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Judah (Kingdom of)
See also Kingdom of Judah
JUDAH, (KINGDOM OF) jōō’ də (יְהוּדָ֑ה). One of the two kingdoms of the Hebrews into which Israel was divided after the death of Solomon.
The inception of the kingdom of Judah.
The twelve tribes of Israel constituted a united kingdom under David and Solomon. The dynasty established by David continued to rule in Jerusalem until the destruction of the southern kingdom in 586 b.c. by Nebuchadnezzar, but the power and influence of the dynasty were seriously limited after the division of the kingdom upon the death of Solomon in 936 b.c. The tensions between the northern and southern sections of the country polarized around Rehoboam of Judah, the son of Solomon, and Jeroboam son of Nebat, of the tribe of Ephraim in the N. Jeroboam’s secession movement was successful, and he became the first king of the northern kingdom whereas Rehoboam retained the crown of David as king of the kingdom of Judah in the S.
The nature of Judah’s territory.
The kingdom of Judah comprised, besides the tribe of Judah, most of Benjamin and, apparently, eventually the tribe of Simeon, which was isolated in the southernmost area of Israel. As the tribe of Judah grew in power, it practically absorbed Benjamin and Simeon. The physical characteristics of Judah’s territory had important effects upon the life, culture, and history of the people. The western boundary of Judah was the, and the E was bounded by the and the Dead Sea. On the S was the desert, incapable of sustaining life without a system of irrigation. On the N there was no natural division between the territory of Judah and that of the rest of Israel. The boundary seems to have shifted somewhat but was usually thought to run a little to the N or S of Bethel (Beitun). The line extended approximately from a point a little N of Joppa to the Jordan River at a point about thirteen m. N of the Dead Sea. It was along this line that the frontier fortresses of Michmash, Ramah, Gibeon, Bethel, and others were built. The territory of the kingdom of Judah roughly resembled a square, covering approximately forty-five square m.
This area includes a variety of physical features, climate, and resources, which may be divided into three main sections; the coastal plain, the Shephelah, and the hill country. The coastal plain was never completely dominated by the Hebrews due to the power of the Philistines who gave the name to the whole country in the word “Palestine.” Because of their dominance, the coastal plain came to be known as the “land of the Philistines” (
East of the Coastal Plain was the Shephelah, or lowlands (
The hill country is an area about thirty-five m. long and fifteen m. wide. Approaching Jerusalem from Samaria, the range descends to 2,500-2,600 ft. above sea level, and then as they go S they rise to the highest point of 3,370 ft. just N of Hebron. This area did more to form the character and influence the life of the Jews than any other geographical feature of the country. The mountains form an adequate watershed on the W slope; clouds that come in from the Mediterranean Sea deposit rainfall that sustains the life of the country. The eastern slope is the wilderness of Judah (
The history of the kingdom of Judah.
The dynasty of David occupied the throne during its entire history, with the capital at Jerusalem. This gave the country a stability that was lacking in the northern kingdom, and contributed to the life of the people until the disintegration of the southern kingdom set in. Its history is recorded in
The history of the kingdom of Judah may be conveniently divided with respect to the relations it had with other nations (Israel, Assyria, and Babylon). The first period extends from Rehoboam to Jotham (936-731); the second from Ahaz to Josiah (731-608); the third from Jehoiakim to Zedekiah (608-586).
Judah and Israel.
The first period was characterized by Judah’s relations with Israel. The inevitable strife between the two Heb. kingdoms began immediately upon their separation, as Rehoboam mustered an army to force Israel back under the domination of the house of David. He did not, however, complete his plan because of the intervention of the prophet Shemaiah.
Rehoboam fortified the country by building fortresses in at least fifteen cities throughout the land; but this did not prevent Shishak (Sheshonk) of Egypt, who had supported Jeroboam in his rebellion, from invading Judah and plundering the treasures of the Temple and palace. Rehoboam’s numerous wives had a corrupting effect on him, drawing him under the influence of foreign gods. The defeat at the hands of Shishak was interpreted to be divine judgment, and the king and people confessed their sin. Rehoboam’s son and successor, Abijah, gained a great military victory over Jeroboam. As a result, Judah recovered some border cities from Israel. Religiously, there was widespread apostasy to the worship of strange gods and images, with sacred groves as worship centers. Abijah had sought an alliance with Syria against Israel as did his successor Asa against Baasha of the northern kingdom. Before the end of his reign in 875 b.c., Asa was able to establish friendship with Israel, which endured until the Assyrians destroyed the northern kingdom in 722 b.c. According to the records, Asa was the first of the kings to combat actively the pagan cult of Asherah, even deposing his mother “from being queen mother because she had made an abominable image for Asherah” (
Asa’s son Jehoshaphat continued to fight against Baalism. He also reformed the courts of justice, but in his attempt to revive the maritime commerce of Solomon, he was not very successful. In the extended wars waged by the Syrians and Mesha of Moab against the northern kingdom, Judah took no direct action beyond sending aid to the sister kingdom. In the battle of Ramoth in Gilead against the Syrians, Jehoshaphat himself fought side by side with Ahab of Israel with almost disastrous results (
Athaliah, the only woman to rule over the Israelites, was able to maintain herself in power for six years. She was then executed in a rebellion led by the priest Jehoiada, who then placed on the throne the legitimate heir—seven-year-old Joash, the son of Ahaziah (
Under Amaziah, the son and successor of Joash, Judah began a period of prosperity and progress that eventually made it one of the leading kingdoms of the western Near E. An important factor in this success was the recapture of Edom and its capital Sela (Petra), which Judah had lost under Jehoram. This victory gained the control of overland traffic of western Arabia as well as that of the Red Sea from the Gulf of Akaba and Elath. Amaziah’s success led to overconfidence, which led to war with Israel. He was defeated and was taken prisoner, but he was released upon paying a ransom with the treasures of the Temple and the royal palace together with submission to the destruction of the walls of Jerusalem and the surrender of hostages.
Uzziah (Azariah), Amaziah’s son, was unusually capable and brought Judah to its greatest power. He strengthened the country internally, strengthened the army, built fortresses in the Negev, and extended his kingdom to control some of the Philistine and Ammonite territory. He developed the natural resources of Judah by developing agriculture, constructing cisterns, and making use of the harbor at Elath (Ezion-geber). Near the close of his life, Uzziah was stricken with leprosy and was succeeded by his son Jotham who acted as regent until the death of his father. “The year that King Uzziah died” (
Judah and Assyria.
The second period of Judah’s history began with the reign of Ahaz, son of Jotham, and was characterized by the surge of Assyrian might with its threat to Israel and Judah. It was Tiglath-pileser III (the Pul of
Tiglath-pileser III destroyed Syria and divided Israel, the northern half of which was annexed by Assyria. Isaiah’s advice proved to be correct, for Ahaz had to pay tribute to Tiglath-pileser III as a vassal, and he witnessed Assyrian paganism introduced into the Temple in Jerusalem. The incident of Pekah and Rezin forms the historical background of Isaiah’s Immanuel prophecy (
Hezekiah followed Ahaz to the throne and in the early successful years of his reign accepted the advice of Isaiah, which led to a religious reform and the repudiation of the Assyrian gods imported during the reign of Ahaz. The repudiation of the gods of Assyria was a part of the attempt to throw off Assyrian domination. Against the prophets’ advice, he became involved in a coalition with Merodach-baladan of Babylonia, Egypt, and other countries, which was directed against Assyria. Isaiah (
Isaiah had consistently prophesied that Jerusalem itself would be spared. Hezekiah, anticipating the Assyrian invasion, had strengthened the defenses of the city and, to insure the water supply of the city, had excavated the Siloam tunnel. As Sennacherib invested Jerusalem, c. 701 b.c., Isaiah encouraged Hezekiah to hold out. Isaiah as usual was right, for Sennacherib suddenly was forced to raise the siege because “the angel of the Lord went forth, and slew a hundred and eighty-five thousand in the camp of the Assyrians” (
The defeat of the major objective of Sennacherib vindicated the preaching of Isaiah and led the people to cooperate in expurgating the Temple of paganism. They broke in pieces the brazen serpent of the wilderness wanderings that had come to be worshiped and they returned to the ethical monotheism of Yahwehism (
Hezekiah died in comparative youth and was followed by his son Manasseh who reversed the policy of his father, and the prophets saw in his reign the deathblow to the kingdom of Judah. He submitted to Assyria as a vassal, and the land was practically under their control. Both Esarhaddon (681-669 b.c.) and Ashurbanipal (669-630 b.c.) list Manasseh with Edom, Gaza, Ammon, Tyre, et al., as tributaries. Cuneiform tablets discovered at Gezer indicate that the Assyrians had a garrison there. The situation was such that the infiltration of foreign ideas and customs into the life of Judah was inevitable. Religion and politics were inseparable, resulting in unlimited religious syncretism. Baal, Asherah, the host of heaven, the sacrifice of children upon the pagan altars in the valley of Hinnom were again practiced. The reign of Manasseh was characterized by degeneracy in worship, faith, and morals (
During the reign of Manasseh, Assyrian power reached its zenith, but before the end of that reign, there were evidences of Assyrian disintegration. Manasseh’s son Amon succeeded and continued his father’s evil practices (
The decay of Assyria is reflected in the inscrs. of Ashurbanipal, which state that the provinces of his empire were inflamed by the revolt of his brother Shamash-shum-ukin. The situation encouraged throughout the Assyrian empire the expression of national feelings of independence and Josiah’s reign was an example. The preceding regime had been one of corruption and oppression, when worshipers of Yahweh dared not confide in their closest relatives and friends (
The hegemony of Assyria in the fertile crescent now was being challenged by Babylonia. Nineveh fell in 612 b.c. under an onslaught of a coalition of Medes, Persians, Scythians, and Babylonians led by the Babylonian Nabopolassar. Sinshariskun, the last king of the great Assyrian dynasty, died in the battle; but his army, under the leadership of Ashur-uballit, prepared itself for the final battle, which took place at Carchemish in 605 b.c.
As Assyria decayed, Egypt recovered from the attacks of Ashurbanipal to which Nahum refers (
Judah and Babylon.
The third period of Judah’s history began with the Babylonian defeat of the Assyrians. Jehoiakim, who was placed upon the throne of Judah as a vassal by Necho in 608 b.c., was friendly to Egypt, but he was a Babylonian subject after the battle of Carchemish and paid tribute to Babylon. His policies encouraged Baalism in Judah, and he disregarded Jeremiah’s advice not to disturb existing relations with Nebuchadnezzar. He renounced allegiance to Babylonia (
Nebuchadnezzar placed Mattaniah, another son of Josiah, upon the throne of Judah to replace Jehoiachin, and changed his name to Zedekiah. Zedekiah took an oath of loyalty to Nebuchadnezzar (
Zedekiah and his entourage fled toward the Jordan valley but were intercepted and taken to Nebuchadnezzar at Riblah. He was forced to witness the execution of his sons, and then was blinded and taken in chains to Babylon after a reign of eleven years. The chief priest Seraiah and other leaders were taken to Riblah and executed upon the orders of Nebuchadnezzar. On 7 August 586 b.c. Nebuzaradan, the captain of Nebuchadnezzar’s bodyguard, ordered Jerusalem destroyed. The Temple and palace were burned, the walls of the city broken down, and many people carried off into captivity (
The Babylonian policy toward her defeated enemies was not as destructive as that of the Assyrians. Gedaliah, the former mayor of Zedekiah’s palace, was appointed governor of Judea by Nebuchadnezzar. He exercised his office in Mizpah, about five m. NW of Jerusalem. Gedaliah issued an appeal for loyalty to Babylon and tried to restore the country to normal life. He was treacherously assassinated by Ishmael, a member of the royal family, who also killed many members of Gedaliah’s court and Babylonians stationed at Mizpah. This new rebellion brought the Chaldeans back to Jerusalem, and in 581 b.c., another deportation of Hebrews to Babylonia took place. Some of the Hebrews of anti-Babylonian sentiment fled to Egypt, and forced Jeremiah, who had been given special consideration by Nebuchadnezzar, to accompany them (
The kingdom of Judah was now completely crushed. It had been in existence as an independent kingdom for 350 years, calculating from the year of the disruption in 936 b.c. This was 214 years longer than the existence of the northern Kingdom, the longer survival of the kingdom of Judah being due primarily to the loyalty of the people to Yahweh.
See History of Israel.
H. R. Hall, The Ancient History of the Near East (1927); G. A. Barton, Archaeology and the Bible (1937); G. E. Wright, Biblical Archaeology (1960); J. A. Thompson, The Bible and Archaeology (1962); W. F. Albright, The Biblical Period from Abraham to Ezra (1963); J. Gray, Archaeology and theWorld (1965).