I grew up with a great sense of pride in my heritage and my family. My father's side was Jewish and my mother's side was Polish. Of course lately, I have been experiencing a a bit of unrest considering it seems as though I don't know as much about my heritage as I thought I did. It's important for me, and I suspect for you as well, that culture is important to who we are, how we see things, and ultimately how we make decisions. I think that's why I have chosen to focus on the contributions of the Hebrews for this latest edition.
The major contributions of the Hebrews to Western Civilization were the law, philosophy, and the covenant.
Moses with the Ten Commandments by Rembrandt (1659)
The law would not exist without Moses, who leads the Jews out of Egypt and a 40 year tradition of slavery. Moses walks into the mountains of Sinai and then returns with the Ten Commandments, presenting them to the Israelites. At the time, they are partaking in immoral and godless acts. Moses does not turn his back on his children of Israel, rather he makes it clear that the commandments brought to them originally by Yahweh are the law. The first documented and written laws.
The PhilosophyThe Hebrews emphasized the use of temperance which resulted in a man being rewarded with prosperity, long life, and a good name. Although, it was up to the individual themselves to maintain these ideals. In addition to temperance, there is mechanism which stresses the power of the universe and the sporadic nature of the machine. The use of skepticism which simply means you question whether true knowledge is possible or what others believe to be true may not be.
Fatalism states that your life is built on fate and can not be controlled, so accept it. Pessimism is the belief that riches, knowledge, and fame are overrated and constant suffering. Moderation, as the Epicureans believed, meant that you restricted the desire to be indulgent or partake in scrupulous acts.
The Hebrews used a monotheistic religion which was governed by the Old Testament. The religion stressed the belief in one God called "Yahweh". This god was reserved for the "chosen people" and came in a physical body with emotions of the common man. Yahweh gave the law to Moses and maintained a sense of moral code.
When Moses gave the Hebrews the ten Commandments there was an agreement, or rather a Covenant, made between God and the Hebrews. As the long as the Hebrews obeyed God through his Ten Commandments and laws, He would promise to protect them.
Between the 7th and 8th centuries BC, the Hebrews were worshiping other gods and thus breaking their covenant with Yahweh. The Hebrew prophets warned the Israelites of God's displeasure, and that he would bring wrath and misfortune upon them.
The Bible and Archaeology
Archaeological discoveries and the Bible account coincide, adding credibility to the Bible. This is a fantastic account of the discovery by Flinders Petrie in 1896.
Archaeological Finds and Historical Data
The Merneptah Stela (or stele-places Israelites in Canaan)
Why was the Merneptah Stele a significant archaeological discovery? Merneptah was a Pharaoh who ruled over Egypt in the late 13th century B.C. The son of Ramesses the Great (Ramesses II), Merneptah was the fourth Pharaoh of the 19th Dynasty. The “Merneptah Stele” is the name given to a stone slab engraved with a description of Merneptah’s military victories in Africa and the Near East. It was discovered by renowned British archaeologist Flinders Petrie at Thebes in 1896. Read more about the Merneptah Stele
The Old Testament
THE Old Testament is a collection of selected writings composed and edited by members of the Hebrew-Jewish community between the twelfth century B.C. and the beginning of the Christian era. It includes such diverse materials as prophetic oracles, teachings of wise men, instructions of priests and ancient records of the royal courts. Some material is historical, some is legendary; some is
legalistic, some is didactic. For the most part the literature was written in
Hebrew, but a few passages were written in Aramaic, a kindred language which
came into common usage among the Jews during the post-Exilic era (after the
sixth century B.C.). Read more about the Old Testament Life and Literature by Gerald A. Larue
As one enters the site today the first stones that one notices are not ancient, but a reconstructed large sandstone horned altar. The stones on which the reconstruction is based were found in the walls of the storehouses from stratum II. Since most of the stone used in these buildings was limestone the excavators noticed the anomalous blocks. Eventually it turned out that three of them had projections (like the "horns" of a horned altar) and a fourth looked as if a horn could have been chipped off. One of these stones had a serpent deeply cut into its surface. Other, similar stones were found in the repairs made to the glacis in this stratum. ~Tim Bulkeley
She-Shaman BurialThe Hebrew University of Jerusalem made a discovery on November 4, 2008 of a pair of tortoise shells. They were part of the funerary offerings recovered from the grave of a she-shaman from the Natufian period, some 12,000 years ago, at the Hilazon Tachtit archaeological site in the Western Galilee in northern Israel. Read more about the She-shaman
The Tombs of the Family in Law of King Herod
Ehud Netzer of Jerusalem's Hebrew University unearthed what he believed were the 2,000-year-old remains of two tombs which had held a wife and daughter-in-law of the biblical King Herod.