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Kingdom of Judah

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Judea is a term used for the mountainous southern part of the historic Land of Israel.
Levant 01

Map of the region in the 9th century BC

The Kingdom of Judah (Hebrew: מַלְכּוּת יְהוּדָה, Modern Malkut Yəhuda Tiberian Malkûṯ Yəhûḏāh) existed at two periods in Jewish history. According to the Hebrew Bible, a kingdom emerged in Judah after the death of Saul, when the tribe of Judah elevated David, who came from the Tribe of Judah, to rule over it. After seven years David became king of a reunited Kingdom of Israel, and David moved the capital from Hebron to Jerusalem.[1] However, in about 930 BC the united kingdom split, with ten of the twelve Tribes of Israel rejecting Solomon's son Rehoboam as their king. The Tribes of Judah and Benjamin remained loyal to Rehoboam, and reformed the Kingdom of Judah, while the other entity continuing to be called the Kingdom of Israel, or Israel. The Kingdom of Judah is also often referred to as the Southern Kingdom, while the Kingdom of Israel following the split is referred to as the Northern Kingdom.

Judah existed until 586 BC, when it was conquered by the Babylonian Empire under Nebuzar-adan, captain of Nebuchadnezzar's body-guard.[2] With the deportation of most of the population and the destruction of the Temple and of Jerusalem, the destruction of the kingdom was complete. Gedaliah, with a Chaldean guard stationed at Mizpah, was made governor to rule over Judah,[3][4] but before long he was assassinated, and the remnant of the community was left leaderless.

The Davidic dynasty began when the tribe of Judah made David its king, following the death of Saul. The Davidic line continued when David became king of the reunited Kingdom of Israel. When the united kingdom split, the tribes of Judah and Benjamin continued to be loyal to the Davidic line, which ruled it until the kingdom was destroyed in 586 BC. However, the Davidic line continued to be respected by the exiles in Babylon, who regarded the Exilarchs as kings-in-exile.


The Kingdom of Judah comprised the territories of the tribes of Judah, Simeon, and Benjamin, an area of about 8,900 km2 (3,436 sq mi). During the first period of the Kingdom of Judah, the capital was Hebron, and during the second period, the capital of the united kingdom, Jerusalem, continued as the capital of Judah. Jerusalem was in the territory of the tribe of Benjamin.

The area that comprised the kingdom consisted of the area known as Har Yehudah ("the mountain (district) of the gorge(s)"). The area seems to have originally been occupied by Kenites, Calebites, Othnielites, and in Jerusalem Jebusites.

After the breakdown of the United Monarchy, the border between Benjamin and Ephraim (which was the border between the northern and southern kingdoms) became a matter of dispute between them. Though Bethel had originally been allocated to Benjamin, by the time of the prophetess Deborah, Bethel is described as being in the land of the Tribe of Ephraim.[5] Some twenty years after the breakup of the United Monarchy, Abijah, the second king of Judah, defeated Jeroboam of Israel and took back the towns of Bethel, Jeshanah and Ephron, with their surrounding villages, with a great loss of life.[6] Ephron is believed to be the Ophrah that was also allocated to the Tribe of Benjamin by Joshua.[7]



Jewish king and soldiers in ancient Judah

The united Kingdom of Israel was a union of the twelve Israelite tribes living in the area that presently approximates modern Israel and the Palestinian territories. The united kingdom existed from around 1020 to about 930 BC.

After the death of Solomon in 931 BC, the ten northern tribes refused to accept Rehoboam as their king, and instead in about 930 BC chose Jeroboam, who was not of the Davidic line, as their king. The northern kingdom continued to be called the Kingdom of Israel or Israel. The revolt took place at Shechem, and at first only the tribe of Judah remained loyal to the house of David. But very soon thereafter the tribe of Benjamin joined Judah, and Jerusalem (which was in Benjamin's territory)[8] became the capital of the new kingdom. The southern kingdom was called the Kingdom of Judah, or Judah. Members of the tribes of Ephraim, Manasseh and Simeon "fled" to Judah during the reign of Asa of Judah.[9] Whether these groups were absorbed into the population or remained distinct groups, or returned to their tribal lands is not indicated.

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's seventeen year reign. Rehoboam built elaborate defenses and strongholds, along with fortified cities. In the fifth year of Rehoboam's reign Pharaoh 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 continued his father's efforts to bring Israel under his control. He waged a major battle against Jeroboam of Israel, with a heavy loss of life,[10] after which Jeroboam posed little threat to Judah for the rest of his reign and the border of the Tribe of Benjamin was restored to the original tribal border.[11]

Abijah's son and successor, Asa maintained peace for the first 35 years of his reign,[12] during which time he revamped and reinforced the fortresses originally built by his grandfather Rehoboam. An invasion by the Egyptian-backed chieftain Zerah 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.[13] 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, 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, some centuries later.

In his 36th year Asa was confronted by Baasha of Israel,[14] 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, king of Aram Damascus, 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, and Baasha was forced to withdraw from Ramah.[15] Asa tore down the unfinished fortress and used its raw materials to fortify Geba and Mizpah, on his side of the border.[16]

Asa's successor, Jehoshaphat pursued alliances with the northern kingdom. The alliance with Ahab was based on marriage. This alliance led to disaster for the kingdom with the Battle of Ramoth-Gilead.[17] He then entered into an alliance with Ahaziah of Israel for the purpose of carrying on maritime commerce with Ophir. 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.[18] He subsequently joined Jehoram of Israel in a war against the Moabites, who were under tribute to Israel. This war was successful, with the Moabites being subdued. However, on seeing Mesha's act of offering his own son in a human sacrifice on the walls of Kir-haresheth filled Jehoshaphat with horror, and he withdrew and returned to his own land.[19]

Jehoshaphat's successor, Jehoram formed an alliance with Israel by marrying Athaliah, the daughter of Ahab. Despite this alliance with the stronger northern kingdom, Jehoram's rule of Judah was shaky. Edom revolted, and he was forced to acknowledge their independence. A raid by Philistines, Arabs and Ethiopians looted the king's house, and carried off all of his family except for his youngest son Jehoahaz.

Destruction of Israel

Israel existed as an independent state until around 720 BC when it was conquered by the Assyrian Empire. The Bible relates that the population of Israel was exiled, becoming known as the Ten Lost Tribes. However, other writers estimate that only a fifth of the population (about 40,000) were actually resettled out of the area during the two deportation periods under Tiglath-Pileser III and Sargon II.[20] Many also fled south to Jerusalem, which appears to have expanded in size fivefold during this period, requiring a new wall to be built, and a new source of water (Siloam) to be provided by King Hezekiah.

After the destruction of Israel, Judah continued to exist for about a century and a half until being conquered by the Babylonians. King Hezekiah of Judah (727-698 BC) is noted in the Bible for initiating reforms that enforced Jewish laws against idolatry (in this case, the worship of Ba'alim and Asherah, among other traditional Near Eastern divinities). [21][22] In his reign is also dated the Siloam inscription in Old Hebrew alphabet.

Manasseh of Judah (698-642 BC), sacrificed his son to Molech.[23] He and his son Amon (reigned 642-640 BC) reversed Hezekiah's reforms and officially revived idolatry. According to later rabbinical accounts, Manasseh placed a grotesque, four-faced idol in the Holy of Holies.

The reign of king Josiah (640-609 BC) was accompanied by a religious reformation. According to the Bible, while repairs were made on the Temple, a 'Book of the Law' was discovered (possibly the book of Deuteronomy).[24]

Imperial politics

When Josiah became king of Judah in about 641/640 BC,[25] the international situation was in flux. To the east, the Assyrian Empire was beginning to disintegrate, the Babylonian Empire had not yet risen to replace it, and Egypt 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 Necho II personally led a sizable army up to the Euphrates River to aid the Assyrians.[26] Taking the coast route Via Maris into Syria 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 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).[27] Presumably in an attempt to help the Babylonians, Josiah attempted to block the advance at Megiddo, where a fierce battle was fought and where Josiah was killed.[28] Necho then joined forces with the Assyrian Ashur-uballit II 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. The event also marked the disintegration of the Assyrian Empire.

On his return march to Egypt in 608 BC, Necho found that Jehoahaz had been selected to succeed his father, Josiah.[29] Necho deposed Jehoahaz, who had been king for only three months, and replaced him with his older brother, Jehoiakim. 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, [30] 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 in 605 BC, Jehoiakim changed allegiances, paying tribute to Nebuchadrezzar II of Babylon. In 601 BC, in the fourth year of his reign, Nebuchadnezzar unsuccessfully attempted to invade Egypt and was repulsed with heavy losses. This failure lead to numerous rebellions among the states of the Levant which owed allegiance to Babylon. Jehoiakim also stopped paying tribute to Nebuchadnezzar[31] and took a pro-Egyptian position. Nebuchadnezzar soon dealt with these rebellions. According to the Babylonian Chronicles, after invading "the land of Hatti (Syria/Palestine)"[32][33] in 599 BC, he lay siege to Jerusalem. Jehoiakim died in 598 BC[34] during the siege, and was succeeded by his son Jeconiah at an age of either eight or eighteen.[35] The city fell about three months later,[36][37] on 2 Adar (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[38] were deported from the land and dispersed throughout the Babylonian Empire. (2 Kings 24:14) Among them was Ezekiel. Nebuchadnezzar appointed Zedekiah, 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 Nebuchadrezzar, ceasing to pay tribute to him and entered into an alliance with Pharaoh Hophra of Egypt. In 589 BC, Nebuchadnezzar II returned to Judah and again besieged Jerusalem for eighteen months. During this period, many Jews fled to surrounding Moab, Ammon, Edom and other countries to seek refuge. (Jeremiah 40:11-12) The city fell and Nebuchadnezzar again pillaged both Jerusalem and the Temple, after which he destroyed them both. He took Zedekiah to Babylon and made Judah a Babylonian province, called Yehud, 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. (Jeremiah 52:29)

After the destruction of Judah, a Jewish general, Gedaliah, was appointed by Babylon governor of the province of Yehud, supported by a Chaldean guard stationed at Mizpah. (2 Kings 25:22-24, Jeremiah 40:6-8) On hearing of the appointment, the Jews that had taken refuge in surrounding countries returned to Judah. (Jeremiah 40:11-12) However, before long Gedaliah was assassinated by a member of the royal house, and the population that was left in the land and those that had returned ran away to Egypt for safety, under the leadership of Johanan, son of Kareah, ignoring the urging of the prophet Jeremiah against the move. (2 Kings 25:26, Jeremiah 43:5-7) In Egypt, the refugees settled in Migdol, Tahpanhes, Noph, and Pathros, (Jeremiah 44:1) 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 House of David

The House of David continued to be respected and recognised as leaders of the Babylonian Jewish community as Exilarchs.


A Jewish kingdom was revived by the Maccabees four centuries later, in a modified form.

Prophets of Judah

The Kings of Judah

Kings of Judah


Genealogy of the kings of Israel and Judah

The genealogy of the kings of Judah, along with the kings of Israel.

For this period, most historians follow either of the older chronologies established by William F. Albright or Edwin R. Thiele, or the newer chronologies of Gershon Galil or Kenneth Kitchen,[39] all of which are shown below. All dates are BC.

Albright Thiele Galil Kitchen Common/Biblical name Regnal Name and style Notes
1000–962   1010–970 1010–970 David דוד בן-ישי מלך ישראל
David ben Yishai, Melekh Ysra’el
Reigned over Israel & Judah in Jerusalem for 33 years and 7 years in Hebron, 40 years in total.
Death: natural causes
962–922   970–931 971–931 Solomon שלמה בן-דוד מלך ישראל
Shelomoh ben David, Melekh Ysra’el
Reigned over Israel & Judah in Jerusalem for 40 years.
Death: natural causes
Son of David by Bathsheba, his rights of succession were disputed by his older half-brother Adonijah
922–915 931–913 931–914 931–915 Rehoboam רחבעם בן-שלמה מלך יהודה
Rehav’am ben Shlomoh, Melekh Yehudah
Reigned over Judah in Jerusalem for 17 years.
Death: natural causes
915–913 913–911 914–911 915–912 Abijam אבים בן-רחבעם מלך יהודה
’Aviyam ben Rehav’am, Melekh Yehudah
Reigned over Judah in Jerusalem for 3 years.
Death: natural causes
913–873 911–870 911–870 912–871 Asa אסא בן-אבים מלך יהודה
’Asa ben ’Aviyam, Melekh Yehudah
Reigned over Judah in Jerusalem for 41 years.
Death: severe foot disease
873–849 870–848 870–845 871–849 Jehoshaphat יהושפט בן-אסא מלך יהודה
Yehoshafat ben ’Asa, Melekh Yahudah
Reigned over Judah in Jerusalem for 25 years.
Death: natural causes
849–842 848–841 851–843 849–842 Jehoram יהורם בן-יהושפט מלך יהודה
Yehoram ben Yehoshafat, Melekh Yahudah
Reigned over Judah in Jerusalem for 8 years.
Death: severe stomach disease
842–842 841–841 843–842 842–841 Ahaziah אחזיהו בן-יהורם מלך יהודה
’Ahazyahu ben Yehoram, Melekh Yehudah
Reigned over Judah in Jerusalem for 1 year.
Death: killed by Jehu, who usurped the throne of Israel
842–837 841–835 842–835 841–835 Athaliah עתליה בת-עמרי מלכת יהודה
‘Atalyah bat ‘Omri, Malkat Yehudah
Reigned over Judah in Jerusalem for 6 years.
Death: killed by the troops assigned by Jehoiada the Priest to protect Joash.
Queen Mother, widow of Jehoram and mother of Ahaziah
837–800 835–796 842–802 841–796 Jehoash יהואש בן-אחזיהו מלך יהודה
Yehoash ben ’Ahazyahu, Melekh Yehudah
Reigned over Judah in Jerusalem for 40 years.
Death: killed by his officials namely: Zabad, son of Shimeath, a Moabite Woman, and Jehozabad, son of Shimrith, a Moabite Woman.
800–783 796–767 805–776 796–776 Amaziah אמציה בן-יהואש מלך יהודה
’Amatzyah ben Yehoash, Melekh Yehudah
Reigned over Judah in Jerusalem for 29 years.
Death: killed in Lachish by the men sent by his officials who conspired against him.
783–742 767–740 788–736 776–736 Uzziah
עזיה בן-אמציה מלך יהודה
‘Uziyah ben ’Amatzyah, Melekh Yehudah
עזריה בן-אמציה מלך יהודה
‘Azaryah ben ’Amatzyah, Melekh Yehudah
Reigned over Judah in Jerusalem for 52 years.
Death: Tzaraas
George Syncellus wrote that the First Olympiad took place in Uzziah's 48th regnal year.
742–735 740–732 758–742 750–735/30 Jotham יותם בן-עזיה מלך יהודה
Yotam ben ‘Uziyah, Melekh Yehudah
Reigned over Judah in Jerusalem for 16 years.
Death: natural causes
735–715 732–716 742–726 735/31–715 Ahaz אחז בן-יותם מלך יהודה
’Ahaz ben Yotam, Melekh Yehudah
Reigned over Judah in Jerusalem for 16 years.
Death: natural causes
The Assyrian king Tiglath-Pileser III records he received tribute from Ahaz; compare 2 Kings 16:7-9
715–687 716–687 726–697 715–687 Hezekiah חזקיה בן-אחז מלך יהודה
Hizqiyah ben ’Ahaz, Melekh Yehudah
Reigned over Judah in Jerusalem for 29 years.
Death: Natural Causes
Contemporary with Sennacherib of Assyria and Merodach-Baladan of Babylon.
687–642 687–643 697–642 687–642 Manasseh מנשה בן-חזקיה מלך יהודה
Menasheh ben Hizqiyah, Melekh Yehudah
Reigned over Judah in Jerusalem for 55 years.
Death: natural causes
Mentioned in Assyrian records as a contemporary of Esarhaddon
642–640 643–641 642–640 642–640 Amon אמון בן-מנשה מלך יהודה
’Amon ben Menasheh, Melekh Yehudah
Reigned over Judah in Jerusalem for 2 years.
Death: killed by his officials, which were killed later on by the people of Judah.
640–609 641–609 640–609 640–609 Josiah יאשיהו בן-אמון מלך יהודה
Yo’shiyahu ben ’Amon, Melekh Yehudah
Reigned over Judah in Jerusalem for 31 years.
Death: shot by archers during the battle against Neco of Egypt. He died upon his arrival on Jerusalem.
609 609 609 609 Jehoahaz
יהואחז בן-יאשיהו מלך יהודה
Yeho’ahaz ben Yo’shiyahu, Melekh Yehudah
Reigned over Judah in Jerusalem for 3 months.
Death: Neco, king of Egypt, dethroned him and was replaced by his brother, Eliakim. Carried off to Egypt, where he died.
609–598 609–598 609–598 609–598 Jehoiakim יהויקים בן-יאשיהו מלך יהודה
Yehoyaqim ben Yo’shiyahu, Melekh Yehudah
Reigned over Judah in Jerusalem for 11 years.
Death: Natural Causes
The Battle of Carchemish occurred in the fourth year of his reign (Jeremiah 46:2)
598 598 598–597 598–597 Jehoiachin
יהויכין בן-יהויקים מלך יהודה
Yehoyakhin ben Yehoyaqim, Melekh Yehudah
יכניהו בן-יהויקים מלך יהודה
Yekhonyahu ben Yehoyaqim, Melekh Yehudah
Reigned over Judah in Jerusalem for 3 months & 10 days.
Death: King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon sent for him and brought him to Babylon, where he lived and died.
Jerusalem was captured by the Babylonians and Jehoiachin deposed on 16 March, 597 BC. Called Jeconiah in Jeremiah and Esther
597–587 597–586 597–586 597–586 Zedekiah צדקיהו בן-יהויכין מלך יהודה
Tzidqiyahu ben Yo’shiyahu, Melekh Yehudah
Reigned over Judah in Jerusalem for 11 years.
Death: unknown.
His reign saw the second rebellion against Nebuchadnezzar (588-586 BC). Jerusalem was captured after a lengthy siege, the temple burnt, Zedekiah blinded and taken into exile, and Judah reduced to a province.


  1. 2 Samuel 5:6-7
  2. 2 Kings 25:8-21
  3. 2 Kings 25:22-24
  4. Jeremiah 40:6-8
  5. Judges 4:5
  6. 2 Chronicles 13:17-19
  7. Joshua 18:20-28, esp 23
  8. Joshua 18:28
  9. 2 Chronicles 15:9
  10. Abijah and his people defeated them with a great slaughter, so that 500,000 chosen men of Israel fell slain: 2 Chronicles 13:17
  11. 2 Chronicles 13:20
  12. 2 Chronicles 16:1
  13. 2 Chronicles 14:9-15
  14. 2 Chronicles 16:1
  15. 2 Chronicles 16:2-6
  16. 2 Chronicles 16:1-7
  17. 1 Kings 22:1-33
  18. 2 20:35-37 HE; 1 Kings 22:48-49
  19. 2 Kings 3:4-27
  20. Finkelstein & Silberman 2001, The Bible Unearthed.
  22. 2 Kings 18-20
  23. 2 Kings 21
  24. [1] See also 1 Kings 13, 2 Kings 22-23 , 2 Chr 34-35
  25. Edwin Thiele, The Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings, (1st ed.; New York: Macmillan, 1951; 2d ed.; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1965; 3rd ed.; Grand Rapids: Zondervan/Kregel, 1983). ISBN 082543825X, 9780825438257
  26. [2][3]
  27. [4]
  28. 2 Kings 23:29, 2 Chronicles 35:20-24
  29. 2 Kings 23:31
  30. 2 Chronicles 36:1-4
  31. [5] The Divided Monarchy ca. 931 - 586 BC
  32. No 24 WA21946, The Babylonian Chronicles, The British Museum
  33. Geoffrey Wigoder, The Illustrated Dictionary & Concordance of the Bible Pub. by Sterling Publishing Company, Inc. (2006)
  34. Dan Cohn-Sherbok, The Hebrew Bible, Continuum International, 1996, page x. ISBN 030433703X
  35. [6] Bible Studies website
  36. Philip J. King, Jeremiah: An Archaeological Companion (Westminster John Knox Press, 1993), page 23.
  37. 2 Chronicles 36:9
  38. The Oxford History of the Biblical World, ed. by Michael D Coogan. Pub. by Oxford University Press, 1999. pg 350
  39. On the Reliability of the Old Testament (2003) by Kenneth Kitchen. Grand Rapids and Cambridge: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. ISBN 0-8028-4960-1.

See also

External links

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