Antiquity of Israel

There is not much evidence about the existence of Israel other than Bible, but from a slight mention discovered in the Egyptian records. The reference is a line by Merneptah Stela, which was discovered in 1896 in the mortuary temple of Merneptah in Thebes. The Stela is a poetic accolade to pharaoh Merneptah, who ruled Egypt for some decades in late 13th Century B.C. after the rule of Rameses the Great. The accolade only has a small portion of it which is of any significance to Biblical studies, mentioned towards the end, which describes an operation by Merneptah to Canaan during the early years of his reign. The line mentioning Israel reads: “Israel is laid waste, its seed is not.”
The reference in Merneptah Stela implies that Israel existed in late 13th Century BC and was well flourished, refutes the claim made by some scholars that Israel was established later in the years. Israel is mentioned in the Stela as a socio-ethnic unity which was so prominent as to be worthy of identifying it with other major establishments. In the Old Testament, Israel is mentioned for the first time as a new name for Jacob after Jacob made an encounter with God. This is the saying of God to Jacob as mentioned in Chapter 32:8 in Genesis. “Your name shall no more be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed”. Later, during the Exodus from Egypt, the name not only remained confined to Jacob but to his nation as well, who started being known as the Israelites. An excerpt taken from Exodus Chapter 1:1 says, “Now these are the names of the children of Israel, which came into Egypt; every man and his household came with Jacob.” The Israelites moved to the Land of Canaan under the leadership of Joshua and started settling in that land, overcoming the Canaanites already living there. Israelites remained in the Land of Canaan for as long as under the rule of Saul, David and Solomon. The land received a new name, Land of Israel (Eretz Yisrael), with the earliest mention in I Samuel 13:19. The place which is now called Temple Mount was dedicated for this purpose in 953 BC. The plan of The First Temple was given by David but was built by Solomon on Mount Moriah. For 374 years The First Temple stood on Mount Moriah until King Nebuchadnezzar brought his Babylonian army and crumbled it to the ground in 586 BC. In 950 BC, after the Solomon regime, The United Kingdom of Israel was broke up in two major pacts, Israel and Judah, with their capitals at Samaria and Jerusalem respectively. The name “Jew” is derived from Judah, from the house of David. These two newfound states were ruled by exterior powers, the huge Mesopotamian states where Israel was ruled by Assyria and Judah by Babylonia. One last attempt of establishing a Jewish state was made in Judea after which it remained in the dark until the time after the invasion in Jerusalem by the Romans. The Second Temple, which was erected by Herod the Great, was also destroyed in the same Roman Invasion in 70 AD.

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