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A History of the Bible

Dr. William S. Sadler

9. History of Israel's Religion



    1. AGE OF THE PATRIARCHS: 2000 to 1500 B.C.
  • 1. This was an age of universal restlessness and turbulence throughout the Middle East.
  • 2. The great age of Hammurabi is passing. The Huerians from the Canaanite highlands are over-running the fertile crescent*
  • 3. The Hyksos have invaded Egypt. The Kassites have taken over Babylon.
  • 4. In such a time of international anarchy the Patriarchs lived, and the Hebrew nation was born.
  • 5. The Patriarchs worshiped El Elyon and El Shaddai.
  • 6. Archaeology has contributed much to confirm the Bible record of these times of the Patriarchs.
  • 7. The more recent Mari tablets have in many ways confirmed the Bible story of these times.
  • 8. Their religion was very real. Yahweh came to live in their tents. Abraham was called "a friend of God."
  • 9. When they entered Palestines they set up altars for Yahweh at Shechem, Bethel, Hebron, Beer-sheba, and Penuel.
  • 10. Publication of more of the 20,000 clay tablets found in the Mari Palace will, no doubt, shed much more light on the times of the Patriarchs.
    2. THE AGE OF MOSES: 1350 to 1250 B.C.
  • 1. Sources.- Yahwist record in the tenth century, the Flohist in the eighth. After that come the priestly records.
  • 2. There is little doubt that Moses was a historic personality. The Moses narrative in the Urantia Book is found on p. 1055.
  • 3. The beginnings of Moses t religion are obscure. But he created a religious ceremonial for Israel that culminated in Solomonts temple.
  • 4. In all Israel, there was no outstanding leader between Moses and David.
  • 5. The Hebrews probably entered Egypt under the Hyksos--1750-1560 B.C.
  • 6. Moses may have been influenced by the solar monotheism of Amenhotep (Ikhnaton). This philosophy is presented in Ps. 104.
  • 7. Moses killed an Egyptian who had struck a Hebrew laborer. He then fled to the East, where he lived with the Kenites.
  • 8. Moses married Zipporah, the daughter of Jethro. She bore him two sons.
  • 9. While tending sheep Yahweh speaks to him from the "burning bush."
  • 10. Moses returns to Egypt and with his brother Aaron as his spokesman begins plans for the liberation of the Hebrews.
  • 11. Was the Exodus over the Red Sea or the "Sea of Reeds"--the papyrus marsh?
  • 12. The religion of the Israelites begins under miraculous circumstances-the manna and the quails.
  • 13. Hebrew religion starts at Mount Horeb. Yahweh speaks--but not as a nature god, A new Deity appears.
  • 14. But when Moses tarried too long on the mountains they went back to the worship of the "golden calf."
  • 15. Moses' father-in-law helped him organize the "multitudes." This Kenite clan, with a remnant of the Salem religion, readily accepted the Yahweh revelation. See The Urantia Book, p. 1058.
  • 16. Yahweh becomes a "God of history"--the God "who brought you out of the land of Egypt."
  • 17. Yahweh's new covenant was based on his oath to Abraham. From start to finish, the nature of Yahweh was holiness.
  • 18. Miriam gets into trouble for criticizing Moses when he marries an Ethiopian (Cushite) woman.
  • 19. In those days they admitted the existence of other gods, but Yahweh was the "God of Israel"--and he was a "jealous God."
  • 20. The battle cry was, "You shall have no other gods before me." Ex- 20:3
  • 21.Yahweh was "all things." He was divine and demonic. Positive and negative. Light and darkness. He created "good and evil."
  • 22. Yahweh must not be represented by any image--no idols. Nevertheless, the Old Testament is strongly anthropomorphic.
  • 23. The ten commandments were the "h-ub" of all their law. Very early the ark containing the ten conmndments became the vital feature of the ritual of the cult.
  • 24. The "tent" or tabernacle became the center of their worship. There was no offering of sacrifices in the wilderness.
  • 25. Moses did not enter the Promised Land, but was allowed to view it from a distance--Mt. Nebo (Pisgah). Deut. 32:49.
  • 26. Moses was buried in Moab. He had a "special resurrection." Jude 9.
    3. PERIOD OF THE CONQUEST: 1250 to 1020 B.C.
  • 1. Palestine was a land of many peoples--Huerians, Hittites, Canaanites, and Phoenicians. Most of the early times it was an Egyptian province.
  • 2. Israel's chief enemy was the Philistines.
  • 3. There was much "mixture" between the Israelites and the Canaanites--marriage, religion, and culture.
  • 4. Baal, god of fertility, was the god native to the land. Yahweh proved to be superior to Baal in many ways.
  • 5. But the two gods went along together for a long time. The Israelites worshiped Yahweh as their chief Deity, but also paid some sort of homage to Baal--in order to insure good crops and many cattle.
  • 6. As the Hebrews turned more and more to agriculture, they became tainted with Baalism.
  • 7. Wars, trouble, and the prophets would periodically drive them back to Yahweh.
  • 8. Hosea tells of those who looked to Baal for "the grain and the wine." Hos. 2:8.
  • 9. Yahweh is the "mighty God of battles"--as he helped Gideon. Ex. 1-4:14; 15:3-
  • 10. When things went wrong, Yahweh was not defeated--Israel was defeated.
  • 11. Gradually Yahweh absorbs all of Baal's titles and functions. Yahweh gives rain, grain, and wine. Becomes "Lord of nature." I Kings 18 and 19; Hos. 2.
  • 12. Cities of refuge appear and there are many sanctuaries throughout Palestine--Gilgal, Shiloh, Dan, Ophrah, Shechem, Bethel.
  • 13. Eli was head of the sanctuary at Shiloh. The ark was here.
  • 14. There was little government. "Every man did what was right in his own eyes." Judg. 17:6.
    4. RELIGION DURING THE EARLY MONARCHY: 1020 to 922 B.C.
  • 1. Samuel and Saul are the outstanding personalities-king and king-maker.
  • 2. This is the era of the beginnings of prophecy.
  • 3. There is still much of Baal service. Even Saul, in his frustration, sought advice fmm the "witch of Endor."
  • 4. David brought about some improvement, but morals were not too high--as shown by his affair with Bathsheba.
  • 5. It is difficult to understand just how David could be "a man after God's own heart."
  • 6. Solomon did little to advance religion. The temple was in reality the royal chapel.
  • 7. The religious ritual was more Phoenician and Syrian than Hebrew.
  • 8. At the temple, the brazen sea, the bulls, and other objects were symbols of Baal service.
  • 9. The two pillars, lions, lavers, shovels, basins, and 400 pomegranates all represented surviving symbols of Semitic primitive religions.
  • 10. The law was attributed to Moses, Psalmody to David, and Wisdom to Solomon.
  • 11. The Hebrews are still suffering from many erroneous things learned in Egypt.
    5. THE DIVIDED KINGDOM: 922 to 586 B.C.
  • 1. Both kingdoms worshiped the same God. But royal marriages kept Baal worship alive.
  • 2. The prophets begin the battle for return to Yahweh. Says Elijah: "Yahweh is my God."
  • 3. Elijah was the embodiment of nomadic Yahwehism.
  • 4. Elijah appealed to the "earthquake of Horeb," and "the gentle whisper."
  • 5. Elijah built his reform on "the seven thousand who had not bowed the knee to Baal.'"
  • 6. Micaiah was an effective contemporary of Elijah. He was an antagonist of King Ahab.
  • 7. Elisha follows Elijah, but his career is fraught by much magic.
  • 8. Next comes Amos with a theology that foreshadows the theology of the Second Isaiah. He comes near preaching a "social gospel."
  • 9. Amos is the first to preach an international gospel. Yahweh has become the "God of all nations."
  • 10. Now comes Hosea, repeating and adding to the proclamations of Amos. He uses his own domestic troubles as an illustration of Yahweh's relations to Israel.
  • 11. Hosea does not hesitate to declare: "Yahweh has withdrawn from them" Hos. 5:6. But he preaches "redemption upon repentance."
  • 12. Next comes Isaiah of Jerusalem, the aristocratic prophet. He turned the messages of Amos and Hosea into proclamations grand and musical.
  • 13. Under Isaiah, Yahweh becomes "the Holy One of Israel." He repeats the judgment, "Yahweh has abandoned his people.ti
  • 14. Isaiah condemns social injustice and denounces the commercialized priesthood.
  • 15. He tells the Jews they are going into captivity.
  • 16. Micah comes with the final threat of doom and and destruction.
  • 17. Isaiah had declared the temple to be inviolate, but Micah consigns it to destruction.
  • 18. Micah sums up man's duty.- "Wat does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?" Micah 6:8.
  • 19.Finding the book of Deuteronomy in the temple brought about a great reformation. But there were two great errors in Deuteronomy:
  • a.The old doctrine of prosperity due to God's favor, and adversity as the punishment for sin.
    b.Intensified nationalism.
  • 20. Zephaniah and Habakkuk end this epoch. The one called for a purge of Jerusalem.
  • 21. Habakkuk is better understood by light shed by the Dead Sea Scrolls.
  • 22. But two more of the major prophets remain to be heard from: Jeremiah and Ezekiel.
  • 23. Jeremiah logically traced Israel's history from Moses to his day--and pronounced the doom of the nation. He urged surrender to the Babylonians.
  • 24. He was persecuted and maltreated. He predicted a new kind of "inward revival" in later times after Israel's liberation.
  • 25. Ezekiel backed up the doom of Jeremiah and revived the "holiness cult." He became the "prophet of hope," and was carried captive into Babylon.
    6. THE BABYLONIAN EXILE: 586 to 538 B.C.
  • 1. The captivity begins with the fall of Jerusalem# 586 B.C. The disheartened pessimism is reflected in the book of Lamentations.
  • 2. The priests begin the revision of all of Israel's history. They rewrite all the Hebrew literature.
  • 3. The Hebrews suffer from a sense of national guilt--sin.
  • 4. The Second Isaiah begins his work and the highest level of prophetic literature is achieved.
  • 5. The Jewish church-the synagogue-appears. The quest for authority revives the cult of the Law.
  • 6. The Hebrews begin to think of their "world mission"-their duty to all nations. Hope for deliverance.
  • 7. For the first time they fom definite beliefs about life after death.
  • 8. Deutero-Isaiah proclaimed hope. "Behold, the Lord God comes with might, and his arm rules for him; beholds, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him." Isa. 40:10.
  • 9. Judaism is at last fully internationalized. All nations are to share in Yahweh's love and merciful redemption.
  • 10. In Second Isaiah there appears "the servant of the Lord," foreshadowing the Messiah.
  • 11. This is the period of the greatest spiritual progress of the Jews,
  • 12. Samaria and the northern tribes had twice suffered deportation of large numbers to Assyria.
  • 13. In 539 Babylon fell to the Persians, and Cyrus arranged for the Jews to return to Palestine.
    7. POST-EXHILIC JUDAISM: 539 to 150 B.C.
  • 1. The priests did more than to just edit and rewrite the Hebrew scriptures-they added numerous ancient fragments and reduced oral traditions to writing.
  • 2. Judaism is falling under the influence of the Persian period. 538-333 B.C.
  • 3. The priestly code gave importance to:
    • a. Avoidance of blood.
    • b. Circumcision.
    • c. Sabbath keeping.
    • d. Holiness as reflected in conduct.
  • 4. The book of Psalms is growing. Great variety. The Hebrews were gifted in music--vocal and instrumental.
  • 5. Psalms range from high hymns of praise to poems of hate and revenge.
  • 6. In the Psalms Yahweh is judge, king, creator, keeper, shepherd, and redeemer.
  • 7. The theme song of the Psalter is God's ETERNITY. But this is not to the neglect of God's love and goodness.
  • 8. God in nature is featured in four Psalms--8, 19, 29, and 104.
  • 9. There is little about sacrifice in the Psalms. See Ps. 40:6-8.
  • 10. The Psalter persists in upholding the philosophy of God's prosperity as rewards for obedience, and sickness and adversity as punishments for sin.
  • 11. The problem of the meaning of suffering and affliction as wrought out in Job is touched upon in Ps. 73.
  • 12. Psalms abound in precious promises--inspired sayings: lueeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.'' Ps. 30:5.
  • 13. The wisdom literature was not of a high spiritual order. It was based on "human experience." They were guidebooks for practical living.
  • 14. But their morality was conventional and pious. "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." Prov. 15:33 (King James Version)
  • 15. The wisdom books are skeptical as to the orthodo-V of suffering as a penalty for wrongdoing.
  • 16. While the wise man doubts the moral government of the world, still he asserts "that the souls of the righteous are in the hands of God," Wisdom of Solomon 3:l (Apocrypha)
  • 17. The new apocalyptic literature promised salvation by the coming of a itnew world"--the kingdoms of men become the everlasting kingdom of God.
  • 18. The book of Daniel was the high point of the "new age" teaching. This was not a Messianic theology--God himself was coming to:
    • a.Judge the world.
    • b.Resurrect the dead.
    • c.Destroy all the wicked.
    • d.Set up an everlasting kingdom.
    8. THE HEBREW CULT
  • 1. The priests had more of an influence in Jewish religion than would appear from reading the Old Testament.
  • 2. The Canaanite nature cult was all mixed up with the Hebrew religion.
  • 3. From Moses to the Judges the main sanctuary was at Shiloh.
  • 4. Deuteronomy brought in the Holiness cult, which was reinforced by the later priestly code.
  • 5. The Semitic peoples specialized in holy gods, holy places, holy days, holy times, holy things, and holy persons.
  • 6. Before Jerusalem, there were Hebron, Bethel, Shechem, Gilgals and other holy places.
  • 7. For a long time Baal was worshiped along with Yahweh--at the "high places."
  • 8. Of all holy objects, the ark was the most holy. King Uzziah dropped dead when he touched it.
  • 9. Passover and other feasts were holy seasons. Sabbath was the holy day.
  • 10. Of all things sacred and holy, the Day of Atonement was at the head.
  • 11. Sacrifice was the holy act:
    • a.Burnt offerings.
    • b.Gift offerings.
    • c.Sin offerings.
    • d.Vow offerings.
  • 12.Holy persons:
    • a. Priests and Levites.
    • b. Prophets.
    • c. Nazarites.
  • 13.Holy places:
    • a. Temple.
    • b. Synagogue.
    • c. The outlawed "high places."
  • 14.The Hebrew religious ritual evolved through a period of over one thousand years.
    9. THE MATURE FAITH OF ISRAEL
  • A. THE GOD OF ISRAEL
    • 1. Israel was Yahweh's chosen people. They believed in national election.
    • 2. God delivered them from Egyptian bondage under Moses; from Babylonian captivity under Cyrus.
    • 3. Yahweh was a God of history, not a God of nature.
    • 4. He was "God of the Covenant." No other religion had such an origin.
    • 5. The law and the ritual were based on the covenant.
    • 6. The covenant was first made with Abraham and renewed under Joshua after entering Canaan.
    • 7. Yahweh was God of Gods. There might be other gods, but Yahweh was "God of 'Israel."
    • 8. Faith in God based on ACTS of God--creative and historical.
    • 9. God was a person--even though anthropomorphic.
    • 10. There may have been an evolutionary henotheism, but eventually monotheism arrived.
    • 11. The holiness of Yahweh was unique--transcending all other gods.
    • 12. God as a creator was original and unique.
    • 13. Technique of the revelation of God to the people was new.
    • 14. Man "made in the-image of God"--in no other religion. Basis of Hebrew anthropomorphism.
    • 15. The concept of sin-the fall of mang somewhat different from all other religions.
    • 16. A forgiving God--man's salvation--final belief in life after death; the resurrection.
    • 17. But the problem of death was a long evolution in Hebrew philosophy.
    • 18. The final belief in a new age--the Messiah-the everlasting kingdom.
    • 19. The belief that Israel was intended to be a missionary people to carry the knowledge of Yahweh to all the world was never really put into practice.
    • 20. The Jews never lived up to their obligations as the "chosen people." Instead of going to the world, they withdrew from the world.
  • B.HEBREW WORSHIP
    • 1.Israel rejects pagan magic and demons. (They often went back to these errors.)
    • 2. Hebrews reject heathen festivals--theirs were new and largely original.
    • 3. Special shrines of worship, ending in the temple.
    • 4. Substitution of animal sacrifice for humn.
    • 5. New meanings attached to sacrifices.
    • 6. Improved law, literature, and rituals.
    • 7. Clarification of sin, forgiveness, and atonement.
    • 8. The creation of a settled theology and creation of a superior sacred Scripture.
    • 9. The establishment of an enduring world religion.