Little is known about the oldest eras of ancient Hebrew civilization because the culture was nomadic. The most distinct and long-lasting elements of ancient Hebrew civilization lay not in its architectural, artistic or diplomatic contributions but in the focus of the people on a monotheistic God who was radically different from the gods worshipped by most ancient peoples.
The Hebrews were a nomadic civilization for much of their history. They spent many years as slaves in Egypt, then wandered in and around the area then known as Canaan before settling down in Jerusalem and its environs.
The ancient Hebrews were also a warlike people group. Once they settled in Canaan, they conducted wars against many of the indigenous civilizations, including the Canaanites and Philistines, in order to be able to stay in that land.
One of the major contributions of the ancient Hebrews to modern civilization was a new understanding of God. The Hebrew scriptures, commonly known as the Old Testament, were written over a span of more than 1,000 years and include history and poetry. In these writings, a monotheistic God appears who is eternal, sovereign and transcendent, in stark contrast to the other typical gods of the Middle East at that time in history. The Hebrew separation of God from nature was a necessary first step in the development of scientific thought.