The theological revolution that is reflected in the fifth book of the Pentateuch (Deuteronomy) and in what scholars call the Deuteronomic History, which consists of the books of Joshua, Judges, Samuel and Kings. To emphasize the differences heralded in the Deuteronomic literature, I contrast the concepts found in this literature with other books of the Bible, especially Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers.
Deuteronomys Theological Revolution 2/3
Deuteronomys Theological Revolution 1/3
King Josiah of Judah instituted a religious reform in 622 BCE that scholars refer to simply as Josiah’s Reform. It might well be called the Deuteronomic Reform. Israelite religion would never be the same.
The sabbatical year is mentioned three times in the Torah. The first is in Exodus 23:10–11: “Six years you shall sow your land and gather in its yield; but in the seventh you shall let it rest and lie fallow. Let the needy among your people eat of it.” The emphasis in this passage is on letting the land lie fallow and the social benefits for the poor and impoverished.
Forty-seven years after the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple in 586 BCE and deported many of the people to exile in Babylon, Cyrus the Great, king of Persia, who had conquered the Babylonians and ruled most of the then-known world, allowed the Jews to return to their ancient homeland. They returned in waves. Sheshbazzar, apparently the first Jewish governor of Yehud (Judea), led the first wave and laid the foundation to rebuild the Temple, that is, to construct the Second Temple (Ezra 1:7–11, 5:14–16).
Archaeological Evidence from the Persian Period
Until fairly recently, the Persian period was characterized as the dark age of Israelite history. This is no longer true, partly because of the availability of newer materials, but especially because of the work of Ephraim Stern of Hebrew University and other archaeologists in Israel whose surveys and discoveries have opened new vistas for study of this era of profound change and development.
Return and Restoration Under the Persians
For we are bondmen; yet our God has not forsaken us in our bondage, but has extended to us his steadfast love before the kings of Persia, to grant us some reviving to set up the house of our God, to repair its ruins, and to give us protection in Judea and Jerusalem. (Ezra 9:9)
“And These from the Land of Syene”
This raises the question of cultic or religious activities among the exiles in Babylonia. From a hoard of papyri known as the Elephantine papyri, we know that a Jewish temple existed in Egypt at Elephantine (Yeb) during the fifth century BCE From Josephus we know that in the Hellenistic period another Jewish temple was built in Egypt at Leontopolis. We also learn from Josephus of a Samaritan temple on Mt. Gerizim.