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Period: Divided Monarchy

Summary

After the death of Solomon, the United Monarchy split into two kingdoms with the defection of the ten northern tribes under the leadership of Jeroboam I.

The southern kingdom of Judah, essentially the tribes of Judah and Benjamin that remained loyal to Rehoboam, maintained its capital in Jerusalem and enjoyed three-and-a-half centuries of Davidic kings upon the throne. Perched on a hill, Judah was limited to producing cereal crops, vines, olives, and sheep. With no access to the sea, trade was restricted. Isaiah of Jerusalem addressed the political situation of Assyria's threatening posture in the context of the Syro-Ephraimite war.

The northern kingdom of Israel, however, lasted two hundred years under a succession of dynasties unrelated to David. At times, due to their lush valleys and access to ports, Israel enjoyed a position of prosperity, power, and prestige unrivaled by Judah. For example, the efficient administration of Omri (876-869 B.C.E.) so impressed Assyria that Israel was called the "House of Omri" a century after the end of his dynasty. Jeroboam II (786-746 B.C.E.) expanded the borders of Israel to their old Davidic extent. At other times, Israel experienced internal strife. Eight of their nineteen kings came to power through assassination. Close proximity to Canaanites meant constant temptation to worship their god, Baal. The prophets Amos, Hosea, Micah, and Isaiah announced God's judgment upon Israel.

The division of the kingdom resulted from Solomon's oppressive policies; the incompetence of Solomon's son, Rehoboam; resentment that David, a southerner, had replaced Saul; and the fact that Jerusalem's importance as a worship center diminished the significance of Bethel, Shechem, and Dan.

In addition, the looming presence of Assyria dominated this period. Having consolidated its control over Babylon in the south, the Neo-Assyrian Empire was determined to expand to the west, especially under the following rulers:

  • Shalmaneser III (858-824 B.C.E.), who defeated the Syro-Ephraimite coalition of Ben-Hadad of Syria and Ahab of Israel. His Black Obelisk depicts Jehu of Israel groveling before him.
  • Tiglath-Pileser III (744-727 B.C.E.), who captured Damascus in 732 B.C.E. and collected tribute from both Menahem of Israel and Ahaz of Judah.
  • Shalmaneser V (726-722 B.C.E.), who extorted tribute from Hoshea, the last king of Israel, and destroyed Samaria in 722 B.C.E., deporting much of the ten northern tribes to areas in the Assyrian Empire.