At the time of Abraham, people in Mesopotamia worshiped
thousands of gods. People in Egypt worshiped many nature gods. The
Egyptians also worshiped the sun and spirits and even their own kings.
This belief in many gods and goddesses is called "polytheism"
Egyptian goddess Isis
Egyptian god Osiris
The ancient Israelites introduced a new idea. The Israelites came to believe
that there was only one true god. The Israelites believed that their
god was all-powerful, all-knowing and was present everywhere.
The Israelites saw themselves as the chosen people of their god.
This belief in one god is called "monotheism".
Central to the religion of the ancient Israelites was the belief that they had
entered into a special relationship with their god, Yahweh. This relationship
was called a covenant. According to this covenant, the Israelites were to
follow all the rules and regulations in the Torah (or Bible). In return,
their god promised to protect them, increase their population,
and give them the land of Canaan as their homeland forever.
The primary form of worship in ancient Israel was animal and grain
sacrifice. Sacrifices were not offered in one main location
until King David made Jerusalem his capital city. From that time
until the second Temple was destroyed by the Romans in
70 A.D., sacrifices were only allowed in Jerusalem.