History of Israelite and Jewish Worship

Source: The Complete Library of Christian Worship, Robert E. Webber, General Editor

From the beginning Israel's worship is a response to Yahweh for the acts he has performed in its history. Israel's whole history is a life of coexistence with God, a partnership in a historical drama. The emphasis is on Yahweh as the initiator, but Israel responds. The people address Yahweh in a personal way. They offer praise, ask questions, complain about suffering, and converse with him about all the issues of life. This conversation of worship is recorded throughout the Scriptures,...

Worship In the Patriarchal Period

The central figure of patriarchal worship is Abraham, who received Yahweh's promise of land and descendants.

Mosaic Worship and the Exodus

After the Exodus the worship of Israel became more formalized, characterized by the Mosaic institutions and regulations. The commitment to the law of the covenant became the central feature of Israelite worship.

The Danger of Canaanite Religious Influence on Israelite Worship

In Canaan Israelite worship incorporated elements from pagan worship, especially that of Baal, and Israel went through periods of apostasy and reform.

Worship During the Davidic Period

Under David's leadership, worship was established in Jerusalem. David organized the functions of the priesthood, placing special emphasis on the use of music in worship.

Israelite Worship from Solomon to the Exile

Although Solomon completed and dedicated the temple, the foreign influences and faulty civil policy that set in during his reign eventually led to the demise of the Israelite commonwealth.

Israelite Worship During the Exile and Restoration

The return of Israel after the Exile brought renewed interest in worship; the temple was rebuilt and sacrifices were reinstated. The synagogue, originated during the Exile, now became the focal point of a nonsacrificial worship.

Israelite Worship During the Intertestamental Period

Prior to the first Christian century, Judaism began to develop traditional interpretations of the Law that would eventually be written down to regulate Jewish life and worship. Judaism was influenced by Greek culture, resulting in the rise of a class of scribes and segments of the Jewish community which were more thoroughly hellenized. The groupings formed during this period set the stage for the various sectarian movements within Judaism of the early Christian era.