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Lesson 2 – The Hebrews. Focus Questions: In what ways did the Hebrew view of God mark a revolutionary break with the Near Eastern thought? How did Hebrew religious thought promote the ideas of moral autonomy? What were the unique achievements of the Hebrew prophets?

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lesson 2 the hebrews
Lesson 2 – The Hebrews

Focus Questions:

  • In what ways did the Hebrew view of God mark a revolutionary break with the Near Eastern thought?
  • How did Hebrew religious thought promote the ideas of moral autonomy?
  • What were the unique achievements of the Hebrew prophets?
  • Why are the Hebrews regarded as a principal source of the Western tradition?

Discuss each in context to anticipatory note taking

Review the Chronology (from text book – page 26)

the hebrew homeland
The Hebrew Homeland
  • Military routes
  • Current conflicts
  • Current forms of government
  • Lineage through women.

Founders / Patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

The Hebrews (Jews) originated in Mesoptamia and migrated to Canaan.

Semi-nomadic clans that roamed between Palestine, Mesopotamia and Egypt.

similarities and differences to egyptian and mesopotamian religion and culture
Similarities and Differences to Egyptian and MesopotamianReligion and Culture

Hebrews (Jews) rejected Egyptian beliefs.

Hebrews believed in ONE God only = “Monotheism”

Hebrews believe that God (Yaweh) has concern for Humanity and Justice for all Humans.

Dignity for all Humans was a new concept.

hebrew scriptures 1250 bce 150 bce
Hebrew Scriptures 1250 BCE – 150 BCE

Name: Torah = teaching or instruction

Also referred to as: Pentateuch/Tanak/Old Testament

Consists of Five Books: Geneis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.

Represents: Jewish written and oral tradition; Jewish Laws; Jewish Wisdom; Hopes; Legends; Literary Expressions.

The Scripture Emphasizes: the value of the human experience; human heroes; human strength; human faults; human capacity to do wrong/revenge; ethical conduct and the highest values.

hebrews became slaves in egypt
Hebrews became Slaves in Egypt

Hebrew scripture tells of herdsmen and farmers who were looking for greener pastures and were captured by Egyptians and kept as slaves.

Some scholars say there is no evidence to support the Hebrews being slaves, and therefore there was no escape.

A leader arose among the Hebrews, named Moses, led an Exodus out of Egypt, spending 40 years wandering in the Sinai Desert, towards home, strengthened by the belief in One God.

(see map again)


Some scholars say that there is no way that the Pharaoh, at the height of Egyptian power, would have allowed thousands of slaves to escape.

Other scholars say that there is evidence of Asiatic slaves in Egypt, some of whom could have been Hebrews. Also, why would the Hebrews make such a point of remembering the shame of slavery if it was not true?

Hebrew literature describes an Exodus from Egypt, with Moses as the human leader, speaking for God. The famous quote, which is attributed to Moses, as he stood before the Pharaoh, is “Let my People Go”.

the ten commandments
The Ten Commandments
  • God gave Moses the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai to serve as principles of moral behaviour.
  • The Ten Commandments of Hebrew God are the foundation of the moral code and legal system of justice for Western Civilization.
the moral code the 10 commandments
The Moral Code – The 10 Commandments

The 10 Commandments given to Moses on Mount Sinai, inscribed on stone tablets, are intended for the guidance of the ancient Hebrews. They form a small but vital part of the total of 623 laws in the Hebrew Scriptures.

ten rules that formed western morals
Ten Rules that formed Western Morals

Morals, Values and Principles

  • Morals, values, and principles is motivation based on ideas of what is right and wrong. It is a series of beliefs that lead you to make decisions based on your personal ethics. Western morals teach people to “do unto others as you'd have done unto you”.
  • Questions
  • How are the 10 Commandments reflected in modern Western morals and values?
  • Do you see any of these morals and values in your own thinking?
mid term exam preparation
Mid Term Exam (preparation)

In-Class Exercise

There will be a mid term exam question asking you to make a connection between the Hebrew 10 Commandments and Western Morals and Values.

Take 5 minutes now, to write in your notes, examples of how the 10 Commandments are reflected in modern Western morals and values.

You will use these notes to study from.

I will be walking around looking at your work.

(return to previous slide)

then and now
Then and Now

The U.S. is the most religiously diverse country in the world. Southern Ontario in Canada is regarded as the most religiously diverse region of any country in the world. Both nations share a legacy of religious freedom and religious tolerance. The U.S. Supreme Court has interpreted their Constitution as requiring a complete separation of church and state. Canadian culture largely separates church and state by tradition.

The Ten Commandments were created within an entirely different culture with very different expectations of its citizens. It was a theocracy where Religion and Government were One. Everyone was expected to follow the state religion. A person following a different religion or proselytizing (converting to a different faith) could find themselves sentenced to death.

return to canaan israel palestine
Return to Canaan (Israel – Palestine)

The wandering Hebrews returned home and rejoined the 12 Tribes of Israel (1250 BCE).

Threatened by the Philistines (from near the Aegean Sea), the Hebrews United under the leadership of Saul (1024-1000) a charismatic leader, and later, his successor David (1000-961), a gifted warrior and poet, and then Solomon (961-922).

A defensive war resulted in Hebrew independence and freedom from the threat of the Philistines.

See the next two maps for the original geographical home of the Philistines, prior to their unsuccessful war to conquer the Hebrews.

a brief look into the future
A Brief Look into the Future

As you will see later in the semester, the Romans destroyed the Hebrew (Jewish) State of Judea and killed or exiled most of its people. The Romans wanted to wipe away all remembrance of a connection between the Jews and their land, so they re-named all of it "Palestinia" in honour of the Philistines.

In later wars, the land was conquered by Byzantines, Persians, Arabs, Crusaders, and Turks. The Arabs and their Turkish masters cut down all the trees, destroying the ecology of the land.


It was not until the 1850’s when the Hebrews (Jews) began to return in large numbers and resettle the Land, a process which culminated in the Balfour Declaration of 1917 and the British undertaking to prepare "the establishment in Palestine of a National Home" for the Jews.

Even today, we continue to hear television new stories of the war between the Palestinians and Jews.

In-class Exercise: In your notebook, describe an example from elsewhere in the world where history has repeated itself, resulting in suffering and the loss of human life.

  • “A man's feet must be planted in his country but his eyes must survey the world.”
  • "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."
monotheism the belief in one god
Monotheism – The belief in ONE GOD

Monotheism was a profound new way of thinking about God.

All other Near Eastern Gods:

  • had limitations on their power.
  • Were born or created and therefore not eternal.
  • Required food, drink and sexual gratification.
  • Sometimes grew old or died.
  • Subjected to fate’s power and can be punished.

Yaweh is: fully Sovereign (independent); timeless; created everything that exists; all powerful.

Yaweh created everything. There were not gods in the storm clouds, rivers, sun or moon.

The Hebrews did not fear nature, as predators with supernatural powers.

Hebrews worshipped only ONE God – Yaweh.

moral autonomy choice
Moral Autonomy = Choice

Yaweh gave humans freedom to choose between good and evil.

Hebrews were:

  • free to think and be aware of themselves as individuals with personal worth.
  • subordinate only to God.
  • Free to disobey Yaweh’s laws.
  • Responsible for their own decision (consequences)

(personal/employment/legal relationships – consequences)

the benefits of knowing god
The Benefits of Knowing God

Faith led to a human being kinder, more righteous, loving and merciful.

The worst elements of human nature (greed, lust, rage, jealousy, etc.) could be overcome when Yaweh’s laws were followed.

Yaweh did not benefit from the adherence of his followers. The followers were the beneficiaries.

Benefits of knowing Yaweh: Adversity is minimized, humans have the power to change and improve ourselves.

stories garden of eden adam and eve the 1 st man and woman
Stories: Garden of Eden (Adam and Eve – The 1st Man and Woman)

Yaweh created the Heavens and the Earth and then the garden of Eden, giving Adam the job of managing the garden, where he lived with Eve. They were commanded to not eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Eve is questioned by the serpent (snake) as to why she does not eat from this tree. Eve tells the serpent that if she touches the fruit she will die. The serpent tells her that she will not die, but that she and her husband will become “as gods, knowing good and evil," and persuades Eve to eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.

Eve eats and gives the fruit to Adam, who also eats. Adam and Eve become aware of “good and evil,“ and become aware of their nakedness. God then finds them, confronts them, and judges them for disobeying.

God expels them (sends them away) from Eden to stop them from taking from the Tree of Life, placing Cherubims (Immortal Guards) with a flaming sword to guard against any future entry into the garden.

garden of eden the moral of the story
Garden of Eden – The moral of the story

Hebrews – Israelites believe that for humans to grow, that we must face opposition, and debate alternative choices. The departure from the Garden of Eden (Paradise), demonstrated to Humans that we must think about choices, learn from our mistakes and evaluate, in advance of our decisions, the consequences of our actions.

the hebrew covenant god s agreement with the hebrew people
The Hebrew CovenantGod’s Agreement with the Hebrew People

If they obeyed His Laws, they would “be unto Me a kingdom of priests,, and a holy nation”

(Exodus 19:6)

Justice is the central theme of Old Testament ethics.

Define Testament: To testify honestly from the heart and fulfill the agreement.

In return for liberation from slavery in Egypt, the Hebrews had to dedicate themselves to overcoming injustice and to care for the poor, the weak and the oppressed.

a unique nation the chosen people
A Unique Nation – The Chosen People

Question: Chosen for what purpose and Why?

  • Not because they were better than any other people, but rather to set an example of Righteous Behavior
  • Demonstrating that it is possible To Overcome Injustice
  • To be a Model for all Humanity into the future
  • To communicate the Message of Justice to other Nations
  • To be Moral Teachers weighed heavily on the Hebrew Conscience
daily practice of the moral code the 10 commandments in our daily lives
Daily Practice of the Moral CodeThe 10 Commandments in our daily lives
  • People are more important than property.
  • Mercy towards the oppressed means rejecting the idea that the law should treat the rich and the poor differently. All people should be treated the same.
  • Hebrew law was more aware of the power imbalances among classes and attempted to make them more equal.
  • Laws were implemented to protect the poor, widows, orphaned children, resident aliens, hired laborers and slaves.
Group Exercise – With one other person, take the quote below and underline and write comment upon 3 of the messages in this passage.