem to agree that there was no great battle of Jericho during the Israelite takeover of Canaan.

 

In fact, there seems to be general agreement that the Israelites moved slowly and gradually to become the dominant people of Canaan over a long period of time. The book of Joshua in the Bible, however, tells stories of many battles and conquests by the Israelites, occurring over a short period of time. Why is this? Maybe the stories are simply meant to prove that the Israelites are the rightful rulers of this land, even though it was inhabited by other people before the Israelites arrived. How does it show the right of the Israelites to take over the land of Canaan? Well, since the stories say that Yahweh himself was helping the Israelites win their battles of conquest, this, presumably, means that what they were doing must be right.

 

In trying to explain how the story of the battle of Jericho came about, we should remember that there actually were walls around the city at one time. If the conclusion is correct that the walls had fallen down before the Israelites arrived, then perhaps the story is designed to explain the ruins of the walls that would have been visible around the city. We discussed some cases in which stories may have been developed to explain things that really did exist, such as the names of places.

 

Some Bible scholars have concluded that the story about the circling of Jericho with the Ark and the blowing of trumpets once each day and then seven times on the seventh day was developed in order to explain some ritual ceremony that existed at a later time, when the story was being created. Obviously, there are many different ways of looking at Bible stories such as this one. Even with archaeological studies, great uncertainty remains about what happened or what might have happened.

 

4.  In this story, Joshua and the Israelites kill every person, young and old, and even all the cattle in Jericho except for Rahab, who had helped them, and her family. Why do they behave so brutally? Remember, back in chapter VI-1, “Along the Road to Canaan, the Conquest Begins,” the Israelites did the same thing to the kingdoms ruled by Seehone and Ohg? We see here again, the carrying out of the law of “herem.” (The commandment in the second paragraph of item “I” in chapter V-4-iv.)

 

There is really no way to know today whether or not the Israelites really ever did anything like this. It would, perhaps, be nice to think that these stories were spread by them just to impress other people with their power, and the power of their god, rather than actually being true.

 

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VI - 5. The Israelites Settle in the Land of Canaan

[Joshua 8 - 24]

 

   And Joshua and the Israelites conquered the city of Ay, and killed all of its people as they had done at Jericho. When the people of the city of Gibohn heard what Joshua had done to Jericho and to Ay, they went to Joshua and said to him, “We are from a far off land. We have heard of your god, Yahweh, and what he has done for you in Egypt, and what he has done to the Amorite kingdoms of Seehone and Ohg. Make a covenant with us and we will be your servants.” So Joshua spared their lives and the Gibohnites became the servants of the Israelites. Three days later the Israelites found out that the Gibohnites were their neighbors, and did not come from far away. But they had made a covenant with them, so the Israelites did not harm them. So the Gibohnites became cutters of wood and drawers of water for the Israelites, as they are to this day.

 

   And the king of Jerusalem heard about what Joshua had done to Jericho and to Ay, and that the people of Gibohn had made peace with the Israelites, and he was very fearful. So he sent messages asking for help from the kings of Hebron, Yarmoot, Lakheesh, and Eglone, and the five kings attacked Gibohn because it had made peace with the Israelites. The people of Gibohn sent to Joshua for help. And Joshua came with his warriors and Yahweh crushed the attackers, who fled from Gibohn. And Yahweh cast great stones upon them from the sky, killing most of them. And the Israelites killed more of those who fled, and Joshua had the five kings put to death.

 

   And Joshua conquered and destroyed Hebron and Lakheesh and Eglone and many other cities also. Joshua and the Israelites defeated thirty-one kings west of the Jordan.

 

   Yahweh said to Joshua, “You have become old, and there is much land left to take possession of. I myself will drive out the people on this land and it will become yours. You must only divide the land among the nine tribes and the half-tribe of Menasheh.

 

   The conquered land was given to the tribes of Israel. The land of the tribe of Judah was in the south. They could not remove the Jebusites, who lived in Jerusalem, and so the Judahites and the Jebusites live there together to this day.

   The tribe of Levi was given no portion of the land, except for some cities to live in and some areas outside the cities for their cattle, for Yahweh, god of Israel, himself is their inheritance.

 

   And land was given to the tribes of Ephraim and Menasheh, the two sons of Joseph. The land of Ephraim was west of the Jordan, but they did not remove the Canaanites who lived in Gezer, as they still do today, serving at forced labor. Menasheh had lands east of the Jordan and also on the west. They could not push the Canaanites out of cities in their land, but when the Israelites have been strong, they put the Canaanites to forced labor.

 

   And the tribe of Benjamin received land between Judah in the south and the tribes of Joseph in the north. The land given to the tribe of Simeon lay within the land of Judah. And the tribes of Yissakhar, Asher, Naphtalee, and Dan also received their portions in the land.

 

   After Yahweh had given the Israelites time to rest from their enemies, Joshua called the people together and said, “I have grown old. You have seen what Yahweh has done to the other nations for you. And you have taken their land, as Yahweh your god has said you would. So be strong and do what is written in the book of the Law of Moses. Do not bow down to other gods. And if you marry those of other nations, know that Yahweh your god will no longer take the land from these nations for you. Today I am going the way of all the earth. When you break the covenant with Yahweh your god, and serve other gods and bow to them, then the anger of Yahweh will burn against you, and you shall perish quickly from off the good land that he has given to you. Now choose today either to serve Yahweh or other gods.” 

 

   And the people answered by saying, “We will not forsake Yahweh to serve other gods, for Yahweh is our god who brought us and our fathers out of the land of Egypt and he drove out the people from the lands we now possess.”

 

   But Joshua said to the people, “You are not capable of serving Yahweh, for he is a most holy god and a jealous god. If you do not follow Yahweh, and if you serve other gods, then Yahweh will destroy you.”

 

   But the people replied, “No, we will serve only Yahweh.”

 

   And Joshua said to them, “You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen to serve Yahweh. Cast out the gods of the stranger that you have among you, and follow Yahweh, the god of Israel.”

 

   And the people said, “Yahweh, our god, is the god we serve. It is his voice that we listen to.” And Joshua sent the people back to their land.

 

   And Joshua, the son of Noon, servant of Yahweh, died at the age of one hundred and ten years. And they buried him in the hill country of Ephraim.

 

 

DISCUSSION

 

1.  This story begins with the destruction of the city of Ay. The best scientific evidence, based on archaeological explorations, indicates that, like Jericho, Ay was once a great city that had become only a small village by the time the Israelites arrived. There is no evidence at all for any destruction during the time that Joshua would have lived.

 

Whether the destruction by the Israelites of the other cities mentioned in this story actually occurred is not known. It is possible that these stories were designed to explain the situation that existed when they were developed. We see that the original non-Israelite people still lived in some cities, such as Jerusalem, Gezer, and cities in the land of the Menashehites when these stories were written. It is possible that stories of complete destruction were told about cities inhabited only by Israelites in order to explain why some areas had mixed populations while others were solely Israelite.

 

 

2.  What is the story of the Gibohnites all about? Why do they go to the trouble of convincing Joshua that they are from far away and not from the land that the Israelites are in the process of conquering? The reason is found in the law of herem, which we have discussed several times. (See the commandment describing this law, which is the second paragraph of item “I” in the story “Do Not Oppress the Stranger, Except Sometimes” in chapter V-4-iv.)

 

 

3.  As Joshua’s life is ending, he gets the Israelites to declare their loyalty to their god, Yahweh. It seems that he doesn’t quite believe that they will be willing to stick to their resolution to follow the laws of Yahweh, as given to the Israelites by Moses. Why is this? Through much of later Jewish history, the religious leaders have said that whenever things were going badly for the people, it was because they had strayed from the path required by Yahweh, as described in the laws given by Moses. It is possible that the words of doubt expressed by Joshua were put in the text by an author who lived at a later time who knew that the Israelites would not be able to hold onto their land forever.

 

4.  As we leave the Israelites following the death of Joshua, they have settled on the land that Yahweh had promised them several times, starting with his covenant with Abraham. We know that they have not completely conquered the land because there are still Canaanites and others living in their cities. Twelve tribes have settled on the land and one tribe, the Levites, have been given the responsibility, as the priests, for taking care of the holy sites of Yahweh.

 

The tribes will now enter a period in which they are quite independent of each other, only working together at times to fight against common enemies. This is the period of the Judges (see the time line in the Introduction).

 

Eventually, the tribes will become united in a single kingdom under King Saul, who is followed by Kings David and Solomon. It is during this period that the Bible stories are generally thought of as moving from “myths” to “history.” That is, although there is no conclusive evidence from outside the Bible that Kings David and Solomon actually existed, it seems reasonable from the way the stories were written to conclude that they were probably real people (although the Bible stories about their importance and wealth were probably greatly exaggerated).

 

This brief period of a united kingdom under Saul, David, and Solomon is followed, upon the death of King Solomon, by the splitting of the tribes into two separate kingdoms, Israel in the north and Judah in the south. The northern kingdom, Israel, containing ten of the tribes, was destroyed by Assyrian invaders in 721 B.C. The people of the surviving southern kingdom of Judah are the people who became known as Judahites or, more simply, Jews. They, too, were eventually conquered. Their Babylonian conquerors sent many of them, including their leaders, into exile in about 586 B.C., but they were permitted to return to Jerusalem after about 70 years.

 

The homeland of the Jews eventually became part of the Roman Empire, taking on the name Judea. The Judeans rose up in armed rebellion against the Romans in the first century A.D., and the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans in the year 70 as they put down the rebellion. The Jews again rebelled in the second century and were again crushed by the mighty Roman Empire. This defeat resulted in the final dispersion of the Jews from Judea. The Jewish people lived in many lands, all around the world, for many centuries. After about 1800 years, in the year 1948, the modern state of Israel was created as a homeland for the Jewish people near the ancient land of Judea. Many of the Jews who had lived in countries around the world have now moved to Israel. However, repeated wars with its Arab neighbors and continuing conflicts with Palestinians in lands it has conquered seem to make modern Israel similar in some ways to the ancient land of the Israelites that we have read about in these Bible stories.

 

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Michael Prival

 

Copyright © 1995, 2014 by Michael J. Prival

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