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The World of Biblical Israel

Get a better understanding of the peoples and events described in The Old Testament with this interesting and helpful course taught by a professor of biblical studies.
The World of Biblical Israel is rated 4.4 out of 5 by 85.
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Rated 5 out of 5 by from Magnificent course! Magnificent course! A wonderful professor. Very well organized presentation and highly engaging. I’ll be recommending this course to friends.
Date published: 2021-07-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Lots of Good Information So glad the instructor focused on the historical aspects and stayed out of the religious pit for the most part. I was looking to expand my knowledge and not a reaffrimation of beliefs. I was not disappointed. Minor downside was the upsetting video production. Too much camera panning. Almost made me seasick.
Date published: 2021-03-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very clearly explained I've always found the chronology difficult to stick in my head after a course, and I've taken a few of these. This is explained so well and with just enough detail to get a much clearer timeline with well presented ways to remember it. It just makes sense. There could be more detailed discussions of some seminal events, but I don't think that's main goal of the the course.
Date published: 2020-11-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Professor I really enjoyed her clear descriptions of what we know of history from the sources that come down to us and what is plausible.
Date published: 2020-11-01
Rated 3 out of 5 by from An interesting mix of fact and theology. While some archaeological evidence is presented, many lectures require you accept the Old Testament as literally true, with a casual acceptance of massacres, deportation, slavery, xenophobia, misogyny and subjugation of women. Some useful visuals, but many are artists' interpretations, highly suspect. The course description states life in the period is described, but a weak discussion, lacking analysis of economics, taxation, income distribution, civil government and tax collectors. Related topics missing include subsistence economy, and life expectancy. Food is discussed as a socio-political institution, with little nutritional analysis (I have seen height often used as a surrogate), and whether famine was common. Fixation on meat raises the question of chronic protein deficiency (kwashiorkor). When it is stated only a tiny elite was literate, the name of YHWH being unpronounceable is very thought-provoking and deserves to be explored. The Babylonian captivity does provide some analysis of the psychology, politics and motivations of the writers and how they may have slanted information. Recommended, there are some thought-provoking sections, but be skeptical.
Date published: 2020-10-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The World of Biblical Israel Dr Chapman is a superb teacher. She is a great communicator of the course material.
Date published: 2020-07-19
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Enjoyable and enlightening. Quite simply, I enjoyed this very much. It was precisely what I was hoping it would be: a courses that would blend history, archaeology, anthropology, and religion. I wish I could take Prof. Chapman's course IRL. There are lots of questions I'd like to ask.
Date published: 2020-07-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Interesting Professor is personable and interesting and seems very knowledgeable about the topic. Neutral presentation of the information unlike the horribly slanted courses by Bart Ehrman. I enjoyed and learned a lot from this course.
Date published: 2020-05-28
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We all have associations with the word Israel." But how did ancient Israel emerge? Who were the Israelites and where did they come from? What was it like to live in biblical Israel? In The World of Biblical Israel, journey through ancient Israel and be introduced to the world, the people, the challenges, and the triumphs of ancient Israel. In 24 captivating lectures, Professor Cynthia R. Chapman of Oberlin College introduces you to the stories of the Judeans in exile and grounds them in their historical context. By comparing the history in the Bible to the archaeological record, Professor Chapman gives you a complete picture of life in biblical Israel."


Cynthia R. Chapman
Cynthia R. Chapman

There is no question that the Bible is a tremendously valuable library or ancient archive. If historians of the ancient Mayans, for example, uncovered such a source, they would consider it a goldmine.


Oberlin College

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.

By This Professor

The World of Biblical Israel
The World of Biblical Israel


Biblical Israel-The Story of a People

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.

32 min
By the Rivers of Babylon-Exile

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.

30 min
Ancestor Narratives in Genesis

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.

28 min
Moses-The Torah's Central Hero

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.

30 min
Becoming the Nation of Israel

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.

31 min
Kinship and Economics in Highland Villages

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?

30 min
Three Weddings and a Funeral

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...

31 min
Political Power Bases in Early Israel

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.

30 min
Kingdoms and King Making

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?

33 min
Politics and Economy of a Centralized Cult

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.

32 min
Worshipping Locally

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.

31 min
Lives of the Rich, Lives of the Poor

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.

29 min
Assyrian Incursion into Israel and Judah

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.

31 min
Life under Siege

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.

31 min
Religious Debates and Preserved Text

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.

30 min
Ezekiel-Exilic Informant

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.

29 min
Life in Exile, Life in Judah

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.

31 min
Literacy and Education

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.

31 min
Religious Developments of the Exile

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.

31 min
The New Israel-Resettling the Land

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.

30 min
Food and the Family Meal-Boundaries

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.

30 min
National Identity-Intermarriage

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.

29 min
National Identity-Twins and Enemies

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.

32 min
Loss and Restoration-Two Biblical Stories

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...

35 min