It is very hard to explain the history of Judaism in a series of brief articles. The main points will be told to understand what Judaism is and who the children of Israel are. It starts with Abraham. God started the first covenant with Abraham that he would be the father of a great nation. He also promised land for Abraham and his descendants. This would be the land of Israel. Abraham passed this covenant down to his son Isaac, and Isaac passed it to his son Jacob. Jacob took this inheritance from his older brother Esau. Jacob then fathered 12 sons through 4 women. These are the sons of Israel (Jacob): Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, Dan, Joseph, Benjamin, Naphtali, Gad and Asher. These are the names of the sons of Israel (Jacob and his descendants) who went to Egypt: Reuben the firstborn of Jacob.
The missing link for many people is where the name Israel came from. God changed Jacob’s name to Israel. So when we refer to Israel, or the children or 12 tribes of Israel, we are referring to the descendants that all come from the 12 lines (sons) of Abraham’s grandson, Jacob (Israel). Very simple, but important to understand.
Now one of Israel’s sons Joseph, through the planning of Lord was sent to Egypt as a slave and later became a powerful man answering only to Pharaoh. From this power, Joseph had all his family, the full family, all 11 including Jacob to live in Egypt. Jacob died and was buried back in the land of Israel. His sons and their families lived in Egypt. They began to multiply and grow in great number. Joseph’s power also relinquished after the death of pharaoh. The later Pharaoh saw the tribes of Israel as a threat. As they grew in size they would eventually overtake Egypt, so he decided to enslave them early to eliminate them as a threat.
So it’s important to understand that Israel (the 12 tribes of Jacob (Israel)) were living in Egypt under Egyptian rule as slaves. They were not ever commanded by God yet on His statutes. They were also influenced by these Egyptian pagan worshippers of Ra and Horus. They believed that God had land promised for them, aware of the covenant of Abraham, but being slaves they were losing faith.