Chiefly in the law of God (Ex 12:26; 13:8,14; De 4:5,9-10; 6:2,7,20; 11:19,21; Ac 22:3; 2Ti 3:15). The Book of Proverbs inculcates on parents, as to their children, the duty of disciplinary instruction and training in the word of God. This was the ONE book of national education in the reformations undertaken by Jehoshaphat and Josiah (2Ch 17:7-9; 34:30). The priests' and Levites' duty especially was to teach the people (2Ch 15:3; Le 10:11; Mal 2:7; Ne 8:2,8-9,13; Jer 18:18).
The Mishna says that parents ought to teach their children some trade, and he who did not virtually taught his child to steal. The prophets, or special public authoritative teachers, were trained in schools or colleges (Am 7:14). "Writers," or musterers general, belonging to Zebulun, who enrolled recruits and wrote the names of those who went to war, are mentioned (Jg 5:14). "Scribes of the host" (Jer 52:25) appear in the Assyrian bas-reliefs, writing down the various persons or objects brought to them, so that there is less exaggeration than in the Egyptian representations of battle. Seraiah was David's scribe or secretary, and Jehoshaphat, son of Ahilud, was "recorder" or writer of chronicles, historiographer (2Sa 8:16-17); Shebun was Hezekiah's scribe (2Ki 18:37).
The learned, according to the rabbis, were called "sons of the noble," and took precedence at table. Boys at five years of age, says the Mishna, were to begin reading Scripture, at ten they were to begin reading the Mishna, and at thirteen years of age they were subject to the whole law (Lu 2:46); at fifteen they entered study of the Gemara. The prophetic schools included females such as Huldah (2Ki 22:14). The position and duties of females among the Jews were much higher than among other Orientals (Pr 31:10-31; Lu 8:2-3; 10:38, etc.; Ac 13:50; 2Ti 1:5).
In the importance which they attached to the education of the young, it may fairly be claimed that the Hebrews were facile princeps among the nations of antiquity. Indeed, if the ultimate aim of education be the formation of character, the Hebrew ideals and methods will bear comparison with the best even of modern times. In character Hebrew education was predominantly, one might almost say exclusively, religious and ethical. Its fundamental principle may be expressed in the familiar words: 'The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge' (Pr 1:7). Yet it recognized that conduct was the true test of character; in the words of Simeon, the son of Gamaliel, that 'not learning but doing is the chief thing.'
As to the educational attainments of the Hebrews before the conquest of Canaan, it is useless to speculate. On their settlement in Canaan, however, they were brought into contact with a civilization which for two thousand years or more had been under the influence of Babylonia and in a less degree of Egypt. The language of Babylonia, with its complicated system of wedge-writing, had for long been the medium of communication not only between the rulers of the petty states of Canaan and the great powers outside its borders, but even, as we now know from Sellin's discoveries at Taanach, between these rulers themselves. This implies the existence of some provision for instruction in reading and writing the difficult Babylonian script. Although in this early period such accomplishments were probably confined to a limited number of high officials and professional scribes, the incident in Gideon's experience, Jg 8:14 (where we must render with Revised Version margin 'wrote down'), warns us against unduly restricting the number of those able to read and write in the somewhat later period of the Judges. The more stable political conditions under the monarchy, and in particular the development of the administration and the growth of commerce under Solomon, must undoubtedly have furthered the spread of education among all classes.
Of schools and schoolmasters, however, there is no evidence till after the Exile, for the expression 'schools of the prophets' has no Scripture warrant. Only once, indeed, is the word 'school' to be found even in NT (Ac 19:9), and then only of the lecture-room of a Greek teacher in Ephesus. The explanation of this silence is found in the fact that the Hebrew child received his education in the home, with his parents as his only instructors. Although he grew up ignorant of much that 'every school-boy' knows to-day, he must not on that account be set down as uneducated. He had been instructed, first of all, in the truths of his ancestral religion (see De 6:20-25 and elsewhere); and in the ritual of the recurring festivals there was provided for him object-lessons in history and religion (Ex 12:26 f., Ex 13:8,14). In the traditions of his family and race
There is little trace among the Hebrews in earlier times of education in any other subjects than the law. The wisdom therefore and instruction, of which so much is said in the book of Proverbs, are to be understood chiefly of moral and religious discipline, imparted, according to the direction of the law, by the teaching and under the example of parents. (But Solomon himself wrote treatises on several scientific subjects, which must have been studied in those days.) In later times the prophecies and comments on them, as well as on the earlier Scriptures, together with other subjects, were studied. Parents were required to teach their children some trade. (Girls also went to schools, and women generally among the Jews were treated with greater equality to men than in any other ancient nation.) Previous to the captivity, the chief depositaries of learning were the schools or colleges, from which in most cases proceeded that succession of public teachers who at various times endeavored to reform the moral and religious conduct of both rulers and people. Besides the prophetical schools instruction was given by the priests in the temple and elsewhere. [See SCHOOLS]