International Fellowship of Christians and Jews
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History of Israel Biblical Kingdom

Jewish history begins with the Patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Both Abraham and Isaac had two sons; in both cases, God chose one son over the other—Isaac over Ishmael (Genesis 17), Jacob over Esau (Genesis 27)—to become the leader and eventual father of the Israelites (the Jewish people.) Jacob was the father of the twelve tribes, from whom all Jewish people are descended. The Forefathers, and later their children, lived mainly in the ancient Holy Land, called Canaan. Jacob and his sons descended to Egypt to buy food during a famine in Canaan and stayed there (Genesis 46). The Israelites were enslaved in Egypt for many years, but were eventually lead out triumphantly by their great leader, Moses (Exodus 12).

After forty years of wandering in the desert, the Jews entered the Promised Land, under the leadership of Moses' protégé, Joshua (Joshua 1). Years of wars and conquest followed, until the Israelites had sovereignty over the land. The first king of the Jews was Saul, who was eventually defeated by the Philistines (I Samuel 31 2 Samuel 1). Following Saul was the rule of the great King David; David's son, Solomon, built the First Temple in Jerusalem (I Kings 6). After this golden period, the Israelites were split into two factions—the northern Kingdom of Israel, and the southern Kingdom of Judah (I Kings 11).

In 721 BCE, approximately 200 years after the building of the Temple, the northern kingdoms were exiled by Assyria, becoming the ten "lost tribes." Around 200 years later, in 587 BCE, the Babylonians destroyed the Temple and exiled the remaining Jews (2 Kings 25). Jews were not permitted to return to the Holy Land until the reign of Cyrus of Persia, who not only encouraged them to return, but also allowed the building of the Second Temple (Ezra 1).

During the Hellenistic period, in approximately 150 BCE, the Greek kings endeavored to eradicate the "strange, old-fashioned practices" of Judaism; the Maccabees revolted, leading to autonomy for the Jewish people in Judah. However, that only lasted until the Roman rule. Various attempts by the Jewish people to rebel against the Romans failed. The Second Temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE, and the Jews killed or exiled, once again ending Jewish sovereignty in the Holy Land until Israel's statehood was declared in 1948.