The history of Ancient Israel and Judah is known to us from classical sources including Judaism's Tanakh or Hebrew Bible (known to Christianity as the Old Testament), the Talmud, the Ethiopian Kebra Nagast, the writings of Nicolaus of Damascus, Artapanas, Philo of Alexandria and Josephus supplemented by ancient sources uncovered by archaeology including Egyptian, Moabite, Assyrian, Babylonian as well as Israelite and Judean inscriptions. William Dever suggests that rather than there being just one history there are in fact multiple histories and that we can distinguish nine types of history of Israel and Judah as follows.
Archeology can provide assistance in 3,4,6,7,8,9. Conventional “Biblical” textual history can provide assistance in 1,2, 3 and 5.
It has also been argued that the Israelites were themselves Canaanites, and that "historical Israel", as distinct from "literary" or "biblical" Israel, was a subset of Canaanite culture. "Canaan", when used in this sense, refers to the entire ancient Levant down to about 100 CE, including the kingdoms of Israel and Judah. For example, Mark Smith states "Despite the long regnant model that the 'Canaanites' and Israelites were people of fundamentally different cultures, archaeological data now casts doubt on this view. The material culture of the region exhibits numerous common points between Israelites and 'Canaanites' in the Iron I period (ca. 1200-1000). The record would suggest that the Israelite culture largely overlapped with and derived from 'Canaanite' culture.... In short, Israelite culture was largely Canaanite in nature. Given the information available, one cannot maintain a radical cultural separation between Canaanites and Israelites for the Iron I period." (pp6-7).
Smith continues, “The change in the scholarly understanding of early Israel’s culture has led to a second major change in perspective, which involves the nature of the Yahwistic cult. With the change in perspective concerning Israel’s ‘Canaanite’ background, long held views on the Israelite religion are slowly eroding. Baal and Asherah are part of Israel’s ‘Canaanite’ heritage, and the emergence of Israelite monolatry was an issue of Israel breaking from its own Canaanite past,and not simply of avoiding ‘Canaanite’ neighbours. Although the Biblical witness accurately represent the existence of Israelite worship of Baal and perhaps Asherah as well, this worship was not so much a case of Israelite syncretism with the religious practices of ‘Canaanite’ neighbours, as some biblical passages depict it, as it was an instance of old Israelite religion.” P.7.
Some writers consider the different source materials to be in conflict. See The Bible and History for further information. This is a controversial subject, with implications in the fields of religion, politics and diplomacy.
The nature and precise dates of events, and the precision by which they may be stated, are subject to continuing discussion and challenge. There are no biblical events whose precise year can be validated by external sources before the possible attack by Pharaoh Shoshenk I, identified with the biblical Shishak (=striker) in 925 BCE. This record, however, shows the Pharaoh's raid was directed more against Israel rather than Jerusalem, as the Bible suggests, and no rulers of the area are listed in Egyptian records. The first independent confirmation of the biblical record is the early 9th century BCE with the rise of Omri, King of Israel. Therefore, all earlier dates are extrapolations and conjecture. Furthermore, the Bible does not render itself very easily to these calculations: mostly, it does not state any time period longer than a single lifetime and a historical line must be reconstructed by adding discrete quantities, a process that naturally introduces rounding errors. The earlier dates presented here, and their accuracy, reflect a maximalist view, in that it uses the Bible as its sole source. Others, known as minimalists, often dispute that some of the events happened at all, making the dating of them moot: for instance, if the very existence of the United Kingdom is in doubt, it is pointless to claim that it disintegrated in 928 BCE. Philip Davies , for example, shows how the canonical biblical account can only have been composed for a people with a long literate tradition such as found only in Late Persian or early Hellenistic times, and argues that accounts of earlier periods are largely reconstructions based mainly upon oral and other traditions. Minimalists tend to accept those events that have independent archaeological corroborations; see for example Mesha Stele. Their argument comes in the earlier period where the biblical account seems most at odds with what has been discovered by modern archaeology.
Another problem is caused by disagreements about terminology of historical periodization. For example, the period at the end of the Early Bronze Age or the beginning of the Middle Bronze Age is called EB-MB by Kathleen Kenyon, MB I by William Foxwell Albright, Middle Canaanite I by Yohanan Aharoni, and Early Bronze IV by William Dever and Eliezer Oren.
The Book of Genesis traces the beginning of Israel to three patriarchs of the Jewish people, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the last also known as Israel from which the name of the land was subsequently derived. Jacob, called a "wandering Aramaean" (Deuteronomy 26:5), the grandson of Abraham, had travelled back to Harran, the home of his ancestors, to obtain a wife. Whilst returning from Haran to Canaan, he crossed the Jabbok, a tributary on the Arabian side of the Jordan River (Genesis 32:22-33). After having sent his family and servants away that night, he wrestled with a strange man at a place henceforth called Peniel, who in the morning asked him his name. As a result, he was renamed "Israel", because he had "wrestled with God" and became, in time, the father of twelve sons by Leah and Rachel, (daughters of Laban), and their maidservants Bilhah and Zilpah. The twelve were considered the "Children of Israel." These stories of the origins of the Israelites locate them first on the east bank of the Jordan. The stories of Israel move to the west bank with the story of the sacking of Shechem (Genesis 34:1-33), after which the hill area of Canaan is assumed to have been the historical core of the area of Israel.
William F. Albright, Nelson Glueck and E. A. Speiser, located these Genesis accounts at the end of Middle Bronze I and at the beginning of Middle Bronze II based on three points: personal names, mode of life, and customs. Other scholars, however, have suggested later dates for the Patriarchal Age as these features were long-lived characteristics of life in the Ancient Near East. Cyrus Gordon, basing his argument on the rise of nomadic pastoralism and monotheism at the end of the Amarna Age, suggested that they more properly apply to the Late Bronze Age. John Van Seters, on the basis of the widespread use of camels, of Philistine kings at Gerar, of a monetarised economy and the purchase of land, argued the story belongs to the Iron Age. Other scholars (particularly, Martin Noth and his students) find it difficult to determine any period for the Patriarchs. They suggest that the importance of the biblical texts are not necessarily their historicity, but how they function within the Israelite society of the Iron Age.
More recently, neutron activation analysis studies conducted of the hilltop settlements by Jan Gunneweg of the Hebrew University, Jerusalem, which are associated with the Early Iron Age I and II, show evidence of a movement of settlers into the area from a north-easterly direction in accord with these early stories.
The biblical book of Genesis relates how some of the descendants of Israel became Egyptian slaves. There are various modern explanations given for the circumstances under which this occurred. A few historians believe that this may have been due to the changing political conditions within Egypt. In 1650 BCE, northern Egypt was conquered by tribes, apparently a mixture of Semitic and Hurrian peoples, known as the Hyksos by the Egyptians. The Hyksos were later driven out by Ahmose I, the first king of the eighteenth dynasty. Ahmose I reigned approximately 1550 - 1525 BCE, founding the 18th Egyptian dynasty which ushered in a new age for Egypt which we call the New Kingdom. Ahmose destroyed the Hyksos capital at Avaris, and the succeeding Pharaohs conquered the Hyksos city of Saruhen(near Gaza), as well as Canaanite confederations at Megiddo, Hazor and Kadesh. Thutmose III established Egypt's empire in the western Near East, destroying a Canaanite confederation at Megiddo and taking the city of Joppa, and extending it from the Sinai to the Euphrates bend, the area later thought to have been the size of the Empire of Solomon. The Egyptian Empire was maintained in the area of what was to emerge as Israel and Judah, up to the reign of Rameses VI in about 1150 BCE. From then on, the chronology can only roughly be given in approximate dates for most events, until about the 9th century BCE.
The Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and its chronology are much-debated. It is believed by Kenneth A. Kitchen that the Exodus took place in the reign of Ramesses II due to the named Egyptian cities in Exodus: Pithom and Rameses. Evidence for an Israelite presence in Palestine has been found from only six years after the end of the reign of Rameses II, in the Merneptah Stele.
The period marking the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th Dynasty was a particularly confusing one. Egyptian records document the rise of Asiatics from the region to high places within the Egyptian court. Chancellor Bay temporarily occupied the role of kingmaker, and Pharaoh Siptah's mother came from the region. After the death of Queen Twosret Meryamun, the country lapsed into chaos, and it appears Asiatics despoiled a number of Egyptian temples before being expelled by the first king of the 20th Dynasty, Pharaoh Setnakhte. These events may lie behind the Exodus account of Osarseph given by Manetho reported later by Josephus.
A totaling of the reigns of the kings of Judah between the fourth year of the reign of Solomon [when he is supposed to have built the Temple], to the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BCE, is 430 years. This would suggest that the building of the temple by the United Monarchy under Solomon occurred in 1016 BCE. According to Kings 6:1, a total of 480 years was supposed to have lapsed between the Exodus and the dedication of this temple, giving it a date of 1496 BCE, as suggested by Redfordto have been the 9th year of Hatshepsut's reign. According to Exodus 12:40, the sojourn in Egypt was supposed to have lasted 430 years placing the descent of Israel and his family in the reign of Senwosret I's in 1926 BCE. Adding together the very long life-spans of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob would date Abraham's arrival in Canaan at 2141 BCE, and his descent into Egypt at 2116 BCE, during the 10th Kerakleopolitan Dynasty. The sojourn in Egypt would then have occupied the entire period of the 12th to the 18th Dynasty. As Numbers 32:13 allocates 40 years to the Wandering in Sinai, the conquests by Joshua must have occurred just prior to the reign of Thutmose III, when all of Canaan was possessed by Egypt. Even more astounding, according to this chronology, is the placement of Judges from 1456 to 1150 - almost exactly the period of the Egyptian Empire in Asia. Unfortunately, Egyptian sources say nothing about Israel, Joshua or his successors, and the Bible says nothing of the Amenophids, Thutmosids or Ramessids of this period.
Clearly, the development of the Israelites in Canaan is far more complex than the picture given in the Bible. Research into settlement patterns suggests that the ethnogenesis of Israel as a people was a complex process involving mainly native pastoralist groups in Canaan (perhaps including Habiru and Shasu), with some infiltration from outside groups such as Hittites and Arameans from the north, as well as southern Shasu groups such as the Kenites- some of whom may have come from areas controlled by Egypt. Genetically, Palestinian Jews show closest connections with Kurdish people and other groups from Northern Iraq, suggesting that this is the area from which most of their ancestors originally came - a fact confirmed archaeologically from the Khirbet Kerak period down to the end of the Middle Bronze Age period, with the spread of the Hurrians (Biblical Horites), and in the Early Iron Age I period with the spread of Shasu (=Egyptian) and Ahlamu (=Assyrian Akkadian, i.e.wandering Aramaeans).
Exodus goes on to say that, after leaving Egypt, nearly three million Israelites who had been wandering in the desert for a generation, invaded the land of Canaan, destroying major Canaanite cities such as Ai, Jericho and Hazor. Eric Cline, using a smaller figure of 2.5 million people (the Biblical figure refers to 'fighting men' to which must be added wives, children and the elderly), points out that 2.5 million people marching 10 across would form a line 150 miles long. The paradigm that has Ramses II as Exodus Pharaoh also has the conquest of Canaan and the destruction of Jericho and other Canaanite cities occur around 1200 BCE, despite the fact that Ai and Jericho seem to have been uninhabited at this time, having been destroyed at about 1550 BCE. Many other of the sites mentioned in the Book of Joshua also seem to have been unoccupied at this time, being synchronously present only in the seventh century BC, as suggested by Mattfield as the likely date for the composition of this account. Many other groups are known to have played a role in the destruction of urban centres during the late Bronze Age, such as the invading Sea Peoples, among whom the Philistines were one, and the Egyptians themselves. Feuds between neighboring city-states probably played a role as well.
By the 8th century, just before the collapse and one century after the Omrides, Israel's population in the north had grown more than fivefold, to about 350,000. At the time of the Omrides it may have been even more, as Israel had lost Hazor, Dan and Bethsaida to Damascus, and the sacking of Megiddo and Taanach by Hazael of Damascus had led to a depopulation of the Jezrael. Under the Omrides, Israel was the most populous state of the Levant, probably surpassing even Damascus; but after the wars with Damascus and the coup of Jehu, it was probable that Aramaean Damascus had become the larger state. Thus, under the Omrides, the population of Israel may have been about 500,000.
The south was much less populated. Judea's population, which before the collapse of the north had been low, grew 500% to 120,000. This means, the previous size of Judea had been about 24,000 people in the south with 96,000 coming as refugees from the north (about 1/3rd of the total of the previous population). This would suggest that the population of Judea was less than 1/20th that of the northern kingdom.
But this enormous population did not last. The Assyrian campaign against Hezekiah, and the plague with which it was associated (Hezekiah himself narrowly escaped.) reduced the population by nearly 50,000 so that by the end of the monarchy, Judah's population based fairly accurately upon surveys at the time, was about 75,000, with 20% of it (about 15,000) living in Jerusalem.
The Book of Jeremiah reports that a total of 4,600 went into exile in Babylon. The Book of Kings suggests that it was ten thousand, and then eight thousand. Finkelstein suggests that 4,600 represented the heads of households and 8,000 was the total, whilst 10,000 is a rounding upwards of the second number. Jeremiah also hints that an equivalent number may have fled to Egypt. Given these figures, Finkelstein suggests that 3/4 of the population of Judah did not move.
The returnees at the time of Ezra and Nehemiah are said to be 50,000, possibly over a period of 100 years. Thus, about 50% of the total population in the Persian period, in the truncated territory of Yahud, estimated at about 100-150,000 was of the "new" post- exilic monotheism, and 50% practiced the old Canaanite pre-exilic polytheism. Given that Yehud did not include Bethsheva or Hebron, which were ruled by the Idumaeans, it is possible that the population within the border of old Judea was twice that (about 240,000). With the population of Israel nearly 10 times that of the south, the total population living within the borders of monarchial Israel and Judah at the end of the Persian period together may have numbered as many as 3 million, the number recorded roughly at the time of the Jewish Revolt. At this time it was estimated that Jews may have been 1/10th of the total population of the Empire, of between 50-60 million, and that the number of Jews in Diaspora, largely living in Egypt, Syria and Asia Minor (modern Turkey) was equal to the numbers living in the Land of Israel.
If the Israelites returned to Canaan circa 1200 BCE, this was a time when the great powers of the region were neutralized by troubles of various kinds. This was the time of the "Peoples of the Sea" during which Philistines, Tjekker and possibly Danites settled along the coast from Gaza in the south to Joppa in the north. The entire Middle East fell into a "Dark Age" from which it took centuries to recover". Recovery seems to have occurred first in trading cities of the Philistine area, passing northwards to the Phoenicians, before moving inland to affect the interior areas of the Judean and Samarian hills, the historic core of Judea and Israel. According to the Biblical account, in their initial attacks under Joshua, the Hebrews occupied most of Canaan, which they settled according to traditional family lines derived from the sons of Jacob and Joseph (the "tribes" of Israel). No formal government existed and the people were led by ad hoc leaders (the "judges" of the biblical Book of Judges) in times of crisis. Around this time, the name "Israel" is first mentioned in a contemporary archaeological source, the Merneptah Stele.
The withdrawal of the Egyptian garrisons in about 1150 BCE created a power vacuum in the region in which the Canaanite tribes tried to destroy the developing power-base of the Israelite tribes of the northern and central highland areas. According to the Bible, the Israelite response was led by Barak, and the Hebrew prophetess Deborah, who mustered some of the Israelite tribes in a common defence. Some authors consider that the early text of the "Song of Deborah" demonstrates that the core of the Israelite state was the tribes of Ephraim, Manasseh, Machir, and Benjamin, with additional groups (for example Dan, Asher and Judah) added later. The Bible shows that in this case the Canaanites were defeated, and the core of Israel extended north into Galilee and Jezreel.
As the wealth returned to the region with the end of the Late Bronze Age collapse, and trade with Egypt and Mesopotamia recovered, so new interior trade routes opened up, notably that running from Kadesh Barnea in the south, through Hebron to Jerusalem and Lachish to Samaria, Shiloh and Shechem and on through Galilee to Megiddo and the Plain of Jezreel. This new route threatened the trade monopoly of the Philistines, who sought to dominate the inland routes, either directly, through military intervention against the growing strength of the tribes of Israel, or indirectly, through promoting and employing mercenaries to positions of power, as Achish of Gath later had employed David. As outlined in the book of Deuteronomy chapter 7, Israel, to effectively resist the Philistine menace, was allowed to call for a King. Contrary to the instructions concerning whose duty it was to judge, Israel asked for a King to judge them (I Samuel 8:6, 20). According to the Books of Samuel, one of the last of the judges, the nation appealed for a king because Samuel's sons, who had been appointed judges over Israel, misused the office. Although he tried to dissuade them, they were resolute and Samuel anointed Saul ben Kish from the tribe of Benjamin as king. Samuel's pronouncement of the kind of King they would receive seems to be in direct contrast to the one described in Deuteronomy 7. Unfortunately, no independent evidence for the existence of Saul or these events has ever been found, although the Early Iron Age I period was certainly a phase of rapid Philistine expansionism, as the biblical account would seem to propose.
Increasing pressure from the Philistines and other neighboring tribes, according to the Bible, forced the Israelites to unite under the king Saul in c. 1050 BCE. The Bible describes how Saul was defeated by the Philistines, and, in his place, David, originally a shepherd from Hebron, who, while serving Saul, managed to secure an independent power base (through victory in battle) in Jerusalem. David seized Jerusalem from the earlier Jebusite rulers, who were possibly a tribe of Canaanites, and took the throne in 1000 BCE. Although there is debate about the chronology of this period, as Jerusalem seems to have been an unwalled village at best, Solomon, son of David, supposedly took the throne in 965 BCE. According to the Bible, this united kingdom lasted until c. 920 BCE when it split into the Kingdom of Israel in the north, and the Kingdom of Judah in the South as a result of irreconcilable differences between the northern and southern regions of the earlier united monarchy. As a result, two states developed separately, with Israel, the northern state, being culturally dominant. Jonathan N. Tubb argues that the two states that developed were identical culturally to the secondary Canaanite states of the Middle Eastern Iron Age II period.
Around 920 BCE, according to the biblical account, Jeroboam led the revolt of the northern tribes, and established the Kingdom of Israel (). B. S. J. Isserlin, in his examination of the Israelites, shows, from an analysis of the geographical setting, the origins of the Israelites, their neighbors, the political history of the monarchy, the socio-economic structure, town-planning and architecture, trade, craft and industry, warfare, and literacy as well as art and religion, that the Kingdom of Israel was typical of the secondary Canaanite states established at about this time.
Economically, the Kingdom of Israel seems to have been more developed than its southern neighbor. Rainfall in this area is higher and the agricultural systems more productive. According to the biblical account, which cannot be checked by outside sources, there were 19 separate rulers of Israel.
Politically, the Kingdom of Israel seems much less stable than Judah, maintaining a form of charismatic leadership by merit and competition between ruling families who seem to have depended much more on links with outside powers such as Tyre, Aram and Assyria in order to maintain their authority. This need to placate powerful neighbors was demonstrated early on during the reign of Jeroboam, when, despite reputed actions of establishing fortifications at Tirzah, Shechem and Penuel, Israel was invaded by Egyptian Pharaoh Sheshonk I (the Biblical Shishak) of the Libyan 22nd Dynasty. The Kingdom of Israel appears to have been most powerful in the first half of the ninth century BCE, during which time Omri (a. 885-874 BCE) founded a new dynasty with its capital city at Samaria with support from the Phoenician city of Tyre. Omri's son and successor, supposedly linked through dynastic marriage with Tyre, contributed 2,000 chariots and 10,000 soldiers to a coalition of states which fought and defeated Shalmaneser III at Qarqar in 853 BCE. Twelve years later, Jehu, with assistance from the Kingdom of Aram (centred in Damascus), organized a coup in which Ahab and his family were put to death. The Bible makes no reference to the fact, but Assyrian sources refer to Jehu as being a monarch of the house of Omri, which may indicate that this coup was the result of struggles within the same ruling family. Jehu is shown kneeling to the Assyrian monarch in the black obelisk of Shalmaneser III, the only monarch of either of the two states for which any portrait survives.
As a result of these changes, Israel, like its southern neighbor, fell within the influence of Aramaean Damascus. King Hazael led the Arameans in battle against the forces of King Jehoram of Israel and King Ahaziah of Judah. After defeating them at Ramoth-Gilead, Hazael repelled two attacks by the Assyrians, seized Israelite territory east of the Jordan (the Philistine city of Gath), and sought to take Jerusalem as well (2 Kings 12:17). A monumental Aramaic inscription discovered at Tel Dan is seen by most scholars as having been erected by Hazael after he defeated the Kings of Israel and Judah. Recent excavations at Tell es-Safi/Gath have revealed dramatic evidence of the siege and subsequent conquest of Gath by Hazael. To end this domination from its two northern neighbors, Judah appealed to Tiglath Pileser III for Assyrian intervention, which ultimately (in 720 BCE) led to the fall of Israel to the Assyrians under Sargon and to the incorporation of Israel into the Assyrian Empire. Israel fell to the Assyrians in 721 BCE and was taken into captivity. . Despite the attempt by Assyrians to decapitate the Israelite kingdom by settling people on its eastern frontier with the Medes, archaeological evidence shows that many people fled south to Judah at this time, whose capital city, Jerusalem, now seems to have grown by over 500%. This also seems to have been a time when many northern traditions were incorporated within the region of Judah.
This period of Israel's eclipse seems to have coincided with the rise of a line of independent prophets - Amos, Joel, Hoshea, Elijah, Elisha and Isaiah- all highly critical of the monarchs of Israel. The spiritual tradition that was later to coalesce in the biblical story, according to many biblical scholars, would have had its origins here.
In 922 BCE, the Kingdom of Israel was divided. Judah, the southern Kingdom, had Jerusalem as its capital and was led by Rehoboam, who was responsible for leading them to war with Israel (which according to the Bible, continued during the reigns of Abijiah and Asa of Judah) and during whose reign Israel penetrated to Ramah, 5 km north of Jerusalem. Asa was supposed to have sent a delegation to Ben Hadad I, son of Tab-rimmon of Damascus (King of Aram), to attack Israel from the rear.
The Dynasty of Omri brought an end to the war with Judah and cemented a dynastic alliance through Queen Athaliah, daughter of King Ahab and Jezebel of Tyre.
During the reign of Ahaz, the population of Jerusalem seems to have grown enormously, possibly as a result of the arrival of many Israelite refugees fleeing from the north. The result was that the city grew from a small local market town to a sizable city. By the time of the reign of Hezekiah, his son, the population seems to have swelled to over 500%. Hezekiah undertook a number of major works, including the expansion of the city wall to include the new population at Jerusalem and Lachish, the digging of the well of Siloam, to give the city an independent source of water within the city limits, and a major expansion of the temple. Phillip Davies and others suggest that at this time Jerusalem established its own scribal school for the first time, gathering the previous oral tradition into what became known as the J Source. The Bible also claims that Hezekiah undertook major religious reforms, attempting unsuccessfully to centralize Judean religious practices in the temple and eliminate the worship of the Nehushtan serpent, which may have been in place since the days of Moses. Hezekiah also seems to have been fascinated by the wisdom of Solomon, making a collection of the verses attributed to this monarch.
Hezekiah's ambitions seem to have been over-stretched when, in part, prompted by promises of aid from the monarchs of the Egyptian 26th Dynasty, he took leadership of a coalition with the Philistines and asserted independence from Assyria, attempting to unify Judah and Israel. This led to disaster. Lachish was razed to the ground and its population taken in slavery to Assyria. Sennacherib boasted he had shut Hezekiah up in Jerusalem like a bird in a cage. The Bible, however, speaks of the angel of the Lord having smitten the besieging Assyrians; and the account certainly does read as if there was some kind of plague (Hezekiah himself is spoken of as having been afflicted but recovered). Nevertheless, the Assyrians extracted an enormous tribute, which seems to have pauperized the Judean population for a generation, and led to the complete reversal of all of Hezekiah's reforms.
Hezekiah's son Manasseh, from careful cultivation by the Assyrian monarch Esarhaddon and his son Ashurbanipal, seems to have taken steps that led to the recovery of Judah's fortunes to a degree, despite the universally bad publicity which the monarch has received in the Bible. For instance, it is known that Manasseh spent time with Esarhaddon in Babylon and accompanied the latter in his invasion of Egypt.
Manasseh's son Ammon had an insignificant reign before passing the throne to his infant son Josiah. In 633 BCE, the finding of a book of Law (a "Sefer Torah") by the priest Hilkiah, which was claimed to have been composed by Moses, led to major reforms of the state cult. Martin Noth showed, on internal grounds, that this Deuteronomist was largely composed by someone during the reign of Josiah, making the king a "hero" (i.e. Messiah), and was closely connected to the Shiloah priesthood. This period saw the eclipse and collapse of the Assyrian Empire, which led Josiah to attempt to follow in the path of Hezekiah, centralizing all worship in Jerusalem and instituting the Passover. As before, he was tempted into a power-politics too big for Judah, and he died in battle resisting the advance of Pharaoh Necho's forces while attempting to aid the Assyrians at Harran.
Like most imperial powers during the Iron Age, King Cyrus allowed citizens of the empire to practice their native religion, as long as they incorporated the personage of the Persian Great King into their worship (either as a deity or semi-deity, or at the very least the subject of votive offerings and recognition). Further, Cyrus took the bold step of ending "state slavery". These reforms are reflected in the famous Cyrus Cylinder and Biblical books of Chronicles and Ezra, which state that Cyrus released the Israelites from slavery and granted them permission to return to the Land of Israel.
In 66, the First Jewish-Roman War broke out, lasting until 73. In 67, Vespasian and his forces landed in the north of Israel, where they received the submission of Jews from Ptolemais to Sepphoris. The Jewish garrison at Yodfat (Jodeptah) was massacred after a two month siege. By the end of this year, Jewish resistance in the north had been crushed.
In 69, Vespasian seized the throne after a civil war. By 70, the Romans had occupied Jerusalem. Titus, son of the Roman Emperor, destroyed the Second Temple on the 9th of Av, ie. Tisha B'Av (656 years to the day after the destruction of the First Temple in 587 BCE). Over 100,000 Jews died during the siege, and nearly 100,000 were taken to Rome as slaves. Many Jews fled to Mesopotamia (Iraq), and to other countries around the Mediterranean. In 73 the last Jewish resistance was crushed by Rome at the mountain fortress of Masada; the last 900 defenders committed suicide rather than be captured and sold into slavery.
Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakai escaped from Jerusalem. He obtained permission from the Roman general to establish a center of Jewish learning and the seat of the Sanhedrin in the outlying town of Yavneh (see Council of Jamnia). This is generally considered the beginning of Rabbinic Judaism, the period when the Halakha became formalized. Some believe that the Jewish canon was determined during this time period, but this theory has been largely discredited, see also Biblical canon. Judaism survived the destruction of Jerusalem through this new center. The Sanhedrin became the supreme religious, political and judicial body for Jews worldwide until 425, when it was forcibly disbanded by the Roman government, by then officially dominated by the Christian Church.
In 132 the Bar Kokhba's Revolt began led by Simon bar Kokhba and an independent state in Israel was declared. By 135 this revolt was crushed by Rome. The Romans, seeking to suppress the names "Judaea" and "Jerusalem", reorganized it as part of the province of Syria-Palestine.
Dates listed are from A History of the Jewish People, H.H. Ben-Sasson ed., Harvard University Press, 1969, English translation 1976, ISBN 0674397304
Dates listed are from A History of the Jewish People, H.H. Ben-Sasson ed., Harvard University Press, 1969, English translation 1976, ISBN 0674397304