Episodes
Season Finale. What does it mean to be an Israelite? A Jew? A Hebrew?
Published 10/31/21
Published 10/31/21
Who wrote the Hebrew Bible, when, and how? Boiling a huge topic down to the basics: a thousand-year long literary tradition built by authors across the centuries, compiling story after story to arrive at what we have today.
Published 10/17/21
Amidst weeping and rejoicing, the priest-scribe Ezra reads from the Scroll of Teaching before all the people gathered in Jerusalem. The governor Nehemiah records the moment that Judaism burst onto the scene, as the glory of Jerusalem was restored in 445 BCE.
Published 10/03/21
King Cyrus the Great of Persia sacks Babylon and frees the Jews from their captivity. Now what? Some exiles return to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple, but find that it isn't quite so easy to reintegrate with their fellow Israelites. Who, now, is a Jew?
Published 09/26/21
The exile in Babylon upended the essential pillars of Israelite religion: king, god, temple, and land. The Israelites responded with immense theological creativity, reimagining these core tenets to preserve their ethnic identity. Prophets, priests, and scribes wrote new ideas and rituals that pointed to a new theology: monotheism. What we today call Judaism.
Published 09/19/21
The People of Israel began the Babylonian exile as Israelites and emerged as Jews. How? By responding to the greatest crisis in their history with an explosion of religious creativity and innovation that morphed into monotheism. Today we’re delving into how Jerusalem fell to the Babylonians, the destruction of the Temple, and the end of the House of David. It all left the Israelites wondering: now what?
Published 08/29/21
While repairing the Temple in Jerusalem, King Josiah’s high priest, Hilkiah, found a (supposedly) long lost ancient scroll of teaching. This law book, called torah, legitimized Josiah’s religious reforms. But was this book really found…or did someone close to Josiah write it? Historians are pretty sure we know which book it was, and it helps us understood who wrote the Hebrew Bible, when, and why.
Published 08/22/21
Where is hell? Ask King Manasseh, perhaps the single worst king in Israelite history. Thankfully he was succeeded by his grandson, Josiah, one of the absolute best.
Published 08/16/21
King Hezekiah was one of the most beloved kings of Israel, despite a rocky reign that saw the Assyrians take most of Judah. Hezekiah built up Jerusalem (many of his works can still be seen today, including a tunnel under the city) and instituted a series of religious reforms to centralize the worship of Yahweh at the Temple in Jerusalem — another big step towards monotheism.
Published 08/09/21
After two hundred years, the Kingdom of Israel falls to the Assyrians in 720 BCE. The prophet Amos blames it on social injustice -- the capture of wealth by the rich neglected the poor, violating the covenant with God. The Ten Lost Tribes disappear into history, while refugees make their way to Judah, bringing their stories with them.
Published 08/01/21
Introducing the prophets! We start with Elijah, the prophet who appears at Passover every year but never actually died. He goes up against the evil queen Jezebel and her husband, Ahab, King of Israel.
Published 07/25/21
Shortly after King Solomon's death, in 931 BCE, the United Monarchy split into two separate Israelite states: the Kingdom of Israel and the Kingdom of Judah. The king of Judah threatened to flog the people with scorpions, while the king of Israel built a new religious infrastructure using an image of the golden calf. The Israelite people were now fated for very different destinies.
Published 07/18/21
The reign of King Solomon was the golden era of the United Monarchy. He built the most important structure in Jewish history: the Temple in Jerusalem. Despite his achievements, he also fell into disfavor with God for his idolatrous practices.
Published 07/11/21
Last week saw an historic upheaval in Israeli politics as Benjamin Netanyahu was ousted from power after 12 years as Prime Minister, replaced by the most diverse government in Israeli history. What happened? Who are the big players now? What's next?
Published 06/23/21
How did Jerusalem become the holy city of Judaism? In about 1000 BCE King David set up his royal palace in this small Canaanite city and turned it into the capital of the Israelite people. It was a major achievement during the United Monarchy -- the golden era marking the high point of ancient Israel.
Published 06/13/21
What’s the deal with Israeli settlements? A look at how the settlements began, why they were built, and why they remain. It’s the great paradox: the Occupation is necessary for Israel’s security but detrimental for its future as a Jewish democracy.
Published 06/03/21
The Israelites demand a king. Was this a sign of failure or success? The prophet Samuel warns against it, but Saul becomes the first king of Israel. He soon faces a rival in David, the greatest king in all of Israel's history.
Published 05/23/21
Is this a fair fight? This week we're pushing back against the charges that because Israel holds all the power, its attacks on Gaza are unjust.
Published 05/21/21
For two hundred years the Israelites relied on judges for leadership, not kings. This era offers a powerful role for women and some of the oldest stories that make it into the Hebrew Bible.
Published 05/16/21
Fighting erupted on multiple fronts this week between Israelis, Palestinians, and Arab-Israelis. What's going on? Go beyond the headlines and social media hot takes for a in-depth look at why this is all happening now.
Published 05/13/21
Where does the name Yahweh come from? Who got to be considered an Israelite? How can we understand the sacred bond between God and the People of Israel that forms the bedrock of Judaism today?
Published 05/09/21
How did monotheism start? The Israelites worshipped a national god named Yahweh — the same god that Jews worship today. But where did Yahweh come from? How did the Israelites meet him? And was he their only god?
Published 04/25/21
How did the Israelites end up in Canaan (modern day Israel)? In the Hebrew Bible the Israelites claim to have taken Canaan through military conquest. But the historical record says that’s doubtful. So what happened?
Published 04/18/21
It’s the most famous event of Jewish history: the exodus from Egypt of millions of Israelite slaves, thanks to the power of their God and the prophet Moses. But did it ever really happen?
Published 04/11/21