The history of Ancient Israel and Judah in 6 minutes

I offer the following brief history of ancient Israel and Judah as a way to help students of Biblical history, especially young people. It takes 6 minutes to read through the following 1,000 words covering Israel’s 4,000 year old history! In an age of short attention spans, it may be a helpful tool for anyone, but especially parents to both understand and explain to others the history of ancient Israel and Judah. I didn’t add timelines and verse references on purpose. My goal was to create a smooth flowing narrative rather than a sophisticated study tool, if which there are many. George

The descendants of Abraham, to whom the land of Israel was promised, were a federation of twelve tribes in the era starting with Abraham and all the way to the era of the judges.

The judge was not a king but the twelve tribes followed him in times of conflict and war, which was often.

According to the book of genesis the Hebrews had been enslaved in Egypt before they invaded the Lavant where they completely destroyed several Canaanite city-states and their populations.

Such conquest was the only time in Israel’s history where offensive warfare would be used to seize other lands. The Bible clearly teaches that God used the Israelites for the conquest of the Promised Land as a way of executing a judgment on the peoples living there at the time. After the initial conquest they moved further north along the coast.

The period of judges lasted roughly from the fourteenth through eleventh centuries BC.

During these centuries at one time or another the Hebrew tribes would be vassals or tributaries of the Edomites, Moabites, Canaanites, Medianites, Ammonites, or Philistines.

The Philistines held a long time technological advantage over Israel in that they had iron weaponry and chariots.

In the north the Aramean kings of Damascus will be a long time foes as well. Their spoken and written language Aramaic would fuse into Hebrew around the sixth century BC in the Levant and by the first century it was the dominant spoken language throughout the Near East.

The people tired of being led by judges and wanted a permanent king. The last judge, Samuel, anointed Saul as the first king of the united kingdom of Israel.

David, a young man who initially was favored by Saul, fled after his popularity among the people soared resulting from defeating the philistine Goliath in a duel.

Ironically, he fled and lived among the Philistines working as a mercenary for the king of Gath, the city that Goliath came from.

Tragically, Saul would be killed in a battle against the Philistines.

David then returned with a motley band of international warriors known as his ‘mighty men’ and would first conquer the south. Conquering the previously independent Jebusite city of Jerusalem, he made it his capital. He then moved north and defeated Saul’s son Ishbosheth, who had ruled Israel for 2 years.

David spent much of his 40-year long reign waging war on many of the Canaanite city-states within and surrounding Israel’s borders.

His son Solomon succeeded him and was renowned for his wealth and wisdom.

Following Solomon’s death the ten northern tribes rebelled, establishing the city of Samaria as their capital city while Judah in the south remained loyal to Solomon’s son Rehoboam.

Israel and Judah would have hostile relations with each other from the beginning.

Jeroboam, king of Israel, had fled to Egypt during the reign of Solomon, receiving protection of the pharaoh Shoshenq.

The 10 northern tribes had become discontent with Solomon’s extravagance and welcomed Jeroboam as a liberator. Shoshenq saw opportunity and invaded Judah in the fifth yeah of Rehoboam’s reign.

With more than 60,000 men he subdued Judah making it a vassal state.

Finally, Egyptian influence was ended over Judah when an Egyptian backed Ethiopian army was defeated by King Asa of Judah.

The tumultuous relationship between the divided kingdoms would continue to unfold in a chaotic and blood splattered tale until the Syrian conquest of Israel ended that kingdom.

Josiah, Israel’s last king, stopped paying tribute to the Assyrian empire when he mistakenly believed that Egypt would back him up in the conflict. However, this was not the case and after 3-year siege Assyria conquered Samaria. The kingless vassal rebelled again and the Assyrians brutally crushed it. The survivors of the ten tribes were deported to distant areas of the Assyrian empire.

Their fate became unknown, giving way to many “Lost Tribes” theories and speculations, even to this day.

The last king of Judah, Zedekiah, was installed by the Babylonians as a puppet-king.

However, he did not play along and rebelled against the Babylonians at which point Nebuchadnezzar II laid siege and conquered Jerusalem, taking many captives back to Babylon.

Under the Persian empire Babylonian captives were allowed to return and enjoyed some level of autonomy as a vassal.

But in the second century BC, a group of Jews known as the Maccabeans led a revolt against the Seleucid empire (one of the empires that came into existence after Alexander the Great) and succeeded. This gave rise to the Hasmonean dynasty which ruled over the new Jewish state in the Levant.

In 69 BC the Roman general Pompey Magnus sacked Jerusalem and installed a puppet ruler loyal to him.

In 37 BC Judea would become an official client state of the Roman Empire.

The Idumaenian, Herod the Great was appointed king of the Jews by the Roman Senate. He attempted to curry favor with his subjects by reconstructing the temple in Jerusalem on a grand scale. However, this was funded through heavy taxation and he was still viewed as an unpopular foreigner and acolyte of the Romans.

After his death the kingdom was partitioned between his three sons and sister.

Following the death of his grandson, Herod Agrippa, in 44 AD Rome absorbed Judea into the empire and after a short rule by Agrippa’s son (Agrippa II) made it a full province of the Roman Empire administered by a Roman governor.

The period between 66-70 AD is known as the Great Jewish Revolt, or The Jewish War, which was followed by two more rebellions.

In 70 AD Jerusalem was sacked. The Romans destroyed the temple and either killed, exiled or enslaved all of the Hebrew leaders, elites and nobles.

In 132 AD the remaining Jews, under the leadership of Bar Kokhba, rebelled against the Roman Emperors Adrian but were defeated.

As a punishment Adrian exiled even more Jews and forbade them from living in their capital.

This marked the beginning of many centuries of Jewish exile which era ended with the creation of the modern, democratic State of Israel in 1947.

The True History of the Christmas Truce During World War I

The Christmas Truce was a series of unofficial armistices on the Western Front of World War I on Christmas Even in 1914.

The armistice took place five months after hostilities began. In the week before 25 December, French, German and British soldiers crossed the trenches to exchange seasonal greetings and to talk. In some areas, men from both sides entered so-called No Man’s Land on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day to exchange food and souvenirs. There were joint funeral ceremonies for recently killed soldiers and prisoner exchanges, and several meetings ended with the singing of Christmas carols. The men played football games with each other, creating one of the most memorable moments of the Armistice.

A statue depicting one of the moments during the unofficial Christmas Truce of 1914. The statue is located in the garden of St. Lukes Church on Berry Street in Liverpool.

On that Christmas Eve, German officer Walter Kirchhoff, a tenor at the Berlin Opera, began singing, “Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht…” He sang it first in German and then in English, “Silent night, holy night…” His voice carried in the air over the stillness of the battlefield.

Stanley Weintraub, author of Silent Night: The Story of the Christmas Truce in World War I, says that after this performance, “…the firing had stopped, and the British, who also knew the song, sang it back.”

In that moment, the collective Christian faith of men singing in different tongues on frozen mud crystallized. Soldiers with guns pointed at each other, who had tried to kill each other the day before, joined in singing the same song of praise to God – a hymn.

Private Albert Morin of the Second Queen’s Regiment remembers that Christmas Eve as “a beautiful moonlit night, frost on the ground, white almost everywhere.” Historians still argue about exactly what happened next, but some details are indisputable. First, Stille Nacht and Silent Night echoed over Christmas trees and candles flickering in the darkness, and then someone started singing another Christmas song. And then another. One historian described what happened as “carol singing,” a joyful race led in praise of God, who was born of a woman as a little Child to bring peace on earth. “It was all improvised. No one planned it,” Weintraub writes.

Graham Williams of the Fifth London Rifle Brigade was there and saw it all. “First the Germans sang one of their Christmas carols and then we sang one of ours,” he recalls. “Whereas when we started ‘O Come, All Ye Faithful,’ the Germans immediately joined in and sang the same hymn with the Latin words ‘Adeste Fideles. And I thought that was a most extraordinary thing indeed, two nations singing the same Christmas carol in the midst of war.”

Approximately 100,000 British and German soldiers participated in the unofficial cessation of hostilities on the Western Front.

The Germans placed candles in their trenches and on Christmas trees, then continued the celebration by singing Christmas carols. The British responded by singing Christmas carols of their own. The two sides continued by shouting Christmas greetings to each other.

Soon after, they even began taking joint walks through No Man’s Land, where the soldiers exchanged small gifts such as food, tobacco, alcohol, and souvenirs.

The artillery in the region also fell silent. The ceasefire allowed for any needed breaks, and recently killed soldiers could be returned to theirs. Joint worship services were held. In many sectors the truce lasted until Christmas night, and in others until New Year’s Day.

One of the most memorable accounts of what happened on that Christmas Day involves the Royal Warwickshire Regiment and a Saxon unit on the edge of the Plogsteert Forest in Flanders, near the French border. They played a game of football (or, soccer). The site is still marked by a simple wooden cross. Half a dozen footballs and a miniature Christmas tree decorated with artificial snow and red pins are left there. A football club scarf is wrapped around the cross and someone has placed a Leeds United cap on top.

Adolf Hitler, a lance corporal in the 16th Bavarian Reserve Infantry at the time, was an opponent of the armistice.

For a week the armistice was not reported by the world press. Finally the New York Times, published the story in the then-neutral United States.

British newspapers quickly followed suit, printing numerous first-hand accounts from soldiers at the front, taken from letters to their families and editorials describing it as “one of the great surprises of the surprise war”.

By January 8th, photographs from the event had reached the press and the Mirror and Sketch printed front-page pictures of British and German soldiers mingling and singing on the battlefield.

The tone of the reports was overwhelmingly positive, with the Times writing of the “lack of malice” felt by both sides and the Mirror regretting that “the absurdity and tragedy” would begin again.

The Hittites: A Historical Perspective

It’s interesting to learn about the ancient people who populated Asia Minor thousands of years ago. Asia Minor is where the Apostle really wanted to go and declare the Messiah Yeshua. But the time wasn’t right. The Spirit didn’t allow him:

Acts 16:7 (HNV) When they had come opposite Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit didn’t allow them.

Later on however, Shaul did end up traveling to Asia Minor. This is a very long journey and I imagine very dangerous. If I remember correctly, the distance from Yerushalaim (Jerusalem) to the cities in Asia Minor where Paul travelled to, is something to the tune of 1,200 miles. The terrain is mountainous and very rugged. Imagine having to venture on a trip like this!

But it was worth it!

These same Jewish communities who had been there for hundreds of years as part of the diaspora, later became known as “the churches” of Asia Minor: in Galatia, Colossae, and Ephesus.

Remember the seven churches to which the apostle John (Yochanan) wrote to when he was given the revelation of the clash between the Kingdoms and the end of history? He was able to do that because Shaul (Paul) had already laid the foundation and now there was a “Body” and a network of followers of the Messiah, the Notsrim, as they were known then (the Nazarenes).

I wonder how much of the ancient Hittite culture was left in the people of these lands and what it was like having to deal with that?

The below article on the Hittites is from Dr. Claude Mariottini, Professor of Old Testament at Northern Baptist Seminary. I have been following his work for some time. He is not a Hebraist, but he’s a good conservative academic in a field that has seen tremendous hostility from the liberal mob.


The Hittites were a people who established a vast empire in Anatolia in the second millennium B.C. They are also mentioned as one of the inhabitants …

The Hittites: A Historical Perspective