B413 The History of the Ancient Near East -- From The Divided Kingdom till the Babylonian Captivity
A. The Northern Kingdom Till 722 BC
B. The Southern Kingdom Till 586 BC
A. The Northern Kingdom till 722 BC
ASSIGNMENT: Read 1-2 Kings, Hosea, Amos; also read Pritchard's, "Ancient Near Eastern Texts" pages 227-263.
When Solomon died the united kingdom died. His son Rehoboam was incapable of leading the country and Jereboam became the leader of the 10 tribes that were not directly aligned to the Davidic monarchy. As may well be expected, this caused a civil war to erupt which lasted for quite some time.
The division of the Kingdom took place around 918 BC; and the northern kingdom was attacked and destroyed by the Assyrians in 722 BC Thus, the Northern Kingdom, Israel, existed as an independent entity for only 200 or so years.
Jereboam (known to historians as Jereboam I) attempted to help the Northern Kingdom break away religiously as well as politically. In an attempt to see this happen he established 2 sanctuaries in the kingdom so that the northerners would worship there instead of making the dangerous trip to Jerusalem. Dan was the sanctuary erected in the north of the kingdom and Bethel was built in the south. Jereboam created for himself a self contained kingdom which did not need to rely on the Southern Kingdom in any respect. But he also earned for himself the undying disrespect of those authors and theologians who would write what would come to be the Deuteronomic history. The Deuteronomist would excoriate the northern kingdom until it was destroyed for its idolatry.
The northern kingdom was the home of the greatest of Israel's prophets -- Hosea. In fact, Hosea is the only prophet (whose sermons are still extant) who was a northerner by birth and habitation. The other prophets, without exception, were southerners -- including Amos who, though working in the north (briefly), was a southerner.
As can be easily seen, the Israelite kings did not tend to have very long reigns. In fact, the northern kingdom was constantly in a state of political turmoil (at least so far as we can tell from the sources). Since the Assyrian empire was the major foe and ultimate conqueror, the student is offered an incomplete chronology of the Assyrian monarchs:
The kings of Israel were: (all dates are BC)
When the Assyrians finally conquered Samaria (the capital of the northern kingdom) in 722 BC, the leaders were deported and foreigners were "planted" in the land. The descendants of these transplants would come to be known as the "Samaritans" famous from the stories of Jesus.
Unfortunately, the Northern Kingdom disappeared from history. Unlike their southern brothers, their conquerors were not very beneficent -- so when the kingdom was destroyed -- it was utterly exterminated.
B. The Southern Kingdom till 586 BC
ASSIGNMENT: Read 1-2 Chronicles, Jeremiah, Joel, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Isaiah, Habakkuk; also read Pritchard's "Ancient Near Eastern Texts", pages 265-268, 274-307.
The southern kingdom (Judah) lasted some time longer than its northern sister. Jerusalem was saved from destruction by the Assyrians by a substantial payment of cash to the invading forces. All of the books of the Bible (save Hosea) were penned and preserved in the south; and the great prophets all preached in the south (or in the exile and return of the southern kingdom). Thus the southern kingdom was the intellectual center of the ancient Israelites.
The political history of Judah was as rocky as the Northern kingdom. There were, however, no dynastic changes. That is, all of the kings were descendants of David.
The kings (and one queen) of Judah were both complimented and excoriated by the Deuteronomic historian. Those who adhered to the ideals of the Deuteronomist were complimented and those who did not were cursed. When the Babylonians attacked and sacked Jerusalem after a lengthy siege in 586, the nobles, priests, and clerics were deported to Babylonian territory.
The prophets of Judah paint a very interesting picture of the kingdom of Judah; and archeological evidence supports this incredible picture. To wit -- there were, besides the temple in Jerusalem, a number of lesser temples throughout the kingdom. There were also various cultic centers scattered throughout the kingdom. Thus the idea that there was only one temple and one place of worship in Judah is historically impossible. In fact, the southern kingdom was as distant from the Deuteronomic ideal as the northern kingdom was.
The great prophets attributed the Babylonian conquest to Judah's unfaithfulness to God. This theological explanation notwithstanding, the most likely historical reason the kingdom was destroyed was because it had the gall to oppose the Babylonians.
Thus ended the great kingdom of Judah. And thus ends the history of ancient Israel.
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