In today's society, the question still remains: is Judaism a race, a religion, or a culture? There are a variety of responses to this question. Some say Judaism is a set of ideas about the world and the way we should live our lives. Others who consider themselves to be Jews do not believe in Jewish principles. In order to better understand these questions and answers, it is necessary to know more about the different aspects of ancient Hebrew civilization.
Originally, the Hebrews were divided into twelve tribes. There were leaders of each of these twelve tribes, in addition to a central leader who governed over all of the tribes. After years of conflict among the tribes, they all united under one king, King Saul. This first united kingdom was named Israel. Following Saul's unsuccessful reign was the reign of King David. The city of Jerusalem was united under the influence of this second Hebrew ruler. David united the tribes of Israel under an absolute monarchy. David's son, Solomon, built up Jerusalem with palaces and a temple for the Hebrew's god, Yahweh. After Solomon's death, the kingdom split in two. The northern part became the kingdom of Israel and the southern part became the kingdom of Judah. These two kingdoms were proven to be weak when the Assyrians conquered Samaria, the capital of the northern kingdom. They also took many Hebrews to be imprisoned and deported them as slaves. The southern kingdom was also dominated. The Chaldeans, under their ruler Nebuchadnezzar, destroyed Jerusalem, the capital of the southern kingdom. Like the northern kingdom, the Hebrews in the southern kingdom were captured. Luckily, the Persian king later conquered the Chaldeans. He let the Hebrews return to their Jerusalem and reconstruct the temple destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar.
The location of the Hebrews played a major role in their ability to produce surplus food. They were located in the eastern part of the Fertile Crescent.