Israel and Judah

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Israel and Judah are the two nations which result from the division of

the Jewish monarchy after the death of Solomon. Israel is the name used in 1 and 2 Kings for the northern kingdom and Judah for the southern. This split undermines the religious practices of the Jewish people and leads to the demise of their nationalistic hopes.

The boundaries of the two kingdoms indicated by the map below roughly approximate the geographical limits of the two nations soon after the division. Conflict with external enemies and between themselves diminishes the extent of territory controlled by each nation. To picture accurately the domains of Israel and Judah in succeeding years requires a more detailed knowledge of the times and events than scholars possess and would require a series of maps to portray accurately the changing historical scene.

The separation into two nations occurs when Rehoboam, Solomon's son and successor, refuses to ease the tax burden imposed on the Jewish people by Solomon. His unwillingness to accept the people's demands incites a nearly bloodless revolution and leaves two states where one has formerly existed. Only the tribes of Judah and Benjamin remain loyal to the lineage of David and accept the leadership of Rehoboam. The other tribes follow Jeroboam.
Jerusalem remains the political and religious capital of Judah because it has been that since David captured the city and brought the ark of the covenant there. Jeroboam establishes Israel's new capital at Shechem but later moves it to Tirzah, only a few miles distant. Fearful of losing his hold on the northern people if they go to Jerusalem for religious reasons, he makes two golden calves and builds religious shrines at Bethel in the south and Dan in the north of Israel. This becomes the key to Jeroboam's censure by the author of 1 and 2 Kings. The historian describes the life of these two nations from the perspective of one who supports the dynasty of King David with Jerusalem as the religious center. The narration about Israel's kings includes the formula that he did "evil in the sight of the LORD, walking in the way of Jeroboam, ...causing Israel to sin."
Within two centuries, by 721 BC, the Assyrian empire overruns Israel. By 586 BC, the Babylonian empire eliminates Judah. An independent Jewish nation emerges again briefly in the second century BC but then not again until this twentieth century AD.

Bible Bulletin - 063

2002 CSS Publishing Company, Inc. Scripture quotations from RSV 0 1952 & NRSV © 1989

Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches

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