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Israelite Monarchy - The Northern Kingdom

After the founding of the Kingdom of Israel (see Israelite Monarchy - The Origin) and then its civil war (see Israelite Monarchy - The Civil War), Israel became a united kingdom under King David and his son King Solomon (see Israelite Monarchy - The United Kingdom). As a punishment for Solomon's later apostasy, the kingdom of Israel was divided into two politically separate kingdoms after Solomon's death, "Israel" in Samaria and Galilee, and "Judah" in Judea (see Israelite Monarchy - The Division Of Israel).

"So Israel has been in rebellion against the house of David to this day"

The northern ten tribes' rebellion against Rehoboam left him with only the tribes of Judah and Benjamin (and part of Levi). Rehoboam, at last realizing the loss that he had brought upon himself, decided to go to war to get the ten tribes back (another blunder - he would have lost the war, his remaining kingdom, and likely his life), but The Lord stepped in and sent everyone home, making plain that He brought it about, "Return every man to his home, for this thing is from Me." Luckily for Rehoboam, he obeyed.


"So Israel has been in rebellion against the house of David to this day.

And when all Israel heard that Jeroboam had returned, they sent and called him to the assembly and made him king over all Israel. There was none that followed the house of David, but the tribe of Judah only.

When Rehoboam came to Jerusalem, he assembled all the house of Judah, and the tribe of Benjamin, a hundred and eighty thousand chosen warriors, to fight against the house of Israel, to restore the kingdom to Rehoboam the son of Solomon.

But the word of God came to Shemaiah the man of God: "Say to Rehoboam the son of Solomon, king of Judah, and to all the house of Judah and Benjamin, and to the rest of the people, 'Thus says The Lord, You shall not go up or fight against your kinsmen the people of Israel. Return every man to his home, for this thing is from Me.'"

So they hearkened to the word of The Lord, and went home again, according to the word of The Lord." (1 Kings 12:19-24 RSV)

Israel's declaration of independence from Judah also became a declaration of independence from God's Law. Idolatry became rampant almost immediately; to keep the people of Israel from going down to Rehoboam's Judah to observe God's true Holy Days, Israel's (i.e. the northern kingdom) first king Jeroboam instituted his own versions (i.e. perversions) of God's commanded Holy Days. Despite warnings from God's prophets, Israel became more and more idolatrous - until it led to their destruction.

"So the king took counsel, and made two calves of gold. And he said to the people, "You have gone up to Jerusalem long enough. Behold your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt." And he set one in Bethel, and the other he put in Dan. And this thing became a sin, for the people went to the one at Bethel and to the other as far as Dan.

He also made houses on high places, and appointed priests from among all the people, who were not of the Levites. And Jeroboam appointed a feast on the fifteenth day of the eighth month like the feast that was in Judah, and he offered sacrifices upon the altar; so he did in Bethel, sacrificing to the calves that he had made. And he placed in Bethel the priests of the high places that he had made. He went up to the altar which he had made in Bethel on the fifteenth day in the eighth month, in the month which he had devised of his own heart; and he ordained a feast for the people of Israel, and went up to the altar to burn incense." (1 Kings 12:28-33 RSV)

In response to their corruption, The Lord had the northern kingdom of Israel progressively invaded and taken over by a number of Assyrian kings over a period of more than 40 years. They were given plenty of warnings and hard lessons about what would happen to them if they did not turn back to The Lord, but they stubbornly continued on to their doom.

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).

As stated, 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: After the Assyrians conquered the northern kingdom of Israel, they later also attempted the same with the southern kingdom of Judah. Why did Assyria fail in the south?
See The Day Sennacherib Challenged God

Studies in this series:
1. Israelite Monarchy - The Origin
2. Israelite Monarchy - The Civil War
3. Israelite Monarchy - The United Kingdom
4. Israelite Monarchy - The Division Of Israel
5. Israelite Monarchy - The Northern Kingdom
6. Israelite Monarchy - The Southern Kingdom
7. Israelite Monarchy - The Messiah

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