Lesson 4 – The Hebrews
Focus Questions:
1. In what ways did the Hebrew view of God mark a
revolutionary break with the Near Eastern thought?
2. How did Hebrew religious thought promote the
ideas of moral autonomy?
3. What were the unique achievements of the Hebrew
4. Why are the Hebrews regarded as a principal source
of the Western tradition?
Review the Chronology (from text book – page 26)
The Hebrew Homeland
Settlements in and around Jericho
12 Tribes of
Founders / Patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
The Hebrews (Jews) originated in Mesoptamia and
migrated to Canaan.
Semi-nomadic clans that roamed between Palestine,
Mesopotamia and Egypt.
Similarities and Differences
to Egyptian and Mesopotamian
Religion and Culture
Hebrews (Jews) rejected Egyptian beliefs.
Hebrews believed in ONE God only = “Monotheism”
Hebrews believe that God (Yaweh) has concern for
Humanity and Justice for all Humans.
Dignity for all Humans was a new concept.
Hebrew Scriptures 1250 BCE – 150 BCE
Name: Torah = teaching or instruction
Also referred to as: Pentateuch/Tanak/Old Testament
Consists of Five Books: Geneis, Exodus, Leviticus,
Numbers, and Deuteronomy.
Represents: Jewish written and oral tradition; Jewish
Laws; Jewish Wisdom; Hopes; Legends; Literary
The Scripture Emphasizes: the value of the human
experience; human heroes; human strength;
human faults; human capacity to do
wrong/revenge; ethical conduct and the highest
Hebrews became Slaves in Egypt
Hebrew scripture tells of herdsmen and farmers who
were looking for greener pastures and were
captured by Egyptians and kept as slaves.
Some scholars say there is no evidence to support the
Hebrews being slaves, and therefore there was no
A leader arose among the Hebrews, named Moses,
led an Exodus out of Egypt, spending 40 years
wandering in the Sinai Desert, towards home,
strengthened by the belief in One God.
(see map again)
Some scholars say that there is no way that the Pharaoh,
at the height of Egyptian power, would have allowed
thousands of slaves to escape.
Other scholars say that there is evidence of Asiatic slaves
in Egypt, some of whom could have been Hebrews.
Also, why would the Hebrews make such a point of
remembering the shame of slavery if it was not true?
Hebrew literature describes an Exodus from Egypt, with
Moses as the human leader, speaking for God. The
famous quote, which is attributed to Moses, as he
stood before the Pharaoh, is “Let my People Go”.
The Ten Commandments
God gave Moses the Ten
Commandments on Mount
Sinai to serve as principles of
moral behaviour.
The Ten Commandments of
Hebrew God are the
foundation of the moral code
and legal system of justice for
Western Civilization.
The Moral Code – The 10 Commandments
The 10 Commandments given to Moses on Mount
Sinai, inscribed on stone tablets, are intended for
the guidance of the ancient Hebrews. They form a
small but vital part of the total of 623 laws in the
Hebrew Scriptures.
Ten Rules that formed Western Morals
Morals, Values and Principles
Morals, values, and principles is motivation
based on ideas of what is right and wrong. It is a
series of beliefs that lead you to make decisions
based on your personal ethics. Western morals
teach people to “do unto others as you'd have
done unto you”.
1. How are the 10 Commandments reflected in
modern Western morals and values?
2. Do you see any of these morals and values in
your own thinking?
Mid Term Exam (preparation)
In-Class Exercise
There will be a mid term exam question asking you to
make a connection between the Hebrew 10
Commandments and Western Morals and Values.
Take 5 minutes now, to write in your notes, examples
of how the 10 Commandments are reflected in
modern Western morals and values.
You will use these notes to study from.
I will be walking around looking at your work.
(return to previous slide)
Then and Now
The U.S. is the most religiously diverse country in the
world. Southern Ontario in Canada is regarded as the
most religiously diverse region of any country in the
world. Both nations share a legacy of religious freedom
and religious tolerance. The U.S. Supreme Court has
interpreted their Constitution as requiring a complete
separation of church and state. Canadian culture largely
separates church and state by tradition.
The Ten Commandments were created within an entirely
different culture with very different expectations of its
citizens. It was a theocracy where Religion and
Government were One. Everyone was expected to
follow the state religion. A person following a different
religion or proselytizing (converting to a different
faith) could find themselves sentenced to death.
Start 6-11
Return to Canaan (Israel – Palestine)
The wandering Hebrews returned home and rejoined
the 12 Tribes of Israel (1250 BCE).
Threatened by the Philistines (from near the Aegean
Sea), the Hebrews United under the leadership of
Saul (1024-1000) a charismatic leader, and later, his
successor David (1000-961), a gifted warrior and
poet, and then Solomon (961-922).
A defensive war resulted in Hebrew independence
and freedom from the threat of the Philistines.
See the next two maps for the original geographical
home of the Philistines, prior to their unsuccessful
war to conquer the Hebrews.
Aegean Sea
A Brief Look into the Future
As you will see later in the semester, the Romans
destroyed the Hebrew (Jewish) State of Judea and
killed or exiled most of its people. The Romans
wanted to wipe away all remembrance of a
connection between the Jews and their land, so
they re-named all of it "Palestinia" in honour of the
In later wars, the land was conquered by Byzantines,
Persians, Arabs, Crusaders, and Turks. The Arabs
and their Turkish masters cut down all the trees,
destroying the ecology of the land.
It was not until the 1850’s when the Hebrews (Jews) began to return in
large numbers and resettle the Land, a process which culminated in
the Balfour Declaration of 1917 and the British undertaking to
prepare "the establishment in Palestine of a National Home" for the
Even today, we continue to hear television new stories of the war
between the Palestinians and Jews.
“A man's feet must be planted in his country but his eyes
must survey the world.”
"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to
repeat it."
In-class Exercise: In your notebook, describe an example from elsewhere
in the world where history has repeated itself, resulting in suffering
and the loss of human life.
Start Group 1-5 Here
Monotheism – The belief in ONE GOD
Monotheism was a profound new way of thinking
about God.
All other Near Eastern Gods:
• had limitations on their power.
• Were born or created and therefore not eternal.
• Required food, drink and sexual gratification.
• Sometimes grew old or died.
• Subjected to fate’s power and can be punished.
Yaweh is: fully Sovereign (independent); timeless;
created everything that exists; all powerful.
Yaweh created everything. There were not gods in
the storm clouds, rivers, sun or moon.
The Hebrews did not fear nature, as predators with
supernatural powers.
Hebrews worshipped only ONE God – Yaweh.
Removed myths about nature
Philosophical and scientific curiosity
Believed that God managed nature
Speculation on the operations of nature
Concerned with Feelings of the heart;
righteous behavior and religious conviction
Concerned with power of the mind; abstract
thought and rational inquiry
Other Ancient Near Eastern Religions
Yaweh – merciful and gracious
Lustful and motivated by evil
Attentive to humans, abundant in goodness,
truth and is forgiving
Indifferent to humans
Yaweh is all powerful and invisible
Gods should be represented and seen
Idol worship deprived humans of freedom
Humans are created to serve the gods
Ultimate loyalty only to Yaweh, not to a
General or a King
Moral Autonomy = Choice
Yaweh gave humans freedom to choose between
good and evil.
Hebrews were:
• free to think and be aware of themselves as
individuals with personal worth.
• subordinate only to God.
• Free to disobey Yaweh’s laws.
• Responsible for their own decision (consequences)
(personal/employment/legal relationships – consequences)
The Benefits of Knowing God
Faith led to a human being kinder, more righteous,
loving and merciful.
The worst elements of human nature (greed, lust,
rage, jealousy, etc.) could be overcome when
Yaweh’s laws were followed.
Yaweh did not benefit from the adherence of his
followers. The followers were the beneficiaries.
Benefits of knowing Yaweh: Adversity is minimized,
humans have the power to change and improve
Stories: Garden of Eden (Adam and Eve – The 1st Man and Woman)
Yaweh created the Heavens and the Earth and then the garden of
Eden, giving Adam the job of managing the garden, where he lived
with Eve. They were commanded to not eat from the Tree of
Knowledge of Good and Evil. Eve is questioned by the serpent
(snake) as to why she does not eat from this tree. Eve tells the
serpent that if she touches the fruit she will die. The serpent tells
her that she will not die, but that she and her husband will
become “as gods, knowing good and evil," and persuades Eve to
eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.
Eve eats and gives the fruit to Adam, who also eats. Adam and Eve
become aware of “good and evil,“ and become aware of their
nakedness. God then finds them, confronts them, and judges
them for disobeying.
God expels them (sends them away) from Eden to stop them from
taking from the Tree of Life, placing Cherubims (Immortal Guards)
with a flaming sword to guard against any future entry into the
Garden of Eden – The moral of the story
Hebrews – Israelites believe that for humans to grow,
that we must face opposition, and debate
alternative choices. The departure from the Garden
of Eden (Paradise), demonstrated to Humans that
we must think about choices, learn from our
mistakes and evaluate, in advance of our decisions,
the consequences of our actions.
The Hebrew Covenant
God’s Agreement with the Hebrew People
If they obeyed His Laws, they would “be unto Me a
kingdom of priests,, and a holy nation”
(Exodus 19:6)
Justice is the central theme of Old Testament ethics.
Define Testament: To testify honestly from the heart
and fulfill the agreement.
In return for liberation from slavery in Egypt, the
Hebrews had to dedicate themselves to overcoming
injustice and to care for the poor, the weak and the
A Unique Nation – The Chosen People
Question: Chosen for what purpose and Why?
• Not because they were better than any other
people, but rather to set an example of Righteous
• Demonstrating that it is possible To Overcome
• To be a Model for all Humanity into the future
• To communicate the Message of Justice to other
• To be Moral Teachers weighed heavily on the
Hebrew Conscience
Daily Practice of the Moral Code
The 10 Commandments in our daily lives
• People are more important than property.
• Mercy towards the oppressed means rejecting the
idea that the law should treat the rich and the poor
differently. All people should be treated the same.
• Hebrew law was more aware of the power
imbalances among classes and attempted to make
them more equal.
• Laws were implemented to protect the poor,
widows, orphaned children, resident aliens, hired
laborers and slaves.
Group Exercise – With one other person, take the quote below and
underline and write comment upon 3 of the messages in this passage.

similar documents