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 Imagined United Kingdom: as of now there is no archeological or historical evidence that suggests the biblical story of a united Hebrew kingdom of the line of David is anything but a local myth telling of a magnificent past. As we all know, glorifying one's past did not start nor end with the Hebrews.
The Assyrian empire came in in the 9th and 7th centuries BCE and destroyed the somewhat successful Kingdom of Israel and the House of King Omri (no relations), 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 to Judah once their homeland was decimated. The Assyrian period has shaped much of the biblical perspective.
Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar II led a revolt against the Assyrians and replaced it as the regional superpower in 626 BCE. His empire will not last long beyond his own death, and would cease to exist by 539 BCE. The rebellious Hebrews were exiled after Jerusalem was destroyed, while the more dovish Hebrews left for Egypt. This is the defining moment in the biblical perspective and the Jewish experience for the two millennia to come.
The heavy-handed Babylonians were supplanted rather quickly by the Persian Achaemenid Empire, who ruled between 550-330 BCE. Cyrus the Great established was then the strongest and largest empire the world has ever seen, based more so on trade and cooperation than the violent repression enacted by its predecessors. King Cyrus allowed the Hebrews in Babylon to return to their homeland and was thus portrayed in the bible in the most glowing terms imaginable.
The Persian empire was abruptly discarded into the dustbin of history by the forces of Alexander the Great in the 330s BCE, who incorporated the entire Near East into the Hellenistic world, even once his short-lived empire did not survive his death in 323 BCE and was divided among his top generals, as seen in the next map.
The Hasmonean dynasty took advantage of the fading Seleucid Empire and carved out its own indenpendent state between 110 BCE and 63 BCE. Then came Pompeius Magnus and his Roman legions, sacked Jerusalem, destroyed its temple, and turned it into a client state.
Under Rome, there were always Judean factions who would wage war against the empire and against the locals who did not support their revolts. After three Romano-Jewish Wars, as they are called, Rome went all in, laid waste, and renamed the region Philistine. Many were exiled and others left to settle in other parts of the Roman Empire, looking for greener pastures