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The Divided Kingdom and the Fall of Israel and Judah

Rehoboam I and Jeromboam I

  • Rehoboam naively trusts young counselors and refuses to lift the burden Solomon placed on the people (12:6-16).
  • Jeroboam I and northern Israel reject the Davidic dynasty from Judah. To consolidate his rule and prevent his subjects from attending religious services in Jerusalem, he sets up cult centres in Dan and Bethel and installs golden calves in them.
  • The Deuteronomistic Historian calls this the “sin of Jeroboam” and no rulers of Northern Israel turn away from it.

Rulers of Israel and Judah: Overview

  • Synchronism between north and south rulers. All rulers of Israel are deemed evil, while some rulers of Judah are deemed good.
  • Israel: Jeroboam I, Nadab, Baasha, Elah, Zimri, Omri, Ahab, Ahaziah, Jehoram, Jehu, Joahaz, Jehoash, Jeroboam II, Zechariah, Shallum, Menahem, Pekahiah, Pekah, Hoshea
  • Judah: Rehoboam, Abijah, Asa, Jehoshaphat, Jehoram, Ahaziah, Athaliah, Jehoash, Amaziah, Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, Hezekiah, Manasseh, Amon, Josiah, Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin, Zedekiah

The House of Omri in Israel

  • Omri (876-869 BCE) set up the capital Samaria, aligned with Judah and Phoenicia, and controlled Moab (cf. Mesha Stele). The Assyrians called Israel “Omri-land.” 1 Kings 16:25-26 briefly dismisses him as evil.
  • Omri’s son Ahab (869-850 BCE) marries Abizebel (“my divine father is a prince”), better known as “Jezebel” (“not a prince”), the daughter of Ethbaal (“With him is Baal”) of Tyre.
  • Ahab establishes the Baal cult in Israel. The Baal Cycle was discovered in 1929 in ancient Ugarit (=Ras Shamra in Syria). El (Ilu) was head of the Canaanite pantheon, Athirat (Asherah) his consort, and his 70 offspring include Yam (“Sea”) and Mot (“death”). The cloud-rider Baal (“fertility”) was a storm god who aided agriculture (crops, cattle, grain, wine, oil) and defeated Yam and Mot.
  • The prophet Elijah (“Yahweh is God”) caused drought in the land and proves that only Yahweh can set the sacrifice ablaze on Mt. Carmel (1 Kings 18).
  • Jehu’s (842-815 BCE) coup against Omri’s line put an end to Jezebel, 70 sons of Ahab, 42 members of the Jerusalem court, and Baal’s prophets. He continued the “sin of Jeroboam” and Hosea 1:4 condemns Jehu’s violence.

The Fall of Israel

  • Jeroboam II (786-746 BCE) re-fortified Samaria and had a long, prosperous reign that created conditions for social inequality (cf. Amos, Hosea).
  • Political instability from Zechariah to Hoshea.
  • Tiglath-Pileser III (Pul in the Hebrew Bible) extends the Assyrian empire west to the Levant. Pekah of Israel and Rezin of Syria tried to force Judah in an alliance against Assyria in 732 BCE (cf. 2 Kings 16:5; Isaiah 7:14), while Ahaz of Judah appealed to Assyria who defeated Israel and Syria and made Judah a vassal.
  • Hoshea (732-721 BCE) assassinated Pekah in support of Tiglath-Pileser III, but renounced his vassalage to Assyria in the rule of Shalmaneser V.
  • Shalmaneser attacked Samaria for three years. His successor, Sargon II, destroyed Samaria and deported nearly 30,000 Israelites while resettling others in the region in 721 BCE (2 Kings 17:7-24).

The Fall of Judah

  • The good king Hezekiah (715-687 BCE) supported reforms (e.g. removed altars, promoted Passover) and building projects (e.g. water tunnel). He resisted vassalage to Assyria and, though Assyria’s king Sennacherib took 46 cities and shut up Hezekiah in Jerusalem “like a bird in a birdcage” (ANET 288; cf. 2 Kings 18-19; Isaiah 36-37), he did not take Jerusalem in 701 BCE. 
  • Manasseh (687-642 BCE) was a long reigning yet evil king. 2 Chronicles 33:11-17 adds a story of how the Assyrians imprisoned him and he repented before resuming his rule.
  • The good king Josiah (641-609 BCE) promoted reforms based on a “book of the law” (Deuteronomy?). He is slain in battle with Pharaoh Neco II at Megiddo.
  • Babylon defeated Assyria’s capital Nineveh in 612 BCE. Judah was caught between Egypt and Babylon who each had the upper hand at times.
  • Pharaoh Neco II replaced Jehoahaz II with Jehoiakim as Judah’s king.
  • Johoiakim refused the tribute to Babylon, so Jerusalem was attacked. Jehioakim died before the siege ended, but his son Jehoiachin was taken captive in 597 BCE.
  • Babylon’s Nebuchadnezzer II put Zedekiah on Judah’s throne, but a year later destroyed Jerusalem and its temple and exiled its elites in 587 BCE.
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