The Jewish Tribe

Who are the Judeans/ Hebrews/ Jews from ancient times to today?

Defining a large group of identifiable people over the centuries is somewhat unusual in history, as land changes hands during wars, people intermarry, and new identities arise from new circumstances. Sweeping historical invasions by the Vikings and Mongols changed the gene pool of entire populations down to the present (hello, Blue Eyes!).  Cultural identities also evolve. One which remains distinct today is that of the Jewish People. But who are we? (disclosure, Jewish Qabalist, here).

The Jewish people are the expanded family, or Tribe, of the 3rd Old Testament Patriarch Jacob, who changes his name to Israel, (AKA “Struggles with “EL”, God”).  Abraham is the Patriarch of BOTH the Jewish and Arabic people (through Ishmael).  Isaac, his son, is the Patriarch of BOTH the Jews and the Canaanites (Through Cain).  Jacob, after he is Initiated and reNAMED Israel , founds his own branch of the family, and returns to the Homeland to become the Patriarch of the Jewish people, named after him, as the Israelites. His fourth son, Judah, is allotted a large central portion of the Nation and it becomes known as Judea, it’s people as Judeans, and eventually Jews.

Hebrew is the traditional language of the Religion. Belonging to the Semetic language group, it was often integrated with local languages, as in Yiddish and Aramaic. It has undergone evolution, first of using the four consonants Y, H, V and A in a double fashion, as vowels. (Note that many of the Names of God are made up of just these letters). Vowels were not added until the Masoretes period, when scholars updated the written language in 500 – 800 CE, creating slightly different systems in  in Jerusalem, Babylon and Tiberias, near Galilee. Hebrew is closely related to the languages spoken in the area, like Canaanite and  Arabic.

The culture of the Tribe is adaptive to it’s location and resources. The Levant, or Middle East is the path between the Empires of Egypt, Babylon, Assyria,Turkey, Greece, Rome and Europe. It is small, and has limited water for agriculture, small trees, no level land and just small copper deposits. To survive, it became  small, resilient and mobile itself, and the Holy Book is filled with more Tricksters than Supermen. Early in it’s history, the Tribe escapes enslavement in Egypt and the oldest historical fragment of the Bible is Miriam’s victory song after the Pharaoh’s army is drowned (Exodus 15:1-18, The Song of the Sea or שירת הים, Shirat HaYam ,  שִׁירוּ לַיהוָה כִּי-גָאֹה גָּאָה, סוּס וְרֹכְבוֹ רָמָה בַיָּם). This survival in the face of impossible odds becomes a prevailing theme which allows the Culture to survive repeated attempts at annihilation.

Without access to the Sea (that is where the Philistines live, and Tyre to the North) and only the small Jordan River ( a stream compared to the Nile or the Mississippi) for irrigation, this land of rocks and hills becomes grazing land as the Tribe enters a Pastoral phase, and celebrates agricultural holidays (as do all Pagan people) based on the Sun, Moon, Stars and Seasons. As detailed in the Book of Saul, constant warfare eventually leads the Judeans to confront the small Canaanite city/ state in the Center of it’s hills, a place named Yerusliam, so far as we can transliterate the Canaanite word. Many think it was an original Hebrew word involving Shalom, or Salaam, ie. Peace.  But The name Jerusalem seems clearly to predate the Hebrew name for that city.

The establishment of this new, walled fortress with it’s own water supply and high hills centrally located in Judean territory leads David,  Saul’s successor, to make it the capitol of the increasingly well organized tribe’s Nation, establishing the brief Golden Kingdom. For all the reasons outlined in the Bible, it falls upon his clever son Solomon to build The Temple of King Solomon, a map of the Universe (Earth and Heaven) as understood at that time.

If the Bible spends a lot of time describing the actual dimensions and furnishings of King Solomon‘s Temple in both the pre-exile Northern Kingdom copy which became Kings (written during Jeremiah, before 586 B.C.E.), and the post Babylon Exile Southern copy which became Chronicles (written during Ezra, 516 B.C.E.),  (remember, in BCE, larger numbers are EARLIER than smaller numbers, as time goes towards ZERO and restarts counting up in the Christian Calendar)  it is both to awe the reader with the splendor of the structure, preserve mystical and practical building principles, many of them elaborated in Freemasonry. (see The Sources of all Bibles). It is bragging about the amount of inner space and height (3 levels) coaxed from stone and timber from Lebanon. As THERE IS NO GOOD BUILDING WOOD in Judea, most other structures are small, made of stone and clay/ mud, and the Temple, on a hill, can be seen for miles.

The reign of King Solomon is golden, but short, and is followed by a civil war. Every Master Mason should search the story of this event carefully (preferably in Hebrew), to discover one of the most profound Hidden Mysteries of Freemasonry‘s  Substitute Word.

After Civil War weakens the Tribe, the North Kingdom of Israel falls to the Assyrians, and many of the People fall back to the Southern Kingdom of Judea. They conceal their copy of the Holy Book in the stones of the Temple’s foundations, and when the Temple is destroyed by the Babylonians, it is preserved in the ruins. Nebecanezzer invades Babylon, and sends all the captive leaders home to rebuild their own cities and Temples, pay taxes and stop making trouble for the Empire. Of course, the Holy Book the leaders (Cohns and Levites) brought into exile had undergone many changes both from natural evolution and information error, but more due to the changing social circumstances of the Captivity. That copy of the  Holy Book had certain aspects emphasized or altered to assist the people in their new, foreign – dominated,  stressful situation. It seems likely that Ruth, Esther and Daniel are written after this experience, to provide different models of how to handle such situations.

In rebuilding the Temple, the Tribe rediscovers the old Northern copy of the Bible hidden in it’s foundations, setting off a competition between the religious authorities of both Jerusalem and Babylon to write separate Talmuds as commentary on the one Bible, which is combined. So, that is why in Chapter One of Genesis,  Lord God (ELohiem  YHVH)  makes Man after the plants, but then in Verse 8,  God  (YHVH) creates Man out of the dust, before plants. One verse likely came from the earlier version of the Holy Book, and both were preserved.  Also see descriptions of King Solomon‘s Temple, the Noah ark inventory, and many other examples (see The Sources of all Bibles).

The Greek cultural temptation almost proved too much for the Tribe, many of whom were attracted to it’s egalitarian idealism and interest in an afterlife. After rejecting a focus on the Afterlife for a focus on Life in the present after the Egyptian enslavement, the Greek Mysteries awakened the curiosity of young Judeans, much to the concern of their more conservative Elders. But the Greeks were soon replaced by the Romans, whose use of Ptolemaic rulers (Egyptian/Greeks) and Syrians alienated the Tribe. As it was, Greek became the language of translation for the early Hebrew texts.

While the Romans no doubt found the pacifistic Jesus and Christians an annoyance, the Judean Zealots, who were stabbing Romans in the streets, and the occasional mob of stone throwing youths forced them to increase military expenditures over the amount of taxes they were receiving. This and chaos at the Empire’s center of power (Caligula and Nero, fun times) brought about Messianic aspirations, revolt, rebellion and the 1st and 2nd century CE. Holy men were hunted down and publicly executed to intimidate those who revered them.   Rabbi Akiva‘s martyrdom set the example for later Christian martyrs, as he sang the Shamah while the Romans flayed his flesh off with an iron comb after the Bar Kokba revolt. Most of the men were crucified against the walls of their houses (remember, no wood for crosses) and women and children sold off to the Egyptians for the Salt Mines. Others were enslaved across the Roman Empire, or escaped into the desert, either to await the End (ala the Gnostics) or travel to foreign lands. The Tribe was exiled from the traditional holy landmarks (Mountains) and had they still been a traditional, land based, Pagan culture, could not have maintained their identity. But God had moved from the Mountain, to the Tabernacle, to the Temple, and into the consciousness, habits and Book of the People.

The lessons of Egypt, now fully incorporated into the Holy Book and Culture, the understanding that those who are not large and powerful had better be small and tricky, allowed our Culture to survive. Okay, it helps that that culture has a winning combination of respect for learning, community and family may ALSO have something to do with the survival of the Jewish people against the odds of history.

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