A good overview of ancient Israel
a voice of reason | Houston, TX | 07/25/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I found this program to be an interesting and informative overview of the history of Israel from its pre-Israeli origins (in Abraham) through its destruction that resulted from revolts in 70 A.D. and in the early 130's A.D. The program does not claim to cover every page in the Bible regarding the history of Israel, and it stops at the point that Israel ceased to be a nation (that is, until the modern state of Israel was created in the 1940's).
I think previous reviewers have sold this program short due to personal biases. The last reviewer needs to read a Bible and find out that the errors are his and not the program's. The other reviewer makes the contradictory statement that the program tries to cover too much ground and is long and boring, and yet then asks why the program didn't continue on and discuss the history of the Israelites over the past two millenia.
If you want a detailed (though not entirely comprehensive) overview of the history of ancient Israel, this program is quite good. I had never read much past the New Testament times and found the final section on the Bar-Kokhba revolt to be quite educational (I was always led to believe that Israel was finished after the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in 70 A.D., but it turns out that the Bar-Kokhba revolt was actually the ancient nation's last gasp). This is an interesting and informative documentary!"
Kingdom born of ideas
Alyssa A. Lappen | Earth | 02/16/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is rather an amazing production, in four hour-long parts, on the early history of the Jewish people, through the 4th century of the Common Era (CE) It demonstrates the historical basis of Jewish longing for freedom---and for undying hope, supported by belief in God and His laws.
With biblical readings by Jeremy Irons and Derek Jacobi, and video reenactments of many of the most important biblical stories, this Public Broadcasting Service series recounts the evolution of the Jewish people, after Abraham's meeting with God, and the Jewish Exodus from Egypt led by Moses.
Following Jewish slavery in Egypt, the series covers numerous conquests of Judea, by the Assyrians (which scattered ten of Israel's 12 tribes), the Babylonians, the Persians, the Greeks (Hellenists) and the Romans.
One especially moving (and important) part of this saga comes 80 years following the Jewish return to Jerusalem from Babylonian exile. Ezra reads the Five Books of Moses (Torah) to the Judeans (Jewish people), noting that God's teachings are accessible to anyone who chooses to understand--and all based on the Ten Commandments, commanding mankind to honor life, one another, and not to covet others' spouses, or possessions.
PBS consulted an impressive number of religious and archaeological scholars, including Harvard University's James Kugel, Yale's Wayne Meeks, and Rabbis from many of the foremost Jewish institutes of learning.
The tradition of disagreeing with scripture, the series notes, was established by Job, who mourns his loss of everyone held dear; He dares to ask why good people often suffer, while bad people often prosper. The suggestion of a reward in the afterlife, is a Jewish teaching developed further in the Book of Daniel.
During the 2nd Century BCE, Ben Sira (Sirach) established a Jewish educational academy to study the Torah, generating the idea of divine inspiration, and providing devout Jews intellectual power to best their contemporary oppressors, the Greeks. and even to interpret God's words.
In 185 BCE, Antiochus IV ordered Jerusalem's Jewish temple to be dedicated to chief Greek god, Zeus; His outrageous establishment of Greek shrines in all Jewish villages drove Judeans to become the first people in history to declare war for the right to freedom of religion.
When the Greeks slaughtered more than 1,000 pious Judeans, who preferred not to violate the Sabbath by defending themselves, the Jews also became the first people in history willing to die for their religion. Thus the Judeans established Jewish tradition, during defensive wars, not only to fight on the Sabbath, but to be obligated to protect themselves. In 164 BCE, Judah Maccabee miraculously restored the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. Antiochus ultimately tracked and killed him. However, Judah's brother Jonathan, by gathering 10,000 men, gained enough strength to negotiate for Judeans' independence, which persisted for the next 100 years. During that time, the self-governed Judeans developed the idea of defending God's law, along with their kingdom of Judea (the Jewish people).
Judea's next conqueror, the Roman empire, crucified tens of thousands of Jews and besieged Jerusalem. But only when the Romans appointed King Herod, a non-Jewish prince, did Jewish rebels counter attack. Herod's men ruthlessly murdered them, followed them into the hills and literally smoked out them and their families from their caves. Even Herod's reconstruction of Jerusalem's Holy Temple did not redeem him for the Jewish rebels.
Following Herod's death in 4 BCE, chaos and civil war reigned in Judea, spawning the Pharisees, and their great Jewish philosopher Hillel. He taught that Judeans needed no priests to reach God--but only to study. Jewish legend says that Hillel, once asked to recite all of Torah while standing on one foot, replied, "What is hateful to you, do not do unto others. All the rest is commentary."
According to Yale Professor Meeks, the post-Herodean age also spawned Jesus, whose lessons were entirely Jewish in nature. In 33 CE, the Romans arrested and crucified Him, like tens of thousands of other Jewish "troublemakers" murdered during that era.
In 67 CE, the Romans sent 60,000 soldiers to Jerusalem, then home to 100,000 Jews, Judeans in the holy city were starving, and factions fought between themselves. One "expert" inexplicably compares the Zealots' rebellion to 21st century jihad. While these Judeans considered revolt against Rome the only way to save the Jewish people, neither the Torah nor Jewish law commanded them to do so. Qur'anic doctrine and Islamic jurists, by contrast, fix military jihad as central to Islamic faith and law.
Furthermore, other experts mistakenly compare the situation of 1st century Jews to that of Jews during the 20th century Holocaust. Wrong again. While the murderous the Romans, in destroying the Temple, also ruined the Jewish political, religious and economic center--they did not plan to murder all Judeans. They only wanted to kill Jewish ideas. Thus, they renamed Judea, Palestine, and exiled Jerusalem's remaining people, all Pharisees.
It was only after the Bar Kochba rebellion, from 132 to 135 CE, that the Romans sent 13 legions, who razed 900 Jewish villages and killed 580,000 men--not to mention the countless others who perished through famine and disease. And even then, the survivors were not murdered--they were exiled.
In which exile, the Judeans (Jewish people) prospered spiritually--by adhering to traditions established more than 500 years earlier in Babylon, namely, teaching and prayer, longing for freedom--and hope, not only for themselves, but for all of mankind.
--Alyssa A. Lappen"
Bernard Chapin | CHICAGO! USA | 03/25/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I have to say that I'm a complete neophyte when it comes to The Bible--particularly the Old Testament. Thus, experts in the eras described here may not find these DVDs as beguiling as I did, but all four parts were extremely educational in my view. With documentaries, generally I don't assume that they're going to tell me everything I need to know about a subject. What I really want is a sound overview which is precisely what Kingdom of David provides. The segments featuring the Rabbis and the various Biblical scholars were the ones I found most appealing. Further, I think that the partial reenactments are effective and pique one's attention. Yes, there is a lot of information to be gleaned here but it certainly isn't boring. As an example, many Christians may not have been previously aware of the connection between Jesus and Hillel. Indeed, this was the first I ever heard of it. Overall, I think this DVD offers up good value."