Timeline – Before the Common Era

Early History Before the Common Era

2000-1500 BCE Re-establishment of strong political power in Egypt with advent of the Middle Kingdom led to revitalisation and expansion of trade routes and a period of great prosperity in the Levant. It witnessed the full flowering of Canaanite culture. The situation was further enhanced when, around 1750 BC, groups of Canaanites, who had infiltrated the Egyptian Delta a century or so earlier, seized control and established a local dynasty which for a brief time ruled the whole of Egypt. With their capital at Avaris  these Canaanites were known as the Hyksos. During this period in the Levant there was extensive trade not only with Egypt, but also with Mesopotamia, Anatolia and Cyprus. Canaan’s art, architecture and craftsmanship reached new levels of skill and sophistication as her artists were influenced by a variety of sources and countries, blending them to make their own distinctive style. [Quote from British Museum (BM)]
1279-1213 BCERameses ll reorganises the Levant.  ‘Key strategic cities like Beth Shan in the north and Gaza in the south were strengthened, while others were allowed to decline. Many  people were made homeless and migrated to the Judean hill country where they established small farming settlements. These  dispossessed Canaanites, known to the Egyptians as Hapiru (Hebrews), formed the basis of what was to become Israel.’  (BM)
1210 BCE The first and only Egyptian mention of the term Israel on the Merneptah stele.
1200-1100 BCE Economic and political upheaval across the ancient Near East and Mediterranean. (BM)
ca. 880 BCEKing Omri founds the kingdom of Israel and builds his capital in Samaria (BM)
840 BCEThe Mesha Stele records the Moabite king destroying Omri’s son (Ahab), throwing off the yoke of Israel and restoring Moab.
About 750 BCEEmergence of the independent kingdom of Judah (BM)
721 BCESamaria is captured by Sargon II of Assyria. The Kingdom of Israel ends (BM) Significant population displacement followed. Refugees to Jerusalem carried oral and written traditions later incorporated in the Pentateuch.
587 BCEJerusalem is destroyed by the Babylonians. Contrary to first impressions from the Old Testament narrative, it was mostly elite groups who were exiled, not the general populace.
Much of the Hebrew Bible written by exiles and their descendants during or after the return from Babylon.
There is debate within Jewish and Christian scholarship as to how far this material was based on oral traditions which may or may not give authenticity to such events as the Exodus
ca. 538 BCEPersia conquers Babylon and permits exiled Jews who want to, to return to Jerusalem (“Decree of Cyrus”). The reconstruction, commonly associated with Ezra and Nehemiah, was driven by returning exiles – elite cadres – who introduced notions of racial exclusivity to the tradition, and deligitimated the descendents of the general populace who had not been exiled – some of whom became the Samaritans.
332 BCEAlexander the Great conquers the region. After his death the empire is divided. Judaea came under the rule of the Ptolemies, based in Egypt, and a Jewish community became established in Alexandria. 
ca 200 BCEJudaea passed to the Seleucid empire, based in Antioch on the Orontes in Syria.
167 BCEThe Maccabaean Revolt, Jews revolted against cultic changes imposed by the Seleucids, and in a series of uprisings and treaties establish an independent polity, with kingship and high priesthood vested in the Hasmonaean family.
63 BCERomans establish control over Judea and Samaria. Rome ruled through vassals – the high priests and members of the Herodian family, as well as directly through prefects and procurators, at different stages and in different areas.
ca. 4 BCEJesus is born. He and his disciples were Jews, whose activity was mainly in Galilee.  He is crucified thirty-three years later after a ministry of three years in Jerusalem c. 30 CE by the Prefect Pontius Pilate, at the instigation of the high priest Joseph Caiaphas. This is reported by the Jewish historian Josephus, and mentioned by the Roman historian Tacitus, independently of the accounts in the Gospels of the Christian New Testament.

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