Kingdom of Judah

Kingdom of Judah

Overview

The Kingdom of Judah ( (Mamlekhet Yehuda) was a Jewish state established in the Southern Levant
Southern Levant
The Levant is the geographical region bordering the Mediterranean, roughly between Egypt and Anatolia . The Southern Levant is roughly encompassed by Palestine, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, along with the modern sovereign states of Israel, Jordan and the southern part of Lebanon.Although the term...

 during the Iron Age
Iron Age
The Iron Age is the archaeological period generally occurring after the Bronze Age, marked by the prevalent use of iron. The early period of the age is characterized by the widespread use of iron or steel. The adoption of such material coincided with other changes in society, including differing...

. It is often referred to as the "Southern Kingdom" to distinguish it from the northern Kingdom of Israel.

Judah emerged as a state probably no earlier than the 9th century BCE, but the subject is one of considerable controversy. In the 7th century BCE, The Kingdom capital Jerusalem became a city with a population many times greater than before and clear dominance over its neighbours, probably as the result of a cooperative arrangement with the Assyria
Assyria
Assyria was a Semitic Akkadian kingdom, extant as a nation state from the mid–23rd century BC to 608 BC centred on the Upper Tigris river, in northern Mesopotamia , that came to rule regional empires a number of times through history. It was named for its original capital, the ancient city of Assur...

ns, who wished to establish Judah as a pro-Assyrian vassal state
Vassal state
A vassal state is any state that is subordinate to another. The vassal in these cases is the ruler, rather than the state itself. Being a vassal most commonly implies providing military assistance to the dominant state when requested to do so; it sometimes implies paying tribute, but a state which...

 controlling the valuable olive industry.
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The Kingdom of Judah ( (Mamlekhet Yehuda) was a Jewish state established in the Southern Levant
Southern Levant
The Levant is the geographical region bordering the Mediterranean, roughly between Egypt and Anatolia . The Southern Levant is roughly encompassed by Palestine, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, along with the modern sovereign states of Israel, Jordan and the southern part of Lebanon.Although the term...

 during the Iron Age
Iron Age
The Iron Age is the archaeological period generally occurring after the Bronze Age, marked by the prevalent use of iron. The early period of the age is characterized by the widespread use of iron or steel. The adoption of such material coincided with other changes in society, including differing...

. It is often referred to as the "Southern Kingdom" to distinguish it from the northern Kingdom of Israel.

Judah emerged as a state probably no earlier than the 9th century BCE, but the subject is one of considerable controversy. In the 7th century BCE, The Kingdom capital Jerusalem became a city with a population many times greater than before and clear dominance over its neighbours, probably as the result of a cooperative arrangement with the Assyria
Assyria
Assyria was a Semitic Akkadian kingdom, extant as a nation state from the mid–23rd century BC to 608 BC centred on the Upper Tigris river, in northern Mesopotamia , that came to rule regional empires a number of times through history. It was named for its original capital, the ancient city of Assur...

ns, who wished to establish Judah as a pro-Assyrian vassal state
Vassal state
A vassal state is any state that is subordinate to another. The vassal in these cases is the ruler, rather than the state itself. Being a vassal most commonly implies providing military assistance to the dominant state when requested to do so; it sometimes implies paying tribute, but a state which...

 controlling the valuable olive industry. Judah prospered under Assyrian vassalage, (despite a disastrous rebellion against the Assyrian king Sennacherib
Sennacherib
Sennacherib |Sîn]] has replaced brothers for me"; Aramaic: ) was the son of Sargon II, whom he succeeded on the throne of Assyria .-Rise to power:...

), but in the last half of the 7th century BCE Assyria suddenly collapsed, and the ensuing competition between the Egyptian and Neo-Babylonian empire
Neo-Babylonian Empire
The Neo-Babylonian Empire or Second Babylonian Empire was a period of Mesopotamian history which began in 626 BC and ended in 539 BC. During the preceding three centuries, Babylonia had been ruled by their fellow Akkadian speakers and northern neighbours, Assyria. Throughout that time Babylonia...

s for control of the Levant led to the destruction of the kingdom in a series of campaigns between 597 and 582, the deportation of the elite of the community, and the incorporation of the Land of Israel as a province of the empire. An independent Jewish kingdom did not exist in the Levant until one was established by the Maccabees
Maccabees
The Maccabees were a Jewish rebel army who took control of Judea, which had been a client state of the Seleucid Empire. They founded the Hasmonean dynasty, which ruled from 164 BCE to 63 BCE, reasserting the Jewish religion, expanding the boundaries of the Land of Israel and reducing the influence...

 in 164 BCE.

Biblical history


According to the Bible
Bible
The Bible refers to any one of the collections of the primary religious texts of Judaism and Christianity. There is no common version of the Bible, as the individual books , their contents and their order vary among denominations...

, the kingdom of Judah resulted from the break-up of the United kingdom of Israel (1020 to about 930 BC), created by Saul
Saul
-People:Saul is a given/first name in English, the Anglicized form of the Hebrew name Shaul from the Hebrew Bible:* Saul , including people with this given namein the Bible:* Saul , a king of Edom...

, David
David
David was the second king of the united Kingdom of Israel according to the Hebrew Bible and, according to the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, an ancestor of Jesus Christ through both Saint Joseph and Mary...

 and Solomon
Solomon
Solomon , according to the Book of Kings and the Book of Chronicles, a King of Israel and according to the Talmud one of the 48 prophets, is identified as the son of David, also called Jedidiah in 2 Samuel 12:25, and is described as the third king of the United Monarchy, and the final king before...

, which was a union of the twelve Israelite tribes. After the northern tribes refused to accept Rehoboam
Rehoboam
Rehoboam was initially king of the United Monarchy of Israel but after the ten northern tribes of Israel rebelled in 932/931 BC to form the independent Kingdom of Israel he was king of the Kingdom of Judah, or southern kingdom. He was a son of Solomon and a grandson of David...

, the son of Solomon
Solomon
Solomon , according to the Book of Kings and the Book of Chronicles, a King of Israel and according to the Talmud one of the 48 prophets, is identified as the son of David, also called Jedidiah in 2 Samuel 12:25, and is described as the third king of the United Monarchy, and the final king before...

, as their king, at first only the tribe of Judah
Tribe of Judah
According to the Hebrew Bible, the Tribe of Judah was one of the Tribes of Israel.Following the completion of the conquest of Canaan by the Israelite tribes after about 1200 BCE, Joshua allocated the land among the twelve tribes....

 remained loyal to the house of David
Davidic line
The Davidic line refers to the tracing of lineage to the King David referred to in the Hebrew Bible, as well as the New Testament...

, but soon after the tribe of Benjamin
Tribe of Benjamin
According to the Hebrew Bible, the Tribe of Benjamin בִּנְיָמִין was one of the Tribes of Israel.From after the conquest of the land by Joshua until the formation of the first Kingdom of Israel in c. 1050 BCE, the Tribe of Benjamin was a part of a loose confederation of Israelite tribes...

 joined Judah. The two kingdoms, Judah in the south and Israel in the north, co-existed uneasily after the split, until the destruction of Israel by the Assyria
Assyria
Assyria was a Semitic Akkadian kingdom, extant as a nation state from the mid–23rd century BC to 608 BC centred on the Upper Tigris river, in northern Mesopotamia , that came to rule regional empires a number of times through history. It was named for its original capital, the ancient city of Assur...

ns in c.722/721 left Judah as the sole remaining kingdom.

The major theme of the Bible's history is the loyalty of Judah, and especially its kings, to "Yahweh
Yahweh
Yahweh is the name of God in the Bible, the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Jews and Christians.The word Yahweh is a modern scholarly convention for the Hebrew , transcribed into Roman letters as YHWH and known as the Tetragrammaton, for which the original pronunciation is unknown...

", the god of Israel. According to the Bible, all the kings of Israel and almost all the kings of Judah were "bad", which in terms of Biblical history means that they failed to enforce worship of Yahweh alone. Of the "good" kings, Hezekiah
Hezekiah
Hezekiah was the son of Ahaz and the 14th king of Judah. Edwin Thiele has concluded that his reign was between c. 715 and 686 BC. He is also one of the most prominent kings of Judah mentioned in the Hebrew Bible....

 (727–698 BCE) is noted for his efforts at stamping out idolatry
Idolatry
Idolatry is a pejorative term for the worship of an idol, a physical object such as a cult image, as a god, or practices believed to verge on worship, such as giving undue honour and regard to created forms other than God. In all the Abrahamic religions idolatry is strongly forbidden, although...

 (in this case, the worship of Baal
Baal
Baʿal is a Northwest Semitic title and honorific meaning "master" or "lord" that is used for various gods who were patrons of cities in the Levant and Asia Minor, cognate to Akkadian Bēlu...

 and Asherah
Asherah
Asherah , in Semitic mythology, is a Semitic mother goddess, who appears in a number of ancient sources including Akkadian writings by the name of Ashratum/Ashratu and in Hittite as Asherdu or Ashertu or Aserdu or Asertu...

, among other traditional Near Eastern divinities), but his successors, Manasseh of Judah
Manasseh of Judah
Manasseh was a king of the Kingdom of Judah. He was the only son of Hezekiah with Hephzi-bah. He became king at an age 12 years and reigned for 55 years. Edwin Thiele has concluded that he commenced his reign as co-regent with his father Hezekiah in 697/696 BC, with his sole reign beginning in...

 (698–642 BCE) and Amon (642–640 BCE), revived idolatry, drawing down on the kingdom the anger of Yahweh. King Josiah
Josiah
Josiah or Yoshiyahu or Joshua was a king of Judah who instituted major reforms. Josiah is credited by most historians with having established or compiled important Jewish scriptures during the Deuteronomic reform that occurred during his rule.Josiah became king of Judah at the age of eight, after...

 (640–609 BCE) returned to the worship of Yahweh alone, but his efforts were too late and Israel's unfaithfulness caused God to permit the kingdom's destruction by the Babylonians
Neo-Babylonian Empire
The Neo-Babylonian Empire or Second Babylonian Empire was a period of Mesopotamian history which began in 626 BC and ended in 539 BC. During the preceding three centuries, Babylonia had been ruled by their fellow Akkadian speakers and northern neighbours, Assyria. Throughout that time Babylonia...

 in c.587/586 BCE.

Relations with the Northern Kingdom



For the first sixty years, the kings of Judah tried to re-establish their authority over the northern kingdom, and there was perpetual war between them. Israel and Judah were in a state of war throughout Rehoboam
Rehoboam
Rehoboam was initially king of the United Monarchy of Israel but after the ten northern tribes of Israel rebelled in 932/931 BC to form the independent Kingdom of Israel he was king of the Kingdom of Judah, or southern kingdom. He was a son of Solomon and a grandson of David...

's seventeen year reign. Rehoboam built elaborate defenses and strongholds, along with fortified cities. In the fifth year of Rehoboam's reign Pharaoh
Pharaoh
Pharaoh is a title used in many modern discussions of the ancient Egyptian rulers of all periods. The title originates in the term "pr-aa" which means "great house" and describes the royal palace...

 Shishaq of Egypt, brought a huge army and took many cities. When they laid siege to Jerusalem, Rehoboam gave them all of the treasures out of the temple as a tribute and Judah became a vassal state of Egypt. Rehoboam's son and successor, Abijah
Abijah
Abijah or Abiah or Abia is a Biblical unisex name that means Aviya or "my Father is Yahweh" in Hebrew. In the Old Testament the name Abijah was borne by several characters:Women...

 continued his father's efforts to bring Israel under his control. He waged a major battle against Jeroboam
Jeroboam
Jeroboam was the first king of the northern Israelite Kingdom of Israel after the revolt of the ten northern Israelite tribes against Rehoboam that put an end to the United Monarchy....

 of Israel and was victorious with a heavy loss of life on the Israel side; Abijah and his people defeated them with a great slaughter, so that 500,000 chosen men of Israel fell slain after which Jeroboam posed little threat to Judah for the rest of his reign and the border of the Tribe of Benjamin
Tribe of Benjamin
According to the Hebrew Bible, the Tribe of Benjamin בִּנְיָמִין was one of the Tribes of Israel.From after the conquest of the land by Joshua until the formation of the first Kingdom of Israel in c. 1050 BCE, the Tribe of Benjamin was a part of a loose confederation of Israelite tribes...

 was restored to the original tribal border.

Abijah's son and successor, Asa
Asa of Judah
Asa was the third king of the Kingdom of Judah and the fifth king of the House of David. He was the son of Abijam, grandson of Rehoboam, and great-grandson of Solomon. The Hebrew Bible gives the period of his reign as 41 years. His reign is dated between 913-910 BCE to 873-869 BCE. He was...

, maintained peace for the first 35 years of his reign, during which time he revamped and reinforced the fortresses originally built by his grandfather, Rehoboam. An invasion by the Egyptian-backed chieftain Zerah
Zerah
Zerah or Zérach refers to five different people in the Hebrew Bible.-The Cushite:...

 the Ethiopian and his million men and 300 chariots was defeated by Asa's 580,000 men (these figures come from 2 Chronicles) in the Valley of Zephath, near Mareshah. The Bible does not state whether Zerah was a pharaoh or a general of the army. The Ethiopians were pursued all the way to Gerar
Gerar
Gerar - meaning "lodging-place" - was a Philistine town and district in what is today south central Israel. Archaeological evidence points to the town having come into existence with the arrival of the Philistines at around 1200 BC and having been little more than a village until 800-700...

, in the coastal plain, where they stopped out of sheer exhaustion. The resulting peace kept Judah free from Egyptian incursions until the time of Josiah
Josiah
Josiah or Yoshiyahu or Joshua was a king of Judah who instituted major reforms. Josiah is credited by most historians with having established or compiled important Jewish scriptures during the Deuteronomic reform that occurred during his rule.Josiah became king of Judah at the age of eight, after...

 some centuries later.

In his 36th year, Asa was confronted by Baasha of Israel, who built a fortress at Ramah on the border, less than ten miles from Jerusalem. The result was that the capital was under pressure and the military situation was precarious. Asa took gold and silver from the Temple and sent them to Ben-Hadad I
Ben-Hadad I
Ben-Hadad I was the king of Aram Damascus between 885 BCE and 865 BCE. He was the son of Tabrimmon and grandson of Hezion and a contemporary of Kings Baasha of Israel and Asa of Judah. Asa called on Ben-Hadad I to aid him in attacking northern Israel while Baasha was restricting access to...

, king of Aram Damascus
Aram Damascus
Aram Damascus was an Aramaean state around Damascus in Syria, from the late 12th century BCE to 734 BCE.Sources for this state come from texts that can be divided into three categories: Assyrian annals, Aramaean texts, and the Hebrew Bible....

, in exchange for the Damascene king canceling his peace treaty with Baasha. Ben-Hadad attacked Ijon, Dan, and many important cities of the tribe of Naphtali
Tribe of Naphtali
The Tribe of Naphtali was one of the Tribes of Israel.Following the completion of the conquest of Canaan by the Israelite tribes after about 1200 BCE, Joshua allocated the land among the twelve tribes...

, and Baasha was forced to withdraw from Ramah. Asa tore down the unfinished fortress and used its raw materials to fortify Geba
Geba
Geba - the hill, , a Levitical city of Benjamin on the north border of Judah adjacent to Ramah in Benjamin north of Gibeah. It has been identified with Jeb'a, about 5½ miles north of Jerusalem...

 and Mizpah
Mizpah in Benjamin
Mizpah was a city of Benjamin.Tell en-Nasbeh is one of two sites often identified with Biblical Mizpah of Benjamin, and is located about 8 miles north of Jerusalem. The other suggested location is Neby Samwil, which is some 4 miles north-west of Jerusalem, and situated on the loftiest hill in the...

 on his side of the border.

Asa's successor, Jehoshaphat
Jehoshaphat
Jehoshaphat was the fourth king of the The Kingdom of Judah, and successor of his father Asa. His children included Jehoram, who succeeded him as king...

, changed the policy towards Israel and instead pursued alliances and co-operation with the northern kingdom. The alliance with Ahab
Ahab
Ahab or Ach'av or Achab in Douay-Rheims was king of Israel and the son and successor of Omri according to the Hebrew Bible. His wife was Jezebel....

 was based on marriage. This alliance led to disaster for the kingdom with the Battle of Ramoth-Gilead. He then entered into an alliance with Ahaziah of Israel
Ahaziah of Israel
Ahaziah or Ochozias was king of Israel and the son of Ahab and Jezebel.William F. Albright has dated his reign to 850-849 BC, while E. R. Thiele offers the dates 853-852 BC...

 for the purpose of carrying on maritime commerce with Ophir
Ophir
Ophir is a port or region mentioned in the Bible, famous for its wealth. King Solomon is supposed to have received a cargo of gold, silver, sandalwood, precious stones, ivory, apes and peacocks from Ophir, every three years.- Citations :...

. But the fleet that was then equipped at Ezion-Gever was immediately wrecked. A new fleet was fitted out without the cooperation of the king of Israel, and although it was successful, the trade was not prosecuted. He subsequently joined Jehoram of Israel
Jehoram of Israel
Jehoram was a king of the northern Kingdom of Israel. He was the son of Ahab and Jezebel.According to , in the fifth year of Joram of Israel, Jehoram became king of Judah, when his father Jehoshaphat was king of Judah, indicating a co-regency...

 in a war against the Moab
Moab
Moab is the historical name for a mountainous strip of land in Jordan. The land lies alongside much of the eastern shore of the Dead Sea. The existence of the Kingdom of Moab is attested to by numerous archeological findings, most notably the Mesha Stele, which describes the Moabite victory over...

ites, who were under tribute to Israel. This war was successful, with the Moabites being subdued. However, on seeing Mesha
Mesha
King Mesha of Moab was a king of Moabites around the 9th century BC, known most famous for writing the Mesha stela.The books of Samuel record that Moab was conquered by David and retained in the territories of his son Solomon . Later, King Omri of Israel reconquered Moab after Moab was lost...

's act of offering his own son in a human sacrifice
Human sacrifice
Human sacrifice is the act of killing one or more human beings as part of a religious ritual . Its typology closely parallels the various practices of ritual slaughter of animals and of religious sacrifice in general. Human sacrifice has been practised in various cultures throughout history...

 on the walls of Kir-haresheth filled Jehoshaphat with horror, and he withdrew and returned to his own land.

Jehoshaphat's successor, Jehoram of Judah
Jehoram of Judah
Jehoram of Judah was the king of the southern Kingdom of Judah, and the son of Jehoshaphat .According to , Jehoram became king of Judah in the fifth year of Jehoram of Israel, when his father Jehoshaphat was king of Judah, indicating a co-regency. The author of Kings also speaks of both Jehoram...

 formed an alliance with Israel by marrying Athaliah
Athaliah
Athaliah was the queen of Judah during the reign of King Jehoram, and later became sole ruler of Judah for six years. William F. Albright has dated her reign to 842–837 BC, while Edwin R. Thiele's dates, as taken from the third edition of his magnum opus, were 842/841 to 836/835 BC...

, the daughter of Ahab
Ahab
Ahab or Ach'av or Achab in Douay-Rheims was king of Israel and the son and successor of Omri according to the Hebrew Bible. His wife was Jezebel....

. Despite this alliance with the stronger northern kingdom, Jehoram's rule of Judah was shaky. Edom
Edom
Edom or Idumea was a historical region of the Southern Levant located south of Judea and the Dead Sea. It is mentioned in biblical records as a 1st millennium BC Iron Age kingdom of Edom, and in classical antiquity the cognate name Idumea was used to refer to a smaller area in the same region...

 revolted, and he was forced to acknowledge their independence. A raid by Philistines, Arab
Arab
Arab people, also known as Arabs , are a panethnicity primarily living in the Arab world, which is located in Western Asia and North Africa. They are identified as such on one or more of genealogical, linguistic, or cultural grounds, with tribal affiliations, and intra-tribal relationships playing...

s and Ethiopia
Ethiopia
Ethiopia , officially known as the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, is a country located in the Horn of Africa. It is the second-most populous nation in Africa, with over 82 million inhabitants, and the tenth-largest by area, occupying 1,100,000 km2...

ns looted the king's house, and carried off all of his family except for his youngest son Ahaziah of Judah
Ahaziah of Judah
Ahaziah of Judah was king of Judah, and the son of Jehoram and Athaliah, the daughter of king Ahab of Israel. He is also called Jehoahaz ....

.

Clash of empires



Besides witnessing the destruction of Israel and the deportation of its population, Ahaz and his co-regent son Hezekiah were vassal to Assyria and forced to pay an annual tribute. After Hezekiah became sole ruler in c. 715 BC, he re-captured Philistine-occupied lands in the Negev desert, formed alliances with Ashkelon
Ashkelon
Ashkelon is a coastal city in the South District of Israel on the Mediterranean coast, south of Tel Aviv, and north of the border with the Gaza Strip. The ancient seaport of Ashkelon dates back to the Neolithic Age...

 and Egypt
Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

, and made a stand against Assyria by refusing to pay tribute. In response, Sennacherib
Sennacherib
Sennacherib |Sîn]] has replaced brothers for me"; Aramaic: ) was the son of Sargon II, whom he succeeded on the throne of Assyria .-Rise to power:...

 of Assyria attacked the fortified cities of Judah. Hezekiah paid three hundred talents of silver and thirty talents of gold to Assyria — requiring him to empty the temple and royal treasury of silver and strip the gold from the doorposts of Solomon's Temple
Solomon's Temple
Solomon's Temple, also known as the First Temple, was the main temple in ancient Jerusalem, on the Temple Mount , before its destruction by Nebuchadnezzar II after the Siege of Jerusalem of 587 BCE....

. However, Sennacherib besieged Jerusalem
Assyrian Siege of Jerusalem
In approximately 701 BCE, Sennacherib, king of Assyria, attacked the fortified cities of Judah, laying siege on Jerusalem. The historical outcome of the siege is unclear.-Background:...

  in 701 BC, though the city was never taken.

During the long reign of Manasseh
Manasseh of Judah
Manasseh was a king of the Kingdom of Judah. He was the only son of Hezekiah with Hephzi-bah. He became king at an age 12 years and reigned for 55 years. Edwin Thiele has concluded that he commenced his reign as co-regent with his father Hezekiah in 697/696 BC, with his sole reign beginning in...

 (c. 687/686 - 643/642 BC), Judah was a vassal of Assyrian rulers - Sennacherib and his successors, Esarhaddon
Esarhaddon
Esarhaddon , was a king of Assyria who reigned 681 – 669 BC. He was the youngest son of Sennacherib and the Aramean queen Naqi'a , Sennacherib's second wife....

 and Ashurbanipal
Ashurbanipal
Ashurbanipal |Ashur]] is creator of an heir"; 685 BC – c. 627 BC), also spelled Assurbanipal or Ashshurbanipal, was an Assyrian king, the son of Esarhaddon and the last great king of the Neo-Assyrian Empire...

 after 669 BC. Manasseh is listed as being required to provide materials for Esarhaddon's building projects, and as one of a number of vassals who assisted Ashurbanipal's campaign against Egypt.

When Josiah
Josiah
Josiah or Yoshiyahu or Joshua was a king of Judah who instituted major reforms. Josiah is credited by most historians with having established or compiled important Jewish scriptures during the Deuteronomic reform that occurred during his rule.Josiah became king of Judah at the age of eight, after...

 became king of Judah in c. 641/640 BC, the international situation was in flux. To the east, the Assyria
Assyria
Assyria was a Semitic Akkadian kingdom, extant as a nation state from the mid–23rd century BC to 608 BC centred on the Upper Tigris river, in northern Mesopotamia , that came to rule regional empires a number of times through history. It was named for its original capital, the ancient city of Assur...

n Empire was beginning to disintegrate, the Babylon
Babylon
Babylon was an Akkadian city-state of ancient Mesopotamia, the remains of which are found in present-day Al Hillah, Babil Province, Iraq, about 85 kilometers south of Baghdad...

ian Empire had not yet risen to replace it, and Egypt
Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

 to the west was still recovering from Assyrian rule. In this power vacuum, Judah was able to govern itself for the time being without foreign intervention. However, in the spring of 609 BC, Pharaoh
Pharaoh
Pharaoh is a title used in many modern discussions of the ancient Egyptian rulers of all periods. The title originates in the term "pr-aa" which means "great house" and describes the royal palace...

 Necho II
Necho II
Necho II was a king of the Twenty-sixth dynasty of Egypt .Necho II is most likely the pharaoh mentioned in several books of the Bible . The Book of Kings states that Necho met King Josiah of the Kingdom of Judah at Megiddo and killed him...

 personally led a sizable army up to the Euphrates
Euphrates
The Euphrates is the longest and one of the most historically important rivers of Western Asia. Together with the Tigris, it is one of the two defining rivers of Mesopotamia...

 to aid the Assyrians
Assyrian people
The Assyrian people are a distinct ethnic group whose origins lie in ancient Mesopotamia...

. Taking the coast route Via Maris
Via Maris
Via Maris is the modern name for an ancient trade route, dating from the early Bronze Age, linking Egypt with the northern empires of Syria, Anatolia and Mesopotamia — modern day Iran, Iraq, Turkey and Syria....

 into Syria
Syria
Syria , officially the Syrian Arab Republic , is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the West, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest....

 at the head of a large army, Necho passed the low tracts of Philistia and Sharon. However, the passage over the ridge of hills which shuts in on the south of the great Jezreel Valley
Jezreel Valley
-Etymology:The Jezreel Valley takes its name from the ancient city of Jezreel which was located on a low hill overlooking the southern edge of the valley, though some scholars think that the name of the city originates from the name of the clan which founded it, and whose existence is mentioned in...

 was blocked by the Judean army led by Josiah, who may have considered that the Assyrians and Egyptians were weakened by the death of the pharaoh Psamtik I only a year earlier (610 BC). Presumably in an attempt to help the Babylonians, Josiah attempted to block the advance at Megiddo
Megiddo (place)
Megiddo is a tell in modern Israel near Megiddo Kibbutz, known for its historical, geographical, and theological importance especially under its Greek name Armageddon. In ancient times Megiddo was an important city-state. Excavations have unearthed 26 layers of ruins, indicated a long period of...

, where a fierce battle
Battle of Megiddo (609 BC)
This Battle of Megiddo is recorded as having taken place in 609 BC with Necho II of Egypt leading his army to Carchemish to fight with his allies the Assyrians against the Babylonians at Carchemish in northern Syria. This required passing through territory controlled by the Kingdom of Judah and...

 was fought and where Josiah was killed. Necho then joined forces with the Assyrian Ashur-uballit II
Ashur-uballit II
Ashur-uballit II , was the last king of the Assyrian empire. He reigned in the last capital city of Harran from 612 BC to 609 BC, having escaped Nineveh during the siege and capture of that city by the Babylonian-Mede army in 612 BC....

 and together they crossed the Euphrates and lay siege to Harran. The combined forces failed to capture the city, and Necho retreated back to northern Syria
Syria
Syria , officially the Syrian Arab Republic , is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the West, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest....

. The event also marked the disintegration of the Assyrian Empire.

On his return march to Egypt
Ancient Egypt
Ancient Egypt was an ancient civilization of Northeastern Africa, concentrated along the lower reaches of the Nile River in what is now the modern country of Egypt. Egyptian civilization coalesced around 3150 BC with the political unification of Upper and Lower Egypt under the first pharaoh...

 in 608 BC, Necho found that Jehoahaz
Jehoahaz of Judah
Jehoahaz or Joachaz in the Douay-Rheims and some other English translations was king of Judah and son of king Josiah whom he succeeded and Hamautal, daughter of Jeremiah of Libnah. He was born in 633/632 BC and his birth name was Shallum...

 had been selected to succeed his father, Josiah. Necho deposed Jehoahaz, who had been king for only three months, and replaced him with his older brother, Jehoiakim
Jehoiakim
Jehoiakim .On Josiah's death, Jehoiakim's younger brother Jehoahaz was proclaimed king, but after three months pharaoh Necho II deposed him and replaced him with the eldest son, Eliakim, who adopted the name Jehoiakim and became king at the age of twenty-five...

. Necho imposed on Judah a levy of a hundred talents of silver (about 3 3/4 tons or about 3.4 metric tons) and a talent of gold (about 75 pounds or about 34 kilograms). Necho then took Jehoahaz back to Egypt as his prisoner, never to return.

Jehoiakim ruled originally as a vassal of the Egyptians, paying a heavy tribute. However, when the Egyptians were defeated by the Babylonians at Carchemish
Battle of Carchemish
The Battle of Carchemish was fought about 605 BC between the allied armies of Egypt and Assyria against Babylonia.- Background :When the Assyrian capital Nineveh was overrun by the Babylonians in 612 BC, the Assyrians moved their capital to Harran...

 in 605 BC, Jehoiakim changed allegiances, paying tribute to Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylon. In 601 BC, in the fourth year of his reign, Nebuchadnezzar unsuccessfully attempted to invade Egypt
Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

 and was repulsed with heavy losses. This failure lead to numerous rebellions among the states of the Levant
Levant
The Levant or ) is the geographic region and culture zone of the "eastern Mediterranean littoral between Anatolia and Egypt" . The Levant includes most of modern Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Israel, the Palestinian territories, and sometimes parts of Turkey and Iraq, and corresponds roughly to the...

 which owed allegiance to Babylon. Jehoiakim also stopped paying tribute to Nebuchadnezzar and took a pro-Egyptian position. Nebuchadnezzar soon dealt with these rebellions. According to the Babylonian Chronicles
Babylonian Chronicles
The Babylonian Chronicles are many series of tablets recording major events in Babylonian history. They are thus one of the first steps in the development of ancient historiography...

, after invading "the land of Hatti (Syria/Palestine)" in 599 BC, he lay siege to Jerusalem
Siege of Jerusalem (597 BC)
In 601 BC, in the fourth year of his reign, Nebuchadnezzar II, king of Babylon, unsuccessfully attempted to invade Egypt and was repulsed with heavy losses...

. Jehoiakim died in 598 BC during the siege, and was succeeded by his son Jeconiah
Jeconiah
Jeconiah "; ; ), also known as Coniah and as Jehoiachin , was a king of Judah who was dethroned by the King of Babylon in the 6th Century BCE and was taken into captivity. Most of what is known about Jeconiah is found in the Hebrew Bible. After many excavations in Iraq, records of Jeconiah's...

 at an age of either eight or eighteen. The city fell about three months later, on 2 Adar
Adar
Adar is the sixth month of the civil year and the twelfth month of the ecclesiastical year on the Hebrew calendar. It is a winter month of 29 days...

 (March 16) 597 BC. Nebuchadnezzar pillaged both Jerusalem and the Temple, carting all his spoils to Babylon. Jeconiah and his court and other prominent citizens and craftsmen, along with a sizable portion of the Jewish population of Judah, numbering about 10,000 were deported from the land and dispersed
Babylonian captivity
The Babylonian captivity was the period in Jewish history during which the Jews of the ancient Kingdom of Judah were captives in Babylon—conventionally 587–538 BCE....

 throughout the Babylonian Empire. Among them was Ezekiel
Ezekiel
Ezekiel , "God will strengthen" , is the central protagonist of the Book of Ezekiel in the Hebrew Bible. In Judaism, Christianity and Islam, Ezekiel is acknowledged as a Hebrew prophet...

. Nebuchadnezzar appointed Zedekiah
Zedekiah
Zedekiah or Tzidkiyahu was the last king of Judah before the destruction of the kingdom by Babylon. He was installed as king of Judah by Nebuchadnezzar II, king of Babylon, after a siege of Jerusalem to succeed his nephew, Jeconiah, who was overthrown as king after a reign of only three months and...

, Jehoiakim's brother, king of the reduced kingdom, who was made a tributary of Babylon.

Destruction and dispersion



Despite the strong remonstrances of Jeremiah and others, Zedekiah revolted against Nebuchadnezzar, ceasing to pay tribute to him and entered into an alliance with Pharaoh
Pharaoh
Pharaoh is a title used in many modern discussions of the ancient Egyptian rulers of all periods. The title originates in the term "pr-aa" which means "great house" and describes the royal palace...

 Hophra
Apries
Apries is the name by which Herodotus and Diodorus designate Wahibre Haaibre, Ουαφρης , a pharaoh of Egypt , the fourth king of the Twenty-sixth dynasty of Egypt. He was equated with the Waphres of Manetho, who correctly records that he reigned for 19 years...

 of Egypt
Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

. In 589 BCE, Nebuchadnezzar II returned to Judah and again besieged Jerusalem. During this period, many Jews fled to surrounding Moab
Moab
Moab is the historical name for a mountainous strip of land in Jordan. The land lies alongside much of the eastern shore of the Dead Sea. The existence of the Kingdom of Moab is attested to by numerous archeological findings, most notably the Mesha Stele, which describes the Moabite victory over...

, Ammon
Ammon
Ammon , also referred to as the Ammonites and children of Ammon, was an ancient nation located east of the Jordan River, Gilead, and the Dead Sea, in present-day Jordan. The chief city of the country was Rabbah or Rabbath Ammon, site of the modern city of Amman, Jordan's capital...

, Edom
Edom
Edom or Idumea was a historical region of the Southern Levant located south of Judea and the Dead Sea. It is mentioned in biblical records as a 1st millennium BC Iron Age kingdom of Edom, and in classical antiquity the cognate name Idumea was used to refer to a smaller area in the same region...

 and other countries to seek refuge. The city fell after an eighteen month siege and Nebuchadnezzar again pillaged both Jerusalem and the Temple, after which he destroyed them both. After killing all of Zedekiah's sons, Nebuchadnezzar took Zedekiah to Babylon, putting an end to the independent Kingdom of Judah. In addition to those killed during the siege, over time, some 4,600 Jews were deported after the fall of Judah. By 586 BCE much of Judah was devastated, and the former kingdom suffered a steep decline of both economy and population.

Jerusalem apparently remained uninhabited for much of the 6th century, and the centre of gravity shifted to Benjamin, the relatively unscathed northern section of the kingdom, where the town of Mizpah
Mizpah in Benjamin
Mizpah was a city of Benjamin.Tell en-Nasbeh is one of two sites often identified with Biblical Mizpah of Benjamin, and is located about 8 miles north of Jerusalem. The other suggested location is Neby Samwil, which is some 4 miles north-west of Jerusalem, and situated on the loftiest hill in the...

 became the capital of the new Babylonian province of Yehud medinata
Yehud Medinata
Yehud Medinata or simply Yehud, was an Achaeminid autonomous province covering Judea and parts of Samaria, located south to Eber-Nari...

 for the remnant of the Jewish population in a part of the former kingdom. This was standard Babylonian practice: when the Philistine city of Ashkalon was conquered in 604 BCE, the political, religious and economic elite (but not the bulk of the population) was banished and the administrative centre shifted to a new location.

Gedaliah
Gedaliah
According to the Hebrew Bible, Gedaliah was appointed by Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylon as governor of Yehud province, which was formed after the defeat of the Kingdom of Judah and the destruction of Jerusalem, in a part of the territory that previously formed the kingdom. He was supported by a...

 was appointed governor of the Yehud province, supported by a Chaldean
Babylonia
Babylonia was an ancient cultural region in central-southern Mesopotamia , with Babylon as its capital. Babylonia emerged as a major power when Hammurabi Babylonia was an ancient cultural region in central-southern Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq), with Babylon as its capital. Babylonia emerged as...

 guard. The administrative centre of the province was Mizpah
Mizpah in Benjamin
Mizpah was a city of Benjamin.Tell en-Nasbeh is one of two sites often identified with Biblical Mizpah of Benjamin, and is located about 8 miles north of Jerusalem. The other suggested location is Neby Samwil, which is some 4 miles north-west of Jerusalem, and situated on the loftiest hill in the...

, and not Jerusalem. On hearing of the appointment, the Jews that had taken refuge in surrounding countries returned to Judah. However, before long Gedaliah was assassinated by a member of the royal house, and the Chaldean soldiers killed. The population that was left in the land and those that had returned fled to Egypt fearing a Babylonian reprisal, under the leadership of Johanan, son of Kareah
Johanan
Johanan is a Hebrew name meaning 'the LORD is gracious'. Other forms of the name include John and Yochanan.Johanan ben Zakai was one of the tannaim, an important Jewish sage in the era of the Second Temple, and a primary contributor to the core text of Rabbinical Judaism, the Mishnah...

, ignoring the urging of the prophet Jeremiah against the move. In Egypt, the refugees settled in Migdol
Migdol
Migdol, or migdal, is a Hebrew word which means either a tower , an elevated stage , or a raised bed . Physically, it can mean fortified land, i.e. a walled city or castle; or elevated land, as in a raised bed, like a platform, possibly a lookout...

, Tahpanhes
Tahpanhes
Tahpanhes was a city in Ancient Egypt. It was located on Lake Manzala on the Tanitic branch of the Nile, about 16 miles from Pelusium...

, Noph
Noph
Noph or Moph was the Hebrew name for the ancient Egyptian city of Memphis, which stood on the Nile near the site of modern-day Cairo. It is mentioned several times in the Hebrew Bible ....

, and Pathros
Pathros
Pathros was a place located in Ancient Egypt. It is mentioned in the Bible, in the Book of Jeremiah, chapter 44:1 and 15, Book of Isaiah 11: 11; Book of Ezekiel 29: 14; 30: 14. It is associated with Upper Egypt....

, and Jeremiah went with them as moral guardian.

The numbers that were deported to Babylon and those who made their way to Egypt and the remnant that remained in the land and in surrounding countries is subject to academic debate. The Book of Jeremiah
Book of Jeremiah
The Book of Jeremiah is the second of the Latter Prophets in the Hebrew Bible, following the book of Isaiah and preceding Ezekiel and the Book of the Twelve....

 reports that a total of 4,600 were exiled to Babylon
Babylonia
Babylonia was an ancient cultural region in central-southern Mesopotamia , with Babylon as its capital. Babylonia emerged as a major power when Hammurabi Babylonia was an ancient cultural region in central-southern Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq), with Babylon as its capital. Babylonia emerged as...

. The Books of Kings
Books of Kings
The Book of Kings presents a narrative history of ancient Israel and Judah from the death of David to the release of his successor Jehoiachin from imprisonment in Babylon, a period of some 400 years...

 suggest that it was ten thousand, and then eight thousand. Israel Finkelstein
Israel Finkelstein
Israel Finkelstein is an Israeli archaeologist and academic. He is currently the Jacob M. Alkow Professor of the Archaeology of Israel in the Bronze Age and Iron Ages at Tel Aviv University and is also the co-director of excavations at Megiddo in northern Israel...

, a prominent archaeologist, suggests that the 4,600 represented the heads of households and 8,000 was the total, whilst 10,000 is a rounding upwards of the second number. Jeremiah also hints that an equivalent number may have fled to Egypt. Given these figures, Finkelstein suggests that 3/4 of the population of Judah had remained.

House of David


The House of David
Davidic line
The Davidic line refers to the tracing of lineage to the King David referred to in the Hebrew Bible, as well as the New Testament...

 continued to be respected and recognised as leaders of the Babylonian Jewish community as Exilarch
Exilarch
Exilarch refers to the leaders of the Diaspora Jewish community in Babylon following the deportation of King Jeconiah and his court into Babylonian exile after the first fall of Jerusalem in 597 BCE and augmented after the further deportations following the destruction...

s.

Re-establishment


In 539 BCE
530s BC
-Events and trends:* 539 BC—Babylon is conquered by Cyrus, defeating Nabonidus.* 538 BC—Cyrus, king of Persia, allows Jews in Babylon to return to Jerusalem....

 the Persians conquered Babylon and allowed the exiled Jews to return to Yehud and rebuild the Temple, which was completed in in the sixth year of Darius (515 BCE
510s BC
-Events and trends:*519 BC—Zhou Jing Wang becomes King of the Zhou Dynasty of China.*c. 518 BC—Darius I began construction of Parsa .*518 BC—Construction of Apadana of Darius and Xerxes, ceremonial complex, at Persepolis, Iran started....

) under Zerubbabel
Zerubbabel
Zerubbabel was a governor of the Persian Province of Judah and the grandson of Jehoiachin, penultimate king of Judah. Zerubbabel led the first group of Jews, numbering 42,360, who returned from the Babylonian Captivity in the first year of Cyrus, King of Persia . The date is generally thought to...

, the grandson of the second to last king of Judah, Jehoiachin. Yehud province was a peaceful part of the Achaemenid Persian Empire until the fall of the Empire in c. 333 BCE to Alexander the Great. The period under Persian rule after the construction of the second Temple, though being helped by its kings and tolerated the Jewish Religion, is regarded as the Jewish Dark Age, because there is no contemporary historic material for that period.

The Jewish Dark Ages come to an end with the Seleucid Empire
Seleucid Empire
The Seleucid Empire was a Greek-Macedonian state that was created out of the eastern conquests of Alexander the Great. At the height of its power, it included central Anatolia, the Levant, Mesopotamia, Persia, today's Turkmenistan, Pamir and parts of Pakistan.The Seleucid Empire was a major centre...

 in control of the Land of Israel. In 164 BCE, the Maccabees
Maccabees
The Maccabees were a Jewish rebel army who took control of Judea, which had been a client state of the Seleucid Empire. They founded the Hasmonean dynasty, which ruled from 164 BCE to 63 BCE, reasserting the Jewish religion, expanding the boundaries of the Land of Israel and reducing the influence...

 rebelled against the Seleucid and succeeded in reestablishing an independent Jewish kingdom in the Land of Israel.

Archaeological record


The archaeological record indicates that the early Israelite
Israelite
According to the Bible the Israelites were a Hebrew-speaking people of the Ancient Near East who inhabited the Land of Canaan during the monarchic period .The word "Israelite" derives from the Biblical Hebrew ישראל...

 state emerged in the Early Iron Age (Iron Age I, 1200-1000 BCE) from the Canaan
Canaan
Canaan is a historical region roughly corresponding to modern-day Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, and the western parts of Jordan...

ite city-state culture of the Late Bronze Age, at the same time and in the same circumstances as the neighbouring states of Edom
Edom
Edom or Idumea was a historical region of the Southern Levant located south of Judea and the Dead Sea. It is mentioned in biblical records as a 1st millennium BC Iron Age kingdom of Edom, and in classical antiquity the cognate name Idumea was used to refer to a smaller area in the same region...

, Moab
Moab
Moab is the historical name for a mountainous strip of land in Jordan. The land lies alongside much of the eastern shore of the Dead Sea. The existence of the Kingdom of Moab is attested to by numerous archeological findings, most notably the Mesha Stele, which describes the Moabite victory over...

, Aram
Aram (Biblical region)
Aram is the name of a region mentioned in the Bible located in central Syria, including where the city of Aleppo now stands.-Etymology:The etymology is uncertain. One standard explanation is an original meaning of "highlands"...

, and the Philistinian and Phoenician city-states.

Surface surveys indicate that during the 10th and 9th centuries BCE the southern highlands were divided between a number of centres, none with clear primacy. Little archaeological evidence of an extensive, powerful Kingdom of Judah has been found, leading some archaeologists of the minimalist school to doubt its extent as depicted in the Bible. Around 1990-2010, an important group of archaeologists and biblical scholars formed the view that the actual Kingdom of Judah bore little resemblance to the biblical portrait of a powerful monarchy. These scholars say the kingdom was no more than a small tribal entity. Some people doubt whether the kingdom existed at all. Others maintain that recent findings support the biblical story.

See also

  • History of ancient Israel and Judah
    History of ancient Israel and Judah
    Israel and Judah were related Iron Age kingdoms of ancient Palestine. The earliest known reference to the name Israel in archaeological records is in the Merneptah stele, an Egyptian record of c. 1209 BCE. By the 9th century BCE the Kingdom of Israel had emerged as an important local power before...

  • Kingdom of Israel (united monarchy)
  • Kings of Judah
    Kings of Judah
    The Kings of Judah ruled the ancient Kingdom of Judah after the death of Saul, when the tribe of Judah elevated David to rule over it. After seven years, David became king of a reunited Kingdom of Israel. However, in about 930 BC the united kingdom split, with ten of the twelve Tribes of Israel...

  • Biblical archaeology
    Biblical archaeology
    For the movement associated with William F. Albright and also known as biblical archaeology, see Biblical archaeology school. For the interpretation of biblical archaeology in relation to biblical historicity, see The Bible and history....

  • List of artifacts significant to the Bible
  • The Bible and history
    The Bible and history
    The Bible from a historical perspective, includes numerous fields of study, ranging from archeology and astronomy to linguistics and methods of comparative literature. The Bible may provide insight into pursuits, including but not limited to; our understanding of ancient and modern culture,...