HISTORY OF THE HEBREWS
TO THE ROMAN PERIOD
HISTORY OF THE HEBREWS
TO THE ROMAN PERIOD
R. L. 'OTTLEY
RECTOR OF WINTERBOURNE BASSETT, WILTSHIRE
SOMETIME STUDENT OF CHRIST CHURCH AND
FELLOW OF MAGDALEN COLLEGE, OXFORD
THE MACMILLAN COMPANY
CAMBRIDGE: THE UNIVERSITY PRESS
All rifhtt rtftrvtd
Br THE MACMILLAN COMPANY.
Stt up and electrotyped. Published June, 1901.
). . Cutliing & Co. Berwick & Smith Co.
Norwood, MM., U.S.A.
Quum iustitia et dileetio quae erat ergo. Deum eessisset in eblivienem
et exstincta esset in Aegypto t necessario Deus, propter multam suam erga
homines benevolentiam, semetipsum ostendebat per vocem, et eduxit de
Aegypto populum in virtute, uti rursus fieret homo discipulus et sectator
Dei. IREN. iv. 16. 3.
THE present "Short History" is an attempt to furnish
teachers or students of the Old Testament with a sketch
of the actual course of Hebrew history, somewhat more con-
sistent with the present state of our knowledge than the text-
books now in use. The book presupposes, and is intended to
encourage, a careful and intelligent study of the text of the
Bible. With a brief outline of the history in his hands, a
thoughtful student is probably best left to himself. In regard
to many points of detail, he must freely use his own judgment,
and the broad lessons, moral and religious, of the history, may
be trusted to impress themselves on his mind without the aid
of a manual.
I have not thought it desirable to distract the reader's
attention either by minute discussion of critical problems, or
by special reference to points of Old Testament theology. For
practical purposes, the study of Hebrew religion may be well
kept distinct from that of Hebrew history. With regard to
questions of historical criticism, there is one period of obvious
difficulty, namely, that which is covered by Chapters II. and
III. It has seemed best, in dealing with the patriarchal and
nomadic stages in Israel's history, to follow the plan of Kittel, 1
so far as to give an outline of the Hebrew tradition, with a few
introductory remarks, touching upon the peculiar nature of the
narrative, and a brief concluding summary of what may be called
its historical substance. In spite of the industry and research
which well-known writers have devoted to this period, the
results of archaeology cannot be fairly said to have corroborated
the actual incidents recorded in Genesis and Exodus ; and it is
1 In his History of the Hebrews.
hard to say which is the greater mistake : to maintain, in face
of the analogy presented by the early history of other nations,
that the vivid narratives of the Pentateuch are literally, and
in all their details, true to fact ; or to assert that if they are not
in the strict sense historical, they are therefore destitute of
moral and spiritual value.
New discoveries may yet throw light on the substance of
these narratives ; but in the mean time, it seems our wisest
plan to accept the ancient tradition for what it is worth, and
not to devote disproportionate space to elaborate speculation
as to the precise course of primitive Hebrew history, or to
minute descriptions of the atmosphere and circumstances in
which the patriarchs may be supposed to have lived. What-
ever archaeology may still have to teach us, it is well to
recognize the fact that the patriarchal period is described to
us in narratives which were compiled in their present form
about a thousand years later than the events they describe,
and of which therefore, as Prof. G. A. Smith truly observes,
" it is simply impossible for us at this time of day to establish
the accuracy." 1
I have generally employed the divine name JEHOVAH in
preference to JAHVEH or YAHWE, as that form occurs in the
Revised Version (Isa. xii. 2), from which all biblical quota-
tions are taken. A list of books is given which includes those
most accessible to ordinary readers.
R. L. O.
1 The Preaching of the Old Testament to the Age, p. 37. See the same
writer's weighty discussion of this topic in Modern Criticism and the
Preaching of the O. T. (Yale Lectures), Lect. in. Prof. G. A. Smith fairly
sums up the state of the case in the following sentences: "While archae-
ology has richly illustrated the main outlines of the Book of Genesis from
Abraham to Joseph, it has not one whit of proof to offer for the personal
existence or characters of the Patriarchs themselves. . . . This is the
whole change archaeology has wrought : it has given us a background and
an atmosphere for the stories of Genesis; it is unable to recall or to certify
I. Early Narratives of Genesis ....... I
II. The Story of the Patriarchs ....... 23
III. Israel in Egypt and in the Wilderness ..... 53
IV. Conquest of Palestine ........ 83
V. The Age of the Judges ....... . 101
VI. Establishment of the Monarchy ...... 120
VII. Solomon and the Division of the Kingdom .... 150
VIII. Prophets and Kings of Israel and Judah . . . .171
IX. The Decline and Fall of Judah ...... 193
X. The Exile and the Restoration ...... 218
XI. From Nehemiah to the Maccabaean War .... 243
XII. From Judas Maccabaeus to Herod the Great . . . 264
Appendix I. The documentary sources of the narrative . . 283
Appendix II. Hebrew legislation ....... 293
Appendix III. Sacred seasons of the Jewish Year .... 302
Chronological Tables ......... 307
List of Chief Works consulted ........ 313
Index ............ 315
1. Western Asia (Early Times).
2. Egypt, Sinai, and Canaan.
3. Palestine before the Conquest.
4. Physical Map of Palestine.
5. Palestine (Old Testament).
6. Western Asia to illustrate the Captivity of Judah.
7. Palestine (New Testament).
EARLY NARRATIVES OF GENESIS.
THE history of the Hebrew race differs in one important
respect from that of all other ancient nations. It is the
story of a people which believed that it had been entrusted
with a religious mission to the world. Strictly speaking indeed,
Israel's national history cannot be said to begin before the
period of the exodus from Egypt, but the Hebrew historians
could never forget that they belonged to a race i 8rae i'8
chosen by Almighty God to proclaim His Name mission and
to all the nations of the earth. Accordingly
they took pains to collect, and to preserve with scrupulous
care, not merely the popular narratives which described the
supposed ancestry of the Hebrew people, but even those
current traditions of the Semitic tribes which dealt with the
origin of man and of the universe itself. The Old Testament
accordingly begins with an account of the Creation, which is
followed in due order by narratives describing the ante-
diluvian world, the catastrophe of the Deluge, the formation
and gradual dispersion of the primitive races of mankind.
With the history of Abraham and his reputed descendants opens
the record of Israel's own eventful career.
Corresponding to the unique character and vocation of
2 A Short History of the Hebrews. [CHAP.
Israel is the special peculiarity of the Book in which the
greater part of its history is related. The Old
the o*id* C Testament forms a library of national literature,
Testament as containing a large amount of material which is
not all of equal value or importance for the
purposes of a modern historian. The historical books were
gradually compiled by a series of writers who regarded the rise
and progress of the Hebrew race almost exclusively from a
religious point of view. It was not their aim to give a full and
complete account of past events; nor did they attempt to
harmonize strictly the various documents which they employed
in the construction of their narrative. Their object was simply
to trace the chequered career of a divinely chosen and divinely
guided people ; to describe, with such knowledge as they could
command, its origin, its special vocation, its early migrations,
its separation from other nations, its varied fortunes and
achievements, its oft-repeated failures to rise to the height of
its ideal calling, its sins and the chastisements which they
provoked. We may in fact describe the Old Testament history
most correctly as the record of God's providential dealings
with the people of His choice : in other words, as a ' Sacred
History,' which, while it provides the historian with valuable
material for his purpose, needs to be interpreted, supplemented,
and in some cases corrected, by evidence derived from other
This brings us to the question, What original authorities do
we possess for the history of the Hebrew people ? The Old
Testament itself of course is of primary im-
Sources of ,. , . ,
information. portance. According to the arrangement of the
i. The old Jewish Canon it consists of three portions,
Testament. * . . .
which were gradually arranged in their present
shape, and were successively ranked as ' canonical Scripture '
some time between the beginning of the fifth and the close of
the third century B.C. The Law (Torak) com-
prises the five books of the Pentateuch. This
I.] Early Narratives of Genesis. 3
division of the Old Testament, sometimes called 'The book of
the Law, ' carries back the history of the Hebrews to its remote
origins and brings it down to the close of the wanderings
in the wilderness of Paran. The Pentateuch also contains
various codes of legislation, which evidently belong to widely
different periods or stages in the development of the nation.
A large proportion of this legal matter is arranged in the form
of an historical narrative, describing in detail the special cir-
cumstances under which the various enactments were supposed
to have been originally framed.
The Prophets (Nebiim) form the most important source
from which our knowledge of Israel's history is
derived. The name ' former prophets ' was in p r0 ph e t
fact applied by the Jews to four historical books :
those of Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings. The title 'latter
prophets ' includes the writings of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel,
and the twelve minor prophets (these last forming in the Jewish
Canon a single book). The prophetical literature contains
a considerable amount of actual history, but it is chiefly im-
portant in so far as it bears undesigned testimony to the moral
and religious condition of the Hebrews during the particular
epochs when the various prophets lived, taught, and wrote.
These writings lay bare those currents of national thought and
feeling which issued in the public actions, measures, or lines of
policy adopted by Israel's kings or statesmen. They throw a
vivid light upon the dangers, external or internal, which
threatened Israel's welfare at different periods between the
eighth and the third centuries B.C.
The Writings (Heb. Kcthubhim, Gk. Hagiographd) which
form the third and last section of the Old Testa-
ment Canon, were probably collected at a com-
paratively late stage in Jewish history. For
the most part they describe or illustrate the religious condi-
tion of the Jews, and their habits of thought and life, at a time
subsequent to the return from Babylon (536 B.C.). They throw
4 A Short History of the Hebrews. [CHAP.
but little light on earlier periods of Hebrew history. Only a
few of the books can be described as historical works (e.g.
Chronicles, Ezra, and Nehemiah, which were originally com-
bined in a single book). Others, such as Esther and Ruth,
seem to be historical only in form, and may be regarded as
'studies' of certain incidents or epochs of Jewish history,
written from a religious point of view and intended to convey
a particular moral. None of these books, however, considering
their peculiar character and the date of their composition, can
be safely employed as independent or .complete sources of
Such, briefly described, is the nature and scope of the
historical documents contained in the Old Testament. But
the evidence derived from this source does not
of'archaeology, stand alone. During the nineteenth century the
inscription^, research of many scholars in various fields of
investigation has accumulated a mass of informa-
tion which has shed a vivid light upon the course of Israel's
history and upon the gradual growth of its religious customs
and ideas. It is indeed a remarkable fact that Israel itself
supplies practically little or nothing that supplements or eluci-
dates the biblical narratives, no inscriptions, no tombs, no
monuments. 1 But in Assyria, Babylon, Phoenicia, Egypt and
elsewhere, tablets, monuments and hieroglyphic inscriptions
have been discovered which illustrate to a remarkable extent
the primitive beliefs of the Semitic race, the incidents of
Hebrew history, the relations of Israel to the neighbouring
peoples, and other similar matters. It is not too much to say
that recent discoveries have in a great measure revolutionized
the study of the Old Testament. They have in many ways
vindicated both the honesty and the accuracy of the Hebrew
1 The inscription found in the tunnel of Siloam throws some light on
the topography of Jerusalem, but otherwise is of little historical interest.
For a description see Sayce, Fresh Light from the Ancient Monuments,
I.] Early Narratives of Genesis. 5
historians; but at the same time they have enabled us to
understand and fairly appreciate the necessary limitations
under which they worked. We now perceive that the inspira-
tion which we justly attribute to the Old Testament writers did
not protect them from occasional errors and inaccuracies, nor
did it hinder them from freely using their own judgment in
the selection and arrangement of their materials. But although
their manner of writing history was in general the same as that
of other oriental historians, a careful and reverent study of
their work makes it evident that they were in a true sense
'inspired ' : they were endowed with a God-given insight which
led them to read history in the light of the divine purpose,
and guided them to discern the true moral significance of the
events which they recorded.
The historical books close with an account of the work of Ne-
hemiah (c. 4306.0.). For information respect-
ing the subsequent period we have to depend au "h ritusi, r
for the most part on extra-canonical authorities.
The writings of Josephus and a few allusions in classical liter-
ature help us to some extent : but it must be admitted that
comparatively little is recorded of Jewish history during the
period of nearly 300 years between the death of Nehemiah
and the age of the Maccabees. The first and second books
of Maccabees are fairly trustworthy for the period which they
cover, and there are various apocryphal and pseudepigraphic
writings * which contain information bearing upon the history,
and the characteristic beliefs, of post-exilic Judaism. Speaking
broadly, however, the age of Hebrew history of which we are
most easily enabled to form an accurate idea, is the eighth
century B.C., the period, that is, during which Amos, Hosea,
Micah, and Isaiah fulfilled their ministry in Israel and Judah.
The writings of these great prophets help us to estimate the
real importance of the events summarily recorded in the
1 e,g. some portions of the Sibylline Oracles, the Fourth Book of Esdras^
the Psalms of Solomon, the Book of Enoch, etc.
6 A Short History of the Hebrews. [CHAP.
historical books; they are amply illustrated by the evidence
of contemporary monuments, and they enable us to under-
stand the inner condition of the Hebrew people during what
was perhaps the most critical epoch of its entire history.
The early chapters of the book of Genesis are concerned
Thenarra w ^ a & es even more remote. They contain
tive of extracts selected from the ancient folk-lore of
Genesis i.-xi. ^ Sem iti c race, relating to the creation of the
world, and the origin of the various races of mankind. The
aim and purport of these simple narratives is clearly religious.
Indeed the first eleven chapters of Genesis may be regarded
as a kind of preface to the Old Testament, teaching in a
poetic form those fundamental truths of religion and human
nature which the Hebrew writers believed to lie behind the
history of their own race, and to explain its peculiar calling
and promised destiny.
The history opens with two accounts of the Creation of the
world, the first (contained in Gen. i. i-ii. 4 a)
of'creatio'n apparently belonging to a documentwhich forms
the groundwork not merely of Genesis, but of
the first six books of the Old Testament (the 'Hexateuch').
Owing to certain internal characteristics, this document is
generally known as the 'Priestly writing' or 'Priests' Code,'
and from its preference for the name ' ' Etthim (God) rather
\h&njahveh (LORD), its author is sometimes called the Elohist.
The document is generally regarded as being of much later
origin than the other Pentateuchal sources. There are two
points worthy of special notice in connection with this narra-
tive. First, it is not primarily intended to convey instruction
upon points of physical science, but rather to inculcate certain
religious lessons. It is quite beside the mark to enquire
curiously into the relation of the biblical cos-
mogony to the ascertained facts of modern
science. The important point is that Israel's
sacred book begins with a religious account of the origins
I.] Early Narratives of Genesis. 7
both of the universe and of mankind, an account which
is designed to render the whole subsequent story credible
and intelligible. For the history of Israel, it must be remem-
bered, is a history of redemption : the underlying interest of
the whole Old Testament is the fact that it points from the
first to the accomplishment of a divine purpose of salvation. 1
That Almighty God, the God who specially revealed Himself
to the Jewish people, called the universe into being; that He
existed before it and is distinct from it; that all created nature
depends immediately upon His sustaining power at each stage
of its upward development; that all things which owe their
existence to Him are essentially good / finally, that there is
an 'ascent of life ' in nature i.e. a certain fixed order and
gradation in the appearance of different forms of life these
primary truths are conveyed in the form of a simple and
singularly impressive narrative of the cosmogony which was
originally common to perhaps the greater part of the Semitic
The second point calling for remark is that the Hebrew
account of Creation is apparently adapted from Ug
an ancient legend, which, in the form of an Babylonian
epic poem, had been current in Babylonia ongin-
from a very remote period. 2 The legend was in all proba-
bility cherished among the Hebrew clans and transmitted to
posterity. A careful comparison of the Assyro-Babylonian
story of Creation with the narrative of Gen. chh. i. and ii.
reveals certain striking points of similarity between the two
1 Cp. John iv. 22 ' salvation is of the Jews.'
2 Portions of this remarkable poem, inscribed on mutilated tablets of
clay which were excavated at Kouyunjik, were discovered and deciphered
by the eminent Assyriologist, George Smith. A popular account of them
is given by Prof. Sayce, Fresh Light from the Ancient Monuments, and by
Prof. Ryle, The Early Narratives of Genesis. See also the essay by Dr.
Driver on ' Hebrew Authority" in Authority and Archaeology, sacred and
profane, pp. 9 foil.
8 A Short History of the Hebrews. [CHAP.
accounts which conclusively prove their interdependence. In
each case the drama of creation is represented as taking place
in seven acts or stages; the same word in a slightly different
form is used to denote the primaeval chaos, and speaking
generally the same order is observed in describing the suc-
cessive epochs of the Creation. But the points of contrast are
not less remarkable. The Babylonian legend contains certain
mythological elements which are clearly derived from a rude
and primitive polytheism. It represents the Creation as the
outcome of a conflict between two orders of deities, whereas
the Hebrew narrative is in every respect consistent with the
teachings of a strict monotheism. While the main outlines of
the original story are retained, the fantastic creation-myth of the
Semites is recast, and entirely purged of all those puerile and
immoral details that might be inconsistent with the doctrines
of a pure and spiritual faith. Speaking generally, "where the
Assyrian or Babylonian poet saw the action of deified forces
of nature, the Hebrew writer sees only the will of the supreme
God." 1 Indeed, the very keynote of the Old Testament is
contained in the master-thought which inspires the narrative,
that of the omnipotence and perfect goodness of the God
whom Israel had learned to worship. And it is noticeable
that the spiritual view of nature which pervades the story
became habitual to devout Israelites. It reappears in such
passages as Job xxxviii. and in many of the Psalms (especially
perhaps Pss. civ., cxlvii., cxlviii.).
In Gen. ii. 4 -25 we find a second account of the Crea-
tion evidently derived from a different source.
narrative of and introduced, so far as we can judge, with a
widely different motive and purpose. The author
of this passage holds chiefly in view the origin of man ; he
describes his first dwelling-place and his relation to other
orders of created being. Internal evidence shows that the
1 Sayce, The Higher Criticism and the Monuments, p. 71.
l.] Early Narratives of Genesis. 9
narrative belongs to a document which has been skilfully
interwoven with the 'Priestly' writing, and is sometimes de-
scribed as 'Prophetical,' inasmuch as it seems to embody
those ethical and religious ideas of which the prophets of
Israel were the great exponents. The most striking point of
contrast between the 'Priestly' and 'Prophetical' narratives
of Creation is a variation in the divine name. In Gen. i. i-
ii. 4 a the title of God is Eldhim ; in Gen. ii. 4 foil, the
characteristic name \sjahveh ' ' Eldhim? Scholars have noted
other differences between the two accounts, clearly pointing
to two distinct traditions: e.g. the absence in the second
narrative of any reference to successive 'days ' of Creation,
and the appearance of man on the earth while it is yet
unclothed with verdure. Not to dwell further on details, how-
ever, it may suffice to remark that the compilers of Genesis
have here placed in juxtaposition two divergent accounts
of the cosmogony, and the whole passage (Gen. i. i-ii. 25)
supplies the first example of those 'double narratives' of the
same event which so frequently recur in the history, and which
modern critical analysis of the Hebrew text has enabled us to
distinguish. It is noticeable that the compilers make little
or no attempt to harmonize conflicting statements. They
are only anxious to preserve each tradition, so far as possible,
in its integrity. They doubtless regard each as conveying
some elements of sacred teaching, which it is important to
It is doubtful how far the 'Prophetical ' account of man's
earliest abode is connected with kindred Babylonian legends.
A distinguished modern scholar has maintained that the site of
Paradise can be recognized in a certain district of Mesopotamia,
1 The usual symbol employed to denote the 'Prophetical' writer is ' J';
the ' Priestly ' writer is generally referred to as ' P.'
2 On the way in which the Hebrew writers employ the ordinary
methods of Oriental historians see Kirkpatrick, The Divine Library of
the O.T., p. 14. Cp. Sanday, Tfa Oracles of God, pp. 27, 28.
IO A Short History of the Hebrews, [CHAP.
but the identification of the spot is only a matter of interest
in so far as it strengthens the presumption that the Babylonian
epic of Creation also included a description of the Temptation
and Fall of man, which the Hebrews inherited from the race
to which they belonged, and eventually incorporated, in some
purified form, among their sacred writings.
The interest of the passage, Gen. ii. 4 b-\\\. 24, lies chiefly
sto of the ^ n * ts teaching as regards man's nature and
Fail, its pur- destiny, the entrance of sin into the world, and
its culmination in a divinely-inflicted judgment.
The story of the Fall (iii. 1-24) is an attempt to solve a