Build on What You Know You have probably noticed that plants grow better in green, well-watered places. And you have learned how early cities developed in the Fertile Crescent. Within this region is an area that, partly because of its fertility, became the home of the Hebrews.
The Hebrew People in Canaan
ESSENTIAL QUESTION What is the central belief of the Hebrews?
The first five books of the Hebrew Bible are called the Torah (TAWR•uh). The Hebrews believed that these holy books, or scriptures, were given to them by God. The Torah gives the early history, laws, and beliefs of the Hebrews. It consists of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. Later, there were Commentaries, or interpretations, written about the Torah.
From Ur to Canaan A shepherd named Abraham was the father of the Hebrews. Abraham lived in Ur, a city in Mesopotamia, about 1800 B.C. According to the Torah, God told Abraham to leave Ur and go to Canaan (KAY•nuhn). Abraham believed that if he went to Canaan, the land would belong to his descendants because it was promised to them by God. Because of this, the Hebrews thought of Canaan as the Promised Land. With his family, Abraham settled in Canaan. (See map below.)
Judaism and Monotheism Throughout the ancient world,
people were polytheists (poly means “many”). This means that
“one”). Judaism today is descended from the religion of the
ancient Hebrews. The name comes from the tribe of Judah, one
of the 12 tribes descended from Abraham.
According to the Torah, during troubled times the Hebrews held to their belief that they were God’s chosen people. They believed that a covenant (KUHV•uh•nuhnt), or a binding agreement, existed between God and Abraham and his descendants. They took courage from God’s pledge to give a homeland to Abraham’s descendants if they followed the laws of their faith and practiced righteousness and justice.