To fully understand where Judaism came from, we need to accurately define ‘Judaism’ first. What we know today as the modern form of Judaism, which is a monotheistic and rabbinic Judaism, is around two thousand years old. While that certainly is a long time, the original form of Abrahamic religion dates all the way back to the Iron Age. As far as the regions go, they were the kingdoms of Israel and Judah, and they make up the majority of the Western Bank today.
Leaving aside the notion that Judah and Israel were, at some point unknown to us, a single monarchy ruled by judges before the Institution of David is important. An extremely comprehensive research project has been recently undertaken by archaeologists from Israel to determine whether or not this has any factual basis. Since no evidence has been found to date, we can safely assume (for now, of course) that Israel and Judah were separate nations and developed without any form of political intermingling.
Now, while it is true that these two countries developed separately, they were united in their religion, and therefore had the same practices, freedoms, restrictions, and religious laws. Their people, usually known by historians and by biblical characters as the Israelites, were originally Canaanites who decided that they were fed up with their religion and split apart. However, they still worshipped Canaanite gods and were viewed historically and culturally as Canaanites.
This was not unusual, particularly in the middle east. The majority of countries, cultures, and religions tended to worship polytheistic deities. The foremost distinction ever discovered between the Jews and the Canaanites was this line from the Merneptah Stele; “The nation of Israel was laid to waste, but his seed was not.” This was one of the actions taken by the Egyptians during the subjugation of the Canaanites around the Iron Age, during 1200 BCE, or so it has been agreed.
What this means is still unknown. There is so much that we take for granted, and even more that we do not know about Judaism, the Canaanites, and every ancient culture. What we have taken it to mean, however, is not that they were entirely wiped out. We know that this has to be along the lines of factual basis because they survived the invasion and they were taken as slaves to Egypt, where they grew and multiplied over 250 years.
If you get some time, watch this video on the History of Judaism as it will explain with greater detail what we’re attempting to outline.
Although the different reasonings and circumstances have proven to be too lengthy to list in this article, we know (or so we think) how the original nations of Judaism came about and prospered. During the 10th Century BCE, Judah was little more than a confederation of 20 or so villages, or communities. These included Jerusalem and Hebron, while Israel itself was still the dominant power (regarding its regional superiority) for most of its lifespan since its inception.
The regions that pertained of Judah, Hebron and Israel were little more than continuations of the already traditional Israelite religion because they all hailed from the same place.
The main turning point in Israelite history was around 720 BCE. At this time, the Kingdom of Israel was defeated after an extremely long, bloody, and lengthy battle against the Neo-Assyrian Empire. At the same time, the Kingdom of Judah was so weak and small that it was entirely ignored by the Assyrians, and was never called to arms.
At the same time, under the vicious rule of King Hezekiah, the national religion of Judaism was being secured in Jerusalem.
This marked the first official and widespread origin of Judaism, as it converted, changed, influenced and spread throughout all of the many cultures that converged within Jerusalem’s walls.