As Jews, we travel through history to our destiny along an arc of birth, growth, decline and the learning from our mistakes, to ultimately the fulfillment of our divine mission for world enlightenment.
Jewish history can be broken down in a couple of amazing ways: first by every two millennium from creation forward, and second, starting with Abraham, in approximately 400-500 year increments.
First observation: Jewish tradition tells us that the world is following a historical timeline of 6,000 years, but this timeline can be divided into three periods of two thousand years each:
- Establishment of the World: The first 2,000 years (3761 BCE – 1812 BCE) is the time of creation until Abraham and his discovery of monotheism.
- The Founding of the Jewish Nation: The second 2,000 years (1812 BCE – 70 CE) is the time of the Jewish people from Abraham until the destruction of the second Temple by the Romans.
- Toward the Arrival of Mashiach: The third 2,000 years (70 CE – 2239 CE) is the time from the destruction of the second Temple and exile of the Jewish people until the redemption of Israel and the arrival of the Mashiach.
Second observation: From the beginning of the second 2,000 years period (starting with Abraham) and forward, Jewish history can be subdivided into nine specific periods of 400-500 years each, and this is followed by the tenth and final period to come.
- Birth of the Jewish Nation: The first period (1812 BCE – 1312 BCE) is the time from Abraham, the first Jew, the awareness of monotheism until the Exodus from Egypt and the giving of the Torah to the Jews.
- Settlement of the Promised Land: The second period (1312 BCE – 879 BCE) is from the travels of the Israelites in the desert to the conquest and settlement of the land of Israel and the time of the Judges.
- The Kingdom of Israel and First Temple: The third period (879 BCE – 422 BCE) from the kings of Israel (Saul, David, Solomon, etc.) to the Assyrian conquest of Northern Israel and exile of the Ten Tribes, to the Babylonian conquest of Israel and destruction of the first Temple.
- The Second Temple Period: The fourth period (422 BCE – 70 CE) from the destruction of the first Temple and exile of the Jews by the Babylonians to miracle of Purim and the rebuilding of the Temple under the Persian Empire, the miracle of Hanukah under the Greek Empire, and ultimately the destruction of the second Temple by the Roman Empire.
- The Jewish Oral Law: The fifth period (70 CE – 638 CE) from the destruction of the second Temple and exile to the Revolt of Bar Kokhba, the compilation of the Oral Law of the Mishnah and Talmud, to the conquest of Jerusalem by the Muslims.
- From Islam to Christendom: The sixth period (638 CE – 1096 CE) from the conquest of Jerusalem by the Muslims to the first Crusades by the Christians.
- Anti-Semitism Takes Hold: The seventh period (1096 CE – 1492 CE) from the first crusades to the first blood libel in England and the Spanish Inquisition and expulsion.
- Darkest Before The Dawn: The eighth period (1492 CE – 1948 CE) from the expulsion from Spain to the discovery and arrival of first Jews in America, to rule under the Ottoman Empire, the pogroms, the Holocaust, and the founding of the modern State of Israel.
- Redemption and Mashiach: The ninth period (1948 CE – ~2239 CE) from the founding of the State of Israel to the reunification of Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty, the Aliyah “from the four corners of the earth,” to the completion of the redemption and arrival of the Mashiach.
- “Light Unto The Nations:” The tenth and final period (~2239 – ) from the arrival of Mashiach, to world peace, and to Israel becoming a true and everlasting “Light unto the nations” until the end of times.
The Jewish people have an incredible history that takes us along a clear trajectory from our founding of monotheism and special relationship with G-d as His “chosen” in the receiving the Torah and its transmission, to our many weaknesses and failures in going astray from our mission, and ultimately to our redemption and achievement of G-d’s purpose for us in bringing his teachings and glory to all the world.
I would like to thank Ken Spiro and credit his book, Crash Course in Jewish History, for providing me the overall timeline of historical events and for serving as an inspiration to me to see the periods and patterns from this to share with you.