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The Galilee Captivity

After the death of King Solomon (who was the son of King David), in the reign of Solomon's son King Rehoboam the united kingdom of Israel permanently divided into two independent kingdoms, "Judah" (the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, and part of Levi, see also Children of Jacob) in the south, and "Israel" (the tribes of Reuben, Simeon, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Issachar, Zebulun, Joseph/Ephraim/Manasseh and Benjamin, and part of Levi, see also Tribal Lands) in the north. Both kingdoms were eventually conquered in totality, first Israel in 721 BC by the Assyrians (see Ancient Empires - Assyria), and then Judah in 586 BC by the Babylonians (see Ancient Empires - Babylon), but both were a gradual process of being invaded and the people taken into exile. In the case of Israel, the "Galilee captivity" was one chapter of the fall.

The Galilee Captivity

Galilee The Kingdom of Israel (which was by then a totally-separate political entity from Judah - see Jews At War With Israel) was progressively invaded and taken over by a number of Assyrian kings over a period of more than 40 years, and the people of Israel were taken away into exile (exiling prisoners out of their own country is an ancient political tactic that is still used - during the Second World War, some German soldiers captured by British and Canadian troops in Europe were transported all the way across the Atlantic to prisoner of war camps in Canada, and after the recent US invasion of Afghanistan, some prisoners were transported half-way around the world to an isolated US prison camp in Cuba).

When the Assyrians took Israelites away, they brought in foreigners to tend the land. In the case of the Galilee captivity, they brought in Gentiles to settle there (2 Kings 15:29, 17:24), which resulted in Galilee later being sometimes known as "Galilee of the nations," or "Galilee of the Gentiles" (Isaiah 9:1, Matthew 4:13-16). It was also from those immigrants that the Galilean accent of later times originated, even among the Hebrew and Aramaic speaking people of Judah (including Jesus Christ and most of His apostles) who then lived in Galilee, which was very noticeable to the other people of Judah who lived in the south (e.g. to Peter, "your accent betrays you" in Matthew 26:73 RSV).

The Assyrian takeover of Israel was gradual, at first taking the form of economic extortion. About 762 BC, Pul of Assyria imposed a tribute (see Custom and Tribute) of a thousand talents of silver on King Menahem of Israel (see Kings of Israel and Judah):

"Pul the king of Assyria came against the land; and Menahem gave Pul a thousand talents of silver, that he might help him to confirm his hold of the royal power. Menahem exacted the money from Israel, that is, from all the wealthy men, fifty shekels of silver from every man, to give to the king of Assyria. So the king of Assyria turned back, and did not stay there in the land." (2 Kings 15:19-20 RSV)

Assyrian invasions followed. About 738 BC, in the reign of King Pekah of Israel, Tiglath-pileser of Assyria brought about the Galilee captivity:

"In the days of Pekah king of Israel Tiglath-pileser king of Assyria came and captured Ijon, Abelbeth-maacah, Janoah, Kedesh, Hazor, Gilead, and Galilee, all the land of Naphtali; and he carried the people captive to Assyria." (2 Kings 15:29 RSV)

Later, Shalmaneser of Assyria invaded Israel and laid siege to Samaria, the capital city of the Kingdom of Israel (Jerusalem was the capital city of the Kingdom of Judah). Shalmaneser was succeeded (or perhaps deposed) by the former General Sargon (who himself was assassinated by one of his own troops about 705 BC), who brought about the end of the Kingdom of Israel in 721 BC

"Against him came up Shalmaneser king of Assyria; and Hoshea became his vassal, and paid him tribute ... Then the king of Assyria invaded all the land and came to Samaria, and for three years he besieged it. In the ninth year of Hoshea the king of Assyria captured Samaria, and he carried the Israelites away to Assyria" (2 Kings 17:3,5-6 RSV)

Fact Finder: It should be kept firmly in mind that the conquering and exile of the people of Israel, as well as the people of Judah, was not something that happened beyond God's control - it was not a "disaster" to Him. In fact, God not only let it happen, but made it happen. Why?
2 Kings 17:1-23
See also Why Babylon?


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