Additional laws, customs, legends, and ethics written down much later make up another important lengthy text, the Talmud, containing over 12,000 pages.

The Ancient Israelites

Abraham is considered the father of the Israelites and their religion, Judaism. According to the Torah, Abraham was born near Ur in Mesopotamia, in present-day Iraq, and moved to Haran in present-day Syria about 2000 B.C. According to Jewish belief, God called to Abraham in Haran. God made an offer to Abraham, telling him that if he left his home and his family, then God would make him the founder of a great nation and bless him. So he and his extended family migrated, herding their sheep and goats into a region called Canaan (KAY nun). Abraham believed that everything was created by a single God, and he began to teach this belief to others.

God's Covenant With the Israelites

The Israelites believed that God had made the following covenant, or promise and agreement, with Abraham:

You shall be the father of a multitude of nations. … I will make nations of you, and kings shall come forth from you. And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your descendants after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your descendants after you. And I will give to you, and to your descendants after you, the land of your sojournings [short stay], all the land of Canaan. …

—Genesis 17:4–8

God's covenant with Abraham included two declarations that became the basis of two key beliefs of Judaism. First, God declared that He would have a special relationship with Abraham and his descendants. The Israelites believed that God had chosen them to fulfill certain obligations and duties in the world. Second, God declared that Canaan would one day belong to the Israelites. As a result, the Israelites viewed Canaan as their “promised land.”

A map shows Canaan, Mesopotamia, and Egypt, circa 2000 B C. Canaan formed the southwestern extreme of Mesopotamia, stretching along the eastern Mediterranean coast. It included the cities of Damascus, and Jerusalem, to the southwest.

Analyze Maps

What factors may have led to Canaan's becoming a crossroads in the ancient Middle East?

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Table of Contents

World History Topic 1 Origins of Civilization (Prehistory–300 B.C.) Topic 2 The Ancient Middle East and Egypt (3200 B.C.–500 B.C.) Topic 3 Ancient India and China (2600 B.C.–A.D. 550) Topic 4 The Americas (Prehistory–A.D. 1570) Topic 5 Ancient Greece (1750 B.C.–133 B.C.) Topic 6 Ancient Rome and the Origins of Christianity (509 B.C.-A.D. 476) Topic 7 Medieval Christian Europe (330–1450) Topic 8 The Muslim World and Africa (730 B.C.-A.D. 1500) Topic 9 Civilizations of Asia (500–1650) Topic 10 The Renaissance and Reformation (1300–1650) Topic 11 New Global Connections (1415–1796) Topic 12 Absolutism and Revolution Topic 13 The Industrial Revolution Topic 14 Nationalism and the Spread of Democracy (1790–1914) Topic 15 The Age of Imperialism (1800–1914) Topic 16 World War I and the Russian Revolution (1914–1924) Topic 17 The World Between the Wars (1910–1939) Topic 18 World War II (1930–1945) Topic 19 The Cold War Era (1945–1991) Topic 20 New Nations Emerge (1945–Present) Topic 21 The World Today (1980-Present) United States Constitution Primary Sources 21st Century Skills Atlas Glossary Index Acknowledgments