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Citation for The Divided Monarchies (ca. 928–the Late 7th Century BCE)

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Berlin, Adele and Marc Zvi Brettler. "Historical and Geographical Background to the Bible." In The Jewish Study Bible. Oxford Biblical Studies Online. Jan 26, 2022. <http://www.oxfordbiblicalcstudies.com/article/book/obso-9780195297515/obso-9780195297515-div1-1162>.


Berlin, Adele and Marc Zvi Brettler. "Historical and Geographical Background to the Bible." In The Jewish Study Bible. Oxford Biblical Studies Online, http://www.oxfordbiblicalcstudies.com/article/book/obso-9780195297515/obso-9780195297515-div1-1162 (accessed Jan 26, 2022).

The Divided Monarchies (ca. 928–the Late 7th Century bce)

The split into the Northern and Southern Kingdoms is based on geographical distance and differences. The union of north and south had been fragile, even during the United Monarchy, and it disintegrated at Solomon's death. The reason implied in 1 Kings ch 12 is the northerners’ anger at the cost of the extravagances of the capital, and this must have been at least part of the motivation. Solomon's son and successor Rehoboam was unable to gain the allegiance of the ten northern tribes, who seceded and formed a separate kingdom. This inaugurates the period calledthe Divided Monarchy, with the kingdom of Israel in the north and the kingdom of Judah in the south. The dynasty that David had established remained in power in Judah for nearly four centuries, while Israel (the Northern Kingdom) was ruled by a succession of royal families, many of whose rulers came to power in military coups. The parts were less than their sum had been, and the two kingdoms had mixed relations, sometimes friendly, sometimes hostile. Neither was able to control effectively the regions that bordered them, and the Davidic‐Solomonic empire, such as it was, ceased to exist.

Changes on the larger international scene would increasingly affect these two kingdoms. Pressure from a revived Egypt is already evident in the above‐mentioned campaign of Shishak to the north in 925. Meanwhile, in northern Mesopotamia, the kingdom of Assyria had consolidated its control over Babylonia in the south and adjacent regions to the north and east, and by the 9th century was poised to expand into the west. At this point the fairly complete Assyrian annals enable the construction of a relatively exact chronology and provide numerous synchronisms with biblical texts. Beginning with Ahab, king of Israel in the mid‐9th century, many of the rulers of both Israel and Judah are mentioned in Assyrian sources, an indication of the growing Assyrian interest in the region that was of ominous significance.

The Assyrians were establishing an empire, a process which reached its zenith with the Assyrian king Esarhaddon's subjugation of Egypt in 671. They accomplished this by virtue of a technologically sophisticated army which in relatively rapid advance overwhelmed the smaller kingdoms to its west, usually incorporating their territories into the empire as provinces and deporting the elite of their populations to other regions, destroying their national identity and thereby suppressing their desire to rebel. By the late 8th century this subjugation was virtually complete. The Aramean kingdoms had been taken, including that of the Arameans in Damascus in 732. In 722 Samaria fell, its ruling class was exiled to Assyria, and the Northern Kingdom of Israel became an Assyrian province. Judah's territory was curtailed, and in part because of the remote location of Jerusalem, was allowed to exist in vassal status. Toward the end of the 8th century the Judean king Hezekiah attempted to reassert Judean independence, but was ruthlessly quashed by the Assyrian king Sennacherib in a campaign (701) which is well documented in both biblical and Assyrian sources. Most of the cities and towns of Judea were razed; Jerusalem avoided destruction only by payment of a heavy tribute, and the Davidic dynasty survived.

Beginning with Amos and Hosea in the mid‐8th century, the prophets and the later authors of the Deuteronomistic History (Joshua‐2 Kings) interpreted these events as a deserved punishment inflicted by YHVH on his rebellious people. For them, the repeated experiences of attack, siege, and exile were ultimately caused not by the inexorable progress of the Assyrian armies, but by divine agency, imposing the fulfillment of the curses attached to the covenant. Yet, other prophets, especially Isaiah, focused on the preservation of Jerusalem and advocated the notion of Jerusalem's inviolability.

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