Biblical Jewish History

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An overview of Jewish history from earliest times through the second century, covering First and Second Temple periods, the Assyrian and Babylonian Exiles, the Roman period and the birth of Christianity, the first Roman-Jewish War and the Bar Kochba revolt. Impress your relatives and former friends with your knowledge of Biblical Jewish History!


  1. The Land of Israel
  2. The Biblical Narrative
  3. The Archaeological Record
  4. Daily Life in Biblical Israel
  5. Exile and Return
  6. The Maccabean Revolt
  7. Judaea under Roman Rule
  8. The World of the Sages
  9. The Birth of Christianity
  10. The Roman-Jewish War
  11. Women in Ancient Israel
  12. The Jewish People Survive Antiquity

Bibliographic Essay: On Covenantal History

Photo Credits

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This course builds on the Jewish History Lab series in my YouTube channel. If you’re just interested in binge-watching the free videos, please do so in good health, no need to register for this course. On the other hand, if you would like to pursue your learning objectives to a greater depth, here’s a few things you can expect by registering:

  1. Access to the draft text of Volume 1 of The Jewish People: A History, a three-volume series under contract with Koren Publishers in Jerusalem. You’ll have the opportunity to comment on the draft as I write it, and thereby literally make your contribution to Jewish history! Amazing, right? I love the Internet.
  2. On occasion, some new videos that I’m not quite ready to release to the wider web audience just yet.
  3. A nifty certification of completion when you’ve gone through the units.
  4. More opportunities to interact with the instructor (me) and other serious fellow students.

If you are familiar with the Hebrew language, you will know that each letter corresponds to a number: alef, the first letter, has the value of “one,” bet, the second, has “two,” and so on. The word for “life” (חי, “chai”) has the numerical value of 18, and therefore it is customary among Jews to make donations or gifts in multiples of $18. So $36 is just a nice number, wishing both your family and mine a long and happy life. I recognize that many worthy students might find even $36 challenging, so the course is open for as little as $3.60.

Surprise bonus for everyone: I have found that imposing even a very low paywall reduces the amount of noxious participation precipitously. Intellectual vandals, it seems, prefer to spew hatred only if they can do so for free (and usually anonymously). So that’s good.

If you are a fellow educator and would like to request complimentary registration, please click this link. It would be my pleasure to offer you access to the course as a professional courtesy.

If the course isn’t what you expected, please contact me through the link in the first module of the course within the first week of registration and I’ll be happy to send you a refund.

Enjoy the course in good health!


Introduction to this Course


Reading: Introduction

1. The Biblical Narrative, Part I

2. The Biblical Narrative, Part II

After discussing the challenges of using the Bible to study History (with reference to the Maximalist-Minimalist debate), a discussion of the period of the Patriarchs (Genesis), Egyptian servitude (Exodus), and the settlement of the Land of Israel (Joshua).


Video: Approaching the Bible as a Historical Source Video: Genesis in Historical Perspective Video: Exodus in Historical Perspective Quiz: Self-Test Your Learning Bonus video: What is the Oldest Extant Text of the Torah? Another Bonus Video: Even older text discovered! Reading: Chapter 1, The Biblical Narrative

3. The Archaeological Record

4. Daily Life in Biblical Israel

5. Exile and Return

The tumultuous events of the late 8th=6th centuries BCE: the Assyrian invasion and the forced population movements of the tribes of Israel and the origins of the Samaritan population; the Babylonian invasion and the destruction of the Temple.


Video: The Assyrian Invasion of Israel Video: The Ten Lost Tribes of Israel Video: Origins of the Samaritans Video: The Babylonian Exile Video: The Persian Period Video: Judah after the Fall of Israel Bonus video: When was the Book of Esther written? Reading: Chapter Four, Exile and Return

6. The Maccabean Revolt

The conquest of Alexander the Great and the Maccabean revolt against his successor kingdoms, placing the Hasmonean dynasty in control of the land of Israel.


Video: Athens and Jerusalem Video: The Maccabean Revolt Video: The Hasmonean Dynasty Reading: The Maccabean Revolt

7. The World of the Sages

A look at Rabbinic Judaism, with emphasis on two key texts: the Midrash and the Mishnah.


Video: The Rise of the Rabbis Video: The Midrash Video: The Mishnah Reading: The World of the Sages

8. Judaea under Roman Rule

The rise of the Herodian dynasty under Roman sponsorship and the development of sectarianism, including the Qumran community of Dead Sea Scrolls fame.


Video: The Reign of King Herod Video: Pharisees, Sadducees, Zealots Video: The Dead Sea Scrolls Reading: Judaea under Roman Rule

9. The Birth of Christianity

10. The First Roman-Jewish War

The political, economic and religious underpinnings to the disastrous Roman-Jewish War of the first century, which resulted in the destruction of the second Temple.


Video: The First Roman-Jewish War Video: The Fall of Jerusalem Video: Aftermath of the Great Revolt Reading: The First Roman-Jewish War (in progress)

11. The Bar Kochba Revolt

The heroic, doomed revolt of Bar Kochba against the Romans in the second century.


Video: The Kitos Rebellion Video: The Bar Kochba Revolt Reading: The Bar Kochba Revolt (Forthcoming)

12. Women in Ancient Israel

13. Earliest Diaspora Communitie

A look at the major Diaspora communities that predated the first Roman-Jewish war: Egypt, Mesopotamia, and the eastern Mediterranean.


Video: Egypt Video: Mesopotamia Video: The Mediterranean Reading: Earliest Diaspora Communities (Forthcoming)

14. The Jewish People Survive Antiquity

Reflections on the experience of the Jewish people in antiquity and the remarkable fact of their survival into the medieval period.


Video: How did the Jewish People Survive Antiquity? Video: What is the Meaning of Jewish History? Reading: The Jewish People Survive Antiquity

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