The Israelites - World History

The Israelites - World History
Posted on 28-12-2022

The Israelites (1100) The Israelites elect Saul as king.

During the 11th century, China underwent major changes in its political and social structure. After a reign of about 500 years, the Chang dynasty was overthrown, and the Cheu dynasty was established. Its first king was Wu, and he came from the western reaches of the country. He established the capital at Hao, in the Wei Valley.He distributed the territory among his family members and allies. This gave rise to a feudal system in which some great lords exercised both political and religious authority, regulating the traditional worship of ancestors. These lords enjoyed great independence, and submission to the king was merely formal. Only the closest relatives (who occupied the states of Qi, Lu, and Jin ) were actually subject to the monarch. In the following centuries it was called Wuto a class of sorcerer-priests who were respected (or sometimes feared) by Chinese from all walks of life. By this time, Chinese cultural diversity had been subsumed into a national identity by which the Chinese distinguished themselves from the surrounding uncivilized barbarians. The world was conceived as a quadrangle, each of whose sides corresponded to a color and a divinity. Above the gods of the cardinal points, the Sun, the Moon, the Earth, the mountains, clouds, rivers and other natural phenomena, was Shangdi, the omnipotent supreme divinity, who resided in a palace together with five ministers. However, Shangdi did not have shrines, nor were sacrifices offered to him. The king's ancestors were in contact with Shangdi. The living could contact their ancestors through an oracle based on the observation of ossicles.

King Wu was succeeded by his son Ch'eng, whose reign definitively legitimized the dynastic change. Many documents survive on ceremonies and acts of investiture aimed undoubtedly at the old nobility accepting the new masters.

In Mexico the first Olmec architectural manifestations appear: the towns are concentrated around the ceremonial centers, houses are built on stone platforms, temples, stepped bases and funerary mounds. A more structured mythology appears. The main gods were Huehueteotl, god of fire, and Tlaloc, god of rain. Colossal heads of more than two meters in height, tombstones, sarcophagi and many works of great technical mastery have been found.

Around 1100 the Dorians occupied the Peloponnese, thus completing the conquest of Greece and ending the Mycenaean Age for good. Greece fell into the peace of the cemeteries. During the disorders of the preceding years, the peasants tended to entrench themselves in walled cities, which now became self-sufficient units under Dorian rule, known as Polis.The word Polis means "city" in Greek, but the polis was not a city in the usual sense. It was a city-state without any relation to the neighboring polis, with a subsistence economy and, at this time, on the threshold of misery. While the Mycenaean Greeks had mixed with the Pelasgics, the Dorians adopted a classist, or even racist, attitude towards the Mycenaeans, reduced to slavery. Sparta became one of the main Dorian polis, while Mycenae, Tiryns, and other major cities of the earlier period were burnt down and reduced to dreary villages. There were, however, a few regions that escaped Dorian rule. One of them was Attica, with Athens at its head, and another was Arcadia, located in the highest mountains of the Peloponnese. In these areas an Ionian identity arose that claimed its legitimate occupation of Greece, against the invading Dorians. Thus, while the Dorians held the Ionians as equals to their slaves, the Ionians held the Dorians as savages. A part of the Ionian population emigrated to the Aegean islands. The first to receive them wasEuboea, the largest island in the Aegean and closest to the mainland. There the city of Chalcis was founded , whose name derives from the Greek word for "brass". It was probably a bronze working center. To the east of Chalcis was the city of Eretria, which also achieved some importance.

Meanwhile, Egypt was still under the official rule of the Ramessides and under the royal rule of the priests. In 1093 the Assyrian king Teglatfalasar I was assassinated and his successors failed to maintain the empire. The Aramaean invasions became more effective and all of Mesopotamia remained in anarchy for more than a century, during which continuous and fruitless combats were fought between Assyria, Babylonia and Urartu. In 1075 Ramses XI died and was succeeded by the priest of Amun, despite not having any relationship with the former king. On the other hand, in the delta region another priest was simultaneously proclaimed king who inaugurated the XXI dynasty.Egypt was divided again.

In Canaan, the Phoenicians and the Philistines occupied the coast with some prosperity, while the Israelites were consolidating their conquests. Although originally they were a conglomerate of very different tribes in all aspects, the need to make common cause against the Canaanites unified them and gradually they created a mythical common history based on diverse traditions.

The story states that the Israelites were originally slaves in Egypt, to whom a patriarch named Moses freed with the help of a mighty god. He made a pact with the Israelites: in exchange for being worshiped he would grant them a promised land, inhabited until then by sinners whom they had to destroy in his name and with his help. The way in which they should worship this god was fully stipulated in the alliance through a written code of ten commandments. The Israelites (including Moses himself) repeatedly broke these laws, so they were punished by wandering in the Sinai desert for forty years, so that only their children would see the promised land. Moses was succeeded by Joshua, who easily conquered Canaan with divine help.

Whether any of this has a historical basis has been questioned, but Mosaic Law undoubtedly exists and, although it probably has many later additions, its core is a complex system of laws designed to regulate the lives of a nomadic herding people. In addition to the original ten commandments, there was a whole system of orally transmitted laws that completely regulated the itinerant life of the Israelites in its penal, social (property regulation, including slavery), religious aspects, and even hygiene and food issues. . The basis of the justice system was an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth: blood crimes were paid for with death and property damage with fines. It is unreasonable to assume that these laws were created later, when the Israelites were no longer a nomadic people (on the contrary, many of them were out of date) and, at the same time, the Mosaic Law was too refined to have been devised by crude shepherds. . On the other hand, the legend of Moses and the background to it are embellished with various fables of undoubtedly Egyptian origin.

A reasonable guess is that Moses led the withdrawal of a (relatively small) group of Canaanites when the Hyksos were expelled from Egypt and led them towards Sinai. He may have planned to raise an army from the nomadic population of the peninsula with which to reconquer Egypt or at least a part of Canaan. He perhaps alerted the natives that a resurgent Egypt threatened to once again dominate their lands and took them south with him (liberating them, in a sense, from Egyptian slavery). Perhaps that is how he became the leader of a tribe (which would later split into the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh). In any case, we can accept that someone named Moses led a people of nomadic herders through the desert and that, according to the Bible, He gave them some laws. The biblical account fits here very well: like all legislators of the time, Moses could not expect his laws to be respected if they did not have a divine origin, so he must have chosen the god most feared by his men, a god of storms. to which the shepherds begged for mercy in the worst storms, he retired to a mountain and returned with some stone tablets on which the ten basic commandments of his law were carved.

Moses was more meticulous than Abraham in describing his god. He probably did not invent it, but took it from among the numerous gods that men must have had of him at that time. This god was probably called Eloim. Two texts are known from the time when the Israelites were already settled in Canaan, one corresponding to the tribe of Ephraim and the other to that of Judah, which recount similar traditions, but the god of Ephraim is called Eloim, while the The god of Judah is called Yahweh.The tribe of Judah was one of the last to join the confederation of Israel, and it is likely that they identified their own god with the god of Ephraim (just as the Egyptians in their day identified the gods Ra and Amun). The final version of the Bible was written by the Jews, so the final name of the god of Moses was Yahveh. In fact, the Israelites later developed the idea that pronouncing the name of god was sacrilege. It is possible that this was a means by which the priests tried to avoid controversy over whether the common god of the Israelites was Eloim, Yahveh, or another. This almost made the Jews forget the name of their god. Indeed, Hebrew only writes the consonants, although later a system of orthographic signs was devised to indicate the vowels. In the editions of the Bible, over the consonants YHVH the Jews noted the vowels ofAdonay, the Lord, which is what they read in practice so as not to pronounce the ineffable name of God. The combination of the consonants of Yahveh with the vowels of Adonay produces a word foreign to the Hebrew ear that naturally evolves into Jehovah. Even today there are believers who call their god that, without realizing that this name is simply an absurd hybrid of vowels and consonants from two different words.

Returning to Moses, his laws clearly show his effort to ensure the fear of God among his people, as well as an attempt to exclude competition from other cults. Just read the first two commandments:

1) I am the Lord, your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of slavery. Will not have other gods before me.

2) You shall not make for yourself a sculptured image or figure of any of the things that are in heaven above, nor on the earth below, nor of those that are in the waters, under the earth. You shall not adore or worship them. I am the Lord, your God, the strong one, the jealous one, who punishes the wickedness of the parents in the children up to the third and fourth generation, of those who hate me; and that I show mercy to thousands of generations with those who love me and keep my commandments. (Former XX, 2-6)

It is noteworthy that Moses did not have the claims of Akhenaten, and at no time did he insinuate that his god was the only true one. He only said that his god did not tolerate those who worshiped him also worshiping other idols. Moses instituted a priestly class that took care of matters of worship and substituted him as judge in minor cases. According to the Bible, the priesthood was entrusted to the tribe of Levi, to which Moses himself belonged. Perhaps the Levites were the Canaanites who escaped from Egypt with Moses when the Hyksos were driven out.

The Tablets of the Law were kept in a sacred ark, the Ark of the Covenant, for God promised the Israelites a "land flowing with milk and honey," as it is often described in the Bible, if they followed his laws. These are the words of the Alliance:

The Lord answered: I will establish an alliance with this people in the presence of all; I will do wonders never seen on earth, nor in any nation: so that this people may see that you conduct the terrible work that I, the Lord, have to do. You observe all the things that I entrust to you on this day and I myself will drive out before you the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Hittites, the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites. Beware of ever contracting friendship with the inhabitants of that land, which would cause your ruin. Rather destroy their altars, break their statues, and lay waste the groves [consecrated to their idols].Do not worship any foreign god. The name of the Lord is Jealous. God wants to be loved by himself. Do not make a league with the inhabitants of those countries, lest after having corrupted yourself with their gods and adored their statues, someone invites you to eat sacrificed things. You shall not marry your sons to their daughters, lest it happen that, after having idolized them, they also induce your sons to corrupt themselves with idolatry. (Ex XXXIV, 10-16).

Obviously this text contains anachronisms, but perhaps it reflects an original prevention of Moses, who was not willing for his men to make the same mistake as the Hyksos and thus, to prevent them from living with the invaded towns at the risk that they would end up rising up against them, he invented and instilled in his men religious intolerance. Indeed, every time the Israelites have the opportunity to conquer a city, the divine mandate is always to put the sword to death all its inhabitants, including women and children. The Israelites applied this policy whenever the occasion permitted.

If indeed Moses left Egypt when the Hyksos were expelled, then his pilgrimage was not forty years, but about three hundred. Perhaps Moses' original plan was to reconquer Egypt, or at least Canaan, as soon as possible, but at one point he must have realized that the New Egyptian Empire was untouchable, so he must have told his people that, Because of their many sins, God had decided that none of them would see the promised land, but would give it to their children, after they died in the desert. The Israelites used the word "son" in a very loose sense, which could just as easily mean "grandson" or "great-grandson" or whatever. In this way,

There is a part of the biblical account that does not fit this interpretation, indicating a different provenance. According to this part, the Israelites descended from Joseph (actually from Joseph and his eleven brothers, but this addition is undoubtedly much later), who was a Canaanite who, from a slave, had become viceroy of Egypt. The legend of Joseph seems to come from the times of Amenhotep III and Akhenaten (when Moses would have been dead for a long time). Joseph's family proliferated, but "Meanwhile a new king arose in Egypt, who knew nothing of Joseph"(Ex. I, 8) and the Israelites were reduced to slavery. Later, the god of Moses launches a series of plagues on Egypt until the king decides to free the Israelites, then he regrets his decision and goes out to chase them, but the god of Moses opens a corridor in the waters of the Red Sea and it closes again when the Israelites had already passed to the other side, while the Egyptian king was drowned. From which pharaoh did the Israelites escape? The Bible also says that the Israelite slaves "... built for Pharaoh the strong store cities of Fithom and Ramses."(Ex. I, 11), So the pharaoh must have been Ramses II or, at most, his son Meneptah. Now, of course, none of them died in the Red Sea.

It is very likely that some of the Israelite tribes escaped from the eastern part of the Nile delta in the time of Meneptah (those who built the cities of Fithom and Ramses). The seven plagues may be a reminder of the calamities suffered by Egypt with the invasion of the Sea Peoples, and certainly these could have given them the opportunity to escape. The name of the tribe of Issachar seems to come from Sokar, who was an Egyptian god. The stories of the newcomers would end up anachronistically merging with the legends about Moses, adding more color to the departure from Egypt. The traditional forty-year interval may be a compromise between three centuries from one source and a few years from another.

Arriving in Canaan, the Israelites came into contact with the legend of Abraham. It probably went through the Hebrews. Apparently, the Idumeans considered themselves descendants of Esau, the firstborn of Isaac, son of Abraham, and, therefore, legitimate heirs of the land that had been granted to him by his god. For their part, the Moabites and Ammonites considered themselves descendants of Lot, Abraham's nephew. This forced to modify the legends not without certain impudence. For example, Esau's relationship with Edom is explained like this in Genesis:

One day Jacob was cooking a certain stew when Esau, returning tired from the field, came up to him and said: Give me that red stew that you have cooked, for I am extremely tired. For which reason it was later given the nickname of Edom [which, by a false etymology, is interpreted as "red"]. (Gn XXV, 29-30).

This theory legitimized the Hebrew possessions, since the god of Abraham had granted Canaan to his descendants. In Gen. XIV, 13, Abraham is called Abram the Hebrew.Now, Joshua also arrived with a god who had promised him a land that, without a doubt, had to be Canaan. It should not have been difficult to identify the god of Moses with the god of Abraham. To consolidate the newly created Israelite confederation, Joshua had to convince his associates that they all descended from Abraham through his grandson Jacob. Over time the details would be filed: just as Esau had had twelve sons (corresponding to as many Idumean tribes), Jacob also had twelve descendants, one of them was Joseph, who in turn had two sons: Ephraim and Manasseh. , and eleven brothers, in correspondence with the eleven remaining tribes. However, the legend needed some modifications that, again, the Bible picks up without complexes. For example,

He was left alone and behold, a character appeared to him and began to fight with him until morning. Seeing this man that he could not surpass Jacob, he touched the tendon of his thigh, which instantly withered. And he said to her: let me go, the dawn is already breaking. Jacob replied: I will not let you go if you do not give me the blessing. What's your name?, he asked her. He replied: Jacob. Your name should no longer be Jacob, but Israel [which, due to an etymology that is not entirely correct, means "man who fights with God"], because if with God himself you have shown yourself great, how much more will you prevail against men? ? Jacob asked him: what is your name? He replied: why do you want to know my name? And there he himself gave him his blessing. (Gen XXXII, 24-29)

In what follows, Jacob continues to be called Jacob. Only in the book of Exodus does he come to be called Israel. In this way, the Israelites came to be considered sons of Jacob. According to these accounts, the tribes of Israel became twelve: Ephraim and Manasseh were two half-tribes, which made up the tribe of Joseph. The goddess Raquel became the mother of Joseph and Benjamin, while Leah became the mother of Reuben, Issachar, and Zabulon. Gad and Asher became the children of a slave of Leah, while the mother of Dan and Naphtali was a slave of Raquel. The supposed ancestor of the priestly tribe of Levi, as well as those of the last members of the coalition, Judah and Simeon, must have been incorporated late among the children of Leah.true heirs, that is, the Israelites, occupied Canaan. Again, some weak points in the plot were tweaked later. For example, Jacob wasn't really Abraham's heir (by direct line), but Esau was, but Esau kindly decided to give him the rights in exchange for the famous red stew (which, more specifically, was a bowl of lentils). Furthermore, Jacob arranged with the help of his mother to have Isaac declare him his heir on his deathbed, mistaking him for Esau. Finally, adding to this a series of prophecies that guaranteed that it was God's will that Jacob inherit Abraham's rights, the Israelites found that their invasion was, no matter how you looked at it, God's will.

The Bible gives indications that Joshua must have used the story of Abraham to instill encouragement in his men. Apparently, God commanded Joshua to circumcise them all. It was probably Joshua who "discovered" that Abraham's god (or that of Moses) had ratified his alliance with the rite of circumcision (a rite of Egyptian origin that was practiced by the Canaanites, but not by the Israelites). Joshua must have explained to his men that during their years of wandering in the desert they had abandoned circumcision, and that was no doubt why God was not helping them conquer the promised land, but the command God was giving him now did. presage that, once circumcised, he would recognize them as his chosen people and lead them triumphantly to victory. Philosophies aside, it is reasonable to think that some rude men intimidated by the opulence of civilized lands (somewhat in turmoil, but finally civilized) would redouble their spirits after a ritual as annoying as the one proposed (a man willing to do that undoubtedly deserved the favors of the "god of hosts", as he began to be called).

According to the book of Joshua, the effect of circumcision was immediate: the Israelites won every battle. God parted the waters of the Jordan to facilitate the passage of his people. To take Jericho, they only had to sound some trumpets (following the divine indication) and the walls fell, then they took one city after another killing each king along with all its inhabitants, the Sun stopped its course so that Joshua could finish a battle etc In contrast, in the book of Judges the invasion is described as a much more painful process, full of progress and setbacks, a process that took place over a hundred years.

The Israelite religion was very diverse. All the tribes must have adopted as their main god the god of Ephraim, identified with that of Abraham, called Eloim or Yahveh. He erected a sanctuary for him in Shiloh,in the territory of Ephraim, where the Ark of the Covenant was kept, which contained the tablets with the ten commandments and was the center of numerous pilgrimages and rituals. The Levites managed to turn the few cities that remained in their charge into a kind of sanctuaries respected by all, where the persecuted in search of justice could take refuge. Perhaps they more or less fully preserved the traditions of the cult of Yahveh, in particular their suspicion and contempt for other gods, but the truth is that this alleged exclusivity was always in the minority among the Israelites: each tribe had brought its own beliefs to which I was not willing to give up. The Israelites worshiped a multitude of gods of Canaanite or even Egyptian origin: Baal, Astarte, Anat, etc. The belief that the dead traveled to a place calledSeol, over which, apparently, God had no jurisdiction, where they remained forever, although they could be invoked with the help of some sacred statuettes called Terafim with which they could be consulted and predict the future. Another Israelite religious manifestation was made up of the prophets. Although the concept of a prophet evolved considerably throughout history, at this time they were a kind of mystic who went into trances and supposedly had divinatory visions. The prophets in ecstasy must have been quite intimidating to simple folk, so they had a certain authority.

The main enemies of the Israelites were undoubtedly the Philistines. The Bible contains many legends about the struggles between the Israelites and the Philistines, the most famous of which is that of Samson and Delilah. around 1050the Philistines inflicted a severe defeat on the Ephraimites near Shiloh. Ephraim tried to rally by calling on his allies, but Philistine discipline far outweighed Israelite disorganization, and the Philistines were victorious again. A complete defeat of Ephraim could mean the creation of a Philistine empire and disaster for all the Israelites. Ephraim tried to give a coup: he transported the Ark of the Covenant from Shiloh to the vicinity of the Philistine armies. This encouraged his men, for they thought that now his god was with them (the idea that God is everywhere had not occurred to anyone yet, the question then for the Israelites was rather whether Yahveh would be able to defeat the Philistine gods). However, the Philistines trusted their own gods, attacked immediately, and the iron weapons once again prevailed over the bronze weapons and the Israelite god together. Silo was destroyed forever and the Ark of the Covenant was captured. The Philistines dominated the territories of Ephraim and Benjamin, putting the rest of the Israelite territory in check.

However, it seems that some sort of guerilla warfare in the mountains led by a religious leader named Samuel, soon gained a great reputation among all the Israelites. Later, when Samuel was older, he singled out a young Benjaminite named Saul.The Israelites had been considering the convenience of choosing a king for a long time, but now Samuel took up the question more insistently and proposed choosing Saul. If Israel wanted to survive it needed to unite under a single command. The idea did not quite convince the prophets and, although most of the Israelites must have welcomed it, the problem was that no tribe seemed willing to accept a king from another tribe simply because it was convenient to accept one.

However, Saul achieved the necessary reputation thanks to incidents that occurred in Gad, east of the Jordan. The Ammonites had surrounded the city of Jabez-Gilead and only accepted surrender if its inhabitants agreed to have their right eye gouged out (or at least, so the Israelites later told it). Therefore, the besieged decided to resist and asked the tribes on the other side of the Jordan for help. Saul agreed to the request, gathered as many men as he could, eluded the Philistines, reached the city ahead of schedule, surprised the Ammonites, and liberated the city. It was the first feat the Israelites could be proud of since the time of Jephthah. Saul's success made the partisan current triumph to elect him king and Samuel, asserting his own reputation, he hastened to invest it with an appropriate religious ritual. This happened towards1020. The new king established his capital at Giba, in the territory of Benjamin, about three miles north of Jerusalem.

Around this time King Abibaal came to the throne of Tire. The city already had several centuries of history, but until now it had been subject to Sidon, the main Phoenician city. However, now the situation was to change. The entire city was moved to a rocky island, where it was virtually impregnable and could be well defended with the help of a fleet. The Phoenicians had a long naval tradition that had collapsed with the arrival of the sea peoples. Under Abibaal, the city of Tire was recovering that tradition and this gave it supremacy over ancient Sidon.

Turning to the Israelites, the Philistines set out to abort the creation of Saul's kingdom, but it was not easy. Saul's son Jonathan defeated a small Philistine garrison near Giba, while his father entrenched himself at Michmash,a little further north. The Philistines advanced against Michmash, but were surprised by a quick raid by Jonathan. The Philistines miscalculated the number of troops attacking them and decided to withdraw. Faced with this situation, Judah, subjected from the beginning to the Philistines, decided to rebel and declared himself faithful to Saul. A united Jewish-Israelite army defeated the Philistines at Shocoh, south of Jerusalem, and all of Judah was annexed to Israel. Saul led his troops into Judah and defeated the Amalekites, a nomadic people who lived to the south and wreaked the typical periodic havoc. Thus the king displayed his power to Judah while earning his gratitude.

However, Saul was not as good a diplomat as a general. On the one hand he was suspicious of his son Jonathan, who had achieved great popularity with the army and feared that he might overthrow him. He went so far as to order Jonathan's execution for a certain ritual violation, but the army objected and he had to revoke the order. The situation became more tense. On the other hand, Saul disputed Samuel's religious authority, which earned him the enmity of Samuel himself. After other minor frictions, the most tense situation occurred as a result of the campaign against the Amalekites. Apparently, Samuel had indicated to Saul what the will of Yahveh was:

Go, then, now and destroy Amalek, and devastate all that he has: do not spare him or covet any of his goods, but kill everything, men, women, boys and infants, oxen and sheep, camels and donkeys. (Samuel XV, 3)

However, Saul only killed the Amalekites, but spared their king Agag, (perhaps to use him as a hostage) and distributed the spoils among his soldiers as a reward (instead of sacrificing it to God). The fact is that Samuel publicly humiliated Saul, after which he considered it prudent to withdraw into the background, but Saul knew that from now on he had the opposition of Samuel and, with him, that of the prophets. Saul became suspicious to the point of paranoia. Among the victims of his suspicions was, in addition to his son, a young Jew who had moved to Giba after the annexation. His name was David, and he belonged to an important family in Bethlehem, south of Jerusalem. David was a smart politician (more than Saul) and also a good general. At first he enjoyed the favor of Saul, who granted him the hand of his daughter Michal, but he was a close friend of Jonathan, which aroused the king's misgivings. Since David was not his son, it was easier for him to plot his death, but Jonathan warned him and David quietly left Giba and came to Judah, where he had to wage a guerrilla war against Saul. David had the support of Samuel and the prophets, perhaps simply because he opposed Saul.

The king relentlessly persecuted David. He went so far as to kill a group of priests upon learning that one of them had helped David when he fled from Giba. Over time, he made it more difficult for David to get help, to the point that at one point he decided to go over to the side of the Philistines. They now saw his opportunity. Israel was convulsed by internal revolts among Saul's supporters, Jonathan's supporters, the prophets, and now one of Saul's opponents was allied with them. No doubt a vigorous Philistine attack under these conditions was going to succeed.

Around 1000 a Philistine army again faced Israel. Jonathan chose to help his father given the seriousness of the events, but the Israelite army was overwhelmed by the heavy Philistine weapons. Jonathan died in battle and Saul, when he saw all was lost, committed suicide. The Philistines again gained hegemony over Israel, as if Saul had never existed.

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