Sunday, June 27, 2010


The ancient land of Canaan, (today known as Israel) was of significant importance to the ancient empires because it was the overland route between the Egyptian and Assyrian Empires. For thousands of years this land has been contested, conquered and under several influences. For this reason the area is rich in different cultural influences, and history.

On June 28 I travel to Israel, and this trip could not happen at a more opportune time. I just took an Ancient Israel class, where I studied about early Israelite history: the Exodus from Egypt, King David and Solomon, the Divided Monarchy time period and exile into Babylon. Because of how old of history we are talking about, the only written source for the time was the Bible. We read this as a historical document, trying to put the religious elements on the back burner and compare the written evidence with the archeological record that has been found in the region.

Religious or not, the area provides a very interesting history because of its location, and because of the different power struggles going on in the region. Locked between two of the largest Empires in the world, the region was constantly fought over. It wasn’t until the two regions receded lands due to internal turmoil the country of Israel was able to form. The little slice of land became a monarchy under David, and later solidified under his son Solomon.

The archeological record does support a central government. Three towns, Megiddo, Hazor and Gezer all have the same six chamber gate. This gate was extremely secure against an attack, and all three towns were placed along the ancient overland travel route from Egypt to Assyria. There is also evidence of soldiers being held at these sites, so these cities were also defensive for the region.

After the short stint as a united Monarchy, the region split into two different countries: Israel in the North, and Judah in the South. The two countries were not one entirely equal proportion since Israel had most of the agricultural resources because of the wetter climate. For this reason, as well as encompassing the fertile Jezreel Valley, the country was more on the international scene, having to fight off other surrounding regions from conquest. However, eventually the Assyrian Empire was able to conquer the region and claim the land as part of the empire.

Now only Judah was left, and this area began to also feel the international pressures after a time. Then, a shift happened. The Assyrians were conquered by the Babylonian Empire and the Kingdom of Judah itself fell. It was at this time those living in Judah were exiled into Babylon. However, 50 short years later, the Babylonian Empire fell to the Persians, and those living in exile were allowed to return back to Judah. It was at this time the term Jew was developed to describe those living in Judah.

After this time the region was conquered by Alexander the Great during the Hellenistic period, and eventually the rule of Rome. This last part is stretching my knowledge since we barely touched on the Hellenistic period in my class. I did touch on Israel during my Roman Empire class as well, and learned a little about the Herod Dynasty.

But this is all really to give you context about the area I will be traveling in. My hope is that I will visit some of these ancient places on my trip and be able to post more specific history and information when I get back.

So, until I get back, I wish all my readers happy history. I am looking forward to visiting and living it!

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