Ancient Israelite religion refers to the religious beliefs and practices of ancient Israel before the advent of Judaism in the 1st century C.E. Ancient Israelite religion can be traced back to the 2nd millennium B.C.E. through the stories and practices associated with the Hebrew Bible. The founding figures of ancient religion in Israel include Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, from whom the Israelite nation came. Ancient Israelite religion was grounded on the belief that God made a covenant (a binding agreement) with Abraham to make his descendents the people of God. Ancient Israelite religious practices included the adherence to the many religious and social laws found in the first five books of the Hebrew Bible. It was believed that Moses received these laws directly from God. Of these numerous laws, worship of the one true God was paramount. Ancient Israelite worship was centered at the temple in Jerusalem. Like many ancient religions, Israelite religion was indistinguishable from social and political life. The political leaders were believed to be ordained by God. By 1000 B.C.E., the people of Israel were unified under King David, and his kingdom covered most of modern Palestine down to Egypt. The Assyrian conquest of the northern part of Israel in the early 8th century B.C.E. was followed by the Babylonian conquest of Israel's southern land and the destruction of the Temple in the early 6th century B.C.E. At that time, many Israelites were deported to Babylonia where new forms of worship were created to compensate for the destruction of the Temple. Though the Temple was rebuilt by 515 B.C.E., exilic forms of devotion remained. When the Romans destroyed the Second Temple in 70 C.E., ancient Israelite religious practices gave way to what would develop into Judaism.
|Sacred Text||Torah, Tanakh (Hebrew scriptures)|