History of Israel
ISRAEL, HISTORY OF
The primary source for the history of ancient Israel is, of course, the Bible. The Bible gives more relative space to history than any other sacred book. The Biblical historians and biographers were more concerned with the moral and theological implications of events than in the mere recital of facts. Archeological excavations in the Near E have illuminated and supplemented Biblical history, which is largely Israelite history. The records and inscrs. of the Egyptians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, and Romans give a background for and sometimes deal directly with the history of Israel. Some Gr. and Rom. historians record events involving the people of Israel. The histories of the Jewish general and writer Josephus (c. a.d. 37-103), The Jewish War and The Jewish Antiquities, are important sources esp. for the last two centuries of the history of ancient Israel.
The dates below usually follow The Westminster Historical Atlas of the Bible, revised ed., (1956), edited by G. E. Wright and F. V. Filson. Unless otherwise indicated, the dates are b.c.
(c. 1280) [A disputed date. Some scholars place the Exodus earlier, c. 1450. Ed.] The Exodus, “the going out” (from Egypt), was regarded by the Israelites themselves as the beginning of their national history. The Book of Genesis traces Israelite origins back to Abraham, and particularly to his grandson Jacob, also called Israel, and the latter’s twelve sons, the progenitors of the twelve tribes of Israel. These accounts in Genesis, however, are not histories but biographies, dealing with persons and families, not with the nation. The
Some of the data which are significant for fitting the Exodus into the framework of history are as follows: (1) The name Moses is prob. Egyp. meaning “son of,” an element of royal names in the 18th dynasty (1570-1305), e.g. Thutmose, and in the 19th dynasty (1305-1208), e.g. Ramses. (2) The Apiru are mentioned in Egyp. records as Asiatic slaves who worked as builders, as did the Hebrews, for Pharaohs in the 18th dynasty, e.g. Amen-hotep II, and in the 19th dynasty, e.g. Ramses II. The word Apiru may be related to עִבְרִי, H6303, “Hebrew,” and some of these Apiru may have been the Hebrews of the Bible. (3) Some have equated the Habiru of the Amarna Letters of the 14th cent. with the Biblical Hebrews and therefore have argued for an Exodus in the 15th cent. The name Habiru is prob. related to Apiru and to Hebrew, and the three names may denote the same class of semi-nomads. The Habiru of the Amarna Letters, however, were attacking different cities in Canaan from those which the Hebrews attacked, and elsewhere Habiru are mentioned in Syria and Mesopotamia and therefore cannot be identified with the Biblical Hebrews. (4) 1 Kings 6:1 places the building of the Temple (c. 958) 480 years after the Exodus, which would then have happened about 1438. Since forty years means a generation, many scholars think that 480 years means twelve generations, which is the actual number of high priests from Aaron to Zadok in Solomon’s time. Since the number of years in a generation is often less than forty, the actual time was prob. less than 480 years. (5) Another date is given in Judges 11:26, which places the coming of the Israelites “three hundred years” before Jephthah and seems to favor an Exodus in the 15th cent. But this number may be simply the addition of the periods of the preceding judges and servitudes, some of which were prob. contemporaneous and so the actual ti me involved was doubtless less than 300 years. (6) A key passage for the historical setting of the Exodus is Exodus 1:11, which states that the Israelites built Pithom and Raamses for Pharaoh. Since Ramses II (c. 1290-1224) built both these cities, many scholars put the Exodus early in the 13th cent. (7) The narratives of Moses’ meetings with Pharaoh imply that the royal residence was in northern Egypt, prob. in Raamses, also called Tanis, not far from the Heb. settlement in Goshen. Tanis was the capital in the time of the 19th dynasty, which would include a 13th cent. Exodus, whereas Thebes in southern Egypt, about 500 m. up the Nile, was the capital during the 18th dynasty which would include a 15th cent. Exodus. (8) Finally, the destruction of Lachish, Eglon, Bethel, Debir, and Hazor (all of which the Israelites captured) is dated by archeological evidence in the latter part of the 13th cent., and therefore the Exodus would fall early in that cent., about 1280. Some scholars have tried to account for the ambiguity of the evidence regarding the date of the Exodus by proposing that some tribes never went to Egypt and entered Canaan before the tribes which sojourned in Egypt. But this theory contradicts the evidence that the twelve tribes acted together in the wilderness and in the conquest of Canaan.
Connected with the Exodus were certain mighty acts of God. The plagues, showing Yahweh’s control over the forces of nature, finally persuaded Pharaoh to let the Israelites leave Egypt. The opening of the Red Sea by a strong E wind to let the Israelites cross and the destruction of the pursuing Egyptians by the returning waters were further evidences of God’s hand in the deliverance of Israel.
The Red Sea which the Israelites crossed is literally the Reed Sea, and the equivalent of this name was given by the Egyptians to one of the lakes or marshes on the NE border of Egypt. This lake, which has not yet been finally identified, was prob. the site of the Israelites’ crossing, rather than any portion of what is now called the Red Sea.
For the Israelites the important thing about the Exodus was not the date or the place, but the fact that God had delivered them from bondage and had called them to be His special people with a unique role in history. This great event was commemorated each spring in the Passover festival.
Moses was the leader of the Israelites both in the Exodus and in the wandering in the wilderness. As an Israelite of the tribe of Levi, he was naturally able to sympathize with the sufferings of his own people. As the adopted son of Pharaoh’s daughter brought up in the royal court, he was fitted to speak to the king on behalf of the Hebrews. Moses would know Egyp. art, lit., law, and methods of administration. He would also know the many gods of Egypt, and he must have heard of the Aten monotheism, which had been introduced a few generations before by Akhenaton, but which had died with the latter’s death because it had not reached the common people. Furthermore Moses’ years with the Midianites in Sinai gave him a knowledge of the topography of the wilderness and of the Arab tribes there which was valuable as he led the Israelites through that same wilderness.
Wandering in the wilderness
(c. 1280-1240?). The route of the wandering is connected with the location of Mt. Sinai, also called Horeb. Some have located Mt. Sinai E of Kadesh, but this conflicts with the tradition that the Israelites went to Sinai before Kadesh. Others have located Mt. Sinai in NW Arabia because Midianites lived there and because the phenomena at the giving of the law (fire, cloud, rumbling) are thought to indicate a volcanic eruption, which has taken place in that area. But the Midianites were nomadic, and the fire, cloud, and rumbling could betoken a thunderstorm. The above two locations of Mt. Sinai would imply that the Israelites crossed the Peninsula of Sinai along a northern route.
The traditional identification of Mt. Sinai with Jebel Musa in the southern part of the Peninsula of Sinai agrees with suggested identifications of Marah, Elim, Dophkah, and Rephidim on the way to Mt. Sinai, and with a possible identification of Hazeroth on the way N from Mt. Sinai. Also the time recorded for the journey from Egypt to Mt. Sinai and from Mt. Sinai to Kadesh agrees with this location of the mount. If this traditional location of Mt. Sinai is accepted, the Israelites made their way by stages southeastward near the shore of the Peninsula of Sinai and then turned inland to Dophkah, Rephidim, and Mt. Sinai.
One problem with the wandering in the wilderness is the large number of Israelites thought to be involved. The usual tr. of Exodus 12:37, “about six hundred thousand men on foot,” implies a total population of two and a half million. In addition to “thousand,” אֶ֫לֶף, H547, can also mean “clan” or “family.” The latter meaning would reduce the total to a reasonable and manageable number. Others consider the number a mere exaggeration or the number of a much later census.
Several of the miraculous provisions for the food and water of the Israelites in the wilderness are related to actual conditions in the Peninsula of Sinai. The manna agrees in many respects with the sweet, white exudations of scale insects on the tamarisk bushes which abound in parts of Sinai. When migrating quail reach land after crossing the Mediterranean in the fall or the Red Sea in the spring, they often fall exhausted and are easily captured as they were by the Israelites. Under the soil and rocks of the wilderness there is sometimes water waiting to be tapped (cf. Exod 17:3-6; Num 20:11).
The Israelites had hostile contacts with some of the nomadic inhabitants of the wilderness and friendly relations with others. At Rephidim they struggled successfully with Amalekites over the use of the spring there. On the other hand, Jethro, the priest of Midian, Moses’ father-in-law, came to visit Moses and joined with him in worship of Yahweh. He also gave the good advice to appoint elders to adjudicate lesser cases, while Moses retained jurisdiction over the most serious cases. Later Hobab the Midianite agreed to guide the Israelites through the wilderness as they proceeded from Mt. Sinai.
The first goal of the Israelites was Mt. Sinai, the mountain of God, where Moses had received God’s call to liberate the children of Israel. There Moses now received moral, civil, and religious laws and directions for the Tabernacle, a portable tent-shrine. The basic, written on stone tablets, were placed in the Ark, a sacred box, which was similar to the palladium carried by Arab tribes in ancient and modern times. At Mt. Sinai also the Israelites made a covenant with Yahweh to worship him alone and to keep his laws.
The second focus of the wandering, Kadesh, was also a holy place which is the meaning of its name. Near this site in northeastern Sinai there are three springs, and this area was Israel’s center for many years. From Kadesh spies were sent N into Canaan, and then an expedition entered Canaan, but was defeated at Hormah. At Kadesh Moses and his brother Aaron the priest had to deal with various revolts against their civil and religious authority. After most of the generation which left Egypt had died, and when the new generation had been united and hardened by the wandering life in the desert, the Israelites finally set out from Kadesh to enter the land which they believed God had promised to their ancestor Abraham and to them.
The conquest of Canaan (c. 1240-1200).
The Israelites approached Canaan from the SE and therefore conquered and settled territory E of the Jordan first. They did not attack the Edomites or the Moabites, because of ancestral relationship to these peoples. Sihon, the Amorite king whose capital was Heshbon, refused to let the Israelites pass and was defeated by them at Jahaz near Medeba. As a result the Israelites occupied much of the land between the Arnon and Jabbok Rivers. They did not attack the Ammonites to the E who were related to them. As they pressed northward, Og, the giant Amorite king of Bashan, opposed them at Edrei, but was defeated. Thereupon the Israelites occupied his kingdom from the Jabbok River northward to Mt. Hermon. This conquered territory E of the Jordan was settled by the Reubenites in the S, E of the Dead Sea and N of the Arnon River, by the Gadites in the center, S and N of the Jabbok River, and by a branch of the Manassites in the N, E of the
Moses continued to be the leader of the Israelites during the conquest of Trans-Jordan, but Joshua was the commander of the army in battle. Finally Moses died on Mt. Nebo, after viewing, but not entering, the land to the W of the Jordan. As liberator, leader, lawgiver, and prophet, he was the founder and former, under God, of the nation of Israel.
The leadership of the people during the conquest and settlement of the West devolved upon Joshua, who had long been assistant to Moses. Joshua and Caleb were the only spies who encouraged the people to enter Canaan years before when they were at Kadesh. Now he and Caleb were the only ones who came out of Egypt who also entered western Canaan.
In order to enter western Canaan the people had to cross the River Jordan. The waters of the river stopped at a town named Adam so that the people could walk across the river bed. It is recorded that in the years a.d. 1215, 1906, and 1927 the high bank opposite Adam fell into the Jordan, temporarily damming the water. So some have suggested that, as in the crossing of the Red Sea, God used natural means with wonderful timing to help the Israelites to go forward.
West of the Jordan, the Israelites first attacked Jericho, which guarded the valleys leading up into central Canaan. The city was defended by walls which fell, as the Israelites marched around them. The Israelites spared only Rahab and her family, because she had sheltered Israelite spies who had visited the city.
The Israelites then made their way up a valley and on the central ridge attacked Ai. They were repulsed in their first attempt, but in their second attack they lured the inhabitants out of the city and were victorious. By these initial victories in central Canaan, Joshua prevented the northern Canaanites from joining those in the S.
Joshua then called the people to sacrifice to Yahweh on Mt. Ebal in the center of Canaan. Since there is no reference to a capture of Shechem at the foot of Mt. Ebal, some have deduced that Israelites were already living there before Joshua came, but there is no direct evidence for this.
To the S the Gibeonite confederacy, including the cities of Gibeon, Chephirah, Beeroth, and Kiriath-jearim, made a peace treaty with the invaders. The Gibeonite ambassadors pretended to come from afar and so not to be of the inhabitants of Canaan, whom the Israelites considered under the ban of destruction.
The kings of five cities in the S: Jerusalem, Hebron, Jarmuth, Lachish, and Eglon, now joined to attack the Gibeonites because they had allied themselves with the invaders. Joshua drove the southern coalition from Gibeon and down the valley of Aijalon on the famous long day of battle. The Israelites were then able to capture many cities in the S one by one. Excavations at Lachish, Eglon, and Debir show that these cities were destroyed in the later 13th cent.
Having taken cities in central and southern Canaan, Joshua was free for a campaign in Galilee in the N. There he captured the city of Hazor, which excavations have shown was destroyed in the 13th cent.
Then representatives of the tribes were gathered at the central city of Shechem, and portions of the land were assigned to the twelve tribes. Reuben, Gad, and part of the tribe of Manasseh had already been settled E of the Jordan. In western Canaan, Simeon was located in the extreme S, and then going northward were the portions of Judah, Dan, Benjamin, Ephraim, part of Manasseh, Issachar, Zebulon, Asher, and Naphtali. To the Levites (assistant priests) were assigned cities W and E of the Jordan, and to the priests (descendants of Aaron) were given cities in Simeon, Judah, and Benjamin. This assignment of territory illustrates the tribal organization of the Israelites.
By the latter part of the 13th cent. the Israelites were settled in many parts of Canaan. That Israel was in Canaan by this time is confirmed by Pharaoh Merneptah’s stela of about 1230 listing Israel among the nations he overcame in Canaan. This boast of Merneptah’s, which is not mentioned in the Bible, may be based on an Egyp. campaign which had no lasting effects. The lists of captured cities in Israelite hands show that important cities, esp. in the plains and lowlands, were still under Canaanite control. In western Canaan Israel was largely limited to the central mountains.
The period of the Judges (c. 1200-1020).
The “judges” of Israel were not so much deciders of judicial cases as special leaders who saved their people in times of danger from surrounding nations. The judges were of different tribes and were active in different areas, and some of them must have been contemporaneous. Also some of the oppressions by other nations in different areas may have been contemporaneous. Therefore, if the years of the judgeships and of the oppressions are added, the sum is much longer than the actual time involved between Joshua and Samuel.
The Canaanites in the N under Jabin of Hazor and his general Sisera tried to subdue the Israelites. A judge and prophetess, Deborah, summoned the Israelite tribes to send soldiers to throw off the Canaanite yoke. Six of the northern tribes responded, and the Israelite forces were led by Barak. Sisera deployed his iron chariots, said to be 900 in number, on the plain of Esdraelon near the River Kishon. A torrential rain caused the Kishon to overflow, and the Canaanite chariots were mired or swept away. The Israelites, who had no chariots, came down from Mt. Tabor and defeated the Canaanites. This victory was celebrated in the Song of Deborah (Judg 5), which most scholars think was composed shortly after the event.
Another serious threat came from the Midianites who made raids, riding on camels from the eastern desert, and seized the crops and the lands of the Israelites. This is the first known example of the use of the camel in warfare. In response to God’s call, Gideon, who was known for his opposition to Baal worship, summoned men from his own tribe of western Manasseh and other northern tribes. By the use of torches and trumpets at night the Israelites terrified the Midianites and drove them eastward across the Jordan.
The most persistent danger to Israelite independence came from the Philistines. Like the Israelites they were recent invaders; soon after the Israelites came from the desert to the SE, the Philistines came by sea from the NW, particularly from Crete. They belonged to a group of Aegeans, whom the Egyptians called the Sea Peoples, who attacked the shores of Egypt at the same time and are depicted on the walls of Ramses III’s (c. 1175-1144) temple at Madinat Habu in western Thebes. The Philistines established themselves in cities near the coast of Canaan, particularly in Gaza, Ashkelon, Ekron, Gath, and also S of Gerar and in Dor. The Philistines brought with them the secret of smelting iron, which gave them a superiority over the Israelites who had weapons and tools of copper and bronze. The Philistines forced the tribe of Dan to move from its original location between Judah and Ephraim northward into Galilee near one of the sources of the Jordan. The influence of the Philistines is indicated by the fact that after their coming Canaan was often called Pal., the land of the Philistines.
Several Israelite leaders tried to resist the Philistines. The exploits of Shamgar and the herculean feats of Samson in killing Philistines or burning their fields were on an individual basis and did not remove the Philistine dominance. Finally the Israelites attempted a pitched battle with the Philistines at Eben-ezer. They summoned Hophni and Phineas, the corrupt sons of Eli, the priest of the central Israelite sanctuary at Shiloh, to bring the sacred Ark to insure an Israelite victory. Nevertheless, the Philistines were victorious, killed Hophni and Phineas, seized the Ark (which they later returned), and destroyed Shiloh, as evidenced by excavations there. The Philistines established garrisons to control the Israelites who became their vassals. Samuel, a judge and priest who had been trained by Eli at Shiloh, called the people back to God and led them to a victory over the Philistines at Mizpah, which restored a measure of independence to Israel.
The period of the judges was one of alternate idolatry and return to the Lord, of periodic dominance by surrounding nations, and of tribal disunity as evidenced by the war between Benjamin and the rest of the tribes. There was need for a strong, centralized government if Israel and its faith were to survive. Abimelech, the son of Gibeon, tried to establish a monarchy, but he lacked prophetic and popular support, and his attempt died with his death.
The united monarchy (c. 1090-922)
(c. 1020-1000). When Samuel grew old, the elders of Israel asked him to appoint a king to give them political unity and military leadership against their enemies. Samuel saw the wish for a king as a rejection of God’s and his authority, and warned that a king would curtail their liberties. Finally Samuel consented, and Saul of the tribe of Benjamin was chosen by lot as king. Samuel drew up a constitution stating the rights and duties of the king.
Saul showed his military ability by victories over the Ammonites E of the Jordan, the Philistines in central Pal., and the Amalekites who had invaded the S. Saul also built a fortified palace at Gibeah, which has been excavated, the most impressive structure built by Israelites up to that date.
Saul’s later years were embittered by disagreements with Samuel and other priests, and by his jealousy of the young officer David. The latter gained fame by killing the Philistine giant, Goliath, and was a close friend of Saul’s son, Jonathan. Saul’s attempts to kill David forced the latter to become a wandering outlaw with a band of followers in Judah and eventually to take temporary service in the army of the Philistine ruler of Gath.
The Philistines, whom Saul had driven from the highlands, extended their control along the Valley of Jezreel as far as Bethshan, which oversees the route from the Jordan to the W. This movement of the Philistines cut off the northern tribes from contact with the rest of Israel. Saul led his army to Mt. Gilboa, where the Philistines were victorious and killed Saul and Jonathan. The bodies of the Israelite king and his son were displayed by the Philistines on the wall of Beth-shan, and Saul’s armor was placed there in the temple of the goddess Ashtaroth, which has been excavated.
David (king of Judah c. 1000-994, king of all Israel c. 994-961).
It was David who completed the work that Saul had begun in uniting the Israelites and in defeating their enemies, and David went on to found a little empire which controlled the surrounding nations. After the defeat and death of Saul, his son Ish-bosheth was made king in Gilead E of the Jordan, and David was recognized as king in Judah, making his capital at Hebron. After the assasination of Ish-bosheth, the elders of northern Israel invited David to become the king of all the tribes, as Saul had been.
David’s first move as king of all Israel was to capture Jerusalem from the Jebusites and to make it his capital. This action helped to allay tribal and sectional jealousies, because Jerusalem had not belonged to any Israelite tribe and lay on the border between Judah and the N. Furthermore David had the sacred Ark transported to Jerusalem, a move which made that city the religious as well as the political center of the nation.
David’s genius as a leader was illustrated in Israelite victories over the surrounding nations. In a reversal of fortune, the Philistines were forced back to their original cities and became vassals of Israel. Moab and Ammon to the E, the Aramean kingdoms of Zobah and Damascus to the N, and Edom to the SE were also subdued and included in David’s empire. With Tyre David was on friendly terms.
Within Israel David had to cope with various rebellions, one of them led by one of his own sons, Absalom. The rebellion of Sheba revealed a sectional jealousy between N and S which boded ill for the continuing unity of Israel.
David’s cultural activities included building a palace in Jerusalem and gathering material for the Temple to be built by his son. He composed many psalms and is said to have organized the Levitical liturgical singers and musicians for worship. Excavations show that in his time iron became plentiful in Israelite cities, since the Philistine monopoly on the use of this metal had been broken.
Solomon (c. 961-922).
Solomon, the son of Bathsheba, David’s favorite wife, acceded to the throne, although he was a younger son. After his coronation Solomon killed his older brother Adonijah, who had aspired to the crown, and also killed or exiled Adonijah’s supporters. In spite of this bloody beginning, Solomon’s reign was noteworthy, not for military, but for cultural and economic developments.
Solomon’s building enterprises were amazing in view of the limited resources of Israel. The most famous building by Solomon was, of course, the Temple of Yahweh in Jerusalem. Solomon employed Phoen. craftsmen to make it, its furniture and utensils, the bronze pillars which stood before it, and the great bronze basin for water. The Temple itself was built of great stones, and the interior walls were lined with cedar and covered with gold leaf. In the
The wealth to support Solomon’s building enterprises came more from international commerce than from rocky Pal. With the cooperation of Hiram, king of Tyre, Solomon built a merchant fleet at Ezion-geber, which brought back gold, silver, ivory, apes, peacocks, almug wood, and precious stones from the E. Among the products sent out from this port was prob. copper which was mined and smelted in the Arabah Valley S of the Dead Sea. Solomon also traded in Egyp. and Cilician horses and Egyp. chariots. The purpose of the visit of the queen of Sheba to Solomon was not only to hear his proverbial wisdom, but also to trade. Solomon imported cedar wood for his buildings from Tyre, and he repaid with olive oil, grain, and some cities in northern Israel. One reason that Solomon was able to control and profit from the commerce between E and W was that neither Egypt nor Assyria was trying to dominate Pal. at that time.
Solomon’s building and luxury were also supported by tribute from the subject nations which his father had conquered, from heavy taxes on the Israelites, and from levies of forced Israelite laborers. To secure these taxes and levies of workers and to organize the government Solomon divided the country into twelve districts, each of which had a governor. These districts did not coincide with the territory of the twelve tribes, a break with the tribal traditions.
Solomon’s activities brought magnificence to Jerusalem, but roused discontent in many quarters. Leaders in Edom and Syria revolted. Furthermore, Israelites themselves, particularly in the N, resented the heavy taxes, the forced levies of workers, and the favored position of Judah. The prophets objected to the introduction of the worship of foreign gods which came to Jerusalem with Solomon’s foreign wives. Solomon had a reputation for wisdom, and he composed many proverbs, but his later policies were not wise, for they harmed his people, his religion, and his dynasty.
The separate kingdoms of Israel and Judah (922-722).
Rehoboam, Solomon’s son and successor, by trying to carry on the oppressive policies of his father, precipitated the secession of northern Israel. Jeroboam, the spokesman of the northern tribes, had been superintendent of workers under Solomon, had been encouraged to lead a revolt of the northern tribes by the prophet Ahijah, and had fled to Egypt in fear of Solomon. When Rehoboam arrogantly refused to mitigate the taxes and forced labor, the northern Israelites seceded and chose Jeroboam as their king.
After this break (c. 922), the two kingdoms continued a separate but interrelated existence for 200 years till the fall of Samaria in 722. The northern kingdom, including the territories of Ephraim, western Manasseh, Asher, Zebulon, Issachar, Dan, and Naphtali W of the Jordan, and of eastern Manasseh, Gad and Reuben E of the Jordan, was larger than the southern kingdom which included only Judah, Simeon, and Benjamin. The northern kingdom was also richer both agriculturally, because of its plains, and commercially, because of the international trade routes running through it. The southern kingdom was more mountainous and more isolated. For the above reasons, the northern kingdom was more open to foreign cultural and religious influences as well as to foreign conquest. The southern kingdom was more provincial, more faithful in maintaining the religion of Yahweh, and it continued an independent existence for a cent. and a half after the fall of the northern kingdom. Stabilizing factors in the S were the one Davidic dynasty, the one capital, Jerusalem, and its Temple, housing the Ark, which symbolized Israel’s original covenant with Yahweh. In the N there were nine dynasties, violently replacing each other, three different capitals, and two shrines at Bethel and Dan, which lacked symbolic connection with Israel’s religious traditions.
(c. 922-901) made his political capital at Shechem, which had been a national center in the time of Joshua. He felt the need of religious centers to keep his people from making pilgrimages to Jerusalem in the S. Therefore he set up golden calves in Bethel and Dan, perhaps under the influence of the animal gods he had seen in Egypt during his exile there in Solomon’s time. Since Yahweh was worshiped at these shrines, some have suggested that the calves were considered as pedestals for the invisible God. The prophetic writers condemned these images.
During the reigns of Jeroboam in Israel and Rehoboam (c. 922-915) in Judah, Pharaoh Shishak invaded Pal. The Biblical account of his plundering of Jerusalem is illustrated and amplified by Shishak’s own list on a wall of the temple at Karnak giving towns he captured both in Judah and in Israel.
Baasha (c. 900-877) founded a new dynasty in Israel and moved the capital to Tirzah. He fought with Asa of Judah (c. 913-873) over the border between them. Asa’s fortification of the border town of Mizpah is illustrated by the thick walls discovered there. Zerah, the Ethiopian, who was repulsed by Asa, was prob. a leader in the Egyp. army.
Omri (c. 876-869) does not receive much space in the book of Kings, perhaps because he was not regarded as religiously important, but his political importance is indicated by the fact that a cent. later the Assyrians were still calling Israel “the land of Omri.” Omri moved the capital of Israel to a new site, Samaria, which soon vied with Jerusalem in the beauty of its buildings. Omri cemented an alliance with Tyre by marrying his son Ahab to Jezebel, daughter of Ethbaal, king of Tyre and Sidon. To the SE, Omri conquered Moab, as recorded on the
Ahab (c. 869-850) continued the beautification of Samaria, building there an “ivory house.” This means that his palace’s walls and its furniture were embellished with carved ivory inlaid panels, such as have been found in excavations there. In Megiddo Ahab built tremendous stables with stalls for about 450 horses. Jezebel, Ahab’s Phoen. wife, brought with her and encouraged the worship of Baal and of the goddess Asherah. Such idolatry as well as Ahab’s seizure of a private citizen’s vineyard were condemned by the prophet Elijah.
Ahab was one of the leaders of a Syrian coalition which checked the advance of Shalmaneser III of Assyria in the battle of Qarqar in 853. According to Assyrian records, Ahab brought to this battle 2,000 chariots (more than any other Syrian contingent) and 10,000 foot soldiers. When they were not menaced by a common foe, Ahab and the king of Damascus fought over the control of Gilead. Finally the Syrians defeated and killed Ahab at Ramoth-gilead, though he was supported by Jehoshaphat of Judah.
Jehoram (c. 849-842), Ahab’s son, tried with Jehoshaphat’s help to quell a rebellion of Moab led by Mesha. The combined forces of Israel and Judah failed to capture Kirhareseth, the Moabite capital. Mesha later commemorated the independence of Moab on the stela called the Moabite Stone.
In Judah Jehoshaphat’s reign (c. 873-849) was marked by cooperation with Israel, as indicated above, and by internal religious reforms. He appointed judges in the cities and arranged for appeals to a supreme court in Jerusalem. He destroyed idols and pagan sanctuaries and sent out teachers of the law of the Lord. By defeating a coalition of Moabites, Ammonites, and Edomites he reestablished Judah’s control over Edom.
An Israelite general, Jehu (c. 842-815), supported by prophets, led a revolt against Jehoram. Jehu killed not only Jehoram, but also the latter’s nephew Ahaziah king of Judah (c. 842), who was a grandson of Ahab. In executing judgment on Ahab’s house, Jehu ordered the death of Jezebel, Ahab’s widow, and of the brothers of Jehoram and of Ahaziah. He also killed the worshipers of Baal. Shalmaneser III of Assyria’s Black Obelisk shows Jehu bowing down before Shalmaneser, and the inscr. states that Jehu presented tribute. In Jehu’s later years Hazael of Damascus took away from Israel the control of Trans-Jordan.
Meanwhile in Judah a daughter of Ahab, Athaliah (c. 842-837), was trying to wipe out the Davidic dynasty and to encourage Baal worship. After hearing that Jehu had killed her son Ahaziah, she seized power herself and killed her own grandchildren, except for a baby boy, Joash, who was hidden in the Temple. After six years the high priest Jehoiada had Joash (c. 837-800) crowned as king. Athaliah and the priest of Baal were killed, and the temple of Baal was destroyed. Jehoiada gave Joash wise guidance while he was young. In his later years Joash turned to idolatry. The prophets saw it as God’s judgment when the Syrians attacked Judah and plundered Jerusalem.
Both Jehoahaz (c. 815-801) and Joash (c. 801-786) of Israel continued to resist Syrian raids, which reached as far as an unsuccessful siege of Samaria itself. In their resistance to Syria the kings of Israel were encouraged by the prophet Elisha.
(c. 786-746), the son of Joash, brought the kingdom of Israel to its greatest extent and prosperity. He not only recovered Trans-Jordan from Syria, but also conquered Damascus itself. The material prosperity of Israel is illustrated by large buildings which have been discovered in Samaria, Megiddo, and Tirzah. But beside the great buildings in Tirzah, for example, are the remains of hovels, evidencing the injustice to the poor which the prophet Amos condemned. In Samaria from Jeroboam’s time there have been found many tax receipts written on potsherds. These receipts indicate prosperity, and the names on the receipts are compounded not only with Yahweh, like Jedaiah, but also with Baal, like Elibaal, evidences of the combination of Yahwism and idolatry denounced by Hosea and Amos. One reason for the prosperity and expansion of Israel under Jeroboam was the absence of aggression from the great powers of Egypt and Mesopotamia.
Judah also prospered at this time during the long reign of Uzziah, also called Azariah (c. 783-742). He defeated the Philistines on the W and the Arabs on the E, and he carried on his father Amaziah’s work of subjugating Edom by rebuilding the port city of Elath on the. Some scholars think he is the “Azriau of Yaudi” who, according to Assyrian records, headed a Syrian coalition opposing Assyria.
In the latter 8th cent. Judah came under Assyrian dominance, but was not wiped out. Ahaz of Judah (c. 735-715) refused to join Pekah of Israel and Rezin of Damascus in an alliance against Assyria. When the latter two kings attacked Jerusalem, the prophet Isaiah urged Ahaz to trust in God for deliverance. Ahaz sent gifts to Tiglath-pileser of Assyria and asked his help. The Assyrians subdued both Syria and Israel and exacted tribute from Ahaz also. Ahaz forsook the worship of Yahweh and adopted an Assyrian type of altar.
Since the Assyrians came from the N, Israel more keenly than Judah felt the force of their expansion under Tiglath-pileser III (c. 745-727). This king forced Menahem (c. 745-738) of Israel to pay tribute in 738. Pekah (c. 737-732) of Israel and Rezin of Damascus made an alliance to resist Assyria. Nevertheless in 732 Tiglath-pileser captured Damascus and took away from Israel the Mediterranean coast to the W, Galilee in the N, and Gilead to the E, carrying many Israelites into exile. When Hoshea (c. 732-724), the king of the remnant of Israel, refused to pay tribute to Assyria and turned for help to Egypt, Shalmaneser V of Assyria began the siege of Samaria.
The fall of Samaria (722).
Samaria withstood the Assyrian siege for three years, but the city finally fell in 722, shortly before the death of Shalmaneser. His son Sargon doubtless assisted in the siege and claims credit for the capture of the city. Sargon states that he carried away captive 27,290 Israelites, and the Bible indicates that they were taken to northwestern Mesopotamia and to Media. Hebrew names have been found in records at Nineveh and Nimrud (Calah). The story of Tobit deals with Israelites who were settled in Nineveh and Media. In place of the deported Israelites the Assyrians introduced settlers from Babylonia and Syria, who brought their idols with them. In time these pagan settlers were assimilated to the remaining Israelites and to Yahwism. So the later Samaritans were a mixture of Israelite and foreign elements and were therefore despised by the Judeans.
The kingdom of Judah alone (722-587).
In Judah Ahaz was followed by Hezekiah (c. 715-687), who tried to throw off Assyrian control and tribute. He prob. took part in the revolt against Assyria led by the Philistine city of Ashdod c. 711, for Sargon in his account of the suppression of this revolt states that he subdued the land of Judah. Hezekiah welcomed ambassadors of Merodach-baladan of Babylon, who was also scheming to rebel against Assyria. Hezekiah strengthened Jerusalem’s walls and dug a tunnel 1,777 ft. through solid rock to carry water from the spring Gihon to the Pool of Siloam within the city walls, to insure a water supply during a siege. Then Hezekiah led other Palestinian states in another rebellion against Assyria. In 701 Sennacherib of Assyria crushed this revolt, destroying forty-six cities in Judah, including Lachish, whose siege is depicted in reliefs from Sennacherib’s palace in Nineveh. Sennacherib’s records claim that he besieged, but did not take Jerusalem and imposed on Hezekiah tribute including the exact amount of gold mentioned in the parallel account in the Bible. Isaiah assured the pious Hezekiah that Jerusalem would not be captured, and the Biblical record states that “the angel of the Lord” slew many of the besieging Assyrians in the night. An Egyp. story preserved by Herodotus (II.141), telling that at this time the Assyrian army was infested with mice, may indicate that bubonic plague was the means used by God to remove the Assyrian army from Jerusalem. Because of the mention of Tirhakah (born 710) as leader of the Egyp. army which tried to repulse the Assyrians, some scholars suggest that there may have been a second invasion by Sennacherib in Pal. about 688, but this is not clearly stated in the Bible or in Assyrian records. Within Judah, Hezekiah was known for his religious reforms and his return to the law of the Lord.
Manasseh’s (c. 687-642) tribute is mentioned in Assyrian records. He must have tried to revolt, because the Assyrians carried him a prisoner to Babylon, which they controlled. The Chronicler sees this as a punishment for Manasseh’s idolatry. After Manasseh repented and returned to the Lord, the Assyrians allowed him to return to his throne in Jerusalem.
Josiah (c. 640-609) introduced religious reforms, like Jehoshaphat and Hezekiah before him, but he was more thorough than they in removing local shrines and idols. These reforms were based on a book of the law found in the Temple. Since Josiah centralized public worship and the observance of passover in Jerusalem, and since the Book of Deuteronomy stresses the one central sanctuary for sacrifice, many scholars have deduced that the book which was found was some form of Deuteronomy. Because Assyrian power was waning, Josiah was able to extend his control and the elimination of idolatry northward as far as Naphtali.
In 609 Pharaoh Neco went through Pal. to aid the Assyrians, who were hard pressed by the Babylonians. Josiah saw this move as a danger to his kingdom, and he opposed Neco’s army at the pass of Megiddo in northern Israel. Josiah was defeated and killed, and the prophet Jeremiah composed a lamentation for him. Neco was delayed by this battle, and the last Assyrian effort to repulse the Babylonians was defeated.
With the extinguishing of Assyrian power, Neco took over control of Syria-Palestine. Jehoahaz (609), who succeeded Josiah, prob. tried to follow an independent policy; Neco deposed him and took him captive to Egypt. Neco put his brother Eliakim in his place and gave him the throne name Jehoiakim (609-598).
After Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon defeated Neco at Carchemish in northern Syria in 605, Jehoiakim became a vassal of Nebuchadnezzar, and some of the Judean nobility, including Daniel, were taken to Babylon. After the Egyp. army repulsed the Babylonians in 601, Jehoiakim revolted against Babylon, contrary to the advice of Jeremiah. The Babylonians besieged Jerusalem, and Jehoiakim was taken captive and died.
Jehoiachin (598-597) succeded to the throne of Judah during the siege of Jerusalem. In 597 the Babylonians finally took the city and siezed treasures from the palace and Temple. Jehoiachin was carried captive to Babylon with thousands of Jewish leaders, soldiers, and artisans. Records discovered in Babylon show that Jehoiachin and his family received regular rations from the Babylonian government.
Nebuchadnezzar placed Jehoiachin’s uncle Mattaniah on the throne of Judah, giving him the throne name Zedekiah (597-587). After some years Zedekiah, disregarding the warnings of Jeremiah, revolted against Babylonia, relying on possible Egyp. help.
The fall of Jerusalem (587).
Again Nebuchadnezzar invaded rebellious Judah. Letters on potsherds sent to the Jewish commander at Lachish illustrate the advance of the Babylonians as they captured town after town. Lachish itself was taken and burned. Jerusalem withstood the Babylonian siege for eighteen months. An Egyp. expedition to relieve Jerusalem was turned back. In July, 587, the Babylonians broke through the walls. Zedekiah tried to escape, but he was captured, blinded, and taken to Babylon. In August the Babylonians burned the city, including the Temple, and broke down the walls. Some of the Jewish leaders were executed, and in 852 others were taken to Babylonia. Only the poor were left to till the soil.
The Babylonians appointed a Jew, Gedaliah, to govern Judah. At the instigation of the king of Ammon, Gedaliah was murdered together with some Babylonian soldiers. Fearing a reprisal, a group of Jews fled to Egypt, taking Jeremiah with them, though he objected to the move. In 582 the Babylonian reprisal was forthcoming in taking 745 more Jews as exiles to Babylonia.
The Exile (587-538).
Though the Exile is usually thought of as beginning in 587 with the fall of Jerusalem, it must be remembered that thousands had gone into exile from Israel in 735 and in 722 and from Judah in 597 and in 582. Furthermore, though the main body of exiles from Judah were in Babylonia, there were also exiles from Israel in northern Mesopotamia and in Media and exiles from Judah in Egypt.
In Babylonia the prophet Ezekiel and other Jewish exiles lived at Tel-abib on the River Chebar, a canal near the city of Nippur. Other places in Babylonia where Jewish exiles lived were Tel-harsha, Tel-melah, and Casiphia.
The prophet Jeremiah wrote to the exiles in Babylonia urging them to build houses, plant gardens, and live normal lives. The exiles were allowed to maintain some community organization headed by their own elders. Some Jews went into business and prospered. Daniel is said to have risen to the position of counselor to the king. Evil-merodach (562-560), Nebuchadnezzar’s son and successor, removed the exiled Jewish king Jehoiachin from prison and gave him residence in the royal palace in Babylon.
Jeremiah in writing and Ezekiel in person taught the exiles that the destruction of Jerusalem and the exile were Yahweh’s punishments for their sins. They urged the exiles to keep faith in Yahweh in the midst of idolatry and held out the hope of return to Judah. The prophecies of the second part of Isaiah comforted the exiles with the assurance that God, the controller of history, would lead them out of Babylonia in a new exodus back to Zion, from which the faith in the one true God would spread to all nations.
The Persian period (538-333).
Cyrus the Pers. (c. 559-530) was regarded in the second part of Isaiah as an instrument appointed by God to deliver the Israelite exiles. In 539 the army of Cyrus took Babylon, and Babylonia and its dependencies were incorporated into the Pers. empire. Cyrus followed a more tolerant policy toward subject peoples and their religions than that of Assyria or Babylonia. Throughout his empire Cyrus favored local cultural autonomy and respected local gods and their temples. The Jews also benefited from this policy, for Cyrus decreed that the Temple of Yahweh, God of heaven, should be rebuilt in Jerusalem and that Jews wishing to return to Judah could do so.
Shesh-bazzar, a prince of Judah and perhaps a son of Jehoiachin, was appointed governor of Judah. He led the first group of returnees. With them they carried, with Cyrus’s permission, vessels of gold and silver which Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the Temple in Jerusalem. On their arrival in Jerusalem the returnees set up an altar and began the foundations of a new Temple. They were suspicious of the racial purity and religious orthodoxy of the Israelites who had not gone into exile and refused to let them help in rebuilding the Temple. These “people of the land” retaliated by urging the Pers. authorities to halt the construction of the Temple and the walls.
Another much larger group of Jewish exiles returned with Zerubbabel, who was a nephew of Shesh-bazzar, and followed him as governor of Judah. With Zerubbabel came many priests and Levites led by the high priest Joshua. In 520 work was begun again on the Temple with the encouragement of the prophets Haggai and Zechariah, and the permission of King Darius I (522-486). Finally in 515 this second Temple of Yahweh in Jerusalem was completed.
The Esth 1:3) may have been in preparation for his expedition against Greece. A Pers. record mentions an official in Xerxes’ court at Susa (Shushan) named Marduka, who may be Mordecai, the cousin and guardian of Esther. The Jewish feast of Purim celebrates the deliverance of the Jews from their enemies as described in this book.
The prosperity of some of the Jews who continued in exile is illustrated by the business records of the Jewish bankers and traders, Murashu and his sons. These records come from Nippur and cover the second half of the 5th cent. This family traded in many commodities and services with Persians, Medes, Babylonians, Arameans, and fellow-Jews.
Ezra, a priest and scribe and perhaps the adviser for Jewish affairs at the Pers. court, led several hundred more exiles back to Judah in the seventh year of Artaxerxes (Ezra 7:7). Ezra was armed with a royal decree permitting Jews to return with him, commissioning him to reform religious life in Judah according to the law of God, and granting him money and vessels for the sacrificial worship in the Temple at Jerusalem.
According to the traditional view that Ezra returned under Artaxerxes I (465-424), the date of his return would be 458. Some suggest that the king was Artaxerxes II (404-358), in which case Ezra’s return would be in 398, but this dating contradicts several passages which make Ezra and Nehemiah collaborators (e.g. Neh 8:1, 2, 5, 6, 9; 12:36). Others conjecturally emend “seventh” in Ezra 7:7 to “twenty-seventh” or to “thirty-seventh,” keeping the identification of the king as Artaxerxes I, which would yield as dates for Ezra’s return 438 or 428. One of the arguments for placing Nehemiah before Ezra is that the “wall” (KJV) of Ezra 9:9 seems to imply that Nehemiah’s rebuilding preceded Ezra’s arrival. On the other hand, “wall” (KJV) may refer to a structure which was pulled down shortly before Nehemiah arrived, or more prob. to “protection” (RSV) by the Persians, since the Heb. word is not the usual one for a physical wall, and the whole district of Judah is protected. The difficulties of the traditional order, Ezra then Nehemiah, are less, in my opinion, than the problems arising from the assumption that Jews, writing a few generations after the events, confused the order of the two most outstanding figures of their recent history.
Nehemiah, cupbearer to the Pers. king, first came to Jerusalem as governor in 445, the twentieth year of Artaxerxes I. He had a commission from Artaxerxes I to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem with help and supplies from the Pers. officials in the province of Lev 23:24, 25) (first day of the seventh Jewish month) Ezra with assisting Levites read to the people from the Heb. law and interpreted, prob. in Aram., the lingua franca of the time which the Jews had learned in exile. Nehemiah was the first signer of a national covenant with God to obey the law, to avoid marriage with Samaritans and heterodox Jews, to observe the sabbath and the sabbatical year, and to give tithes for the Temple and the priests.
Nehemiah returned to the Pers. court in 433, but soon afterward he was sent back to Judah for a second term as governor. This time Nehemiah busied himself with religious reforms: providing for the Levites, enforcing the sabbath, and condemning marriages with pagans. Ezra and Nehemiah, with their emphasis on racial exclusiveness, and on the ceremonial law strongly influenced later Judaism.
The clash between Nehemiah and Sanballat widened the political and religious breach between the Judeans and the Samaritans. Nehemiah chased out of the Temple a son of the high priest who had married a daughter of Sanballat. Some think that this incident is the same as that described by Josephus (Antiq. XI. vii. 2, XI. viii. 2) but placed, perhaps by error, a cent. later in the time of Alexander. Josephus says that the expelled priest’s name was Manasseh and that he officiated in a rival temple which Sanballat constructed on Mt. Gerizim for the Samaritans.
Fifth-cent. Aram. records from Elephantine, an island in the Nile near Aswan in southern Egypt, show many aspects of the life of a Jewish garrison there employed by the Persians. In 419 the Jews there received a decree from Darius I, communicated through Hananiah of Jerusalem (perhaps Nehemiah’s brother) and Arsames the Pers. satrap of Egypt, about the observance of Passover. Later they wrote to Johanan, high priest in Jerusalem, to the sons of Sanballat, the governor of Samaria, and to Bagoas, the Pers. governor in Judah, about the rebuilding of their temple in Elephantine. They agreed not to sacrifice animals in their new temple, because of Pers. and Egyp. opposition to such sacrifice and because of the Jewish law limiting sacrifice to the central national sanctuary, the Temple in Jerusalem.
Artaxerxes III (358-338) had to face serious revolts in Egypt, Syria, and Palestine. In 345 his armies destroyed Sidon and took captives from Judah to Hyrcania, SE of the Caspian Sea. See map XI in Vol. 5 for area of Persian Empire.
The Greek period (333-167).
In the division of Alexander’s empire among his generals, Pal. was assigned to Ptolemy I (323-283) of Egypt, though Seleucus also wanted it. To establish his control of Pal., Ptolemy had to conduct several campaigns there. He first took control of Jerusalem in 320, entering the city on the sabbath, when the Jews made no resistance. He took many Jewish captives and settled them, some in Alexandria, some in Cyrene, and some he made garrisons in various cities of Egypt. In the Hel. period which followed Jews scattered to many places, esp. in the eastern Mediterranean countries. These settlements of Jews often became the seed plots for the early Christian Church.
In the time of Ptolemy I the high priest in Jerusalem was Onias I. That the high priest was the political as well as the religious leader in Judea is shown by the fact that Onias made a treaty of friendship with the king of Sparta.
Ptolemy II (285-246) rebuilt and hellenized cities in Pal., including Rabbah (now Amman) in Trans-Jordan, which he renamed Philadelphia, and Acre (Biblical Acco) on the northern coast, which he renamed Ptolemais. The correspondence of Zeno, the steward of Ptolemy II’s minister of finance, Apollonius, shows that the family of Tobiah, an enemy of Nehemiah, was in charge of collecting taxes for the Ptolemies in Trans-Jordan as it had been for the Persians. In Egypt Ptolemy II freed the Jewish slaves who had been taken captive in his father’s time.
A letter falsely attributed to Aristeas, an officer in Ptolemy II’s court, gives a legendary story that Ptolemy sent rich gifts to the Temple in Jerusalem and invited the high priest, Eleazar, to send six men from each of the twelve tribes to Alexandria. These seventy-two men are said to have produced a tr. of the OT into Gr., called the Septuagint (LXX “seventy”) in their honor. It is prob. true that Ptolemy sent gifts to the Temple in Jerusalem and that at least the Pentateuch was tr. into Gr. in Alexandria in his time. But the tr. was prob. produced by Alexandrian rather than by Palestinian Jews for the use of the numerous Gr.-speaking Jews.
After Ptolemy III (246-221) lost a battle with Seleucus II of Syria, the high priest in Jerusalem, Onias II, who favored the Seleucids, withheld the payment of tribute to Ptolemy. Ptolemy threatened to send soldiers to dispossess the Judeans of their lands. Joseph of the Tobiah family arranged with Ptolemy to take over the collection of taxes and the payment of tribute for Judea.
Ptolemy IV (221-203) was able to keep control of Pal. by defeating Ecclesiasticus 50:21.
Finally in 198 in the battle of Paneas in northern Pal. Antiochus III defeated the army of young Ptolemy V, and Pal. became a part of the Seleucid empire. The people of Jerusalem welcomed Antiochus, who promised the return of Jewish war refugees to their homes, reduction of taxes, the right to follow their religious laws, help in the repair of the Temple, and regular contributions to the expenses of the Temple worship.
The successors of Antiochus did not follow his benevolent policy toward Judea. For example, Seleucus IV (187-175), under the pressure of paying heavy tribute to Rome, tried, though without success, to get money from the Temple in Jerusalem. His emissary Heliodorus entered the Temple, but was beaten and frightened away.
(175-162), in addition to encouraging Gr. culture and customs in Judea, also tried to force Gr. religion on the Jews. The high priest, Onias III, was murdered, and Antiochus sold the high priesthood to Jason and then to Menelaus. In need of money for his wars, Antiochus robbed the Temple in Jerusalem. Because of ensuing riots he sent an army which killed, plundered, and destroyed in Jerusalem. Jewish sacrifices and feasts were halted, copies of the Law were destroyed, and circumcision was forbidden. Finally the worship of Zeus Olympios was introduced in the Temple, perhaps with the assumption that the supreme Gr. god could be identified with Yahweh. Jews who refused to comply with these measures were tortured and killed. The nation of Israel and the monotheistic religion of Israel were in danger of extinction.
The Maccabean, or Hasmonean, period (167-163).
The standard of Jewish revolt was raised by Mattathias, a priest who lived in Modein, near Lydda, with his five sons: John, Simon, Judas, Eleazar, and Jonathan. Mattathias was the descendant of a priest named Hashmon, and therefore the members of his family were sometimes called Hasmoneans. Mattathias refused to offer sacrifice to a pagan god and killed the Syrian officer who ordered the sacrifice and also a Jew who was willing to participate. Then Mattathias and his sons fled to the hills and were joined by some of the Hasidim (pious Jews).
After the death of the aged Mattathias, his son Judas (166-160) took the leadership of the revolt. Because of his skill in leading guerilla attacks he was called Maccabeus, prob. meaning “the Hammerer.” While Antiochus was away with the main Syrian army fighting the Parthians, Judas defeated several Syrian detachments. Finally Lysias, the regent of Antiochus, rescinded the orders proscribing Jewish religious practices. In Jerusalem Judas removed pagan elements from the Temple, rebuilt the altar of Yahweh, and rededicated the Temple in December, 164. This event is memorialized in the Jewish feast of Hanukkah (“Dedication”).
Antiochus died in 163, and his successor, Demetrius I, appointed Alcimus high priest in Jerusalem. Perhaps in disappointment at not being chosen high priest or in fear, Onias, son of the murdered Onias III, fled to Egypt. There he established a Jewish temple at Leontopolis, ten m. N of Heliopolis.
In Judea, since religious freedom had been attained, some Jews stopped fighting; but Judas carried on the war to achieve political independence from Syria also. To secure foreign support, he made a treaty of friendship with the Romans, who were interested in weakening the Seleucid power. After some victories over the Syrians, he was finally defeated and killed at Elasa in 160.
Judas’s brother, Jonathan (160-142), carried on the fight for independence. Because of internal struggles for power in Syria many Syrian garrisons were withdrawn from Judea. One of the claimants for the Seleucid throne,, appointed Jonathan high priest and then civil governor in Judea. Jonathan took control of several cities on the coast: Joppa, Azotus (Ashdod), and Ekron. A Syrian general, Trypho, offered to parley with Jonathan, but instead imprisoned and killed him.
Simon, the last surviving son of Mattathias, took over the rule and high priesthood of Judea (142-134). Demetrius II, in return for Simon’s aid against Trypho, who had usurped the Syrian throne, granted to Judea freedom from taxation, which meant practical independence. Simon renewed treaties with Sparta and Rome, and Rome warned the Ptolemies and the Seleucids to respect the independence of Judea. Simon drove out the last Seleucid garrisons in Judea, those in Gazara (Gezer) and the Acra fortress beside the Temple in Jerusalem. The Jewish people in 140 declared Simon their ethnarch, or national ruler, with the right of succession for his descendants.
Early in the rule of John Hyrcanus (134-104), Simon’s son and successor, Jerusalem was besieged by a Syrian army of
John Hyrcanus ceased to support the Pharisee party, because they said he should relinquish the high priesthood. The Pharisees carried on the tradition of the pious Hasidim, who had originally supported the Maccabean revolt. The Pharisees emphasized personal piety, study of the law, and observance of the details of traditional ceremonial requirements.
John Hyrcanus came to favor the Sadducean party, because they supported him in his priestly as well as in his civil office. The Sadducees were the aristocratic priests who were concerned about the Temple, its ritual, and its income.
Some coins of John Hyrcanus have been found at Qumran, indicating that the Essene community was there in his time or soon thereafter. This monastic group withdrew from the world to copy and study the Scriptures and to perform religious rituals, including frequent ablutions. They considered themselves as preparing for the soon coming of the Messianic prophet, king, and priest.
Aristobulus I (104-103) is said by Josephus to have taken the title of king. He conquered Galilee and forced the Gentile inhabitants to become Jews.
Under Alexander Janneus (103-76) the power of the Maccabees reached its greatest extent, but their original religious purpose for the national good was replaced by personal ambition and cruel oppression. Alexander won territory E of the Jordan and cities on the SW coast of Pal., but he had to fight almost continually with the Egyptians, the Syrians, or the Nabateans. The Pharisee party rebelled against him because of his lax performance of his high priestly duties. Josephus says that Alexander’ troops killed 6,000 rioting worshipers in Jerusalem and that Alexander crucified 800 of the Pharisees who had opposed him.
Alexandra (76-67), the widow of Alexander Janneus, succeeded him as civil ruler, She appointed her son Hyrcanus high priest and another son, Aristobulus, the commander of the army. Alexandra was known for her piety, and she favored the Pharisees, who sought revenge on those who had wronged them in the time of Alexander Janneus.
On the death of Alexandra, the ambitious Aristobulus II, with the help of the Sadducees, seized the throne (67-63). Hyrcanus, a mild and retiring person, conceded the high priesthood also to his brother Aristobulus. Antipater, an Idumean, persuaded Hyrcanus to seek help from the Nabatean king, Aretas III. Hyrcanus and Aretas besieged Aristobulus in Jerusalem. The Rom. general Scaurus, a lieutenant of Pompey, forced Aretas to withdraw from Jerusalem. Aristobulus, Hyrcanus, and a delegation of Pharisees all appealed to Pompey, who was in the process of making Syria a Rom. province. Pompey came to Jerusalem and captured the Temple after a siege of three months. Aristobulus was sent to Rome to appear in Pompey’s triumph. Judea came under the control of the Rom. proconsul of Syria. The independence which the Maccabees so bravely won lasted only eighty years.
The Roman period (63 b.c.-a.d. 66).
Pompey took away from Jewish control the Gr. cities E of the Jordan and Scythopolis who formed a league called Decapolis (“Ten Cities”), the cities of the coastal plain, and Samaria. Hyrcanus II was confirmed as high priest and leader of the Jewish nation with administration over Judea, Idumea, Perea beyond the Jordan, and Galilee. The real direction in the administration of these Jewish areas came from Hyrcanus’ adviser, Antipater the Idumean. All of Pal. was under the oversight of the Rom. governor of Syria, and the Jewish administrators of Judea had to come to terms with whatever Rom. happened to be in power. The confusion in Pal. in the mid-1st cent. was due partly to internal factions and partly to changes in Rome and on the international scene.
When Pompey was defeated and killed, Antipater and Hyrcanus gave their allegiance to the victorious Julius Caesar, who named Antipater procurator and Hyrcanus ethnarch. Antipater gave the administration of Judea to his son Phasael, and of Galilee to another son, Herod. Herod distinguished himself by the suppression of brigands in Galilee. Aristobulus II and his sons Alexander and Antigonus made various attempts to regain power in Judea. After Antipater was poisoned in 41, his sons Phasael and Herod were appointed joint tetrarchs of Judea by Antony, who then controlled the eastern Rom. provinces. In 40 the Parthians aided Antigonus the son of Aristobulus II to seize power in Judea. He forced Hyrcanus out of the high priesthood and ruled as the last Maccabean king and high priest 40-37, facing the growing challenge of Herod.
The Romans did not want an ally of Parthia in control of Judea and appointed Herod king of Judea in 40. With Rom. help Herod finally overcame Antigonus and took Jerusalem in 37. Octavian, when he had defeated Antony and Cleopatra, gave to Herod cities on the coast, Samaria, Jericho, and cities E of the Jordan. When Octavian had become emperor with the title Augustus, he gave Herod other territories E and N of the Sea of Galilee. So Herod finally controlled all of Pal., except for the independent cities of the Decapolis and Ascalon.
Herod’s building accomplishments, like those of Solomon, were truly remarkable, esp. when the small size of Pal. is considered. He rebuilt much of the city of Jerusalem and its walls. He also rebuilt Samaria, giving it the name Sebaste (corresponding in meaning to Lat. Augustus), and Strato’s Tower, calling it Caesarea, also in honor of Caesar Augustus. In Jericho he constructed a winter palace, which has recently been excavated. For defense he built fortresses such as Herodium, Masada, and Machaerus. He also donated money for buildings, including pagan temples, in Tyre, Sidon, and even in Rhodes and Athens. His most famous building project was the new Temple which he began in Jerusalem c. 20 b.c. He used tremendous stones for the wall of the court, which can still be seen, marble for the Temple itself, and gold on the domes. This was the Temple which was often visited by Jesus and which He warned would soon be destroyed.
Herod sponsored not only Hel. architecture but also Gr. lit. His court chronicler, Nicolas of Damascus, wrote a Universal History, on which Josephus drew for his histories.
In his relations to his family Herod showed jealousy, fear, and cruelty. Out of ill-founded jealousy he killed his favorite wife, Mariamne, the granddaughter of Aristobulus II. Out of fear he killed three of his own sons. These characteristics are also shown in Herod’s attempt to kill Jesus after the latter was born in Bethlehem toward the end of Herod’s reign. Herod’s physical accomplishments were great, but he was not loved.
Herod left Judea, Samaria, and Idumea to his son Archelaus, who ruled 4 b.c. to a.d. 6. During his rule Joseph and Mary brought the young Jesus back from Egypt to live in Nazareth. After Augustus deposed Archelaus, this area was ruled by Rom. procurators a.d. 6-41. The procurator during Jesus’ ministry was (a.d. 26-36), who was finally removed for his cruelty to the Jews and the Samaritans.
Another son of Herod, Herod Antipas, was given Galilee and Perea, which he ruled as tetrarch 4 b.c.-a.d. 39. His marriage to his brother’s wife, Herodias, brought the rebuke of , whom Herod executed in the fortress-palace of Machaerus, according to Josephus. To marry Herodias he cast off his former wife, whose father the Nabatean king, Aretas IV, waged war against him and took some cities in Perea. It was this Herod who examined Jesus in Jerusalem before the crucifixion.
A third son of Herod, Philip, was tetrarch of the territory N and E of the Sea of Galilee 4 b.c.-a.d. 34. He made Bethsaida, the home of some of Jesus’ disciples, his capital and gave it the added name Julias in honor of the daughter of Augustus. He rebuilt Paneas at a source of the Jordan and called it , in honor of the Emperor Tiberius Caesar and of himself. Here Peter confessed that Jesus was the Messiah, the .
At the crucifixion of Jesus near Jerusalem most of the elements of Israel’s history are represented: the Romans in Pontius Pilate who sentenced Him, the Sadducean priests who resented His interference with moneymaking in the Temple, the Pharisees who resented His teaching that ceremonial details were unimportant, the Jews of the dispersion in Simon of Cyrene, the family of Herod in Herod Antipas who examined Him, and finally the promises of Moses and the prophets which Jesus claimed to fulfill.
The Emperor Caligula made Herod Agrippa I (a.d. 37-44) king over the territory which had been ruled by Philip and over Abilene W of Damascus. Agrippa was the grandson of Herod the Great and the Maccabean princess Mariamne. The fact that he had Maccabean blood made him popular with the Jews. Agrippa’s visit to Alexandria, through no fault of his, touched off a violent anti-Jewish riot there. The Alexandrian Jewish philosopher Philo, who interpreted the Bible in the light of Plato, headed an Alexandrian Jewish delegation to complain to Caligula about this riot. While Agrippa was in Rome, he persuaded Caligula to withdraw an order to set up the emperor’s statue in Jerusalem, an action which would have precipitated a revolution. In a.d. 39 after the deposition of Herod Antipas, Caligula gave Galilee and Perea to Agrippa also. Finally in a.d. 41 the Emperor Claudius added Judea and Samaria to Agrippa’s kingdom. The Book of Acts, calling him only Herod, indicates that he wanted to please the Jews and therefore executed the Christian Apostle James and imprisoned the Apostle Peter. Josephus confirms the Biblical account of Agrippa’s sudden and painful death at a celebration in Caesarea.
In the mid-1st cent. after Christ Judaism prospered in Mesopotamia. A Jew, Asinaeus, rose to be governor of Babylonia under the Parthians. In Seleucia (near modern Baghdad) the thousands of Jews gained such power that there was a violent riot against them. In the little kingdom of Adiabene in northeastern Mesopotamia the royal house was converted to Judaism. Queen Hellena of Adiabene sent supplies to Judea in time of famine as did the Christians of Antioch through Barnabas and Saul. Helena’s tomb can be seen in Jerusalem near St. George’s Cathedral.
In a.d. 48 the right to appoint the high priest in Jerusalem was given to a son of Herod Agrippa I, Herod . The Romans made him king of Chalcis in Syria c. a.d. 50, and c. a.d. 53 they gave him in exchange the territory N and E of the Sea of Galilee which his father had ruled. In a.d. 56 the Emperor Nero added Galilee and Perea to his kingdom. This Agrippa took part in the examination of Paul, who paid tribute to his concern for Jewish affairs. Agrippa tried to prevent the Jews from revolting, and when the revolt came, he remained loyal to Rome who had given him his kingdom. He ruled these northern and eastern sections of Pal. until c. a.d. 93.
After Herod Agrippa I’s death Judea was again ruled by Rom. procurators (a.d. 44-66). Two of the procurators are mentioned in the Book of Acts, Felix (a.d. 52-60), who tried Paul when the latter was accused by Jewish leaders, and Festus (60-62), who sent Paul to Rome for trial before Nero. Some of the procurators had little understanding of the Jewish religion and roused opposition by dishonoring Jewish customs and sacred places. Others like Gessius Florus (a.d. 65-66) openly plundered towns and released brigands in return for bribes. There were repeated demonstrations and rebellions led by such persons as an Egyp. Jew (Acts 21:38) who promised his followers that the walls of Jerusalem would fall before them. The Romans crushed such rebellions with severity.
Revolts and destructions of Jerusalem (a.d. 66-135).
Finally in a.d. 66, after the procurator Florus had seized money from the Temple treasury, widespread revolt broke out. The rebels killed the Rom. soldiers in Jerusalem and defeated the forces of the Rom. legate of Syria at Beth-horon, where Joshua and Judas Maccabeus had won victories. In a.d. 67 Nero sent one of his best generals, Vespasian, with three legions to quell the revolt. Vespasian first defeated the Jewish forces in Galilee. He spared the life of the Jewish commander there, Josephus, who joined the Romans and vainly urged his countrymen to surrender. It was this Josephus who later wrote histories of his people including this very war. In a.d. 69 Vespasian was declared emperor, and he departed for Rome, leaving his son Titus to complete the subjugation of Judea. In April, a.d. 70, Titus began the siege of Jerusalem. Finally the Temple was burned on August 27, according to Josephus, the anniversary of its burning by the Babylonians in 587 b.c. Thousands of Jews were killed or sold into slavery. Rather than surrender, the garrison of Masada, the last Jewish fort to fall, committed mass suicide.
After a Jewish revolt in Cyrenaica in a.d. 115, a fresh revolt broke out in Judea in a.d. 132 over a decree forbidding circumcision. Bar Cochba, who was regarded as a messianic figure, was the leader of the Jews. This name, “son of the star,” may have been an epithet, for some of his letters, recently discovered, give his name as Simon ben Kosebah. In a.d. 135 the Romans captured and destroyed Jerusalem, as they had in a.d. 70. This time the Emperor Hadrian rebuilt the city, naming it Aelia Capitolina, and decreed that no Jew should enter it. The political history of ancient Israel was at an end. The religious fruits of that history, during which monotheism was preserved, continue in scattered Jewish communities including modern Israel and in the world-wide Christian Church, which has sometimes called itself the new Israel.
R. Kittel, Geschichte des Volkes Israel, I, 6th ed. (1923), II, 6th ed. (1935), III. 1 (1927), III. 2 (1929); W. O. E. Oesterley and T. H. Robinson, A
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
(3) The Monuments
2. Religious Character of the History
I. ORIGINS OF ISRAEL IN PRE-MOSAIC TIMES
1. Original Home
2. Ethnographical Origin
3. Patriarchal Origins and History
(1) Patriarchal Conditions--Genesis 14
(2) Ideas of God
(3) Descent into Egypt
II. NATIONALITY UNDER MOSES
1. Israel in Egypt
2. Historical Character of the Exodus (1) Egyptian Version of the Exodus
(2) Geographical Matters
(3) The Wilderness Sojourn
(4) Entrance into Canaan
III. PERIOD OF THE JUDGES
1. General Character of Period
2. The Different Judges
3. Chronology of the Period
4. Loose Organization of the People
IV. THE KINGDOM: ISRAEL--JUDAH
2. The Kingdom of Saul
5. Division of the Kingdom
6. Sources of the History of the Kingdom
7. Chronological Matters
V. PERIOD OF THE SEPARATED KINGDOMS
1. Contrasts and Vicissitudes of the Kingdoms
2. The Successive Reigns
3. The Literary Prophets
VI. TIME OF THE BABYLONIAN EXILE
1. Influence of the Exile
3. Elephantine Papyri
VII. RETURN FROM THE EXILE AND THE RESTORATION
1. Career of Cyrus
2. First Return under Zerubbabel
(1) Building of the Temple
(2) Haggai and Zechariah
3. Ezra and Nehemiah
VIII. THE JEWS UNDER ALEXANDER AND HIS SUCCESSORS
1. Spread of Hellenism
2. The Hasmoneans
IX. THE ROMANS
1. Division of Territory
2. Destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans
Later Insurrection of Bar-Cochba
3. Spiritual Life of Period
The chief and best source from which we can learn who this people was and what was its history is the Bible itself, especially the Old Testament, which tells us the story of this people from its earliest beginnings.
(1) The Old Testament.
The origins of Israel are narrated in Genesis; the establishment of theocracy, in the other books of the Pentateuch; the entrance into Canaan, in the
The historical value of the Old Testament books is all the greater the nearer the narrator or his sources stand in point of time to the events that are recorded; e.g. the contents of the Books of Kings have in general greater value as historical sources than what is reported in the Books of Chronicles, written at a much later period. Yet it is possible that a later chronicler could have made use of old sources which earlier narrators had failed to employ. This is the actual state of affairs in connection with a considerable number of matters reported by the Biblical chroniclers, which supplement the exceedingly meager extracts furnished by the author of the Books of Kings. Then, further, the books of the prophets possess an extraordinary value as historical sources for the special reason that they furnish illustrations of the historical situation and events from the lips of contemporaries. As an example we can refer to the externally flourishing condition of the kingdom of Judah under King Uzziah, concerning which the Books of Kings report practically nothing, but of which Chronicles give details which are confirmed by the testimony of Isaiah.
A connected account of the history of Israel has been furnished by Josephus). For the customs and usages of the later Jewish times the traditions deposited in the Talmud are also to be considered. Much less than to Josephus can any historical value be credited to the Alexandrian Jew, Philo. The foreign authors, e.g. the Greek and the Latin historians, contain data only for the story of the nations surrounding Israel, but not for the early history of Israel itself.. His work entitled Jewish Antiquities, however, as far as trustworthiness is concerned, is again considerably inferior to the Books of Chronicles, since the later traditions of the Jews to a still greater extent influenced his account. Only in those cases in which he could make use of foreign older sources, such as the Egyptian Manetho or Phoenician authors, does he furnish us with valuable material. Then for the last few centuries preceding his age, he fills out a certain want. Especially is he the best authority for the events which he himself passed through and which he reports in his work on the Jewish Wars, even if he is not free from certain personal prejudices (see
(3) The Monuments.
On the other hand, the early history of Israel has been wonderfully enriched in recent times through the testimonies of the monuments. In Palestine itself the finds in historical data and monuments have been, up to the present time, rather meager. Yet the excavations on the sites of ancient Taanach, Megiddo, Jericho, Gezer and Samaria have brought important material to light, and we have reasons to look for further archaeological and literary finds, which may throw a clear light on many points that have remained dark and uncertain. Also in lands round about Palestine, important documents (the
2. Religious Character of the History:
It is true that the rules applied to profane history cannot, without modification, be applied to the historical writings of the Hebrews. The Biblical narrators are concerned about something more than the preservation of historical facts and data. Just as little is it their purpose to glorify their people or their rulers, as this is done on the memorial tablets of the Egyptian the Assyrian, and the Babylonian kings. Looked at merely from the standpoint of profane history, there are many omissions in the Old Testament historical books that are found objectionable. Sometimes whole periods are passed over or treated very briefly. Then, too, the political pragmatism, the secular connection in the movements of the nations and historical events, are often scarcely mentioned. The standpoint of the writer is the religious. This appears in the fact that this history begins with the creation of the world and reports primitive traditions concerning the origin of mankind and their earliest history in the light of the revelation of the God of Israel, and that it makes this national history a member in the general historical development of mankind. Nor was this first done by the author of the Pentateuch in its present shape. Already the different documentary sources found combined in the Pentateuch, namely E (Elohist), J (Jahwist) and P (Priestly Code), depict the history of Israel according to the plan which the Creator of the world had with this people. Also, when they narrate the national vicissitudes of Israel, the writers are concerned chiefly to exhibit clearly the providential guidance of God. They give special prominence to those events in which the hand of God manifests itself, and describe with full detail the lives of those agents of whom Yahweh made use in order to guide His people, such as Moses, Samuel, David, Solomon and others. But it is not the glory of these men themselves that the writers aim to describe, but rather their importance for the spiritual and religious greatness of Israel. Let us note in this connection only the extreme brevity with which the politically successful wars of David are reported in 2 Samuel; and how fragmentary are the notices in which the author of the Books of Kings reports the reigns of the different kings; and how briefly he refers for all the other details of these kings to books that, unfortunately, have been lost for us. But, on the other hand, how full are the details when the Bible gives us its account of the early history of a Samuel or of a David, in which the providential guidance and protection of Yahweh appear in such a tangible form; or when it describes the building of the temple by Solomon, so epoch-making for the religious history of Israel, or the activity of such leading prophets as Elijah and Elisha. Much less the deeds of man than the deeds of God in the midst of His people constitute theme of the narrators. These facts explain, too, the phenomenal impartiality, otherwise unknown in ancient literatures, with which the weaknesses and the faults of the ancestors and kings of Israel are reported by the Biblical writers, even in the case of their most revered kings, or with which even the most disgraceful defeats of the people are narrated.
It cannot indeed be denied that this religious and fundamental characteristic is not found to the same degree in all the books and sources. The oldest narratives concerning Jacob, Joseph, the Judges, David and others reveal a naive and childlike naturalness, while in the Books of Chronicles only those things have been admitted which are in harmony with the regular cult. The stories of a Samson, Jephthah, Abimelech, Barak, and others impress us often as the myths or stories of old heroes, such as we find in the traditions of other nations. But the author of the Book of Judges, who wrote the introduction to the work, describes the whole story from the standpoint of edification. And when closely examined, it is found that the religious element is not lacking, even in the primitive and naive Old Testament narrative. This factor was, from the outset, a unique characteristic of the people and its history. To this factor Israel owed its individuality and existence as a separate people among the nations. But in course of time it became more and more conscious of its mission of being the people of Yahweh on earth, and it learned to understand its entire history from this viewpoint. Accordingly, any account of Israel’s history must pay special attention to its religious development. For the significance of this history lies for us in this, that it constitutes the preparation for the highest revelation in Christ Jesus. In its innermost heart and kernel it is the history of the redemption of mankind. This it is that gives to this history its phenomenal character. The persons and the events that constitute this history must not be measured by the standards of everyday life. If in this history we find the providential activities of the living God operative in a unique way, this need not strike us as strange, since also the full fruit of this historical development, namely the appearance of Jesus Christ, transcends by far the ordinary course of human history. On the other hand, this history of Israel is not to be regarded as a purely isolated factor. Modern researches have shown how intimately this history was interwoven with that of other nations. Already, between the religious forms of the Old Testament and those of other Semitic peoples, there have been found many relations. Religious expressions and forms of worship among the Israelites often show in language and in cult a similarity to those of the ancient Canaanites, the Phoenicians, the Syrians, the Babylonians, and the Egyptians. But it is a mistake to believe that the history and the religion of Israel are merely an offspring of the Babylonian. As the Israelites clung tenaciously to their national life, even when they were surrounded by powerful nations, or were even scattered among these nations, as in the Exile, thus too their religion, at least in its official representatives, has been able at all times to preserve a very high originality and independence under the influence of the Divine Spirit, who had filled it.
I. Origins of Israel in Pre-Mosaic Times.
1. Original Home:
The Israelites knew at all times that Canaan was not their original home, but that their ancestors had immigrated into this land. What was their earlier and earliest home? Tradition states that they immigrated from Haran in the upper Euphrates valley. But it is claimed that they came to Haran from
2. Ethnographical Origin:
The Israelites at all times laid stress on their ethnographical connection with other nations. They knew that they were intimately related to a group of peoples who have the name of Hebrews. But they traced their origin still farther back to the tribal founder, Shem. Linguistics and ethnology confirm, in general, the closer connection between the Semitic tribes mentioned in Ge 10:21 ff. Undeniable is this connection in the cases of Assur, Aram, and the different Arabian tribes. A narrower group of Semites is called Hebrews. This term is used in Ge in a wider sense of the word than is the case in later times, when it was employed as a synonym for Israel. According to its etymology, the word signified "those beyond," those who live on the other side of the river or have come over from the other side. The river meant is not the Jordan, but the Euphrates. About the same time that the ancestors of Israel were immigrating into Canaan and Egypt, other tribes also emigrated westward and were called, by the Canaanites and by the Egyptians, `ibhrim. This term is identical with Chabiri, found in the Tell el-Amarna Letters, in which complaint is made about the inroads of such tribes. The Israelites cannot have been meant here, but related tribes are. Possibly the Egyptian Apriu is the same word.
3. Patriarchal Origins and History:
The Israelites declared that they were descended from a particular family. On account of the patriarchal characcter of their old tribal life, it is not a matter of doubt that, as a fact, the tribe did grow out of a single family. The tribal father, Abraham, was without a doubt the head of the small tribe, which through its large family of children developed into different tribes. Only we must not forget that such a tribe could rapidly be enlarged by receiving into it also serfs and clients (compare Ge 14:14). These last-mentioned also regarded the head of the tribe as their father and considered themselves as his "sons," without really being his descendants. Possibly the tribe that immigrated first to Haran and from there to Canaan was already more numerous than would seem to be the case according to tradition, which takes into consideration only the leading personalities. Secondly, we must remember that the Israelites, because of their patriarchal life, had become accustomed to clothe all the relations of nations to nations in the scheme of the family. In this way such genealogies of nations as are found in Ge 10 and 11 originated. Here peoples, cities and countries have also been placed in the genealogies, without the author himself thinking of individual persons in this connection, who had borne the names, e.g. of Mizraim (Egypt), Gush (Ethiopia), etc., and were actually sons of Ham. The purpose of the genealogy in this form is to express only the closer or more remote relationship or connection to a group of nations. Ge 25:1 ff also is a telling example, showing how independently these groups are united. A new wife (Keturah) does not at this place fit into the family history of Abraham. But the writer still wants to make mention of an Arabian group, which was also related to Israel by blood, but in fact stood more distant from the Israelites than did the Ishmaelites. Out of this systematic further development of the living tradition, however, one difficulty arises. It is not in all places easy, indeed not always possible, to draw the line between what is reliable tradition and what is a freer continuation. But it is a misinterpretation of the historical situation, when the entire history of the patriarchs is declared to be incredible, and when in such sharply defined personalities as Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, and others, only personifications of tribes are found, the later history of which tribes is said to be embodied in the lives of these men; e.g. the name Abraham cannot have been the impersonal name of a tribe or of a god. It is found as the name of a person on old Babylonian tablets (Abu ramu); but originally in the nomadic tribe was doubtless pronounced ’abhi ram, i.e. "My father (God) is exalted." The same is true of the name Jacob (really Jakob-el); compare Joseph (Joseph-el), Ishmael, and others, which find their analogies in old Arabian names.
(1) Patriarchal Conditions--Genesis 14.
Further, the conditions of life which are presupposed in the history of the Patriarchs are in perfect agreement with those which from the Tell el-Amarna Letters we learn existed in Canaan. While formerly it was maintained that it would have been impossible for a single tribe to force its way into Canaan at that time when the country was thickly populated, it is now known that at that very time when the ancestors of the Israelites entered, similar tribes also found their way into the land, sometimes in a peaceable way, sometimes by force. Egypt for the time being had control of the land, but its supremacy was at no place very strong. And the `ibhrim, as did others who forced their way into the country, caused the inhabitants much trouble. Especially does Ge 14, the only episode in which a piece of universal history finds its way into the story of the tribal ancestors, turn out to be a document of great value, which reflects beautifully the condition of affairs in Asia. Such expeditions for conquest in the direction of the Mediterranean lands were undertaken at an early period by Babylonian rulers, Sargon I of Akkad and his son Naram Sin. The latter undertook an expedition to the land of Magan along the exact way of the expedition described in Ge 14, this taking place in the days of Amraphel, i.e. Hammurabi. The fact that the latter was himself under an Elamitic superior is in perfect agreement with the story of the inscriptions, according to which the famous Hammurabi of Babylon had first freed himself from the supremacy of Elam. The fact that Hammurabi, according to accepted chronology, ruled shortly after the year 2000 BC, is also in agreement with Biblical chronology, which places Abraham in this very time. These expeditions into the country Martu, as the Babylonians call Syria, had for their purpose chiefly to secure booty and to levy tribute. That the allied kings themselves took part in this expedition is not probable. These were punitive expeditions undertaken with a small force.
Genesis 14 seems to be a translation of an old cuneiform tablet. As a rule the stories of the patriarchal age for a long time were handed down orally, and naturally were modified to a certain extent. Then, too, scholars have long since discovered different sources, out of which the story in its present form has been compiled. This fact explains some irregularities in the story: e.g. the chronological data of the document the Priestly Code (P), which arranges its contents systematically, do not always harmonize with the order of events as reported by the other two leading documents, the Elohist (E) and the Jahwist (Jahwist), the first of which is perhaps the Ephraimitic and the second the Judaic version of the story. But, under all circumstances, much greater than the difference are the agreements of the sources. They contain the same picture of this period, which certainly has not been modified to glorify the participants. It is easily seen that the situation of the fathers, when they were strangers in the land, was anything but comfortable. A poetical or perfectly fictitious popular account would have told altogether different deeds of heroism of the founder of the people. The weaknesses and the faults of the fathers and mothers in the patriarchal families are not passed over in silence. But the fact that Yahweh, whom they trusted at all times, helped them through and did not suffer them to be destroyed, but in them laid the foundation for the future of His people, is the golden cord that runs through the whole history. And in this the difference between the individual characters finds a sharp expression; e.g. Abraham’s magnanimity and tender feeling of honor in reference to his advantage in worldly matters find their expression in narratives which are ascribed to altogether different sources, as Ge 13:8 ff (Jahwist); 14:22 ff (special source); 23:7 ff (P). In what an altogether different way Jacob insists upon his advantage! This consistency in the way in which the different characters are portrayed must awaken confidence in the historical character of the narratives. Then, too, the harmony with Egyptian manners and customs in the story of Joseph, even in its minutest details, as these have been emphasized particularly by the Egyptologist Ebers, speaks for this historical trustworthiness.
(2) Ideas of God.
Further, the conception of God as held by these fathers was still of a primitive character, but it contains the elements of the later religious development (see Religion of Israel).
(3) Descent into Egypt.
During a long period of famine the sons of Jacob, through Divine providence, which made use of Joseph as an instrument, found refuge in Egypt, in the marshes of which country along the lower Nile Semitic tribes had not seldom had their temporary abodes. The land of Coshen in the Northeast part of the Delta, Ed. Naville (The Shrine of Saft-el-Henneh and the Land of Goshen, London, 1887) has shown to be the region about Phakusa (Saft-el-Henneh). These regions had at that time not yet been made a part of the strictly organized and governed country of Egypt, and could accordingly still be left to such nomadic tribes. For the sons of Jacob were still wandering shepherds, even if they did, here and there, after the manner of such tribes, change to agricultural pursuits (Ge 26:12). If, as is probable, at that time a dynasty of Semitic Hyksos was ruling in lower Egypt, it is all the more easily understood that kindred tribes of this character were fond of settling along these border districts. On account of the fertility of the amply watered districts, men and animals could increase rapidly, and the virile tribe could, in the course of a few centuries, grow into a powerful nation. One portion of the tribes pastured their flocks back and forth on the prairies; another builded houses for themselves among the Egyptians and engaged in agricultural pursuits and in gardening (Nu 11:5). Egyptian arts and trades also found their way among this people, as also doubtless the art of writing, at least in the case of certain individuals. In this way their sojourning in this country became a fruitful factor in the education of the people. This stay explains in part the fact that the Israelites at all times were more receptive of culture and were more capable than their kinsmen, the Edomites, Ammonites and Moabites, and others in this respect. Moses, like Joseph, had learned all the mysteries of Egyptian wisdom. On the other hand, the sojourn in this old, civilized country was a danger to the religion of the people of Israel. According to the testimony of Jos 24:14; Eze 20:7 ff; 23:8,19, they adopted many heathen customs from their neighbors. It was salutary for them, that the memory of this sojourn was embittered for them by hard oppression.
II. Nationality under Moses.
1. Israel in Egypt:
It is reported in Ex 18 that a new Pharaoh ascended the throne, who knew nothing of Joseph. This doubtless means that a new dynasty came into power, which adopted a new policy in the treatment of the Semitic neighbors. The expulsion of the Hyksos had preceded this, and the opposition to the Semitics had become more acute. The new government developed a strong tendency to expansion in the direction of the Northeast. Under these circumstances it is not surprising that the laws of the empire were vigorously enforced in these border districts and that an end was made to the liberties of the unwelcome shepherd tribes. This led to constantly increasing measures of severity. In this way the people became more and more unhappy and finally were forced to immigrate.
It is still the current conviction that the Pharaoh of the oppression was Rameses II, a king who was extraordinarily ambitious of building, whose long reign is byplaced as late as 1310 to 1244 BC. His son Merenptah would then be the Pharaoh of the Exodus. But on this supposition, Biblical chronology not only becomes involved in serious difficulties, since then the time of the Judges must be cut down to unduly small proportions, but certain definite data also speak in favor of an earlier date for the Exodus of Israel. Merenptah boasts in an inscription that on an expedition to Syria he destroyed the men of Israel (which name occurs here for the first time on an Egyptian monument). And even the father of Rameses II, namely Seti, mentions Asher among those whom he conquered in Northern Palestine, that is, in the district afterward occupied by this tribe. These data justify the view that the Exodus already took place in the time of the XVIIIth Dynasty, a thing in itself probable, since the energetic rulers of this dynasty naturally have inaugurated a new method of treating this province. The oppression of Israel would then, perhaps, be the work of Thethroes III (according to Meyer, 1501-1447 BC), and the Exodus would take place under his successor, Amenophis II. In harmony with this is the claim of Manetho, who declares that the "Lepers," in whom we recognize the Israelites (see below), were expelled by King Amenophis.
The length of the sojourn of the Israelites in Egypt, according to Ge 15:13 (P), was in round numbers 400 years; more exactly, according to Ex 12:40 f (P), 430 years. But the last-mentioned passage in Septuagint reads, "the sojourn of the sons of Jacob, when they lived in Egypt and in the land of Canaan." (The same reading is found in the Samaritan text, only that the land of Canaan precedes that of Egypt.) Since, according to this source (P), the Patriarchs lived 215 years in Canaan, the sojourn in Egypt would be reduced also 215 years. This is the way in which the synagogue reckons (compare Ga 3:17), as also Josephus (Ant., II, xv, 2). In favor of this shorter period appeal is made to the genealogical lists, which, however, because they are incomplete, cannot decide the matter. In favor of a longer duration of this sojourn we can appeal, not only to Ge 15:13 Septuagint has the same!), but also to the large number of those who left Egypt according to Nu 1 and 26 (P), even if the number of 600,000 men there mentioned, which would presuppose a nation of about two million souls, is based on a later calculation and gives us an impossible conception of the Exodus.
While no account has been preserved concerning the sojourn of the Israelites in Egypt, the history of the Exodus itself, which signifies the birth of Israel as a nation, is fully reported. In this crisis Moses is the prophetical mediator through whom the wonderful deed of God is accomplished. All the deeds of God, when interpreted by this prophet, become revelations for the people. Moses himself had no other authority or power than that which was secured for him through his office as the organ of God. He was the human instrument to bring about the synthesis between Israel and Yahweh for all times. He had, in doing this, indeed proclaimed the old God of the fathers, but under the new, or at any rate hitherto to the people unknown, name of Yahweh, which is a characteristic mark of the Mosaic revelations to such an extent, that the more accurate narrators (E and P) begin to make use of this name only from this period of time on. In the name of this absolute sovereign, God, Moses claims liberty for Israel, since this people was Yahweh’s firstborn (Ex 4:22). The contest which Moses carries on in the name of this God with Pharaoh becomes more and more a struggle between this God and the gods of Egypt, whose earthly representative Pharaoh is. The plagues which come over Egypt are all founded on the natural conditions of the country, but they occur in such extraordinary strength and rapidity at Moses’ prediction, and even appear at his command, that they convince the people, and finally Pharaoh himself, of the omnipotence of this God on the soil of this country. In the same way the act of deliverance at the Red Sea can be explained as the cooperation of natural causes, namely wind and tide. But the fact that these elementary. forces, just at this critical time, proved so serviceable to the people of God and destructive to their enemies, shows unmistakably the miraculous activity of God. This the Israelites experienced still further on the journey through the desert, when they were entirely dependent on Divine leadership and care. The outcome of these experiences, and at the same time its grandest demonstration, was the conclusion of the covenant at Mt. Sinai. From this time on Yahweh was Israel’s God and Israel was the people of Yahweh. This God claimed to be the only and absolute ruler over the tribes that were now inwardly united into one nation. From this resulted as a matter of course, that Moses as the recognized organ of this God was not only the authority, who was to decide in all disputes concerning right, but also the one from whom a new and complete order of legal enactments proceeded. Moses became the lawgiver of Israel.
Even if the history of the origin of the Old Testament covenant is unique in character, it is nevertheless profitable to take note of an analogy which is found in a related people and which is adapted to make much in Israel’s history clearer. Mohammed also, after he had at the critical point of his career persuaded his followers to migrate from their homes, soon after, in Medina, concluded a covenant, according to which he, as the recognized speaker of Allah (God), claimed for himself the right to decide in all disputes. He, too, in his capacity as the prophet of God, was consulted as an infallible authority in all questions pertaining to the cult, the civil and the criminal laws, as also in matters pertaining to politics and to war. And his decisions and judgments, uttered in the name of Allah, were written down and afterward collected. This Koran, too, became the basis of sacred law. And by causing the hitherto divided and antagonistic tribes to subject themselves to Allah, Mohammed united these his followers into a religious communion and in this way, too, into a national body. Mohammed has indeed copied the prophecy of earlier times, but the work of Moses was original in character and truly inspired by God.
2. Historical Character of the Exodus:
The historical character of the exodus out of Egypt cannot be a matter of doubt, though some suspect that the entire nation did not take part in the march through the Red Sea, but that certain tribes had before this already migrated toward the East. We must not forget that the song of victory in Ex 15 does not mention a word about Pharaoh’s being himself destroyed in going through the Sea. It is only the late Ps 136:15 that presupposes this as a certainty. That an entire nation cannot emigrate in a single night cannot be maintained in view of the fact that the inhabitants of the same Wady-Tumilat, through which Israel marched, so late as the last century, emigrated in a single night and for similar reasons (compare Sayce, Monuments, 249).
(1) Egyptian Version of the Exodus.
The fact that the Egyptian monuments report nothing of this episode, so disgraceful to that people, is a matter of course, in view of the official character of these accounts and of their policy of passing over in absolute silence all disagreeable facts. And yet in the popular tradition of the people, which Manetho has handed down, there has been preserved some evidence of this event. It is indeed true that what this author reports about the Hyksos (see above) does not belong here, as this people is not, as Josephus thinks, identical with the Israelites. However (Apion, I, xxvi, 5 ff), he narrates a story which may easily be the tradition concerning the exodus of the children of Israel as changed by popular use. King Amenophis, we are told, wanted to see the gods. A seer, who bore the same name, promised that his wish would be gratified under the condition that the country would be cleansed of lepers and all others that were unclean; and it is said that he accordingly drove 80,000 such persons into the stone quarries East of the Nile. As the seer was afraid that these measures would be displeasing to the gods and bring upon the land a subjection of 13 years to the supremacy of foreigners, he gave up to these lepers the former city of the Hyksos, Avaris by name. Here they appointed a priest by the name of Osarsiph, later called Moses, as their chief, who gave them a special body of laws and in these did not spare the sacred animals. He also carried on war against the Egyptians, the Hyksos helping him, and he even governed Egypt for 13 years, after which he and his followers were driven out into Syria. Similar stories are found in Chaeromon, Lysimachus, and others (Apion, I, xxxii, 36; compare Tacitus, History, verses 3-5). When we remember that it is nonsense to permit lepers to work in stone quarries and that the Egyptians also otherwise call the Semites Aatu, i.e. "plague," then this story must be regarded as referring to such a non-Egyptian nation. Hecataeus of Abdera has a report of this matter which is much more like the Biblical story, to the effect, namely, that a plague which had broken out in Egypt led the people to believe that the gods were angry at the Egyptians because they had neglected the religious cult; for which reason they expelled all foreigners. A part of these is said to have migrated under the leadership of Moses to Judea and there to have founded the city of Jerusalem (compare Diodorus Siculus xl.3; compare xxxvi.1).
(2) Geographical Matters.
The Red Sea, through which the Israelites went under the leadership of Moses, is without a doubt the northern extension of this body of water, which in former times reached farther inland than the present Gulf of Suez; compare Edouard Naville, The Store-City of Pithom and the Route of the Exodus, 1885; and The Route of the Exodus, 1891. This savant is entitled to the credit of having identified the station Sukkoth on the basis of the monuments; it is the modern Tell-Mashuta and identical with Pithom, which was the name of the sanctuary at that place. Later the city was called Heroopoils. The route accordingly went through the modern Wadi-Tumilat to the modern Bitter Sea, North of Suez. It is a more difficult task to trace the route geographically on the other side of the Sea. For it is a question whether "the Mountain of Yahweh," which formed the goal of the journey, is to be located on the Sinai peninsula, or in the land of the Edomites, or even on the western coast of Arabia. A.H. Sayce and others reject the traditional location of Sinai on the peninsula named after this mountain, and declare that the Israelites marched directly eastward toward the Gulf of Akaba. The reasons for this are found in the work of Sayce, The Verdict of the Monuments, 263 ff. But even if on this supposition a number of difficulties fall away, there nevertheless are many arguments in favor of the traditional location of Sinai, especially the grandeur of the chain itself, for which a rival worth mentioning has not been discovered in the land of the Edomites or in Northwestern Arabia. The Sinai traveler, E. H. Palmer, has also shown how splendidly the surroundings of the Sinai chain, especially the Jebel Musa with the Ras Sufsafeh, is adapted for the purpose of concluding a covenant.
(3) The Wilderness Sojourn.
The duration of the sojourn in the "desert" is everywhere (as in Am 5:25) given as 40 years. In harmony with this is the fact that only a few of those who had come out of Egypt lived to enter Canaan. The greater part of these 40 years the Israelites seem to have spent at Kadesh. At any rate, there was a sanctuary at that place, at which Moses administered justice, while the different tribes probably were scattered over the prairies and over the tillable districts. The central sanctuary, which Moses established, was the Tabernacle, which contained the , the sanctissimum. This sacred ark with the cherubim above it represents the throne of God, who is thought to be enthroned above the cherubim. The ark itself is, as it were, His footstool. As in Egyptian sanctuaries not infrequently the most sacred laws are deposited beneath the feet of the statue of the gods, thus the sacred fundamental laws of God (the Decalogue), on two tablets, were deposited in this ark. This Ark of the Covenant presupposes an invisible God, who cannot be represented by any image. The other laws and ordinances of Moses covered the entire public and private legislation, given whenever the need for these made it necessary to determine such matters. In giving these laws Moses connected his system with the old traditional principles already current among the tribes. This fact is confirmed by the legal , which contains remarkable parallels, especially to Ex 20-23:19. But Moses has elevated the old traditional laws of the tribes and has given them a more humane character. By putting every enactment in the light of the religion of Yahweh, and by eliminating everything not in harmony with this religion, he has raised the people spiritually and morally to a higher plane.
Among the people, the undercurrents of superstition and of immorality were indeed still strong. At the outset Moses had much to contend with in the opposition of the badly mixed mass of the people. And the fact that he was able for the period of 40 years to hold the leadership of this stubborn people without military force is a phenomenal work, which shows at all hands the wonderful cooperation of Yahweh Himself. However, he did not indeed succeed in raising the entire people to the plane of his knowledge of God and of his faith in God. This generation had to die in the wilderness, because it lacked the sanctified courage to take possession of the land of promise. But the foundation had been laid for theocracy, which must not in any way be identified with a hierarchy.
(4) Entrance into Canaan.
It was Joshua, the successor of Moses, who was enabled to finish the work and to take possession of the land. Not far from Jericho he led the people over the Jordan and captured this city, which had been considered impregnable. After that, with his national army, he conquered the Canaanitish inhabitants in several decisive battles, near Gibeon and at the waters of Merom, and then went back and encamped at Gilgal on the Jordan. After this he advanced with his tribe of Ephraim into the heart of the land, while the southern tribes on their part forced their way into the districts assigned to them. Without reasons this account has been attacked as unreliable, and critics have thought that originally the different tribes, at their own initiative, either peaceably or by force, had occupied their land. But it is entirely natural to suppose that the inhabitants of the country who had allied themselves to resist this occupation by Israel, had first to be made submissive through several decisive defeats, before they would permit the entrance of the tribes of Israel, which entrance accordingly often took place without a serious struggle. That the occupation of the land was not complete is shown in detail in Jud 1. Also in those districts in which Israel had gained the upper hand, they generally did not wage the war of annihilation that Moses had commanded, but were content with making the Canaanites, by the side of whom they settled, bondsmen and subjects. This relation could, in later time, easily be reversed, especially in those cases in which the original inhabitants of the country were in the majority. Then, too, it must be remembered that the latter enjoyed a higher state of civilization than the Israelites. It was accordingly an easy matter for the Israelites to adopt the customs and the ideas of the Canaanites. But if this were done, their religion was also endangered. Together with the sacred "holy places" (bamoth) of the original inhabitants, the altars and the sanctuaries there found also came into possession of the Israelites. Among these there were some that had been sacred to the ancestors of Israel, and with which old memories were associated. As a consequence, it readily occurred that Israel appropriated also old symbols and religious ceremonies, and even the Baals and the Astartes themselves, however little this could be united in principle with the service of Yahweh. But if the Israelites lost their unique religion, then their connection with the kindred tribes and their national independence were soon matters of history. They were readily absorbed by the Canaanites.
III. Period of the Judges.
1. General Character of Period:
In such a period of weakened national and religious life, it could easily happen that Israel would again lose the supremacy that it had won by the sword. It was possible that the Canaanites could again bring into their power larger parts of the land. Also energetic and pushing nomadic tribes, such as the Ammonites, the Moabites, or other warlike peoples, such as the Philistines, could bring the country under subjection, as actually did occur in the period of the Judges. The Book of Judges reports a number of such instances of the subjection of Israel, which did not extend over the whole land, and in part occurred in different sections of the country at the same time. Judah and Simeon, the two tribes in the south, as a rule took no part in these contests, and had their own battles to fight; and the same is true of the tribes East of the Jordan, among whom Northern Manasseh and Ephraim were in closest alliance. After a longer or shorter period of oppression, there followed in each case a revival of the national spirit against such oppression. And in all these cases the popular hero who became the liberator appealed to the religious consciousness that formed a bond of union between all the Israelirish tribes and their common God Yahweh. In however wild a manner the youthful vigor of the people may have found its expression on these occasions, they are nevertheless conscious of the fact that they are waging a holy war, which in every case also ended with the victory over the heathen spirit and false worship that had found their way into Israel. The most precious historical monument from these times is the song of Deborah (Jud 5), which, like a mirror, reflects faithfully the conditions of affairs, and the thoughts of that age.
Judges 17-21 belong to the beginning of this period. The first of these old stories narrates the emigration of a large portion of the tribe of Da to the extreme north of the country and the origin of idolatry in that region (Jud 17; 18). But the second story, too, both in form and contents, is, at least in part, very old and its historical value is amply protected against the attacks of modern critics by Ho 9:9; 10:9. This story reports a holy war of revenge against the tribe of Benjamin, which was unwilling to render satisfaction for a nefarious crime that had been committed at Gibeah in its territory. In the feeling of close solidarity and of high responsibility which appears in connection with the punishment of this crime, we still see the influence of the periods of Moses and Joshua.
2. The Different Judges:
First it is narrated of a king of Aram-naharaim that he had oppressed Israel for a period of 8 years (Jud 3:8). This probably means a king of the Mitanni (Sayce, Monuments, 297, 304), who at that time were trying to force their way through Canaan into Egypt. It was Othniel, the Kenazite, belonging to a tribe that was related to Judah, who delivered Israel. A second liberator was the Benjamite Ehud, who delivered the southeastern portion of the country from the servitude of Eglon, the king of the Moabites, by putting the latter to death (Jud 3:12 ). On a greater scale was the decisive battle against the Canaanitish kings in the north, when these had formed an alliance and had subjected Israel for a period of 20 years. At the appeal of Deborah, Barak conquered Sisera, the hostile king and leader of a mighty army of chariots, in the plain of Kishon (Jud 4; 5). In the same region the battle of Gideon was fought with the plundering Bedouin swarms of the Midianites, who had repeatedly oppressed Israel (Jud 6-8). Abimelech, an unworthy son of the God-fearing hero, after the death of his father, had established a local kingdom in Shechem, which stood for only a short time and came to a disgraceful end. Little more than the names are known to us of Tola, of the tribe of Issachar, and of Jair, in Gilead (Jud 10:1 ). More fully is the story of Jephthah told, who delivered the country from the Ammonites coming from the east (Jud 11), with which was also connected a struggle with the jealous Ephraimites (Jud 12); and still more fully are the details reported of the personal contests of the Nazirite Samson, belonging to the tribe of Dan, against the Philistines making their inroads from the south, and who for many years proved to be the most dangerous enemies of Israel.
All these heroes, and a few others not so well known, are called judges, and it is regularly reported how long each of these "judged" Israel. They were not officials in the usual sense of the term, but were liberators of the people, who, at the inspiration of Yahweh, gave the signal for a holy war. After the victory they, as men of Yahweh, then enjoyed distinction, at least in their own tribes; and in so far as it was through their doing that the people had been freed, they were the highest authorities in political, legal, and probably, too, in religious questions. They are called judges in conscious contradistinction from the kingly power, which in Israel was recognized as the exclusive prerogative of Yahweh, so that Gideon declined it as improper when the people wanted to make him king (Jud 8:22 f). The people recognized the Spirit of Yahweh in the fierce energy which came over these men and impelled them to arouse their people out of their disgraceful lethargy. For this reason, too, they could afterward be trusted in making their judicial decisions in harmony with the mind and the Spirit of God, as this had been done already by the prophetess Deborah in the time of oppression. Yet, at least in the case of Samson (notwithstanding Jud 16:31), it is not probable that he ever was engaged in the administration of justice. It is not even reported of him that he fought at the head of the people, but he carried on his contests with the Philistines in behalf of himself individually, even if, as one consecrated of God, he were a witness for the power of God.
3. Chronology of the Period:
The chronology of the period of the Judges exhibits some peculiar difficulties. If we add together the data that are given in succession in the Book of Judges, we get from Jud 3:8-16:31, 4:10 years altogether. But this number is too large to make it harmonize with the 480 years mentioned in 1Ki 6:1. Jewish tradition (e.g. Cedher `Olam) accordingly does not include the years of oppression in this sum, but makes them a part of the period of the individual judges. In this way about 111 years are eliminated. But evidently the redactor of the Book of Judges did not share this view. Modern critics are of the opinion that the writer has dovetailed two chronological methods, one of which counted on the basis of periods of forty years each, while the other was more exact and contained odd numbers. In this way we can shorten this period as does the Cedher `Olam. At any rate, it is justifiable, and is suggested by Jud 10:7, to regard the oppression by the Ammonites (10:8 ff) and the oppression by the Philistines (13:1 ff) as contemporaneous. And other events, too, which in the course of the narrative are related as following each other, may have taken place at the same time or in a somewhat different sequence, as the author used different sources for the different events. But for this very reason his story deserves to be credited as historical. Such characters as Deborah, Jephthah, Ehud, Gideon, Abimelech and Samson are described as tangible historical realities. Even if, in the case of the last-mentioned, oral tradition has added decorative details to the figure, yet Samson cannot possibly be a mere mythological character, but must have been a national hero characteristic of this period, in whom are represented the abundance of physical and mental peculiarities characteristic of the youthful nation, as also their good-natured indifference and carelessness over against their treacherous enemies.
4. Loose Organization of the People:
The lack of a central political power made itself felt all the more in the period of the Judges, since, because of the scattered condition of the people in the country that had been so minutely parceled out, and because of the weakening of the religious enthusiasm of the preceding age, the deeper unity of heart and mind was absent. It is indeed incorrect to imagine that at this time there was a total lack of governmental authority. A patriarchal organization had been in force from the beginning. The father of the family was the lawful head of those belonging to him: and a larger clan was again subject to an "elder," with far-reaching rights in the administration of law, but also with the duty to protect his subordinates, and in case of want to support them. Unfortunately we are nowhere informed how these elders were chosen or whether their offices were hereditary. Only a very few passages, such as Isa 3:6 f, throw a certain light on the subject. This institution of the elders Moses had already found established and had developed farther (Ex 18:13 ). It was retained in all the periods of Israel’s history. When the people began to live together in larger centers, as a natural consequence bodies of such city elders were established. The tribes, too, had "elders" at their head. But for a united action of the whole nation this arrangement did not suffice; and especially in the case of war the people of Israel felt that they were at a disadvantage compared with their enemies, who had kings to lead them. For this reason the desire for a king steadily grew in Israel. The dictators of the period of the Judges satisfied their needs only for the time being.
IV. The Kingdom: Israel-Judah.
In the time when the Israelites were oppressed by the Philistines the need of a king was especially felt. As Samson had come to his death in servitude, the people themselves thus, at the close of this period of glorious victories, were under the supremacy of a warlike race, which had only in recent times settled on the western coast of Palestine, and from this base was forcing its conquests into the heart of the country.
After the most disastrous defeats, during which even the Ark of the Covenant was lost, there arose for the people, indeed, a father and a deliverer in the person of Samuel, who saved them during the most critical period. What his activity meant for the uplift of the people cannot be estimated too highly. He was, above all, during peace the faithful watchman of the most sacred possessions of Israel, a prophet such as the people had not seen since the days of Moses; and he doubtless was the founder of those colonies of prophetical disciples who were in later times so influential in the development of a theocratical spirit in Israel. He guarded the whole nation also with all his power, by giving to them laws and cultivating piety in the land.
2. The Kingdom of Saul:
But as Samuel, too, became old and the people concluded for good reasons that his rule would have no worthy successors, their voice could no longer be silenced, and they demanded a king. Samuel tried in vain to persuade the people to desist from their demand, which to him seemed to be an evidence of distrust in the providence of Yahweh, but was himself compelled, by inspiration of God, to submit to their wishes and anoint the new king, whom Yahweh pointed out to him. It is indeed maintained by the critics that there are several accounts extant in Samuel concerning the selection of Saul to the kingdom, and that these accounts differ in this, that the one regards the kingdom as a blessing and the other as a curse. The first view, which is said to be the older, is claimed to be found in 1Sa 9:1-10,16, and 11; while the second is said to be in 1Sa 8; 10:17-27; 11:12-14. Whatever may be the facts in regard to these sources, this is beyond any doubt, that Samuel, the last real theocratic leader, established the kingdom. But just as little can the fact be doubted, that he took this step with inner reluctance, since in his eyes this innovation meant the discarding of the ideals of the people to which he himself had remained true during his lifetime. The demand of the people was the outgrowth of worldly motives, but Yahweh brought it about, that the "Anointed of Yah" signified an advance in the history of the kingdom of God.
Saul himself, at first, in a vigorous and efficient manner, solved the immediate problems and overcame the enemies of his people. But he soon began to conceive of his kingdom after the manner of heathen kingdoms and did not subject himself to Yahweh and His appointed representative. There soon arose an open conflict between him and Samuel; and the fact that the Spirit of God had departed from him appears in his melancholy state of mind, which urged him on to constantly increasing deeds of violence. That under these circumstances God’s blessing also departed from him is proved by the collapse of his life’s work in his final failures against the Philistines.
In contrast with this, David, his successor, the greatest king that Israel ever had, had a correct conception of this royal office, and even in his most brilliant successes did not forget that he was called to rule only as "the servant of Yahweh" (by which name he, next to Moses, is called most often in the Bible). As a gifted ruler, he strengthened his kingdom from within, which, considering the heterogeneous character of the people, was not an easy matter, and extended it without by overpowering jealous neighbors. In this way it was he who became the real founder of a powerful kingdom. The conquest of Jerusalem and its selection as the capital city also are an evidence of his political wisdom. It is indeed true that he, too, had his personal failings and that he made many mistakes, which caused him political troubles, even down to his old age. But his humility at all times made him strong enough again to subject himself to the hand of Yahweh, and this humility was based on the attitude of his spirit toward Yahweh, which shows itself in his Psalms. In this way he really came to be a connecting link between God and his people, and upon this foundation the prophets built further, who prophesied a still closer union of the two under a son of David.
While Saul was a Benjamite, David was of the tribe of Judah, and was for a short time the king of this tribe in Hebron, before the other tribes, becoming tired of the misrule of a descendant of Saul, also voluntarily chose him as their king. He soon after this established as the center of his new kingdom the city of Jerusalem, which really was situated on the territory that had been assigned to Benjamin; and he also set this city apart as the religious center of the people by transferring the Ark of the Covenant to this place. In this way David, through his wisdom and his popular bravery, succeeded in uniting the tribes more firmly under his supremacy, and especially did he bring the tribe of Judah, which down to this time had been more for itself, into closer connection with the others. Israel under David became a prominent kingdom. This position of power was, as a matter of fact, distasteful to their neighbors round about. The Philistines tried to destroy the ambitious kingdom, but were themselves repeatedly and definitely overpowered. But other neighboring people, too, who, notwithstanding the fact that David did not assume an offensive attitude toward them, assumed a hostile attitude toward him, came to feel his superiority. Particularly severe and tedious was the war against the allied Ammonites and Syrians; and although the Edomites, too, regarded this as a favorable time for attacking Israel, this struggle also ended in a complete triumph for David. The surrounding countries became subject to him from the 2Sa 8:9), and from the territory of the Lebanon, the inhabitants of which assumed a friendly attitude, to the borders of Egypt, which also recognized the new rule.
Solomon, the son of David, developed inwardly the powerful kingdom which he had inherited. To his father he seemed to be the right man for this because of his peaceful temperament and his high mental abilities. He justified the hopes placed in him. Out of love to Yahweh he built the temple on Mt. Zion, regulated the affairs of state and the administration of justice, and by commercial treaties with the Phoenicians (King Hiram) brought about great prosperity in the land. His was the "golden" period in Israel. The culture and civilization, too, of the people were materially advanced by Solomon as he widened their horizon and introduced the literature of Proverbs, which had up to this time been more extensively cultivated by the neighboring people (Edom, Arabia, Egypt). He even developed this literature into a higher type. On the other hand, the brilliant reign of Solomon brought serious dangers to the new kingdom. His liberal-mindedness in the treatment of his foreign wives, in permitting them to retain their heathen worship, probably because he thought that in the end it was the same Divinity which these women worshipped under different form, endangered theocracy with its serious cult and its strict morality. Through this conduct the king necessarily forfeited the sympathy of the most pious Israelites. At the same time, his love for magnificent structures surpassed the measure which was regarded as correct for the "Anointed of Yahweh." Then, too, his efforts, in themselves justifiable, to establish a more perfect organization of the monarchy, produced a great deal of dissatisfaction. Solomon did not understand, as did his father, how to respect the inherited liberty-loving tendencies of his people. The heavy services and taxation, to which the people were compelled to submit, were deeply felt, most of all by the Ephraimites, who at times had exhibited a jealous spirit, and could not forget their lost hegemony.
5. Division of the Kingdom:
So long, indeed, as the wise Solomon and his advisers were at the helm, the various rebellious tendencies could not make themselves felt. But after his death the catastrophe came. His son, Rehoboam, at the Diet in Shechem, at which the Ephraimites placed before him a kind of capitulation before his coronation, showed that he did not at all understand the situation. His domineering attitude brought things to a head, and he must have been glad that at least the tribe of Judah remained faithful to him. The northern tribes chose for their king Jeroboam (I), who before this had already taken part in rebellious agitations, as the kingdom had been predicted to him by the prophet Ahijah (1Ki 11:2 ). Israel was torn into two parts.
6. Sources of the History of the Kingdom:
With this rupture the powerful kingdom established by David had reached its end. In regard to this flourishing period in Israel’s history we are, on the whole, well informed through the sources. Especially in 2Sa 9-20 and 1Ki 2; 3, we have a narrator who must have been a contemporary of the events recorded. Klostermann surmises that this may have been Ahimaaz, the son of Zadok (2Sa 15:27); while Duhm, Budde, Sellin and others believe it to have been the priest Abiathar. Less unity is in evidence in the first Book of Sam, containing the history of the youth of David, which evidently was often described. The Books of Chronicles have only secondary value for the life of David. These books narrate in full detail the story of the preparations made by David for the erection of the temple and of his organization of the Levites. In regard to the reign of Solomon, the Books of Kings report more fully. Concerning the later kings, they generally give only meager extracts from more complete sources, which excerpts, however, have been shown to be reliable. The interest which the narrator has in telling his story is the religious. Especially does he carefully note the fact as to the relation of the different kings to the cult. Special sources have been used in compiling the detailed stories of the great prophets Elijah and Elisha, which are inserted in the history of the two kingdoms. On the other hand, the Books of Ch pass over entirely all reference to the work of the prophets of the Northern Kingdom, as they ignore the entire history of the Ephraimitic kingdom since the interest of these books is centered on the sanctuary in Jerusalem. Also in the case of the Judean history, the much older Books of Ki deserve the precedence. Yet we owe to the writer of Ch a number of contributions to this history, especially where he has made a fuller use of the sources than has been done by the author of the Books of Kings. The suspicion that everything which Chronicles contains, beyond what is to be found in Kings, is unhistorical, has turned out to be groundless. Thus, e.g., it would be impossible to understand the earlier prophecies of Isaiah under Jotham at all, if it did not appear from Chronicles to what prosperity and influence the people of Jerusalem had by that time again attained. For it is only Chronicles that give us an account of the flourishing reign of his predecessor Uzziah, who is treated but briefly in Kings.
7. Chronological Matters:
The chronology of the earlier portions of the period of the Kings is dependent on the date of the division of the kingdom. This date can be decided on the basis of the careful chronological data of the Books of K, which do not indeed agree in all particulars, but are to be adjusted by the Assyrian chronology. If we, with Kamphausen, Oettli and Kittel, regard the year 937 BC as the time of the division of the kingdom, then Solomon ruled from 977 to 937; David, from 1017 to 977. The length of the reign of Saul is not known, as the text of 1Sa 13:1 is defective. It is very probable that we can credit him with about twenty years, according to Josephus (Ant., X, viii, 4), i.e. from about 1037-1017. In this case David transferred the seat of government to Jerusalem about the year 1010, and the completion of the erection of the temple of Solomon took place in 966. But this basal date of 937 is not accepted as correct by all scholars. Klostermann places the date of the rupture of the kingdom in the year 978; Koehler, in 973. For later chronological data, Assyrian sources are an important factor. The Assyrians were accustomed to call each year after the name of an official (limu), and eponym lists are extant for 228 years. In these reference is made to an eclipse of the sun, which astronomically has been settled as having taken place on July 15, 763. We have in this list then the period from 893 to 666. On this basis, it is made possible to determine the exact dates of the different military expeditions of the Assyrian rulers and their conflicts with the kings of Judah and Israel, on the presupposition, however, that the Assyrian inscriptions here used really speak of these kings, which in a number of cases is denied. Valuable help for determining the chronology of this period is the fall of Samaria in the year 722 and the expedition of Sennacherib against Jerusalem in 701, and then the fall of Jerusalem in 587 and 586. The distribution of the years between these dates to the individual kings is in places doubtful, as the numbers in the text are possibly corrupt, and in the synchronistic data of the Books of Ki mistakes may have been made.
V. Period of the Separated Kingdoms.
1. Contrasts and Vicissitudes of the Kingdoms:
The two separated kingdoms differed materially. The kingdom of Ephraim was the more powerful of the two. It embraced, according to an inaccurate usage of situdes of the words, 10 tribes; and to this the kingdom the vassals, such as Moab, as a rule remained subject, until they emancipated themselves. But, on the other hand, this Northern Kingdom was less firm spiritually. Even the resident city of the king changed frequently, until Omri founded the city of Samaria, which was well adapted for this purpose. The dynasties, too, were only of short duration. It occurred but rarely that one family was able to maintain its supremacy on the throne through several generations. A revolutionary character remained fixed in this kingdom and became its permanent weakness. On the other hand, the smaller and often overpowered kingdom of Judah, which faithfully adhered to the royal line of David, passed through dangerous crises and had many unworthy rulers. But the legitimate royal house, which had been selected by Yahweh, constituted spiritually a firm bond, which kept the people united, as is seen, e.g., by a glance at the addresses of Isaiah, who is thoroughly filled with the conviction of the importance of the house of David, no matter how unworthy the king who happened to rule might appear to him. In a religious respect, also, the arbitrary break with Zion proved to be fatal for the Northern Kingdom.
2. The Successive Reigns:
It is true that faithful prophets of Yahweh, such as the Abijah of Shiloh mentioned above, and Shemaiah (1Ki 12:22 ), proclaimed that the fateful division of the kingdom was a Divinely intended judgment from Yahweh. But they soon were compelled to reach the conclusion that Jeroboam did not regard himself as a servant of Yahweh, but as a sovereign who, through his own power and through the favor of the people, had secured the rule, and hence, could arbitrarily decide all matters in reference to the cult and the sacred sanctuaries of the people. According to his own will, and for political reasons, he established the new national sanctuary at Bethel, and another at Dan. At both shrines he caused Yahweh to be worshipped under the image of a calf, which was to constitute a paganizing opposition to the Ark of the Covenant on Mt. Zion, even if it was the idea that Yahweh, the God of the Covenant, was to be worshipped in these new images. In doing this, the king followed ancient national customs, which had broken with the purity of the Mosaic religion (concerning imageworship in Da we have beard before. See Golden Calf). His sojourn in Egypt, too, where he had lived as a fugitive, had doubtless furnished the king incentives in this direction. He created a priesthood that was submissive to his wishes, and disregarded the opposition of the few prophets who protested against the policy of the king. His successors, too, walked "in the ways of Jeroboam." The independent prophets, however, did not die out, but, rather, prophecy developed its greatest activity in this very Northern Kingdom. As a rule, in its work it stood in opposition to the government, but at times it succeeded in gaining the recognition of the rulers.
The earliest times of the divided kingdoms are, from a political point of view, characterized by the fact that the kingdoms on the Euphrates and the Tigris, namely Assyria and Babylon, still had enough to do with themselves, and did not yet make any inroads into the Mediterranean lands; but, rather, it was the Syrians who first caused a good deal of trouble to the Northern Kingdom. Jeroboam did not succeed in rounding a dynasty. Already his son Nadab was eliminated by a usurper Baasha. The latter’s son too, Elah, was murdered, after a reign of two years. It was not, however, his murderer Zimri, or Tibni, who strove to secure the kingdom. for himself, but Omri who became king (1Ki 16), and who also attained to such prominence abroad that the cuneiform inscriptions for a long time after call Israel "the land of Omri." His ability as a ruler was seen in the fact that the establishment of Samaria as the capital city was his work. The inscription on the Mesha stone reports that he also established the sovereignty of Israel vigorously on the east side of the Jordan.
His son Ahab, too, was an energetic and brave ruler, who succeeded in gaining a number of victories over the Syrians, who were now beginning to assume the offensive in a determined manner. Then, too, he was politic enough to win over to his interests the kingdom of Judah, with which his predecessors had lived in almost constant warfare. In this policy he succeeded, because the noble and large-hearted king Jehoshaphat was more receptive to such fraternal relations than was good for him. An expedition jointly undertaken by these two kings against Syria brought Jehoshaphat into extreme danger and ended with the death of Ahab.
Ahab’s fate was his wife Jezebel, the daughter of the Phoenician king Ethbaal (Ithobal, according to Josephus, Ant, VIII, xiii, 2 and Apion, I, 18), who had been a priest of Astarte. This intermarriage with a fanatical heathen family brought untold and endless misfortune over all Israel. This bold and scheming woman planned nothing less than the overthrow of the religion of Yahweh, and the substitution for it of the Baal and the Astarte cult. As a first step she succeeded in having the king tolerate this religion. The leading temple in the new resident city, Samaria, was dedicated to the Baal cult. Already this introduction of a strange and lascivious ethnic religion was a great danger to the religion and the morals of the people. Hosts of Baal priests, ecstatic dervishes, traversed the country. Soon the queen undertook to persecute the faithful worshippers of Yahweh. The fact that these men protested against the tolerance of this foreign false religion was interpreted as disobedience on their part to the king. Many faithful prophets were put to death. At this critical period, when the existence of the religion of Yahweh was at stake, the prophet Elijah, the Tishbite, appeared on the stage, and through a bitter struggle reestablished the worship of Yahweh. However, the fateful influence that this woman exerted was thereby not yet destroyed. It extended to Judah also.
In the kingdom of Judah, apart from the apostasy of different tribes, which left him only the vigorous tribe of Judah and portions of Benjamin, Dan, Simeon, and Levi, Rehoboam experienced also other calamities, namely, a destructive invasion and tribute imposition by King Shishak of Egypt (Egyptian Sheshonk, founder of the XXIId Dynasty; 1Ki 14:25 f; compare 2Ch 12:2 ff). While under Solomon the relations of Israel to the Egyptian court had in the beginning been very friendly, this was changed when a new dynasty came to the throne. After Jeroboam had failed in his first revolutionary project, he had found refuge at the court of Shishak (1Ki 11:40). It is possible that Jeroboam made the Egyptian king lustful for the treasures of Jerusalem. The Egyptians did not, as a matter of fact, stop at the Ephraimitic boundaries, but in part also invaded the territory of Jeroboam; but their chief objective was Jerusalem, from which they carried away the treasures that had been gathered by Solomon. On the temple wall of Karnak this Pharaoh has inscribed the story of this victory and booty. From the names of the cities found in this inscription, we learn that this expedition extended as far as Megiddo and Taanach.
Rehoboam was succeeded by his son Abijah, or Abijahu, according to Chronicles (the Abijam of Kings is hardly correct). He ruled only 3 years. But even during this short reign he was compelled to engage in a severe struggle with Jeroboam (1Ki 15:6; see details in 2Ch 13).
In every respect the reign of the God-fearing Asa, who sought to destroy the heathenism that had found its way into the cult, was more fortunate. He also experienced Yahweh’s wonderful help when the Cushite Zerah made an incursion into his land (2Ch 14:8 ), i.e. probably Osorkon I, who, however, did not belong to an Ethiopian dynasty. Possibly he is called an Ethiopian because he came into the country with Nubian troops. Less honorable was his conduct in the conflict with Baasha. When he was sorely pressed by the latter he bought, through the payment of a large tribute, the assistance of the Syrian king, Ben-hadad I, who up to this time had been an ally of Baasha. This bribing of foreigners to fight against their own covenant people, which was afterward often repeated, was rebuked by a bold prophet in the presence of the pious king, but the prophet was compelled to suffer abuse for his open testimony (2Ch 16:7 ).
A much more noble conduct characterized the dealings of Jehoshaphat in relation to the Northern Kingdom. His fault was that he entered too fully into the selfish offers of friendship made by Ahab. The worst step was that, in order to confirm his covenant, he took for his son Jehoram as wife, Athaliah, the daughter of Jezebel. Jehoshaphat was a chivalrous ally, who also joined Ahab’s son, Jehoram, in a dangerous war against the Moabites; as this people under their king Mesha had made themselves free from Israel and had taken the offensive against them. For the inner affairs of the kingdom his reign was more fortunate. He was a Godfearing and an energetic prince, who did much to elevate the people in a material and a religious way and perfected its political organization. Nor did he fail to secure some noteworthy successes. However, the fact that the warning words of the prophets who rebuked him because of his alliance with the half-heathenish house of Omri were not the fanatical exaggerations of pessimistic seers, appears at once after his death.
His son Jehoram, after the manner of oriental despots, at once caused his brothers to be put to death, of which doubtless his wife Athaliah was the cause. This woman transplanted the policy of Jezebel to Judah, and was scheming for the downfall of the house of David and its sanctuary. Under Jehoram the power of Judah accordingly began to sink rapidly. Edom became independent. The Philistines and the Arabians sacked Jerusalem. Even the royal princes, with the exception of Ahaziah, the youngest son of Athaliah, were expelled. When the latter ascended the throne she had the absolute power in her hands.
During this time the judgment over the house of Omri was fast approaching. The avenger came in the person of the impetuous Jehu, who had been anointed king by one of the disciples of Elisha in the camp of Ramoth in Gilead. According to 1Ki 19:16, the order had already been given to Elijah to raise this man to the throne; but the compliance with this command appears to have been delayed. As soon as Jehu became aware that he was entrusted with this mission, he hastened to Jezreel, where Ahaziah, king of Judah, was just paying a visit to Jehoram, and slew them both. With heartless severity he extended this slaughter, not only to all the members of the house of Omri, together with Jezebel, but also to those numerous members of the Davidic royal house who fell into his hands. He likewise destroyed the adherents of Baal, whom he had invited to their death in their sanctuary at Samaria. Deserved as this judgment upon the house of Jeroboam was (2Ki 10:30), which Jehu, according to higher command, carried out, he did this in an unholy mind and with hardness and ambitious purpose. The puritanical Rechabites had sanctioned his action; but as more and more the true character of Jehu began to reveal itself, he lost the sympathies of the pious, and Hosea announced to his house the vengeance for his bloody crimes at Jezreel (Ho 1:4).
In Jehu’s reign occurred the inroads toward the West on the part of the Assyrians. This people already in the time of Ahab, under their king, Shalmaneser II, had forced their way as far as Karkar on the Orontes, and had there fought a battle in 854 with the Syrians and their allies, among whom Ahab is also mentioned, with 2,000 chariots and 10,000 soldiers. If this is really Ahab, the king of Israel, which is denied by some, then he, at that time, fought against Assyria in conjunction with the Syrians, who otherwise had been so bitterly attacked by him. The Assyrians boast of this victory, but seem to have won it at a heavy price, as they did not press on farther westward. When in 842 Shalmaneser came a second time, Jehu was certainly not among the allies of the Syrians. The Assyrians do not seem, on this occasion, to have been opposed by so powerful a league, and were able to attack the Syrians whom they conquered at Saniru (Hermon, Anti-Lebanon) in a much more determined manner. They laid siege to Damascus and laid waste the surrounding country. The Hauran and Bashan were made a desert. In their march of victory they pressed forward as far as the Mediterranean. Phoenicia and other countries brought tribute. Among these nations Shalmaneser expressly mentions Jahua ("Jehu, the son of Omri" (!)), who was compelled to deliver up gold and silver bars and other valuable possessions. But this expensive homage on the part of Jehu did not help much. Shalmaneser came only once more (839) into this neighborhood. After this the Assyrians did not appear again for a period of 35 years. All the more vigorously did the Syrians and other neighboring people make onslaughts on Israel. How fearfully they devasted Israel appears from Am 1.
Under his son Jehoahaz the weakness of Israel became still greater. In his helplessness, the Lord finally sent him a deliverer (2Ki 13:3 ). This deliverer was none other than the Assyrian king, Adad-nirari III (812-783), who, through a military incursion, had secured anew his supremacy over Western Asia, and had besieged the king of Damascus and had forced him to pay an immense tribute. In this way Israel, which had voluntarily rendered submission to him, was relieved of its embarrassment by the weakening of Syria.
Jehoash, the son of Jehoahaz, experienced more favorable conditions. He also conquered Amaziah, the king of Judah; and his son, 2Ki 14:24 ). His reign was the last flourishing period of the kingdom of Ephraim., even succeeded in restoring the old boundaries of the kingdom, as the prophet Jonah had predicted (
See, further, ISRAEL, KINGDOM OF.
The kingdom of Judah, in the meanwhile, had passed through severe crises. The most severe was caused by that Athaliah, who, after the murder of her son Ahaziah by Jehu, had secured absolute control in Jerusalem, and had abused this power in order to root out the family of David. Only one son of the king, Joash, escaped with his life. He, a boy of one year, was hidden in the temple by a relative, where the high priest Jehoiada, who belonged to the party opposed to the heathen-minded queen, concealed him for a period of 6 years. When the boy was 7 years old Jehoiada, at a well-timed moment, proclaimed him king. His elevation to the throne, in connection with which event the terrible Athaliah was put to death, introduced at the same time an energetic reaction against the heathendom that had found its way even into Judah, and which the queen had in every way favored. Joash was predestined to be a theocratic king. And, in reality, in the beginning of his reign of 40 years, he went hand in hand with the priests and the prophets of Yahweh. After Jehoiada’s death, however, he tolerated idolatrous worship among the princes (2Ch 24:17 ), and by doing so came into conflict with the faithful prophet Zechariah, the son of his benefactor Jehoiada, who rebuked him for his wrong, and was even stoned. A just punishment for this guilt was recognized in the misfortune which overtook the king and his country. The Syrian king, Hazael, when he was engaged in an expedition against Gath, also took possession of Jerusalem and made it pay tribute, after having apparently inflicted a severe defeat on the people of Judah, on which occasion many princes fell in the battle and Joash himself was severely wounded. Toward the end of his reign there was also much dissatisfaction among his subjects, and some of his courtiers finally murdered him (2Ki 12:20 f).
However, his son Amaziah, who now ascended the throne, punished the murderers. The king was successful in war against the Edomites. This made him bold. He ventured to meet Joash, the king of Israel, in battle and was defeated and captured. The people of Judah suffered the deepest humiliation. A large portion of the walls of Jerusalem was torn down (2Ki 14:11 ). Amaziah did not feel himself safe even in his own capital city, because of the dissatisfaction of his own subjects, and he fled to Lachish. Here he was murdered. So deep had Judah fallen, while Jeroboam II succeeded in raising his kingdom to an unthought-of power.
But for Judah a turn for the better soon set in under Uzziah, the same as Azariah in Kings, the son of Amaziah, who enjoyed a long and prosperous reign. 3. The Literary Prophets:
Prosperous as Israel outwardly appeared to be during the reigns of these two kings, Jeroboam II and Uzziah, the religious and moral conditions of the people were just as little satisfactory. This is the testimony Prophets of the prophets Amos and Hosea, as also of Isaiah and Micah, who not much later began their active ministry in Judah. It is indeed true that these were not the first prophets to put into written form some of their prophetic utterances. The prophecies of Obadiah and Joe are by many put at an earlier date, namely Obadiah under Jehoram in Judah, and Joe under Joash in Judah. At any rate, the discourses of the prophets from this time on constitute an important contemporaneous historical source. They illustrate especially the spiritual condition of the nation. Throughout these writings complaints are made concerning the heathen superstitions and the godless cult of the people, and especially the corruption in the administration of the laws, oppression of the poor and the helpless by the rich and the powerful, and pride and luxury of all kinds. In all these things the prophets see a terrible apostasy on Israel’s part. But also the foreign policy of the different kings, who sought help, now of the one and then of the other of the world-powers (Egypt, Assyria), and tried to buy the favor of these nations, the prophets regarded as adultery with foreign nations and as infidelity toward Yahweh. As a punishment they announced, since all other misfortunes sent upon them had been of no avail, an invasion through a conqueror, whom Amos and Hosea always indicate shall be Assyria, and also deportations of the people into a heathen land, and an end of the Jewish state. Improbable as these threats may have seemed to the self-satisfied inhabitants of Samaria, they were speedily realized.
Successors of Jeroboam II
After the death of Jeroboam, the strength of the Northern Kingdom collapsed. His son Zechariah was able to maintain the throne for only 6 months, and his murderer Shallum only one month. The general Menahem, who put him out of the way, maintained himself as king for 10 years, but only by paying a heavy tribute to the Assyrian ruler Pul, i.e. Tiglath-pileser III, who ruled from 745-727 (compare 2Ki 15:19 f).
His son Pekahiah, on the other hand, soon fell by the hands of the murderer Pekah (2Ki 15:25), who allied himself with Syria against Judah. The latter, however, invited the Assyrians to come into the country; and these, entering in the year 734 BC, put an end to the reign of this usurper, although he was actually put to death as late as 730 BC.
The last king of the Northern Kingdom, Hoshea (730-722 BC), had the Assyrians to thank for his throne; but he did not keep his fidelity as a vassal very long. As soon as Tiglath-pileser was dead, he tried to throw off the Assyrian yoke. But his successor Shalmaneser IV (727-723 BC), who already in the first year of his reign had again subdued the rebellious king Elulaios of Syria, soon compelled Hoshea also to submit to his authority. Two years later Hoshea again joined a conspiracy with the Phoenicians against Assyria, in which they even counted on the help of the Egyptian king, who in the Bible is called So or Seve (Egyptian name is Shabaka). Now the Assyrians lost all patience. They at once came with their armies. Hoshea seems to have voluntarily submitted to the power of the Great King, who then made him a captive. The people, however, continued the struggle. Samaria, the capital city, was besieged, but did not fall until the 3rd year (722 BC) into the hands of the enemy. Shalmaneser, in the meanwhile, had died and Sargon II had become his successor. The city was indeed not destroyed, but a large portion of the inhabitants, especially the leaders, were deported and transplanted to Northern Mesopotamia and to Media. Sargon states that the number of deported Israelites was 27,290. Prominent persons from other cities were also doubtless to be included in those deported. On the other hand, the Assyrian king settled Babylonian and Syrian prisoners of war in Samaria (721 BC), and in the year 715 BC, Arabs also. But the country, to a great extent, continued in a state of desolation, so that Esar-haddon (680-668 BC) and Ashurbanipal (667-626 BC) sent new colonists there, the last-mentioned sending them from Babylonia, Persia and Media (compare 2Ki 17:24 ff). In these verses the Babylonian city of Cuthah is several times mentioned, on account of which city the Jews afterward called the Samaritans Cuthites. This report also makes mention of the religious syncretism, which of necessity resulted from the mixture of the people. But we must be careful not to place at too small figures the number of Israelites who remained in the country. It is a great exaggeration when it is claimed, as it is by Friedrich Delitzsch, that the great bulk of the inhabitants of the country of Samaria, or even of Galilee, was from this time on Babylonian.
Uzziah and Jotham.
The kingdom of Judah, however, outlived the danger from Assyria. As King Uzziah later in his life suffered from leprosy, he had Jotham as a co-regent during this period. The earliest discourses of Isaiah, which belong to this period (Isa 2-4; 5), show that in Jerusalem the people were at that time still enjoying the fruits and prosperity of a long period of peace. But immediately after the death of Jotham, when the youthful Ahaz began to rule, the onslaught of the allied Syrians and Ephraimites took place under Rezin, or better Rezon, and Pekah. This alliance purposed to put an end to the Davidic reign in Jerusalem, probably for the purpose of making this people, too, a member of the league against the dangerous Assyrians. The good-sized army of Judah seems to have fallen a victim to the superior power of the allies before the situation described in Isa 7 could be realized, in which the siege of the city is described as already imminent. The Edomites also at that time advanced against Judah. Elath, the harbor city on the Red Sea, from which Uzziah, too, as had been done by Solomon long before, sent out trading vessels, at that time came into their power. For 2Ki 16:6 probably speaks of Edom and not of Aram (compare 2Ch 28:17). In his anxiety, Ahaz, notwithstanding the advice of Isaiah to the contrary, then appealed to the king of Assyria, and the latter actually put in his appearance in 734 BC and overcame the power of Syria and Ephraim, as we have seen above. However, the intervention of this world-power brought no benefit to Judah. Without this disgraceful appeal to a heathen ruler, Yahweh, according to the promise of Isaiah, would have protected Jerusalem, if Ahaz had only believed. And the Assyrians did not prevent the Philistines and the Edomites from falling upon Judah. The Assyrians themselves soon came to be the greatest danger threatening Judah. Ahaz, however, was an unstable character in religious affairs, and he copied heathen forms of worship, and even sacrificed his son to the angry sun-god, in order to gain his favor. The tribute that the people had to pay to Assyria was already a heavy burden on this little kingdom.
His noble and God-fearing son, Hezekiah (724-696 BC), was also compelled to suffer from the consequences of this misgovernment. The temptation was great to enter into an alliance with his neighbors and the Egyptians, so strong in cavalry, for the purpose of ridding Judah of the burdensome yoke of the Assyrians. In vain did Isaiah warn against such unworthy self-help. At the advice of the ministers of Hezekiah, and because of the trust put in Egypt, the tribute was finally refused to the Assyrians. Hezekiah also sought to establish closer connections with Merodachbaladan, the king of Babylon and the enemy of the Assyrians, when the latter, after a dangerous sickness of the king, had sent messengers to Jerusalem in order to congratulate him on the restoration of his health. This story, found in 2Ki 20, belongs chronologically before 2Ki 18:13 ff, and, more accurately, in the 14th year of Hezekiah mentioned in 18:13. However, the expedition of Sennacherib which is mistakenly placed in that year, took place several years later: according to the Assyrian monuments, in the year 701 BC.
In the year 702 BC Sennacherib, with a powerful army, marched over the Lebanon and subdued the rebellious Phoenicians, and marched along the seacoast to Philistia. The inhabitants of Ekron had sent their king, Padi, who sympathized with the Assyrians, to Hezekiah. Sennacherib came to punish Ekron and Ascalon. But he was particularly anxious to overpower Judah, which country his troops devastated and depopulated. Now Hezekiah recognized his danger, and offered to submit to Sennacherib. The latter accepted his submission conditionally on the payment of a burdensome tribute, which Hezekiah delivered faithfully (2Ki 18:14-16). Then Sennacherib was no longer satisfied with the tribute alone, but sent troops who were to despoil Jerusalem. Isaiah, who surely had not sanctioned the falling away from the Assyrian supremacy and had prophesied that the inhabitants of Jerusalem would suffer a severe punishment, from that moment, when the conqueror had maliciously broken his word, spoke words of comfort and advised against giving up the city, no matter how desperate the situation seemed to be (Isa 37:1 ). The city was then not given up, and Sennacherib, on account of a number of things that occurred, and finally because of a pestilence which broke out in his army, was compelled to retreat. He did not return to Jerusalem, and later met his death by violent hands. This deliverance of Jerusalem through the miraculous providence of God was the greatest triumph of the prophet Isaiah. Within his kingdom Hezekiah ruled successfully. He also purified the cult from the heathen influences that had forced their way into it, and was a predecessor of Josiah in the abolition of the sacrifices on the high places, which had been corrupted by these influences.
Unfortunately, his son Manasseh was little worthy of succeeding him. He, in every way, favored the idolatry which all along had been growing secretly. He inaugurated bloody persecutions of the faithful prophets of Yahweh. According to a tradition, which it must be confessed is not supported by undoubted testimony, Isaiah also, now an old man, became a victim of these persecutions. Images and altars were openly erected to Baal and Astarte. Even in the temple-house on Mt. Zion, an image of Astarte was standing. As a result of this ethnic cult, immorality and sensuality found their way among the people. At the same time the terrible service of Moloch, in the valley of Hinnom, demanded the sacrifice of children, and even a son of the king was given over to this worship. The Book of Chronicles, indeed, tells the story of a terrible affliction that Manasseh suffered, namely that an Assyrian general dragged him in chains to Babylon for having violated his promises to them, but that he was soon released. This is not at all incredible. He seems to have taken part in a rebellion, which the brother of the Assyrian king, who was also vice-king in Babylon, had inaugurated. This sad experience may have forced Manasseh to a certain kind of repentance, at least, so that he desisted from his worst sacrileges. But his son Amon continued the old ways of his father, until after a brief reign he was put to death.
Much more promising was his young son Josiah, who now, only 8 years old, came to the throne. It is quite possible that, in view of such frequent changes in the disposition of the successors to the throne, his mother may have had great influence on his character. Concerning Josiah, see 2Ki 22:1 ff. With increasing clearness and consistency, he proceeded to the work of religious reformation. A special impetus to this was given by the finding of an old law book in the temple, the publication of which for the first time revealed the fearful apostasy of the times. The finding of this book in the temple, as narrated in 2Ki 22:3 ff, took place in connection with the restoration of that building on a larger scale, which at that time had been undertaken. And very probably Edouard Naville is right in believing, on the basis of Egyptian analogies, that this document had been imbedded in the foundation walls of the building. Whether this had been done already in the days of Solomon is not determined by this fact. From the orders of Josiah we can conclude that the book which was found was Deuteronomy, which lays special stress on the fact that there shall be a central place for the cult, and also contains such threats as those must have been which frightened Josiah. But under no circumstances was Deuteronomy a lawbook that had first been written at this time, or a fabrication of the priest Hilkiah and his helpers. It would rather have been possible that the discovered old law was rewritten in changed form after its discovery and had been adapted to the language of the times. The people were obliged to obey the newly-discovered law and were instructed in it.
The prophet Jeremiah also, who a few years before this had been called to the prophetic office, according to certain data in the text, participated in this proclamation of the law of the covenant throughout the land. This change for the better did not change the tendency of his prophetic discourses, from what these had been from the beginning. He continued to be the accuser and the prophet of judgment, who declared that the destruction of the city and of the temple was near at hand. He looked too deeply into the inner corruption of his people to be misled by the external transformation that was the result of a command of the ruler. And only too soon did the course of events justify his prediction. With the person of the God-fearing Josiah, the devotion of the people to the law was also buried and the old curse everywhere broke out again.
In a formal way Jeremiah was probably influenced by the incursions of the Scythians, which occurred during his youth, and who about this time marched from the plain of Jezreel toward Egypt (compare Herodotus i.103 ff); which event also made a gloomy impression on his contemporary Ezekiel, as appears from his vision of Gog in the land of Magog. However, we are not to suppose that Jeremiah, when describing the enemy coming from the north, whom he saw from the time of his call to the prophetic office, meant merely this band of freebooters. The prophet had in mind a world-power after the type of the Assyrians, who always came from the north into Canaan. The Assyrians indeed were in process of disintegration, and Nineveh fell under the attacks of the Medes and the Persians in the year 607-606 BC. The heir of the Assyrian power was not Egypt, which was also striving for universal supremacy, but was the Babylonian, or rather, more accurately, the Chaldean dynasty of Nabopolassar, whose son Nebuchadnezzar had overpowered the Egyptians at Carchemish in 605 BC. From this time on Jeremiah had pointed out the Chaldeans and Nebuchadnezzar, who soon afterward became their king, as the agents to carry out the judgment on Jerusalem.
Already a few years before this Judah’s good star had gone down on the horizon. When Pharaoh-necho II came to Palestine by the sea route, in order to march northeast through the plain of Jezreel, to give the final and fatal blow to the sinking kingdom of the Assyrians, King Josiah opposed him on the plain of Megiddo, probably because of his obligations as a vassal to the king of Assyria. In the battle of Megiddo (609 BC), Josiah was mortally wounded. No greater calamity could have befallen Judah than the death of this king, who was deeply mourned by all well-meaning people, and who was the last of the house of David that was a credit to it.
The Successors of Josiah.
By popular election the choice now fell on Jehoahaz, a younger son of Josiah, called by Jeremiah (22:11) Shallum. But he found no favor with Necho, who took him prisoner in his camp at Riblah and carried him to Egypt (2Ki 23:30 ). king himself selected Jehoiakim, hitherto called Eliakim, an older son of Josiah, who had been ignored by the people, to be king in Jerusalem, a prince untrue to Yahweh, conceited, luxury-loving and hard-hearted, who, in addition, through his perfidious policy, brought calamity upon the land. He formed a conspiracy against Nebuchadnezzar, to whom he had begun to pay tribute in the 5th year of his reign, and in this way brought it about that the Syrians, the Moabites and the Ammonites, who had taken sides with the Assyrians, devastated the land of Judah, and that finally the king of Babylon himself came to Jerusalem to take revenge. It is not clear what was the end of this king. According to 2Ch 36:6, compared with 2Ki 24:6, he seems to have died while yet in Jerusalem, and after he had already fallen into the hands of his enemies. His son Jehoiachin did not experience a much better fate. After ruling three months he was taken to Babylon, where he was a prisoner for 37 years, until he was pardoned (2Ki 24:8 ff; 25:27 ). Together with Jehoiachin, the best portion of the inhabitants of Jerusalem, about 10,000 men, especially the smiths and the builders, were deported.
Zedekiah, the Last King of Judah.
Once more the Babylonians set up a king in Jerusalem in the person of Zedekiah, an uncle of Jehoiachin, and accordingly a son of Josiah, called Mattaniah, who afterward was called Zedekiah. He governed for twelve years (597-586 BC), and by his life, morally and religiously corrupt, sealed the fate of the house and of the kingdom of David. The better class among the leading and prominent people had been banished. As a result, the courtiers of the king urged him to try once again some treacherous schemes against the Babylonian rulers and to join Egypt in a conspiracy against them. However earnestly Jeremiah and Ezekiel warned against this policy, Zedekiah nevertheless constantly yielded to his evil advisers and to the warlike patriotic party, who were determined to win back in battle the independence of the country. While he at first, through an embassy, had assured the Great King of his loyalty (Jer 29:3), and still in the 4th year of his reign had personally visited in Babylon as a mark of his fidelity (Jer 51:59), he was induced in the 9th year of his reign to make an alliance with the Egyptians against the Babylonians and to refuse to render obedience to the latter. Nebuchadnezzar soon came and surrounded the city. At the announcement that an Egyptian army was approaching, the siege was again raised for a short time. But the hope placed by Zedekiah on his ally failed him. The Babylonians began again to starve out the city. After a siege of 18 months, resistance proved futile. The king tried secretly to break through the circle of besiegers, but in doing so was taken prisoner, was blinded by the Babylonian king and taken to Babylon. The majority of the prominent men and state officials, who were taken to the encampment of the conqueror in Riblah, were put to death. The conquered city of Jerusalem, especially its walls and towers, together with the temple, were totally destroyed. Nearly all the inhabitants who could be captured after the slaughter were dragged into captivity, and only people of the lower classes were left behind in order to cultivate the land (2Ki 25:11). Gedaliah, a noble-minded aristocrat, was appointed governor of the city, and took up his residence in Mizpah. At this place it seemed that a new kernel of the people was being gathered. Jeremiah also went there. However, after two months this good beginning came to an end. Gedaliah was slain by Ishmael, the son of Nethaniah, an anti-Chaldaean, a fanatical and revengeful descendant of the house of David. The murderer acted in cooperation with certain Ammonitish associates and fled to the king of Ammon. The Jews in later times considered the murder of Gedaliah as an especially great national calamity, and fasted on the anniversary of this crime. And as the people also feared the revenge of the Babylonians, many migrated to Egypt, compelling Jeremiah, now an old man, to accompany them, although he prophesied to them that no good would come of this scheme. They first stayed at the border city Tahpanhes, near Pelusium, and then scattered over Upper and Lower Egypt.
VI. Time of the Babylonian Exile.
1. Influence of the Exile:
The inhabitants of Judah, who had been deported by Nebuchadnezzar at different times, were settled by him in Babylonia, e.g. at the river Chebar (Eze 1:1), near the city of Nippur. From Hilprecht’s excavations of this city, it has been learned that this river, or branch of the Euphrates Influence river, is to be found at this place, and of the is not to be confounded with the river Chaboras. In the same way, the many contract-tablets with Jewish names which have been found at Nippur, show that a large Jewish colony lived at that place. Of the fate of these banished Jews for a period of 50 years, we hear almost nothing. But it is possible to learn what their condition was in exile from the and the 2nd part of Isaiah. Land was assigned to them here, and they were permitted to build houses for themselves (Jer 29:5 ), and could travel around this district without restraint. They were not prisoners in the narrow sense of the word. They soon, through diligence and skill in trade, attained to considerable wealth, so that most of them, after the lapse of half a century, were perfectly satisfied and felt no desire to return home. For the spiritual development of the people the exile proved to be a period of great importance. In the first place, they were separated from their native soil, and in this way from many temptations of heathenism and idolatry, and the like. The terrible judgment that had come over Jerusalem had proved that the prophets had been right, who had for a long time, but in vain, preached genuine repentance. This did not prove to be without fruit (of Zec 1:6). While living in the heathen land, they naturally became acquainted with heathendom in a more crass form. But even if many of the Jews were defiled by it, in general the relations of the Israelites toward the idol-worshipping Babylonians were antagonistic, and they became all the more zealous in the observance of those religious rites which could be practiced in a foreign land, such as rest on the Sabbath day, the use of meats, circumcision, and others. But with marked zeal the people turned to the spiritual storehouse of their traditions, namely their sacred literature. They collected the laws, the history, the hymns, and treasured them. It was also a noteworthy progress that such prophets as Ezekiel, Jeremiah and Daniel received prophetic visions while on heathen soil. The people also learned that the heathen, in the midst of whom they lived, became receptive of the higher truths of Israel’s religion. Especially does the 2nd part of Isaiah, chapters 40-66, show that they began to understand the missionary calling of Israel among the nations of the world.
The Book of Da reports how a God-fearing and law-abiding Jew, through his prophecies, attained to prominent positions of influence at the courts of different rulers. From the Book of Ezekiel we learn that the prophets and the elders cared for the spiritual wants of the people, and that they held meetings, at which indeed it was not permitted to offer sacrifices, but at which the word of Yahweh was proclaimed. Here we find the beginnings of what afterward was the synagogue-system.
3. Elephantine Papyri:
A remarkable picture of the Jewish diaspora in Upper Egypt is furnished by recently discovered papyri at Elephantine. From these it appears that in the 6th century BC, not only a large and flourishing Jewish colony was to be found at this place, but also that they had erected here a fine temple to Yahweh where they brought their sacrifices to which they had been accustomed at home. In an Aramaic letter, still preserved and dating from the year 411 BC, and which is addressed to the governor Bagohi, in Judea, these Jews complain that their temple in Yeb (Elephantine, near Syene) had been destroyed in the same year. It also states that this temple had been spared on one occasion by Cambyses, who was in Egypt from 525 to 521 BC. The answer of Bagohi also has been preserved, and he directs that the temple is to be built again and that meal offerings and incense are again to be introduced. Probably intentionally, mention in this letter is made only of the unbloody sacrifices, while in the first letter burnt sacrifices also are named. The sacrifices of animals by the Jews would probably have aroused too much the anger of the devotees of the divine ram, which was worshipped at Syene. Up to the present time we knew only of the much later temple of the high priest Onias IV at Leontopolis (160 BC). Compare Josephus, Ant, XII, iii, 1-3; BJ, VII, x, 2, 3.
VII. Return from the Exile and the Restoration.
1. Career of Cyrus:
In the meanwhile there was a new re-adjustment of political supremacy among the world-powers. The Persian king, Koresh (Cyrus), first made himself free from the supremacy of Media which, after the capture of the city Ecbatana, became a part of his own kingdom (549 BC). At that time Nabonidus was the king in Babylon (555-538 BC), who was not displeased at the collapse of the kingdom of the Medes, but soon learned that the new ruler turned out to be a greater danger to himself, as Cyrus subjugated, one after the other, the smaller kingdoms in the north. But Nabonidus was too unwarlike to meet Cyrus. He confined himself to sending his son with an army to the northern boundaries of his kingdom. On the other hand, the king of the Lydians, Croesus, who was related by marriage to King Astyages, who had been subdued by Cyrus, began a war with Cyrus, after he had formed an alliance with Egypt and Sparta. In the year 546 BC, he crossed the river Halys. Cyrus approached from the Tigris, and in doing so already entered Babylonian territory, conquered Croesus, took his capital city Sardis, and put an end to the kingdom of Lydia. The pious Israelites in captivity, under the tutelage of Deutero-Isaiah, watched these events with the greatest of interest. For the prophet taught them from the beginning to see in this king "the deliverer," who was the instrument of Yahweh for the return of the Israelites out of captivity, and of whom the prophets had predicted. And this expectation was fulfilled with remarkable rapidity. The victorious and aggressive king of Persia could now no longer be permanently checked, even by the Babylonians. It was in vain that King Nabonidus had caused the images of the gods from many of his cities to be taken to Babylon, in order to make the capital city invincible. This city opened its doors to the Persian commander Ugbaru (Gobryas) in 538 BC, and a few months later Cyrus himself entered the city. This king, however, was mild and conciliatory in his treatment of the people and the city. He did not destroy the city, but commanded only that a portion of the walls should be razed. However, the city gradually, in the course of time, became ruins.
Cyrus also won the good will and favor of the subjugated nations by respecting their religions. He returned to their shrines the idols of Nabonidus, that had been taken away. But he was particularly considerate of the Jews, who doubtless had complained to him of their fate and had made known to him their prophecies regarding him as the coming deliverer.
2. First Return under Zerubbable:
In the very first year of his reign over Babylon he issued an edict (2Ch 36:22 f; Ezr 1:1 ) that permitted the Jews to return home, with the command that they should again erect their temple. For this purpose he directed that the temple-vessels, which Nebuchadnezzar had taken away with him, should be returned to them, and commanded that those Israelites who voluntarily remained in Babylon should contribute money for the restoration of the temple. At the head of those to be returned stood Sheshbazzar, who is probably identical with Zerubbabel, although this is denied by some scholars; and also the high priest, Joshua, a grandson of the high priest, Seraiah, who had been put to death by Nebuchadnezzar. They were accompanied by only a small part of those in exile, that is by 42,360 men and women and children, male and female servants, especially from the tribes of Judah, Benjamin and Levi, but of the last-mentioned tribes more priests than other Levites. After several months they safely arrived in Palestine, probably 537 BC. Some of them settled down in Jerusalem, and others in surrounding cities and villages. They erected the altar for burnt sacrifices, so that they were again able in the 7th month to sacrifice on it.
(1) Building the temple.
The cornerstone of the temple was also solemnly laid at that time in the 2nd year of the Return (Ezr 3:8 ).
(2) Haggai and Zechariah.
But the erection of the temple must have been interrupted in a short time, since it was not until the 2nd year of Darius (520 BC), at the urgent appeal of the prophets Haggai and Zechariah, that the work of building was energetically prosecuted. For this reason many scholars deny this cornerstone-laying in the year 536 BC. However, it still remains thinkable that several attempts were made at this work, since the young colony had many difficulties to contend with. Then, too, the memoirs of Ezra and Nehemiah, which have been worked over by the author of Chronicles, report the history of these times only in parts. The historical value of these literary sources has been confirmed by those Aramaic papyri found in Upper Egypt.
3. Ezra and Nehemiah:
In the year 516 BC, after 4 years of building, the temple was completed and dedicated. After this we have no information for a period of 58 years. Then we learn that Ezra, the scribe, in the 7th year of Artaxerxes I (458 BC), came with a new caravan of about 1,500 men with women and children from Babylon to the Holy Land. He had secured from the king the command to establish again in the land of the Jews the law, in which he was a prominent expert, and he tried to do this by earnest admonitions and instructive discourses addressed to the people. The acme of the activity of Ezra was the meeting of the people described in Ne 8-10 on the Feast of the Tabernacles, on which occasion the entire nation solemnly came under obligation to observe the law. According to the present position of these chapters this act took place in 444 BC; but it is probable that it happened before the arrival of Nehemiah, whose name would accordingly have to be eliminated in 8:9. This pericope would then belong to the memoirs of Ezra and not to those of Nehemiah. After some years there came to help Ezra in his work, Nehemiah, a pious Jew, who was a cupbearer to the king, and at his own request was granted leave of absence in order to help the city of Jerusalem, which he had heard was in dire straits. Its walls were in ruins, as the neighboring nations had been able to hinder their rebuilding, and even those walls of the city that had been hastily restored, had again been pulled down. Nehemiah came in the year 445-444 BC from Shushan to Jerusalem and at once went energetically to work at rebuilding the walls. Notwithstanding all oppositions and intrigues of malicious neighbors, the work was successfully brought to a close.
The hostile agitations, in so far as they were not caused by widespread envy and hatred of the Jews among the neighboring peoples, had a religious ground. Those who returned, as the people of Yahweh, held themselves aloof from the peoples living round about them, especially from the mixed peoples of Samaria. Samaria was the breeding-place for this hostility against Jerusalem. The governor at that place, Sanballat, was the head of this hostile league. The Jews had declined to permit the Samaritans to cooperate in the erection of the temple and would have no religious communion with them. The Samaritans had taken serious offense at this, and they accordingly did all they could to prevent the building of the walls in Jerusalem, which would be a hindrance to their having access to the temple. But Nehemiah’s trust in God and his energy overcame this obstacle. The policy of exclusiveness, which Ezra and Nehemiah on this occasion and at other times followed out, evinces a more narrow mind than the preexilic prophets had shown. In the refusal of intermarriage with the people living around them they went beyond the Mosaic law, for they even demanded that those marriages, which the Israelites had already contracted with foreign women, should be dissolved. But this exclusiveness was the outcome of legal conscientiousness, and at this period it was probably necessary for the selfpreservation of the people of Yahweh.
From the prophecies of Malachi, who was almost a contemporary of the two mentioned, it can be seen that the marriages with the foreign women had also brought with them a loosening of even the most sacred family ties (Mal 2:14 f). After an absence of 12 years, Nehemiah again returned to Shushan to the court; and when he later returned to Jerusalem he was compelled once more to inaugurate a stringent policy against the lawlessness which was violating the sanctity of the temple and of the Sabbath commandment. He also expelled a certain Manasseh, a grandson of the high priest, who had married a daughter of Sanballat. This Manasseh, according to Josephus (Ant., XI, viii, 2), erected the sanctuary on Mt. Gerizim, and established the priesthood at that place. This is no doubt correct. These accounts of Josephus are often combined without cause with the times of , although they transpired about 110 years earlier.
The history of the Jews in the last decades of the Persian rule is little known. Under Artaxerxes III (Ochus), they were compelled to suffer much, when they took part in a rebellion of the Phoenicians and Cyprians. Many Jews were at that time banished to Hyrcania on the southern coast of the Caspian Sea. The Persian general, Bagoses, came to Jerusalem and forced his way even into the temple (Josephus, Ant, XI, vii, 1). He undertook to install as high priest, in the place of John (Jochanan), his brother Joshua (Jesus). The latter, however, was slain by the former in the temple. For the first time the office of the high priest appears as more of a political position, something that it never was in the preexilic times, and according to the law was not to be.
VIII. The Jews under Alexander and His Successors.
1. Spread of Hellenism:
As the Jews were then tired of the rule of the priests, they were not dissatisfied with the victorious career of Alexander the Great. He appears to have assumed a friendly attitude toward them, even if the story reported by Josephus (Ant., XI, viii, 4) is scarcely historical. The successors of Alexander were also, as a rule, tolerant in religious matters. But for political and geographical reasons, Palestine suffered severely in these times, as it lay between Syria and Egypt, and was an object of attack on the part of both the leading ruling families in this period, the Ptolemies in Egypt and the Seleucids in Syria. At the same time Hellenism, which had been so powerfully advanced by Alexander as a factor of civilization and culture, penetrated the land of Israel also. Greek culture and language spread soon in Palestine and in many places was supreme. The more strict adherents of Judaism recognized in this a danger to the Mosaic order of life and religion, and all the more zealously they now adhered to the traditional ordinances. These were called the chacidhim, or the Pious (Hasidaioi, 1 Macc 2:42; 7:13; 2 Macc 14:6). The world-transforming Hellenistic type of thought spread especially among the aristocrats and the politically prominent, and even found adherents among the priests, while the chacidhim belonged to the less conspicuous ranks of the people.
2. The Hasmoneans:
A struggle for life and death was caused between these two tendencies by the Syrian king,
IX. The Romans.
1. Division of Territory:
After the death of Herod (4 BC), the kingdom, according to his last will, was to be divided among his three sons. Archelaus received Judea; Antipas, Galilee and Peraea; Philip, the border lands in the north. However, Archelaus was soon deposed by the Romans (6 AD), and Judea was made a part of the province of Syria, but was put under a special Roman procurator, who resided in Caesarea. These procurators (of whom the best known was, 26-36 AD), had no other object than to plunder the land and the people.
2. Destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans:
In this way a conflict was gradually generated between the people and their oppressors, which ended with the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 AD. As early as 40 AD this rupture almost took place, when the Syrian legate Petronius, at the command of Caligula, undertook to place a statue of the emperor in the temple of Jerusalem. On this occasion King Agrippa I, who was again ruling the whole territory of Herod, succeeded in adjusting the conflict. His son
Later Insurrection of Bar-Cochba.
Once again the natural ambition for independence burst out in the insurrection of Bar-Cochba (132-35 AD). Pious teachers of the law, especially Rabbi Akiba, had enkindled this fire, in order to rid the country of the rule of the Gentiles. However, notwithstanding some temporary successes, this insurrection was hopeless. Both the city and the country were desolated by the enraged Romans still more fearfully, and were depopulated still more than in 70. From that time Jerusalem was lost to the Jews. They lived on without a country of their own, without any political organization, without a sanctuary, in the Diaspora among the nations.
3. Spiritual Life of the Period:
The spiritual and religious life of the Jews during the period preceding the dissolution of the state was determined particularly by the legalistic character of their ideals and their opposition to Hellenism. Their religion had become formalistic to a great extent since their return from the exile. The greatest emphasis was laid on obedience to the traditional ordinances, and these latter were chiefly expositions of ceremonial usurpers.
Appearance of Jesus Christ.
The crown of the history of Israel-Judah was the appearance of Jesus Christ. Looked at superficially, it may indeed appear as though His person and His life had but little affected the development of the national history of Israel. However, more closely viewed, we shall see that this entire history has its goal in Him and finds its realization in Him. After full fruit had developed out of this stock, the latter withered and died. He was to be the bearer of salvation for all mankind.
The earliest historian of Israel was the Jew, Flavius Josephus, in the 1st Christian century. His example found few followers in the early church, and we mention only the Chronicle of Sulpicius Severus. The subject is handled theologically by Augustine in his De Civitate Dei. It was only in the 17th century that a keen interest was awakened in this subject. Compare especially James Usher, Annales Veteris et Novi Testamenti, London, 1605; J.B. Bousset, Discours sur l’histoire universelie, Paris, 1681; Humphrey Prideaux, The Old and the
Among English works may be especially mentioned Milman’s History of the Jews and Stanley’s Lectures on the History of the Jewish Church, with smaller works by Ottley and others.
American works on the subject from the critical point of view are a History of the Hebrew People, by Kent, and a History of the Jewish People by Kent and Riggs in the "Historical Series for Bible Students," published by Messrs. Scribner. Compare also McCurdy, History, Prophecy and the Monuments; Toy, Judaism and Christianity; H.P. Smith, Old Testament History.
C. von Orelli