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Judaism. The Covenant with God. Abraham. The religion of Judaism has many of its roots in the civilizations of Sumer, Babylonia, and Canaan (2000 BC)

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Judaism

The Covenant with God


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Abraham

  • The religion of Judaism has many of its roots in the civilizations of Sumer, Babylonia, and Canaan (2000 BC)

  • The original Covenant between Yahweh and the people who will be called the Hebrews is made with Abram (the Father is exalted), first of the great Patriarchs of the monotheistic creeds

  • He is a seer, prophet, and “friend of God”

  • Abraham appears to have been a kind of tribal chief of a semi-nomadic people

  • God instructs Abram to leave Sumer and go to the promised land


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The Journeys of Abraham


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Abrahamic Faith

  • “I will make of you a great nation”

  • Abraham (Father of many nations) travels throughout the lands of Canaan and Egypt but eventually settles in what is present day Israel

  • As a sign of his faith and devotion he is asked to sacrifice his own son, Isaac

  • He is restrained by an angel


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Who was Abraham’s God?

  • It appears that Abraham’s god was probably a version of the local Canaanite god, El

  • He refers to him in the Bible as “El Shaddai”

  • The term Yahweh is not used until the Bible mentions Moses

  • Perhaps they were pagans who’s idea of god was still evolving

  • Their god was a very immediate god


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The Descendants of Abraham

  • Abraham’s grandson, Jacob, will be renamed Israel – “God’s Strength”

  • His sons will be the founders of the 12 tribes of Israel

  • At least a part of this group will migrate to Egypt where they will become “slaves” of the Pharaoh (c. 1250 BCE)



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Monotheism

  • What makes Judaism unique amongst the religions of the Middle East is its belief in only one God.

  • Many of its early rituals however were adapted from other local religions

  • Originally it was not an exclusively monotheistic religion – it allowed that there might be other gods but Yahweh was supreme


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The Pentateuch

  • The first 5 books of the Bible

  • They contain the stories of creation, the flood, the Exodus, and the laws

  • They appear to have been written by several different authors writing at different times in different places – perhaps one woman author?

  • Genesis doesn’t appear to have been written much before 500 BCE but the stories are undoubtedly much older


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Creation

  • There are two creation stories which is not rare in the Bible

  • The Creation comes “ex nihilo” – out of nothing

  • The fall is a result of temptation – eating of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil

  • Eve is given the blame

  • The result is pain, alienation, and death


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The Flood

  • Very similar to other myths of the region

  • Yahweh as a cruel and vengeful God

  • The need for the human race to be purified

  • Only Noah and his family are saved

  • The rainbow will be the sign of Yahweh’s promise


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The Exodus

  • At least a portion of the Hebrew nation was living in Egypt and were oppressed

  • Moses, a Jew himself, is raised in the Pharaoh’s palace

  • He kills an Egyptian overseer for beating a Jewish worker

  • He then flees into the desert where he marries and becomes a goatherd


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The Ten Commandments

  • Moses is called to the top of Mt. Sinai by Yahweh (c. 1200 BCE)

  • He is told to go and lead his people out of Egypt

  • He accomplishes his task only after inflicting 10 plagues

  • He returns to Sinai where Yahweh gives to Moses the 10 Commandments


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The Law

  • I am the Lord thy God…thou shalt not have other gods before me

  • Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven images

  • Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain

  • Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy

  • Honor thy father and thy mother


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The Law

  • Thou shalt not kill

  • Thou shalt not commit adultery

  • Thou shalt not steal

  • Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor

  • Thou shalt not covet anything that is thy neighbor’s


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What does Yahweh want?

  • The prophet Micah tells them,

    He already has shown you what is right

    and what does the Lord require of you,

    but to do justice, love mercy

    And walk humbly with your God.

  • An ethic of righteousness and compassion


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“A kingdom of priests, a holy nation”

“God wanted something other than blood and smoke, buildings and citadels. He wanted justice, mercy, humility. He wanted what was invisible. He wanted their hearts – not the outside, but the inside.


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The New Covenant

  • The giving of the 10 Commandments and the return to the Promised Land signal a new arrangement between the Hebrews and their God – they will be his chosen people

  • They will reconquer a homeland in Canaan and defeat all of their enemies

  • Their religion will become a distinctive one


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The Kings of Israel

  • The Jews (descendants of the tribe of Judah) settled in Canaan and over time conquered most of their neighbors

  • From 1020 to 922 BCE they were united under three great kings, Saul, David, and Solomon

  • Kings were unusual for the Jews

  • Under these three kings the new nation of Israel was formed


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The Broken Covenant

  • During the period following Solomon the Jews revert to their old ways mixing the old Canaanite gods with Yahweh

  • They believe that they are just like other peoples and want what they want – power and wealth

  • They do not understand what their God wants of them and so they are punished


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The Destruction of Israel

  • In 722 BCE the northern kingdom of Israel was invaded and destroyed by the Assyrian Empire

  • Most of its people were carried off into captivity

    The Lost Ten Tribes

  • In 536 The southern kingdom of Judah was also captured by the Babylonians and the Temple of Solomon was destroyed

    The Babylonian Captivity


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The Return to the Promised Land

  • In 539 BCE the Persian empire conquered the Babylonian empire and freed the Jews

  • The next period of Jewish History is dominated by the Prophets

  • These were messengers chosen by Yahweh to instruct the people and to steer them on the road to righteousness

  • Ezekiel, Amos, Nehemiah, Ezra, etc.


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The Women

  • Eve – the first moral decision

  • Sarah – the steadfast companion

  • Bathsheba – sex and politics

  • Esther – the clever heroine

  • Ruth – the good outsider

  • Jezebel – the evil outsider


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Ruth

  • Whither thou goest, I will go

    and where thou lodgest I will lodge:

    Thy people shall be my people,

    And thy God my God

    Where thou diest, I will die:

    YHWH do so to me also,

    If ought but death part thee and me


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The Monotheistic Problem

  • The creator God, Yahweh, was before all other gods and goddesses.

  • In Genesis it says that man was created “in God’s image and likeness”

  • We are manifestations of the godhead

  • How do we explain the problem of evil in the world


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