Soul of the Israelites refers to the teachings transmitted by the Prophet Moses to the Israelites from their God, YHWH. Central to the argument of Soul of the Israelites is the solution to the two great mysteries concerning the formation and destiny of the Israelites: 1. Who are these people; how were they formed into tribes and then a nation? 2. Who was Moses, an historical figure, a religious myth of the imagination? How did his teachings come to be so central to the destiny of this people?
The tribes of Israel, the twelve sons of Jacob, united in the monarchy, were in all likelihood of tripartite origins. First, the Israelite highlanders from Canaan/Shechem, worshippers of the traditional God, gods of the Middle East, El/Elohim. Second, the nomadic tribes of Sinai, the Negeb, northwest Arabia, and the oases of south Canaan, what would become Judah, worshippers of the fiery war god, YHWH. Third, Moses and the returnees from the Delta of Egypt. These latter, now worshippers of YHWH of the wilderness tribes, had, through the efforts of Moses, transformed this God into a moral and intellectual force unique to existing religious belief.
Moses was too powerful and too concrete a human being to have been an invention. But his individual gift of vision was not his alone. The rigorous belief system that Moses provided to this rabble of Asiatic escapees from the
corvée was their only hope of returning to that land of «milk and honey.»
YHWH did not permit Moses personally to attain that goal. That role passes forward to future generations of judges, prophets, priests. Despite the efforts of the wisest of them, both the rulers and the
am-har-etz, the people of the land, failed the Law.
The Mesopotamian destruction of the Kingdoms and then the Temple, 586 BCE, was sanctioned by YHWH. Expelled from their homeland, once more in exile, the Israelites were again to be tested, to reconstruct their moral identity, their nationhood, and their Temple, 2500-586 BCE.