Historical Background of the Old Testament (Zoom Course)



3 Academic Credit Hours (October 11 – December 20, 2022)

Historical Background of the Old Testament


Course will be held via Zoom on Tuesdays , 4 – 7 PM GMT+3 (Israel Time)


Course Description

This course delves into the history, traditions, customs and religion of Israel and the surrounding nations during the period of the Tanakh (Old Testament). It will give the student a historical framework for the period of the Tanakh, and look at various aspects of government, society, economics and cult in the Ancient Near East, with a focus on shared and unique elements found in Israelite society.

Course Structure

The lessons will be held through a Zoom format, consisting of lectures and interactive discussions between all participants. There will be 10 three hour (with breaks) Live zoom lectures. Recordings will be available to registered students to watch multiple times during the time of the course and for six weeks after it ends. It won’t be possible to download video lectures to personal PC.

We cannot ensure the quality of zoom recordings should technical failures occur. We highly encourage students to participate in all live lectures.

Course Goals

  1. To learn about the world into which Israel was birthed: its history, cultures, customs and religions.
  2. To deepen our understanding and appreciation of the Hebrew Scriptures, by comparison and contrast with other societies in the ancient Near East.
  3. To provide tools for the student to interpret Old Testament events and descriptions in their cultural and geopolitical context.

Course Topics

  • Geographical Setting, Chronology and Sources
  • History and Culture of Mesopotamia
  • Patriarchal Narratives in their Near Eastern context
  • History and Culture of Egypt until the end of the Middle Kingdom
  • Joseph and the Exodus in its ancient Egyptian context
  • Mittani, Neo-Hittites and Ugarit
  • Covenant and Religion in the Late Bronze Age
  • The Settlement Period: Nomadic Society / Agricultural Society
  • Death, Afterlife and Resurrection in the Old Testament and in the Ancient Near East
  • Sacrifice and Sacrificial Offerings in the Old Testament and in the Ancient Near East
  • David and Solomon: Legendary or Historical?
  • Divided Kingdom in its Geopolitical Context
  • The Babylonian Empire
  • Return to Jerusalem and Rebuilding the Temple
  • The Persian Empire
  • Life in exile
  • Rebuilding the Walls of Jerusalem

Instructor: Dr. Sheila Gyllenberg

Sheila was born in Canada and has lived in Israel since 1983. She holds a master’s degree in Jewish History and a doctorate in Land of Israel Studies and Archaeology from Israel’s Bar Ilan University. In addition to her work as a tour guide, she teaches archaeology, history and biblical geography at Israel College of the Bible, where she heads the college’s department for Israel study tours.




  • Live Lectures via Zoom
  • Tuesdays , 4 – 7 PM GMT+3 (Israel Time)
  • Language: English

Required Textbooks

Main Texts

A variety of texts and readings will be utilized, including:

Arnold, Bill and Richard S. Hess. Ancient Israel’s History: An Introduction to Issues and Sources.
Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2014.

Freedman, D. N. (ed.). Anchor Bible Dictionary, 6 Vols. New York, 1992.

Hays, Christopher B. Hidden Riches: A Sourcebook for the comparative Study of the Hebrew Bible and Ancient Near East. Westminster John Knox Press, 2014.

Notley, Steven R. and Anson F. Rainey. The Sacred Bridge:  Carta’s Atlas of the Biblical World.

Jerusalem: Carta, 2006.

Provan, I., P. Long, and T. Longman. A Biblical History of Israel. (Westminster John Knox, 2003)

Vos, Howard F. Wycliffe Historical Geography of Bible Lands. Revised Ed.  Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2003

Yamauchi, Edwin M. Persia and the Bible. Grand Rapids, MI.: Baker Books, 1990.

*Most of the required readings will be posted or sent to students by email

Course Fees

  • For Personal Enrichment  – $249 USD
  • For Academic Credit  – $750 USD

*These fees do not include required textbooks

**Payment is non-refundable