United Kingdom of Israel
- This article refers to the United Kingdom of Israel under Kings Saul, David, and Solomon. This is not to be confused with the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
The United Kingdom of Israel (1095-975 BC according to Ussher, or 1050-930 BC according to Thiele) was a regal government for all of national Israel that succeeded to the semi-direct rule over the Israelites by God through His appointed and raised-up Judges. It began with King Saul and ended with the death of Solomon and the subsequent division of the kingdom into Northern and Southern halves.
Samuel was the last of the great Judges of Israel. When he was elderly, he appointed his two sons, Joel and Abiah, to judge in his place. Unhappily, they did not judge justly, and tended to take bribes. This prompted the people of Israel to ask for a king, so that they could be like other nations. Samuel attempted to dissuade the people from this course, but to no avail. He cried out bitterly to God, Who told Samuel not to take the matter personally, because in rejecting Samuel as Chief Judge of Israel, they were actually rejecting the very concept of accepting God's direct rule.
God's solution was to give Israel a king that they would regret having, and then give them a king that they would be more than willing to accept: David.
God's first choice to be the first King of Israel was Saul, son of Kish, of the tribe of Benjamin. Saul reigned over Israel for forty years. The beginning of his reign dates from either 1095 BC or 1050 BC, according to James Ussher and Edwin R. Thiele, respectively. (For a detailed discussion of disputed chronologies, see here.)
At first, Saul appeared to be properly humble. He even won some major battles with the Philistines. Saul also had a son, named Jonathan, who distinguished himself greatly as a "captain"—that is to say, a general officer.
Soon, however, Saul turned aside from the prescribed manner of governance that God had prescribed. Saul's key error was to make a treaty with Agag, King of the Amalekites, a people whom God had given strict orders to the Israelites never to treat with, but to kill to the last man. Samuel killed Agag personally, and then specifically told Saul that he was now rejected as king because of his disobedience to God.
David, born in the eleventh year of the reign of Saul, was God's next choice. David first came to Saul's attention when Saul began to be plagued by "evil spirits." Saul's staff recommended that he have a young lad play the harp for him, and then recommended David to him.
David at first seemed a most unlikely choice to be another king, or even to be a member of the regal staff. He was born in Bethlehem, which at the time was a totally undistinguished city. More than this, he was the son of a shepherd, and the youngest son at that. Yet this was the lad who was able to comfort Saul in the worst of his spirit-oppressed episodes.
Then the Philistine champion Goliath of Gath challenged the men of Saul's army to single combat. David volunteered to accept Goliath's challenge, walked into battle wearing no armor and armed only with a slingshot, and killed Goliath with an ease that surprised everyone present.
Thereafter David became a permanent member of Saul's staff, and later became a general officer in his own right. Jonathan regarded David as closer than a brother. Saul, however, grew jealous and ultimately drove David out of Jerusalem and into hiding. This was not the first of Israel's civil wars, and nor would it be the last.
This civil war ended only when the Philistines launched a full-scale attack against Israel. Saul, Jonathan, and Jonathan's brothers fell in battle. David mourned bitterly and even ordered the execution of the man who fairly boasted of having struck the fatal blow. David first assumed a kingship in Hebron, and seven years later he captured Jerusalem. He reigned over Israel for a total of forty years, beginning in 1055 BC or 1010 BC (Ussher or Thiele).
Solomon was the son of David by Bath-sheba, the former wife of Uriah the Hittite. Solomon also reigned for forty years, beginning in 1015 BC or 970 BC. In the fourth year of his reign (1012 BC or 967 BC), Solomon broke ground on the Temple that finally replaced the Tabernacle that had served as the center of Israelite worship since the Exodus of Israel. Solomon is known for having great power and riches, but mainly for having wisdom, for which he specifically prayed.
Solomon did not, however, use his wisdom to its fullest. He had no fewer than one thousand wives and concubines, and these women, mostly foreigners, encouraged him to worship gods other than the One True God. For that, God sent word by a prophet that Solomon's kingdom would divide—though he would not live to see this happen.
When Solomon died, his son Rehoboam took over. Rehoboam rather foolishly decided that he would crush Israel under a tax burden even worse than that which Solomon had imposed. In response, ten of the twelve landed tribes of Israel (the tribe of Levi had no territorial holdings) broke away from the kingdom and rallied to the cause of one of Solomon's former officers, Jeroboam I. This happened either in 975 BC or 930 BC.
- James Ussher, The Annals of the World, Larry Pierce, ed., Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2003 (ISBN 0890513600), pghh. 392-474, 476-477
- Leon J. Wood, A Survey of Israel's History, rev. ed. David O'Brien, Grand Rapids, MI: Academie Books, 1986 (ISBN 031034770X), pp. 197-254
- Chad Brand, Charlie Draper, Archie England, et al., eds. "Chronology of the Biblical Period." Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary. Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2003. (ISBN 0-80542-836-4) pp. 291-295
- I_Samuel 8
- I_Samuel 9-10
- I_Samuel 15