The Divided Kingdom and Kingdom of Judah Alone periods in the Bible are an essential but often neglected study. A basic knowledge of these periods of Jewish history is necessary to an understanding of the prophets of the Old Testament and their message.
When the children of Israel entered and occupied Canaan, the promised land, they were a loose confederation of tribes held together by their common ancestors, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Governed by tribal leaders or judges for a period of time, the tribes eventually united forming a monarchy. Saul, from the tribe of Benjamin, was selected by God and anointed by Samuel, the prophet, priest and judge, to be king.
When Saul disobeyed God’s instructions, God chose David, a shepherd youth from the tribe of Judah, to rule the kingdom after the death of Saul. David was an administrator and statesman who organized the religious worship and founded a political dynasty. He was a poet and musician–“the sweet psalmist of Israel” (II Sam. 23:1) and a skilled harpist. As a soldier and warrior, he expanded the borders of the kingdom and forged a simple agrarian society into a nation.
David’s son and successor Solomon reigned over an industrial empire stretching from the River Euphrates in the north to the River of Egypt in the south (I Kings 4:21). The peace and prosperity he inherited from his father David enabled him to engage in extensive building projects, the most notable being the temple in Jerusalem. Solomon’s fame and wisdom spread abroad, and his wealth and riches exceeded that of all the kings of the earth (II Chron. 9:22). However, in his old age Solomon became idolatrous due to the influence of his many foreign wives, and God determined to rend the kingdom from his son.
When Rehoboam, Solomon’s son, became king, the ten northern tribes revolted establishing the northern kingdom of Israel and appointing Jeroboam, an Ephraimite, as their king. The two southern tribes of Judah and Benjamin, known as the kingdom of Judah, remained loyal to Rehoboam and the Davidic dynasty. The kingdom divided in 931/30 B. C. and lasted slightly more than two hundred years until 723/22 B. C. when the northern kingdom of Israel was taken into captivity by the Assyrians. The kingdom of Judah continued alone for another one hundred thirtysome years until they, too, were carried into captivity in 586 B. C. by the Babylonians. The account of the Divided Kingdom period begins in I Kings 11 and II Chronicles 10, ending with the conclusions of II Kings and II Chronicles.
The Divided Kingdom outline in Section I and the Kingdom of Judah Alone outline in Section II are designed as a study aid. All references in the books of Kings and Chronicles that pertain to these periods are included. The events as outlined are not necessarily in chronological order, but the books of Kings and Chronicles are harmonized.
As the outlines in Sections I and II were prepared from the King James Version, the spelling of that translation was used for the names of the kings and prophets. The names of the prophets are italicized in Sections I and II to readily distinguish their names from those of the kings. References to prophets, such as man of God, are also italicized.
The descendants of David reigned in Judah from the division of the kingdom until the Babylonian captivity with only a brief interruption during the civil unrest that occurred with the purge of the house of Ahab; thus, in Sections I and II each king of Judah is the son of the preceding king unless otherwise identified. In Israel the government was less stable and several dynasties ruled; therefore, in Section I the relationship between a king of Israel and the preceding king is specified.
Section III contains an accompanying outline of the various secular empires which were contemporary with Judah and Israel. References to these kingdoms and their kings occur in the Biblical text. The Ancient Empires outline lists these kingdoms and their corresponding kings with a brief description of events, particularly those events related to contacts with Judah and Israel.
Section IV includes twenty-six lessons with study questions. These lessons may be used for individual study or in the classroom. The questions follow the outlines in Sections I and II.
All dates of the reigns of the kings of Judah and Israel are from Edwin R. Thiele, The Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings, new rev. ed. (Grand Rapids: The Zondervan Corp, 1983). Dual symbols, such as 931/30 B. C., designate the reigns of the various kings in many instances. Since our calendar year does not correspond to the Hebrew year, the regnal years of Judah and Israel overlap two of our years. Dual symbols are therefore used for greater accuracy.
Thiele has interpreted the confusing chronological data in Kings and Chronicles meticulously, noting the various methods used by the recorders of the events. Thus some brief notes regarding the chronology of the kings of Judah and Israel are included in the endnotes. There are many factors in determining the chronology set forth in the scriptures, and a comprehensive explanation is too intricate and involved to be included in this study. As noted above the Hebrew year does not correspond to our calendar year; ascension year and non-ascension year methods were used at different times in both kingdoms; in addition, the regnal years were calculated from Nisan-to-Nisan (springtime, March/April) in Israel, while the Tishri-to-Tishri year (fall, September/October) was used in Judah. Nevertheless, the records of the kings of Judah and Israel were kept with great accuracy and precision by those recorders of Hebrew history, and every reign in each kingdom is in the order of the sequence with which the rulers ascended the throne.
The challenge for us today in the study of the Divided Kingdom is to contemplate God’s dealings with peoples and nations. God poured forth his blessings on the obedient and righteous, but He sent his judgments upon the disobedient and unrighteous. It is for us, therefore, to determine our course of action, whether we walk in compliance or rebellion to God’s word.
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