Summary of the Old Testament:
After Adam and Eve, the Hebrew lineage truly began with Abraham (about 1900 B.C.).
Abraham's Personal Covenant (contract) with God (Genesis 12, 15, 17)God said that Abraham would be the father of "many nations" and
that Abraham and his descendants should circumcize the male babies on the
eighth day after birth to seal the contract.
From Abraham came Isaac, then Jacob (whose name was changed to Israel), who had twelve sons, giving rise to the twelve "tribes" of Israel. One of Jacob's sons, Joseph, was sold into slavery in Egypt, leading to Jacob and his family coming to Egypt and later their descendents becoming slaves in Egypt. Moses (about 1250 B.C.) led the Exodus (freeing of Israelites from bondage) from Egypt and the Covenant of God with the Hebrew nation was made:
Hebrew People's Covenant (Old Covenant) with God (Exodus 34:27-28)
God gave the people the Ten Commandments for the people of Israel to obey
in order that He be their God.
There were constant problems with the Jewish people believing in idols and other "gods." Finally the people reached the Promised Land and settled there after Moses' death. "Judges" led the people until about 1000 B.C. when Kings were installed, yet these were still thought of as people doing God's bidding (not as other nations' kings which had all power being theirs alone). King David and King Solomon led a united, strong country -- which became divided after Solomon's death:
Southern Kingdom -- called Judah, though consisting of both the "tribes"
of Judah and Benjamin; this group included the city of Jerusalem.
The Southern Kingdom fell to the Babylonians in 586 B.C.
Northern Kingdom-- called Israel, consisting of the other 10 "tribes";
this group included Samaria.
The Northern Kingdom fell to the Assyrians around 722 B.C.
Although the Hebrews rebuilt the Temple in Jerusalem in 520 B.C., they never regained strength and were eventually conquered by Rome.
The struggles of the Hebrew people and their dispersion from their country were thought to be from their belief in idols and heathen "gods" (mostly resulting from their marrying non-Jews who brought in outside religions). The prophets (including Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel) were spokesmen for God to the people and to their leaders: they often disagreed with the men in power and had no fear of expressing their messages from God -- generally directing against the idolatry and "false gods."
There are many points of wisdom (Books of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Job). Poems and hymns of the Hebrew people are expressed in Psalms. In the latter writings, there was a general belief in the "last days" (of the future around their time or at a time to come) and of the Messiah who would lead them with great power.