Essay by ellrebCollege, UndergraduateA+, June 2004

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Judaism is among the oldest of the world's major living religions. Its members have been frequently persecuted and scattered throughout the world yet have kept their identity. Judaism believes that God is active in the social and historical process. The amazing achievement of Judaism is that it has developed the concept of God from that of a primitive tribal deity to the God of all nations.

The patriarchs of Judaism lived in the Fertile Crescent at the beginning of the second millennium B.C. The Biblical report speaks of the calling of Abraham in which he is promised that he will become the father of a great nation through which all the world will be blessed. The early Hebrews practiced animal sacrifice and circumcision. The generic name for God among the Semites wa El. He is referred to variously as El Shaddai (God of the mountains or God Almighty), El Elyon (God Most High), El Olam(God everlasting), and Elohim (Gods). The Hebrews regard themselves as God's chosen people.

The exodus of the Hebrews from Egypt where they served as slaves is the most important event in Judaism. Their miraculous delivery from the Egyptians under the leadership of Moses, the reception of the Ten Commandments, their forty years in the wilderness, and their conquest of the promised land are central factors in their religious consciousness, holidays and observances. The Ark of the Covenant and the Tent of Meeting were also important in the early days of Judaism.

With the establishment of the Hebrew monarchy under David and Solomon the religion of Israel took on a more formal character. David captured Jerusalem and Solomon built the first temple. Although animal sacrifice remained the main form of worship, prophets added a new dimension to Judaism. Amos proclaimed the need for personal and...