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Israelite Monarchy - The Southern Kingdom
by Wayne Blank
"And when all Israel heard that Jeroboam had returned, they sent and called him to the assembly and made him king [see Kings of Israel and Judah] over all Israel. There was none that followed the house of David, but the tribe of Judah only." (1 Kings 12:20 RSV)
"There was none that followed the house of David, but the tribe of Judah only"
The united kingdom of Israel (see Israelite Monarchy - The United Kingdom; also Israelite Monarchy - The Origin and Israelite Monarchy - The Civil War) lasted through the latter part of the reign of King David and then through the entire reign of King Solomon. As a result of Solomon's apostasy as an old man, The Lord caused the united kingdom to be split (see Israelite Monarchy - The Division Of Israel) into two totally-separate kingdoms, "Israel," in Galilee and Samaria, with their capital city of Samaria, and "Judah," in Judea, with their capital at Jerusalem.
The northern kingdom of Israel (see Israelite Monarchy - The Northern Kingdom) lasted a little over 200 years before it was gradually conquered by the Assyrians (see Ancient Empires - Assyria). By 721 B.C. they had practically all been taken into exile to Assyria. The vast majority of them never returned and have become known as the "Lost Ten Tribes of Israel." In their place, the Assyrians settled foreigners in the land of Israel, later known as "Samaritans," who in the time of Christ were held in contempt by the people of Judah, who by then had themselves returned from their own exile to Babylon.
"The people of Israel walked in all the sins which Jeroboam did; they did not depart from them, until The Lord removed Israel out of his sight, as he had spoken by all his servants the prophets. So Israel was exiled from their own land to Assyria until this day. And the king of Assyria brought people from Babylon, Cuthah, Avva, Hamath, and Sepharvaim, and placed them in the cities of Samaria instead of the people of Israel; and they took possession of Samaria, and dwelt in its cities." (2 Kings 17:22-24 RSV).
The southern kingdom of Judah lasted well over a century longer than the northern kingdom of Israel, but their downfall was brought about for the same reason - religious corruption. While The Lord used the Assyrians to destroy Israel when they went apostate, He used the Babylonians to destroy Judah (the Assyrians by that time had themselves fallen to the Babylonians - the Assyrians and Babylonians together occupied what is today Iraq). By 586 B.C., the southern kingdom of Judah was conquered by the Babylonians and the Jews were taken into captivity to Babylon. The original Temple of God in Jerusalem, that had been built in the time of Solomon, was destroyed at that time (see also Raiders Of The Lost Ark). The Lord's prophets (e.g. Jeremiah) warned them what they were bringing upon themselves if they didn't repent, but they refused to listen.
"The Lord, the God of their fathers, sent persistently to them by His messengers, because He had compassion on His people and on His dwelling place; but they kept mocking the messengers of God, despising His words, and scoffing at His prophets, till the wrath of The Lord rose against His people, till there was no remedy.
The people of the southern kingdom of Judah however did return after the Babylonians fell to the Persians (see Ancient Empires - Persia), not to again restore a kingdom, but to lay tenuous claim, as a people, to the land of Judah for the sake of the coming Messiah.
"In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of The Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be accomplished, The Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom and also put it in writing: "Thus says Cyrus king of Persia: The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever is among you of all his people, may his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and rebuild the house of The Lord, the God of Israel, he is the God who is in Jerusalem; and let each survivor, in whatever place he sojourns, be assisted by the men of his place with silver and gold, with goods and with beasts, besides freewill offerings for the house of God which is in Jerusalem."
Their descendants have become the Jewish people of today. From the time of their return to the time of the first coming of the Christ, they were, except for a time when The Maccabees ruled, a conquered and occupied nation, first by the Greeks (see Ancient Empires - Greece, The Ptolemies and The Seleucids) and then by the Romans (see Ancient Empires - Rome).
Studies in this series: