A History of the Jews by Paul Johnson

By Paul Johnson

A countrywide bestseller, this fantastic 4000 yr survey covers not just Jewish background yet he impression of Jewish genius and mind's eye at the international. by way of the writer of Modern instances: the realm From the Twenties to the Eighties.

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In one important respect, these Mesopotamian societies, spreading out into the West, were becoming more sophisticated. They were 32 / A HISTORY OF THE JEWS developing forms of scripts far more efficient than the Egyptian hieroglyph and its derivatives, and they rightly saw this invention as a source of power. They believed, therefore, that writing down a law strengthened its force and made it numinous. From the end of the third millennium onwards legal systems grew in density and complexity, and were reflected not only in masses of individual legal documents but in written legal codes, the spread of the Akkadian script and language encouraging rulers to compile their laws in societies as widely separated as Elam and Anatolia, among the Hurrians and the Hittites, at Ugarit and on the Mediterranean littoral.

95 But for a comprehensive summary of right conduct to God and man, offered to, accepted by and graven upon the hearts of an entire people, there is nothing in antiquity remotely comparable to the Ten Commandments. The Decalogue was the basis of the covenant with God, first made by Abraham, renewed by Jacob and now renewed again, in a solemn and public manner, by Moses and the entire people. Modern research shows that the Mosaic covenant, set out briefly in Exodus 19-24 and again more elaborately in the Book of Deuteronomy, follows the form of an ancient Near Eastern treaty, such as those drawn up by the Hittites.

Here, again, the evidence of burning and destruction during the thirteenth century BC, the time of the Israelite conquest, is entirely consistent with the Biblical record. 132 Despite Joshua’s spectacular victories, however, the conquest of Canaan was by no means complete at the time of his death. The consolidation of the Israelite settlement, the reduction of the remain ISRAELITES / 45 ing towns, and the final occupation of the coast took more than two centuries, 1200-1000 BC, and was not accomplished until the unified kingdom of Israel came into being at the end of the millennium.

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