The image above is a good reminder for how small was the world of the Ancient Near East people in general, and the Hebrews in particular, because they were a little bit to the left of the little red bulb of Mesopotamia.
Mesopotamia (Greek for "Between the Rivers") and Egypt are two of the most ancient "human cradles of civilizations", including urban centers, culture, specialization, and more. The little green patch in between the Mesopotamian and Egyptian rivers was mostly populated by Philistines, Phoenicians, and others, while to the south of them lived the Hebrews. The upside: they were right next to where the real shit was going down.
Uruk was once upon a time the biggest city in the world. It was probably founded around 4500 BCE and reached its peak ar around 3200 BCE. The city was made of monumental mud-brick buildings, and included extraordinary art, huge sculptures and relief carvings. They also came up with the first known writing system, cuneiform, which spread far and wide in the region. Uruk was a strong political and geopolitical player until around 2500 BCE, even though it remained inhabited until about the 6th century CE.
The Bronze Age saw the rise of several LARGE political powers and cultures in the Ancient Near East, most notably Babylon, Assyria, Egypt, the Hittites and Mycenean Greeks. There were also several other peoples in Troy, Canaan and Elam. In the Arabian peninsula, lived rival nomadic tribes that will later be called Arabs.
The so-called Late Bronze Age Collapse "officially" ended the Bronze Age around 1200 BCE, when almost all of the biggest kingdoms collapsed suddenly and violently, leaving behind archeological remnants and ancient myths.
The vacuum created by the Late Bronze Age Collapse opened up options for an endless array of smaller cities, players, and peoples. And once the Phoenicians invented the phonetic alphabet it allowed thosenew kids on the block to cement their place in the world through written stories in their own specific (albeit similar) language. That is when the Aramaic people rose to prominence as their language became the Lingua Franca of the time. Concurrently, the Greeks started writing their epics and the Hebrews began putting together their biblical stories.
And here come the Hebrews! For the first time, they step onto the regional stage, with two kingdoms sandwiched between several others. Much is debated and little is definitively known about all these non-Hebrew ancient peoples shown in this map, how different or similar they were and where they went. Well, they didn't have a book.
The Assyrian empire ruled dominanted the ancient world between the 900s BCE to the 600s BCE. Assyria destroyed the somewhat successful Kingdom of Israel, and later gave Judah its own beating. These events were the driving force in the formation of the biblical project, including the culture and religious traditions of both the Judeans and the Israelites who immigrated out from Judea once their homeland was decimated. The Assyrian period shaped the ancient world and thus the Bible.
The Babylonians led a massive revolt against the Assyrians and replaced them as the regional superpower in 612 BCE. The Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar II established an empire that did not last long after his death. Judea was annihilated, Jerusalem burned and the Hebrew ruling and priestly elite was taken captive to Babylonia, as were thousands of working people. Tens of thousands of those that remained at first, immigrated to Egypt a few years later. This was a disaster the Hebrews shared with their neighboring kingdoms, as tens of thousands of people were taken captive.
The heavy-handed Babylonians were supplanted by the gracious, just and noble Persian Achaemenid Empire, which ruled between 550-330 BCE. Cyrus the Great established what was then the largest and greatest empire the world has ever seen, based more so on trade and cooperation than the violent repression enacted by its predecessors. King Cyrus freed hundreds of thousands of people in his first year, and in doing became a living legend, Cyrus is called in the Bible Yahwe's Messiah.
The Persian empire was came to an abrupt end in the 330s BCE when the forces of Alexander the Great plowed through the ancient world. He died soon after and his empire as divided among his successors, and thus Hellenization spread all the way to India.
When the Hellenistic kingdoms began to fade, the Hebrews fought for their independence, and In 140 BCE, it became official: an independent and populist Hebrew kingdom was established by leader Shimon (Simon) Thassi. Shimon was assassinated in 134 BCE, and his descendants turned Judea into a Hellenistic-style Hebrew kingdom with an autocratic king who is above the law. Endless civil wars and revolts and constant radicalization led Roman general Pompeius Magnus (Pompei the Great) to conquer Judea in 63 BCE and turned it into a client state of the empire.
Under Rome, there were always Judean factions who would wage war against the empire and against the locals who did not support their revolts. Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 CE, and then destroyed for good 135 CE, when Rome went all in, laid waste to Judea and Jerusalem, and gave them Hellenistic and Roman names (Philistia and Alya Capitolina, respectively). Most Hebrews were exiled or left to settle in other parts of the Roman Empire, looking for greener pastures. An infinitesimal number of Hebrews lived in the Hebrew land between that time and the late 19th century.