History: Kingdoms of Judah and Israel
History: Kingdoms of Judah and Israel
KINGDOMS OF JUDAH AND ISRAELSamuel and Saul: The Beginnings of Israelite Monarchy
The United Kingdom: David
Division of the Kingdom: The Earliest Kings
Asa, King of Judah, and His Descendants. The Omride Dynasty in Israel
The Dynasty of Jehu in Israel. Athaliah and Joash, Amaziah, Uzziah, and Jotham, Kings of Judah
The Last Days of Samaria. The Kingdom of Judah Until Its Destruction
Our earliest datable extra-biblical written sources for the Israelite monarchy come from the ninth century when we find references to the northern kings Omri and Ahab, and a reference to bytdwd, "House of David." The documentation becomes richer thereafter. For the origins of Israelite monarchy we must rely on the Bible's i and ii Samuel, which contain material composed over centuries and subjected to a Deuteronomistic redaction. The literary problems are complex. Much like Moses, Samuel has been inserted into all of ancient Israel's important institutional offices. He is simultaneously a prophet, judge, warrior, Nazirite (so Qumran Hebrew and lxx to i Sam 1:11), and king maker. For the monarchic period following David, our primary sources are i and ii Kings and i and ii Chronicles; books that combine historical material with elements that are miraculous and legendary. There are also clear indications that the biblical writers sometimes projected events and institutions of their own time onto earlier times. Finally, it must be observed that, in a manner not at all unique in the ancient world, the Bible's historians provide theological explanations for historical events. In recent years there has been a tendency to attribute less historical reliability to the biblical accounts, with some "minimalist" writers (P. Davies, Niels Lemche, and Thomas Thompson; see in Long, Handy, Day) going so far as to question the existence of an "ancient Israel" altogether. These efforts have not gone unopposed, and the different sides in the debate have not always been above resorting to ad hominem attacks and charged terms including, but not limited to, "Zionism," "anti-Zionism," "fundamentalism," "silencing Palestinian history," "antisemitism," "post-modern piffery," "hidden agenda," and "nihilism." Archaeology has not decisively settled many of the outstanding issues, and there is doubtless a good deal of idealization in the accounts of the "empire" of David and Solomon. Nonetheless, complete dismissal of the biblical accounts is unwarranted given the large amount of material in i and ii Kings that preserves accurate information confirmed by outside sources (Halpern apud Long).
On the biblical account, the eastward expansion of the Philistines and the westward expansion of the Israelites made conflict inevitable. The heavy Philistine subjection of Israel provoked resistance among the two most oppressed tribes, Benjamin and Ephraim. Given the nature of Israel's tribal organization, it was natural that the centers of resistance were in the hill country, where the influential spiritual leader *Samuel, the seer, was active. Samuel is credited, anachronistically, with overthrowing Philistine rule (i Sam. 7; 7–12) after a rally at Mizpah, a city built by the later King Asa (i Kings 15:22; Na'aman 1994). Their oppression again brought home to the tribes the advantages of centralized government, which they had already felt in dealing with the neighboring Canaanite city-states. The division inherent in the weak tribal organization that led to defeat in the Israelites' confrontation with well-organized forces which functioned on the principle of centralization encouraged a disposition to exchange the traditional leadership of the elders, and even the charismatic leadership of the judges, for a stronger leadership which on the one hand would embody the qualities of a leader who rallied the tribes, and on the other convert his leadership into a permanent institution. There appears to have been a desire among the Israelites for leadership based first and foremost on military capabilities, with authority succeeding by inheritance, in the spirit of the suggestion made to Gideon. It is probable that the intention was to establish a ruler modeled on the example of the Canaanite king.
i Samuel 7:3–15:35 describes the emergence of monarchy and Samuel's role in the process. The extant narrative presents two contradictory viewpoints: Yahweh chose the first king and the institution of monarchy in order to save his oppressed people (i Sam. 9:16); the people's wish for a king is a rejection of Yahweh motivated by the people's desire to be "like all the nations" (i Sam. 8:4–8). Regardless of the dates of composition it is likely that both pro-monarchic and anti-monarchic groups existed and that each attributed its position to Yahweh. By the time of the biblical authors, monarchy was a reality of which Yahweh had once approved either enthusiastically or grudgingly. As a transitional figure, the first Israelite king, *Saul, resembled the charismatic judges, at the same time clearly displaying the qualities of being a ruler like those of "all the other nations." His selection was no doubt related to his military leadership exhibited in the liberation of Jabesh-Gilead, a city with blood and family ties to Benjamin, Saul's own tribe. The biblical description of Saul's anointment as king is not sufficiently explicit, however, as to whether his anointment did, in fact, result from his war with the Ammonites in northern Gilead. Considering the fact that Benjamin was still subject to the rule of the Philistines of the Shephelah, it is surprising that there is no mention of intervention on their part in the activities of Saul. It seems that they considered them only a local matter. After a brief period of organization, however, Saul turned his power in their direction. Near Michmas, northeast of Jerusalem, the Philistine armies were routed and driven back to Philistia. Their control of the mountain areas was thus broken, although the Philistines remained a threat to Israel throughout Saul's life. The battles were renewed periodically, since the Philistines did not easily relinquish their hold on Israelite territories. In one attack the Philistine armies penetrated to the vale of Elah. According to a late unhistorical source (Rofé), perhaps the most popular tale in the Bible, *David, a young shepherd from Bethlehem in Judah, defeated *Goliath (i Sam. 17) while the soldiers from both sides watched the contest between them.
The expulsion of the Philistines marked the beginning of Saul's career. He then had to assert his authority over the Israelite population of the central mountain area and unite the tribes under his rule. It is in this context that his uprooting of the foreign enclaves in his tribe's portion – the Hivite cities which remained as a result of their covenant with Joshua and the elders – must be seen. From biblical accounts of his wars with Moab, Ammon, Edom, the kings of Zobah (i Sam. 14:47), and possibly the Hagrites (i Chron. 5:10) in Transjordan, it is possible to conclude that Saul tried to attract the Israelite tribes in Transjordan by protecting them. He also fought the Amalekites who had penetrated into Judah, again to win this tribe over to him (i Sam. 15). The break between Saul and Samuel was exposed in this war, as the latter was dissatisfied with Saul's usurpation of authority, which he saw as offensive to sacred practices and to God's authority over Israel.
The Bible does not tell much about Saul's tactics in organizing his kingdom. It appears that he lacked sufficient time, or otherwise could not manage, to establish a truly central authority. He continued to rely upon the traditional tribal structures and institutions, raising members of his own family to important positions. There are, however, some signs of centralization during his rule, e.g., an indication of taxation and of royal landholdings from which Saul distributed property to his officers and others who were close to him. Of special significance is the establishment of a standing army, which was with him in his capital, Gibeath-Shaul (whose fortifications were rebuilt after its capture from the Philistines). Saul's concept of monarchy is also evidenced by his ambition to establish a dynasty of his descendants.
One of the most dramatic and moving sections of the Bible concerns Saul's relationship with David, who became a well-known military officer, the king's son-in-law, and friend of *Jonathan, the heir apparent. After a falling-out with Saul, David was forced to flee to the border regions of Judah and later as far as Gath, in Philistia. During his wanderings he gathered about him various elements which he fashioned into a band of warriors. They helped protect the border settlements and lived off the contributions earned from those thus protected. During his stay in Gath, David received Ziklag from Saul's enemies the Philistines as a landholding and fortress, ranging out from there against tribes that endangered the population. It was there that he began to develop relations with the elders of Judah, who followed Saul.
Achish, king of Gath, and the Philistine chiefs prevented David and his band from joining the battle near Jezreel, where Saul and his sons died. In this war the Philistine armies penetrated the mountain area, with the Canaanite fortifications in the valley serving as their rear and support. This is yet another indication of how the Philistine hegemony extended far beyond the Shephelah base. Philistine rule over the central tribes was reestablished with the defeat of Saul. For this reason Eshbaal (*Ish-Bosheth), the son of Saul, was able to reign only in Gilead – a region that kept faith with the line of their benefactor. The Bible lists the areas and tribes over which Eshbaal reigned, but these almost certainly reflect the kingdom of Saul, rather than of Eshbaal: Gilead, the Ashurites (= Asherites), Jezreel (the territory of Manasseh in the hills and that of the other tribes in the valley), Ephraim, Benjamin and "over all Israel" (ii Sam. 2:9).
After the death of Saul, David settled in Hebron, the center of his own tribe, Judah. He was crowned by the elders of Judah, who had not accepted the monarchy until then. Within a few years he ruled over the rest of the tribes of Israel (ii Sam. 5:5), which accepted his authority especially after Eshbaal's failure to establish his kingdom in Transjordan. At about the same time he captured *Jerusalem from the Jebusites, converting it into the capital of the kingdom and the estate of the Davidic dynasty. This conquest revealed David's far-reaching ambitions and statesmanship, for Jerusalem in Israelite hands served as the desired unifying bond between the southern tribes – Simeon and Judah – and their brothers in the north. The new capital stood at the very heart of the kingdom, yet because it was outside the Israelite territory it did not serve as a focal point of strife among the tribes or lead to charges of favoritism.
With this decisive step David's aims became clear to the Philistines. It appears that until then they had hoped to rule over Judah by means of a vassal in Hebron. Now, however, they brought their army to the very gates of Jerusalem and were defeated by David (ii Sam. 5:17–21). Another attempt that threatened to cut off Ephraim and Benjamin from David ended in failure; the Philistine force was broken and pursued to Gezer (ii Sam. 5:22–25). At a minimum the Philistines had to relinquish their inland holdings, ending an era of expansion. As of the time of David the Philistines were confined to a strip on the southwest of the Mediterranean coast (Ehrlich). How much if any control David excercised over the Philistines is debatable. i Kings 2:39 has been taken to show that there was an extradition treaty between Israel and Gath. With the removal of this major military obstacle, David was able to take the first step toward converting his kingdom into a united national state – the creation of territorial continuity of all the tribes. In pursuing this goal David conquered foreign enclaves along the seacoast and in the fertile Jezreel and Beth-Shean valleys. A similar fate befell the non-Israelite population of Galilee. He also turned to eastern Transjordan in order to establish his rule over Ammon and Moab, which were endangering Israelite settlements there and controlled long stretches of the international "King's Highway." The Israelite threat also involved the Aramean kingdoms in Transjordan and Syria, which were summoned to the aid of Moab and Ammon. These allies were defeated by the Israelites, though not annihilated. After they recruited reinforcements from across the river they met David in battle and were routed this time (ii Sam. 10:6–19). According to the Bible, a vast territory fell to David – Transjordan and the Aramean kingdoms, including the valley of Lebanon. The Israelite borders now reached *Hamath, north of the valley and, judging by the borders at the beginning of Solomon's reign, David would even have extended his rule as far as Tiphsah on the Euphrates (i Kings 5:4).
This last passage is probably late and depicts Solomon in terms of a Neo-Babylonian or Persian emperor. Indeed, this biblical account of a vast Davidic empire inherited by Solomon seems unsubstantiated archaeologically, and would appear to be greatly exaggerated. Nonetheless, the rise of the Davidic kingdom, like the other small Levantine kingdoms, was enabled by the decline of the two traditional centers of power of the ancient Near East, Egypt and Mesopotamia. David strengthened his rule by means other than military ones. He wisely established friendly relations that were reinforced by treaties with the kingdoms of Hamath and *Tyre. The treaty with *Hiram, king of Tyre, was particularly important because of the economic advantages flowing from connection with this maritime-commercial power. In the field of internal organization David concentrated his activities on the establishment of an administrative apparatus suitable for the needs of the kingdom. He understood the necessity of uniting the tribes round his throne and the capital, Jerusalem. He had the requisite organizational and executive abilities necessary to create proper tools.
It is difficult to determine what model was used to lay the foundation for the Israelite administration at the beginning of David's reign. It seems that the administration inherited from Saul was not developed and was not on a much higher plane than the traditional tribal institutions. It is reasonable to assume that, as a Philistine vassal, David studied means of government, but it is almost certain that he was also influenced by the organizational structure of the non-Israelite cities in Palestine, especially that of Jebusite Jerusalem which he had conquered. It appears that the traditional administrative institutions of these cities derived from older Bronze Age models, and were well adapted to the needs of a national monarchy and vital to weakening the older tribal sysem. It is not necessary to suppose, as do some scholars, that David built his administration according to foreign prototypes (Fox, 9–14). It is not surprising, therefore, that some of the names of David's highest officials and members of his military units are non-Israelite. (ii Sam. 8:18; 21:23–5; 23:24–39). It is instructive, however, that control of the military forces remained in the hands of a relative of David, *Joab, and Israelites close to him.
David acted in other ways intended to centralize control and weaken the older tribal system. It appears that the division of the kingdom into 12 administrative districts – known from Solomon's time (i Kings 4:7–9) – began to crystallize during David's reign. The framework of these administrative districts did not include territories beyond the areas covered in the census conducted by David. The task of unification which David set before himself succeeded substantially in placing Jerusalem and the monarchy at the center of national life. Toward this end, David moved the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem, a city outside the tribal holdings, and made preparations for the construction of a royal palace and a *temple, whose presence in the capital would reflect divine aura on David and his line. Still, he did not entirely succeed in preventing the resentment and dissatisfaction of a tribal spirit opposed to the interests of the centralized monarchy, which, by their nature, undermined tribal individualism and the authority of tribal institutions. It appears to have been difficult to maintain, at one and the same time, a kingdom based on a developed administration – with all the royal needs – and separatist tendencies widespread among the tribes, who wished to maintain a large degree of independence. Certain difficulties arose during David's reign. The population *census (ii Sam. 24) carried out on royal initiative, almost certainly for the purposes of *taxation and recruiting, met with open opposition. Furthermore, natural disasters, added to the many wars, aggravated the dissatisfaction. It appears that the widespread dissatisfactionwithin the king's own tribe of Judah found expression in the revolt of *Absalom (ii Sam. 15–19), which was joined by other tribal elements. Only because of the loyalty of certain followers and the mercenary army, his personal guard, was David able to overcome the rebellion and return to Jerusalem. At a later stage, the revolt of *Sheba, son of Bichri of Benjamin, who attracted a following from among all the tribes except Judah, shook the throne. The source of the revolt may have been the widespread feeling of discrimination in favor of Judah, the king's tribe. In this incident David was able to extricate himself from the rebellion with the help of those loyal to him and supporters in his own tribe.
At the end of David's reign, a bitter struggle developed over the succession to the throne. It divided the court into the followers of *Adonijah, who claimed the throne by reason of seniority, and the supporters of *Solomon – the son of *Bath-Sheba – who succeeded in eliciting the support of the aging king. Under their influence, David crowned Solomon in his lifetime in order to preserve the continuity of dynasty desired by him. This act did not pass without drastic opposition on the part of Adonijah and his followers.
Biblical historiography represents Solomon as a wise sovereign who sought justice and peace. The extent of his domain is greatly exaggerated, but he did control a people that had begun to become accustomed to a centralized framework. Most of his activities thus tended toward the strengthening and development of his father's achievements through political, economic, and administrative means. Through a series of treaties made with neighboring kings, which he reinforced by politically motivated marriages, he sought to ensure tranquility within the borders of his kingdom. The Bible comments negatively on these marriages because they involved, for diplomatic reasons, the introduction of foreign cults into Jerusalem (i Kings 11:1–14). In particular, Solomon cultivated ties with Hiram, king of Tyre, and Sidon. Like his father, he benefited from these relations, receiving the support of Hiram's fleet to import essential raw materials, securing his technological assistance in building projects, and exploiting natural resources. The Phoenicians may have allowed Solomon some participation in the Red Sea trade in return for access through Judah (Miller). Another treaty, also reinforced by marriage, was made with a pharaoh who he gave his daughter to the king of Israel in marriage, along with the city of Gezer as a dowry (i Kings 9:16). Inasmuch as pharaohs generally did not marry their daughters to foreign kings this would have reflected very highly on Solomon and was seen as such by the author of i Kings 3:1 (contrast i Kings 11:1).
As is true of the biblical account of David, the chronology of the events of Solomon's reign is theologically motivated. Thus Solomon's reign is peaceful until he builds altars to foreign gods under the influence of his foreign wives (chapter 11). The biblical writers attribute to Solomon in his period of success control of the international roads and his hold on ports on two seas, leading to the development of international trade. He is said to have formed a cadre of royal merchants with a fleet that sailed great distances. Biblical accounts reminiscent of Assyrian royal inscriptions describe exotic products, precious metals, and rare fauna flowing into the kingdom. These supposedly came by sea in exchange for copper mined and worked in plants established specifically for this purpose (i Kings 9:26–28; 10:11, 22). Although the visit of the Queen of Sheba (i Kings 10:1–10) is unhistorical, and its motif of foreigners praising the Hebrew god similar to the tales of Jethro (Ex. 18) and Naaman (ii Kings 5), queens often ruled Arabian tribes. In addition, the early date of south Arabian trade takes a 10th-century visit to Jerusalem out of the realm of impossibility, though it hardly confirms the visit (Na'aman). The difficult passage i Kings 10:28–30 has been taken to portray Solomon establishing a corps of royal traders involved in international commerce, purchasing horses from Anatolia and chariots from Egypt for resale to other kings in the area (i Kings 10:28–30), but may simply mean that he could afford to buy horses and chariots at market prices (Miller). The monopolistic nature of Solomon's enterprises and taxation of his own population enriched the royal treasury and served as a stimulus to ramified and comprehensive building projects, some of which it seems were planned during David's reign. At the very center of his construction activity stood the complexof royal buildings, consisting of the palace and the *Temple in Jerusalem. In this fashion Solomon sought to strengthen the relationship of the tribes to Jerusalem and the reigning dynasty. He hoped that the Temple would unite Israel, overcoming the traditional and widespread separatist tendencies.
Many cities in the kingdom were developed and fortified. Some served as bases for the chariotry, which was introduced into Israel for the first time (i Kings 10:26; ii Chron. 9:25). According to the Bible (i Kings 4:2; 10:27), and in keeping with claims found in ancient Near Eastern royal inscriptions, the economic development was not limited to royal circles but benefited other elements of the population. But Solomon's many activities, royal administration, and the support of the royal household, required a system of 12 districts rather than tribal units. His use of corvée (mas) that included laborers among the Israelite population had its predecessors in the massu of Canaan in the Late Bronze Age. The combined tax burden resulted in the impoverishment of the population and substantial agitation. Along with this, feelings of discrimination began to grow among the northern tribes, especially Ephraim. Against this background, the aborted rebellion inspired by *Jeroboam son of Nebat, of Ephraim, who had been administrator of the forced Israelite labor, stood out (i Kings 11:26–40).
It is therefore evident that the prosperity during Solomon's reign was limited. Economic discontent was compounded by important factors that existed even before the establishment of the monarchy and by a rebelliousness whose roots were in the antagonism between the central monarchy and tribal separatist aspirations. These factors undermined the positive aspects of the monarchy until they destroyed the united kingdom.
The internal dissension and rebelliousness did not topple Solomon's throne but broke out in full force after his death. *Rehoboam, his son, did not enjoy his father's and grandfather's popularity with the people. He was faced with the difficult problem of perpetuating the monarchy in the face of a growing wave of strong demands from the tribes to ease the economic burdens. The leaders of the tribes saw the time as propitious for putting pressure on the new king. Rehoboam's rule was accepted without protest in Judah and Jerusalem, but the king required the assent of the rest of the tribes, which is a clear indication of the seriousness of the state of affairs. Rehoboam was unable to find a suitable way of complying with the demands of the tribes in *Shechem to ease their burden, without risking his prestige, administrative dislocations, and loss of control. As a result of his refusal, the elders of Israel felt themselves free to sever their ties with Jerusalem, and crowned Jeroboam son of Nebat, who had returned from refuge in Egypt, with the support of certain prophetic circles (see *Ahijah).
The aims of those who wished to secede from Jerusalem and the Davidic dynasty were realized, but the recognition of the need for a monarchy remained in Israel. The crowning of Jeroboam proves that the elders wanted to perpetuate the monarchy, though separate from and without connection with the dynasty of David. The slogan circulated during the revolt of Sheba son of Bichri was used again: "What portion have we in David? We have no inheritance in the son of Jesse" (i Kings 12:16).
With the division, there arose two sister kingdoms, hostile to one another. In the south was established a small kingdom, including the territories of Judah, Simeon, and Benjamin, which appears to have broken its connection with the tribes of Israel even during the period of the united kingdom. Judah controlled Edom and the Shephelah. The kingdom of Israel in the north included all the territories of the remaining tribes, maintaining its rule over Moab and probably over Ammon. Its first capital was Shechem.
The kingdom of Judah and the House of David did not accept the secession of the tribes. They regarded the move as illegal and sinful, in contradiction to national and religious imperatives. This viewpoint finds expression in biblical *historiography. It was not, of course, shared by Jeroboam son of Nebat and the advisors who established the kingdom of Israel. Jeroboam's very first acts were directed toward the establishment of a separate framework, free of all spiritual and political dependence upon Judah and the Davidic dynasty and of any cultic relationship with the Temple in Jerusalem. To this end, he made use of the ancient cultic centers at the ends of his kingdom, *Beth-El and *Dan. *Golden Calves, the base upon which the unseen God of Israel hovered, were placed in them; they were not, as biblical tradition would have it, intended for idol worship. This tradition clearly reflects feelings in Judah toward Jeroboam (see i Kings 12:26–33); northern opposition to the Calves is not recorded before the prophet Hosea (eighth cent.; cf. Hos. 8:5f.; 10:5f.; 13:2). Jeroboam ordained a change in the times for festivals in order to discourage pilgrimages to the Jerusalem Temple (i Kings 12:33). The change was also in keeping with the northern agricultural calendar. Despite the negative opinion displayed toward Jeroboam in the Bible, it is becoming increasingly clear that his actions were based on an earlier northern Israelite priestly tradition, not in any way connected with abandonment of the worship of Yahweh. His acts also brought about the collapse of the administrative system in Israel, which until that time had been based upon Davidic loyalists. Judah, for its part, refused to regard the division as a fait accompli. This was the cause for the frequent wars between the two kingdoms. It appears that at first Judah was the more successful.
Five years after the division an Egyptian military expedition into Palestine was headed by Pharaoh *Shishak, who had been Solomon's enemy and had given asylum to Jeroboam when he fled after the abortive revolt. The final aim of and pretext for this expedition are the subject of some controversy. According to the data in Shishak's topographical list, the largest Israelite cities were destroyed and razed and the most fertile areas of the Northern Kingdom were damaged. The amount of damage to Judah was much less, either because Shishak was not interested in Judah proper but rather in the Negev and the Aravah, or because Rehoboam had bribed the pharaoh with tributes. In any case, as a result of the Egyptian invasion, Rehoboam began to establish a chain of fortified cities (ii Chron. 11:5–12). It is significant that Judah's northern boundaries were not fortified, perhaps because of the hope that continued control over the kingdom of Jeroboam would be possible. Rehoboam's expansionist aims were advanced by his son *Abijah (911–908 b.c.e.), who had assumed some royal powers during his father's lifetime. He defeated Jeroboam's army and controlled the southern part of the hill country of Ephraim (ii Chron. 13:13–19). There is reason to suppose that Abijah was in contact with Aram-Damascus, which had grown in strength since its liberation from Israelite rule at the end of Solomon's reign, and concluded a treaty with them directed against Jeroboam. From that point on, Aram-Damascus was a factor in the conflict between the two sister kingdoms and the chief beneficiary of their rivalry.
These frequent defeats undermined Jeroboam's rule, which apparently had not been sufficiently strong since the division. This may be seen from the short reign of his successor *Nadab (907–906 b.c.e.). When fighting the Philistines – who sought to take from Israel its territory in the lowlands – he had also to deal with a rebellion led by *Baasha son of Ahijah of the tribe of Issachar. This rebellion brought to an end the dynasty of Jeroboam and the hegemony of the tribe of Ephraim over the northern kingdom. The new king (906–883 b.c.e.) ensured himself against Aram-Damascus' intervention and succeeded in recapturing the territories lost during Jeroboam's time, from Judah, which was now ruled by *Asa (908–867 b.c.e.). Baasha penetrated almost as far as Jerusalem, posing the serious danger of isolation to the capital of Judah. Asa was forced to turn to *Ben-Hadad i, king of Damascus, and succeeded in breaking off the treaty between Ben-Hadad and Baasha and in provoking the penetration of the Arameans into the northern parts of the kingdom of Israel (i Kings 15:9–22; ii Chron. 16:1–5). It is possible that at this time Israel also lost control of Moab. Baasha had to withdraw from Judah in order to protect his own kingdom from Aram. Asa utilized the lull in the fighting to fortify his northern boundary by means of the total conscription of the inhabitants of Judah. Some scholars see in this an abandonment of the hope of annexing Israel, which had been current in Judah since the division.
In Baasha's time, too, there was a diminution of earlier achievements as a result of his defeats. Baasha did succeed in preserving his throne, but with his death, civil war broke out in Israel and a few ministers struggled to obtain the throne. Elah (883–882 b.c.e.) was murdered in a plot instigated by *Zimri, one of the officers of the army. Zimri was killed by *Omri, with part of the nation backing *Tibni son of Ginath. After several years of conflict, Omri succeeded to the throne of Israel.
Whatever hopes there had been during Abijah's successes for reunification under the Davidic dynasty were destroyed by the military failures of Asa against Baasha. Asa was successful, however, in defending the south of Judah from *Zerah the Cushite (ii Chron. 14:8–14). Exact identification of Zerah is lacking and the numbers of his forces are fantastic, but there may be some historical core behind the report (Japhet, 709–13). In internal policy Asa's name is connected with the purification of Judah of cults of gods other than Yahweh. The purging of these foreign cults, some native, some imported, was connected with the removal of the queen mother from her high office and the reversal of her policies, which had almost certainly been responsible for the growth of Asherah-worship in Jerusalem (i Kings 15:13). Asa had the support of popular and prophetic circles for his purges.
The accession of Omri to the throne put a halt to the collapse of the central government in Israel which had resulted from Elah's death. Omri took decisive steps to stabilize the kingdom, such as the construction of the new capital in *Samaria. Like Jerusalem, this city became the king's personal landholding. It appears that Omri was subject to Aramean pressures, as is seen by the fact that Aramean commercial agencies (ḥuẓot) were located in Samaria and had special privileges (i Kings 20:34). At a later stage, Omri succeeded in establishing an independent foreign policy, concluding a treaty with Ethbaal, king of Sidon. This, like the treaties of David and Solomon, opened Phoenician markets to Israel's agricultural products and made it possible to import essential goods and luxury products for Omri's kingdom. This treaty may have been intended as a stabilizing factor against the political aspirations of Aram-Damascus. The ties with Ethbaal were strengthened by the marriage of Israel's heir apparent to Ethbaal's daughter. Israel's main contribution to the alliance was control of the heights of Moab, in the territory north of the Arnon, whose conquest by Omri is attested by the *Mesha stele. The conquest enabled him to control and direct the products carried over the "King's Highway." It may be assumed that the efforts made by the king of Israel to improve relations with the kingdom of Judah were made out of his desire to establish an anti-Aramean alliance on the one hand, and to get Judah to join the Tyre-Samarian axis on the other. Judah's joining the axis was important, because of the Judahite control of the southern part of the "King's Highway," which passed through Edom, a land subject to it. In Omri's time Israel had become an important political factor. The stability and prosperity began to be felt when *Ahab son of Omri started his reign; he added to the achievements of his father. Despite this, Ahab is negatively evaluated in the biblical historiography because of his toleration of the expansion of Phoenician culture in his personal and royal affairs. The Tyrian cult began to gain popularity among Israel's upper classes – the officers and merchants – because of the close ties with Tyre, and especially because of the activities of *Jezebel, the daughter of Ethbaal, and her followers (i Kings 16:32–33). The attitude of the biblical historiographer toward Ahab reflects that of circles close to Elijah. Elijah attacked the king, Jezebel, and the Baal prophets, who had attained a foothold in Israel (i Kings 18:18–45). Elijah enjoyed wide support among the populace, which bitterly resented the penetration of foreign cults and indeed suffered because of the innovations brought about by the Phoenician way of life (see also *Naboth).
The biblical view, however, does not negate the positive aspects of Ahab as a ruler. During his time solidarity between Judah and Israel increased, strengthened by political marriages. There appears to have been a treaty between the two nations, which placed both on an equal footing. In addition, Ahab enjoyed considerable success in his battles against Assyria and Aram-Damascus; these battles had taken on considerable importance by the end of his reign. It appears that Aram's intention was to destroy the Israel-Judah alliance, which was directed against it. Furthermore, the rule of Jerusalem and Samaria in Transjordan bothered the ruler of Damascus, *Ben-Hadad ii. The unchanged economic interests of Aram made it necessary to hold the territory east of the Jordan as an economic hinterland for its caravan routes and agricultural products. At first the Aramean army tried to subjugate Israel by a quick campaign, which ended with its defeat at the gates of Samaria. The next battle took place at Aphek and also ended in a clear-cut victory for Israel. It is instructive that despite the Aramean defeat Ahab entered into a treaty with Ben-Hadad, whose terms were especially lenient: certain cities were returned to Israel and she received commercial concessions in Damascus. This desire to make peace with Aram without hurting her too much is criticized by the prophets. It is clear, however, that this desire resulted from political and military considerations connected with the events outside the borders of Aram and Israel, namely, the methodical penetration by *Shalmaneser iii, king of Assyria, into Syria, which posed a concrete danger for the states in that area. These states came to the realization that Assyria had to be fought by an alliance of powers, and Ahab was no doubt party to this feeling. For this reason Ahab did not want to harm Aram's power to fight against the common enemy. One of Shalmaneser's inscriptions, in which the Assyrian king claims a victory over a coalition of kings of Syria and Palestine near Karkar (853 b.c.e.), prominently mentions "Ahab the Israelite" alongside the kings of Damascus and Hamath. Ahab came to the battle, according to this inscription, with a force of 2,000 chariots – the largest contributed by any of the allies; besides, he supplied 10,000 infantry. This is evidence not only of his political-military standing but also of the economic strength of the kingdom which could sustain such a force. Especially instructive is the find of Ahab's stables at Megiddo. To this may be added other archaeological evidence which testifies to the great development of Israelite cities, including the capital, in that period. The existence of an "ivory house," which is known from the Bible (i Kings 22:39), is confirmed by ivory plaques found in Samaria. Among the cities he refortified, according to the Bible, was Jericho. The fortification of this city appears to be connected with the increased control of Moab, north of the Arnon, over which Israel ruled. There too, according to the Mesha stele, widespread fortification activity took place. During the battle with Assyria, or shortly thereafter, Mesha revolted against Ahab, and began to eradicate Israel's rule in Moab. He may have been encouraged by Aram-Damascus, which resumed its thrusts against Israel after the battle at Karkar, at which the allies, at least temporarily, were able to stop the advance of Shalmaneser iii into central Syria. (Another theory holds that Mesha revolted during the reign of Ahab's successor.) The renewed battle between Aram and Israel took place near Ramoth-Gilead, which appears to have been an area contested by the two sides. This time, Judah allied itself with Israel. The battle ended in the death of Ahab and the disengagement of forces following the king's death. It appears that the Arameans were unable to cross Israel's border in Transjordan, which means that the battle did not end in Israel's defeat.
Ahab's reign was a period in which Israel came to be a considerable force in the international affairs of the region; this resulted from her prudent policies and her highly developed military capabilities, which gave her an advantage over Aram. The great building and fortification activities reflect advanced economic development in the kingdom, as well as its stability which remained unbroken in Ahab's time despite the internal struggle against foreign religious and cultural influences. Attention should be drawn to the political, economic, and military ties that existed between Samaria and Jerusalem, which was ruled by *Jehoshaphat son of Asa (c. 870–846 b.c.e.). As a result of this alliance, which was strengthened by a treaty, Judah enjoyed a relatively long period of peace. Jehoshaphat exploited these conditions by attempting a renewal of Red Sea commerce, which appears to have been interrupted after the death of Solomon. There is no doubt that Judah also received Phoenician technical support in this matter. The fleet which was built, however, sank before it could sail. The assertion of authority over Philistia and the Arabian tribes must be understood in the framework of the attempts to reestablish Judah as a commercial power (ii Chron. 17:11). The rule of Edom was carried out by Jehoshaphat with the help of a governor, and at a later period by a vassal king. Because of Edom, Jehoshaphat feared a deep Aramean penetration into Transjordan which would have endangered his bases there. This is probably one of the reasons for the treaty with Ahab and the joining of the forces of Judah to those of Israel in the battle at Ramoth-Gilead. (One opinion holds that Judah also joined Israelite forces during the battle with Assyria at Karkar in 853 b.c.e. This would account for the high number of chariots of Ahab.)
Jehoshaphat devoted much attention to internal policy. He appears to have been the first king of Judah to establish firm foundations for the royal and administrative offices, which had been undermined since the division of the kingdoms, because of the frequent warfare of his predecessors. The account of Jehosaphat's building activities (ii Chr. 17:12) may have archaeological support, but the description of his administrative innovations and teaching of the law is probably based of the midrash of his name – "Yahweh-has-Judged" – and reflects much later conditions (Japhet, 744–53). The cordial relations between Judah and Israel worsened during the short reign of *Ahaziah son of Ahab (852/1–851/0 b.c.e.), who wished to be included in Judah's commercial sea enterprises but was refused (i Kings 22:49–50). With the accession of his brother *Jehoram (851/0–842 b.c.e.) to Israel's throne, the friendly relations were resumed. Jehoshaphat even participated in an ill-fated campaign of Israel which was intended to reestablish Jehoram's authority over Mesha (ii Kings 3:4–24).
According to ii Chronicles 21:4, 13, the early part of the reign of Jehoshaphat's son *Jehoram (c. 851–843 b.c.e.) was marred by internal upheavals, including the murder of his brothers and certain high officials by Jehoram himself. His wife would later pursue a similar policy (ii Kings 11:1). It may be that the defeats at the end of Jehoshaphat's reign were responsible for the agitation which became even greater by the loss of Edom and the economic benefits Edom had provided (ii Kings 8:20ff.; ii Chron. 21:8). Added to all of this was no doubt dissatisfaction with the activities of the king's wife, *Athaliah daughter of Ahab, who had been accustomed to Phoenician cultic practices in her home and worked at introducing into Judah these practices as well as the mode of life customary in the court of Israel. She may also have sought to increase Judah's dependence on Israel. Ahaziah, who reigned after his father's death (843–842 b.c.e.), was influenced by his mother Athaliah. He continued the policies set by his father, even joining Jehoram son of Ahab in a war against Aram at Ramoth-Gilead. During this period Ahab's son Jehoram reaped the fruits of dissatisfaction with the house of Omri. This opposition gathered strength as a result of Jehoram's failures on the field of battle. He was wounded during the renewal of the battle against Aram at Ramoth-Gilead. During his convalescence at Jezreel he was killed, when *Jehu called for reprisals against the house of Omri. On this same dramatic occasion Ahaziah of Judah was wounded and died. Additional light on these events may be shed by the ninth century Aramaic inscription discovered at Tel Dan (Halpern, Schniedewind, and see *Jehu).
Jehu son of Jehoshaphat son of Nimshi (842–814 b.c.e.) was an army officer stationed in Gilead. He was swept aloft by the wave of popular rebellion, supported by the army, circles of prophets, and dissatisfied elements among the populace. With great cruelty, he killed the royal family and its courtiers, settling the long-standing debt against Jezebel. He decisively cut off every trace of the Baal worship, killing followers of the cult. Thus, he fulfilled the wishes of his supporters, but did not consider that in so doing he had also destroyed the political and economic bases of his kingdom by cutting, with one blow, the ties of Samaria with Phoenicia and Judah and upsetting the internal organization of his kingdom and its military capabilities. Jehu was thus open to the pressures of Aram-Damascus, which at this time was ruled by a new and powerful king, *Hazael. In an effort to insure his own rule, Jehu quickly made himself submissive to the Assyrian Shalmaneser iii, who reached Damascus in 841. Thus, for a short period of time Israel enjoyed a relaxation of pressures from the Arameans, who were busy defending themselves against Assyria. At a later stage, after Shalmaneser had failed to subjugate the capital of Aram, Hazael conquered the Israelite territories in eastern Transjordan. Toward the end of his reign, Jehu suffered another defeat when the Aramean army marched through Israel and reached the borders of Judah.
When Ahaziah died, his mother *Athaliah grasped the reins of leadership in Judah by killing the royal family (ii Kings 11:1; ii Chron. 22:10). There is no doubt that the revolution of Jehu in Samaria had its reverberations in Jerusalem, where there was a temple to Baal. It is of little wonder that a coup took place in the Judahite capital, led by the Temple staff and supported by the army and leaders of the people. Athaliah paid with her life and *Joash son of Ahaziah (836–798 b.c.e.), the only one to have escaped death at the hands of his grandmother, was made king of Judah. His coronation was accompanied by a covenant made between God and the king and the nation, and between the king and the people. These covenants stressed loyalty to the God of Israel and the renewed continuity of the Davidic dynasty in Jerusalem. The Jerusalem priesthood gained significant influence in political affairs thanks to *Jehoiada the priest, who had been the instigator of the rebellion. The Temple was restored to its former glory; it was repaired by means of contributions solicited from the nation. That same year Hazael, king of Aram, reached Judah after having defeated Jehu. Joash was forced to pay a heavy tribute, which was taken from the Temple treasury (ii Kings 12:18–19; ii Chron. 24:23) in order to put off the destruction threatening his country. It may be that this act was interpreted as a blow to the Temple, thereby opening a wedge for activities against the king. (By means of a midrash on ii Kings 12:3, the writer of ii Chronicles 24:2ff. tells us that Joash turned to evil ways after Jehoiada's death, providing a theological reason for the Aramean invasion, which he postpones until after the priest's death, as well as for the king's assassination.) The king was assassinated in a palace coup, but his son Amaziah ascended the throne. This lack of stability continued during the reign of Amaziah son of Joash. The new king sought to allay tensions by not touching the descendants of his father's murderers, though he did avenge himself against the murderers themselves. It appears that he was able to quiet the circles which had formed the conspiracy, because the biblical sources speak of the conscription and organization of the army in Judah (ii Chron. 25:5) to fight in Edom. This would have been impossible during a period of internal disturbances. According to Chronicles, Amaziah initially engaged a troop of mercenaries from Israel, but, not wanting to arouse new internal resistance, then gave them up and fought Edom by his own means. It appears that he was unable to conquer the whole of Edom. At a later date, probably encouraged by his victory over Edom, and believing that Israel had been greatly weakened after years of struggle with the Arameans, he turned against Israel. Amaziah was defeated by Jehoash son of Jehoahaz, the king of Israel, who entered Jerusalem, destroyed parts of her walls, looted the Temple and palace treasures, imposed economic sanctions, and took hostages away with him (ii Kings 14:8–14; ii Chron. 25:17–24). Judah's weakened condition probably was a factor in the successful conspiracy against Amaziah that eventually led to his assassination.
The defeats of Jehu led to the loss of territory and power by the kingdom of Israel. The period of decline continued during the reign of *Jehoahaz son of Jehu (817–800 b.c.e.). Echoes of this appear in the cycle of narratives about Elisha (ii Kings 5–7). At the same time, Aramean pressures reached their peak, as a result of which the kingdom of Israel was forced to contract into the nearby environs of Samaria. Some slight relief from Aramean bondage was provided when Adadnirari iii, king of Assyria, conducted a campaign into Syria against Aram and Damascus its capital, failing however to defeat her. He appears to be the moshiʿa, "deliverer," who, according to the biblical sources, saved Israel from Aram (ii Kings 13:5). It is possible that Jehoahaz was subjugated by the Assyrian king, paying him, like Jehu before him, a levy during the time he was in the vicinity of Damascus. An Assyrian inscription mentions "the land of Omri" (an appellation for the kingdom of Israel even after the end of the Omri dynasty), among the lands subject to Adad-nirari iii. It appears that during the latter years of Jehoahaz, Israel began to break free of the firm hand of Damascus, which was busy defending itself against Assyria. A stele discovered at Tel Rimah (Cogan and Tadmor, 335) mentions Jehoash (Joash) of Samaria, the son of Jehoahaz, king of Israel (800–784 b.c.e.), among those subjugated by Adad-nirari iii. It may be that this subjugation was a continuation of the tactics of his father (i f indeed the sources mentioned above refer to the time of his father and not to Jehoash's period), or he may have surrendered after the campaign of the king of Assyria into the valley of Lebanon in 796 b.c.e. In any case Jehoash utilized the decline of Aram to recapture territories taken from Israel during the reigns of his predecessors (ii Kings 13:9–14). This is yet another indication of Israel's renewed military capability, which also displayed itself in Jehoash's war against Amaziah, king of Judah, in which he defeated Amaziah's armies and reached Jerusalem.
A protracted period of nonintervention on the part of Assyria in Syrian affairs, which occurred after Jehoash's time, had a positive influence upon the policies of the region's countries, including Israel and Judah. Furthermore, these two countries began to assume prime importance in filling the political vacuum left in the wake of Aram's decline following her war with Assyria. Thus, the period of *Jeroboam son of Jehoash (789–748 b.c.e.) was one of ascendancy for Israel. Some of his political and military achievements are briefly described in ii Kings 14:23–29. These sources indicate that Jeroboam held widespread territories, including Aram-Damascus and eastern Transjordan. His northern boundary reached the kingdom of Hamath. The political and military activities were accompanied by economic expansion and building and fortification work in Samaria and its environs. Hints in the Books of Chronicles and Amos lead one to believe that Jeroboam initiated and strove to establish broader settlement areas in Transjordan and gave large pieces of land to his officers and followers. These individuals eventually developed into large and wealthy owners of estates of commanding influence, playing substantial roles in the final days of the kingdom of Israel. There were good relations at this time between Israel and Judah, as evidenced by a mention of a joint census in Transjordan (i Chron. 5:16–17).
Judah, too, enjoyed a stability which stemmed from the convenient international situation. From the time of Joash the rule of Judah's kings was disturbed by incessant internal struggles and an inability to gather sufficient support to overcome the opposition to their rule. The reign of Jeroboam's contemporary, *Uzziah (Azariah) son of Amaziah (785–733 b.c.e.), was one of the most flourishing in the history of the kingdom of Judah. In the absence of external disturbances, Uzziah completed the conquest of Edom, including the important bay of Elath and its harbor (ii Kings 14:22; ii Chron. 26:2). He subjugated the Arabian tribes who lived at the borders of his kingdom and asserted his authority over Philistia, including Gath, Jabneh, and Ashdod (ii Chron. 26:6–7). He strengthened his sovereignty over these areas by means of a far-flung building campaign and expanded agriculture and pasturing operations in eastern Transjordan to meet the needs of the royal economy. A similar development was accomplished in the Negev and the Arabah, including operations to ensure water supply, settlements, and a chain of fortifications for communications and defense (26:10ff.). The army of Judah was reorganized and supplied with new weapons (26:11–15); special attention was given to the fortification of Jerusalem. These biblical data are probably connected with the anti-Assyrian war preparations which occupied the region due to the penetration of *Tiglath-Pileser iii into Syria. It is possible that the "Azriau," mentioned in Assyrian inscriptions as the leader of a group of allies who fought the armies of Assyria in northern Syria and were defeated in 738, is in fact Uzziah, the king of Judah (Tadmor, 273–76 with references). But the question of how Uzziah became head of the alliance which fought in northern Syria is a difficult one. It is almost certain that Judah replaced Israel in importance in the area after Israel's precipitous decline following the death of Jeroboam son of Jehoash.
The Bible attributes Uzziah's severe skin disease to his attempts to secure special privileges for himself in the Temple service (ii Chron. 26:16–21). The incident is not sufficiently explicit, but it is clear that the king's cultic activities were rejected by the priesthood. There may even be in the conflict between *Uzziah and the priests a continuation of the struggles that existed between the Temple staff and his father and grandfather. Biblical sources and chronological calculations (see also *Chronology) lead to the conclusion that as a result of Uzziah's infirmity his son *Jotham (758–743 b.c.e.) took part in the administration of the kingdom. Furthermore, Jotham's regency, though counted in the Bible as a separate rule, is included in the years attributed to Uzziah, who was still alive. It even appears that the years given as Uzziah's period of rule include a few years from the reign of Ahaz, his grandson. Jotham son of Uzziah acted according to the guidance and direction of his father. It is not unreasonable to assume that a good portion of the building and other activities ascribed to the father was actually accomplished by the son. In the light of what has been said above, it is difficult to distinguish between their reigns. In any case, he appears to have appeased the priesthood. He, too, is credited with the fortification of Jerusalem and cities of Judah and with the building of fortresses. In his time Ammon was brought under Judah's rule (ii Chron. 27:5). It appears that as a result of this victory he was able to enlist the aid of Jeroboam son of Jehoash in the campaign into Transjordan (see above). After the defeat of 738, in which Judah was not directly affected, Jotham attempted accommodation with Assyria, thus arousing the ire of *Rezin, king of Damascus. The latter had restored independence to Aram with the help of his ally, the king of Israel. These two kings attempted to involve Judah in a new anti-Assyrian campaign.
With the death of Jeroboam son of Jehoash chaos broke out in Israel. Influential in the upheavals characteristic of this period were the great landowners and prominent parties from the eastern side of the Jordan. The short reign of *Zechariah son of Jeroboam (748/7 b.c.e.) ended in his assassination at the hands of *Shallum son of Jabesh (i.e., from Jabesh-Gilead). Shallum was deposed, before he could ascend the throne, by *Menahem son of Gadi (747/6–737/6 b.c.e.), who also appears to have been from Transjordan. He seems to have attempted to expand his territories and establish a firm rule (ii Kings 15:16), but the iron hand of Tiglath-Pileser iii prevented him from achieving his aims. There is no doubt that Menahem son of Gadi is "Menahem of Samaria," who is referred to in an Assyrian inscription of 738 b.c.e. as one of those who paid taxes to the king of Assyria. Menahem had little choice but to be counted among those loyal to Tiglath-Pileser iii. Biblical sources describe Menahem as having been forced to pay a heavy tax to Pul (i.e., Tiglath-Pileser), the king of Assyria. This money was exacted from the wealthy landowners of Menahem's kingdom (ii Kings 15:19–20). One theory based on the Samaria ostraca holds that the tax was collected in the form of agricultural products. After the death of Menahem, *Pekahiah, his son, lost control of affairs and soon fell in a conspiracy led by *Pekah son of Remaliah (735/4–733/2 b.c.e.), one of the nobles of Gilead. The cause of the conspiracy seems to have been dissatisfaction on the part of Transjordanian Israelites with Assyrian domination of Israel; these parties cultivated their own connections with Aram. Thus, when Pekah began his reign, he entered into a treaty with Rezin, king of Damascus, which was aimed against Tiglath-Pileser iii. In order to create a secure flank these two attempted to compel Jotham, and later his son *Ahaz (743–727 b.c.e.), to abandon Judah's policy of submitting to Assyria. They attempted this by fomenting rebellion in Edom and inciting Philistia (ii Kings 16:6; ii Chron. 28:17–18), and by a military campaign toward Jerusalem which was intended to upset the Davidic dynasty. Ahaz therefore turned to Tiglath-Pileser iii for aid, and, according to the biblical sources, submitted to the king of Assyria. The Bible blames him for practicing "abominations of the nations." The account that Ahaz ordered the construction of a Syrian style altar in the Jerusalem temple is not itself condemnatory but is now embedded in a hostile narrative. Nonetheless, it demonstrates the growing foreign influences upon Judah (ii Kings 16:3–4, 10–18; ii Chron. 28:3–4, 21–25). It is not clear whether the appearance of Tiglath-Pileser in Damascus resulted from Ahaz's request, since it is highly unlikely that the king of Assyria would have responded to such a call if he had not already decided to attack Damascus anyway. What appears more likely is that Ahaz turned to Tiglath-Pileser in 734, while the Assyrian army was already engaged in a campaign along the Phoenician coastline, reaching as far as the "brook of Egypt" (Wādi El-Arish). This Assyrian venture was intended to strengthen control over the Philistine coastal cities, and especially over Gaza. Thus Ahaz's request must have fallen upon receptive ears, since it suited Tiglath-Pileser's political-military plans. In 733–732 the Assyrians besieged Damascus and captured it, making it the center of an Assyrian province.
During the siege Tiglath-Pileser also conquered portions of eastern Transjordan and penetrated the Galilee and the Valley of Beth-Netuphah. As it appears from Assyrian sources and biblical references (ii Kings 15:29), he may have reached as far as Ashkelon. Immediately following these events another revolt took place in Samaria. In place of the cruel and destructive Pekah son of Remaliah, who brought disaster to the kingdom, *Hoshea son of Elah (733/2–724/3 b.c.e.) became king, his position being confirmed by the Assyrian ruler.
Throughout this period Judah maintained its vassal status, thus being saved. Assyrian records refer to Ahaz (called Jehoahaz in the inscription; Cogan and Tadmor, 336) who paid a tax in 728 b.c.e.
With the death of Tiglath-Pileser iii, widespread revolt broke out in Syria and Palestine. Even the kingdom of Israel, encouraged by Egypt (ii Kings 17:4), joined in the revolt. The new Assyrian king, *Shalmaneser v, punished the rebels by means of a military campaign. Upon reaching Palestine, he besieged Samaria for three years, and the capital fell in 722 b.c.e. The exile of its inhabitants and the turning of Samaria into an Assyrian province was completed by the next Assyrian king, Sargon ii (ii Kings 17:6; cf. 18:9–11. The exact details are complicated because the Babylonian Chronicle attributes the fall of Samaria to Shalmaneser, while his successor Sargon ii (722–705) takes the credit (see bibliography in *Exile, Assyrian and Map: Routes of the Exiles). He appears to have rushed his army westward in 720 to suppress rebellion in many parts of the area. Judah refrained from participation in this uprising. Assyrian inscriptions from Sargon's time mention Judah's submission. Still, there are hints about the involvement of *Hezekiah son of Ahaz (727–698 b.c.e.) in support of Ashdod, which was in rebellion against Assyria. As a result of this, sections of Judah's western border were attacked. In any case, Judah enjoyed a period of relative quiet, possibly because of its submission to Assyria. However, as soon as the Assyrian danger had passed, Hezekiah adopted a series of measures which may be interpreted as a shift in policy. The purification of the cult from foreign and popular native elements (ii Chron. 28:24; 29:3) was intended to raise national morale and unite the people around the House of David and the Temple. Even the literary activity (Prov. 25:1) was an expression of a new nationalistic spirit which, like the purification of the cult, expressed aspirations of political independence. There were even attempts to bring closer to Judah those residents of the former Israel living in nearby Assyrian provinces which had been established on the territories of the former kingdom of Israel. To this end, Hezekiah sent envoys to invite these people to participate in the Passover festival in Jerusalem, the date of which was made to conform to the calendar kept in the north (ii Chron. 30:1–21). It is clear that these aspirations were bound to become involved with anti-Assyrian activities which were growing from Egypt to Babylonia. The mission of the Assyrian *Merodach-Baladan (ii Kings 20:12; Isa. 39) to Jerusalem was intended to clarify Judah's stand in these activities. With the death of Sargon ii the balance seems to have been tipped in favor of Hezekiah's participation in the anti-Assyrian front. Jerusalem prepared for revolt. The capital was fortified, and the *Siloam tunnel was built to bring the water of the Gihon within her walls in time of emergency. The army was reorganized in preparation for the revolt. It appears from Assyrian inscriptions that at this time the pro-Assyrian king of Ekron was imprisoned in Jerusalem, and Philistia was attacked (ii Kings 18:8). This was done by Judah to create territorial continuity with Ashkelon, also a participant in the revolt.
*Sennacherib, who succeeded Sargon ii, successfully fought Babylonia, and attempted to conquer the cities along the Phoenician coast, afterward making his way toward Palestine. During this campaign, according to the sources describing his acts in Palestine, the Assyrian king conquered Beth-Dagon, Jaffa, Bene-Berak, and cities of the kingdom of Ashkelon. At Eltekeh, at the approaches to Judah, he defeated the Egyptian relief force which had been sent to help Hezekiah. The Assyrian army entered Judah, destroyed its cities, distributing them among the Philistine kings, and exiled many of the people. (See Map: Routes of the Exiles). A siege was laid upon Jerusalem. Hezekiah, encouraged by *Isaiah the prophet who had high standing in the king's court, did not open the gates of the city to Sennacherib, though he did sendhim a heavy tribute. The subsequent activities of Sennacherib are not clear. He left Judah, though opinions are divided as to his reasons. He may have returned to Palestine at a later date. In any case, Hezekiah remained on his throne as an Assyrian vassal paying very high tribute.
This subjugation to Assyria continued during the reign of *Manasseh son of Hezekiah (698–642 b.c.e.), who reigned during the rule of the last great Assyrian kings. He introduced Baal worship and astral cults into Jerusalem and Judah (ii Kings 21:1–9; ii Chron. 33:2–9). He built altars to the astral deities in the Jerusalem temple. He also paid taxes to Assyria. A late source (ii Chron. 33:11–13) relates that Manasseh was taken captive in chains to Babylonia, though he later returned to reign over Judah. It is said that, when he returned to Judah, he rooted out idolatrous practices and fortified Jerusalem and other cities (ii Chron. 33:14–16). (For a discussion of this issue, see Japhet, 1000–4.) The reign of *Amon son of Manasseh was short-lived, ending in his assassination. *Josiah son of Amon (639–609 b.c.e.) was brought to the throne by forces loyal to the House of David. They had before them the example of Hezekiah who had tried to unite the nation and deepen its national and religious awareness by purifying the cult and repairing the Temple. As in former times, the usual political motivation behind these acts existed. In this case the motivation was the decline of Assyria during the time of Josiah. While in earlier times Assyrian declines may have been temporary, it was clear during Josiah's reign that the fall of Assyria was not just a passing phenomenon. The Books of Kings and ii Chronicles are at odds over the order of events and their times. It has been argued that ii Chronicles is the more dependable, since its chronology and time fit in with the stages of the decline of the Assyrian empire (ii Chron. 34–35).
Josiah began by showing his faith in the God of David; he then cleansed his capital and cities and some of the former Israel territories of idolatry; and he finally arranged repairs of the Temple. This last deed is connected with other actions whose purpose was religious reform and the raising of national morale. These included the finding of a Torah scroll (see *Deuteronomy), the forming of a new covenant between the nation and its God, and the celebration of Passover in the capital. The biblical sources indicate that along with the national and spiritual activities of Josiah, there was also a territorial expansion into the former kingdom of Israel from which Assyria had retreated. In circumstances that are far from clear, Josiah met Pharaoh *Neco at Megiddo. According to ii Chronicles 35:20–24, Josiah engaged Neco in battle. Scholars who accept the Chronicles account do so against the background that Neco had attempted to help the tottering Assyrian forces which had fortified themselves along the Euphrates against the advances of Nabopolassar, the Chaldean, who was the founder of the neo-Babylonian empire. Neco wanted to exploit the decline of Assyria to acquire its territories west of the Euphrates. In line with these facts it has been argued that Josiah went to Megiddo in order to block an Egypto-Assyrian coalition. In contrast, other scholars argue that ii Kings 23:30 makes no mention of a battle and that Josiah had been summoned by Neco to a kind of court martial, or that he had walked into a trap (see Cogan and Tadmor, 300–3; Althann). In either event, Josiah was killed by Neco at Megiddo. With the death of Josiah, Judah's last period of national prosperity came to an end. After him came a period of decline, wars, bloodshed, and destruction. *Jehoahaz, his son, reigned in his stead, but was shortly removed by Neco, who made the areas west of the Euphrates his sphere of influence. Jehoahaz was replaced by *Jehoiakim (608–598 b.c.e.), Josiah's eldest son, who almost certainly must have displayed more loyalty to Egypt than his deposed brother. Judah became an Egyptian satellite and was forced to pay heavy tributes (ii Kings 24:33).
Beginning with Jehoiakim, Judah was buffeted by the severe conflict between Babylonia and Egypt on the one hand, and the proliferation of conflicting political views among its own ruling classes and people on the other. With *Nebuchadnezzar's defeat of Neco (605 b.c.e.) and penetration into Philistia, it was clear that Babylonia was the dominant force in the Near East. As a result, Jehoiakim was subject to Babylonian rule for a few years, though at the same time he tried to maintain his connections with Egypt, which encouraged him and promised aid. When Egypt enjoyed some temporary success in stopping Nebuchadnezzar, Jehoiakim's connections with Egypt turned into full-scale rebellion against Babylonia. Throughout this period, the prophet *Jeremiah counseled against a Judah-Egypt alliance, advising that the only way to save Judah from destruction was surrender to Babylonia. Promised Egyptian aid never reached Judah, when Nebuchadnezzar attacked, using his forces and soldiers from countries he had conquered (ii Kings 24:2). Jerusalem was placed under siege at around that time. After Jehoiakim's death, his son *Jehoiachin held the throne for three months before being exiled to Babylonia (597), along with his court, army officers, and craftsmen. Babylonian documents make it clear that he was well treated in exile, even retaining his royal title.
Nebuchadnezzar appointed as king of Judah *Zedekiah son of Josiah (596–586 b.c.e.), who was at first loyal to Babylonia. At a later period he made connections with anti-Babylonian elements and joined a rebellion which encompassed Palestine, the Phoenician coast, and Transjordan. This revolt had the active support of Egypt, now ruled by Pharaoh Hophra. Zedekiah remained loyal to the rebellion even after some of the rebels surrendered to Nebuchadnezzar. He even resisted the pressures of prophets led by Jeremiah, as well as of some of his courtiers, who feared the fate Judah might suffer because of its rebellious activities against Babylonia. The *Lachish ostraca testify to the events of those days, when the Babylonian army stood at the gateway to the country. These ostraca reflect the internal confusion among the administrators, army, and courtiers, and illustrate the emergency situation within Judah. The Babylonian army penetrated the land and began to destroy its fortifications (589). It appears that an Egyptian force was rushed to Judah at that time, providing some temporary relief from the siege of Jerusalem, but the force was defeated. The capital then came under protracted siege until it was conquered and destroyed, along with the Temple. Zedekiah was captured while trying to escape and was severely punished. Judah was depopulated by the exile of her populace and by the flight of refugees to neighboring countries. Nor was she able to stop the Philistines, Edomites, and Arabian tribes from taking parts of her territories. The remnants of the population of Jerusalem and Judah concentrated themselves about Mizpeh. There *Gedaliah son of Ahikam was appointed by the Babylonians to govern the remaining inhabitants of Judah. He was murdered, however, by conspirators from among Judah's former officialdom, who were encouraged by outside forces. With his death, the end came for the last vestige of independence that yet remained. The territory of Judah became an administrative unit of Babylon, but its exact status is unclear. (See Map: Routes of the Exiles).
The destruction of Jerusalem and the termination of the kingdom of Judah brought to an end the long period of independence and sovereignty which the people of Israel had enjoyed. There remained only the deep impress of this period upon the history of the nation and the hopes it gave to future generations.