Archeological evidence shows that many mostly small kingdoms rose and fell over time in the area between the two great centers of civilization, Mesopotamia and Egypt. While these peoples are mostly of only minor importance in the great swwp of history. One of these people, however, the Hebrews have come to play a major role in the development of Wetern civilization. The origin of the very name is shrouded in the mist of pre-history. Scholars associate it with the word "Hiberu". It first appears in writing sent to Egypt from one of the small client states which the Egyptians left after withdrawing from Canaan in the 1300s BC. These client states faced wves of nomadic tribes. The Egupian word "Hiberu" meant "outsider" and originally was probably used to describe migrants in general and not one specific people. The early Hebrews apparently were semi-nomadic heardsmen who gradually began some limited farming They did not have metal tools or a written language. Like other nomads, the ancient Hebrews lived in tents and were organized in extended families combined into kinship groups. [Smitha] Biblical scholarship has developed extensive information on the Hebrew people who for a tome were captives in both Egypt and Babylonia.
There are countless images of the ancient Hebrews. Few come from the Hebrews themselves. Many come from the great masters of European art who for centuries focused primarily on Biblical scenes. Here these images are fascinating, but usually not acurate depictions of ancient Hbrews. In fact the clothing depicted is often replications of Medieval Europe. One popular theme that Western artists have pursued through the centuries has been biblical depictions. Magnificent and dramatic works of art, whilst not always realistic and are imaginary, by renowned grand masters are national treasures in their country of origin. In contemporary times, wonderfully illustrated books depicting key moments from the biblical era for children are still popular as ever. This illustration by Harry G. Theaker is from Children's Stories from the Bible as retold by Blanche Winder. The illustrations are a wonderful
example of fine illustrations of biblical themes. While there is no publishing date, this book has a signature of the original owner, Dorothy Street, and is dated 1931. It is printed by Ward, Lock & Co, Ltd.
The history of the Hebrew people extends more than 4,000 years and after the Roman supression of the Jewish revolt becomes extroidinarily complex as Jewish communities were established and to varying degree mixed with populations throughout Europe and eventually European colonies. Very little is know about the early Hebrews, but a good deal is known Hebrew history by the 1st millenium BC. Hebrew history in large measure was determined by geograph, their placement between the two-great river valley civilozations--Mesopotamia and Egypt. Much the Old Testmant deals with the struggle of the Herews to maintain their independence from Mesopotamia (Assyria and Babylon) to the northeast and Egypt to the west. What is remarkable is that while other small kingdoms in the area are now lost to history, the Jews survived as a people and a people who played a major role on Western civilization. With the rise of Rome the Jews became a part of the Empire. The revolt against Rome resulted in the end of the Jewish state and the Diasporah of the Hebrew people throughout the Westetn world. After the NAZI World war II Holocaust the Zionist movement created a new Jewish state--Israel.
Judiasm is the religion of the semi-nomadic Hebrew people. It is widely regarded as the first Monotheistic religion. Here its relationship to the monotheism of Phraroh Akhenaten is a matter of considerable controversy. The primitive religion of the Hebrews developed as a sophisticated religion which played a major force is Isrealite society as part of a theocratic state ruled by priest-kings. Judaism is the religious system that developed, including doctries and rites of the Jews. Judiasm developed as the theocratic state religion of a national group, the Israelites. In modern times this has meant a separate, often small religious community living among Gentiles--for the most part, Christian and Islamic majorities. That community over tume experienced periods of benign toleration followed by rulthless suppression. Anti Semitism became a prominent aspect of European life during the medieval Era. Many states expelled the Jews entirely. The most cataclysmic action against the Jews was of course the Holocaust during World War II. This situation changed somewhat after the War in 1948 with the recognitionn by the United Nations of Israel, although most Jew cintinue to live outside Israel. Modern rabbinical Judaism was crafted by scholars and teachers known as rabbis just before and after the destructioin of the Jewish national state by the Romans at the beginning of the Christian (Common) Era.
The early Hebrews apparently were semi-nomadic heardsmen who gradually began some limited farming They did not have metal tools or a written language. Like other nomads, the ancient Hebrews lived in tents and were organized in extended families combined into kinship groups. [Smitha]
The ancient Hebrews are of course notable for the development of Monotheism and the religious and ethical code associated with it as expressed in the Old Testament and other religious writing. Curiously the Hebrews have not left us with artistic achievments to rival their ethical code. Many other comparable people such as the Philistines were much more sophisticated in artistic expression and craftsmanship. Curiously the word Philistine today in English means a crass person with no artistic sence. (I'm not sure if the same is true in other Western languages.) Solomon when he built the great temple, for example, had to import foreign artists and craftsmen. Herod had to do the same 1,000 years later. A factor here waa the prohibition in the Mosaic code which prohibited graven images of both God and creatures made in his likeness--man. This has proven a limiting factor not only in Judiasm, buth pn the two other religions inherited the Mosaic Code. [Johnson, p. 102.] Early Christain art was affected by it, but Christain artists evetually found a way around this prohibition, Islamic artists for the most part have not. Art historians have speculated that more is involved here than the Mosacic code, but rather the very nature of monotheism itself. A noted art historian writes, "... polytheistic relogions encouraged artistic freedom, sonce they lacked a compulsive single focus, and public and artistsalike could select which god or goddess they chose to honour. Moreocer, religion and myth, which was itself a primitive form of history, intermingled freely, so that the doings of gods and mortals were aloke the subject of art." [Johnson, p. 101.]
As a result of Mosaic Law, there is no art from the ancient Hebrews depicting their dress and hair styles. There are a few rare depictions of Hebres by the people who conquered them. We note an Assyrian scuplture from the 8th century. This probably is a reasonable depiction for much of the millenium. Clothing changed very little and only glacially at the time. Another source of information was the Bible. There are numerous references to clothing in the Bible which generally mention garments, but few if any detailed descrition or mention of color. We know that people wore tunic and cloak (Mathew 5:40). Probably at home people wore only the tunic. When they went out put on the belt and the sandals and, if necessary, the cloak: "Put on your belt and your sandals." He did so. Then he said to him: "Put on your cloak and follow me." (Acts 12:8). It is very probably that usually children didn't wear sandals. One popular theme that Western artists have pursued through the centuries has been biblical depictions. Magnificent and dramatic works of art, while not always realistic and are imaginary, have been created by renowned masters and are national treasures in their country of origin. Medieval artists often garbed Biblical figures in contemprary clothes. In modern times, wonderfully illustrated books depicting key moments from the biblical era for children are still popular as ever.
The Jews were a small population. They were defeafted and enslaved by powerful impetrial states. Countless such people have long since disappeared from history. Why is it that the Jews survived defeat and exile. But the Jews did not just survive. Jews in the modern world emerged as a great force in academic scholarship. Jews and half-Jews make up a minimal portion of the world's population, perhaps 0.2 percent. Yet Jews have won 155 Nobel Prizes, 117 of which were in physics, chemistry, and medicine. [Konner] One wonders about the origin of this intelectual tradition. European Jews throught the Medieval era led often restrictive lives. Many occupations were closed to them, as were the Church led universities. Jewish intelectual life was based on the rabbinical acdemies with a much more open academic tradition than Chrustian universities. One author writes, "The mainstream of Jewish thought went through rabbinical academies, where the best minds gathered, competed, wre nutured, and were married off in every generation, creating a kind cult of the intellect." When in the 19th century, restrictions on Jews were removed, Jews with their educational tradition succeeded out of all proprtion to their numbers in the universities in which they could now enter. [Konner]
Aldred, Cyril. Akhenaten: Pharaoh of Egypt--A New Study (McGraw-Hill: New York, 1968), 272p.
Johnson, Paul. Art: A New History (Harer Collins: New York, 2003), 777p.
Konner, Melvin. Unsettled: An Anthropology of the Jews (Viking, 2003), 500p.
Smitha, Frank. "The Hebrews between Assyria and Egypt, The Ancient World.
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