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What was the History of the Jews?

The Jews are one of the most ancient people groups in the world today. Their history has been extensively recorded in the Bible, by historians outside of the Bible, and with the discovery of archeological artefacts. We have more facts about their history then any other nation and these data provide a continuous account going back about 4000 years. To make the history of the Israelites (an earlier Old Testament term for Jews) easier to follow, I will build a series of timelines showing their history based on the Bible and facts from these other sources.

Abraham: Family Tree of the Jews begins

The timeline starts with Abraham, one of the most recognized characters in ancient history. He was given a promise of nations coming from him and had encounters with God culminating in a symbolic enactment of sacrificing his son Isaac. This sacrifice is still mysterious to many today but it was a sign of future events. The timeline continues in green when the Israelites were slaves in Egypt. This period of time started when Joseph, grandson of Isaac, led the Israelites to Egypt, but they subsequently became slaves there.

bible timeline with abraham and moses in history

Living in Egypt as slaves of Pharoah



Moses: The Jews become a Nation under God

Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt by inaugurating the equally mysterious Passover Festival, allowing their Exodus from Egypt and their arrival at the land of Israel that had been promised to Abraham hundreds of years before. Moses pronounced Blessings and Curses on the Israelites at the end of his life as he finished the writing of the Torah – when the timeline goes from green to yellow. These Blessings & Curses have followed the Jews ever since – as one can see by learning their history.

bible historical timeline from Abraham to david

Living in the Land – but no King in Jerusalem

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

historical timeline Living with Davidic Kings ruling from Jerusalem

Living with Davidic Kings ruling from Jerusalem


David establishes a Royal Dynasty at Jerusalem

David conquered Jerusalem and made it his capital city. It was he who received the promise of a coming ‘Christ’ and the anticipation of this title started with him.  His son Solomon ruled as his successor and 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 green-blue (1000 – 600 BC). This was the glory period for the Israelites – they started to see the Blessings promised. They were a world power, had an advanced society, culture, and their Temple. But the Old Testament also recounts their descent into social and religious corruption and idol worship during this time. Many of the Old Testament books written in this period were warnings that the Curses of Moses would come upon the Jews if they did not change. But these warnings were not heeded.  A series of prophecies of a coming ‘Branch’ from David started in this era.

The First Jewish Exile to Babylon

So finally around 600 BC the Curses came true. Nebuchadnezzar, a powerful King from Babylon came – and just like Moses had predicted in his Curse when 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 took the Israelites and deported the majority across his vast Babylonian Empire. Only the poor Israelites remained behind. 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)

jewish historical timeline 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 most powerful person in the world. He issued a decree that permitted the Israelites to return to this land.

jewish historial timeline Living in the Land as a part of Persian Empire

Living in the Land as a part of Persian Empire

However they were no longer an independent country, they were now a province within the vast Persian Empire.  This continued for 200 years and is shown in pink in the timeline. During this time the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem was rebuilt (known as the 2nd Temple).  Also, the ‘Branch’ theme develops further by identifying the name of the coming Branch as ‘Jesus’.

The period of the Greeks

Then Alexander the Great conquered the Persian Empire and made the Israelites a province in the Greek Empires for a further 200 years. This is shown in dark blue.

jewish historical timeline Living in the Land as part of Greek Empires

Living in the Land as part of Greek Empires


The Period of the Romans

Then the Romans defeated the Greek Empires and they 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 Jesus lived and this explains why there was a Roman Governor and Roman soldiers throughout the gospels – because the Romans ruled the Jews in the Land of Israel during the life of Jesus.

jewish historical timeline Living in the Land as part of Roman Empire

Living in the Land as part of Roman Empire

The Second Jewish exile under the Romans

From the time of the Babylonians (600 BC) the Israelites (or Jews as they were called now) had never been independent as they had been under the Kings of David. They were ruled by other governments of other people. The Jews resented this and after Jesus they revolted against Roman rule. In this war the Romans came and destroyed Jerusalem, burned down the 2nd Temple and deported the Jews as slaves across the Roman Empire. This was their second exile. Since this Empire was so vast the Jews were effectively dispersed across the whole world.

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 they lived for almost 2000 years: dispersed, fragmented, living in foreign lands and never accepted in these lands. As they lived in these different nations they periodically suffered great persecutions. This was the same period where Christianity spread and the persecution of the Jews was particularly true in Christian Europe. From Spain, in Western Europe, to the pogroms in Russia the Jews lived often in a precarious state in these Christian kingdoms. These specific pronouncements of Moses back in 1500 BC became vivid and 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 2000 year period which follows after the history of the Jews from the time of the Bible. This period is shown in a long red bar.

Historical Timeline of the Jews - featuring their two periods of exile

Historical Timeline of the Jews – featuring their two periods of exile

You can see that through their history Jews went through two periods of exile but the second period of exile was much longer than the first period of exile (which was only from 600 – 530 BC).

The 20th Century Holocaust

Then the persecutions and pogroms against the Jews reached their peak. Hitler in World War II, through Nazi Germany tried to exterminate all the Jews living in Europe. And he almost succeeded by creating a mechanised system of exterminating them in gas ovens. However he was defeated and a remnant of Jews survived.

Modern Re-birth of Israel

And then in 1948 the Jews, through the United Nations, saw the remarkable re-birth of the modern state of Israel. It is remarkable just in the fact that there were people still around who identified themselves as ‘Jews’ after all these millenia without a homeland. But this reality allowed for the final words of Moses, written down 3500 years ago, to come true.  There was a “Jewish’ people around to see this final prediction fulfilled in our time.

…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 in that this state was founded in the teeth of opposition. Most of the surrounding nations in that region waged war against Israel in 1948 … in 1956 … in 1967 and again in 1973. Israel, a very small nation, often found itself at war with five nations at the same time. Yet not only did they survive, but their territories increased. In the war of 1967 the Jews regained Jerusalem, their historic capital city David had founded 3000 years ago.  The aftermath of the creation of the state of Israel, and the fallout from these wars has created one of the most intractable conflicts and political problems of our world today.  Strange how Moses’ words so long ago echo still today even though very few are even aware of what he wrote.

19 thoughts on “What was the History of the Jews?”

  1. to ask i remember God of Israel once divided Israel as Suleiman sinned against Him by opting for foreign women and gods. then the tribe of Judea and Benjamin remained under Juda and the rest of ten under Israel,
    can you explain please how this is remarkable now days and what is the different, are they united now or still separate?

  2. I just want to check, according to this timeline, when was the time when the Arabs inhabited the land of Israel? Since they think it’s theirs?

    1. Judea was renamed Palestine by the Romans either in 70 AD when the Temple was destroyed or 135 AD in the Bar Kochba revolt (not covered in this article)

  3. Thanks for this great article. I learned a lot on Jewish history. What amazed me most is the prophecy (message) of blessing and curses of MOSES of Jewish people 1500 BC and beyond. Truly, the Israelite are God’s chosen people for the purpose of spreading the Good News of salvation.

  4. If there are still atheists, who think God doesn’t exist, they need to read this article and verify with the Bible

  5. Thank You for this Article, I have learnt a great deal of history. I am very much interested in History and especially history of the Israeli Palestine Conflict.

    Thank you Again

  6. I am a practicing Roman Catholic from birth educated by Dominicans in downtown Manila in the Philippines.
    Until today I can not accept the notion of the Jewish being the “chosen” people.
    If any or all of the things in Religion were to be true God would not have made a preference of one race over another.
    It almost sounds like God is percieved by most people in the level of human beings with all our inclinations and “favourites”.
    This concept is turn-off for me and blurs whatever I see in the value of Religion.
    What’s the role of the rest of us who are not chosen then? Are we just “extras” in God’s production?

    1. Hi Romeo. Great question. If you look at Abraham’s call you will see that from the beginning God had in mind to bless ‘all nations’. No one is an ‘extra’. The Jews have a specific role in God’s plan that is unique to that of other nations

    2. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise.…Gal 3:28.

      Colossians 3:11
      Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, or free, but Christ is all and is in all.

    3. I believe the Jews are chosen to have the savior of humanity coming from them.
      In addition to all the disciples who spread the Gospel.
      In Galatians 3:28 (NIV): There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
      It is clear now we are all called by God be his sons and daughters.
      I think the purpose of the CHOSEN has been fulfilled, now the believers are chosen according to
      1 Peter 2:9 (NKJV): But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;

  7. when god was to return the jews to Israel it included their spiritual return also .right now Israel is still a disobedient people ,telaviv the homosexual capital of the world and the god of their kabbalah being moloch. Rothschild financed Israel and the antichrist will claim their temple I don,t see gods hand in this or it all confirming gos prophecies .would appreciate your help. thankyou.

  8. Thanks alot for this update. I just want to ask whether isreal has recovered all the nations, towns and cities they left when they were taken away to exile.

  9. The Law forbid a divorced man from remarrying his ex but it allowed him to marry a VIRGIN from his own people. The 144,000 Firstfruits from the Tribes of Israel were the Virgin Bride of Christ in the first century. The wedding is a motif based on a Jewish wedding. It reveals the mystery of god being reconciled to mankind via the spirit. When Adam was ‘cast out’ of his father’s PRESENCE (the special place of fellowship between god and his son represented by the Garden of Eden) he could not approach god unless summoned. Thereafter God summoned 3rd party mediators, messengers, priests, prophets to commune with mankind UNTIL the time of restoration. Jesus came to restore that which was lost, our relationship with our father, and it was completed by the end of the old covenant age. The new and better covenant is not conditional, as god promised his SEED in the garden of Eden and ratified it with Abraham and his seed, one seed, the Messiah. The covenant at Mt Sinai did not annul the previous one. Gal 3:17. (Paul explains in chapters 3 and 4). God does not show partiality to gender, birthright or ancestry. ‘There is neither Jews nor Gentile, male nor female, slave nor free,… Gal 3:28; Ro 2:28; Col 3:11. The dichotomy of flesh versus spirit is on every page of the bible. The old world/age that was passing away in the first century consisted of seen, external, temporal, fleshly things pertaining to a holy city, temple and ceremonial worship. The new and better covenant is unseen, external, internal, of the spirit. Jesus established his kingdom and put all his enemies under his feet (Is 66:6). His kingdom did not come with observableness but is WITHIN US. Luke 17:17-21. This kingdom has no end.
    2 Cor 4:18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

    Both Esau and Jacob had the same parents and ancestry as did all of Noah’s sons. God chose the Israelites to be 3rd party mediators between him and mankind until all his work was finished and man could enter his rest. Our relationship has been restored. We have a new priesthhood, new law, new time based on the sun, no longer the moon, new form of worship, new creation in Christ Jesus where we are the temple where his spirit dwells. It is finished! ‘The truth really does set one free!’

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