What part did the Hebrew Bible, Law, and the Prohpets play in the developement of Hebrew religion and society?

Expert Answers
readerofbooks eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This is a good question. The Hebrew Bible can be broken down into three sections: The Law, the Poets, and the Prophets. All three sections have heavily influenced the Jewish culture.

The laws gave a moral basis to the people of Israel and in this section of the scriptures, we also read about the Exodus. This is a fundamental paradigm of deliverance for the people of Israel. In the Poets, in particular the Psalms, Israel has found a book of prayer to express their emotions, hopes, dreams, and other emotions. Finally, through the prophets, Israel learn of judgment and salvation.

Surely, these statements are generalizations to some extent, but Judaism has been shaped by this book. Truth be told, this books has shaped western civilization more than any other book.

dtwenstrup | Student

The law was essential for forming the identity of Israel in the late 13th century BCE. The laws passed down orally by Moses shaped tradition which set the Israelites apart from other nations. Israel was a confederacy of tribes with no central government. The tribes were linked through the covenant.

The Monarchy changed a tribal confederacy into a complex empire organized under the crown. King David probably commissioned the first written accounts of the Hebrew Bible in the 10th century BCE to recount Yahweh’s saving action in order to draw the tribes together into one society using a common history.

The Prophets reminded the people of the stipulations in the covenant, but the people would not listen. Yet after Assyria conquered Northern Israel in 722 BCE and the Babylonians conquered Judah in 597 BCE, the prophets became essential. They offered an explanation for the fall (God’s justifiable punishment for not following the covenant law) and kept hope alive for the future (God will not abandon you).

In the Hebrew Bible, the Pentateuch takes on its final form, probably in the 6th century BCE, reminding the people of their stories and giving them a common heritage to unite them.

After the Jews return from exile in the 5th century, the law again plays an essential role. With no geographical boundaries or national institutions, the Jews needed to find an external form for their identity. They relied on Sabbath laws, circumcision, and ritual purity laws to differentiate them from their neighbors.