& Conquest
Era of

An Overview of
Ancient Jewish History

  • Divided into 14 Periods:

1   Primeval History 3000-2000 BC
2   Patriarchal Period 2000-1300 BC
3   Exodus & Conquest 1300-1250 BC
4   Era of the Judges 1250-1020 BC
5   United Monarchy 1020-930 BC
6   Divided Monarchy 930-722 BC
7   Judah Alone 722-587 BC
8   Babylonian Exile & Return 587-539 BC
9   Persian Period 539-332 BC
10   Hellenistic Period 332-167 BC
11      -Ptolemaic Period 305-198 BC
12      -Seleucid Period 198-167 BC
13   Maccabean Period 167-63 BC
14   Roman Era 63 BC- 135 AD
  • Periods 1-7= 'Ancient Israelite Religion'

  • Periods 9-14 (up to 70 AD)= 'Second Temple Judaism'


  • (1) The Primeval History

    • 3000-2000 BC

    • Books describing this period:

      • Gen 1-11; 1 Chron 1:1-27

      • Describes creation of the world, and re-creation after the primordial flood; covenants with Adam and Noah

    • stories are 'mythological' in character, w/ parallels to stories in other ANE cultures.


  • (2) The Patriarchal Period

    • 2000-1300 BC

    • Books describing this period:

      • Gen 12-50; 1 Chron 1:28-9:2

      • Migration of Abram from Babylon to Canaan; covenant with Abraham; lives of 4 generations of patriarchs of Judaism:

        • Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Jacob's 12 sons,

          • esp. Judah, Levi, Benjamin, Joseph

      • settlement of Jacob's family in Egypt b/c of famine.

    • stories are history intertwined w/etiology-

      • explaining the origin of a ritual or social custom.

    • Also eponymous-

      • narrating the life of a person from whom a group takes its name.


  • (3) The Exodus & Conquest

    • 1300-1250 BC [if not 15th cent. see Exodus notes]

    • Books describing this period:

      • Ex, Lev, Num, Deut, Josh

      • Israelite slavery in Egypt; exodus led by Moses; institution of Passover; law at Sinai; testing in the wilderness; succession of Joshua; conquest of Canaan.

    • beginning of Israelite history proper?

    • concept of 'true prophet' as successor to/like Moses.

    • Stories are history, myth, etiology; related to Gen 1-11.


  • (4) The Era of the Judges

    • 1250-1020 BC

    • Books describing this period:

      • Judges, Ruth, 1 Samuel 1-9

      • The settlement of Canaan; the tribal alliance; the Cycle of Salvation History; Samson, Gideon, Hannah, Samuel; the call for monarchy.

    • The Deuteronomistic view of history begins.

      • history interpreted through the lens of the author's theology.


  • (5) The United Monarchy

    • 1020-930 BC

    • Books describing this period:

      • 1 Sam 10-31, 2 Sam, 1 Kings 1-11, 1 Chron 9:35-29:30,
        2 Chron 1-9

      • Reigns of Saul, David, Solomon, Rehoboam; Davidic Promise; conflict with Philistines (Nephilim?) building of first temple.

    • Israelite 'Golden Age'; Concept of Davidic 'messiah,' or anointed, and promise that David's 'house' (throne) would last forever; Jerusalem becomes capital, Ark of the Covenant is moved there.


  • (6) The Divided Monarchy

    • 930-722 BC

    • Books describing this period:

      • 1 Kings 12-22, 2 Kings 1-17, 2 Chron 10-28
        [Amos, Hosea, 'First' Isaiah, Micah]

    • Yahwist & Elohist sources are written

      • Secession of Israel, 2 kingdoms:

        • North/Israel/Ephraim= 10 northern tribes (Jeroboam/Samaria)

        • South/Judah= 2 southern tribes

        • competitive capitals and Yahweh cults; Elijah & Elisha.

      • Concludes w/ the exile of Israel by Assyria (the 'Assyrian Exile')

        • much of the population was deported; the area was resettled by people from other regions of Assyrian Empire who intermarried w/ the remaining Israelites ('Samarians' in the OT; 'Samaritans' in the NT are descended from them.)


  • (7) Judah Alone

    • 722-587 BC

    • Books describing this period:

      • 2 Kings 18-25, 2 Chron 29-35, Tobit, Judith
        [Zephaniah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Jeremiah, Job?, Psalms?]

    • Yahwist and Elohist sources combined.

      • Corruption of Manasseh; reign of 2 most important kings after David- Hezekiah & Josiah; 'discovery' of the book of Deuteronomy and Josiah's reform; DH is written.

      • Judah becomes a vassal state of Babylon and attempts to rebel twice:

        • 598 BC- 10k Judahites are exiled, incl. prophet Ezekiel

        • 587 BC- Babylon, under Nebuchadnezzar, invades; Jerusalem & temple are destroyed; most of the population is deported to Babylon.


  • (8) Babylonian Exile & Return

    • 587-539 BC

    • Books describing this period:

      • [Obadiah, Ezekiel, Deutero-Isaiah, Job?, Psalms?]

    • Priestly source composed.

      • Some Judahites (incl. Jeremiah) flee before the exile and resettle in Egypt, building a temple at Leontopolis; most are taken to Babylon, but allowed to continue practicing their religion (a 'remnant' remains behind); Exiled Judahites encounter Babylonian religion/mythology.


  • (9) Persian (Post-Exilic) Period

    • 539-332 BC

    • Books describing this period:

      • Ezra, Nehemiah
        [Haggai, Zechariah, Trito-Isaiah, Joel, Malachi, Jonah, Esther, Song of Songs(?)]

    • 1 & 2 Chronicles are also composed at this time.

      • Cyrus the Great, king of Persia, conquers Babylon and allows the Jews to return, resettle, rebuild Jerusalem & temple (beginning of Second Temple Period); Judah is reestablished as a theocracy, governed by priests.

      • 'Diaspora,' or 'Dispersion' refers to Jews who chose not to return.

      • Jewish theology is influenced by Persian religion (Zoroastrianism).


  • (10) Hellenistic Period

    • 332-167 BC

    • Books describing this period:

      • 1 & 2 Maccabees, Daniel (?),

    • Books composed in this period:

      • Tobit, Judith, Ecclesiastes, Wisdom of Solomon, Ben Sirach.

    • Alexander the Great conquered Persia, Judea fell under his control; at his death, his empire divides; Judaism encounters Greek thought and culture.


  • (11) Ptolemaic Period

    • 305-198 BC

    • Ptolemy takes control of Egypt, beginning Ptolemaic dynasty of pharaohs; encourages translation of sacred texts into Greek for library at Alexandria.

      • Septuagint (LXX, 'Seventy'), Greek trans. of Hebrew scriptures, is produced

    • Jewish Wisdom tradition becomes prominent.


  • (12) Seleucid Period

    • 198-167 BC

    • Ptolemies and Seleucids war over their border for a century; Seleucids push Ptolemies back into Egypt and out of Judah.

      • Antiochus IV Epiphanes ('The gods revealed') tries to impose Hellenistic culture on the Jews; 'Horrible Abomination' (statue of Zeus) is placed on the altar in the Jerusalem temple; Jews are persecuted for following Torah, copies of Torah are burned.


  • (13) Maccabean Period

    • 167-63 BC

    • Mattathias the Hasmonean begins revolt against Antiochus; his son Judah 'the Maccabee' ('Hammerer'?) continues it; Judah becomes an independent kingdom again, but only through alliance with Seleucids or Romans.

      • 164 BC- Temple is retaken by Maccabees, purified and rededicated to God. Feast of Hanukkah commemorates this.

    • Over the next century, Maccabees become more Hellenized, Jews become more ambivalent to their reign.


  • (14) Roman Era

    • 63 BC- 135 AD

    • 50-120 AD= The New Testament Period

      • 50-64= Paul's Letters

      • 65-100= Gospels

    • A civil war between 2 Maccabee brothers causes both to seek aid from Rome; 63 BC, Pompey takes Jerusalem, declares Judea a Roman province.

      • 40 BC- Herod the Great declared king of Judea, rules until 3 BC; kingdom divided among his sons at his death.

      • Various messiah-figures appear in 1st century AD, and try to resist Roman rule.

      • 66-70 AD= First Revolt. Jews in Jerusalem rebel against Rome; Rome invades Judea, takes Jerusalem, destroys temple.

      • Judaism divides into two religions:

        • Rabbinic/Pharisaic Judaism

        • Christianity

      • 132-135 AD= Second Revolt (aka 'Bar Kochba Revolt'). Rome invades and conquers; Jews banned from Jerusalem, which is renamed Jupiter Capitolina.