Social Studies – Early Mesopotamia: The Jews
Mesopotamia refers to the region between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, located in what is known today as the Middle East.
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The early Mesopotamia region was home to a lot of early civilizations, and one of those is the Jewish civilization. The Jews have a long history that began in Mesopotamia.
Abraham was basically the father of the Jewish civilization, and he was born in the Sumerian city-state of Ur around 2000 BC. Remember, Sumerians were the earliest culture that was found in Mesopotamia. So, Abraham left from the city-state of Ur, and he traveled.
He came to believe that there was one true god, where the Sumerians, in general, had believed in many gods, Abraham came to believe that there was one true God. And God spoke to Abraham and told him to leave his home and travel to a new land that would become known as Canaan, where he would be father to a new great nation. So, Abraham did that. He traveled, there was the new land known as Canaan, his descendants multiplied, and eventually, Abraham’s descendants multiplied, and eventually, Abraham’s descendants were enslaved by Egypt, and then liberated by Moses, who was another Hebrew or Jewish leader, and eventually, they reconquered Canaan.
Moses was given the Ten Commandments. So, he was another important Jewish leader, and he was given the Ten Commandments by God, which were ten strict laws that all Jews followed. Around 1020 BC, the Hebrew leader, Saul, became the first king of Israel. So, they returned to Canaan, and then eventually, part of that area became known as Israel. And the Hebrew leader Saul became the first king in Israel. And King David came after Saul and conquered Jerusalem. So, Jerusalem was an important city in that area, and he conquered Jerusalem and made it part of Israel.
Then came King Solomon, and Solomon came next and built the first Jewish temple in Jerusalem, around 960 BC. So, they first had their king in Israel around 1020 BC, and then they conquered Jerusalem and made it part of Israel, and then they built their first Jewish temple in Jerusalem around 960 BC. And this temple was very sacred to them because it housed the Ark of the Covenant, which held the two tablets containing the Ten Commandments given to Moses, as well as other religious artifacts. So, their most important religious items, as well as the laws that govern their whole culture, were housed in this temple that was built in Jerusalem.
Israel was taken over around 740 BC by the Assyrians, and then later taken over by the Babylonians. Eventually, in 538 BC, around 200 years later, the Persian King Cyrus let the Jews return to Jerusalem and rebuild their temple. So, remember, this temple housed all of their important religious and law-making artifacts. It was a very sacred building to them. So, they were allowed around 200 years after being taken over and kicked out of the city to return to Jerusalem and rebuild their temple. But, Israel was later taken over by the Greeks under Alexander, and then by the Romans under Pompey Magnus.
So, Israel, and Jerusalem, in general, have been hotly contested, and they have been important areas, especially the city of Jerusalem that lots of different nations have competed to claim ownership to. But around 960 BC, Jerusalem was in the hands of the Jews, and they built their temple there, which makes it a very important area for them. And the Jews were one of the most important cultures that began in Mesopotamia. They came from one of the Sumerian cultures and branched off to form their own Jewish culture around 2000 BC.