THE PEOPLE OF PALESTINE

PALESTINE, lying on the road from the Nile to the Euphrates, was the Belgium of Western Asia, overrun by the opposing armies of Egypt and of Babylonia in turn. The Jews, consisting of various nomad tribes, including some who arrived there after escaping from captivity in Egypt, had entered the land between 1600-1200 B.C. Their hold on the country was never complete, for they failed to dislodge the Canaanites from the walled cities of the central districts, while the Philistines, who had settled on the rich coastal plain, at one time actually enslaved them. Thus they never established a strong government, but, after brief periods of independence, were conquered by the armies of Egypt or of Babylon. In the middle of the eleventh century B.C. the constant jealousy which kept the tribes at loggerheads with each other was restrained for a time by the institution of a monarchy. The first king was Saul, who, about 1025 B.C., freed many districts from Philistine rule. His successor, David (about 1010 B.C.) could scheme as well as fight, and managed to hand on a prosperous kingdom to his son, Solomon, about 974 B.C. This reign saw the national fortunes reach their highest point, with the building of the temple at Jerusalem, and the growth of foreign trade. After Solomon's death, the kingdom split up into a northern section with the name of Israel, and a southern section, which took the name of Judah. A chronic state of war continued between North and South until the Assyrians in 722 B.C. conquered and destroyed the kingdom of Israel. Judah held out until 586 B.C., when its people were carried off to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar, the Nebuchadnezzar of Bible spelling. Cyrus, following his policy of religious toleration, permitted the exiles to return and restore Jerusalem in 538 B.C. Varying fortunes followed in the ensuing centuries until the Roman Titus utterly destroyed both city and temple in A.D. 70. In A.D. 135 the emperor Hadrian forbade the Jews to dwell in Palestine, and the race scattered, never again to be reunited. The external history of the Jews can be paralleled elsewhere. Many a small people, before and since, has been crushed by the big battalions, but the Jews alone found in their history a proof of God's righteousness and love of mankind. The Israelite god " Jehovah " was in origin not different from other tribal gods, whose duty it was to help their worshippers in return for sacrifices duly offered. The Bible reveals how this tribal god grew into the one God of mankind, who demanded no outward ceremonies but inward purity of heart.