Kingdom of Judah

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The Kingdom of Judah (Hebrew: יהודה Yehuda "praise God") was a kingdom of divided Israel. It is often referred to as the "Southern Kingdom" to distinguish it from the "Northern Kingdom" of Israel. This kingdom, like its Northern counterpart, began with the Revolt of the Ten Tribes in either 975 BC (per James Ussher[1]) or 930 BC (per Edwin R. Thiele[2]). It ended with the Fall of Jerusalem in either 588 BC (Ussher) or 586 BC (Thiele).

Territorial Extent

Territories of the Northern and Southern Kingdoms

The Kingdom of Judah was a monarchy, inclusive only of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, over which the House of David enjoyed an unbroken primacy before the Fall of Jerusalem. It extended in the north as far as Bethel, while in the south it ended in the dry area known as the Negev. Its eastern and western boundaries were the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. Jerusalem was its capital.

It consisted of those areas, primarily the tribal lands of Judah and Benjamin, that remained loyal to King Rehoboam, the son of King Solomon, when the northern tribes of Israel revolted and named as their king Jeroboam I. Unlike the Northern kingdom of Israel, which rebelled against God, worshiped pagan gods, and disobeyed divine commandments, in most of its history, Judah loyally worshiped God.

The Grounds for the Split

See Also: Northern Kingdom
God split the Ten Tribes away from Judah and Benjamin as a punishment for King Solomon, who had debased his kingdom by his worship of the strange gods of his thousand foreign wives and concubines. Furthermore, Rehoboam, Solomon's son and successor, was not a good king, and was very ill-advised:
And Rehoboam went to Shechem: for all Israel were come to Shechem to make him king. And it came to pass, when Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who was yet in Egypt, heard of it, (for he was fled from the presence of king Solomon, and Jeroboam dwelt in Egypt;) That they sent and called him. And Jeroboam and all the congregation of Israel came, and spake unto Rehoboam, saying, Thy father made our yoke grievous: now therefore make thou the grievous service of thy father, and his heavy yoke which he put upon us, lighter, and we will serve thee. And he said unto them, Depart yet for three days, then come again to me. And the people departed. And king Rehoboam consulted with the old men, that stood before Solomon his father while he yet lived, and said, How do ye advise that I may answer this people? And they spake unto him, saying, If thou wilt be a servant unto this people this day, and wilt serve them, and answer them, and speak good words to them, then they will be thy servants for ever. But he forsook the counsel of the old men, which they had given him, and consulted with the young men that were grown up with him, and which stood before him: And he said unto them, What counsel give ye that we may answer this people, who have spoken to me, saying, Make the yoke which thy father did put upon us lighter? And the young men that were grown up with him spake unto him, saying, Thus shalt thou speak unto this people that spake unto thee, saying, Thy father made our yoke heavy, but make thou it lighter unto us; thus shalt thou say unto them, My little finger shall be thicker than my father's loins. And now whereas my father did lade you with a heavy yoke, I will add to your yoke: my father hath chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions. So Jeroboam and all the people came to Rehoboam the third day, as the king had appointed, saying, Come to me again the third day. And the king answered the people roughly, and forsook the old men's counsel that they gave him; And spake to them after the counsel of the young men, saying, My father made your yoke heavy, and I will add to your yoke: my father also chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions. Wherefore the king hearkened not unto the people; for the cause was from the LORD, that he might perform his saying, which the LORD spake by Ahijah the Shilonite unto Jeroboam the son of Nebat. So when all Israel saw that the king hearkened not unto them, the people answered the king, saying, What portion have we in David? neither have we inheritance in the son of Jesse: to your tents, O Israel: now see to thine own house, David. So Israel departed unto their tents. But as for the children of Israel which dwelt in the cities of Judah, Rehoboam reigned over them. Then king Rehoboam sent Adoram, who was over the tribute; and all Israel stoned him with stones, that he died. Therefore king Rehoboam made speed to get him up to his chariot, to flee to Jerusalem. So Israel rebelled against the house of David unto this day.[3]

Rehoboam raised a 180,000-strong army to attempt to crush the revolt, but the prophet Shemaiah brought a message from God telling him to desist.

Rehoboam was one of many wicked kings, those that "did evil in the sight of the LORD." That he did not even last as long as did his rival Jeroboam I to the north might or might not be significant.

Early History

Rehoboam had an inauspicious seventeen-year reign, and in the middle of it Pharaoh Shishak raided his kingdom and took much plunder. Thereafter, the glory of Jerusalem under Solomon would never be the same. This was the same Shishak who had given asylum to Jeroboam in the last three years of Solomon's reign.

Rehoboam's son Abijam had an even briefer spell. But Asa was the first example of a king who did right in God's sight. In this regard, not every king who "did right" did everything right—but those who did, tended to have prosperous reigns.

The Athaliah-Joash Affair

The only matrimonial alliance between the Divided Kingdoms Northern and Southern was that of King Jehoram with the House of Omri in the Northern Kingdom. Jehoram accepted Athaliah, daughter of Ahab, as his consort. Their son Ahaziah fell in battle against the future King Jehu, who at the time was God's chosen champion in the Northern Kingdom.

When Ahaziah died, Athaliah then tried to kill all the royal family. But Ahaziah's infant son Joash escaped her notice. Six years later, the High Priest in Jerusalem presented Joash to the people and had him crowned. Athaliah tore her royal robes in indignation and accused everyone present of treason, whereupon the High Priest had her arrested, taken outside the city, and summarily executed.[4]

Joash grew to be a no-nonsense king. Significant among his accomplishments was the repair of the Temple of Jerusalem, which by then had fallen into disrepair. But then Joash made a major mistake: he paid tribute to King Hazael of Syria and used dedicated Temple objects to do it. Perhaps out of outrage, the palace staff conspired against Joash and killed him. His son Amaziah then took over.

After Athaliah

The kings of the Southern Kingdom seemed to alternate between right-doing and evil-doing kings. Sadly, the right-doing kings of this period (Joash, Amaziah, Uzziah, and Jotham) appeared not to have their hearts in doing right. Joash fell almost completely away from the faith after his old counselor Jehoiada died. Amaziah is described as doing right, "but not with a perfect heart." Uzziah let his pride overcome him, to the degree that he presumed to burn incense in the Temple, and for that God struck him with leprosy. Jotham was absent from the Temple and was an absentee father—with scandalous results.

The deeds of Jotham's son, Jehoahaz I, or Ahaz as his name is spelled in II Kings, were especially odious even before he came of age. Note the following:
In the seventeenth year of Pekah the son of Remaliah Ahaz the son of Jotham king of Judah began to reign. Twenty years old was Ahaz when he began to reign, and reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem, and did not that which was right in the sight of the LORD his God, like David his father.[5]
But now consider this:
Now it came to pass in the third year of Hoshea son of Elah king of Israel, that Hezekiah the son of Ahaz king of Judah began to reign. Twenty and five years old was he when he began to reign; and he reigned twenty and nine years in Jerusalem. His mother's name also was Abi, the daughter of Zachariah. And he did that which was right in the sight of the LORD, according to all that David his father did.[6]

A careful consideration of the ages-at-ascendancy of these two kings, and the length-of-reign of Ahaz (whose son Hezekiah succeeded him with no interregnum), indicates that Ahaz sired Hezekiah when he, Ahaz, was only eleven years of age. Moreover, the Zachariah referred to in the quote was a Levite and a priest in Jerusalem. The situation must have been a near-scandal to all concerned, and that Ahaz would turn out to be an especially "evil-doing" king should surprise no one. The actual surprise was that Hezekiah would turn out to be not only "right-doing," but especially renowned as a reformer.

The Two Great Reformers

By far the best chapters in the history of the Southern Kingdom were the reigns of Hezekiah and Josiah. Hezekiah was the first to undertake the most thoroughgoing of religious reforms: unlike many of his predecessors, he destroyed the pagan temples, or "high places," that so many of his people had built, and cut down the wood-carved Asherah poles, or "groves," throughout his kingdom. He also broke up the brass serpent that Moses had earlier fashioned as a reminder to the people of Israel to remember who God was. The people had begun to venerate it as an idol, and Hezekiah recognized that such behavior was inappropriate. Hezekiah also had the Temple repaired and cleaned out, and commanded the observance of the much-neglected Feast of Passover.

Hezekiah held the throne during the Fall of Samaria. Later, Sennacherib of Assyria launched an invasion of the Southern Kingdom. Hezekiah famously consulted the great prophet Isaiah for help and prayed earnestly to God. In reply, God struck the armies of Sennacherib with a pestilence, so that Sennacherib raised his siege of Jerusalem and went back home.

Subsequently, Hezekiah fell ill and consulted Isaiah again, prompting this famous exchange:
And Isaiah said, This sign shalt thou have of the LORD, that the LORD will do the thing that he hath spoken: shall the shadow go forward ten degrees, or go back ten degrees? And Hezekiah answered, It is a light thing for the shadow to go down ten degrees: nay, but let the shadow return backward ten degrees. And Isaiah the prophet cried unto the LORD: and he brought the shadow ten degrees backward, by which it had gone down in the dial of Ahaz.[7]

Unhappily, Hezekiah foolishly boasted of his riches and accomplishments when the King of Babylon came to visit him after that episode. Isaiah later issued the baleful prophecy of the Southern Kingdom's eventual defeat and exile.

King Josiah was, if anything, an even greater reformer. He assumed his throne at the age of eight, and by the age of sixteen was already actively studying with the priests in Jerusalem. As soon as he came of age, he gave the same sort of orders as Hezekiah had given, for the systematic destruction of places and objects of pagan worship, and for the repair and cleaning-out of the Temple. In the process, the then-serving High Priest found "the book of the Law," which many believe was a copy of the Book of Deuteronomy or even a full set of the Pentateuch. Josiah had this read to him, and when he realized just how far his people had strayed, he tore his royal robes in deep sorrow. Then, again like Hezekiah, he ordered a restitution of Passover, which again had fallen into neglect.

Unhappily, Josiah received a prophecy that the eventual destruction of the Southern Kingdom was inevitable. God would grant Josiah this boon, however: that he would not live to see it.

The Fall of Jerusalem

Main Article: Fall of Jerusalem

Later History

Nebuchadnezzar II, of course, made the territory a Babylonian province. The Persian Empire, beginning with Cyrus the Great and continuing especially with Artaxerxes Longimanus, restored the kingdom to the effective status of a vasal state by granting it a significant degree of autonomy and nominal independence.

In the time of Alexander the Great, the same commanding the unified army of the Greco-Macedonian Empire sought an alliance with this vasal state as a base of operations which was politely refused. Alexander responded by determining their genocide and upon arraying himself against the city he was met by the high priest (who effectively ruled Jerusalem) who surrendered the city to Alexander and showed him the prophecies of Daniel and the specific references to Alexander. Alexander in such amazement that he maintained their degree of independence granting them the right to rule themselves according to their old laws and a tax brake every seventh year.[8] Alexander named this province in Greek Ioudaia.

After Alexander died, it was largely contested between the Ptolemaic empire of Egypt and the Seleucid empire of Syria, until Judas the Maccabee led a successful revolt in 165 BC. Eventually, however, Pompey Carnifex (the Butcher - largely for his handling of this situation and previous ones) who later came to be known as Magnus (the Great), as Special High Commissioner in the Near East for the Senate of Rome, made the kingdom a Roman province under the name Judea. The region retained that name until AD 70, when the future Emperor Titus destroyed the city and the Temple of Jerusalem.

In AD 135, Simon bar Kochva led an unsuccessful revolt against Emperor Hadrian. He then scattered the Jews throughout the Roman empire (now in its farthest extent) and renamed the region Palaestina, in an apparent evocation of the name of Philistia. The region continued to carry the name of Palaestina, or Palestine, until 1948, when the present Republic of Israel established itself in a year-long war for independence.

Synoptic King List

Ussher I Ussher II Ussher III Ussher IV Thiele I Thiele II Thiele III Thiele IV
Rehoboam I_Kings 12-13 , II_Chronicles 9:30 , II_Chronicles 10 3029 975 2969 975 3244 975 3184 975 3029 930 2969 930 3244 930 3184 930
Abijam I_Kings 15:1 , II_Chronicles 13:1-2 3046 958 2986 958 3261 958 3201 958 3046 913 2986 913 3261 913 3201 913
Asa I_Kings 15:9 , II_Chronicles 14:1 3048 956 2988 956 3263 956 3203 956 3049 910 2989 910 3264 910 3204 910
Jehoshaphat I_Kings 22:41 , II_Chronicles 16:13 , II_Chronicles 20:31 3090 914 3030 914 3305 914 3245 914 3087 872 3027 872 3302 872 3242 872
Jehoram II_Kings 8:16 , II_Chronicles 21:5 3112 892 3052 892 3327 892 3267 892 3106 853 3046 853 3321 853 3261 853
Ahaziah II_Kings 8:25 , II_Chronicles 22:2 3119 885 3059 885 3334 885 3274 885 3118 841 3058 841 3333 841 3273 841
Athaliah II_Kings 10 , II_Chronicles 22:10-12 3120 884 3060 884 3335 884 3275 884 3118 841 3058 841 3333 841 3273 841
Joash II_Kings 12:1 , II_Chronicles 23 , II_Chronicles 24:1 3126 878 3066 878 3341 878 3281 878 3124 835 3064 835 3339 835 3279 835
Amaziah II_Kings 14:1 , II_Chronicles 25:1 3165 839 3105 839 3380 839 3320 839 3163 796 3103 796 3378 796 3318 796
Uzziah II_Kings 15:1 , II_Chronicles 26:3 3194 810 3134 810 3409 810 3349 810 3167 792 3107 792 3382 792 3322 792
Jotham II_Kings 15:32 , II_Chronicles 27:1 3246 758 3186 758 3461 758 3401 758 3209 750 3149 750 3424 750 3364 750
Ahaz II_Kings 16:1 , II_Chronicles 28:1 3262 742 3202 742 3477 742 3417 742 3224 735 3164 735 3439 735 3379 735
Hezekiah II_Kings 18:1 , II_Chronicles 29:1 3278 726 3218 726 3493 726 3433 726 3230 729 3170 729 3445 729 3385 729
Manasseh II_Kings 21:1 , II_Chronicles 33:1 3306 698 3246 698 3521 698 3461 698 3262 697 3202 697 3477 697 3417 697
Amon II_Kings 21:19 , II_Chronicles 33:21 3361 643 3301 643 3576 643 3516 643 3317 642 3257 642 3532 642 3472 642
Josiah II_Kings 22:1 , II_Chronicles 34:1 3363 641 3303 641 3578 641 3518 641 3319 640 3259 640 3534 640 3474 640
Jehoahaz II II_Kings 23:31 , II_Chronicles 36:2 3394 610 3334 610 3609 610 3549 610 3350 609 3290 609 3565 609 3505 609
Jehoiakim II_Kings 23:36 , II_Chronicles 36:5 3394 610 3334 610 3609 610 3549 610 3351 608 3291 608 3566 608 3506 608
Jehoiachin II_Kings 24:8 , II_Chronicles 36:9 3405 599 3345 599 3620 599 3560 599 3361 598 3301 598 3576 598 3516 598
Zedekiah II_Kings 24:18 , II_Chronicles 36:11 3405 599 3345 599 3620 599 3560 599 3362 597 3302 597 3577 597 3517 597
Fall of Jerusalem II_Kings 23:36 , II_Chronicles 36:12-21 3416 588 3356 588 3631 588 3571 588 3373 586 3313 586 3588 586 3528 586
Pensioning of Jehoiachin II_Kings 25:27 3442 562 3382 562 3657 562 3597 562 3397 562 3337 562 3612 562 3552 562

Differing Chronological Placement

Main Article: Biblical chronology dispute

James Ussher calculated the length of the history of the Southern Kingdom by a straightforward summation of the lengths-of-reign of the various kings of that kingdom. That summation falls only three years shy of the 390 years that the prophet Ezekiel stated was the time of the "iniquity" of Israel.[9] To make up that deficit, Ussher assumed that Jeroboam I fled from Solomon and sought asylum from Pharaoh Shishak three years before Solomon's death and the Revolt that split the Kingdoms.

Edwin R. Thiele, however, attempted to synchronize the reigns of Jehu and Ahab to certain questionable mentions in Assyrian chronology, and also assumed that Sennacherib's campaign occurred in 701 BC. To "fit" the chronology of the Divided Kingdoms to the Assyrian "historical record," Thiele moved the reign of Jehu to a date forty-three years more recent than Ussher's date—that is, from 884 BC to 841 BC. The violence that this does to the chronology of the Northern Kingdom is discussed in detail here. The relevant effects on the Southern Kingdom are a telescoping of the reigns of Amaziah, Uzziah, Jotham, and Ahaz (Jehoahaz I). Specifically, according to Larry Pierce's Appendix to the Annals, Thiele assumes that Uzziah began a viceroyship under Amaziah twenty-four years before the Bible says that he did, in order to stay consistent with his revised chronology. Pierce rejects this as flatly impossible.
And they brought him on horses: and he was buried at Jerusalem with his fathers in the city of David. And all the people of Judah took Azariah, which was sixteen years old, and made him king instead of his father Amaziah.[10]
Pierce[11] argues forcefully from this quote that Uzziah assumed office upon his father's death in battle.
In the twenty and seventh year of Jeroboam king of Israel began Azariah son of Amaziah king of Judah to reign. Sixteen years old was he when he began to reign, and he reigned two and fifty years in Jerusalem. And his mother's name was Jecholiah of Jerusalem.[12]

Pierce furthermore argues that if Uzziah had indeed begun a viceroyship under Amaziah twenty-four years earlier, then he would have had to do it eight years before he was born.[11]

Thiele's other assumption violates Occam's razor. To synchronize Sennacherib's campaign at 701 BC, Thiele has to assume that Hezekiah and his son Manasseh somehow had an eleven-year co-regency. This is highly unlikely when one considers that Manasseh was an "evil-doer," while Hezekiah was one of the Southern Kingdom's two great reformers. Worse yet, Scripture specifically says that the Fall of Samaria took place in the sixth year of Hezekiah and the ninth year of Hoshea,[13] and then that the invasion of Judah took place in the fourteenth year of Hezekiah.[14] This makes a 701 BC date impossible to sustain.

Related References

  1. James Ussher, The Annals of the World, Larry Pierce, ed., Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2003 (ISBN 0890513600), pghh. 476-482
  2. Leon J. Wood, A Survey of Israel's History, rev. ed. David O'Brien, Grand Rapids, MI: Academie Books, 1986 (ISBN 031034770X), pp. 285-286
  3. I_Kings 12:1-19 (KJV)
  4. II_Kings 11:1-16
  5. II_Kings 16:1-2 (KJV)
  6. II_Kings 18:1-3 (KJV)
  7. II_Kings 20:9-11 (KJV)
  8. Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews
  9. Ezekiel 4:5
  10. 14:20-21 (KJV)
  11. 11.0 11.1 Larry Pierce, Evidentialism–the Bible and Assyrian chronology TJ 15(1):62–68 April 2001
  12. II_Kings 15:1-2 (KJV)
  13. II_Kings 18:10
  14. II_Kings 18:13

See also