Thursday, November 8, 2012

Hebrews, Israelites, and Jews (4004-520 BC)

The Old Testament is a remarkable but frustrating collection of books. On one hand, the stories are remarkably historical in detail. On the other, coming up with a simple and clear chronology is challenging. What follows is a summary of the biblical chronology established by James Ussher (Annals of the World, 1658) which is simple, clear, and accurate enough to serve our purposes.

The words Hebrews, Israelites, and Jews have overlapping meanings. The term “Hebrew” applies primarily to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and members of their families and secondarily to their descendants. The term “Israelite” applies primarily to descendants of Jacob, renamed Israel later in life, until the conquest of the kingdom of Judah in 587 BC. After that, the term “Jew” applies to all people loyal to the god of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, or connected in some meaningful way to those who are, until Jesus Christ.

4004 BC. This is the year that Yahweh created Olympia, Incognita, and everything else.

This was a big year for us as humans. Yahweh created our cosmos out of nothing to serve as the perfect place for us to enjoy a relationship of truth, freedom, love, and vitality with him. He created us humans as creatures able to enjoy this kind of relationship with him, one another, and all the other creatures he had made. We might call this brief period of time our Days of Conviviality.

It didn’t last long. We humans quickly broke our relationship with Yahweh. Into that break rushed powers of evil that have tormented us ever since. Yahweh expelled Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden. Cain murdered his brother Abel and built the first city. We humans filled the earth with violence (Genesis 6:11).

With the rupture in our relationships with Yahweh, others, and the rest of creation, we became the unwilling victims and unwitting collaborators with the six false gods of Olympianity. Consequently, we may call this first major era of human history the Age of Olympianity (4000-1922 BC).

2948. Noah is born.

2349. The biblical flood occurs and covers Olympia.

2247. We humans start construction of the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11), Yahweh confuses our language, and we scatter across the face of the earth and settle in various lands according to the different languages of our groups.

. Abraham is born.

1922. Yahweh calls Abraham to move from Haran in Mesopotamia. This migration marks the beginning of the second major era of human history according to our calendar: the Age of Yahwism (1922-4 BC). With Abraham, Yahweh starts a meaningfully new way of relating to us as human beings. Olympianity continues, but Yahweh now blesses Abraham, and the rest of us through his descendants, in new and unexpected ways.

1896. Isaac is born.

1836. Jacob is born.

1706. Jacob and all his family join his son Joseph in Egypt.

1571. Moses is born. In 1531 he flees Egypt and lives in Midian.

1491. Yahweh calls Moses from a burning bush on Mount Sinai and sends him to confront the pharaoh of Egypt. Let us delight in identifying that ruler as Ramses 2nd.

1491-1451. The people of Israel, under the leadership of Moses, leave Egypt and live in the wilderness between Egypt and Canaan. Moses dies in 1451.

1451-1445. The people of Israel invade, conquer, and occupy a portion of Canaan.

1445-1095. Israelites live in a confederation of 12 tribes. These are led, when needed, by a man or woman known as a judge. Famous judges include Deborah, Gideon, Samson, and Samuel.

1095-1055. Saul rules as the first king of Israel.

1055-1015. David rules as king of Israel.

. Solomon rules as king of Israel. Construction of the first temple is finished in 1005.

. The united kingdom of Israel splits into a northern kingdom of Israel and a very small southern Kingdom of Judah.

721. An Assyrian army destroys the northern kingdom of Israel, takes thousands into exile, and moves thousands of foreigners into the land. The ten northern tribes of Israel disappear from history.

588. A Babylonian army destroys the southern kingdom of Judah, conquers Jerusalem, burns the temple of Solomon to the ground, and drags thousands to exile in Babylon.

537. Cyrus, king of Persia, enables Jews—as the people of Israel exiled from Judah are now called—to return from Babylon to Jerusalem.

520. Constructed starts on the second temple in Jerusalem. It is completed five years later.

Copyright © 2012 by Steven Farsaci.
All rights reserved. Fair use encouraged.