Jewish History: Part 1

The history of the Jews goes back thousands of years. Below are some important events in the years before the Common Era (B.C.E.). Use your knowledge of Judaism and the history of the region to determine their correct order. Number them 1-10, with 1 as the earliest event.

a. Cyrus, king of Persia, allows the Jews to return to Judah.
b. The kingdom of Israel splits in two. The northern kingdom continues to be called Israel. The southern kingdom is called Judah.
c. Abraham, to whom the Jews trace their ancestry, is told to leave Mesopotamia and settle in Canaan, which is now Israel.
d. When King Antiochus tries to force Jews to worship idols, a group of rebels overthrows the king.
e. The kingdom of Israel is founded.
f. Judah comes under the control of Alexander the Great.
g. Moses leads the Israelites out of Egypt and receives the laws of God.
h. The Babylonians conquer the southern kingdom of Judah.
i. Persia conquers Babylonia.
j. The Assyrians conquer the northern kingdom of Israel.

Moses in the Basket

Around 1700 B.C.E., famine forced the Israelites to migrate to Egypt. Over tie, the Israelites became like slaves in Egypt. Around 1200 B.C.E., the pharaoh, or ruler of Egypt, started to worry about the Israelites. He was afraid they might rebel against him. To keep them weak, he ordered that all boys born to the Israelites must be thrown into the river to drown.

One woman who ha a son hid the baby as long as she could. When he was about three months old, she took a basket and made it as waterproof as she could. Then she put the baby in the basket and left him near the river’s edge.

The daughter of the pharaoh found the basket. She guessed at once that the baby was an Israelite. But she was moved by pity for the baby. She arranged to have the baby nursed – by his own mother, though the princess didn’t know this. Later she adopted the boy as her son. She named him Moses, which means “one who was drawn out,” because, she said, “I drew him out of the water.”

What kind of person do you think would try to rescue someone she didn’t know and take him into her own home?

Moses and God

In the Book of Exodus in the Bible, Moses’ first meeting with god is described. God tells Moses to call the Israelites together and to lead them out of Egypt. Moses answered:

“But,” objected Moses, “suppose they will not believe me, nor listen to my plea? For they may say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you.’ (Exodus 4:1)

In response, God gave Moses a sign that would convince the Israelites that Moses had truly seen God.

If someone told you that he or she had seen God, would you believe them? What kind of sign would convince you?

David and Goliath

Around 1100 B.C.E., the Jews were in conflict with a tribe called the Philistines. Both sides chose a champion to fight in a single combat. The champion of the Philistines was a giant named Goliath. An Israelite shepherd named David came to the battlefield to deliver bread to his brothers, who were soldiers.

When David heard Goliath speaking to the Israelites, he volunteered to be the champion of his people. Goliath went into battle fully armed, carrying great weapons. The Israelites tried to give David arms and armor, but he was unused to carrying so much weight. Instead he put five smooth stones in his pocket, along with the sling he used to protect his sheep.

The two combatants looked ill matched; one a giant in bronze armor, one a slight young man, unarmed.

But as the Philistine moved forward to meet David, the shepherd put a stone in his sling, hurled it, and struck the giant in the forehead. Goliath fell to the ground. The Philistines, shocked at the death of their champion, fled.

This story is the origin of the phrase “like David and Goliath.” What do you think this phrase means?