925 BCE - 586 BCE - Two Kingdoms
When Solomon died in 925 or 926 BC, the northerners refused to recognize his successor Rehoboam. Although his was a golden age, it was in his time that idolatry was introduced into Israel. Upon his death a revolt broke out. Solomon had taxed the people heavily, to further his many expensive ventures. The people wanted the taxes decreased. Rehaboam, his son and successor, refused to listen to the clamors of the people.
Ten tribes seceded and formed an independent kingdom, called the "Kingdom of Israel," leaving to Rehaboam only Judah and Benjamin, termed the "Kingdom of Judah." After the north broke away it was ruled by the House of Omri. Israel had 19 and Judah 20 kings. The "Kings of the Divided Monarchy" portion of the Hebrew record, long considered the "Gordian knot of Sacred Chronology," is commonly purported as the most difficult and error prone period.
Jeraboam, the first king of Israel, desirous of weaning the tribes of their attachment to Jerusalem, the common sanctuary, introduced the calf worship in Dan and Bethel. Israel, through the example of its kings, went from bad to worse. The northern kingdom of Israel, more populous than the south, possessing more fertile land and closer to the trading centers of the time, flourished until it was completely destroyed and its ten tribes sent into permanent exile by the Assyrians between 740 and 721 BC. The destruction of the north had a sobering effect on the south. The prophet Isaiah eloquently proclaimed that rather than power and wealth, social justice and adherence to the will of God should be the focus of the Israelites.
The period from the decline to the fall of the Kingdoms of Judah and Israel was the period during which most of the great prophets, whose utterances are preserved in the books that bear their names, lived and wrought, and over which they exercised a commanding influence. Baal was the supreme male divinity of the Phoenician and Canaanitish nations - as Asiitoketh was their supreme female divinity. Both names have the peculiarity of being used in the plural; and it seems certain that these plurals designate not statues of the divinities, but different modifications of the divinities themselves. The worship of Baal among the Jews appears to have been appointed with much pomp and ceremonial.
The 12 tribes descended from Jacob's children were called "Israel" in Egypt, and throughout the Pentateuch, the books of Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings. The name was afterward given to the larger portion, or 10 northern tribes, after the death of Saul, a distinction that obtained even in David's time. But more definitely was the name applied to the schismatical portion of the nation, including all the tribes save Judah, Simeon, and Benjamin, which set up a separate monarchy in Samaria after the death of Solomon.
In the reign of Solomon the prophet Ahijah was intrusted with the announcement to Jeroboam that, in punishment for the many acts of disobedience to the divine law, and particularly of the idolatry so extensively practiced by Solomon, the greater part of the kingdom would be transferred to him. This breach was never healed. The precise amount of territory contained in the Kingdom of Israel cannot precisely be ascertained ; it was probably about as nine to four compared with the sister Kingdom of Judah; the 10 tribes included in Jsrael probably were Ephraim and Manasseh, (E. and W.,) Issachar, Zebulon, Asher, Naphtali, Gad, Reuben, and part of Dan; the population was estimated, at the separation, about 4,000,000.
It was not long before the new kingdom showed signs of weakness. It developed no new power, which is not surprising considering that it was but a section of David's kingdom shorn of many sources of strength. The history of the Kingdom of Israel is, therefore, the history of its decay and dissolution. The first symptom of decline was shown in the emigration of many families who adhered to the old religion of the Israelites back to Judah ; and to check this Jeroboam set up rival sanctuaries with visible idols 976 B.C., but which only increased the evil he wished to check. As soon as the golden calves were set up the priests and Levites flocked back to Judah, where they were warmly received. Jeroboam's whole policy aimed singly at his own aggrandizement. To supply the want of a priesthood, divine in its origin, a line of prophets was raised up remarkable for their purity and austerity. Jeroboam reigned 22 years.; his son Kadab was violently cut off after a brief reign of two years, with all his house, and so ended the line of Jeroboam.
Domestic famine, the sword of the foreigner, and internal dissensions helped the tottering kingdom on its downward way, and only one brief era of prosperity occurred, under the sway of Jeroboam II., who reigned 42 yrs. The kingdom of Israel was invaded by three or four successive kings of Assyria. Pul (Phul, generally identified with Tiglath-pileser III) imposed a tribute in BC 771 (al. 738) upon Menahem (1 Ch. v. 26 and 2 K. xv- 19); and carried away in BC 740 (al. 734) the trans-Jordanic tribes (1 Ch. v. 26) and the inhabitants of Galilee (2 K. Xt. 29, cp. Is. ix. 1), to Assyria. Shalmaneser invaded (2 K. xvii. 3) the kingdom which remained to Hoshea; and in 721 Samaria was taken by Shalmaneser, the 10 tribes were carried into captivity, and an end was put to the Kingdom of Israel. His successor, Sargon, after the siege of Samaria had lasted two years, took the city (BC 722), and carried Israel away into Assyria.
The Kingdom of Judah may be said to date from the division of the kingdom of Israel at the death of Solomon. It was composed of the tribes of Judah, Simeon, and Benjamin, when the territory of all the rest of Israel was lost to Rehoboam, and included the priests and Levites who emigrated in great number from Israel, and who rallied round the city of David. The territory comprised within its limits included a part, if not all, of the territory of Simeon, of Dan, of Benjamin, the last connected with Judah by Jerusalem, situated on the borders of both, which formed an indissoluble bond between them, and at a later date portions of Ephraim. The population has been variously estimated at from 6,000,000 under Jehoshaphat down to 1,200,000 under Amaziah ; but at the time of the separation about 2,000,000 would appear to be the correct number. Subsequently, when the captivity had destroyed all practical distinction between the two and the ten, the scattered remnants had no visible head save at Jerusalem, which had been re-occupied by a part of Judah's exiles.
During Rehoboam's life-time peaceful relations between Israel and Judah were never restored ; the King of Judah made an effort to conquer Israel, but the expedition was forbidden by the prophet Shemaiah. He then occupied himself in strengthening his kingdom. The pure worship of God was maintained, but along with it the worship of Ashtoreth was allowed to exist. These evils were punished by an Egyptian invasion under Shishak, who captured Jerusalem and pillaged the Temple, B.C. 971; Abijah, Rehoboam's successor, defeated the King of Israel, 957 ; Hazael, King of Damascus, invaded Judah in the reign of Ahaziah, 857, and desolated the land; Pekah, King of Israel, laid siege to Jerusalem, and 120,000 men were slain in one day, 741 ; Sennacherib invaded Judah, 710; in repairing the Temple Hilkiah discovered the Book of the Law, and Josiah kept a solemn Passover, 624 ; Nebuchadnezzar invaded the land of Judah, 605 ; besieged Jerusalem, 699 ; he again invaded Judah and captured the city after a long siege, 588; the city reduced to ashes, 587.
The Temple of Solomon was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 BCE (II Kings xxv. 9).
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