What was the History of the Jewish People?

Jews are one of the most ancient peoples in the world. Jewish history is recorded in the Bible, by historians outside of the Bible, and through archeology. We have more facts about Jewish history than that of any other nation – which we will use to build a timeline to summarize the history of the Jews.

Abraham: The Jewish Family Tree Begins

The timeline starts with Abraham, the founder of the Jewish people, who lived about 2000 BC.  He is even named outside the Bible in ancient clay tablets, dated around 1950 BC in contracts between him and kings in Babylonia.

“The name of Abram – Abu-ramu ‘the exalted father’ – is found in early Babylonian contracts”  AH Sayce. The ‘Higher Criticism’ and the Verdict of the Monuments. 1894 SSPCK  p. 159

Abraham and Patriarchs in Historical Timeline

Abraham was a real historical figure, as well as the man who believed promises from G-d, blessed be He, of a land and a people.  The timeline continues with the green bar when Abraham’s descendants were slaves in Egypt. This period of time started when Joseph, great-grandson of Abraham, led the Israelites to Egypt, where later on they became slaves.

Moses: The Israelites become a Nation under G-d

Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt with the Passover Plague, which destroyed Egypt and allowed the Israelite Exodus from Egypt to the land of Israel.  Moses wrote the Torah, and at its end, Moses prophesied Blessings and Curses on the Israelites.  They would be Blessed if they obeyed G-d, blessed be He, but experience a Curse if they did not.  These Blessings & Curses were to follow the Jewish people ever after.

From Moses to David the Israelites lived in the land of Israel, but without Jerusalem and with no king

For several hundred years the Israelites lived in their land but they did not have a King, nor did they have the capital city of Jerusalem – it belonged to other people in this time. However, with King David around 1000 BC this changed.

Living In land of Israel with Davidic Kings ruling from Jerusalem
Living In land of Israel with Davidic Kings ruling from Jerusalem

David establishes a Royal Dynasty at Jerusalem

David conquered Jerusalem and made it his capital city. He received the promise of a coming ‘Messiah’ and from that time Jews have awaited Messiah’s coming.  David’s son Solomon succeeded him and Solomon built the First Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. The descendants of King David continued to rule for about 400 years and this period is shown in aqua-blue (1000 – 586 BC).  This was the period of Israelite glory – they had the promised Blessings.  They were a powerful nation, had an advanced society, culture, and their Temple. But the Tanakh also describes their growing corruption and idol worship during this time.  The Israelites split into two different countries.  Many prophets in this period warned the Israelites that the Curses of Moses would come on them if they did not change. But these warnings were ignored.

The First Jewish Exile to Babylon

Finally around 600 BC the Curses happened. Nebuchadnezzar, a powerful Babylonian King came – just like Moses had predicted 900 years before when in Torah he wrote:

The Lord will bring a nation against you from far away … a fierce-looking nation without respect for the old or pity for the young. … They will besiege all the cities throughout the land. (Deuteronomy 28: 49-52)

Nebuchadnezzar conquered Jerusalem, burned it, and destroyed the Temple that Solomon had built. He then exiled the Israelites to Babylon. This fulfilled the predictions of Moses that

You will be uprooted from the land you are entering to possess. Then the Lord will scatter you among all nations, from one end of the earth to the other. (Deuteronomy 28:63-64)

Conquered and exiled to Babylon
Conquered and exiled to Babylon

So for 70 years, the period shown in red, the Israelites lived as exiles outside the land promised to Abraham and his descendants.

Return from Exile under the Persians

After that, the Persian Emperor Cyrus conquered Babylon and Cyrus became the power of the world. He permitted the Jews to return to their land.

Living in the Land as a part of Persian Empire, 2nd Temple period begins
Living in the Land as a part of Persian Empire, 2nd Temple period begins

However they were no longer an independent country, they were now a province in the Persian Empire.  This continued for 200 years and is in pink in the timeline. During this time the Jewish Temple (known as the 2nd Temple) and the city of Jerusalem were rebuilt.  Esther (from which Purim is celebrated) and Ezra & Nehemiah lived in this time period.

The period of the Greeks

Alexander the Great conquered the Persian Empire and Jews had a province in the Greek Empires for another 200 years. This is shown in dark blue.  Later Greek rulers tried to force Greek worship upon the Jews, resulting in the Maccabean revolt, and semi-independence until the Romans came.  Hanukkah is celebrated from this time period.

Living in the Land as part of Greek Empires
Living in the Land as part of Greek Empires

The Roman Period

The Romans became the dominant world power. The Israelites again became a province in this Empire and it is shown in light yellow. This is the time when Yeshua (Jesus) lived, from whom the Messianic hope spread mostly to Gentiles in what is known today as Christianity.  This explains why Romans and Roman government is so prominent in the New Testament – because Rome ruled supreme at that time.

 Living in the Land as part of Roman Empire
Living in the Land as part of Roman Empire

Second Jewish exile under the Romans

From the time of the Babylonians (600 BC) the Israelites (or Jews as they were called now) had not been independent as they had been under the Kings of David. They were ruled by other Empires.  Resentment of this finally boiled over and the Jews revolted against Roman rule.  The Romans came and destroyed Jerusalem (70 AD), burned down the 2nd Temple (only the Kotel remains to this day), and deported the Jews as slaves across the Roman Empire. This was the second Jewish exile. Since the Roman Empire was so large the Jews were scattered across the whole world.  The tragedy of Masada occurred in this revolt.  A further revolt in 135 AD led by Simon bar Kokhba again resulted in defeat and Jews were not permitted to remain in the land.  Rome renamed Judea as Syria Palaestina (where we get the modern word Palestine) and Jerusalem (still in ruins from 70 AD) to Aelia Capitolina.

 Jerusalem and Temple destroyed by Romans in 70 AD. Jews sent into world-wide exile
Jerusalem and Temple destroyed by Romans in 70 AD. Jews sent into world-wide exile

And this is how the Jewish people lived for almost 2000 years: dispersed in foreign lands and never accepted in these lands. In these different nations they regularly suffered anti-semitic persecutions.  Persecution of the Jews was particularly true in Christian Europe.  From Spain (all Jews expelled from Spain in 1492), across Western Europe, to Russia (intense pogroms by the Tsars in 1880’s) the Jews lived often in a dangerous situations in these kingdoms and also in the Islamic caliphates. The Curses of Moses from 1500 BC were accurate descriptions of how they lived.

… Among those nations you will find no repose, no resting place for the sole of your foot. There the Lord will give you an anxious mind, eyes weary with longing, and a despairing heart. (Deuteronomy 28:65)

The Curses against the Israelites were given to make peoples ask:

All the nations will ask: “Why has the Lord done this to this land? Why this fierce, burning anger?”

And the answer was:

“ … the Lord uprooted them from their land and thrust them into another land…” (Deuteronomy 29:24-25)

The timeline below shows this 1900 year period. This period is shown in a long red bar in a timeline extending to modern-day.

Historical Timeline of the Jews - featuring their two periods of exile
Historical Timeline of the Jews/Israelites – featuring their two periods of exile

You can see that the Jewish people went through two periods of exile but the second exile was much longer than the first exile.

The 20th Century Holocaust

Anti-Semitism reached its peak when Hitler, through Nazi Germany, tried to exterminate all the Jews living in Europe with the Shoah. He almost succeeded but he was defeated and a remnant of Jews survived.

Modern Re-birth of Israel

The fact that there were people who identified themselves as ‘Jews’ after many hundreds of years with anti-semitic persecutions and without a homeland and language was remarkable. But this allowed the final words of Moses in the Torah, written down 3500 years ago, to come true.  In 1948 the Jews, through the United Nations, saw the remarkable re-birth of the modern state of Israel, as Moses had written centuries before:

…then the Lord your God will restore your fortunes and have compassion on you and gather you again from all the nations where he scattered you. Even if you have been banished to the most distant land under the heavens, from there the Lord your God will gather you and bring you back. (Deuteronomy 30:3-4)

It was also remarkable since this state of Israel was birthed in spite of great opposition. Most of the surrounding nations waged war against Israel in 1948 … in 1956 … in 1967 and again in 1973. Israel often was at war with five nations at the same time. Yet not only did Israel survive, but the territories increased. In the war of 1967 Israel regained Jerusalem, their historic capital city David had founded 3000 years ago.  The ongoing conflicts with surrounding peoples has created one of the most difficult security problems in the world today.  Though Abraham’s descendants now have an independent state, the blessing promised so long ago to Abraham seem elusive still.

32 thoughts on “What was the History of the Jewish People?”

  1. so the Jews cannot blame anyone ( not even Hitler ) as it was their choice to turn against God, so they bought this upon themselves and want the world to feel sorry for them and blame everyone for their time in the wilderness and not blame god. but now have what they want god again . what god did not say is that you will have more land taken from not believers and you can kill non believers in the name of God. if you require compensation for your troubles and millions of your fellow Jews God does not say you will get for your walking away from God. you suffered and you deserved it as it was punishment from God not mankind.

    1. So you support the annihilation of the “American people” or the British people just because most of them betrayed their faith or queen? Weird !


      1. Not true. All Jews retain some semblance of their historic past (circumcision, diet restrictions, holy days etc.) Native Americans had nothing of these

  2. It is sad the Israeli people find the Palestinians, who with all the nations who border Israel and attacked their country, are now claiming to be victims. The Arabs who start the next war will be the ones who suffer the most and for the Muslim people Jerusalem I think will no longer hold anything for them to come and see. Like Mecca everything will be changed and all that is of old gone……….

  3. so wonderful story and am so amazed may God bless them they hard passed in many problems let the lord restore every thing for themin jesus name amen

  4. Good morning team I am a Sierra Leonean living in Sierra Leone. I do believe in the fact of the bible about Israel as a great nation anointed by God. If I had my own way I would have loved to see great religious men from Israel to visit my country Sierra Leone once every year in the spirit of praying for my people and to bless our land my country Sierra Leone.

    I will also want to see the suffering of Christians around the world come and end. To this end I will love to receive more teaching from you about a Christian life and God heart desire for us Christians

  5. This is so remarkable. Thank you for taking the trouble to make this public again. It reminds me of God’s amazing interest in an ancient, and modern people. It should inspire respect for His promises, and His warnings in Scripture, and for this special people of which He is the Great Shepherd. May they once more repent of their backsliding and shine openly in corporate manifestation of God’s favour toward them as a chosen model of His will for ‘Men of Good will’.
    It is ‘Good Practice’ to Love them and to pray for them, lest we who are not Jewish in this national sense find ourselves to be fighting against God. It is also common courtesy to love them for our heritage in that written treasure which we call the Bible , now ours and theirs.

  6. Hi, i think that i saw you visited my site so i came to “return the favor”.I am
    attempting to find things to enhance my website!I suppose its ok
    to use a few of your ideas!!

  7. WOW…i am so touched by this history. i see the promises of God being fulfilled and I believe that behold the new Jerusalem is coming (Revelation 21) all things are being made new. The end of this is starting a new thing. As nations we need to stand in the gap for our sisters and brothers and continue to pray for the promises of God to be manifested because without us having faith and declaring the word through prayer no one will do. God has given us power and Dominion to Rule over the earth.

  8. Thank you so much for this. This was so clear and well written. I feel, after decades in the church, I have finally put together and made sense of Israel’s complicated history.
    Thank You, Thank You, Thank You.

  9. Thank you for this publication. My conscience is being awaken to what is going on in Israel and the Palestenians and it relates to the word of God.

    I will need update with my contacts below.


  10. what a nice report. am really blessed with this

    thank you so very much. God is your strenght In Jesus Name

  11. Thank you, I am in Israel and Palestine for the first time, spent last week in Palestine, beautiful place and very friendly welcoming people, but hard to get an understanding how the situation you have has come about. Now in Israel, again, very friendly, welcoming and beautiful, your site has enabled me to understand a lot and to see both sides, not political, not religious, but I will say one little prayer, to God and to Allah, that one day soon you will all find peace.

  12. Beautiful rendition its orally rich to me as African.Adventism led me to this source.Thank you

  13. God bless Israel !!! peace and prosperity be up on it’s people, i respect you to day and forever, because
    you blessed me with salvation through the promise that Abraham your grand father made with God.
    1. God bless you..2.God bless you..3.God bless you..4.God bless you..5.God bless you..6.God bless you..7.God bless you..8.God bless you..9.God bless you..10.God bless you..11.God bless you..12.God bless you.

    1. I repeat your post and bless you too….

      God bless Israel !!! peace and prosperity be up on it’s people, i respect you to day and forever, because
      you blessed me with salvation through the promise that Abraham your grand father made with God.
      1. God bless you..2.God bless you..3.God bless you..4.God bless you..5.God bless you..6.God bless you..7.God bless you..8.God bless you..9.God bless you..10.God bless you..11.God bless you..12.God bless you.

  14. This is very accurate summary of the history of the Israrlites. I am encouraged and learnt more from it, especially on what Moses prophesised will happen to the Israelites if they do not obey God and keep His laws. Very accurate account indeed. God bless the authour and all peoples of His creation in the present world.

  15. Very interesting. I would like to better understand why the name Israel was chosen for the State of Israel in 1948. My understanding is that the northern kingdom was named Israel and that the Assyrian army conquered the kingdom in 722 BC. The Israelites were exiled and taken into captivity in Assyria. They became the 10 lost tribes of Israel. The southern kingdom of Judah was inhabited by the 2 tribes of Judah and Benjamin, having the direct bloodline of King David. The exile from Judah in 586 BC to Babylon and then the destruction of the temple by the Romans in 70 AD, being the second exile of Judah. The return of the Jewish people to Jerusalem took place in 1948. Jerusalem is located in the south, formerly Judah, ruled by King David. Why was the state named the State of Israel in 1948 and not the State of Judah or Judea? Just wondering. Thanks for any information regarding the creation and the naming of the State of Israel in 1948.

    1. Your summary of history is correct. I guess historical notes to the founding fathers of Israel in 1948 would answer your question since it was their decision. But not all Israelites were from Judah even in the time of Yeshua. Saul of Tarsus was from Benjamin. Anna was from Asher tribe (Luke 2). I think that Abraham/Isaac/Jacob received the promises, not Judah so they should be named from one of these patriarchs. But Abraham and Isaac also had other descendants not in the Promise (eg. Edom, Ishmael) so Jacob was the Patriarch who had a Promise (Genesis 28:10-16), and all his 12 sons were ‘in’ that Promise but his name was changed to Israel, so Israel would be a natural name for the nation

  16. May God continue to bless Israel as it is written in His word. To all the 12 Tribes of Israel. 1.God bless you 2. God bless you 3. God bless you 4. God bless you 5. God bless you 6. God bless you 7. God bless you 8. God bless you 9. God bless you 10. God bless you 11. God bless you 12. God bless you.

  17. I was born in 1931 taught the scripture but I was not a believer because God promised The as an everlasting possession to Israel yet as a teenager lived during the time of the holo-caust when 6 million Jews were killed by the nazis I therefore concluded that God did not keep his word. May 8 we left The Netherlands. On May 14 I heard on a noon broadcast that Israel had become an independent nation. That day In shall never forget because it was as if God spoke to me. I have never doubted the scripture since. The past 70 years have been amazing for me a gentile.

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