In 586 B.C., Babylonian armies captured Judah. Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the great temple and forced many of those he defeated into exile in Babylon. This period of exile, called the Babylonian Captivity, lasted about 50 years.

The Ten Commandments
The Ten Commandments helped shape American laws and people's ideas about right and wrong.
1st “Thou shalt not have strange gods before me.” to recognize God as the one and only God
2nd “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.” to speak the truth; seen today in legal oaths
3rd “Remember that you keep Holy the Sabbath Day.” to dedicate one day to worship
4th “Honor thy father and thy mother…” to respect and love one's parents
5th “Thou shalt not kill.” to avoid killing others; seen today in laws about murder
6th “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” to ensure faithfulness to one's spouse; seen today in divorce laws
7th “Thou shalt not steal.” to prevent taking another person's belongings
8th “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.” to prevent lying; seen today by laws against testifying falsely in a court of law
9th “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's goods.”
10th “Thou shalt not covet they neighbor's wife.”
to prevent wanting other people's possessions
to help ensure that families are not broken up

Over time, the ideas in the Ten Commandments have influenced aspects of some modern legal and political systems.

In 539 B.C., the Persian ruler Cyrus the Great conquered Babylon and soon freed the Jews. Many Jews returned to Judah, where they rebuilt a smaller version of Solomon's Temple. However, like other groups in the region, they lived under Persian rule.

Judaism's Legacy

From early times, the concept of law was central to the Israelites. The Torah includes many laws and is thus often referred to as the Books of the Law. Some of the laws deal with everyday matters such as cleanliness and food preparation. Others define criminal acts. The Torah also establishes moral principles.

Like other early civilizations, Israelite society was patriarchal, which means that men held the greatest legal and moral authority. A family's oldest male relative was the head of the household, but women were respected and had more rights than women in many other ancient societies. A few outstanding women, such as the judge and military leader Deborah and the prophetess Miriam won great honor.

The Ten Commandments as a Guide

At the heart of Judaism are the Ten Commandments, a set of laws that Jews believe God gave to them through Moses. The first four commandments stress religious duties toward God, such as keeping the Sabbath, a holy day for rest and worship. The rest address conduct toward others. They include “Honor your father and mother,” “You shall not murder,” and “You shall not steal.” In addition to establishing a moral law, the Ten Commandments also helped develop the “rule of law,” the idea that laws should apply to everyone equally. Finally, the Ten Commandments guided the ancient Jews in setting up their society and government, an influence that endures into our own time.

A Strong Code of Ethics

Often in Jewish history, spiritual leaders emerged to interpret God's will. These prophets, such as Isaiah and Jeremiah, reminded the Jewish people of their duties.

The prophets also taught a strong code of ethics, or moral standards of behavior. They urged both personal morality and social justice, calling on the rich and powerful to protect the poor and weak. All people, they said, were equal before God.

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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