Biblical Nations - Israel
Key Scripture: Genesis 12:1-3
Figures: Abram and the patriarchs, Moses, David and Solomon, Jesus
Any conversation about the peoples and nations of the Bible must begin with an understanding of Israel. Called to leave his family and home, Abram became the founder of a new nation despite having no heir until very late in life. Given the name Abraham, he was succeeded by Isaac, Jacob, and twelve great grandsons who became the namesakes of the tribes of Israel. After living for four generations as nomadic herdsmen, his descendants settled and thrived in Egypt under the protection of Pharaoh, ca. 2000 BC. Unfortunately they were eventually enslaved by a future ruler, but left that nation under the leadership of Moses after 430 years and headed back towards the land where their forefathers had lived. This time, however, the children of Israel (as Abram's grandson had become known late in his life) battled for control of their Promised Land, driving out the populations already there by 1400 BC.
Rebuilding their nation from ruins, the children of Israel could identify portions of their history spent as nomads, slaves, invaders, kingdoms, and vassals. Apart from a brief period of 25 years during which a band of Israelites wrested control of the nation under the leadership of Judah Maccabee, they remained continually oppressed by outsiders. After the Babylonians and Persians, the Greek and Roman empires each took turns controlling the land that had become known as Judea and the people on it. It was during the last of these during the reign of the first Roman Emperor, Augustus, that Jesus of Nazareth was born and the events of the New Testament began. In AD 70, after a military campaign in response to a Jewish revolt and siege lasting several years, troops under the command of future emperor Titus destroyed Jerusalem along with the Second Temple. During the reign of Emperor Hadrian in the second century AD a series of revolts was answered with the full wrath of Roman military might and the children of Israel was nearly exterminated. Similar to their first exile, however, the Jewish people were able to maintain their identity for nearly 2,000 years without a homeland before the state of Israel was recreated after World War II in 1948.
Because Israel is in many ways the focal point of the events of the Bible, our weekly study will largely revolve around other people groups in relation to them.