The World of Biblical Israel
Dr. Cynthia R. Chapman is Associate Professor of Biblical Studies at Oberlin College, where she teaches courses on the Old and New Testaments, suffering and the book of Job, and biblical women, among other topics. She holds a B.A. from Kalamazoo College, an M.Div. from Vanderbilt Divinity School, and a Th.D. from Harvard Divinity School, Harvard University. Professor Chapman's research has focused on the historiography of the Bible considered within the larger ancient Near Eastern environment, and on gender in ancient Israel. Her first book, The Gendered Language of Warfare in the Israelite-Assyrian Encounter, explores the shared use of gendered literary tropes in the Bible and Assyrian royal texts. She is currently completing her second book, The House of the Mother: The Social Function of Maternal Kin in Biblical Hebrew Narrative, which demonstrates that kinship bonds established through the mother served vital social and political functions for a son who aspired to inherit in his father's household. A chapter has been published in the online Journal of Hebrew Scriptures.
01: Biblical Israel-The Story of a People
What can the Bible tell us about life in biblical Israel? What do other archaeological sources tell us? Enter the world of biblical Israel with a historical overview and an examination of how the Bible gives us insights into the daily life of ancient Israelites. Then consider the context for how the Bible came into being.
02: By the Rivers of Babylon-Exile
Start your journey through biblical Israel with a look at the Babylonian exile. In this period, the exiled Judeans began asking themselves who they were as a people and why they had been conquered. Because the Bible began to be compiled in this time of exile, it offers us two vantage points for understanding its history.
03: Ancestor Narratives in Genesis
Survey the stories of ancient Israel's origins as preserved in the book of Genesis, from the covenant of Abraham through the cycle of Jacob and his children. Ancient Israel understood itself to be a family that descended from Jacob, so these origin stories are crucial for understanding the books that follow.
04: Moses-The Torah's Central Hero
Continue your study of ancient Israel's origins with a look at Moses and the story of the Israelites' exodus from Egypt. After tracing the narrative of Moses's captivating journey, which includes receiving the Ten Commandments from Yahweh, the Israelite god, on Mount Sinai, you'll review the Torah-the "law of Moses"-and explore the origins of the priesthood.
05: Becoming the Nation of Israel
Turn now to the emergence of Israel as a nation, which is detailed in the books of Joshua and Judges. What does each book tell us about the Israelites' conquest of Canaan? And what does archaeological evidence tell us about this period? Learn about the origins and methods of biblical archaeology.
06: Kinship and Economics in Highland Villages
Enter the central highlands of ancient Israel and see what the houses, family compounds, and villages were like. How did people live? What did they cook with? How did they divide their labor? What were the roles of men and women?
07: Three Weddings and a Funeral
To explore some of the practices and beliefs that surrounded marriage, Professor Chapman focuses on several biblical relationships: Isaac and Rebekah show us what was considered an ideal marriage in ancient Israel; Abraham and Hagar reveal the importance of producing an heir in marriage; and Dinah's abduction and rape by Shechem offers insight into the role of proper family negotiations in protect...
08: Political Power Bases in Early Israel
Investigate three models of leadership-the judges, the elders, and the kings-each of which offers insight into ancient Israel's structures of power. You'll meet several men and one woman who rose to power during times of military crisis, and you'll get insight into how they ruled.
09: Kingdoms and King Making
Begin a four-lecture unit on the political, religious, and economic developments that occurred between 1000 and 745 B.C.E. The unit opens with an overview of King David, Solomon, and the divided kingdom of Israel. What were the origins of monarchy? Why did Israel split into northern and southern kingdoms? How does the archaeological record compare with the biblical narrative?
10: Politics and Economy of a Centralized Cult
Delve into the intersection of politics and religion in Mesopotamia, from the Sumerian kings to the Egyptian pharaohs. Then consider the political and economic role of the temple. Use a variety of sources to reconstruct Solomon's temple and its place in ancient Israel's society.
11: Worshipping Locally
While the ancient states built centralized places of worship, many Israelites continued their local religious practices. Discover the household religions and the variety of gods and goddesses worshipped at the time. Then see what the Bible has to say about these deities and family shrines.
12: Lives of the Rich, Lives of the Poor
Learn the story of Naboth's vineyard, in which King Ahab and his wife, Jezebel, annexed land from a common man, and see what this story tells us about the monarchy and social classes. Then find out what prophets such as Amos and Isaiah had to say about living in a stratified society.
13: Assyrian Incursion into Israel and Judah
Travel to the "age of empires" and witness the Assyrian conquest of the northern kingdom of Israel. Thanks to Assyrian writings and recordkeeping, historians have a wealth of sources with which to explore life in this era. See how Assyria's recorded history overlaps with the history preserved in the Bible.
14: Life under Siege
Turn now to the southern kingdom of Judah. After providing an overview of King Hezekiah's reign and the Judean perspective on Assyria, Professor Chapman shows you how each side claimed victory following the Assyrian siege of Jerusalem. Regardless of who truly won, the survival of Jerusalem had profound implications for history.
15: Religious Debates and Preserved Text
In the 7th century B.C.E., Judah was a vassal of the Assyrian Empire. Delve into the period's religious debates, including the worship of foreign gods and the division over centralized worship in the Jerusalem temple. King Josiah repaired the temple and enacted a sweeping religious reform that called for the worship of one god, Yahweh, in one temple.
16: Ezekiel-Exilic Informant
Meet the prophet Ezekiel, an eyewitness to the Babylonian conquest of Jerusalem and a first-person informant on the experience of exile. Ezekiel's traumas become symbolic of the larger national trauma, and this lecture introduces you to his visions and examines the theological developments that came about as a response to exile.
17: Life in Exile, Life in Judah
What was it like for the Judeans living in exile? Different segments of the population had varying experiences following the Babylonian conquest of the southern kingdom. In this lecture, you'll investigate what life was like for exiles in Babylon and in Egypt as well as for those who stayed in Judah.
18: Literacy and Education
Explore the origins of writing in the ancient Near East and the growth of literacy in ancient Israel. After looking at the earliest forms of writing, explore the rise of literacy in the monarchic periods. Then learn about the education systems in ancient Israel-the palace training programs, the book of Proverbs, and education within the family.
19: Religious Developments of the Exile
Chart the development of monotheism in the Bible, from a plurality of gods to the primacy of the Israelite god known as Yahweh. Then turn to Second Isaiah, "the prophet of monotheism," who, in the final years of the Babylonian exile, envisioned Yahweh on a cosmic and universal scale.
20: The New Israel-Resettling the Land
How did the Israelites return to their homeland? And what issues did they confront after the restoration? With the Cyrus Cylinder and the book of Ezra as your sources, find out who returned from exile, what conflicts they faced in rebuilding the temple in Jerusalem, and how they preserved their sense of national identity.
21: Food and the Family Meal-Boundaries
Step into the kitchens of the ancient Israelites and take a tour of their diets, from the fruits and grains of common villagers to the meats and fats of the elites. Then consider the bond that forms between people who share a meal and what effect dietary laws have on the formation of group identity.
22: National Identity-Intermarriage
Take a closer look at intermarriage with foreigners in the years after the restoration. In Genesis, the story of Dinah reflects the post-exilic anxieties about national identity. Likewise, the book of Ruth offers a rare glimpse into women's perspective on marriage and survival in the restored Judah.
23: National Identity-Twins and Enemies
Revisit the story of Jacob and Esau in light of the quest for national identity. On one level, this narrative presents the history of two brothers and shows the rise of Jacob as he supplants Esau, the firstborn. On another level, the story captures the relationship between Israel and its neighbor Edom, and speaks to their continuing relationship in the post-exilic world.
24: Loss and Restoration-Two Biblical Stories
Conclude your study of biblical Israel with a look at the stories of Abraham and Isaac and the trials of Job. Each of these tells a narrative of loss and recovery, of displacement and restoration, and each asks questions about the nature of suffering and the mystery of the Israelite god. These questions-and what answers the text could offer-would have held meaning and hope for a community in exile...