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YAHWEH. The development of Judaism was closely connected to the social and economic evolution of the Hebrew people A group of Israelites adopted the desert god, YAHWEH, while they were lost in the Sinai peninsula after their escape from slavery in Egypt An austere, intolerant god.

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  • The development of Judaism was closely connected to the social and economic evolution of the Hebrew people
  • A group of Israelites adopted the desert god, YAHWEH, while they were lost in the Sinai peninsula after their escape from slavery in Egypt
    • An austere, intolerant god
god of abraham
  • Some Israelites had monotheistic tendencies ever since time of Abraham
    • Abraham allegedly had an agreement with the “God of Abraham” to worship only him in exchange for his special protection
      • He never saw this god as the only god
      • Just viewed as one of many that Abraham chose to worship
reinterpretation by moses
  • YAHWEH was not one god of many whom the Israelites chose to worship
    • He was the only god
      • All-knowing, all-powerful, and universal
  • Made covenant with the Israelites
    • Embodied in the 10 Commandments
      • Promised to make them his “Chosen People” if they obeyed his commandments
      • Some dealt with religion but others dealt with everyday conduct
  • YAHWEH demanded ethical conduct from his followers

Arc of the Covenant

culture clash
  • Israelites worship of their powerful, but simple, desert god clashed with their new surroundings in Palestine
    • Lush agriculture land inhabited by civilized people with their own polytheistic religion
  • Result was not just war between an invading tribe and a settled people
    • Also a serious cultural clash between a nomadic, semi-civilized desert people with their austere god and an established and prosperous urban people with a complex and elaborate religion centered on fertility


civilizing process
  • Long struggle with Canaanites left lasting impression on the culture and religion of Israelites
    • Absorbed several aspects of Canaanite religion
      • Turned several Canaanite fertility celebrations into their own religious festivals
    • Co-opted Canaanite language and alphabet
    • Original harshness of Israelite religion began to soften under influence of less harsh environment and advanced civilization of Canaanites
political evolution
  • Religion of Israelites also transformed by creation of kingdom of Israel by David and Solomon
    • Replaced loose confederation of independent tribes united only by their claim to be descendants of Abraham with bureaucratic entity that levied taxes, made war, and enforced the law
  • David made Jerusalem his capital
    • Old Canaanite city
    • Did so without specific instructions from YAHWEH
  • Israelites moved away from old total dependence on YAHWEH and towards a growing reliance on the secular power of the state, with its armies, kings, and laws
david modifies the covenant
  • David realized that drift towards secular state might cause a serious division among his people
    • Also was religious himself and was uncomfortable with this development
    • He therefore transformed the Covenant
      • David became YAHWEH’s adopted son whose function was not only to make sure Israelites obeyed the Ten Commandments but also to rule them
      • Symbol of new covenant was transfer of the Arc of the Covenant to Jerusalem
written tradition created
  • Religious tradition of the Israelites first put down in writing during reigns of David and Solomon
    • Had been a confusing mass of oral legends, songs, rituals, prayers, sayings, proverbs, and laws that differed from tribe to tribe
    • David wanted to construct a unified, comprehensive narrative
  • Books of Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, Judges, and Samuel written under David and Solomon
    • First and Second Kings written much later
    • Deuteronomy and Leviticus already written down by time David was king
    • Created foundation for modern Bible
the prophets
  • Tension remained between new idea that YAHWEH now operated through the middleman of the state and older belief that emphasized unconditional and total dependence on YAHWEH
    • Appearance of prophets was in response to growing centralization of religion with the growth of a hereditary castes of priests and their obsession with rules and rituals
      • Prophets claimed to convey messages that had come directly from YAHWEH and communicated them to the people directly through sermons and symbolic acts
prophets come into their own
  • Several minor prophets appeared during reigns of David and Solomon
    • But it was not until after the death of Solomon and the division of the kingdom into Judah and Israel that the prophets really came into their own
      • Became moral and religious leaders of the people
  • Lived in northern kingdom of Israel just before it was taken over by Assyrians
  • Claimed that Israel was on the verge of a great catastrophe
    • Caused by the Israelites failure to live up to the terms of the Covenant
      • Especially by only participating in religious rituals without grasping the true essence of their religion
  • Common theme for many prophets
    • Israelites were losing sight of the true meaning of their religion
      • Either by disobeying the commandments, worshipping other gods, or becoming obsessed with the formal, ritualistic aspects of their religion and forgetting its fundamental principles
      • Theme repeated by Hosea, Isaiah, Elijah, Elisha, etc.
one more development
  • Destruction of Israel by Assyrian, the Babylonian Captivity, and conquest by the Persians appeared to have permanently destroyed the secular state of the Israelites
    • Israelites themselves now scattered
      • Some still in Palestine but others were in Babylonia and Egypt
      • Israelites no longer possessed a geographic unity
      • Danger was that they would be absorbed by local populations in the Middle East and lose their religion
creating a sense of spiritual identity
  • To forestall this development, Israelite leaders and prophets began to stress Mosaic law and Israelite traditions
    • Hoping that this would bind Israelites together no matter where they lived
    • Composed books of Job, Proverbs, and Psalms and added story of Creation and Adam and Eve to Genesis
    • Provide Israelites with a strong sense of their special history
      • YAHWEH had always watched over them and that he always would, as long as they obeyed his law