THE ANCIENT NEAR EAST: PEOPLES AND EMPIRES
AND FOCUS QUESTIONS
The Hebrews: "The Children of Israel"
Q In what ways was the Jewish faith unique in the ancient
Near East, and how did it evolve over time?
The N",isbhors of the :lsrael.ites
Q Who were the neighbors of the Israelites, and what was
thei r signi ficance?
The Assyrian Empire
Q What methods and institutions did the Assyrians use to
amass and maintain their empire?
The Neo-Babylonian Empire
Q What was the significance of the Neo-Babylonian
The Persian Empire
Q What methods and institutions did the Persians use to
amass and maintain their empire, and how did these
differ from those of the Assyrians?
Q What is the relationship between the political history of
the Israelites and the evolution of their religious beliefs?
AROUND 970 B.C., Solomon came to the throne ofIs
rael, a small state in western Asia. He was lacking in military
prowess but excelled in many other ways. Through trade
and a series of foreign alliances, he created a strong, flour
ishing state. But he was especially famed for another of his
qualities. When confronted with two women who each
claimed that the child before them was her natural child,
Solomon ordered his servant to cut the child in half and give
half to each woman. The first woman objected: "Please, my
lord, give her the living baby! Don't kill him!" The second
woman replied, "Neither I nor you shall have him. Cut him
in two!" Then Solomon rendered his judgment: "Give the
living baby to the first woman. Do not kill him; she is his
mother." According to the biblical account, "when all Israel
heard the verdict the king had given, they held the king in
awe, because they saw that he had wisdom from God to
administer justice." After Solomon'S death, Israel began to
disintegrate. But how had such a small nation been able to
survive for as long as it did in a Near East dominated by
The destruction of the Hittite kingdom and